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Hello Beauty

25 Sep

My title suggests I’m writing about something good. Well, I’m sorry to report this story is wrought with humanity, and more specifically, my humanity.

First let me begin with the scripture that challenges all justice, human justice and my own justifications:

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 New International Version (NIV)

So for a few weeks now I have really been struggling with a particular person. It doesn’t really matter the who of this equation, though I will shed light that this person has caused me a great deal of pain in one way or another for several years now. But most recently the irritation scale has hit new limits as I have been made the object of their angst. As such, I’ve had to endure harsh words, harsh tones, and a few accusations in between–not fun, I can assure you. And though I found myself wrestling with this circumstance for quite a bit, I have since been able to release it…or so I thought. The other day I saw this person approaching my direction and in the most sarcastic tone I could muster (insert your own audible sarcasm to get full effect), I uttered under my breath, “hello beauty.” Now for just one second I felt empowered over their perspective of me, but only for one second. In that second I had the fantasy of being superior and felt my quick-wit well played. But then my heart (or spirit) caught hold my humanity and the next second I felt small. Small minded and small hearted. In that moment of “next” I was offered a turn, a merciful turn and a loving turn. Essentially I was offered the chance to see beauty, real beauty like from G-d the Father of all. The spirit voice inside me asked if I was interested in remaining “small” or if I’d like to partake in the solution of good. I took the latter and this is what came forth:

Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to the beautiful morning.
Hello beauty, welcome
Hello to a new opportunity.
Hello beauty, I feel you
Hello to the fresh air.
Hello beauty, I see you
Hello to the sun and living things.
Hello beauty, thank you
Hello to love around me.

It is really a small and quick moment, the mental/spiritual exchange I had, but it was powerful. It moved me closer to love and further away from the ugly side of my humanity. Hello beauty, welcome–welcome back to me, my heart and where I want to live.

Today hanging on the wall in the office of my colleague I read the following quote by Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Only Love Today. I think it the perfect compliment to my own desire.

Today I will choose love. If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response…my gut instinct…my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read and partake. #onlylovetoday

Help, I’ve Lost My Big Girl Pants

21 Aug

There are many a thing I’d like to be more consistent about in my life. For instance, exercise–I would love to up my personal discipline to include a daily walk, on incline terrain, or a bike ride. Right now I’m maybe hitting that goal 3x’s per week, which means my waistline is nearing extinction. Another area of nagging thought, is to write my blog posts (this forum) more consistently, even if just to state something small of value (subjective I know). Both of these inconsistencies in my life are part of my personal goals. They matter to me, therefore they matter. I don’t have a following that requires I write, but I would like my creative writing skills to get more of a work out. And on that note, I honestly just feel better in the land of the living when my physicality is ready to support my shenanigans. So exercise to keep muscles strong gets “goal real estate.” And though tonight my walk and/or bike ride fell off the table of options, I still have just enough juice in my brain to attempt a post–sans my reading glasses (they are in the other room and I dare not loose steam in writing by getting up from this captured moment), so please forgive any blindness errors in typing.

This past week my siblings and I were affected by the sudden death of the husband of a childhood friend. Her husband was only 51 years young and leaves, in addition to his wife, two young girls. Just like that, life as it has been known, shifts. I understand this foundational movement, it’s like the tectonic plates of our lives slip and the tidal wave of change hits at every level. It is stifling! Now not everything I do or think is underpinned with loss, but truly loss lives within me and the effects of it are an underlying reality. So when news hits, such that came last week, those of us carrying the heavy burden already can empathize with those new to the experience. And in empathy there is pain. And in pain, there is exhaustion. And in exhaustion is where I loose my big girl pants.

Big girl pants, or the expression rather, is the notion of higher ground. For the most part it is where I live mentally–a place where I filter my thoughts through the lens of what matters here on earth to our loving creator. I like higher ground, it is a kinder place to be. There is less judgment of others there. There is less time for offense there. Higher ground has the scope of view that understands multiple perspectives, compassion for those unable to see at that same level, and honestly a bit more “brain peace” (quotations used to relay my own creation of term(s)). Aaahhh–brain peace, that is the stuff I enjoy most. Brain peace is when I can hit the pillow and rejoice in a guilt free, regret free environment. And yet, brain peace is not devoid improved planning, constructive corrections, nor even introspective considerations. It’s not ignorant to local, national and global issues. Brain peace knows pain, but not shame. Brain peace helps soothe the aching soul. I like brain peace!

However, last week upon learning the news of loss, the higher ground of which I seek took a dive and I got caught bare-side blank. Yep, my big girl pants were lost and my ass laid bare! What ensued was a mess; seeing the petty faults in others, feeling irritated by being slighted, complaining about circumstances around me and feeling sorry for all the tales of woe I could conjure up. I did catch on to the fact that I was my own problem, not the everything else to which I had ascribed the blame. Even so, I had to suffer through some rough nights devoid brain peace as I wrestled with my angst. Now please know, I didn’t mention the death earlier on so as to have justifiable cause to deviate into low-level thinking. I share the news because of its relevance. Loss is an ongoing antagonist. I carry on in life but still with the weight of loss upon me. Yes, soul muscles get strengthened in time, but the burden is still being carried. It is a very real thing and when a tragedy hits close to home, or close to those we love, our own grief is right there ready to claim its rightful ownership of mind, soul, heart and body. In plain English, we get worn down–I get worn down. And in that place of mental and physical tiredness, I get bugged.

Now the good news is I did find my big girl pants. Of course I knew I would, it was just a matter of time. And even though I played a game of mental ping-pong with reluctancy while searching for them, not only did I find them, I opted to put them back on. Whew! Moving into this mid-week mindset my recovery report still shows quasi progress. I’m not at full altitude but the ascent is in motion. The higher ground beckons, the panties secure.

I will say, in all of this mumbo jumbo of a blog post, I do wish one thing…to have all people wear grown up pants and consider kindness before other options. But for now I will satisfy myself in trying to keep mine on, which makes enduring the naked a truly attainable goal.

Vintage Floral Pants

BentRivka Big Girl Pants

 

 

Memorial Day, Maria Shriver and Me

28 May

This past couple of years my professional life has allowed me to interface with Maria Shriver and her team at Shriver Media. I have become increasingly touched by her Executive Producer, Sandy Gleysteen, as she and I have worked together to help bring the program, Architects of Change (AOC), to the scholastic level. I have also had the privilege to share company with Maria and others from her inner circle (just a few, as Maria’s inner circle is bigger than my hometown!) for bits of time, here and there within the last couple of years. I am touched by them because of their authenticity. Maria especially has been quite transparent, sharing her own life’s lessons, goals and struggles through her book tour, I’ve Been Thinking.... Back in March, after an AOC live conversation with her, we had time to talk a little bit about life. The subject of children came up and I did my best to deflect the conversation by stating “I’m a Gold Star Mom.” Usually, I can divert the talk away from me with that singular statement–not with Maria! She is a journalist after all and she walks away from nothing (or at least that is my impression). My secret was not safe with her and within minutes she and her team were learning of my son, Cole, and my heartbreak. We were just outside of my office where symbolism of my children reside, such as an inch high bottle of Tabasco sauce, reminding me (only) of Cole’s tour in Afghanistan where the MRE’s (meals-ready-to-eat) were so horrible he asked all of us to send him as many, mini-sized hot sauces as we could find so he and his fellow Marines could doctor the “food.” Pretty soon, with just a few snippets of insight, we were all wiping away tears. And Maria, in her straightforward Bostonian tongue, invited me to write a piece “from the Gold Star mother” perspective for her Sunday Paper, Memorial Day 2018 edition.

Knowing that AOC is about learning from one another’s stories to empower change for the good within ourselves first and then allowing the ripple effects of that goodness to extend beyond our own vision and reach, Maria challenged me to tell the story of how I get up out of bed and keep going. She reminded me that some people, after loss, cannot find the strength to do so and for some reason, my carrying on while bearing the intensity of my sorrow touched her. And so back in March, I began to think of why I keep going. I was given a 700 word limit and a deadline. I was also left to face aspects of my own story that I strategically ignore, which is not fun especially when the story cannot be fixed (corrected). And even now, after sharing my story via MariaShriver.Com, I am wondering…can I move beyond my disappointment and pain, turn a corner from it? I wonder this because while I am still balancing the weight of losing Cole, my soul remains burdened by it–an open wound that can bleed at any minute. I don’t have an answer to my own question just yet, but Maria Shriver definitely has me thinking!

At any rate, I hunkered down on Mother’s Day and gave way to writing. And just yesterday, Maria’s Sunday Paper hit email inboxes with her own sharing of new beginnings along with my short tribute (and inspirations from a few other amazing people). You can read my story directly on Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of New Beginnings by scrolling down and clicking on the photo of Cole and me.

OR, you can read it here below–

I am blessed to be the mother of two. And like my last name, Bent, so too is the Gold Star which envelops me. You see my son was returned home from the front lines in Afghanistan, OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), with the injury that would later claim his life. And as I write this with the shaky hands of a mother bearing the extreme loss of her son, I am grateful for the extra time I was given to witness the strength, honor and courage first hand of my United States Marine Warrior, Cole Bent, while he fought to survive.

The month of May is a tough time for families remembering their fallen loved ones. For me the month is a succession of painful reminders. I begin with Mother’s Day as I celebrate the role that gave me ultimate purpose, while also bearing the knowledge I am “a man down,” though still in the game. I then move on to the worst day of my life, May 17, when the authorities infiltrated with the horrid news no mother should have to hear, “your son is gone.” And then to the finish line of a national holiday where the entire nation remembers the bravery of the military deceased, those who have selflessly trained and honed their craft to preserve the freedom of our United States. Yes, May is a tough month to be sure.

Maria has asked me to write from this place of grief because she has known me only as having a spunk in my step, a smile upon my face and a forward motion in life that masks this inner turmoil hidden beneath the Bent Gold Star. How does one continue on with such a rift in the maternal walk of life? This question has been following me like a ferocious lion ever since she [Maria] posed it. At every proverbial turn, however, the answer remains the same; love and honor. I am compelled forward by love. The love of my son is insurmountable; yes I use the word “is” because though his physical being is gone from my world the love of him remains brilliantly alive. Love of my daughter, who needs a mother still. Love of my husband, best friend and father of our two children. Love of my family and friends who have walked this Bent road alongside us. Truly it is love, which precludes me from my selfishness.

When faced with the unbearable weight of the news of death, I fell. I fell into my bed unable to physically function—no eating, no drinking…no need! And yet in my desire to allow the grief to overtake me, I couldn’t help remembering the incredible strength of my Marine. The honor, which he so sought by enlisting in the Corps, and the focus of his commitment, are undeniable truths I could not avoid. And still today, I can not allow myself to disengage in this life, while knowing first hand the incredible sacrifices of our military personnel—a world I have been brought into through Cole. This knowledge coupled with love keeps me engaged to this life and to the ones still here.

To be fair (and honest really), I am nowhere near having the strength I long for. The desire I carry to advocate for our veterans and injured military lies within me, dormant, because my own grief still gets in the way. I hope time will assuage this, but the weight of the burden remains unaltered from the moment the golden star was placed upon me, though my soul muscles are more accustomed to carrying it. In the present, the best I can offer is to step out of my bed determined to give and receive love with those who are in my path and to find gratitude in the moments this side of Heaven I am still privy to.

This Memorial Day 2018, I will visit the National Cemetery home to Cole’s remains. I will take time to read the details on headstones surrounding his and recognize the incredible sacrifice of many to preserve freedom. As Cole’s mom, I cannot help but notice he is surrounded by lives long lived. This is the struggle I will again bear as his marble displays the sad truth of a life cut short at 22 years. I will have to, once more, draw upon love and honor to pull myself up from the depths of maternal loss because his legacy deserves that from me. LCpl Bent, not only served our country, he gave our family insight into a world of hard-core commitment and determination. It is for Cole Bent I share my story and give a proper Marine shout…“Oorah my son, Oorah!”

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