A brief good-bye

Dear followers and friends of my blog,

I recently lost my love, dear friend and companion and will be stopping my blog for a time as I go through the challenging and harrowing process of grieving and mourning.

Thank you for always being so faithful in stopping by to read my words. I promise to return when I feel I can catch my breath and not feel so overwhelmed by sorrow.

Until then, cherish each other and life. It’s all a gift

With gratitude,

Marielena Zuniga

 

 

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Resting in God’s breath

When I was in my 40s many years ago, I worked in a fast-paced, high-stress job. Our corporation sponsored a seminar with focus groups to determine needs, in and out of the workplace.

The number one need? Sleep. We were all walking around exhausted.

I never forgot that response.

Life by its nature takes a physical, emotional and spiritual toll. Whether we are working more than 40 hours a week, working two or three jobs, doing all the chores and caregiving for children or elderly parents — we all yearn for an island of peace, quiet and vast blue oceans. Ah. To be there even for an hour.

Doing. It seems our culture is obsessed with doing. We have become a people of “doer-ship.” Yes, much of it’s necessary. But even with that “doing” we must carve out spaces of “nothing-ness” and quiet.

I know. I know. How are we suppose to do that given the zillion daily demands on our lives? I get it, believe me.

Before I retired and was working full-time, I barely could do the things I needed when I got home. Now, I’m one of the primary caregivers for my father and my time is filled with a variety of medical and health-care needs.

People will look at me and advise: “You really need to take care of yourself.”

Right.

But the truth is, I do need to love myself enough to give myself nurturing and good self care. You do, too. How we do that will be individual to each of us. And it will demand a bit of courage. If we are by nature a giving person, we may find it a challenge to give to ourselves as well.

Underlying that act may be a layer of “I don’t deserve this” as well as some guilt in not doing what we feel we’re asked to do. Many of us grew up learning how to be super-responsible and somehow, giving to ourselves may feel like we’re not being accountable to whatever or whomever we’re tending.

When any of us fail to make space to tend to our own needs, however, we are at war with ourselves. And that’s exhausting. In his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller writes:

“… a successful life has become a violent enterprise. We make war on our own bodies, pushing them beyond their limits; war on our children, because we cannot find enough time to be with them; war on our spirit, because we are too preoccupied to listen to the quiet voices that seek to nourish and refresh us.”

It’s far too easy to fall into this pit of exhaustion when we fail to stop to hear that “small still voice” of the Divine within. We become so consumed with “doing” we spiral into fatigue without giving ourselves an opportunity for renewal.

In her book, Feed My Shepherds, Flora Wuellner writes that those moments of renewal may be “gazing at a sunbeam on the floor, looking at a beloved painting, smelling a flower, touching a leaf, listening to a bird, stretching and breathing deeply, holding our hands under running water …or just quietly sensing God’s breath upon and within us.”

All beautiful advice. And I am listening to those words because I am often guilty of not heeding them. But instead of beating myself up for not taking time for self-care, I am being gentle with myself and learning. On this beautiful sunny Spring day, I went to the park and did something I’ve been wanting to do all winter.

I took off my shoes and felt the coolness of the new-green grass and warmth of the soft rich earth beneath my feet and toes. I felt a soothing breeze sweep across my face. I took deep nurturing breaths, filling my lungs with gratitude.

It was only for an hour. But it allowed me to be at peace, to center myself. Giving myself that nurturing time gave me the strength to go forward.

So, this day and in the coming weeks, may we each find what brings us peace and nurturing, whether it’s listening to sweet bird song, losing ourselves in a good book or the brilliant colors of a sunrise, or simply taking a much-needed nap.

May we make time to feel God’s breath upon us and within us. We deserve it.

The gifts of American Idol

I don’t watch reality TV shows.

Except for American Idol.

I love music. Played classical piano and some guitar in my younger days. And almost every one in my large family plays a musical instrument. So I appreciate a melodic voice, the masterful playing of the strings and notes that soar from the soul.

American Idol has that kind of amazing, genuine talent every week and I’m always in awe. But what I really love are the stories of those brave souls who are auditioning.

Catie Turner from my hometown of Langhorne, PA, makes it to the final rounds.

If you’ve seen the show at all, you know that each person has a story. Some come from broken homes, were homeless, have disabilities, have had parents or siblings who recently died, or are raising a child as a single parent. And yet, despite these challenges, each has a gift he or she feels compelled to share with the world.

Even as some come closer to making the final rounds, others are cut. And they leave the show heartbroken and in tears. They have a right to be sad. What they don’t seem to understand in their youth, however, is that other opportunities will come.

Or, perhaps, this is not their life path. After all, American Idol is about show business and celebrity and all the trappings that go with it. Some may not be ready for it. Or be ruined by it.

As a writer — and a person who believes Spirit is always with us and guiding us — I understand this process. When our creative work or gift is dismissed, we’re often crushed.

I can’t tell you how many times my novels have been rejected by literary agents. Or my personal essays dismissed by websites or editors. It’s a tough business.

So, after decades of writing, I finally came to this question: Why do I do this?

Many days I’ve thrown up my hands in exasperation and told myself: I don’t want to write anymore. We, who are creative types, often feel like our work is falling into a black hole. Is anyone out there, does anyone care? Perhaps not.

So to answer that question, why do I do this?

I do it because it’s “in” me — part of my nature. I can’t deny who I am. It would be like telling me not to breathe. If any words I write reach or touch anyone, that’s not my business. It’s God’s. I do my part; the Divine does its part.

And when you come down to it, that’s all we can do — our part. We are filled with the gifts given us by the Creator and then, at least as I see it, we give them back to be used for the greater good.

So, no, I may never write a best-selling novel. Or you may never star in a Broadway play. Or paint a masterpiece. Or play guitar like Eric Clapton. The Divine may have other ideas for the best use of our gifts other than our ego-driven agenda.

But each contribution, no matter how small, truly matters.

Art by Carly Dresselhaus

We are a kaleidoscope of gifts that are meant to prism out onto others and perhaps one small piece will illuminate someone else. Bring laughter. Joy. Hope. Each part is integral to the whole.

Spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson was once asked by an audience participant what he should do to become a famous actor. She asked this young man: What’s stopping you from acting now, even if you’re not famous? She told him: Perform in local community theater. Start a theatre troupe for young people. In other words, if you really want to act, you’ll act whether you become a celebrity or not.

This is not to deny dreams. If you want to become a star in your area of talent, you can do that. But it will take tremendous tenacity, drive, talent  — and some luck.

The truth is, many of us will never stand on a stage and perform. Instead, our gifts will be used in the ordinary moments of life — when we teach, parent, listen to someone in distress, cook, play a sport, dance, make others laugh.

Society does not shine the spotlight of success on these gifts. But they are just as important as singing, dancing, writing or painting. So, we can use our talents in the present moment. We can be authentic and true to our own voice, not someone else’s. Have fun. Use any failures to learn and grow.

And most important, offer our gifts in service to others.

When we do this, we are idols of the best kind. Living up to our God-given potential. And what greater gift is there?