With everything that is going on in our world—Corona Virus, Racial Injustice, Protests, people have a lot they are processing.
I am wondering how I can truly understand the racial injustice piece. You see I come from white privilege. I was born into a middle-class white family. I can’t apologize for that, but I need to understand that I have an unearned advantage. I have what Peggy McIntosh, an associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, refers to as “An Invisible Knapsack of White Privilege.” I have assets inside like code books, guidebooks and blank checks that unknowingly I have used all my life. I grew up in a neighborhood with people like me-white. I never had to worry about the color of my skin. I never worried about people following me around in a store, I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t be accepted in my neighborhood because of my skin color. If I did get pulled over by the police I got the benefit of doubt.
All of this happened without me even thinking about it. It is only in my later years did I realize all that I have in my life. Honestly, some of this realization didn’t happen until we adopted 2 foreign born children who did not have our same skin color. With one adoption we lived in a rural community in Montana and our child was the only Asian individual at their school. I’m not saying I fully understood then, but it started opening my eyes to our world.
I believed if I treated everyone equally and with love, I was doing my part. But sometimes when we hesitate or do nothing, we are signaling silence to the hurting. Just being cool with everyone doesn’t mean we are advocating for anyone. I think that is what these latest protests are helping me realize. I don’t think the blame, shame or guilt game is a way to deal with this. I think we need to decide what we are comfortable doing—or maybe even uncomfortable. For some of us attending protests is a way to support, for others making donations, others make posters and signs. We need to Listen, Learn and Advocate.
So I’m going to take off my lens of white privilege and do something positive. Do you have a lens that you use to view people or the world? I challenge you to reach out in understanding and love. We can change the world, even one interaction at a time.
Seems all I do is wait anymore. Wait for test results that could shake my world. Wait for financial provision. Wait for paperwork. Wait for the day I can live a "normal life" again - whatever that means. Waiting is hard. And through all of this waiting I cry out as many of you do. When will this end? What will happen if...? How will I make it?
When these thoughts get too overwhelming, I go to a quiet place. There, away from the world, I give myself a pep talk. My anxious mind doesn't want to listen, but I tell it the truth I don't always feel in my heart. "It's normal to feel upset and anxious. Times are hard, but these times won't last forever. I've been through trauma before, and I know that after each event there came a time of peace and happiness. I can do this. I am strong."
I'd love to be able to tell you that this little time out makes me feel instantly at peace, but I can't. It's just a step in the right direction. It helps me take my thoughts captive so they don't run amok. That's the first step. I also set boundaries, have a little fun each day, reach out for connection, exercise, and do something kind for others. All of these things help my emotional health.
But the one thing that helps me the most is prayer. It brings me the most peace, and it's something I can't explain to you adequately. If you want to stop reading now, you may. But if you're curious, I pray the same thing I'll pray over you now:
God give them all they need to get through the day — the strength to endure, a wisdom to make sound decisions, the ability to discover joy in the chaos. Give them an overwhelming sense of peace, one that comforts them to the very depths of their being. I pray today that as they read this, they will feel your presence in a tangible way and will discover the incredible love you have for them, a love so deep it can get them through their loneliest hours. Today I pray hope over them, God, as they wait. As we all wait. Together.
Cynthia Downing Finlay
I can’t sleep tonight. I keep getting the nudge to share this photo and my story with you.
Today was a hard day. Chaos. Frustrations. Tears.
I found myself crying in my parked car. Nowhere to go. Just needing to be alone for a minute and get it out. Our lives have been turned upside down, and everything looks different now. We are living in the unknown.
I find myself living in the pendulum of grief and gratitude. They are existing together and that metal ball is swinging so fast I don’t know who has the upper hand right now.
And I’m here to just acknowledge that. To share from both sides. To say that we all exist in a word of “and”.
I’m grieving and I’m grateful.
I’m blessed and this is hard.
I’m capable and overwhelmed.
All the emotions, all the hard and all the simple - exist together. We don’t live on one side or the other of that pendulum. And no matter where you find yourself swinging today, you are safe to acknowledge it.
What two emotions are currently co-existing in your pendulum?
I am from journals.
From pages of dreams and scribbles of frustration.
I am from diagnoses on paper
(tangible proof of a hidden illness I desperately wish would heal.)
I am from pain and sleepless nights.
From pulling myself up by the boots and forging on.
(Despite the fatigue,
Despite the looks from those who couldn't possibly understand,
Despite the words from those who choose not to.)
I am from faith.
From choosing to be kind and choosing to be humble.
I am from a mind and a heart that believes
the best days of my life have not yet been realized.
(So I'm strengthened,
and very, very grateful for another day and another opportunity
to live my best life.)
I am from hope.
"Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery."
Trying to understand what your depressed teen or family member is experiencing? We
polled the teens at our Armed with Hope Conferences this Fall, and here is what they shared:
What does depression feel like?
Feeling sad and not knowing why.
A weight in my chest
Constantly tearful or irritable
Unsteady sleep and eating habits
Dark and overwhelming
Like being in a hole and I have no way out
A heavy weight
What does it mean to have bipolar disorder?
I like mania because I’m on top of the world
The depression piece that comes after the highs means I can’t make myself get out of bed
Your world changes in a minutes and irrational thoughts become your reality
What does anxiety look like?
Racing mind and thoughts
My mind shuts down and I am uncontrollably crying
Rushed, insecure, unbalanced, unprepared
Fluttering in my chest
How do you quiet the negative thoughts or voices? Or If your mind doesn’t shut off, what do you do?
Redirect to preferred activities
Use tools like puzzles, rings spinners to help distract in the moment
Listen closely to lyrics in music
Take a walk
Play some word games
Listen to music
Positive mantras and affirmations
Find a friend to talk to who helps me know what’s accurate
Turn the negative thoughts to positive thoughts like I suck at math to this was only one test. I can learn
Music to help me through the emotions
Listen to podcast
Take a walk
I play my drums
What do you do when you can’t sleep?
Progressive relaxation exercise
Deep breathing or guided meditation
Cuddle my animals
Slow down and try to watch something low key like discovery channel
Try to stop the negative voices
Listen to music
Experts tell us that If we get to know one another we will find we have more in common than we think. So the story I’m telling myself right now is that you struggle with self-esteem as much as I do, and that by putting me down you somehow find the validation you’re lacking. I guess subconsciously you believe that if you can get others to focus on me, they won’t notice the weaknesses in you.However, we both know this isn’t true because people are experts at finding weaknesses in one another,
Since we all have weaknesses and struggle with self-doubt (a very human condition,) I’m deciding to forgive you. Yes, I forgive you for the comments over my appearance; the eye rolls over my opinions; the snickers at my errors, and the half-truths you’ve spread. Obviously, you must be hurting terribly in order to do such hateful things to another.
And don’t worry. You won’t see me repeating these things for revenge. I know what it feels like to receive such treatment, and I don’t think it’s right to treat others this way.
I am not going to lecture you either. Heaven knows I have just as many issues as you do that need to be dealt with. Instead, I am choosing to distance myself from you, but not before I give you a piece of advice: Rise up and know your worth.
You’re worth is not determined by the opinion of others – nor by the position you have on the scale of beauty, talent, popularity and wealth. My worth isn’t determined by these scales either. You see, our worth comes from being human and having a unique take on the world. No one has our same story or insight- same set of talents and perspectives. We are uniquely us. I think we will all be happier when we start to realize the value of ourselves and others.
Do you agree about how hard it is for teenagers to share their issues with adults? What do you think would need to change in order for it to be easier?
It’s the day after Christmas, and although many of you may not celebrate this holiday, I’m aware that there are other family celebrations happening around this time; and I know what that means. It means many of you are nursing some deep wounds today, afflicted by members of your family. Members you thought would give you love, but gave hate instead.
Perhaps it was an aunt who brought up the mistakes of your past, mistakes she can never forgive you for committing. Or maybe it was a grandparent who greeted other members of the family warmly and then barely acknowledged you. It might have been a group of cousins who chose to ignore and ostracize you from the family, letting you know they find you unworthy of their time or conversation.
Whatever the grievance, you are hurting and wondering why you are receiving such nasty treatment from people who are supposed to accept and encourage you. I want you to know that I’m thinking of you today, and I don’t have easy answers. Quite frankly, it makes me sick to see people act this way. You may wonder if it will ever get better. I can’t say. However, I do have a little piece of truth for you to hang onto in this moment, one you can repeat when the pangs of hurt come crashing over you:
“It reflects badly on them.”
Regardless of their reasons for being upset, their choosing to treat you badly instead of trying to solve their issue and repair a family connection reflects badly on their character - not yours. Remind yourself of this fact every time those nasty scenes replay in your mind. Then set some boundaries for yourself.
You do not have to allow people to bully you, even if they are family. Respect them? Yes. Retaliate? No. Give yourself space from them? By all means, yes! And if they decide to repair the relationship? Should we forgive them, even after the years of hurt they’ve caused? Yes. Let’s offer them the grace they should have been showing us. They are family, after all. Until then, friends, keep being yourselves. You are worthy of love just as you are, even when you’re different from your family.
I have a confession to make. In five months I’ll be thirty and my life is nowhere near what I had imagined it to be. Of course I imagined something like the all-American Dream: being successful, getting married, and owning a house. But here I am - not married and sadly living in a wallet-draining apartment. I'm not trying to be negative, I'm just stating facts.
In the last year of my twenties, I’ve wasted countless days listening to the harassment of negative thoughts and allowing them to continue to haunt me and ruin my every day.
"He won't marry me."
"I am not worthy."
"I am not successful."
"I will never graduate from college."
" I am not smart enough."
" I will never make enough money to own my own home."
" I AM JUST NOT good enough to successfully complete such dreams."
Yes, I have spent the last year of my twenties battling these thoughts EVERY SINGLE DAY. These thoughts have done nothing for me besides keep me from successfully fulfilling my dreams, so much so, that I haven’t been to school in the last 6 months and I’ve reconsidered why I am even going to school. I've lost touch with the hope of getting married and owning a home. I've settled for just the idea of living in an apartment for the rest of my life.
Worst of all, I've stopped seeing the beauty in life and enjoying how little things such as sunshine, rainbows, and flowers can be so big and exciting to someone like my daughter. Why am I not optimistic like my 9 year old child? When this little sweetie had a really bad cold and couldn’t smell or taste anything, she said to me with eyes full of tears, “Mom, I can’t even smell the flowers!”
Why can’t I be like that? It's not like my daughter doesn't have difficulties in her life. She has some real challenges to overcome. But she doesn't focus on those things. She focuses on the good in her life. Imagine, what it would be like if we lived our lives like she does, and our worst worry was not being able to smell the flowers or enjoy sunshine and rainbows?
Soon enough I’ll be turning 30, and today I am saying NO and refusing to waste another day listening to my negative thoughts. My life story may be written a little differently than others, but I won't let it stop me from continuing to pursue my dreams. It may take a little longer, I may not be where I dreamed I'd be by now, but I am still continuing its course. I won't give up. I'm choosing to focus on the good.
What about you? I know you don't want to waste another day spinning in negativity. You, too, can change your thinking. I dare you to make a change. Say NO to those negative thoughts. Say YES to being optimistic. And tomorrow... how about we both wake up and smell some flowers.?
- Get Help Now