Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reflection on the nature of the value of a gift

People used to show how much they cared by the "time" they spent on those they love.

I am thinking back to the days when hand crafted gifts were precious for the love that went into the making.  

When I was a child I spent hours “creating” gifts for family.  This was when I learned all kinds of crafts from embroidery to knitting to drawing and leather craft.  Creating for those we loved was simply an extension of spending time with those we loved. 

For example, time spent writing letters when loved ones lived far away.  Long distance phone calls were expensive so the “time spent” on a call was cherished not only because of the cost but also because of the time taken. Phone calls were an “event” planned and looked forward to.  But letters were often sent weekly between loved ones separated by distance.

Time spent keeping relationships alive was something that people practiced.  When I look back at my childhood it is the gift of “time spent” on others that stands out as the most loving and generous gift we exchanged.  

And then we were overtaken by the ever greater use of consumer goods.  We went from hand crafted cards with lovingly hand written messages to mass produced cards with a manufactured sentiment preprinted.  Now all that needed doing was scrawling a signature and done!

We went from hand crafted gifts to store bought gifts, less time spent in the act of giving, and over time less thought placed in the nature of the gift shared because the “advertisers” and “wish lists” already told us what was desired. 

We went from lovingly wrapped presents with carefully placed bows and decorations, to just plop it into a premade bag with some tissue paper, good enough!

I remember spending hours and hours wrapping gifts, making each one unique and special.  Then I learned that the wrapping was not cherished, it was torn off in great hurry to see it what was on the inside was indeed something from the "wish list".   And if it wasn’t the look of disappointment was so profound it was like a stab to the heart, a rejection of the time spent trying to find something meaningful and purposeful. 

In some cases the “wish demands” have become so extensive and expensive that now it is easier to just put some cash in a premade cash giving card so that “they” can buy the gift of their choice after the holidays.

What we have gained in being able to “buy” so many of the things we used to make is more free time to do something else that does not involve the giftee.  What we have lost is the emotional and spiritual connectedness between gift giver and gift receiver. 

Consumerism has taken away an element of connection between people.  Consumerism has made gift giving about giving a desired item over the gift of time.

Maybe there is a connection between this change in our culture and the way people are treated also like expendable things.  When people don’t meet the criterion to be on the “wish list” they are disposable.  Only the perfect and the beautiful (like assembly line products, every item exactly precisely as perfect as the last) are welcome.  The imperfect, the frail, the sickly, the old, the needy, the redundant are all swept into the waste bin just as the rejects of the assembly line are tossed in the trash.

So much has changed in the years since I was a child.  I face my life as it is now and realize, I may have a greater opportunity to buy more things, but there are many priceless riches that have been lost over the course of the years.  The things that I value are not in general valued anymore. 

In seeking cheaper factory made goods we have lost touch with the gift of time.  A handmade scarf is a gift of time shared.  Few people even consider “buying” a handmade scarf because of the cost, even though the knitter earns only pennies for their labour.  A cheaper machine made scarf devalues the labour of love, it separates us from the value of crafting skills, and it reduces a labour of love to a commodity. 

It dehumanizes us.  It creates distance between the giver and the giftee.  And the giver becomes expendable, because it is so much easier, faster, more convenient to buy a commodity of our own choosing, via the “want list”. Anyone will do as long as the end result is that the receiver gets what they “want”.  Who the gift giver is, becomes irrelevant and therefore disposable and expendable, for someone else can simply be found to fulfill the “want list”.

As I sit here reflecting on the changes that have happened in my own lifetime, and falling into the “expendable” category myself, I marvel at how changing perceptions of what has value and what does not, has changed our lives. The change is not insignificant. 

I will continue to create crafts and share them with my friends.  I will continue to give gifts of my time, my labour of love.  I find connection in the giving.  I hope that those of my friends who receive one of my random gifts of “time shared” find human connection in the receiving as much as I do.  Receiving a gift of loving time shared, continues to be one of my favorite gifts.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 24 

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Post Estrangement: what are my intentions in moving on?

In the aftermath of estrangement I accept that the pain of rejection will always remain to some degree; it is a fact of the events.  There is no going back, no changing what was.  

Therefore, moving forward for me has been accepting that which I can't change and then to start to work on me.  My healing journey in a large part, is about what kind of a person do I want to be post estrangement?

Do I want to be bitter and live the rest of my life with harboured anger, grudges and regrets?


Do I want to celebrate all that is best in me, becoming more of all the good qualities that I already have?

I have chosen the later.  I figure that the best revenge is to come through this "test by fire"; with grace and good character and to be more of everything they tried to take away from me.

They lied about me to justify their actions; so I decided to become more of all those qualities that they stripped from me, to live my life so that everyone who meets me or interacts with me knows from that experience just how mean-spirited and malicious those lies are.

They say I am crazy - I will educate myself and learn so much about real mental illness and stress illness  that I am an example of knowledge about this field and that I actually understand their character defects better than they do. I will become knowledgeable about the trite and flip comments they use use as part of their labeling process which they use in their attempt to put me down, and destroy my reputation.  I will recognize that just because something is said does not make it true and just because someone makes a diagnosis does not mean it has validity. I will empower myself with knowledge. 

They say that I am mean - therefore I will treat everyone with extreme kindness and let my actions speak louder than their words.  Every person I meet will be given the kindness, empathy and compassion that I feel every living being deserves.  I will even be empathetic  towards those who wish me ill.  I will strive to see in their hurtful actions their own spiritual and emotional lacks. I will even wish them well as I set them free to follow the paths they must walk for their own emotional enlightenment.  I will empower myself with kindness. 

They say that I am stupid and ignorant - I well learn and gather knowledge about all manner of things but high on the list is learning about the nature of people and the kind of people that attempt to gain in their own self importance by disparaging others.  In learning about abusive tactics used to hurt others, in coming to understand what bullies do to gain control and how manipulative people attempt to control others I will empower myself with understanding. 

They say that I am whining about the way I have been treated - so I will rise about their expectations of my whining and I will celebrate what they have forced me to become, a stronger more empowered person. Every success that I celebrate because of their treatment of me will be a testament to the fact that I am a survivor.  I empower myself when I become victorious. 

I start each day planning how best to become the best version of myself, building personal boundaries so strong and so powerful that I never ever allow anyone to destroy me the way they attempted to destroy me.  I get through the daily struggles by imagining the victory.  I work each day towards that goal.  Healing and moving on is not optional it is my mission. 

I am a survivor and my intentions in moving forward is to become the healthiest most proactive and self empowering survivor that it is possible to become. They wanted to see me broken by their attack, and the best way for me to fight back is to walk victorious, head held high, proud of my ability to overcome and be more of every good quality that I already have. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 14

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Reflection on the Spirit of Wisdom

Time spent in reflection is for me a time I give to myself, a gift to ponder those things in my life that I feel in need of contemplation.  Wisdom is one of those qualities that I find hard to define.  I know I love to learn and discover and explore but I feel that wisdom often eludes me.  

The Spirit of Wisdom (chokmah)
•  Ethical wisdom
•  Pragmatic / The ability to choose the best of options
•   Ability to foil the enemies’ schemes.

Do I have ethical wisdom?  I like to think that I ponder my choices based on what is right not on what is easy.  I have a strong moral sense of right and wrong.  My desire to act conscientiously however often gets me in trouble with those who prefer I bend the rules, to say an untruth because that is easier on their ego than the truth I express. 

I have lost because of my need to be honest and not deliberately dissemble just because it would make the other person “feel good”.  And yet I continue to stand my principles because that is who I am.  

Is this what ethical wisdom is?  Accepting that even knowing that it can get me in trouble with others, it is myself and my conscience that I need to live with?

The second statement about pragmatism; am I able to choose the best options?  Often I look back and wonder what would my life have been like if I had chosen a different option?  

Does this mean that at that point in time I lacked the wisdom to make a better choice or was I supposed to make that choice because the experiences I lived through because of that choice were the ones that destiny wanted me to experience and learn from?  

Pragmatic choices are always based upon what we know in the present moment.  There is no going back in life and there are no do overs. There is learning and using that knowledge for the next choice.   But always we are left making choices based on knowledge that is incomplete for we never stop learning. 

To foil and enemies schemes!  Wow.  What a premise.  This requires great knowledge of people and the way they think and act and respond.  I think I had none of this wisdom for most of my life.  I spent most of my life believing, really believing, that if I treated others well they would treat me well in return.  

Some of my greatest disappointments have been because of this “trustingness” that I had in people, and in the premise that basically all people are good.  I have learned the hard way that is not so.  There are many bad characters out there and many of them are hidden behind “masks of pretend goodness”, they smile as they stab you in the back, they are the proverbial “wolves in sheep's clothing”. 

Which brings me full circle to the concept of ethical wisdom; doing right is not necessarily going to get you done right by others. 

Wisdom requires knowledge not only of self and my own morality, but also to know the character of others and the disturbing character patterns or lack of character that allows them to employ shading dealings without regard for the feelings of others.

Wisdom requires building boundaries and emotional resources to face such characters and not be hurt or destroyed by them. If learning is a step in that direction then is it possible to gain enough experience and knowledge to foil their schemes? Well I can certainly try!

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 - 12 - 12 

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

post estrangement: I thought of you today

I thought of my estranged daughter yesterday and realized I really don't think about her much anymore.  What I do think about is how her actions and her choices have affected my life. And continue to affect my life as I reassemble the broken bits into a new and cohesive whole.  That is what my healing journey is about. 

Strange as it seems, I feel separated from her the person, even though I am still very much aware of the separation itself and the changes it has meant in my life.

I no longer miss her “the person”, I don’t even really know who that person is anymore.  She is not the child I raised; nor is she the young woman I knew.  She is not the friend I thought her to be, nor the adult daughter and companion I expected her to become.  Who she is now is a stranger to me.  What I really miss is the dream of what I thought we would share.

So now I find myself at that crossroads of creating new dreams based on the reality of what is.

Learning to love who I have become because of what she  has put me through has forced me to come to understand the many wonderful aspects of my personality, to realize that in spite of all the trauma I am still a very much a good person, a little sadder, a little wiser, but filled with compassion and love.  With all her anger toward me, with all her spiteful actions, she could not take that essential goodness away from me.
  • I survived the intense anger I felt toward her. 
  • I mastered the desire for revenge and retaliation.
  • I have even found a way to open my heart to forgiving her for the choices she made.
  • I have become more compassionate and understanding of others in pain and even have room in my heart to feel compassion for the pain she is in, for deep down, she cannot be a happy person to know she is the root cause of so much hurting to not only myself, but to our whole family.
  • I have become more guarded in offering my love, but I can love again and even for her I have a different kind of love, a love that gives wings of hope that she may find that which see seeks, for she sacrificed much to achieve that separate space from which to pursue her dream, her autonomy, her future.  

No, my darling daughter, who I cared for and loved and nurtured all those years, is not in my life, she is barely present in my thoughts anymore, time does in fact create a veil, a curtain, between the past and the now.

Healing has forced me to compartmentalize and separate myself from what is un-achievable. To accept that which isn’t; and instead enable myself to focus on what actually is.

  • In coming through this traumatic chapter in my life I have passed a life test.  I emerged a sadder version of who I was before.
  • I am more aware of all the tragic possibilities of life, and that best laid intentions can all too easily go astray.
  • I have learned to humbly accept that which I cannot change, knowing that even the loudest and most persistent ranting can’t undo what has been done.
  • I am learning what it means to embrace beliefs and qualities and values that represent the person I want to be and that I don’t have to let events make me bitter.
  • I am learning that even with a broken heart and spirit, I can present to the world all those qualities I value; that no one’s disparaging words or actions can change the basic goodness of my nature.
  • I am learning that it is possible to live with a shadow memory and dreams unfulfilled, that wounded and scared does not mean an ending but rather a just a very different beginning.

I thought of you today, my estranged daughter, love of my womb, and realized I missed what might have been but I am learning to live with what is.  Not a fairy tale ending for sure, nor a happily ever after.  But there is an after and for that I am grateful.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 – 12 – 03

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reflections on Presumptions as the Basis for Forming Judgments

Making presumptions about people, with limited access to detailed knowledge, can be a very negative thing.  And yet it seems to be something that many people in many situations do exactly this. 

Without thought, without reflection, they assume they understand a situation or a person and then they pass judgement based on their limited knowledge. 
Now if it stopped there it might not be so bad.  If they remained open minded that new information might lead to a different conclusion, and then remained willing to listen to new input and willing to change their judgment based on this new input, then things still might remain salvageable.  However the common path is to pass judgment and then turn off the ears and the thought process and the mind and remain in the stagnant waters of preconceived prejudices based on incomplete knowledge. 

This is where presumptions and judgments can indeed be a very negative thing.    When presumption becomes fact in spite of contrary evidence and judgement is passed based incomplete knowledge or even the desire to gather more complete knowledge, then it is possible to become stubbornly closed minded. 

-           To pass judgement ends communication and the search for the greater truth. 
-           To pass judgement creates a barrier to understanding. 
-           Sometimes the passing of a judgments stops the process of finding out the “rest of the story”, the “other point of view”, the “extenuating circumstances” or even if the original story was a fabrication or lie to begin with.

Making presumptions and passing judgment becomes an ending.  Whereas, open-minded awareness is a beginning; leading to learning and discovery.

For example, something much in the media these days is the concept of “narcissism”.  The term is seen everywhere.  We see spouses, and parents and children being accused of being narcissistic.  And the communication stops there. 

Often judgement is passed “that person is narcissistic and therefore they are bad and therefore they must be avoided or shunned as toxic” and the door to understanding the complexities of human interactions is closed.   And what if the accusation was made based on someone else’s lies, someone with an agenda to destroy another person’s reputation?  What if there was a situation that required the person to act in a self-preserving manner that was then labeled as narcissistic?  What if there was a totally different issue playing out one where the other side of the story was vitally important to understanding the real nature of the situation?
  • In today’s age we are prone to making assumptions and to passing judgement based on articles we read as though reading those articles makes us experts and competent to do so. 
  • In today’s age we draw parallels between our situations and other people’s situations and then we presume to know all the players in someone else’s life story based on our affinity with one person.
  • In today’s age we try to encapsulate input and make it fit our prejudices and presumptions and sometimes we end up with a completely false understanding which we then promote as the truth when in fact it is only our opinion.

In my resolution of avoid negativity in my life I am learning that I must be very careful to not draw conclusions, to make assumptions or to pass judgement. 

  • I can form opinions based on my learning and my knowledge. 
  • I can continue to further my gathering of knowledge to see if my hypothesis withstands the test of time. 
  • I can seek to understand extenuating circumstances and the “other side of the story” and remain open-minded to changing my mind based on what I learn.

I must also be aware that even when people speak as though they know, it could very well be that they don’t know, that they have only made assumptions and passed judgments, either because they do not know any better or because they fear what may be revealed if they do seek beyond their limited experience.
I must be aware that those who most stubbornly stick to a one sided point of view are to be distrusted for their very close-mindedness and judgmentalism, for as they judge others, so will they judge me. 

I need to be aware that sometimes judgmentalism stems from a place of “needing to be right at all costs” and that people with this deep need to be right will surely strive diligently to find a way to try to convince me that I am wrong to preserve their sense of order. 

So while I will strive to keep the negativity of assumptions and judgment out of my life, I will at the same time be aware that not everyone sees these qualities as negative.  In accepting that I will meet all kinds of people in my life, I will be selective about who I allow into my life and most closely guard who I will allow into my inner circle.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 02 

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