Archive | April, 2013

For the Love of Teens

30 Apr

Yet another young man has committed a violent act in the United States; this time upon himself, in my hometown, where my nephew goes to school.  This time, instead of turning a gun on the students who tormented him, he turned the violence upon himself, but the effect of that act reached deep into my heart.

It’s only been a few months since I wrote a blog about Sandy Hook and Columbine and some of the other events that involved teenage boys committing violence on themselves and others.  That post https://karenbemmes.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/one-mothers-plea/ was a heartfelt call to action to people around the country to look past the actions of these individuals to get to the heart of the issue, not cover it up with 2nd amendment legislation rhetoric.

This time, it isn’t about an unusual character who has ostracized himself by a lifestyle choice or an obsession with guns or anger issues.  This time, it is an honor student who is working on his Eagle Scout project who was bullied to the point that he thought the world would be better without him.  How could this be possible?  How could this young man with such potential ever feel this way?  Have we really made being intelligent and achieving such a target for ridicule that a young man is bullied to the point of suicide?  I hope not because this is what I teach my children to strive for.  I expect my children to succeed, and I hold very high expectations for them, but I also require something else from them, something that our culture seems to have forgotten and that is kindness and love.

I know that we have this notion that focusing on kindness and love with result in weakness, but I promise you it won’t.  One of strongest men I know, physically, mentally and emotionally is also one of the most kind and loving men I know, and I happen to have the privilege of being married to him.  He continually strives to be better at everything he does.  He will work for hours without complaining.  He would, without hesitation, lay down his life for his family or take a life if it were threatening the life of someone he loved.  We have weathered the death of our fathers, extended hospitalizations, financial struggles, health struggles and family issues together for over twenty years, and he has been a rock through most of it.  Because of his strength, we have gotten through it and come out stronger on the other side, but because he is loving and kind, we have weathered these life issues and become better human beings as well.  I watch this man of strength with any child and my faith in humanity is restored.  The gentleness that he has with them melts my heart and more importantly, I see my sons show the same behavior because it’s what they have been taught by a master.  Gentle and kind men are not weak.

The other thing that pains me about these incidents of violence is understanding where these teens are emotionally because I have been there.  There was a time in my teens that I felt so low that I considered removing myself from this Earth.  There was also a time that I felt so betrayed and belittled that I considered revenge on a grand scale.  I understand these teens.  I understand that their emotions are overriding their better judgment.  I can look at them and think, “There but for the Grace of God go I”.  That’s a hard thing to admit, but I think those of us who have been there and not acted need to speak out.  We need to tell every teenager in this country that these are NOT the best years of your life.  They are the hardest ones, especially when you have Facebook and Twitter to not only record your less than stellar moments but also to manufacture lies, rumor and innuendos that can take on an incredibly ugly life of their very own.  No decade in my life has been as difficult as my teens, and since I’m on my fourth decade AFTER my teens, I speak from a lot of experience.

So please, if you know a teen, whether you think they are at risk or not, tell them life gets better.  Tell them adulthood is so much better that high school.  Tell them they are important.  They are special.  They are a gift from God and we need them for the future of humanity, not to be the next Snooki or Justin Bieber.  We need them to be themselves and we need them to be here.  If I could share anything with the parents of this young man, it would be hugs and love.  If I could say anything to this young man, it would be that his life matters and that he is loved and not just by his family.  I will say this to each of my boys today and as many days and in as many ways as I can, and hopefully others will do the same.  Thanks for being you and have a blessed day.

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Past Forgiveness

4 Apr
My dad with my boys March 9 , 1997

My dad with my boys March 9 , 1997

It’s not even 9 AM in my part of the world and already this is been an extraordinary day. I think the best way to start this particular post is with a little background information. Easter Sunday was the 16th anniversary of my father’s passing from this world to the next. Some people think I have a strange view of death because I can be joyful about my father’s passing. The reason I can be joyful is that I truly believe with every part of my being that this life is just a small part of something much bigger and much, much better. The other reason that I can be joyful about my father’s passing is because he lived a difficult life, partially because of circumstances beyond his control and partially because of choices he made and the way he thought about life.

Just recently I began rereading the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the agreements in the book is” Don’t Take Anything Personally”. In a nutshell, the agreement says that whenever you take anything personally you accept the poison of someone else’s perspective which is really selfishness because you make the other person’s reaction about you.

Today as I was thinking about my 50th birthday in a couple of weeks and the party we are planning to celebrate, I started thinking about the people who my husband called who said they can’t come. Some of them are dear friends and relatives; people I cannot imagine not having at the celebration. I began to feel very unsettled and unhappy. I thought about saying the heck with it and just chucking the whole idea of the party out the window. I was irritated and aggravated. Then I remembered something.

In 1997, my dad was in hospice for his 54th birthday.  I had given birth to my second child on March 4th. At the time, I was also coaching a club volleyball team that had a tournament on March 8th. Four days after giving birth, I spent over eight hours on my feet coaching volleyball between feedings of a newborn, not by a bottle. By the end of the day, I was exhausted physically mentally and emotionally. I called my dad as we were leaving the tournament to wish him a happy birthday and to tell him we wouldn’t be able to see him until his party the next day. I knew he was disappointed. I knew he was hurt, but I was exhausted and it was late and I had to take care of myself and my baby.  We went to Hospice for his party the next day.  He died on March 31st.

Today, as I thought about my birthday party and how disappointed I am that some of the more important people in my life won’t be at my party, I thought about how disappointed my father probably was when we missed his birthday even though we attended his party the next day. I realized how deeply I regretted not being there. I realized how much guilt I still carried because we didn’t make it there. I realized on the most profound level how shame filled I was for missing his last birthday, for being in denial that it would be his last birthday and for causing him emotional pain that day. It was gut wrenching and I had one heck of a cry as the emotions bubbled up, but something else happened too.

As I worked my way through my regret and guilt, I thought about the “agreement” and how personally I was taking everything in regard to my father. I thought about my belief about where he is and the fact that any hurt my actions may have caused him are no longer important to him. For 16 years, I’ve carried a heavy burden that I don’t need to carry anymore. So today, I lay aside my regret, my guilt and my shame for a decision I made as an exhausted mom with a newborn 16 years ago. I also lay aside any irritation, frustration and disappointment regarding anyone who can’t attend my party.

After some meditation and prayer, I find myself in awe of divine unfolding that allows me to release my guilt and regret so that I can do the same for others. It’s a healing that I didn’t even know I needed but one for which I am so very grateful. I feel as though a part of me has been broken open, as if a dark place is now filled with light. It is a peaceful and joyful feeling and I hope that if any of you have burdens like this that you will find the grace that I found this morning so that you too can heal and move on in your life in peace, joy and love. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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