Tag Archives: life

The Power of Forgiveness

LoveWarmsHeartThere’s very few of us who have not thought a lot about some of the ways we’ve been hurt or disappointed. In fact, Mira Kirshenbaum, Everything Happens for a Reason, reveals that anger, guilt, envy, and not feeling safe are all signs that we carry a heavy burden of not being able to forgive—ourselves or others. But forgiveness does not always come easily or quickly because of two key reasons: shame and guilt. And both are the result of a basic need to point an accusing finger at ourselves or someone else.

Kirshenbaum sees our need to blame someone or something as part of our natural perspective in life. She writes: “Part of what can make it so hard for us to forgive is the automatic way we orient ourselves in life through blame. If anything goes wrong anywhere, the first thing anyone thinks about is who to blame… Blame is a very deep instinct because it makes us feel safe.” (p. 111) and, no one wants to feel as if they are constantly living under personal attack.

As I thought about Kirshenbaum’s examples she gives for Reason #4: To bring you to the place where you can feel forgiveness–or, perhaps said differently, to bring us to a place where we can accept the “…possibility there’s something else besides blame…” I found myself asking: What is there besides hate, fear, blame, and the inability to forgive? Are there legitimate reasons to forgive the cruelty of something or someone?

Mira Kirshenbaum offers her readers a spectrum of reasons for putting away finger pointing and accusations. She asks us to consider forgiveness when:

  1. The other person’s cruelty was because “he or she was sick, damaged, or limited somehow”;
  2. We see that the other person has “suffered enough…even if they haven’t suffered as much as we have”;
  3. We realize “we are safe now”;
  4. We recognize that “we don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t forgive”;
  5. We find that the other person makes up for what was done;
  6. We understand that “if we don’t forgive, we’re the ones who are hurt the most.”

Life is not perfect and neither am I.  There have been many things and people in my life that were incredibly cruel. There have been many times that my Christian values stood in conflict with my feelings.  As I remain open to God’s  leading, however, I’ve found that His amazing grace helps me to substitute finger pointing with the power to forgive. But forgiveness does not come cheap; it takes great inner strength and commitment. I’m reminded of what Gandhi said: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”


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Life Without Fear

LifeDistress or anxiety that “…hijacks a life taking it in a direction we don’t want to go,” writes Mira Kirshenbaum, is not a life worth living. Some fears are “perfectly reasonable” but some are “terribly damaging” to the point of freezing us emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And so she explains (reason #3 of 10) that things happen in order to show us that we can let go of fear and live life wholeheartedly.

There was something in Kirshenbaum’s third reason that caught my attention. With all directness, she exposed the relationship between life and fear. Her writing suggested that we don’t always live and walk in the fullness of the life given to us; and it is fear that causes us to miss out.

Her writing brought back memories from many years ago, my community college days and my budding interest in photography. I had become hooked with black and white imaging and scrapped together the $25.00 for a new Pentax K-1000 camera body. Over a stretch of two years, I won almost every student photographic award and had my images published. Those were the days! However, as my work life and advanced studies demanded more of my time, the sound of my Pentax’s shutter release button slowed and then quietly faded away–until just last year.

I was invited to join a local photography club which met once-a-month. Oddly enough, I found myself making up excuses for why I shouldn’t go—too far away, night driving, cost of gas, and so on. But was it really the distance? Or time of day? I even found myself wrinkling my nose at the thought of getting out the new digital camera that had supplanted my old Pentax.

As the meeting time came–and with some emotional feet dragging, I set out to travel the 30 miles. The meeting went better, however, than what I had expected. The small group of members greeted me with genuine warmth. And, perhaps just as important, I found a group of individuals who held a similar fascination with the power of images to speak.

It wasn’t until later, as I thought about the meeting and club members,  that I realized how my  anxious feelings had taken  hold of me. I discovered that my reasons for not doing something that I had so enjoyed during my college years were actually holding me hostage. And, I found that my excuses were rather the voice of fear—a fear that was attempting to hijack my life–leading me in a direction that I didn’t want to go!

I’m glad for Kirshenbaum’s third explanation and insight for why things happen, that is, to show us that we can let go of fear. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m glad for the freedom that I can now push the button of my digital Minolta, letting me pick up where my trusty Pentax had left me.

Living life’s way in 2014


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True Meanings

SeekLifeIn my last post, I mentioned Mira Kirshenbaum’s belief that everything in our lives, everything that happens to us, happens–for a reason. And, in her book, she further explains among the ten reasons, her readers might find one or more that will quench our natural desire to answer the question: Why me?

I’d like to share her list in addition to noting that her answers are 10 among many others. They are an excellent starting point as we begin to make sense of life, understanding, and love. We are individuals, however, that don’t fit into a rigid life perspective. So I invite you to read her list and then add to them as your experience and wisdom gives you understanding.

The Ten Meanings of the Events in Our Lives (Kirshenbaum, 2004, p. 20)

1. To help you feel at home in the world.

2. To help you totally accept yourself.

3. To show you that you can let go of fear.

4. To bring you to a place where you can feel forgiveness.

5. To help you uncover your true hidden nature.

6. To give you what you need to find true love.

7. To help you become stronger.

8. To help you discover the play in life.

9. To show you how to live with a sense of mission.

10. To help you become a truly good person.

Helen Keller once said that life’s purpose was to experience the invisible and to gain wisdom and understanding:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touch. They must be felt with the heart.”

Living life in 2014,

M Buck

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The Reason Things Happen: A new lease on life

VisitingMy daughter Eve arrived just before the snow storm hit. The news weather channel had warned us only a few days ahead of time but her tickets were bought, suitcase packed, and honestly, I had high hopes that they would be wrong again. We had a great time as her few days stretched into a full week. I (of course) was ecstatic; she grew concerned. And after several trips to the airport only to be told to “come back later…”, she arrived safely home with warm southern California embracing her as she debarked.

Eve didn’t, however, take everything home with her. She left me three surprises in the hallway closet for me to find: a thank you note; a hardcover book by Mira Kirshenbaum—Everything Happens For a Reason; and, a tin of drawing pencils. We gabbed on the phone a bit after she got home and she let me know that she wanted to talk about Mira’s book on her next visit round.

So, in anticipation of that visit, I picked up the book and took it with me to one of my favorite places that offers a special Thursday menu of fresh baked Ziti, salad, warm toasted garlic bread, and a drink. I placed the book down on my table alongside of my Ziti and began to read.

I knew right away that Mira’s writing was going to be an interesting challenge because she starts off with asking the most impossible question of all: How do we make meaning of our lives? And, in particular, of the things that happen to us?  It’s a gutsy question because world-renown philosophers throughout the ages have asked the same question, phrased a little differently but with the same quizzical musings—what is life all about?

In chapter one, Mira lays her foundation assumptions about life. First and foremost, she believes that meaning can be found; we are not out here like seaweed in the ocean to be washed in and out with the tides. Rather, she offers the insight that “The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self” (p.22). She places emphasis on being a most authentic self. I agree with Mira. Being the best that we can be is important. Being an “authentic” best enlarges us beyond duplication or Xerox copies of each other.

Mira invites us to become a true and genuine human being and put aside petty jealousies, anger, and selfishness. Or, as Peterson in The Message observes about a shammed or faked life:  “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness…paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming but never satisfied wants; a brutal temper…small-minded and lopsided pursuits…uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions…” (p. 1609). Peterson says he can go on writing about a wasted and meaningless life. And, I believe him as my own experiences prove both his and Mira’s words true enough.

There is however, one thing that I would add to Mira’s ten meanings she gives to life events and Peterson’s perspectives on the search of an authentic living and that is we can neither do it alone nor can we achieve it simply through reading the books sitting on the shelves of libraries around the world or those stuffed into the bookcases in our homes. We must first open our ears and begin to listen to the inner man of our hearts closely—knowing that it speaks a language different than what we’ve been taught by our culture of material desires. For many of us that is a foreign dialect. And, perhaps more importantly,  it comes only in relationship with each other and that by the grace of God.

…next post–chapter two.


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The Case of a Dismissed Dog Lover

NOTE: (Client permission was received to discuss case details. However, names and places have been changed and a degree of dramatic exaggeration added to protect client identity).

Life coaching falls within the category of caring professional counseling services. A life coach focuses specifically on people, their purpose, and their mission. A good life coach intentionally provides a safe space and supporting activities in which a person’s strengths and potential are acknowledged, appreciated, and challenged toward greater self-awareness. A high-quality or well-seasoned coach handles a wide range of life’s challenges with humor, wisdom, much care, and insight.

In the process of developing my professional life coaching practice, I’ve learned that the range of life’s challenges can never be fully anicipated in any textbook or course handouts. Perhaps more importantly, I discovered that new methods and unique approaches must be carefully tested when interacting with clients concerns and their life’s situations. Selected coaching techniques must be thoughtfully employed when assisting a client in making sense of paradoxical situations. Recently, one such case, which tested my life coaching ability, involved the adoption of a rescue dog.

“ I don’t know what to do,” said Marscilla. Her aging eyes filled with painful, personal despair. “Dogs are suppose to be our best friends, right?”

My client knew her facts. According to some canine proponents such as the SPCA and small animal adoption centers, dogs provide important life services for the blind, police, children, old people, farmers, even, hunters. Moreover, dogs of various breeds, sizes, ages, and abilities have been known to display amazing premonitory abilities. Newspaper accounts abound describing how these animals sense coming danger, defy deathly circumstances, and save their human masters from harm. So, it didn’t surprise me when I felt a strong emotion of empathy rise quickly as I continued to listen to Marscilla‘s story.

“Bones is the dog for me, I just know it.” Her lips pursed with deep resolved belief.

Earlier during the conversation, I learned that Marscilla had just lost her devoted Jethro—an oversized 13-year-old pacifist Irish Wolf Hound. His passing was a topic she seldom talked about or let her emotions show. She had begun the process of dog adoption and visiting nearby rescue centers. It was at one of these centers that she found “Bones.” The sadness in her voice however remained–I knew how she felt. Two years prior, I had lost my beloved Australian Shepherd companion.

“And, I can’t believe that I was rejected!” She blurted angrily. I wondered if her change in pitch and volume weren’t a telling sign of misplaced priorities? Then she continued, “Do you think anyone would suspect me if Bones, ummm…turned up missing?”

Rejection as a potential dog-adopter can certainly challenge one’s core life values. From a communication perspective, the change in my client’s voice implied that a variety of heated negative emotions may have attached themselves to her desire for a new canine family member. The adoption center’s refusal of her application appeared to have resulted in a critical intrapersonal downward spiral. The inevitable had to be faced—how do I challenge Marscilla to a greater sense of self-awareness and a return to her traditional cherished values and good citizenry?

I decided to employ my new coaching technique using a direct interrogative approach, “Marscilla, may I ask you a question?”

Then thoughtfully, steadily, sometimes painfully, the next 45-minutes were spent re-discovering Marscilla’s values that had led her successfully through previous emotional trials and storms. She ended our coaching session acknowledging that dog nabbing was not a viable solution for her situation, and, perhaps more importantly, revenge was better left to–an independent and more objective–higher source. Marscilla also chose to write (but not send) several drafts of a letter to the rescue center expressing her concern, grief, and outrage. She thought the writings would help release her negative pent up emotions. She also hoped that sharing her story would make it easier for others who had experienced a similar plight.

CLOSING NOTE: Although Marscilla decided not to proceed with legally challenging the rescue center’s decision to reject her adoption application, she did locate and received approval to adopt a large hunting dog, Perseus, who last week ate the right shoe of her husband’s new $200 pair of cowboy boots–a follow up life coaching session is anticipated.

Living life in 2011,

Mary Buck, PhD
Executive Program Director, Wholeheartedly
A family literacy outreach program using storytelling, art, and life coaching
–where stories change the heart for life–

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Breakin’ Bread

Some argue that the making of bread marks the beginning of man’s civilization. Others say that it reveals the height of social exclusivity using the example of the bread riots of the French Revolution. Without a doubt, today, bread has become a staple of the American household—in all its varieties. My experience with making bread pudding using six slices of day old bread, however, has convinced me that bread can and does lift the spirit of the eaters!

Moving from CA and establishing my new living space here in Abingdon, VA this past 6 months, I’m discovering a lot about myself. One discovery is in the area of self-preservation where I am learning to take a larger needful stride in the area of nutrition. My attempt at making bread pudding was a very large step for me in more ways than I expected!

Over the last 4 years, I’ve learned that muscular dystrophy (FSH) affects every aspect of life– especially when preparing meals. FSH weakens muscle groups of the upper torso. As a result, cooking, in particular, remains a challenge in many ways: physically, emotionally, and temperamentally! Did I say temper? Yes, I’ve come to understand that cooking with FSH can sometimes evoke emotions normally best kept sealed under a tight lid. Despite visions of spilled milk or emotional setbacks, I was determined, however, to learn work around methods in my new kitchen space.

Positive prior kitchen experiences steadied me as I worked through the challenge. Like other baked items, bread pudding took preparation. First, I reviewed the recipe from http://www.allrecipes.com for bread pudding. Second, I selected a traditional recipe, as this was my very first time in baking bread in this manner. Also, I wanted to experience history and savor its richness. Third, I laid out all ingredients and collected the necessary cookware. Fourth, I followed the directions as stated in the recipe except for (a) leaving the pudding in the oven for a total of 65 minutes instead of their suggested ¾ hour and (b) using an egg substitute.

Despite being my first attempt, I have to admit that I was impressed with the aroma and site of my bread pudding. I called my next door neighbors Mandy and Miss Thelma to find out if they had any interest as taste-testers. Mandy was elated. Miss Thelma said “Of course, I’ve been searching for something sweet all day!” She put down her recently opened chocolate bar and said she’d wait until I got there. However, before rushing the pudding out of the oven and over to their kitchens, I inserted a knife to check for doneness. The knife came out respectfully clean but the amount of excessive moisture migrating toward the middle of the pan gave me a feeling of nervous disaster. I doubled checked several recipes and they all called for a “moist” appearance.

After  four test samplings, I decided to chance it all! It felt good transferring the hot bread pudding into small bowls. The cinnamon and vanilla smells filled my senses. But something else came out of the oven in addition to the pudding–something for which I hadn’t planned. After delivering the hot bowls of bread pudding to the smiling faces of Mandy and Miss Thelma, I found that a life larger than I had imagined for myself in Abingdon, VA had begun to unfold itself. As I opened the door to my apartment, I felt the largeness had been waiting for me all this time–waiting for me to embrace it. I did and it felt very warm indeed! Conclusion? Bread pudding is best enjoyed with family and friends, and now, I add–cherished neighbors!

Living life in 2011,

AllRecipes Bread Pudding II
6 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

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