reflections

Thoughts

My fiance has had multiple sclerosis for years, and as a result of the different attacks, he has recently been declared legally blind.  Since we don’t live in the same state at the moment, I am not sure what this entails.  He will be flying to Chicago to meet me for a couple of weeks, and I guess I will see the extent of this, his latest exacerbation.

I knew all along that something like this was bound to happen, as this wouldn’t be the first time that his MS attacks his optic nerves, but now that the reality is sinking in, I don’t know what to expect.  A part of me is ready to roll with the punches, but the other part of me is honestly terrified.

When I look at the long term, I am confident and calm.  When I look at the day to day, I feel at a loss.  The feeling is totally terrifying, almost freezing me.  But when I take a deep breath to try to cope with the situation – I wasn’t really expecting it to progress to this level this soon, and truth be told, I don’t think he expected it to be this way, either –  I can only see a cross we must carry together.

Certain friends have told me that I am not married yet – that I am still able to get out of this “mess” but that’s not even in my head!  Sure, I can run away and leave him now, but what does that accomplish?  It wouldn’t only break his heart, it would also break mine into a million pieces.  My response is, if I had already been married to him by the time he was declared legally blind, should I run away and leave him?  The answer is no.  So why should I leave now, when we have a solid relationship and a solid commitment to each other and love for each other?

Besides, my friends are not seeing his side of the coin.  He could also say that my illnesses are all too much for him to bear and he could leave me at any point – especially given that I have been hospitalized multiple times since we started dating – yet he doesn’t even seem to flinch.

Like I was saying earlier, I see it as we will pick up our crosses and help each other.  Honestly, as terrified as a part of me is, I have full confidence that God will provide.  He doesn’t put in my path anything I am not able to bear.  I don’t know what the road ahead has in store for us.  But I do know that God is with us every step of the way.

I can’t stop thinking that fear is the opposite of love, and that God doesn’t call us to be comfortable, but to have complete faith in Him.

reflections

Who Am I Called to Be?

There comes a time in the life of Christians in which we ask “Who am I called to be?”.

I can’t claim to have the answers, because I don’t think I do.  However, there are certain things that can help us discern who we are called to be.
Firstly, God created us in a very unique way.  No other human is exactly like us, and God had us in His mind, from the beginning of times, and placed us where and when we are.  When you think about this, I think that there must be a reason that God decided to put me in this world, in this day and age, and that I must figure out what He wants of me.
However, how am I supposed to know what He wants from me?

1.  PRAYER

Prayer is a relationship, a conversation with God.  How do we find out what others want from us?  We ask them in conversation.  So why not have the same approach with God?  You can approach prayer in any which way you want.  That is, with prayers that come from the heart, or from a book.  The basic idea here is to get talking to God.  It may take some time, but a prayerful life will bear fruit.
I know from my personal experience that prayer can seem very one-sided, especially at the beginning.  However, when we keep at it, we find out that God has ways of talking to us.

2.  LISTENING

 
Listening is very difficult, but as your prayer life increases, listening becomes easier.  God has many ways of talking to us.  In the homilies at Mass, in reading the Bible or the lives of the saints, in what other people may say about your problem without asking them, in dreams, etc.  However, one must be careful with listening.  Listening should be guided by the Church teachings.  God is not going to tell you, for example, to stop going to confession, because that is against Church teaching.  For help in discerning the listening, go to your nearest priest.

3.  HUMILITY

We don’t know the answers to everything.  We can’t do everything.  We can’t make everything happen.  We can’t control everything that is going on.  Not everything is going to go our way.  We must accept life’s shortcomings with humility.  We are a community of Christians.  We don’t need to do everything by ourselves.  With a humble mentality, we can begin to figure out how we can be of service to others.  It is often in service to others that we can begin to see what God wants of us.

4.  STOP TRYING TO BE SOMEONE ELSE

 

This is perhaps the most straightforward (as in DUH!) and deep (as in I hadn’t thought of it before).  It is very easy to read about a person that plants a garden and tends to it, and think that is something we can do (yet we hate to dig our hands in dirt).  Or about people that do something that sounds oh-so-wonderful, but we can’t do certain things about this oh-so-wonderful enterprise.  (For example, climbing Mt Everest… not everyone has the stamina to do so!)

To paraphrase Pope Francis, the Church is like an orchestra.  We are all different instruments.  Together we make beautiful music together, but we are not all the same.  It’s okay to be different!

The key here is personal development.  When you concentrate on what you like, the gifts that the Lord has given you (that is, that isn’t sinful!) and learn more about it, eventually, who you’re called to be will be revealed.  Just remember to deepen your prayer life, prepare to listen carefully and with humility, be humble, and find yourself.

 

To paraphrase what St. Catherine of Siena once said, “If you are what you should be, you’ll set the whole world ablaze.”

reflections

Depression Has Brought Me Closer to God

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, since 2008.  At the time, there was much turmoil in my life, and I wasn’t in the Church.  I had fallen off.  I wasn’t going to Mass, I wasn’t praying, I was somewhat agnostic.  I was single, pregnant, and scared.  I had just come back home from a year-long deployment with the U.S. Navy.  My world had just come crashing in.  And in June 2008, mid-pregnancy, I was so depressed that my OB/GYN didn’t let me leave the office.  It was that obvious that I was that sad, and I was contemplating suicide after I delivered my baby.  I just felt that worthless and that hopeless.
Soon after I delivered my baby, I lost my job.  I had married the father of my baby on a Justice of the Peace celebration.  So some things were sort of looking up.  I still tried to attempt suicide, but was thankfully too chicken to try.  I considered the possibility of Hell, since I had known this from my formation as a cradle Catholic, and after having talked to a priest about the possibility of getting married in the Church.  Either way, I was so sick that I still went down the suicide path several times.
However, through the years of treatment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Chicago, one of the things they push, is that spirituality may be a pillar that keeps you sane.  Over and over this possibility was brought to the table as part of my treatment, and over and over I turned it down.
I had fallen into the idea that intellect alone should save me from the throes of depression.  I had fallen in the un-humble idea that I didn’t need God.  If science has so many answers and so many treatments for depression, if I just follow what science says, I should be able to overcome.
Eventually, after about 6 years of “self-sufficiency”, I came across a psychologist whom I respect very much.  She insisted – without pushing or preaching – I tried the spiritual pillar of recovery as part of my recovery plan.  I eventually gave in.  She scheduled an appointment for me to meet with the Catholic Chaplain.
I would like to say that I was obedient and humble and that I was able to immediately learn from what this Priest had to say.  But it was not so.  It was only after about 1 year of talking with him back and forth that I slowly came back to the faith and I gained humility and obedience (which they are NOT perfect – way far from perfect, but I try).
I now attend Mass more than just on Saturday Vigil or Sundays and Holy Days.  Sometimes it’s a real struggle, but I try my absolute best.  Not because I feel like I am all holy these days – far from it, but because I want to be closer to God.
During my last hospitalization, which was just a few weeks ago, I had a confession with this Chaplain, and mentioned how I was closer to God and more “Christ-like”.  He challenged my thought.  He asked me how it was that I was more Christ-like when I was still contemplating suicide?  I realized at this very moment that I needed to be more humble and that I also needed the help of God to get through this most horrible illness.
As you can see from the timeline, I am still a work in progress –  we all are.  But it was this descent down madness that led me to eventually seek God, and return to my faith, making this Cross I bear (depression) a blessing in disguise.
As I grow in faith and prayer, I realize that as much as I hate my depression, it is also a blessing I have.  It is as much a reason to increase my prayer life as it is a reason to thank God for everything that goes on in my life, including the bad.
reflections

Of Clutter and the Kingdom of Heaven

There is no doubt that we are a capitalist country (USA), in a consumerist culture.  We are constantly bombarded by ads that tell us we need this and that product.  We are then told that to be happy we need to have more.  And when more is not enough, we are told we need better stuff, and then when better isn’t enough, we need more again, and then better and so on and so forth.  Next thing you know, we need storage spaces outside of our houses, because we have outgrown our homes, so we get a storage space.  (Did you know that storage space companies are well and thriving? I’m sure you did.)  Then we think that we have too much stuff because not only have we outgrown our houses but they are overflowing with stuff and clutter, so we hire organizers to help us with parting ways with the stuff we don’t really love, need, or no longer serves us.  (Or we buy books on how to get rid of clutter, either way, I am sure you get my point.)

But, is this really the way Jesus called us to live?  Does Jesus really want us to live in cluttered homes, in a never-ending circle of unhappiness and stuff?  Didn’t He say at some point (and someone please help me with the exact Bible verse) to give up all earthly riches in order to enter the Kingdom of God?  Aren’t we called to be humble?

I am speculating, because I couldn’t find any studies to back this up, but America has to be one of the most cluttered countries.  We are also a self-proclaimed Christian nation.  If this is the case, if we are Christian, then why are we so obsessed with acquiring stuff?  With flaunting what we have (and what we have thanks to debt)?  With impressing our neighbor?  With keeping up with the Joneses?

When did the devil get a chance to ingrain himself in society to such a degree?  That we see it normal and a blessing to be overflowing in things that in the end are nothing but vanities?  When did we, as a Christian nation, put “stuff” first, even above God?

I am trying not to judge, but how many people do you know who would rather go to the shopping mall for 4 hours to spend money acquiring things they don’t really need than to go to church?  How many people do you know would rather shorten Thanksgiving dinner or skip it all together so they can go get that fancy whatever-it-is-they-suddenly-decided-they-needed-thing on black Friday?  How many people are so in debt over stuff they really didn’t need?

Just some thoughts that came to my head as I was organizing my closet, and getting ready to donate clothes I no longer wear and stuff that I bought when I was feeling down and decided that “retail therapy” was the way to go.  (Yes, I am guilty of consumerism, too.)

reflections

Being Grateful

In the world we live in, we are constantly bombarded by the idea that a better car, a better house, better clothes, better friends, etc. will bring us happiness.  But not very often do we stop to think to be grateful for what we already have.  Have you ever stopped to thank God for what you do have?  Your health, your job, your friends and family?  And how would being truly thankful for what you do have change your view of the world into one of happiness?

I have recently shared how gratitude and journaling about it has helped me with my depression.  While the change is a work in progress and has had its ups and downs, it certainly has forced me to look at what I do have in my life and to appreciate even the little things, because somedays – and we’ve all had those days – that’s all we seem to have to be thankful for:  the little things.  And on the better days, be sure to stop and smell the roses and everything big you do have, because it is worth noting, too.

Once you start realizing what you do have and are truly thankful for it, it will be easier to eliminate clutter, live simpler, and enjoy more.  While my gratitude journey is far from perfect, I have been able to eliminate some clutter, and enjoy more of what I do have while living simpler.  I have a long way to go, but I can see the difference of where I was versus where I am and where I see myself going.

reflections

Who do we worship?

Do we really worship God?  Do we give Him his dues?  Or do we just roll around on Sundays, shut the alarm clocks, sleep “five more minutes” and then realize we are so late for Church and just have breakfast/brunch and watch a rerun on Keeping up with the Kardashians?

I know, it is so tempting to sleep in on Sundays, especially when Mass is offered so early in the USA.*  Especially when it seems to be the only day we can sleep in.  Or when it seems to be the one day we can really rest after spending Saturday catching up with everything else we didn’t do during our busy weekdays.  I know.  I have been there.  I have missed Holy Sunday Day of Obligation because I was so busy just… catching up on some really needed zzzz’s.

But who do we really worship?  It’s one thing to miss Mass one day for whatever reason, and another to miss Mass because we’re binge watching THAT show one Netflix or Keeping up with whomever!

Piggybacking on my post from 6/20/2016Of Clutter and the Kingdom of God, are we really putting God first?  Just a thought to put out there in your mind.  I am not talking about clutter and stuff now.  I am talking about people you put above God.  You know, that TV show you follow.  Or that artist you just can’t get enough of.

Are you putting them above God?  Are you missing Mass, not saying your usual prayers, looking at sinful stuff (yes, I am looking at you, 50 Shades of Grey fans and others) because you just think that Mass is boring?

Just remember that Mass is practice for Heaven.  Can we at least dedicate one hour a week to God?  That’s all He asks from us, and He still doesn’t usually get as much, but those soap operas, oh My Word, we are not missing them.  Oh my Lord.  We are not missing that opportunity to binge watch Game of Thrones (or whatever other show you binge watch)??

Just something to think about.  Most parishes offer several opportunities to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist in the Mass several times a weekend (with Saturday Vigil(s) included), and we still somehow just not plan accordingly.

*In Mexico, there used to be Sunday Masses as late as 1800h.

self-esteem

Giving Compliments

One of the most beautiful things we can do for each other is build each other up.  One of the simplest ways to build someone else up is simply to give them a compliment on how they look, how they make you feel, etc.  But there is just simply something wrong with how compliments are sometimes given.

Being facetious

Fret not if you think you are in the receiving end of a facetious compliment.  The problem here lies on the compliment-giver, not the receiver.  As a confident person, simply take the compliment with grace, and move on.  This kind of insincere compliment only makes the giver look bad and speaks of immaturity on their part.  Come on, can we say “mean girls” from high school all over again?

However, if you are the compliment-giver and you are being facetious – a word of caution –  only other immature people will go with it.  The old adage applies here – if you’ve got nothing good to say… don’t say it!  You’re not earning any brownie points by being that way.  This, perhaps worked in middle school and high school, but not anymore.  You’ve grown up.

Tearing yourself down in the process

And I could go on a forever tangent here.  Nothing agitates me more than getting a compliment from someone who is tearing themselves down in the process.  Once recently, and many times before, I have gotten a compliment on how good I look, only to say thank you and have the other person say something along the lines of “and I look like I just grabbed my clothes from the garage sale.” (or something along those lines).  I’ve always been left speechless.  Mostly because I get so angry that I can’t think clearly.

But to you, beautiful lady who tears herself down in the process of complimenting others, please, don’t do it.  Compliment away all you want –  I firmly believe complimenting others is good for your soul, but please don’t tear yourself down in the process.  You may not look or feel like a million bucks that day, but that doesn’t mean you get to bring yourself down.

 

 

self-esteem

How to handle compliments

As an image consultant, I like to look the part.  So I dress up with as much style according to my goals.  Because of this, I often get compliments on my outfits and how I look.  It is no secret, either, that I wasn’t always as well dressed, and that I even fell under the sloppy/frumpy category more often than not.  So when I started dressing better, and the compliments started coming in, I never knew how to handle them.  I also noticed that I wasn’t alone.  I often heard other women uncomfortable in their own skin when a compliment came their way.

My initial reaction was one of the blushing girl – nothing wrong with that.  I was lacking self-confidence, and being an introvert, I definitely never drew any attention to myself, so when the attention started coming towards me, I was shy, to say the least.  Thru much blushing, however, I still managed to say thank you, but -and here came a crucial mistake- I started grabbing the compliments and tearing them down.  For example, someone would say to me, “You look really good in that sweater,” and I would say something like “Oh, thanks, this old thing?” or “Thank you, I got it for $5!”

The problem with comments like that is that they only partially accept the compliment, and they speak of a lower self-esteem.  It’s like saying “Thank you, you’re right, I do look good in this sweater, but it’s an old/cheap/ugly/etc. piece of fabric.”  In all honesty, no one, unless they specifically ask, wants to know whether the sweater is 10 years old or if you bought it at the bargain locker.

So, with this in mind, as uncomfortable as it might be, next time you get complimented for your looks or your outfit, simply say thank you with a smile.  There is no need to tear down the compliment.  Simply accept it with as much grace as possible and move on.

first impressions

The resume

Oftentimes, especially in this day and age, the resume really is the first impression you have with a potential employer.

A resume is a summary of your skills, abilities and accomplishments. It is a quick advertisement of who you are. It is a snapshot of you with the intent of emphasizing interests and secure you a job interview.  A resume is not an autobiography, and should ideally be one-page long.

A resume should be tailored to your professional goals.  It is not uncommon for serious job-seekers to have a resume with 2 or 3 variations according to the job they are applying for.  Since it is a snapshot of you and a quick advertisement of who you are, it is necessary to make sure it is accurate, carefully written, and critiqued.  It should look good, but it should also be scannable.

In the “look good” department, there are many  templates you can get.  Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and similar word processing programs often come with resume templates you can use.  Similarly, you can buy templates from different websites, work with a graphic designer on creating one, or even buy one from Etsy.  Make sure, however, that the design is in line with the job you want.

Making your resume scannable is very important in this day and age.  Many employers don’t necessarily look at printed resumes anymore, and simply scan the resumes for keywords.  Be familiar with the keywords for your field, and especially familiar with the keywords for your desired job position.  Make sure, however, that they are in line with your experience, and that your resume looks good in every other way, because once your resume is picked for having the right keywords, it will undergo the same scrutiny as in the olden days before computers and keywords.

If you do get an interview, it is customary to have a printed resume ready to hand over to the employer.  In this day and age, too, it is becoming more and more common to simply hand over an electronic copy of your resume.  This can oftentimes be e-mailed in advance, though sometimes, it may be required to hand it over in a thumb drive or memory stick.  For electronic delivery of your resume, pay close attention to what format they want it delivered in (.docx, .pdf, .rtf, .txt, etc).

reflections

So, what does an image consultant do?

An image consultant does a wide range of things concerning image, according to a person’s own goals concerning the image they want to project to the rest of the world.  As an image consultant, I hate to admit it, it really is the clothes that make the man, and attract the best possibilities.

Image consultants work in a variety of settings, from freelance to employed by small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.  Their specializations range from personal styling to body image consulting to corporate branding and everything in between.

The most common things he or she can do at a personal level are:

  1. Make-over  Who hasn’t needed a makeover or an updating in style?  Looking outdated just doesn’t help the cause. The make over consultation may include hair and make-up, skin care, and maybe even a fitness and nutrition plan.
  2. Wardrobe consultation  Ever had that one blouse you really loved and you wore until you literally wore it out?  Ever had those shoes that were so cute and ran to the ground?  Ever got dressed in something that didn’t quite feel right?  A wardrobe consultation is a session in which one gets advice on what wardrobe items to keep and which ones to throw away or donate.  It also includes education on what styles and cuts fit your body type and personal style as well as the functional goals.
  3. Personal shopping – Ever gone shopping and hated it because it feels as if nothing fits?  Personal shopping is one on one shopping counseling.  You go shopping with your image consultant.  According to your goals and style, he or she may have already picked out a few shops and boutiques that fit the bill, and work with you to learn what goes and what doesn’t.
  4. Personal dating profile makeover – Ever had a dating profile that didn’t really attract anyone?  Or maybe it attracted people all right, but they were the wrong kind of crowd?  A personal dating profile makeover is help with a mini makeover to potentially attract better and higher quality dates.  Some image consultants may include dating do’s and don’t’s, dining etiquette, and coffee etiquette.
  5. Job hunting – An image consultant may offer resume consulting, job interview skills and mock-ups consulting, proper attire consulting, and realistic job hunting goal-setting (because “finding any job” just doesn’t usually cut it).

Hope this helps!