Learning Who You Are and Who You Are Not

Columbus Circle

Columbus Circle


There are no shortcuts to any place worth going

~Beverly Sills~

For several days I wondered what to write about this week. As I was wondering I listened to Mary Rammerman’s talk at Spiritus Christi Church about spiritual aspects of this topic. I began to think I might have some reflections as well.

Can we really do whatever we want with our lives? I remember an old boarding school saying, “You can order anything you want for dinner, but it’s best to see what is being served first.” What determines the life menu from which we choose?

First is the array of talents with which we are born. Mozart could compose symphonies in early childhood. Many good athletes were agile from the time they could walk. Some people have dynamic personalities. Each of us has skills which give us a unique set of possibilities. Finding and developing them gives us a direction for our lives.

But skills alone are not enough. To make the best of our skills, we must have a passion for what we can do well. Pursuing out talents and honing them carefully give is the best chance to excel. If we are not any good at something, we can try until we are blue in the face and still end up mediocre at best. If we are born with innate talents and don’t work to develop them, we won’t get anywhere either.

While talent is mostly inherited, passion isn’t. Where does it come from? Sometimes we find it in the dedication of our family members. Sometimes teachers, mentors or friends help us make it part of our lives. Sometimes we discover, almost by accident, what brings us to life and gives our lives their purpose. We blossom when our talent and passion merge and we discover what we have to share with each other and with the world. Now is our chance and our time to shine. Each of us has a unique contribution to make.

Some people become world renowned for their skills and dedication. We respect and thank them and God for enriching our lives. Others may never find their names in print or on television. Good listeners brighten the lives of the distraught. A cheery smile or a compliment snaps others out of their doldrums. Unseen and unknown Samaritans help others without seeking thanks or recognition.

Maybe you already know your talents and have found your passion for using them. Maybe you have not yet discovered your talents or started living passionately. If you are gliding through life in neutral, maybe it is time to see what you have to offer. Finding your purpose will give your life a deeper meaning. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating you.”

Life Lab Lessons

  •         What are your talents?
  •         What enlivens your life with passion?
  •         How do the two fit together?
  •         Where can you make a contribution to others and to the world?
  •         See what you can do just for today.
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Sliding Otter News 8/13/2011

The Family Challenge of Mental Illness Illness

Candle by Peter Langen

Illness has always brought me nearer to a state of grace.
~Abbe Piere~

Families usually face a crisis when a member is diagnosed with mental illness. Sometimes the diagnosis confirms what they suspected for years. Sometimes it is a bolt from the blue. They struggle to understand what is happening, why it happens and what to do about it.

Mental illness can ravage a family with uncertainty, blame and confusion. Some families never recover and remain fractured. Others rise to the challenge, overcome the humiliation and embarrassment it causes and find ways to accept and support their mental ill family members.

Some mentally ill family members need constant supervision. Some return to their former level of functioning. Others have times when they function quite well and times when they don’t do so well. Physical health, medication and life circumstances as well as social supports can all make a difference in their lives. My family has had its ups and downs with mental illness and mental health. Everything has been stable for years. We became somewhat complacent and had no premonition that we would plunge into another crisis.

Recently one of our family members who had done well for years began showing medical difficulties associated with side effects of his medication. His doctor decided that he needed to change medication. All seemed to be going smoothly for a while. Then it gradually became clear that something was amiss. Now it feels like we are back to square one.

But we are not. Over the years, we have learned to understand the nature and unpredictability of mental illness. We have learned not to be embarrassed by or ashamed of our family struggle. We have learned not to blame anyone. We know that we don’t like to to see this happen to our loved one and are relieved that it did not take his life.

We know that there are no guarantees that this will be the last crisis. We don’t know what the future holds for any of us. Together we have gotten through difficult times in the past. We can help each other through whatever awaits us. We thank God that mental illness has ultimately brought us closer together rather than driven us apart. We are grateful for the community resources which have helped us through our ordeals and helped us return to relative stability. We are thankful for those who have supported and prayed for us over the years and who still do.

We would like other families to know that they can help each other surmount any difficulties life throws their way. It is not always easy and sometimes we trip over each other in our efforts to do what is helpful. We haven’t given up despite setbacks and know that other families can do at least as well as we have.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Do you have a mentally ill family member?
  • Don’t pretend that it is not a problem.
  • Listen to your mentally ill family members.
  • Listen to each other.
  • Find ways to help each other cope with the challenges.