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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

Listen

I don’t always do it, but when I’m intentionally listening, my body tells me what it needs and my inner compass tells me which way to go. I’d say it’s usually spot on, but I’ll leave room for error because sometimes *read MOST times* I have my own agenda.

For example, the other morning I wanted nothing but coffee and something quick and sweet, but my body told me I needed water and chicken. Yes, chicken. So there I was at 7:30 AM, sitting on my couch with a plate of grilled chicken and a large glass of water. It wasn’t what I pictured, but my body was right. I’m stressed out and substance is something I am craving.

Nothing quick. No empty calories.
No shallow relationships.

I read an article this past year about the top five most stressful life events and it made me feel somewhat better in regards to my current state of inner chaos. They are:

  • Death of a loved one.
  • Divorce.
  • Moving.
  • Major illness or injury.
  • Job loss.

After reading the complete article, I felt like an over-achiever. 3/5 in one year. I can do hard things.

Truth is, we all have particularly great seasons of life and conversely, particularly not great seasons. When it’s your turn to get chewed up and spit out, you’re left feeling understandably disheveled and out of sorts (and for someone who struggles with control, it’s even more of blow when you feel you have none).

Resetting your life is both physically and mentally taxing and I’m not sharing my journey looking for sympathy because you and I both know how quickly the tables can turn. I share because there’s a difference between living “in theory” vs living “in reality”. We THINK things are going to go one way. We THINK we’ll handle things differently when they don’t. As much as I’d like to show up all pretty and pressed, real life is kind of rumply and it shows. No one is exempt. Life doesn’t have any qualms with randomly placing a bitter cocktail in front of us and telling us to drink up.

And to that, I say, “Hell to the no.”

We do not need to drink up, but we do need to listen. Just like how our bodies can’t function well for too long on only caffeine and cookies, our hearts can’t heal if we are out looking for the next quick fix. Listening to what we really need is important. I realize only now how much I filled my life with a lot of empty moments because I did not want to stay uncomfortable. My longing for ease created a bunch of short cuts that only delayed an inevitable process IN me. And all processes have their day. And their way.

Friends…please sit quietly in your heartbreak and listen. Sit quietly in your anger. In your longing. In your confusion. In it all. Listen.

Listen to what YOU need. There’s a time and a space for other people’s good opinions of what you should or shouldn’t do, but only you can choose how and when you get up and shake the dust off your feet.

Learn to trust the voice that is whispering inside of you. Learn to trust yourself.

Fail Better

“Try again, fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

I struggle with sleep and have lost a lot of it over the last few years lamenting over the past and worrying about the future. It’s been an issue I’ve talked in great lengths with to professionals, like my therapist and medical doctors. Despite their advice, I’ve still caught myself awake in the middle of the night, in that god-awful place, worn-out and exhausted from staring at the ceiling like it’s a flat screen thats playing life’s reruns as if they are a binge-worthy Netflix series. If this is not the very definition of insanity, I don’t know what is BECAUSE WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND LIKES TO LOSE THEIR PRECIOUS ABILITY TO SHUT DOWN THEIR BRAIN FOR HOURS AT A TIME?

Jesus help me.

When it comes to my past, Samuel Beckett’s words have recently entered my brain and are helping me take a deep breath during my bouts with anxiety so I can unclench my fist and get some sleep. The premise: I CANNOT CHANGE PAST THINGS.

As far as the future goes, I’ve been reminding myself that worrying about it is asinine and basically is like praying for my worst fears to happen. That thought instantly makes me feel RIDICULOUS because I know better and helps snaps me back to reality, to the present moment, in which I take a deep breath and remind myself to simply (though it’s not always that simple) take the next step and then the next and so forth and so on.

I often feel alone in this struggle, however again, I know better.

Because here’s the thing: Taking the next step will REQUIRE FAILURE. I will not take the next step perfectly and besides, is perfection the ultimate goal? I’ve had to ask myself that hard question a multitude of times and NO is always my honest answer. So why in the hell am I scared of the future? I’m not. So bring it life.

Deep breath.

The good news is: I’m sleeping better. Welcome to the vicious cycle within my brain. If you are there too, you’re not alone.

Life is made up of a serious of moments. You and I both know this. In any one day, we each have 24 hours made up of 1,440 minutes. Why are we giving them up mulling over things we cannot do all that much about? Instead, let’s use that time being consummate practicers of TRYING AGAIN, FAILING AGAIN. FAILING BETTER.

My past, your past, is what it is. Let it be what it was. Better yet, just let it be.

Learn from it.

Forgive it.

Forgive others.

Forgive YOU.

Move on.

The future will run its jagged, little edges in you and either have its way with you or you’ll have your way with it if you’ve gleaned from the thrashing floor what you could to best navigate your next steps.

Breathe. Sleep and fail better. I am.

Write A New Story

If you take the time to honestly look at your life, you’ll discover that most of the stories you could tell have a similar theme. They sound about the same. You could sit and talk about your different experiences and/or people and they’ll most likely have a familiar undertone attached. A lot of those stories are probably really good and have been incredibly life-giving and impactful and if that’s the case, carry on as you were. Teach others what you know.

But if those stories are centered around a cyclical struggle; ie money, health, relationships…it’s time to change your story. But here’s the thing, change is hard. We get get used to the stories we tell ourselves and others. We have a love/hate relationship with them. We become accustomed to their sound and before we know it, they’ve lulled us to sleep and we become tired and complacent and don’t do the hard work to create a new story for our lives.

Since we are creatures of habit, in order for change to take place, we need to shift the way we think which in turn, shifts the way we act and directs our decisions differently. Maybe we need to learn some new skills or maybe our brains are already filled with an arsenal of information that we are choosing not to use.

Why not?

For me, the root of most of my life theme’s has been a lack of establishing healthy boundaries, which goes back to seeing myself as a person of value, someone worthy enough of creating a healthy guideline for my life. Being honest with that root has been hard, but I’m trying to intentionally shift my thought process to create new habits, and in the end, a new story…one that is inspiring, meaningful and produces the life I know I’m meant to live.

So do yourself a favor today and sit down and have a honest conversation with yourself and then sit down and have that same conversation with someone in your life that you trust, a truth-teller that you KNOW loves you unconditionally and won’t feed you any shit. Ask them what they hear when your life tells it’s story and then go from there. It’s sobering but if you can swallow a bitter pill, it will do you good. I promise.

Tackle one theme at a time and go easy with yourself as you go. But stick with it. Your well-wishes will only go so far and talk is cheap. Only your consistent intentionality will create new habits which in turn, will write a new story for your life. It’s possible. I wouldn’t be encouraging you to pursue this type of undertaking if I wasn’t currently doing it myself.

It’s never ever too late to write a new story for your life and go in another direction. This is your year. I’m cheering you on.

Wait It Out

I woke up on New Years morning and told my kids this story:

I laid in bed a few hour’s after the ball dropped only to discover that a bat was flying around my room. It was about 2:00 AM and the only thing I could think to do was pull the covers up over top my head because my Golden Retriever laid beside me oblivious and was obviously of no help. As I listened to it fly above my head, hitting the walls with its wings, I thought of what I should do and nothing was all I could think of. Eventually it would settle and find its way somewhere else or it would make a nest in my hair in the middle of the night. Whatever. I was done figuring things out for the day and wasn’t interested in creating a household pandemonium in the early morning hours. I decided to wait it out. After a few minutes, I no longer heard it so I came out of hiding too exhausted to care. Hours later I got up to use the bathroom only to discover the bat had drowned itself in my toilet.

I will forever be scarred and I’m sure you will understand why.

I don’t ever remember having a bat in this old house, but there I was, heading into the New Year with a bat overhead while laying beside the most unaware dog on the planet. I gave up looking for signs and wonders from God a few years ago, but I still pay attention. I listen differently than I used to and am slower and more hesitant for attach His name to random things, but all day, the story I told the kids, the very one I just told you, kept getting whispered back to me from a voice inside myself that was known and familiar and trusted.

2020 is about as big of a year as they come in my book as I’m on the cusp of major transition and change. Most days, I wake up worried and wondering. Fear has become my friend because there is much yet I do not know, more than that that I cannot fix.

The bat experience was a representation of how my year is most likely going to go. It’s going to scare the hell out of me. It’s loud and whipping wings are going to lap vivaciously around my head making feel as if I will be eaten alive, but it’s going to be ok. I don’t need to do much but stay the course and rest. I’ll keep trusting and hiding myself in God and if anything or anyone wants to find me, they’ll have to go through Him to get to me. In the end, everything’s going to come together and my worst fears will end up drowning themselves in the toilet, much like that bat.

I can’t tell you how much I needed that visual, but I can tell you that I didn’t ask for a sign or some supernatural experience. To be honest, I’ve kind of given up on that type of encounter because my belief system is a little shaken. I am thankful I have a God who chooses for see me, even the me who puts her faith on the back burner most days.

He is good.

The Power of Presence

The other night I was sick, as in violently ill. I’m pretty confident I had food poisoning, but whatever. I am better now so it doesn’t matter, but what does is this:

Most times when I am sick *read ALL times* I just want to be left alone. I just want my tired and worn body to heave intermittently and sporadically on its own, without an audience. Because who really needs to see all that and really, what can anyone do? If I am going to suffer, I don’t want it being a show.

The ticket booth is closed for business.

But this dog. This dog took a front row seat and actually bought out the house. She held diligent watch over me all night long. Each time I got up from my bed and hightailed it to the bathroom, she quickly paced behind me and laid on the floor with me. The Golden Retriever on the other hand, didn’t move. She was like “Godspeed woman. Get well so you can feed me in the morning.”

Asshole.

The point is, I was shown the power of presence. It’s what I call withness. Just being WITH someone wherever they are at, whatever they are in. It’s the place where you don’t need someone to FIX you or SAY anything magical or fluffy. You just need them to BE, right where you are at.

This dog was God in fur form. It’s an odd likening but it’s what I believe because I know His ways are not mine and I don’t always have to have it or Him all figured out. I just need to accept that is how He works. He shows up in tangible ways I’d understand or accept in the moment and says, “Hey. I’m here. You are not alone. No matter what you are going through right now, I’m present and I am with you.

So if someday you find yourself on the floor withering in pain or in a puddle of your own tears, He will be there for you too. It’s what He does and who He is. He might show up and look like someone you’d least expect, but it is His good nature to always be present.

And if like me, you needed a reminder of His faithfulness, this is it.

Don’t Bite

People will try to bait you and then get mad when you don’t bite.

What do that mean?

It means there’s an expectation about how you are going to respond to what they just said or did and when it doesn’t go the way they envisioned, well…

We’ve all been on the receiving end of passive-aggressive or often volatile feedback.

How do I know?

Takes one to know one.

It would piss me off to no end when there wasn’t a response or the response wasn’t the one that I had wanted.

To. No. End.

And usually, when I took the time and asked myself WHY I was getting so upset at their response, it was because my motives were usually in the wrong place to begin with and my snide little comments or actions were a sad attempt at begging for something that I thought I needed. And to be honest, if my motives weren’t great, why would anyone with one ounce of conscious awareness throw me a bone? They shouldn’t.

Some things are about you. If you don’t respond well…it’s best practice to look at the hard things that have to do with you so next time you can do better. It doesn’t matter how small you want your circle to be, no one likes to stand beside someone whom continually places blame on another and refuses to look at their own motives and take responsibility for their actions.

But if you’re on the other end and choose not to engage in other people’s behavior because you refuse to get wrapped up in their crazy…walk away. You don’t owe them an explanation. Most times, all an explanation does is feed their need for a certain type of response from you. Don’t engage their insecurities. Wish them well, keep your heart open and tarry on.

You are not a fish. Don’t bite.

End Well

It’s hard to know sometimes when you are at the end of something. Most times, our intuition knows something is over long before our heart accepts it and our head wraps itself around it. But deep down, we know.

And still we hold on till the death.

Because it’s hard to let go. I don’t care what it is. Letting go is a terribly tragic process.

I was reminded this morning that I am near an end and for all intensive purposes, what I’m at the end of doesn’t matter. Be it this ending today, another ending will be in my future a thousand more times. Letting go is cyclical and is not the point of this writing…ending well is.

Usually when we are at the end, we are tired. We are worn out or worn through and are exhausted with all the keeping up that hanging on entails. I think about all the races I’ve ran and how when I was a few miles from the finish line, my legs began to feel like slabs of jello and my chest felt as if it was filled with fire balls which made just about everything at the last half of the race fall apart. I certainly didn’t end with the same form as when I began…maybe that happens to us all.

Who really likes their finish line photo? I certainly don’t.

Ragged and tattered, every single one of us.

I think ending well has more to do with the things the naked eye cannot see. Things that aren’t felt. Things that are buried deep within us and are a part of our DNA that sometimes needs called to the surface with the intensity of a drill instructor at boot camp whom gets up in your face and spits in it. Things like:

Love. Endurance. Forgiveness. Honesty. Faithfulness. Courage. Humility. Integrity.

Because sometimes being tired takes over and those things slip. The flesh seethes and oozes in pain and the core gets sore from carrying the weight of your suffering because it’s easier to be consumed with the stitch in your side or the thoughts about how you can’t possibly feel your legs or take one more step…

So if you are like me and are nearing the end of your race, end well. Your form may be all shot to hell but that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything left in you to give.

Take a deep breath and and listen to the voice of God whisper: “It’s not so much about getting to the finish line that matters. Everyone finishes. Choose HOW you finish. And then end well.”

Solid Footing

Last night I was talking with a friend about direction. I told them I saw myself in a stream and was trying to make my way in the flow of it. I realized sometimes I feel like I’m being carried by the current and other times, I’m fighting it, but I know the best course of action is to continue along by either swimming or stepping through.

And right now, I need to take a step.

The truth is, taking steps are hard. I’d say almost as hard as going with the currents flow and trusting it’s going to take you where you need to go. Stepping requires intentionality. It involves wisdom laced with cautious and slow moves. One wrong step when you think you’re securing your footing can take you under when you’re preparing yourself to stand.

So I told my friend that my left foot has found something sturdy to stand on, something I know is good and secure, however my right foot is still feeling it’s way along the bottom looking for something to rest itself upon; something that is solid and steady that will help me get where I need to go.

It’s the place in-between one step and the other and if I hurry it along, I’ll sink rather than swim.

And the great and wonderful thing about this process is that I’m learning to rest in the in-between places rather than stepping haphazardly because I want to rush the journey along. It’s a life lesson in building trust, listening to myself and most importantly, listening to what I feel I hear God saying in and around me.

I’m learning to trust His sound, not necessarily my feelings because when God tells me to step, my feet find security that wasn’t necessarily there before when I scoured the depths below in search of it.

So left foot, I’ll place my weight solely on you. You’ll bear the brunt of my incessant wondering when, not if, the right foot will find its next place to land. Timing is everything. Until then, I’m going to rest and trust that you’ll hold me up when the current gets too strong and tries to whisk me away.

And if you lose your footing oh-strong-and-brave-left-foot-of-mine, it’s ok. If you get tired or scared from holding me up and the right foot never finds a solid place to land to help even out the weight or if I’m not even sure which way to do something next, we’ll do it both ways and see which works best.  We can sink or swim or step because I’ve realized for the first time in my life, wherever the stream of life takes me, I’m going to be just fine. We will all be. We can start again tomorrow if we need to.

The Intentional Pause

I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about motives, about mine, and had been saving talking things through with my counselor today at my appointment, but as counseling appointments go, she found other topics we needed to discuss.

**If you don’t have someone that you pay to see past your bullshit, I highly recommend you find one**

Anyway.

I recognize a lot of my motives have been rooted in fear. Fear of loss. Fear of failure. Fear of making the same mistake another zillion times. That fear has twisted my motives for WHY I do and say what I do into a jumbled ball of knots. What was once so incredibly simple has become utterly complex. Especially when it has come to other people.

Self-protection has been a strong motivator and I have allowed it to strip away at my desire and ability to be vulnerable because experience has taught me that people make bad choices and hurt one another. Protecting myself has seemed like the only viable option because pain and has demotivated me in stepping into new relationships or even maintaining existing ones.

And though we did not talk about my motives today, we talked about the complexity of how I’ve been feeling. The simultaneous process of both healing and hurting at the same time. It made me realize that fear isn’t such a bad thing. There is a reason it is there. It has a purpose. What I need to remember is that it is ok on one hand to be afraid just as it is ok on the other to be courageous.

It is ok to heal.

And it is ok to hurt.

Both at the same time.

So today I’m choosing to replace fear as my motivator with awareness. I’m aware that I’m both healing and hurting and out of that, I just need to remember to ask myself WHY am I doing or saying what I am and WHERE is it it coming from.

I heard a talk on the radio the other day about kids who act out for attention. It made sense until the speaker said that seeking attention is not WHY kids act out. Attention is not what unruly children crave…connection is.

And we are no different.

Connection is a legitimate motive, at least it is for me. Sometimes my actions speak otherwise, especially when I hole myself up in a thin and flimsy shell and tuck myself far, far out of reach, but it doesn’t negate what’s truth: I ultimately crave it. Though many days I feel like a kid acting out and seeking attention, I know it’s because I’m afraid and have equated fear as a negative. Today I remembered that’s its ok to be right where I’m at so hopefully tomorrow, I will intentionally pause and ask myself if I’m going to allow fear of being hurt keep me from something or someone needed and good.

I pray the answer is no.

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