Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 9

September 21, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

This painting was a watercolor exercise I did over 30 years ago that became a terrific addition to my portfolio. Unfortunately, I never like illustrating beverages.

This painting was a watercolor exercise I did over 30 years ago that became a terrific addition to my portfolio. Unfortunately, I never like illustrating beverages.

It happened during an ordinary day. I was driving somewhere and suddenly I realized that my eyes didn’t hurt.

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I blinked a few times and was so grateful that my eyes felt “normal.” Then I noticed how much better my vision was without the fog related to having dry eyes.

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I was so happy that I began to cry. I whispered a thank you to God for this blessing.

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Although I had some foggy and irritated sensations in my eyes later that day, whatever discomfort I experienced was manageable. Now I knew that my condition wasn’t going to be something that would torture me forever. My faith in healing was confirmed!

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Healthy Food 2

This gives me an opportunity to share some very old illustrations done for a hospital nutrition brochure.

This gives me an opportunity to share some very old illustrations I painted for a hospital nutrition brochure back in 1984.

A few weeks ago I made a major commitment to follow a healthier path. I stopped eating whatever I felt like; I was so tired of beating myself up about it.

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I made healthier food choices and suddenly, everything started tasting better. Even an apple was more enjoyable than the chocolate I used to snack on.

Which one would you rather have? Seriously, I am choosing the apple because I have made a commitment to get healthy!

Which one would you rather have? Seriously, I am choosing the apple because I have made a commitment to get healthy!

I joined a YMCA and began swimming laps a few times a week. On the other days, I fit in a half-hour walk. I continued to play tennis and went from once to twice a week.

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All of this certainly helped my mood but I wasn’t sure if it was going to help my eyes.

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But then my eyes began to improve. Because I always hear my lyric lines running through my life, I share with humor one that came to mind with my first huge change. The words in my head were: “My life became clear.”

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It was because I started drinking a lot of water!

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B&W Glass close up

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I’m not sure how many glasses I gulped down exactly, but it definitely totaled over the recommended 8-10 glasses a day. I gave up the iced tea with a lot of artificial sweetener, which was certainly not very good for my body either.

Tea Leaves

Only the week before, I had gone to my hypnotherapy appointment with a stack of pages related to dry eyes. I told Connie (my hypnotherapist) they were sent to me by a wonderful woman who had reached out to me. Her name was Judi, and she was the leader of a dry eye support group. I wished her group meetings were closer because unfortunately the group met about 2 hours away from where I lived.

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Connie glanced at the many pages I stuck in front of her. She pointed to one of them and said, “It says right here that drinking water is very helpful for dry eyes.” She paused and then said emphatically, “You know, drinking water might not only help your eyes; it’s beneficial for weight loss and your overall health.”

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Connie pointed to a metal bottle filled with water right there next to her. She shared how she worked hard to drink a lot of water every day.

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I listened and my mind was open to it. Why not? I left that appointment and made a commitment to Connie that I’d try to drink a lot more water.

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During that next week, drinking water became my new habit.

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I was running to the bathroom a lot and it made me think of a poem I had written with a new title. Instead of “My Tears Filled an Ocean,” my new poem was “My Pee Filled an Ocean!”

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

Okay, so my illustration might not be water exactly.

It was a beautiful summer morning. A week had passed and I was so excited to see Connie for our appointment. I couldn’t wait to share with her how much my eyes had improved. In addition to drinking a lot of water, I had done another remedy at night that Judi had recommended. I will share more about that on my next post.

I’m not really missing the iced tea I just to drink all day long.

I’m not really missing the iced tea I just to drink all day long.

I sat down and was beaming. I smiled and began our session by lifting my guitar out of its case.

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A wonderful blessing had come to me. A few days earlier, shortly before I had begun to feel better, I had started hearing a new song. The joyful melody danced in my mind and the chords were very sweet. This song sounded so different from the last few songs I had written.

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It seemed like my music was a reflection of my healing.

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In the quiet of Connie’s guesthouse I fingerpicked the sweet chords swiftly and sang la la’s with joyful exuberance.

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When I finished and said to her, “I can’t believe since last week how this song appeared. It’s amazing!”

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Connie nodded and agreed that indeed it was amazing. She was always very impressed how I remembered the fingerings for so many songs, especially new ones. Remembering lyrics and chords for all my songs definitely takes up a lot of space in my mind; there is a lot of memorization involved.

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Our session was uplifting and I felt like I was glowing as I drove home. Things were definitely on the up and up for me; I was so grateful once again for the blessing of music in my life.

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

I have begun writing the lyrics for my new song.

I began arranging my new song with George, before I even had words for it.

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This song was all about joy. I felt inspired because of the many wonderful things that were happening for all three of my children.

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I decided to name my song, “Watching You Grow.”

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Below is my arrangement in progress:

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WATCHING YOU GROW – Arrangement in Progress

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The miracle

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© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 8

September 12, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

A month ago, I met a good friend at Descanso Gardens. I didn’t take too many photos because the sunlight bothered my eyes. Seeing the beautiful images I did capture that day remind me of how blessed I am to have my eyesight and my wonderful friend, Carol.

A month ago, I met a good friend at Descanso Gardens. I didn’t take too many photos that day because the sunlight bothered my eyes. This image reminds me of how blessed I am to have my eyesight and my wonderful friend, Carol.

For a week after using the serum tears, I was deeply depressed. My eyes hurt and my vision was foggy even though my eye doctor said my eyes looked “fine.” I began to lose hope of ever conquering my dry eye condition and reclaiming the “normal” eyes I once had.

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I had definitely lowered the bar a while ago. This wasn’t about acuity (vision); it was about living with discomfort and constant pain. I could accept poor vision, but not pain.

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My online dry eye support group knew exactly how I felt. I plan to write more stories about this group. It is comprised of men and women, young and old. One woman has lived with her condition over 25 years already. Many of the new members want to pull their eyeballs out!

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What I continue to find so beautiful, is how this group is filled with hopefulness. When someone is overwhelmed, another member suggests things that might help him or her.

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After my serum tear fiasco, I poured out my heart and received many caring and concerned messages.

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My new friend from this group named Susan was very appreciative of my story. She had just gotten a prescription for serum tears because I had encouraged her to push her doctor for it. Now she wasn’t sure whether to try them after hearing about what I had experienced.

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Susan and I began writing daily and I was touched by how caring she was. It turned out that she didn’t live too far from me. That was amazing since the online group was international. Susan had suffered with dry eyes for about ten years. She had attended several meetings of a dry eye support group in Orange County, which was about two hours from where we lived. The leader of that group was a very knowledgeable person and quite willing to help others. Her name was Judi.

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Susan had recently spoken with her and shared my story; now Judi wanted to get in touch with me.

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I was open to it.

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Judi began by emailing me a ton of literature and eventually we spoke for an hour on the phone.

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Her messages resonated with wisdom, knowledge and incredible compassion. If I allowed an image to form, it would be of seeing myself lying on the ground. Suddenly gentle hands caressed me and sweet messages of hope were whispered in my ears. With the help of those hands, I managed to pull myself back up.

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What stood out to me in Judi’s messages were several things. Certainly she had an incredible amount of knowledge. But what really helped me was when she acknowledged the psychological impact of my condition and reassured me that I wasn’t going crazy.

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You are not crazy or a hypochondriac; they just don’t have the answer or know how to treat you. God can make a way when it seems there is none. Don’t give up.

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And her mentioning God really touched me.

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No one can understand how bad the pain of dry eyes can be unless they have experienced it. We have more nerves in our eyes than anywhere else in our bodies. I can remember a young man, many years ago that wanted to have his eyes removed because the pain was so bad; he was in his 30’s. That was so very sad and I wonder whatever happened to him.

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I have also struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, especially after the age of thirty. I have recently learned that anxiety and depression makes the pain of dry eyes worse – and the pain of the dry eyes makes the depression worse. It is a vicious cycle.

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I can say that my struggle started 14 years ago and my eyes are better now than when I started but also I have learned to be much more proactive in treating them. It always drives me closer to God, to depend and trust Him – to spend time with Him – to be grateful for His grace and faithfulness in all areas of my life.

Judi

After about two weeks, my eyes recovered. They weren’t “normal,” but perfectly adequate for all the things I do. The pain subsided and helped me appreciate how much better I was. I was relieved that I was able to perform at my niece’s wedding above.

After about two weeks, my eyes recovered. They weren’t “normal,” but perfectly adequate for all the things I do. The pain subsided and helped me appreciate how much better I was. I was relieved that I was able to perform at my niece’s wedding above.

Twenty years ago, I helped bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents as a support group leader for an organization named Compassionate Friends.

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Whenever I have written about the things that helped me to survive my grief, I usually mention how I benefitted from support groups. “Hold hands with other people who are also suffering. Take baby steps together,” is often how I frame it.

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It seems like I followed my own advice when my dry eye condition began to overwhelm my life.

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Coral Rose close up

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One of the hardest things for me as a leader at Compassionate Friends was helping the newly bereaved.

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They were in shock, bewildered at how their “normal” life had suddenly disintegrated. The grief journey they were beginning seemed like a horror they could never survive and dying to join their loved one seemed far easier.

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Part of reason it was so difficult for me (back then), was because I was on the same journey and I couldn’t really say that it would get “better” with honesty. The journey from where the hell began was arduous and excruciatingly slow. The best that could be hoped for was to hold hands with others and hang on.

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What I gained from helping other people with grief was a sense of purpose. It made me feel that all of the suffering I went through strengthened me. Now I could do something useful, my son was an “angel on my shoulder,” hugging and holding me as I comforted other people.

These are lyrics from my song “Wonder Why.” I recently finished the vocal and guitar additions for my song.

These are lyrics from my song “Wonder Why.” I recently finished the vocal and guitar additions for my song.

It was when Judi reached out to help me that I realized how I was getting something back for all that I had given.

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The experience was quite spiritual for me.

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As horrible as bereavement was, I have looked at it as a pathway toward enlightenment. Grief took me away from God and eventually I found a way back. I try not to imagine that God orchestrates all the misery in this world. Because of my eye pain, I know I have gained far more compassion and depth.

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I know that things could be worse and things could be better. The number of painful diseases that exist in this world are endless and I cry for anyone who suffers. Even with dry eye disease, there are people whose eyes are disfigured and scarred, who cannot drive or face daylight at all.

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So many things happen in life that I do not understand. For myself personally, I strive to stay positive as I follow my dream.

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I keep smiling and there’s a reason for that. It’s because my eye pain has not stopped me from arranging songs, recording vocals and writing new music. I even began composing a new song last week.

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I am currently working on a large illustration assignment that is going very well. Somehow, I always manage to find time to write for my blog.

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I am very close to all three of my children. I have two sons who live with me (17 and 23) and they keep me busy shopping to fill our refrigerator. I play tennis and I swim several days a week.

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How is that possible?

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My explanation is that there are angels are all around me.

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Coral Rose

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 7

September 9, 2014

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This picture was taken on the day my blood was drawn.

This picture was taken on the day my blood was drawn.

My serum drops arrived on a Monday morning. My son burst into my bedroom to announce, “Mom, there’s a big package at the door for you!”

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Only a week before, I had driven for two hours to a distant facility to have 21 vials of blood drawn that would be used to make these revolutionary eye drops.

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Of course, the dry ice was far more interesting for my son as I removed the seven precious bottles of serum. I put six in the freezer and one in the fridge. I wondered how long it would be before I could start squeezing the bottle and putting the tears in my eyes.

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Serum Tears and box

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I looked to see if there were any papers in the box but there were none. There were a few instructions on the bottle telling me to discard it after a week and to keep it refrigerated at all times.

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By late afternoon, I checked the bottle in the refrigerator and it wasn’t frozen anymore. It was time to use them! The drops that went into my eyes were cold, slimy and kind of shocking. They were definitely refreshing. I imagined my eyes were soothed every time I blinked.

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The instructions on the bottle said to put one drop in each eye every two hours. I didn’t follow a tight schedule, but used them whenever I saw the time had gone by. By bedtime, I had used them at least 4 times.

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I could hardly believe that bottle contained my own body fluid!

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Serum bottle

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That first night held a momentous event for me. I performed for the first time in eight months.

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Before my dry eye condition overwhelmed my life, I used to perform weekly at the Open Mic at Kulak’s Woodshed. From the moment I walked in, everyone there welcomed me back with open arms.

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Singing in front of an audience was still difficult with my eye discomfort. But I could tell that I was able to handle my pain much better since I had been on a “healthier track.” I wasn’t looking at my eating as a diet, even though I had started to lose a few pounds. Certainly, I had gained a lot of weight in the months I hadn’t gone to Kulak’s and it took courage for me to put myself out there.

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Playing at Kulak's 12

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Before I began performing, I mentioned to the host that I had “eye issues” and it was difficult for me to open my eyes.

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I am sharing my performance on YouTube for the first time in years. Below is a link to it:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEPFa7foQUs

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Butterfly of death

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Unfortunately, everything changed the next day.

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Just after I woke up I noticed my vision was cloudy. It was rare for me to go back to sleep, but I did so because I thought perhaps I was just tired.

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By evening, I finally acknowledged that something was wrong as the fog in my eyes became more and more dense.

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Now I was far less excited to continue putting the serum drops into my eyes. I wondered if perhaps this was something I needed to stick with. Maybe my eyes were healing this way?

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This post on my Internet Dry Eye forum really gave me a lot of hope.

This post on my Internet Dry Eye forum really gave me a lot of hope.

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I posed my question to the people on the dry eye forum I belonged to. One woman responded and said she had experienced a little discomfort at the beginning but after that she was vastly improved. I continued using the drops.

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The next day, my pain was even more intense. Clearly this was not normal. I tried calling the pharmacy that made them. Their phones were not working.

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I felt so discouraged and disappointed. (Eventually, I did reach them and they took down information from me to look into whether my drops had a problem. I never received a call back.)

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It was very hard for me to concentrate and do my illustration work. All I wanted was to be in the place I was before I began using the drops. About a year ago, I was dealing with this level of severity almost every day. Now I appreciated my progress.

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By Friday, I had already stopped using the tears and prayed things would get better. A friend told me that my eyelids and face looked swollen. I decided that I should to be checked by an eye doctor.

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But when I called, I was told there were no appointments available.

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I continued to insist that I needed to be seen and was given a lengthy evaluation over the phone. I listed my symptoms and the receptionist seemed unconcerned. She still would not give me an appointment so I told her I wanted my doctor to call me back.

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Two hours later, the receptionist called me back and said; “Your doctor said she doesn’t need to see you today.”

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I was livid! I felt smoke coming out of my ears and eyes. At that moment, I hated my doctor.

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I took a deep breath and continued to insist upon an appointment. My heart was pounding while I was put on hold. The receptionist finally came back on and said coldly, “Okay, you can come but you’re going to have to wait a very long time.”

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I hung up and began crying. I decided to call a good friend before leaving in order to calm myself.

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My friend used to work in a doctor’s office. She said, “Don’t take it personal. You were being screened out and that’s done regularly. Your doctor probably wasn’t even told about your situation.”

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Scared Eye

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An hour later, I was in the waiting room. I was prepared to wait a long time and certain I had done the right thing by coming in to get checked. I was the last patient before lunchtime and the examining room area was deserted. Finally my eye doctor came to get me.

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I told her how much I appreciated her fitting me in during lunchtime; I didn’t want to appear angry.

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I described the pain and fog that began only a day after using the serum tears. My eye doctor said, “I told you serum tears weren’t a cure.”

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But I had many questions for her because in the last few days I had learned a lot. It turned out that my bottle was only a 20% solution and I had heard that wasn’t nearly as effective as 100% serum. A reaction was unheard of.

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She replied, “Well, if they bothered you with 20%, then it would be even worse if they were 100%.”

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I asked her if the saline could have bothered me. She said it definitely wasn’t the saline. But it did look like I might have contaminated the bottle. I had touched it to my eyelid whenever I put the drops in. It sure would have been helpful to me if there had been clearer instructions.

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Did I have an infection? This cornea doctor would soon find out.

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As she put the yellow dye into my eyes, I gasped because it burned so much. Only a moment after looking with a magnifier, she announced in a chipper voice, “I don’t see any problem at all; your eyes look very good actually.”

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Now I felt embarrassed for insisting upon this appointment.

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I walked out of the building and didn’t know what I was feeling. I was glad I didn’t have anything wrong, but at the same time I began to doubt myself. I was such a demanding patient.

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And my butterfly of hope was smashed to the ground.

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dead butterfly

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Facebook Post on Blog

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The support I received from my Internet group helped me so much.

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Only the week before my tears had arrived I had rallied to encourage another woman to get them prescribed by her doctor. After my ordeal, this woman was very concerned about whether to move forward to get them.

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She and I began corresponding privately. I had made a new friend and her name was Susan.

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Susan and I

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To be continued . . .

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Playing at Kulak's 11

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

WON’T STAY EMPTY

August 30, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

Being a food illustrator certainly has me thinking about food.

A month ago, I asked a friend on Facebook if I could use a photo she had posted of a garden castle.

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When she “liked” my last blog post, I wrote: “What did you think of my artsy images created from your vacation photo?”

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That was when my friend admitted that she had “liked” my post but hadn’t yet had a chance to read it. I wrote her back with:

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No worries! I write a lot and understand how it takes time to read my stuff, especially if you’re busy. But I love how you are always so supportive.

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Also I know some people don’t like metaphorical writing. So here’s a summary of my last Princess story: SHE FINALLY WENT ON A DIET LOL!

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The Door and Butterflies

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My last story ended with the Princess receiving a key and her mission was to find a door for it. That is why this post title is a line of lyrics from my song “The Door.”

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Below is the third verse from that song: 

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As you look upon

the empty spaces when I’m gone

You will see – someday

I know you’ll fill them

They won’t stay empty

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I originally wrote those words with the hope that my “ex” would one day feel better – long after I had gone through the door.

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But whenever I sing those words, instead I imagine my mother is speaking to me. She was a very optimistic woman and I know she would want me to feel better. When my child died, my mother grieved for me and for her grandchild. No parent wants their child to suffer.

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Grief is like a door – I’ve often spoken about going through it, rather than around it. I know from my own experience after losing my child that going through the “door of grief” led to my healing. I’ve met people who never went through that door until many years after their loss. Despite the passage of time it was as if their loved one had just died. And there are people who never imagine they could heal. Everyone handles grief differently.

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The key and butterflies

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I no longer suffer from intense grief over the loss of my child. But in the last few years I’ve experienced many other kinds of losses. Sometimes I’ve noticed that a recent loss can trigger painful feelings from my past.

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I’ve used the term “empty spaces” to describe an aching void inside of me; it represents a longing for something missing in my life. Perhaps that is another way to look at grief.

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I’ve acknowledged many times how much I miss my mom, but I haven’t really cried much to release those feelings – I’ve suppressed my tears. Pushing down feelings and stuffing them inside is not healthy.

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I can express myself through singing and songwriting, but it hasn’t been enough. It’s been far easier for me to find other ways to deny my empty spaces. Food has been something that I’ve often used to numb myself. No matter how much I eat, the emptiness remains when I’ve eaten for the wrong reasons. And after that, I’ve beaten myself up for my weakness.

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I realize I’ve written a lot of “heavy” stories lately. Now I feel ready for a “lighter” approach.

In this baby picture I’m thinking, “Mommy, keep feeding me!”

In this baby picture I’m thinking, “Mommy, keep feeding me!”

A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful turning point. I became tired of waiting for motivation to get into shape and eat healthier. I was ready!

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I thought of another way to look at this and it is rather funny. I’ve decided to “divorce” food! My relationship was very unhealthy and below are some parallels to my former marriage:

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1. I was miserable, but figured I’d deal with it when I was ready.

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2. I preferred to be safe and comfortable; making any changes seemed monumental.

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3. It was a relationship that was more fun when I was with other people. (Lest I be misunderstood, this was not about cheating on my spouse. It represents how socializing took away some of my emptiness because my ex-spouse seemed far more jovial and less negative in company. With food, certainly it was more fun to eat out.)

I'm swimming to Cancun!

I’m swimming to Cancun!

All of a sudden, a light bulb went off and I realized it would be great if I could start swimming laps again. It was a really hot day and the idea seemed refreshing. I hadn’t swum laps in over two years.

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I looked online and found out where there the nearest YMCA facility was. I was amazed that I was able to squeeze my large body into my old bathing suit.

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The first time I went to swim was on a Sunday. The YMCA pool was at capacity and I had to sit on a bench until the lifeguard gave me a sign that I could go in. Even though it wasn’t a great lap swimming experience, I did feel very relaxed afterwards.

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I was so pleased with myself for doing this!

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The next few times I swam during the week. The pool was practically empty and it was great.

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The only hitch was when I had a panic attack because I thought my towel and bag were stolen in the shower room. I was dripping and certain where I had left it hanging. But it was gone!

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Next I went into the locker area to discover my clothes were also missing.

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Suddenly, I realized that this was all because I was in the MEN’S locker room. I made a beeline out of there quickly – WHEW! I was semi-relieved that I hadn’t run into any naked men.

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Once again, I was reminded how I really need to look where I am going.

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That leads me to the topic of my eyes. A lot has been happening for me and I plan to write an eye update very soon.

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Blood Draw 2

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Thankfully, my blood has replenished and I’m not as empty as I was after my serum blood draw from two weeks ago.

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The technician told me she had never drawn blood for serum tears before. I was explaining to her about it and enjoying our conversation when she said, “Okay, we’re all done!”

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I hadn’t even noticed all the vials being drawn!

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I took some pictures and sent a text message to my friends.

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One friend wrote:

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“Yikes. Glad you are finally able to get started on it. Hope they gave you lots of cookies after.”

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No cookies for me now that I’m on track!

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And I’ll end this post with my favorite text response:

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“Whoa! Vampire party favors!”

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Blood Draw

© 2014 Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

THE WALLS YOU’VE BUILT

August 29, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

I created this filtered image from a good friend’s photo. This castle exists somewhere in a garden in Europe.

I created this filtered image from a good friend’s photo taken while traveling in Lichtenstein, Europe. 

My post title is a line of lyrics from my recent song “Misunderstood.”

For me, there has been no misunderstanding about the purpose of my journey. As I search to find insight from my life experiences – my true goal is to inspire healing and find joy in life.

Perhaps I was naïve when my journey began in 2010. Sustaining joy has been elusive for me. But I’ve continued to face challenges and my most recent ones have been difficult for me to overcome.

I never want to lose hope or stop dreaming.

Due to my dry eye condition, I have not felt “normal” for some time. I continue to learn a lot about dry eyes, which can be considered a disease. I am not alone with it and reading about what others go through with this syndrome is heartbreaking for me. There are many causes and many degrees of suffering.

There is another line of lyrics in my song that I find fitting. It is: “You pretend that you’re okay, but this chill won’t go away.”

The chill that I’m feeling is the one that comes from pretending. I continue to maintain composure even when I’m not really okay. It takes tremendous energy to plod onward when you’re in pain. I’ve always believed that I would find a way to feel better. Unfortunately, much of what I’ve done hasn’t been helpful, especially in regards to food. True peacefulness happens for me when I harness my thoughts.

A few weeks ago, I was in a very low place and wrote a story. It is a story about trying to get out of Hell in order to find a way back to Heaven.

The good news is that I am on my way!

Since I wrote my story, some things have occurred that haven’t been easy for me. But I have not fallen down. I’ve found a way out of Hell and do not plan on going back.

CASTLE FLOWERS Pastel

THE PRINCESS TORE DOWN THE WALLS

God continued to bless the Princess.

The Princess was grateful for all her blessings. But unfortunately, the Dark Witch caused the Princess so much pain that the Princess had difficulty smiling or opening her eyes.

Melody continued to comfort the Princess, but the Princess was succumbing to her pain. In a panic, Melody called out for Hope and Dreams to help find a way to save the Princess.

As two shimmering butterflies fluttered next to her, Melody explained that the situation with the Princess was dire. She said, “The Dark Witch will not allow you in there, but somehow there must be a way to get you in. I’ve tried with songs and it hasn’t worked.”

Hope said softly, “We won’t stop trying. But we’ll still wait nearby in case she finds a way to free herself.”

Dreams added, “I’m in total agreement with Hope. Even if she doesn’t want to see us, it’s okay. I remember there was a time when she told us never to come back. But we waited for her then and we will this time, too.”

Melody wiped her eyes and thanked them. Hope and Dreams were such beautiful butterflies. She watched them sail softly into the sky with their colorful wings dancing in the sunlight.

Butterflies blue sky

The Princess once dreamed of being free. But now prison walls surrounded her and unfortunately they were ones she had actually built. Brick by brick, she had walled herself in as a way to shield herself from pain. Gradually the bricks piled higher and higher until they blocked out the sunlight and kept her in darkness.

Pain came in the form of many distinct images for her.

Sometimes, she saw a white spider. Other times, she imagined a Dark Witch holding a broomstick. The Dark Witch delighted in poking the Princess’s eyes with the stinging end of a broom to torment her. Her spell was so evil that the Princess could feel pain even when her eyes were closed.

The Dark Witch stood guard at the entrance to the prison where the Princess was. Like a scarecrow; she wielded her broom as a weapon so no one could enter.

Somehow Melody was able to avoid the Dark Witch by floating upon sweet melodies directly into the Princess’s heart.

Dark Castle

The Princess had tried many times to wrestle the painful broom from the witch’s grasp. But she could not tear it away from the Dark Witch.

In order to survive, the Princess relied upon Melody for help. Melody blanketed her with music and the Princess sang loudly to drown out her pain. Many times, her voice became plaintive cries because she was so sad.

Closed eye

The Princess used food to combat her pain and sadness. It was a very familiar source of comfort and like a drug. But even though it numbed her pain, it caused her to sink lower and lower to the ground from the additional weight she carried.

Finally, the Princess could not move and she decided she had truly succumbed to grief.

DISCOURAGED

A long time ago, The Princess had been in a similar place. But back then, she had her mother and father to comfort and support her. There was no one now to hold her and give her that kind of love. She missed her mother so much; they had been especially close. Even though memories of love sustained her, she was also burdened by memories of suffering.

2 weeks before she died

The Princess was so grateful for Melody. Her precious fairy stroked her and gently hummed sweet melodies into her ears.

As the Princess lay upon the ground in darkness, she wondered how she would find a way to lift herself up. Once upon a time, she was so proud of her courage and willingness to seek freedom from negativity in her life.

Now she was a prisoner in her own mind. She had walled herself in and succumbed to sadness.

Melody & the dark Castle

She could not open her eyes and she could not see the sky. She missed looking at the mountains and dreaming most of all.

Pain Surrounds Me

The Princess could not stand the suffering anymore. It was clear that no one was going to rescue her. The only escape possible would be for her to find a way to free herself.

Her most inspiring songs began to play loudly in her mind and she forced herself to open her eyes. She was not going to let the Dark Witch destroy her.

The Princess prayed that Hope and Dreams were still waiting for her. With memory of their colorful wings dancing in an expansive sky, the Princess became determined to find a key that would allow her to leave her prison.

Even though she felt so heavy, she struggled to stand. In some ways, she was so burdened by her weight and in other ways she was so empty. She was unsteady as she stood up; she felt drugged.

Gleefully, the Dark Witch blocked the Princess’s path with her broom. The Princess suddenly had an amazing revelation. That broom not only tormented her eyes, but it also was the reason for her emptiness. She relied upon that broom to sweep away any thoughts related to grief. That was why she was empty!

In a fury, she screamed at the Dark Witch, “GO AWAY! Why are you torturing me? What have I done to deserve this?”

The Dark Witch did not answer.

The Princess continued to plead and question.

B&W Castle

Finally, the Dark Witch replied, “I’m guarding your prison, Princess. My name is Guilt.”

The Princess grabbed the handle of the Witch’s broom. This time she felt certain she had the strength to yank it away. The Dark Witch gleefully stabbed the Princess in her eyes with the stick ends of the broom. The excruciating pain brought the Princess to her knees.

The Princess detested that broom. She was done sweeping because there was never an end to it. She wanted to stop drugging herself to escape from pain. She decided she was finally ready to search for a way to free herself. It was time to let go.

The memories of love finally overcame the memories of suffering. She felt so much love within. She was bursting with music to share and had too many things left that she wanted to do with her life. Guilt was about self-hatred, not love.

And Guilt would never allow Hope and Dreams to be with her and the Princess missed them so very much.

Even though the Dark Witch continued to use the broom to taunt her, the Princess let go. The broom clattered to the floor beside her and she kicked it away.

Guilt would torture her no longer. And the Princess would no longer sweep away her grief; she would allow it.

Now the Dark Witch lost her power because the Princess stopped holding on.

My Eyes Stay Dry

In the darkness, the Princess saw a glimmer of light and color. Two butterflies alighted next to her. Together they carried a key that glowed in the darkness.

Hope said, “Princess, this belongs to you – we’ve been waiting to give it to you.”

Dreams added, “We’ll stay with you now Princess – you will be okay.”

The Princess held tightly to her key and cried and cried; perhaps now joy would return!

But her next task would be to find the Door.

Butterfly to Castle

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

PAINFUL WORDS

August 26, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Butterflies blue sky

Click the blue link below to hear a live performance of my most recent song:

MISUNDERSTOOD – Judy Unger at Kulak’s Woodshed 8/25/14

I also want to share my newest song with an instrumental/karaoke version:

MISUNDERSTOOD-Guitar Instrumental Copyright 2014 by Unger

All of my music is otherworldly for me, especially when my lyrics reveal additional meanings I never imagined while writing them.

On my last post I shared my newest song “Misunderstood.” During the time I was composing my song, I wrote a metaphorical Princess story that was very personal. Initially, I was hesitant to share it but now I have decided to.

This post is named “Painful Words” after a line of lyrics in my song “Misunderstood.” My song was written two months ago after I had a blow up with my oldest son. Now other feelings have surfaced for me related to the lyrics of my song.

I had an epiphany when I remembered that many years ago there were painful words, which were difficult for me to forget. They were screamed at me by my mother.

Perhaps I had this revelation because I am dealing with grief surrounding her fairly recent death, in addition to my divorce after a long marriage.

The painful words I have difficulty forgetting were ones my mother yelled when she found out I wasn’t a virgin. I was twenty-one years old and engaged to be married at the time. This incident caused us both unbearable turmoil. I had never seen her so angry and I was devastated that I had disappointed her so much. To appease her, my husband and I married secretly six months before our scheduled wedding.

I always knew that my mother deeply loved me and never meant to hurt me as she did. Later on, I confronted her and she was very sorry. So many times I was certain that I had forgiven her, but still a chill always lingered deep inside of me. I assume she felt misunderstood.

Because of my music I have once again found clarity – exquisitely sweet and comforting.

Now I have an even a deeper connection to my song.

Your wounds are raw

THE PRINCESS BECAME A DRAGON

The Princess could not take off her armor.

It protected her and without it she felt naked. She also retreated because of her embarrassment and shame; she did not want to be judged. Yet there was no escape from judgment because she dispensed painful criticism to herself on a daily basis.

She was certain everyone could see how she was covering herself and disinterested in her appearance.

The armor only added to her misery because she already suffered with constant eye pain. The Princess even tormented herself for not being more grateful because she knew things could be much worse.

There were signs of what could have been devastating to her if she hadn’t been so lucky. Within the past few months, the Princess had fallen to the ground three times. It was because she couldn’t open her eyes to watch more carefully where she was walking.

She decided God was holding her close each time she fell because miraculously she wasn’t injured.

The Princess began to feel like she was definitely not herself anymore. Once upon a time she danced through her days singing. Now she was simply plodding. She began to wonder if the magic potions the doctors gave her to help her eyes were instead interfering with her thoughts.

Then one day, she looked into the mirror and horror spread through her. She was not a Princess any longer.

She had become a Dragon!

Although it shocked her at first, it wasn’t really a total surprise. She had begun to notice flames shooting from her mouth and many things easily triggered it. When her former Prince became a Dragon after they were married, she was certain it was because of the wicked spell of unhappiness. It seemed like now that wicked spell had transformed her, too.

The Princess wanted to be happy. Even if it was elusive, her best moments were when she was peaceful.

But unfortunately, she had few moments of peace because of her “little dragons.” She traded peacefulness in order to make their lives comfortable, to make them happy. And she felt like she had little choice about it.

Long ago, she believed that love from her children was her purpose for living. But she had no words for her children now, her “little dragons.” They weren’t even little – they were 17, 20 and 23 years old!

She had cared for the “little dragons” from the time they were born and dreamed that someday they would be completely independent. It truly was a dream because they faced many difficult hurdles; but she was determined somehow they would get there.

Although they had certainly made a lot of progress since she left the dragon; the Princess was tired. She only wanted to take care of herself and without peacefulness it was difficult.

The little Dragons expected nothing from their father; but they counted on the Princess. Their father planned to live in a faraway place for the rest of his life. In a year’s time, he would be gone.

Her offspring did not really understand her. They accepted their father as a Dragon, but not their mother as an imperfect Princess.

The Princess certainly loved her children, but she often felt overwhelmed. Because of her eye pain and resulting stress, she began to feel a fire growing inside.

One day, her eldest “little Dragon” fanned her flames. He criticized her and told her she wasn’t doing enough as a mother. The Princess was very hurt because she had devoted and sacrificed so much of herself for all her Dragons.

Since the time when she was a child, she was never able to express anger.

But when she expressed her hurt to her son, he became angry instead. She felt her face growing hot and raised her voice to him and flames began to shoot from her. He threw the fire back into her face and then the Princess erupted. It was so intense that she couldn’t speak for a long time afterward.

When the fire and smoke cleared, only ashes remained.

The Princess cried inside when her son said he did not trust her anymore and that she had traumatized him forever with her outburst. For several weeks he did not return to the cottage where they lived. The Princess was devastated. Everything she had said in anger was misconstrued or misunderstood.

The Princess told her son she loved him and was sorry – she honestly was. But she knew was not really forgiven.

Painful words

She never wanted to explode again, but at the same time she didn’t want to continue to suppress her feelings like she had in the past. This was all new and horrible.

And that was when she realized she was a Dragon.

Once upon a time, her children joined her on a journey to a new and different life.

But having all three of them in her small cottage ended up being far more challenging than she anticipated. Her cottage was not really her castle and many times her “little Dragons” were very unhappy with her.

Trying to make them happy was a habit that the Princess couldn’t seem to break. Now it was worse because of the guilt she carried over hurting their father. Seeking forgiveness from them left her exhausted.

She was definitely tired of being a perfect Princess. As a Princess, she was Cinderella – on the floor looking up as she toiled. She was easily manipulated by guilt and her true companion was self-criticism.

It was ironic how she was never lonely when she was alone. But the worst thing was how deeply she felt misunderstood by them. She would always love them with all of her heart, but sometimes she wished she could fly away.

But then God blessed her with a new song. The dragons that surrounded her dissolved into a beautiful sunset and became butterflies instead.

Butterfly sunset

Now the Princess was ready to shed her armor.

Her beautiful song reminded her why she was a Princess. And when she sang it she discovered she was able to fly away.

I performed "Misunderstood" last night at Kulak's Woodshed. It has been 8 months since I've done this due to my eye problems.

I performed “Misunderstood” last night at Kulak’s Woodshed. It has been 8 months since I’ve done this due to my eye problems.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MISUNDERSTOOD

August 19, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS 

This floral painting of mine was created using black and white watercolors. I am trying to get away from seeing things in black and white, which is my metaphor for extreme thinking. When I expand my mind, I’ve discovered beautiful new shades of tonality.

This floral painting of mine was created using black and white watercolors. I am trying to get away from seeing things in black and white, which is my metaphor for extreme thinking. When I expand my mind, I’ve discovered beautiful new shades of tonality.

Click the blue link to hear audio:

MISUNDERSTOOD-8/18/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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MISUNDERSTOOD

Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

You won’t forgive me for that argument

Those words you heard I never meant

Your wounds are raw; too hurt to move on

You say your trust is gone

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I know you’re hurt; I wish you knew

Nothing can change my love for you

You pretend that you’re okay

But this chill won’t go away

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Misunderstood, left with regret

Painful words you can’t forget

I’d take them back, if I only could

 ‘cause now I’m left misunderstood

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The walls you’ve built protect you now

I want to tear them down somehow

Misunderstood, left with regret

Painful words you can’t forget

I’d take them back, if I only could

Instead I’m left misunderstood

My lyrics in progress are always very revealing. I share my lyric drafts even with areas of words scratched out.

I share my lyric drafts, including areas of words scratched out.

Less than two months ago, I wrote about how I transform my emotions into a song. It is something I do unconsciously and is such a blessing to my life.

I must thank my arranger, George for inspiring me to create my newest song “Misunderstood.” It was his encouragement that truly helped birth this song.

I had come to one of our sessions feeling very depressed. I told him how I had gotten into a horrible fight with my oldest son a few days before. George was sympathetic and told me to express my feelings by writing a song – he even suggested that I name it “Misunderstood.”

I happened to have discovered four beautiful chords on my guitar the day before. I shared them with George and he began to play them on his piano. Instantly, my heart was grabbed with the excitement that every passionate songwriter knows. My glorious new song was emerging!

I know you're hurt

It took us several sessions to create an arrangement for this song. Even though it didn’t have lyrics, it wasn’t long before I found the words. I tried to “compose” a beautiful melody but it seemed to have a mind of it’s own. Even when I found what might have been a “better” choice, I sang whatever melody came out of my mouth.

Originally I wanted to sound like Barry Manilow with a modulated last chorus. But I lost my connection to the song, so the electric guitar and drums had to go. George erased the solo/last chorus and we created something else.

George also directed me while recording harmony. I love the harmony on this song because it makes the song even more emotional for me.

Singing is such a pure form of expression. I sang the high notes for the last chorus because it felt like what I needed to do in order to release my pain.

Take it back

Below are more beautiful words from my new friend, Sandra who lives in Denmark. I introduced her on the last post and she wrote this sweet message after I emailed her a recording of “Misunderstood” in progress.

Dear Judy,

It’s late here in Denmark now: 23:43 at night, and it will not be long before I go to bed, and I will rejoice very much to again get a nice letter from you. You must be well and take care of yourself. I think of you so often and send you my light and healing energy from the depth of my heart.

Thanks for emailing me your latest song “Misunderstood.” I really like it; I actually really loved it and have started to sing it a little.

I like to have background music playing while I walk around here and work; it is so nice. Judy, you have to promise me that you will never stop playing or making music; you’re so clever. Your thoughtful lyrics that you sing with your pleasant voice make me cry. Just wait and see – when we suddenly see each other one day, I will cry for hours when you play and sing to me.

You said you wrote the song after an argument with your son, but it can easily be understood as something that happened between a couple in love.

While I listened to the song, suddenly I saw a movie where a woman was driving her car up a mountain road. It was the start of a movie with your song running in the background as film music; it fit perfectly! I certainly believe that your music could be used for film. Your song invokes many feelings and your relaxing voice is like pleasant waves; your music could fit nicely in a love story or a drama.

Thank you, dear Judy, for sharing your life and your art with me. God bless you,

Sandra

We can't undo

B & W Half Lilly B

My son has no idea that I wrote this song. What emerged from our conflict were many feelings related to the divorce that had been suppressed. Even though the chill between us has subsided, his wariness and my regret have exhausted me.

Perhaps that is why my song is so comforting. It transforms my painful situation into something exquisitely beautiful. I can express my regret in a different way, instead of bending over backward to prepare his favorite foods.

Below are more scrawled words of my lyrics in progress for this song. My very first page began as a way to express feelings without concerning myself with rhyming. Those lyrics in progress are intimate and revealing.

It seems like sharing here is the antithesis of being misunderstood.

I feel understood now.

Misunderstood first lyrics

Rose B&W What I said I can't undo

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MY JOURNEY IN SIGHT – PART 6

August 4, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Spider and the Eye

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Sometimes, if feels like my eye problems have taken over my life. I seldom perform with my guitar anymore and prefer to be in my apartment. My interest in traveling has disappeared.

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A few weeks ago, I described my struggle with eye pain and subsequent depression to my hypnotherapist, Connie. I said, “It’s like I’m wrestling with a treacherous white spider.”

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I told her how when I had the upper hand (where I had distracted myself from the pain), I stood on top of that ugly spider and shouted, “You are not going to wreck my life!”

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And then there were those other moments.

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I could see myself lying prone on the floor held by the painful grip of that “white spider of sadness.” I was discouraged and overwhelmed; overcoming it felt hopeless. And I felt like I was a failure for not being able to accept it.

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Connie listened thoughtfully and then she said, “Let’s talk about acceptance. How would you define it?”

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The first thought that came into my mind had to do with grief. Healing from my son’s death took a long time and was certainly the hardest thing I ever had to accept. I said, “My struggle with grief was much harder than this. For years I was angry and certain my life was ruined. But with healing, I have truly accepted that he is gone and will never grow up. I’ve chosen to look at him as my angel. I can now see that his death didn’t ruin my entire life and even had a positive affect upon me in some ways.”

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Then I mentioned a few words that came into my mind to define my acceptance. They were: resignation and surrender. I battled grief for many years and with my surrender came peace.

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Connie’s eyes were bright when she said, “Those are interesting words to define acceptance. But surrendering sounds like giving up. Is it possible you can’t accept your eye pain because you still are searching for a remedy that might help you? If that’s the case, why would you want to surrender?”

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I took in her words and grinned.

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It was another one of those moments where I wanted to give her a huge hug.

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She was absolutely right!

This butterfly is a Rose Swallowtail. I love to add my own artwork to stories on my blog.

This butterfly is a Rose Swallowtail. I love to add my own artwork to stories on my blog.

Although I was miserable, my dry eye doctor told me I had to wait several months before making an appointment with her in order to give the current remedies time to take effect.

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I was on hormone replacement therapy and began using a testosterone compound cream on my eyelids. I prayed these two things would help alleviate my dry eye pain. The theory behind taking hormones is that menopause causes dryness.

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Unfortunately, I suffered even more because the testosterone cream I rubbed on my eyelids caused a burning sensation in my eyes. I diligently tried not to rub my eyes but it didn’t make any difference. My eyes were on fire!

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It became difficult waiting to see my doctor. I plodded through my days trying to distract myself from the pain and fogginess in my eyes.

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Then I became extremely emotional and edgy. When I had a blow-up with my son where I was shrieking at him, it was really out of character for me. I was always able to hold my emotions in check and although I wanted to express myself more now – flying off the handle was not my style.

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Sunset 3

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I had been taking hormones for 2 ½ months. It was clear they weren’t helping and perhaps were actually contributing to my moodiness. I decided to discontinue them. I still used the testosterone cream every night, as well as Restasis eye drops, compresses and eyelid wipes.

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Finally my eye appointment arrived. I was determined to convince this doctor to give me a referral for serum tears. It wasn’t simply that my HMO would pay for it – it was because having those tears made from my own blood was a complicated process. I knew a woman who travelled to several far away locations to get them because they made such a difference for her.

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When my doctor came into the room, she was very serious. This dry eye specialist was very professional and I could tell she cared even though she didn’t smile.

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I updated her on the regimens I was following. Ironically, tears streamed down my cheeks when I shared how my life was horribly affected by my dry eye condition.

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I became very emotional when I said, “I’ve fallen to the ground three times since I last saw you. It wasn’t because of my vision. It was because my eyes hurt so much that I can’t really open them to see where I’m going.”

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I began sniffling and said, “I wish I could have seen you sooner. I’ve been waiting months for this appointment!”

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After she examined me she said matter-of-factly, “I’m going to try something on you today that has helped some of my other patients.” My curiosity piqued – what was she going to do now?

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Spider and the Eye B&W

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She asked me to rest my chin and press my forehead against a large piece of equipment. Then she opened a bag of tools that held needles and tiny tweezers. My heart pounded as she explained how she was going to open my tear glands and squeeze out the clogged oil.

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She began by poking my upper and then lower lids repeatedly with a sharp tool. She said, “I can see your oil is very thick. If this helps, you can come back again and I’ll do it more.” All I could think of was how I wanted to run away forever from this hospital!

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I flinched with every sting. As she worked she also pinched and squeezed my eyelids; I was gasping and hoped it would be over soon.

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My eyes were sore and dripping as I walked to my car. I prayed it would help. But as I drove home, I was elated.

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It was because she agreed that I could get the serum eye drops. Within a week, I would be receiving the information for them.

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Eye on Facebook

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I subscribe to a support group for dry eyes on Facebook. There are approximately 150 members and most everyone is going or has gone through so much of what I have. Many members bemoan how nothing the doctors gave them helped, but occasionally someone mentions a miraculous moment of relief they found.

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About six months ago, I asked if anyone on that forum knew about serum tears. No one replied or mentioned using them. That told me that it was definitely a tough remedy to obtain. But a “friend of a friend” spoke to me about them and I definitely wanted to get them.

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After my recent appointment, I wrote an update about my eye condition on this site. I ended my update with these words:

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For me, the worst thing about this condition for is depression. I don’t want to live this way for the rest of my life and it gets me down. I try to stay hopeful and will certainly share how those serum tears work once I get them.

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After I wrote my update, I received this comment:

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Judy, my ophthalmologist told me about what you’ve described and said this: “Doctors USED to take needles and open up the glands and then express the clogged oil but they found out that it did damage to the oil glands so that isn’t done anymore.

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And then that same day, there was a post from a woman who had used the serum tears. She wrote:

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I just wanted to share: For the last five years I’ve suffered terribly with severe dry eyes. Autologous serum eye drops gave me my life back. I’m not exaggerating. It was mentioned by the fourth doctor I saw as a last resort. It should have been at the top of the list.

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Here were more comments that followed her post: (my words are black and bold)

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Why are doctors so hesitant to try them? Do they have a lot of bad side effects?

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They don’t. Over and over, doctors kept pushing the pharmaceuticals even after I explained that they didn’t help and caused extreme irritation. This is what happens with medical treatments that are proven BUT have no pharmaceutical company to promote them – doctors don’t hear about it. The serum drops changed everything. I’m so glad I didn’t give up!

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I believe it’s mostly just lack of familiarity. Doctors don’t read the studies so they aren’t aware how good serum drops are for healing the ocular surface, nerve damage repair etc.

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I was ready to pluck my eyes out. I’m not exaggerating. It’s only been a week and I would say there has been at least a 25 percent improvement. My eyes are definitely functioning better. The associated Blepharitis has dramatically improved, as well. I am thrilled that I tried this.

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Well, I have been trying to get my HMO to prescribe them for me. I had to try a lot of useless remedies first but now I’m going to get them soon. I even met and spoke to another woman who told me that they really helped her. So thank you for sharing and I’m so glad you found relief!

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I am so grateful for the wonderful friends in my life. I took this picture to capture a beautiful table set for dinner by two friends who wanted to lift my spirits.

I am so grateful for the wonderful friends in my life. I took this picture to capture a beautiful table set for dinner at the home of a good friend. She and another friend wanted to lift my spirits.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

NO ORDINARY PRINCESS – PART 1

July 28, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

No Ordinary Princess

The book cover above is one that I illustrated a long time ago.

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Last month, the artwork was finally returned to me after being lost for over 25 years.

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It was found when the publisher, Harper Collins was closing their offices. I’m guessing that someone probably discovered it at the bottom of a file cabinet. For such a long time I only had a slide to work with and now I have the original art to scan instead.

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It is an amazing coincidence how I recently wrote about my song “No Words” and chose that sunflower/butterfly cover image to go with it.

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Only a week ago I finished the guitar and vocals for my newest arrangement of “No Words.” It has intricate harmonies and creating it was very rewarding. The link below is to my song and story:

#444 NO WORDS – PART 2

NO WORDS 2

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I love the title of the book I illustrated called “No Ordinary Princess.”

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That’s because shortly before I separated I started to call myself a Princess. Seeing myself as a Princess allowed me to write feelings I might not have been able to express in any other way.

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I chose that image from my subconscious freely and one thing that I’ve learned from hypnosis is how important it is to allow images, thoughts and words to form without judgment.

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Unfortunately, there is a dark side to my Princess metaphor – the Dragon.

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In the beginning, the image of a Dragon was a metaphor for my ex-husband. Sadly even though he is physically gone from my life, the dragon continues to haunt me. Certainly there are issues related to our children – but it is more than that. I see the Dragon as a metaphor for unhappiness.

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The Dragon also represents my inner critic or judge, which is always there in my mind. Feelings of low self-worth and of living with suppression and criticism for many years plague me. Staying positive has been an inner struggle, especially since I’ve had constant dry eye pain.

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The word judge leads to “judgmental” and that stirs up such negative feelings for me.

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In many ways, I’m so proud of how different I am compared to how I was brought up. I really try to be open-minded and go out of my way not to judge or criticize anyone. My mother was always very sure about everything – there was right and wrong, good and bad and she saw everything as black or white. I do tend to follow that by thinking in extreme ways; I often miss out of seeing possibilities that lie in the gray realm.

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I suffer greatly because my inner critic or the judge in my head is not kind to me. Therefore, although I try to be kind and open-minded with other people, I am very judgmental with myself. That has led me to discover why I need a lot of healing at this time in my life.

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I want to explain why I have discomfort surrounding being a Princess. Writing helped me to understand those feelings, so this has been a great opportunity for me to find insight.

This photo is blurry, but it brings back memories of carefree times when I played my guitar and had many boyfriends.

This photo is blurry, but it brings back memories of carefree times when I played my guitar and had many boyfriends.

Feeling like I was a Princess began during my childhood. My parents adored me and nurtured all of my talents: art, writing and music.

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Before I was married, my future husband also adored me. But everything changed after we were married. I discontinued my music and drifted apart from my close friends; I was very unhappy but chalked it up to my immaturity. I told myself that I just needed to grow up and lose my unrealistic expectations about happiness.

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Even back then, I had a lot of judgment about my feelings. I ignored my intuition and I even stopped keeping my diary because I couldn’t bear to write my true feelings.

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Because I was in such deep denial and couldn’t face the prospect of divorce, I blamed myself for my unhappiness. I did seek out therapy, but everything pointed back to how controlled I was by my mother. I suppressed every thought I could about the lack of intimacy in my marriage.

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My career kept me very busy. I was driven to become successful because my husband seemed unhappy with me. I thought that perhaps if I made more money he would be happier.

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That issue about making money still haunts me. So often, my thoughts related to money become convoluted because my self-worth was tied into it for such a long time.

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It is unfortunate how the image of a Princess can lead me to such a dark place. Once again, black and white comes into my mind with the darkness of the Dragon countered by the enlightenment of the Princess.

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The judge berates me and tells me that I was pampered and did not appreciate my husband’s hard work. I took care of his needs for so many years and this thinking drives a stake right into my heart because of the guilt I carry about ending my marriage.

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My ex-husband would certainly think that I was pampered. I had a housekeeper to help me and he hated waking up to go to work. I always felt so grateful to have flexible hours with my career and appreciated that my husband was reliable and provided for his family.

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But even though I had a housekeeper, I never relaxed. My husband wasn’t happy about the expense and hated the invasion upon his privacy. Having a housekeeper made it possible for me to continue working as an illustrator and when our children were young, I often needed extra help on the weekends when I had large assignments.

This picture is of Jason when he was three. My children always had plenty of art supplies to work with.

This picture is of Jason when he was three. My children always had plenty of art supplies to work with.

I really needed help from the start because our first child, Jason had many health problems. He refused to eat and vomited constantly. There were times when I had to race him to the emergency room once a week due to his heart arrhythmias. 

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Later on we had children with special needs. I needed behavioral help to deal with meltdowns and was constantly going to court against the school district in order to gain help for my children.

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So what truly allowed me to survive was the support that came from Rosa; she worked for our family for over twenty years and my children considered her to be their second mother.

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But my husband wasn’t too happy with her and the animosity between them tore me apart.

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Because the amount of work Rosa had to do was overwhelming, our house was never clean. I wasn’t able to keep up with all the demands from my challenging children; I set my work aside to advocate for their special needs for many years. My husband criticized Rosa to me every time we were together because our house was dirty. He was angry that our children didn’t behave better; that things were constantly in need of repair because our youngest son wasn’t watched more carefully or disciplined.

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I rarely spoke up, except when he picked on our son. There was always underlying tension. It became especially hard when my parents became ill and I brought them to live with us while they were on a waiting list for an assisted living facility.

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It was one of the hardest years of my life. I felt appreciative that my husband “allowed it,” but at the same time his moodiness and anger worried and upset my parents. The guilt and anger that I carried suffocated me.

This picture was taken two years ago. Rosa is still very close to my children and me. She comes over once a week to cook dinner and help out with all the laundry. No cleaning is required from her and she is my family now.

This picture was taken two years ago. Rosa is still very close to my children and me. She comes over once a week to cook dinner and help out with all the laundry. My children always are so excited to see her. She is part of my family and always there for me – as I am for her.

When I began creating music and writing in 2010, I dreamed I’d make a lot of money and become famous. I told myself a story about how if I became successful, my husband could retire from the job he disliked so much and then he wouldn’t be so angry all the time.

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Two years later in 2012, my father was dying and my mother had dementia. I dealt with it alone and was at a very low point. The constant pressure and criticism from him was too much and it began to dawn upon me that I had a lonely existence. I hated his company and could not find any other way to deal with my feelings except through my songs.

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It was my beautiful music that gave me the clarity and courage to continue my journey in a new way.

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I ended my marriage so I could live without the constant stress and suppression I carried for decades. It was ultimately because of self-love and the feeling that I deserved more from life.

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So the true reason I am “No Ordinary Princess” is because I feel that I have something extraordinary to offer the world. I could not have found my courage if I hadn’t been blessed with those gifts that have healed me: my music and writing.

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I reclaimed being the Princess from my childhood.

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As I embrace dreams that I abandoned for many decades while caring for my children, husband and parents . . .

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I do feel like royalty!

Clicking on this makes it larger.

Clicking on this makes it larger.

In looking for an attachment for this post, I found a page from my diary that I wrote at the age of 19. It truly tells my story. The line where I wrote, “Smiling is my favorite habit next to eating and biting my nails” hits me hard. Below is a transcription:

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Life is busy. Is it real? I feel detached sometimes, like a wandering entity put to the test all the time. It’s kind of lonely, too, esp. when I spend my time cheering and pleasing other people all around me who really have no idea what I’m really like. Very few people have ever come close. Parents can come to a certain point – where they know certain parts perfectly and never know others. But in the midst of my stage, which I act upon well during the course of the day – I wonder if I’m feeling. Am I happy? I guess if I’m smiling. Am I sad? I’m not crying. Smiling is my favorite habit next to eating and biting my nails.

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Judy with crossing bars

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© 2014 Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

TRANSFORMING MY LIFE

July 16, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Peaceful Sky ouline

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For me, being under hypnosis is like drifting through clouds. I’ll hear music, see colors and am totally serene. When I awaken I am very refreshed and energized.

Sometimes I’ll hear my hypnotherapist speaking, but I am not really listening to what she is saying. When a word stands out for me, then I’ll feel a glimmer of awareness.

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Peaceful Sky pastel

Then there are those other times when I’m very alert while in the hypnotic state. I will carry on an animated conversation with my eyes closed. I’m often startled by the amazing revelations I uncover as my subconscious speaks freely.

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Peaceful sky cutout

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Click the blue link below to hear my latest song in progress:

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MISUNDERSTOOD Karaoke in Progress-Copyright 2014 by J Unger

Last week, I was really looking forward to my hypnotherapy session.

I wanted some comfort because I was dealing with the aftermath of a huge blowup I had with my oldest son. He moved out for two weeks and now he was back.

Connie, my hypnotherapist was very supportive as usual. But clearly, I wasn’t nearly as stressed out as I was the week before.

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It was all because of my new song!

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Songwriting

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I had some lyrics scrawled on a sheet of paper and softly them sang to her. After I shared more about my new lyrics, we discussed other ways I could help myself feel better. Soon it was time for hypnosis and I moved over to the chair in the back of the room.

As I was floating peacefully, I could hear my newest song. It played over and over in my mind and moved me to tears with its beauty. Lightly in the distance, I heard Connie speaking. It was then when I heard her say the word transformation.

Now I was listening more carefully. As the word turned over in my mind, I felt compelled to speak. I said, “You know, I love the word transformation. It applies to my life in so many interesting ways!”

With my eyes closed, I rattled off a long list. But what stood out most for me was how I have been blessed with the ability to transform any pain or deep emotion in my life into words and music.

I was smiling as I went back into the dreamy state of hypnosis. My song echoed through my body; it was tenderly stroking my heart as I drifted peacefully before awakening.

I decided that I would write more about that word later on.

Playing Guitar

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trans·form (verb)

trans·formed, trans·form·ing, trans·forms) altering, change something dramatically, convert something to different energy

“My transformation”

I have often described my mid-life turning point as my transformation. It felt like a perfect description of how I became a completely different person when I embraced writing and music at the age of fifty.

There was something so eerie about how different I felt in my own body with that transformation. My eyesight was different and so was the way I walked; even the sound of my own voice had me thinking I was someone else!

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A few years ago, when I presented a rough draft of my story to an editor, she crossed out any place in my story where I had the word transformation; she hated the word and told me it only belonged in a science fiction story.

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So as a replacement I used the words healing and rebirth, but those words could not adequately convey the depth of how I felt as much as transformation did.

Recently, transformation came up in my song: “No Words.” For three years, I sang: “You truly are my butterfly, transforming my life with your first cry.”

It was never an easy word to sing and my arranger, George disliked it intensely.

With the newer version of “No Words” that I recently created, I decided that perhaps it might be time to sing something else with the faster tempo. So I transformed my lyric line to, “You changed my life with your first cry.”

Since having children definitely changed my life, that worked fine for me.

Now that I’ve mentioned my mid-life transformation and the use of transformation in my song lyrics, I want share two aspects of transformation related to my art career.

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COCONUT PUNCH vertical

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“Transformation as an artist”

I transformed my artistic skills when I went from being a watercolorist to becoming a digital artist.

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Ten years ago, I wrote off my illustration career because it slowed to a standstill. I blamed it on the digital age.

I did not easily embrace learning how to use the computer. But I taught myself Photoshop and eventually I could scan and manipulate my images in any way I desired. In addition to becoming a digital artist, I also learned a great deal about working with music on my computer.

The process of learning through experimentation never stops for me.

Transformation happens to be an actual term in Photoshop. I take this opportunity now to share some examples of digital transformation, which I used in my most recent illustration assignment.

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A question I often hear as a food illustrator is: “Why are they hiring you and not a food photographer?”

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That’s a valid question, especially since my final work looks like a photograph.

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So here’s the catch: many times the product I’m illustrating does not exist and cannot be photographed. So I must create something by imagining what it will look like.

I still chuckle with the irony that as a watercolorist my goal was to make everything I painted look photorealistic. Now that I work primarily on the computer, my goal is to make my digital image look like a painting!

But even when I painted, I relied upon photo reference for my renderings.

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When nothing exists for me to photograph, I search instead for something similar to what I’m illustrating. This starting point works well on the computer; I can alter any image with tonal, color and shape adjustment. Photoshop transformation is very important for what I do as an illustrator.

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Below is the exact specification for the Coconut Fruit Punch flavor ice cream bar I just illustrated. My client was Tillamook (A dairy company, known mostly for cheese)

1. Fruit punch (orange, pineapple, cherry) sorbet core, coconut ice cream outer, white chocolate coating (possibly with coconut flakes).

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I went to the market searching to find any kind of coated ice cream bar that was white. I ended up buying one that was white chocolate and vanilla. I also brought home a few boxes of bars with pink centers to resemble the fruit punch sorbet core I needed to illustrate. I would be able to combine my photos.

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Photo Reference

This is my photo before I’ve separated the elements and arranged them into a layout.

I began my process by transforming my photos into a layout.

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Each flavor needed two illustrations; one for the front and the other for the back of the package. On the front illustration, there were ingredients scattered around the bar.

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Below are some of my layouts. The bottom three (G, H and I) represent “Round 2” where one layout was selected and further developed.

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All Layouts Coco punch

Once my layout was approved, I created my illustration by working with colored pencil over a print. Below are examples of my final art:

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Coconut punch bar front

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I also illustrated a dark chocolate raspberry bar.

I also illustrated a dark chocolate raspberry bar.

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY BACK FINAL ART

My abilities were challenged when my client requested another version for the coconut punch flavor. I needed to illustrate this flavor again with a different coating, one that had coconut flakes in it.

I couldn’t buy anything because there weren’t any bars at the market with this kind of coating. But Tillamook was nice enough to send me a dark photo of a prototype bar made in a kitchen at their factory. I was relieved because the light source would work for what I wanted to do.

Bar photo reference

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So now I’m going to share how I transformed my reference.

Transforming the bar

First, I “selected” (Photoshop term) only the bar area. There are many types of selection tools available. On this, I used one called a “magnetic lasso.” It is visible as a black and white broken line and moves around the selected area as indicated above with a black arrow.

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A box appears around the selected area and it allows me to drag it to another place. But that bar coating still needed work and had to be transformed further to fit my layout.

There are many transforming choices available – I chose “warp.” I rotated, flipped and pulled the shape into the dimensions that were closer to the bar I wanted to superimpose it over. Then I lightened it considerably.

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Transforming the bar 2

After adjusting the color, my next step was to apply that layer over the smooth bar. I temporarily changed the opacity level so that I could “see through” the layer, which made it easier to position. But sometimes I will leave a layer slightly transparent for effect.

I refined my combined layers further in Photoshop by using a digital airbrush and eraser. Wallah! I had a bar with a coconut coating!

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Transforming the bar 3

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“I transform my pain into a song”

The best part about Photoshop for me is the “history” tool. Every step of the way (counting back as many as a 100 steps) I can access where I was before and all mistakes can easily be corrected.

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So that leads me to the third part of how transformation is a distinct part of my life.

Even though I do not live with regret as a rule, there are times when I wish I could go back in my life to erase something I’ve said or done. Unfortunately, no tool for that exists that I know of. I’ve chosen to look at my mistakes as an opportunity for learning and changing.

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And for writing a new song!

The process of transforming my pain into music and lyrics is both mystical and magical. It is not a conscious choice either. I hardly ever write lyrics just to write them. I first need to hear music to tell me what my song is about.

I can pick up my guitar with every intention of writing a new song. I’ll experiment to find new chords and nothing sounds interesting. I usually give up when I find myself gravitating to chord progressions I’ve already written.

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It just doesn’t happen unless there is some deep emotion driving me.

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Last week when I was upset about an argument that I had with my eldest son, suddenly I began to hear some very haunting chords that took over my heart.

At the same time that my song started emerging, the situation with my son improved as he and I started talking a little more. Although I was very hurt by what happened, seeing his pain taught me a great deal about how I want to handle my anger differently in the future. I still feel terrible for losing my cool and yelling at him.

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Playing Guitar B&W

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I am thankful for the blessing of my music; it is beyond anything I could possibly describe.

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When I hear my song, I am elevated, my heart is soothed and tears flow from my eyes as I softly hum its melody.

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I’m in awe that something so beautiful can come from the ugliness that preceded it.

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Original sky

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You won't forgive me

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© 2014 Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

WONDER WHY – PART 1

July 7, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

WONDER WHY -

WONDER WHY

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Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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I’m thankful for life but I’ve lived with grief

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Although I am hopeful, I long for belief

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I wish for a way that could explain

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Why life holds so much pain

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I look at the mountains into the blue sky

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I wish somehow I could fly

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Away from sadness, torture and madness

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As I cry, I wonder – why?

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Life can be sweet, we hope and we dream

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‘til tragedy leaves us to scream

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Diseases and death, lives are destroyed

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Prayer vanishes into that void

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I look at the mountains into the blue sky

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Searching for answers before I die

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For those who suffer, the road is much tougher

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As I cry, I wonder – why?

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-God, I want to believe in you, but I just wish I knew

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So much of life seems so unfair

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People are broken and filled with despair

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I look at the mountains into the blue sky

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My doubt is something I cannot deny

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If this was planned, I don’t understand

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God, I cry and wonder – why?

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Click the blue link to hear my song:

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WONDER WHY-9/6/14 Copyright 2014 by Judy Unger

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WONDER WHY GUITAR INS Copyright 2014 by Unger

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Links to other stories about this song:

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#429 HOPING

#430 I WANT TO BELIEVE IN YOU

#432 MY DOUBT IS SOMETHING I CANNOT DENY

#435 FOR THOSE WHO SUFFER

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I had lots of blue sky to ponder in this picture taken eight years ago on a trip with two of my children and parents to Joshua Tree Monument. Unfortunately, my mother fell in the bathroom at night and broke her wrist. We went home the next day.

I had lots of blue sky to ponder in this picture taken eight years ago on a trip with two of my children and parents to Joshua Tree Monument. Unfortunately, my mother fell in the bathroom at night and broke her wrist. We went home the next day.

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My songs always address my emotions and “Wonder Why” is no exception. Certainly, I know I’ve suffered in my life with challenges. But I still wrote my song with others in mind. I do not believe that intense suffering is part of the human condition. My doubtfulness expressed to God in my song is for the awful things that happen in this world, which I cannot grasp.

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I played my song for my good friend, Sonia who is a Holocaust survivor. Even though I value her opinion (she made some helpful suggestions for my song “Take Me Away”), I try to let my songs teach me the best choice of lyrics based upon how I feel when singing them.

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So when I asked Sonia for her feedback, she told me that too many of my lyric lines were detached; she far preferred my lyrics to be about my own feelings. I tried to make those changes, but I couldn’t.

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An example was this line: “People are broken and filled with despair.”

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Whenever I sang the words in a more personal way, (I’ve been broken and filled with despair) my song no longer felt honest. The reason was because although I might have felt broken in the past, my journey since age 50 has been about healing. So I don’t feel that way anymore.

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Sonia also hated the word torture. I thought about changing it. I tried singing “torment” and “sorrow.”

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But I kept the word torture. That word really does best describe for me the rampant horrors that exist in this world.

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what you have planned

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I will begin my story about this song by dedicating it to my good friend, Magda. Our friendship began on a tennis court in a public park when I was in my 20’s and has deepened through the years.

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What Magda experienced when she lost her only child can only be described with the word torture. And she only told me this story many years after I’d known her, after I had lost my son, Jason.

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Magda was a young married woman living in a horrifically oppressive regime in Romania. The dictator at that time was Nicolae Ceaușescu and he ruled Romania with an iron hand; C-sections were forbidden. Magda explained to me the reason and it sounded absurd. Nicolae determined that if a woman had a C-section, she might not have another child and he wanted to populate his country. Therefore, he outlawed them except in the most extreme circumstances.

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That set the stage for Magda’s tragedy. She went into premature labor in the dead of winter. When she arrived at the hospital, she was in terrible pain. There was no pain medication given to her as she labored. But the baby was breech and could not emerge.

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Magda said she wanted to die because the pain was intolerable. Her hands were tied and her mouth was muffled with a cloth as her labor went on for almost a week. She was close to death after so many days tied to a bed in agony.

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Finally, it was decided that she could have a C-section after all. Her child died shortly after.

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She never saw her child.

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She never held her child.

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She was left with nothing but horrific pain, scars and loss.

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i want to believe in you

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But when I wrote my song “Wonder Why,” I wasn’t thinking about that traumatic event in her life. I was thinking how my friend suffers terribly with MS, which she was diagnosed with when she was only in her 40’s.

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Life has not been kind to her.

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The ultimate irony about writing this song for her, is that her situation has me feeling doubtful and wishing I could know why she has suffered so terribly.

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But Magda does not have any doubts.

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Therefore, I include at the end of my story some words from people who I definitely imagine my song touches – those who are angry with God.

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For me personally, my song expresses exactly how I feel. I’m filled with doubts, but I’m still thankful for my life despite that.

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 So now I’ll share some of Magda’s words to tell this story in a different way.

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This picture with Magda and I was taken in 1987 at my baby shower for my first child, Jason. I met Magda five years earlier at a public park in Sylmar, California where we were both playing tennis.

This picture with Magda and I was taken in 1987 at my baby shower for my first child, Jason. I met Magda five years earlier at a public park in Sylmar, California where we were both playing tennis.

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I DEDICATE MY SONG TO A SPECIAL FRIEND, MAGDA

She suffers with MS and at this time is seriously ill.

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On one of my first posts to this blog four years ago, I shared a beautiful exchange with my friend Magda about her belief in God.  #22 OPENING THE GATES TO OUR HEARTS    

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Because I was doubtful of God’s existence, I was very touched when she explained her faith. Magda has had MS (Multiple Sclerosis) for over fifteen years now. Before that, she was very active and an excellent tennis player.

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But unfortunately, her illness has continued to progress.

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Because of my blog and emailing, I became much closer to her when my journey began in 2010. I share an exchange with her below where she shared her memories of Jason with me. (Magda types in capital letters and my replies are in bold.)

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On Feb 1, 2010, Magda wrote:

JUDY, WE’VE KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR 23-24 YEARS AND I LIKED YOU FROM THE FIRST MINUTE …YOU DIDN’T CARE ABOUT MY FOREIGN ACCENT AND POOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE

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YOU INVITED ME TO THE BABY SHOWER, MY FIRST ONE EVER AND THE ONLY ONE…JASON, MY LITTLE ANGEL WAS BORN AND I REMEMBER THE DIFFICULT TIME YOU HAD FEEDING HIM…I BABY SAT HIM ONCE.

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THE WORST PHONE CALL…JASON!!!! HE WAS SO BRAVE BEFORE HIS SURGERY! I REMEMBER THAT MOMENT…I HEAR HIS SWEET VOICE IN MY EARS, AS I HAVE FOR YEARS…AND I CAN STILL SEE HIS ANGEL FACE WITH FRECKLES …I ATTENDED THE FUNERAL, BUT WATCHING THE LITTLE CASKET I CRIED NON-STOP…I LEFT…I COULD NOT WATCH THE LAST PART…

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I DON’T KNOW WHY ALL OF THIS CAME TO MY MIND…I LOST A SON 10 DAYS AFTER HIS BIRTH IN THE HOSPITAL… THEY NEVER EVEN LET ME HOLD HIM…I COULDN’T TALK WITH ANYBODY AND I JUST PRAYED TO GOD TO HELP ME AND HE DID. AND FROM THAT TIME ON, I ALWAYS ASK HIM FOR HELP…

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JUDY, KEEP SMILING…ALL YOUR PICTURES ARE LIT BY YOUR SMILE…IT IS HARD FOR ME TO FIND THE WORDS TO SAY HOW MUCH I LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU.

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MY LOVE TO YOU, MAGDA

P.S. I TYPE WITH ONE HAND BECAUSE MY LEFT ONE DOESN’T MOVE TOO MUCH.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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On February 2, 2010, Judy Unger wrote:

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Dearest, dearest Magda, It has been 18 years since Jason died, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Your words about his freckle face create tears because sometimes I can’t believe he was real. To know that you still remember him – his voice, his face – it means so much. Thank you for bringing Jason back to me for a little while this morning.

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I deeply wish you could have held your little son (and of course, that he would have lived!) He will always be a part of you.

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I love you so much,

Judy

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Mountains and sky

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I look at the mountains

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Two weeks ago, I wrote to Magda. Her quality of life now is very poor. She requires nursing assistance and is often in bed. She cannot see well and is usually suffering with terrible pain.

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Hi Magda,

I dedicated my most recent song to you.

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I haven’t heard from you in awhile and just wanted you to know you were in my thoughts. I always think of you and pray you are not suffering.

Love, Judy

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DEAR JUDY, THANK YOU SO MUCH MY DEAR FRIEND, I DON’T FEEL WELL; MY SPINE IS GETTING WEAKER AND IT’S HARD FOR ME TO SIT IN THE WHEELCHAIR. I AM FIGHTING ANOTHER UTI. IT IS MORE DIFFICULT IN THE SUMMER TIME. I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR YOUR SONG….

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Oh, my friend – I am so sad to hear you’re dealing with even more pain. Hopefully, the UTI will clear up soon.

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Magda, when I wrote my newest song “Wonder Why,” all I could think of was what you go through on a daily basis. As I sang the words, “For those who suffer,” I thought about how your suffering is completely unfair and awful.

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I’m going to mail you a CD so you can hear my song expressing those feelings and dedicated to you. I miss you so much and wish you would allow me to come and visit you.

Love, Judy

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OH JUDY, MY SWEET FRIEND, I RECEIVED YOUR CD TODAY! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SENDING IT TO ME!!!! LISTENING TO YOUR SONGS AND HEARING YOUR BEAUTIFUL VOICE ALLEVIATES MY PAIN. I THANK YOU SO MUCH WITH TEARS IN MY EYES.

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I RE-READ YOUR CARD…I WISH I COULD HUG YOU, TOO. YOU HAVE A SPECIAL, SPECIAL PLACE IN MY HEART…

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I AM SO SORRY I CANNOT SEE YOU OR ANY OF MY FRIENDS, I AM TOO WEAK AND I TRY TO REST AS MUCH AS I CAN AND PRAY.

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I CANNOT CALL MYSELF A RELIGIOUS PERSON, BUT I AM A TRUE BELIEVER. WE NEED TO BELIEVE IN OUR HEARTS. I ALWAYS THANK GOD FOR EVERY MINUTE WHEN I’M WITHOUT PAIN.

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YOU ARE VERY SPECIAL, SO GIFTED, AND SO TALENTED – WITH A GREAT HEART. THAT YOU ARE AFTER SO MUCH IN YOUR LIFE – YOU ARE STILL SWEET…HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? GOD IS THE ANSWER.

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I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART, MAGDA

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This picture was taken eight years ago. For Magda, despite her with suffering, prayers never “vanished into the void.”

This picture was taken eight years ago. For Magda, despite suffering, her prayers never “vanished into the void.”

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Not too long ago, I introduced a woman I correspond with on a grief forum named Sammi.  #434 HOW IT FELT WHEN YOU WENT AWAY – PART 2    

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She lost her son a year and a half ago. I want to share a recent exchange with her in regards to God and grief. My words are in bold and hers are in blue.

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Dear Sammi, I was just thinking of you again because of a message a woman wrote on a Facebook grief site. You are not alone. Below is what this woman wrote to express her agonizing pain and isolation:

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Much to the chagrin of other people in my life; I wear a mask, I am not okay, and my life is not what it should have been. I suffer every day with this grief that no one can see because I don’t want to be viewed as weak. I have never been weak. To those of you in my hometown, my family, people I have called friends for years; why are you not here for me? I have been a wreck for 4 years 6 months and I am lonely and hurting. All I have had are Internet hugs from mothers and fathers who have lost their kids too…I HURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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YOU sit and imagine losing your child at whatever age you want, imagine seeing that lifeless body and hurting beyond anything you could ever imagine, knowing God is in control and you will only see that baby you loved, poured everything you had into that child all their life and then BAM! They are gone; you can’t see them again until God decides HE is ready for you to come home….

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Judy, this woman sounds like me. Her pain comes off the screen. I agree with her.

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Sammi, I’ve described my grief as an amputation of my soul. There is no anesthetic and it is permanent. No one can see our amputation. Because it is invisible, there is little sympathy as times goes by. I found that usually people who also have amputated souls offer the most understanding.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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The Internet grief forum where I met Sammi is a general one. It’s for all kinds of loss: parents, children, siblings and spouses. I remember being “grief-centric” for a long time because I felt that the loss of my child was worse than anyone else’s loss. But thankfully, I no longer dwell in that place.

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On this grief forum, I’m often touched by the way so many people reach out to each other no matter what their loss was.

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Below is a message that another member wrote to Sammi:

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Sammi,

I am so, so sorry for your loss. I cannot even imagine losing a child and to be honest would not ever want to try to imagine your heartache right now. Thank you so much for taking the time to bring me words of comfort; you are a good example of strength and love.

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Maybe this is not the best time for jokes, but I recently told my sister when she spoke to me about God that God wasn’t on the top of my list of people I wanted to talk with because everyone I love leaves me for him!

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In all seriousness I’ve never attempted prayer so often in my life. I will add you and your family to my ongoing ramblings with my higher power. Tammy

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Tammy, what a wonderful way to think of God! I’ll admit that I have been very angry with him and have not thought kindly about him/her lately. Your statement has put that all in a different light . . . “everyone I love leaves me for him.” Somehow, that makes it easier.

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Thank you.

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Sammi

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I think about life

© 2014 by Judy Unger http://www.myjourneysinsight.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

IT’S NOT MINE

June 30, 2014

BLOG TABLE OF CONTENTS

Kim getting ready to sing

These pictures are of my voice teacher, Kimberly Haynes. She came to the studio where I record in North Hollywood to sing my song “Hang On” for me.

My post title is a line of lyrics from my song “Hang On.” Below are links to stories about that song:

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HANG ON-PART 1

HANG ON-PART 2

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Four years ago, I was a fifty-year-old woman who was very excited about having music again in my life. After not singing for thirty years, I enrolled in a private vocal coaching class at a public park.

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My teacher’s name was Peaches Chrenko. I told her that the reason I was singing again was because I wanted to give my original songs the best voice I could. For most of my life, I did not consider myself a good singer. I imagined that one day a professional singer could do far more justice to my songs.

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Peaches explained to me that there wasn’t any reason I couldn’t sing my songs. But I could still have others sing my songs because both were beautiful possibilities. I’ve never forgotten what she said.

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It turned out that the more I sang, the more the connection within my heart blossomed. I soon realized that I loved singing.

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A year later, I hired Peaches to record vocals for two of my songs for me. The experience was not what I had expected, though it wasn’t because she didn’t do a great job. It was just so hard for me to accept her different phrasing and melodies for my songs – it felt like it wasn’t my song anymore. Later on, I actually incorporated some of her ideas into my singing and really benefitted from her interpretations.

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I have no illusions that my voice is going to lead me to commercial singing success.

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My dedication to singing is completely driven by a desire to fully express my feelings. Singing is the one area of my life where I have felt free to do that. My songs heal me and I hope someday they will touch and comfort other people, too.

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Last year, I was very excited about a new arrangement that George and I had created for my song “Hang On.” I was certain I had a hit in the making and began to entertain the possibility that another singer could really take my song much farther than I could.

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At that time I was taking lessons with Kimberly Haynes, who is an amazing singer. I asked her if I could pay her to record a vocal for my song “Hang On.” Yet shortly before our recording session, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and so we postponed it indefinitely.

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Two months ago, I received a call from Kimberly. She told me she was ready to sing “Hang On.” I was so thankful to hear her husband was doing better. His condition was still very serious, but he had stabilized.

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A few days later, I eagerly went to Kimberly’s house with my guitar. I brought a sheet with the chords and lyrics, as well as a CD with a recording of “Hang On.” She told me she would be singing her own interpretation of my song. I was curious what she was going to do, but also nervous because it was difficult for me when Peaches sang my songs.

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That day at her house, we went over the lyrics. Kimberly told me she was confused by one line and asked me to explain it to her. It was: “It’s not mine.” 

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I told her that in my song I was speaking to someone who was in horrific grief. Although I could somewhat empathize with their pain because of my own grief experience, I wasn’t saying, “I know how you feel.” I believe that no one can truly know how another person feels.

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Also the pain not being mine was an acknowledgement that I have healed and moved beyond pain.

-You are broken

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Kimberly said it was still confusing to her.

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I had a few days until she would record at Darrin’s recording studio. I decided I would change those lines if I could find something I liked as much or better.

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First, I came up with two rhymes: “unspoken” and “broken.” And then I was elated to find two replacement lines that worked well. They were: “Your eyes show, your heart is broken. There’s so much pain, it’s unspoken.”

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The reason I chose the first three words of “your eyes show,” was because I believe that eyes truly portray grief. On a story I wrote in 2010 (The Amputation of My Soul), I described bereaved parents at support group meetings as having eyes with hollow sockets and no tears left to cry.

Darrin is on the right and Kimberly is on the other side of the glass.

Darrin is on the right and Kimberly is on the other side of the glass.

The recording day arrived and I was nervous. I drove over to Darrin’s recording studio and Kimberly knocked on the door a few moments after. She was stunning in a long flowing gown, radiant and gorgeous. I asked Darrin to take a few pictures of us.

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Kim & Judy at Darrin's 2

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It was so different for me to be on the other side of the glass. This was the ultimate voice lesson because I was watching a true professional at work.

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Kimberly checked the mic and Darrin did a test for levels. It was time to start recording and the beautiful arrangement playing aloud gave me chills as it usually did.

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But from the moment Kimberly began singing, I felt myself squirming. Her delivery was so powerful, yet it wasn’t what I wanted for my song. At the end of the first take, I said something to the effect that it would be great if she could pull back a little.

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Kimberly asked me to clarify what I meant. I told her I couldn’t really explain it and left it at that. My heart was pounding. I felt like I was being critical and certainly did not want to tell my voice teacher what to do.

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She continued singing and did five takes. Her performance and delivery were strong, confident and very professional. No Melodyne or editing would be needed.

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That was a huge contrast with my singing, by the way. So much of what I record is embarrassing; a lot of editing is needed. But when I’m done, I’m very proud.

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When Kimberly was finished, it was very awkward for me because I wasn’t excited about her recording. I hugged and thanked her, but my face was on fire.

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I felt like it was totally unreasonable for me to expect her to sing my song the same way I did.

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I left the studio and went to my car. I took a few deep breaths and rested with my face in my hands. I wasn’t ready to drive home yet. Tears were pouring from my eyes uncontrollably. It wasn’t even because I was emotional – my eyes just hurt.

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Suddenly, I heard a car honk and there was Kimberly in her car alongside mine. I lowered my window to hear her words. She leaned toward me and said sweetly, “Judy, thank you for sharing your baby with me. It was an honor. And I’m going to pray for you – for your eyes to feel better.”

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I looked up at her and nodded. I let her know that I also prayed her husband would be okay. Here, her husband had ocular melanoma and she was praying for my eyes!

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Kim & Judy at Darrin's

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I decided not to promote my song with Kimberly’s vocal. Instead, I went back to George and we changed the key and tempo for “Hang On.” I sang new harmony for it and recorded my guitar into the song differently than I had before.

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And just like with Peaches, I learned a lot about how to sing my song better just from hearing what Kimberly had done.

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Tulips-Yellow Group

When I recorded a new vocal for “Hang On” a few weeks ago, I was extremely moved by my own lyrics.

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Especially the line of: “One day your pain will go away – love will lift you up, love will always stay.”

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My hopeful song was a message to me from my subconscious to hang on.

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Singing “Hang On” was so healing! Of course, I wasn’t deeply disconnected from life like I was when Jason died. But I’ve been grieving my parents who both died in the last two years. I’ve also been struggling with depression related to my eye problems.

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And then there was a revelation for me.

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It all related to the lyric change I had done because of Kimberly’s suggestion.

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I turned out that my eyes do show I am heartbroken.

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And the pain was mine after all.

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Your eyes show

-Hopeless eyes

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© 2014 Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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