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Want To Be Happy? Then Ya Gotta Have Hope.

The other day I was trying to figure out why it is that when I feel happy and content, I don’t worry about the meaning of life or my purpose in it. Heck, I don’t even think about those things when I’m in a really good mood (unless I’m writing a blog post about it, lol).

Why? I kept wondering.

And then, it came to me: hope. Hope is expecting good things from the future, and when I’m happy, I’m full of hope. I’m wearing the proverbial rose-colored glasses, and everything I see is beautiful. Including life, whether it be the life I’m living at the moment, or the life that will be many moments hence.

When you’re full of hope, you’re also full of faith. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for…[Hebrews   11:1].” And when you’re full of faith, you can’t be depressed. When you’re full of faith, everything in life has a positive meaning.

Feeling happy leads to hope, leading to faith, leading to greater happiness (not to mention joy)…it can potentially never end.

Reality check.

Of course, that’s not true for any of us living on earth. Stuff happens, and hope diminishes, either nibbled away gradually over time, or washed away in one fell swoop.

Demons might speak discouragement into your mind. A hormonal imbalance might lead to a brain chemistry imbalance. A loved one dies. You constantly run up against obstacles that keep you from achieving your goals, even the smallest, presumably easiest ones.

The good news is, you don’t have to live in a state of hopelessness.

Proof that life is NOT pointless.

I recently read a Quora thread where several people answering a question declared that life is pointless, has no meaning except what we invent for it. Clearly, they are atheists and agnostics who don’t believe that we have spirits that live forever. Obviously, if this life is all there is and we’re just going to die and eventually the sun is going to burn up the earth (or shrivel up and cause earth to freeze) and obliterate all traces of human existence, then the logical, true conclusion must be that life has no intrinsic meaning, that we’re just here to fight for what we want for a while, and then have our existence annihilated.

Those people are hypocrites. Atheists are hypocrites. Because there’s no hope in that belief, and hopeless people are depressed people. Depressed people check out of life as much as possible, and many of them, as you know, completely check out of life in an irreversible way. The very fact that a so-called atheist is still alive, or goes out with friends, or seeks a more fulfilling job, or gets married, means that deep down inside, they have hope for the future.

They have two mental hurdles to get over. The first is knowing – not believing, but knowing – that an ultimate Creator exists. I have good news for them. Quantum physics has proven the existence of such a Being. The video below explains it.

The second hurdle is coming to the understanding that this eternal Being has also created humankind to be eternal Beings. No one can give any tangible proof of that. People who claim to have had visions of heaven or the spiritual realm, or to have actually gone to heaven (or hell) when they died temporarily, can be accused of having had hallucinations or dreams. Believers like me can’t prove that what we sense as God’s presence inside us is, indeed, God’s presence. And that such a presence means God is leading us into a perfect, eternal life.

The best I know how to approach that second hurdle, the disbelief in eternal life, is to tell you to ask yourself why you do anything. The answer is, to achieve something. We eat in order to have energy, to think more clearly. We date, court, and marry to fill our need for love and affection. We go to work to have money to pay the bills and afford luxuries. We yell at our kids to get them to stop doing something potentially dangerous. We turn on the T.V. to keep from feeling bored, or to escape from a bad day.

Everything we do has a purpose, no matter how trivial or short-lived.

Okay. If we peons do something for a purpose, don’t you think the Supreme Being created the universe for a purpose?

People might still argue that God’s purpose was just to create beings that could procreate, and after that He took His hands off. Thus, everyone that’s been born during the past thousands and thousands of years have been merely the result of a heterosexual couple copulating, not a result of God intentionally causing particular people to be born.

Again, I can’t prove that’s not true. But I can take you back to hope. Where does it come from? Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Why do we respond with compassion when we hear about a natural disaster that’s affected hundreds, if not thousands, of people? Why has every single culture throughout the history of mankind believed in superior spiritual beings, and why was religion invented in the first place?

Could it be that the Bible is true, that God created humans in His image, and therefore every single human being has at least a vague sense of having been created, as well as a sense that this earthly life is not all there is?

If there is no such thing as eternity, how can the limited human mind conceive of such a vast, profound concept?

So we come back to hope.

If you’ve been calling yourself an atheist or agnostic, realize that the very fact that you keep living, keep reaching for more, means that you have hope for a better future – and not just until the end of your earthly life.

If you’ve been feeling hopeless, tell those demons to shut up and go away – or work on rebalancing your brain chemistry – and realize that no matter how you’re feeling, the truth is that your very existence gives you reason to hope.

And when hope returns, so does happiness. Or, at the very least, contentment, along with a sense that you are not alone in the world and that God has a wonderful plan for your eternity.

Yes, if you’re over the age of twenty, your body is slowly beginning to fall apart, and one day it will quit working altogether. But you are not your body. You are your soul and your spirit, and they go on forever, without the limitations of frail human flesh. Grab onto that truth, cling to it for all  you’re worth, and use this earthly life as practice for the marvelous life to follow it.

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I’m Supposed To Be Over This!!!

Yesterday, when I wrote this blog post, I was on top of the world. I had tons of energy and felt like I could do anything. I thought, “Finally! That miserable pessimism and feeling of worthlessness is gone. I’ll finally be able to be consistent with my online creativity.”

Well. That lasted all of twelve hours. Then it all came crashing down.

It all ended when…

…I majorly messed up in trying to upload a video onto my new personal finance YouTube channel shortly before bed.

But even a couple of hours earlier, I’d started to get frustrated with the realization that yes, indeed, Irlen syndrome does get worse as one ages, and that I can’t write, create pins for blog posts, and edit videos all in one day. [Insert your favorite curse word here.]

Then the losing a video thing happened, and I was so upset I refused my husband our ritual bedtime snuggle. Life wasn’t worth living if I couldn’t upload videos when I wanted, if I couldn’t write or be on the computer as much as I wanted.

Then I woke up…

…in an equally sour mood, having let demons whisper all kinds of lies in my head during the wee smalls of the morning. After getting out of bed, I lay into poor J for this, that, and the other, culminating my rant by telling him…well, that one’s too personal. None of your business.

Let’s just say that before it came out of my mouth, I knew it would cut him. But I let it come out anyway.

I cried and had a pity party. Threw a silent tantrum at God.

And then…

…I played my guitar and sang a couple of hymns. That was it. Singing to the Lord was the cure for what ailed me. It usually is. Something I should remember more often.

After I put up my guitar, I went to my computer and decided to upload what I thought was an older, different version of the introductory video I’d tried to upload last night.

You’ll never guess what I discovered.

C’mon, try.

The video that I uploaded this morning was actually the one I’d wanted to upload. The other one, the one I’d tried to upload last night but lost when I hit the wrong keys, had been the original, unedited video, I figured out after wracking my brain.

Duh.

So of course, I felt even better. And much chagrined.

J came in shortly after, and I threw myself at him, apologizing profusely. I told him I thought I was over this mood swing stuff.

Dumb, because I’ve read about women still having hot flashes ten years after going through menopause, and other symptoms several years after.

Two lessons learned.

First, I must call every negative thought captivity the instant it comes into my head. Tell the demons to go to the Pit where they belong, if need be. Because sometimes, negative thoughts come from outside. And if a lack of serotonin in your brain is already making you feel less-than, those outside evil thoughts will drag your mind all the way down into the hot middle of the earth.

Second, I must remember I’m not out of the low-estrogen-symptom boat yet. And give myself grace, and not take my misery out on my loved ones.

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I Demand Happy Endings!

I recently discovered something interesting about myself. If a story has a lot of tension, the characters experiencing harrowing events – even violence or life-altering disasters or trauma – but has a happy ending, I like it. But if a story contains bright spots inside it, even insights I find to be personally helpful, but ends on a generally tragic or depressing note, I hate it. That’s even if it ends positively for one of the main characters.

I must have happy endings to any story I consume, whether it be written or on-screen.

Poisonwood Bibles and Green Miles of the world, stay back!

I will gladly go on record as saying that The Poisonwood Bible is an excellent specimen of literary fiction. Barbara Kingsolver is unarguably a master of her craft. But the ending of that particular novel of hers is a mix of tragic and depressing, so I don’t like it.

I recently made the traumatizing mistake of watching the movie The Green Mile. At least, I watched it up until halfway through Del’s execution. My reaction to that scene shall be the topic of another blog post. Suffice to say I didn’t finish the movie. And when I went to Wikipedia a couple days later to find out how it ended, I was glad I didn’t. The ending is totally depressing.

Just before that, my husband and I watched a BBC production of Oliver Twist. Back in my twenties, I read all – yes, I said all – of Charles Dickens’ novels, and I remember loving every single one. Either I wasn’t as sensitive then as I am now, or words on a page aren’t nearly as heart-wrenching as the same story played out by real people on a screen.

The ending of the movie – true to the novel – was completely disheartening and depressing. (SPOILER ALERT!!) So what if Oliver Twist found his wealthy family? What about Nancy? The Artful Dodger? I even felt sorry for Bill Sikes when I realized he was obviously remorseful over accidentally murdering Nancy, and what did Dickens do to him? Made him hang himself!

I hate Oliver Twist, and despite loving the mini-series Little Dorrit (which we’d watched just prior), I am now wary of watching any other screen production of any of Dickens’ other novels.

On the other hand, a few months ago I read a thriller novel that had quite a bit of blood and gore in places. I could stand it because about halfway through, I began to suspect that what was happening was all in the main character’s mind (I was right). Still, it was very tense and the protagonist’s internal struggle ripped at the heart.

BUT! The novel ended happily. Very happily. So, guess what? I like it!

Happy endings are a must.

It was only a couple of years ago that I discovered that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person. I never had a good reason before then to explain my need for happy endings.

Now, I do. See, HSP’s tend toward anxiety and depression. We feel everything more strongly than non-HSP’s. We’re not trying to overreact or by drama kings and queens. It’s just how we’re wired.

So we experience the tragedies and struggles and traumas of both our own lives and other people’s – even complete strangers we only read about – more deeply than the average person. This makes finding silver linings around clouds analogous to finding a needle in a haystack. (Kindly excuse the metaphor mixing. 😉 )

I can’t speak for everyone else, but I believe I consume stories with happy endings as a kind of therapy. “Okay, life can’t be all bleak and gray – look at how this story turned out.”

Happy endings give me hope.

The subject of a soon-coming blog post. So, stay tuned!

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“Love is a choice.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read that statement. But in my fifty-one years, it’s been enough that every once in a while, it comes into the front of my mind.

It hit me like a sledgehammer this morning. But before I explain why, I need to delve into the mechanics of menopause for a minute.

In women, estrogen rules.

During the past five years, I’ve done a lot of research into perimenopause, trying to figure out what’s been going on with my body, whether this symptom or that is normal for a woman in her mid- to late-forties (they all have been, crazily enough). The crux of the matter is this: estrogen is required for an insane number of functions in the female body, either directly or indirectly, functions that never occur to the average non-medically trained person.

For example, those hot and cold flashes perimenopausal and post-menopausal women experience? Estrogen is required for proper functioning of the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature.

Ah! I see a light going on above your head!

Estrogen works with the nervous system, as well. So when levels of the hormone are low,  a woman might experience inexplicable itching, crawling, or stinging sensations on her skin, as well as random aches and pains that make zero sense, as well as tingling in the extremities.

For the purposes of this article, I want to share a new piece of information I just learned: estrogen is required for the production of oxytocin.

The love hormone…that’s slowly dying inside me.

Oxytocin. Remember that? If you’ve had children, or ever looked into how having an orgasm with your partner makes you feel “in love” with them, you may have learned all about it. Oxytocin is the “love hormone.” It’s released during orgasm, and released every time a woman breastfeeds an infant. It’s also released when a father interacts with his baby child. I’m guessing it might also be released when friends share a life-changing moment or experience together, during which they support and encourage each other, and cry and laugh together.

It is, in essence, the chemical that powerfully bonds one human to another.

And it dwindles down to sometimes minute levels as a woman nears, and passes over, menopause. Why?

Because you need estrogen in order to produce oxytocin!

“More than a feeling…”

Most of the time, when you hear people talk or sing about love, they refer to it as an emotion, whether a tender feeling or a passionate urge.

Think on what I’ve just told you, and you’ll realize that’s completely wrong.

The “feeling” isn’t love. It’s a natural, chemically-induced high resulting from an explosion of oxytocin in the brain.

Most people don’t know that. So, women approach the age of fifty, and what happens? They lose that feeling, and think they must not love their husband anymore. They wonder why on earth they ever had children, because they wish those teenage monsters would disappear. They realize with sudden shock that they feel no love for their children, and exchange guilt for that love.

Which, of course, isn’t love at all. Never has been.

Because love is a choice.

But a lot of women who don’t realize that, end up abandoning their families. Or, at least, divorcing the person they once thought was their soul mate.

A relief, and a new frustration

I was relieved to discover that I’m not alone in my diminished feelings of affection for both my husband and my son. It’s not an “attack of the enemy” on my mind, nor a result of a selfish desire for independence. It’s a perfectly normal experience for a woman over the age of forty-five.

On the other hand, I’m frustrated that it’s taken me so long to realize the truth of the statement, “Love is a choice, not a feeling.” Here I sit, at fifty-one years old, having to force my mind through a Grand Canyon-sized paradigm shift, and it ain’t comfortable. I have to change my definition of love.

Love choosing to put others’ needs ahead of my own. It’s choosing to stick with them, no matter how hard the road gets. Of course, I’ve known that in my head for years. But I spent those years mistaking the oxytocin flowing through my blood for the real thing.

For my husband, this shift means choosing to stay faithful to my wedding vows, even when I don’t feel like it (not that I haven’t been planning to. It’s just that the paradigm shift makes it less of a struggle). For my son, it means choosing to continue to mother and nurture him, even though what little nurturing I had in me before has shriveled like a forgotten grape on the vine.

Please understand: I don’t mean to say that I never feel affection, or a wave of “in love-ness,” toward my husband. Or that all maternal feelings toward my son are gone. I’m just saying that I experience them much less frequently than I used to, at lower levels.

Regardless of my frail human emotions and delicate brain chemical balance, thank God for Yeshua, who is my perfect example on how to live in real love.

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Breaking Out Creatively…

 

There’s this idea that’s been going around and around my brain since late this morning. It is, I believe, the culmination of wrestling with my purpose and calling for the past several years. I’ve been off and on frustrated with various projects I’ve picked up. Some I’ve finished. Some I’ve dropped as though they’d stung me after only getting so far into them (I used to be someone who always finished whatever she started).

All have felt like exercises in futility.

This is partly due to my season of life, that glorious, awe-inspiring time in every woman’s life known as perimenopause during which time the drop in estrogen levels cause a drop in serotonin and other “feel-good” brain chemicals, often leading to some level of depression and/or anxiety, which leads to the dimming and disheartening of a woman’s perspective on life.

But I think it’s also – and perhaps more – because I am, at my core, a non-conformist. Though I follow rules well enough to keep those around me content that I’m not going to be an emotional threat to them, in my heart of hearts I feel like a caged bird when I am given limitations around my creativity and personal expression. And when I try to stay within the confines of those limitations, I quickly get bored.

YouTube: “Your channel must be confined to one general topic, or our algorithm won’t like you.”

Search engines: “If you blog, you need to write long, juicy posts full of popular keywords, or I’ll never show your posts in the first page of results. And for goodness’ sake, don’t actually blog. Real blogs are personal. I only care about blogs that are set up like authoritative websites, even though they’re all just parroting the same old boring information and don’t have a spark of creativity about them.”

Fiction readers: “We like novels the best, and the more romance and sex, the better.”

So, what have I been doing for the sake of gaining an audience for my knowledge or talents? Being as untrue to myself as I can be by hemming my creativity into the narrow bounds of the various online creation platforms.

The idea

The idea that’s been hounding me all day isn’t new to me. What’s new about it is my realization that if I keep sticking to everybody’s else’s rules, I’m going to end up hating whatever I do, and then not do anything and then people who might have potentially discovered my content and been helped by it, won’t.

Not to mention that I won’t experience any fulfillment in life.

So, what’s my big idea?

Have a blog where I write about whatever I want (a-hem, this one), and a corresponding YouTube channel where I upload videos about whatever I want.

–Educational content, or how-to’s and information on the different things I’ve learned or am learning, on all the topics I’m interested in.

–Personal sharing. Philosophy. Faith. Family. My mistakes and my victories.

–Flash fiction (super-short stories).

–Songs.

–Whatever occurs to me to write about or perform.

Like this blog post. 😉

Amen.

PS – If you’re on Pinterest and enjoyed this article, would you mind pinning the image at the top of this post? Thanks a million! 🙂

 

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