Search

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

Category

life-lessons

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.

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.

Talk Is Cheap

The beginning of the school year is always a stressful time for me and I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s that way for most who work in my industry. This year however has proven to be especially rough, which I expected but somehow didn’t. Some things you simply cannot prepare for.

I’ve felt for the last few weeks like I’ve had the center seat in a dunking tank, you know the kind you see at Summer fairs where the target is pelted by worn leather baseballs that hit squarely on the bullseye and then drops the poor unfortunate soul on the seat into the water. Let me tell you this: Whoever is throwing the balls hitting the target not only has my number, but has aim and a strong arm and they’re not allowing me time to come up, grab a seat and catch my breath before the next go.

Damn them.

And through it, I may or may not have handled that stress well. I may have wielded a complaint or two about it, as in screaming not such sweet nothings into the air as I walk the dogs in the field behind my house. And while doing dishes. Talking to a friend. Sitting at my desk. In the end, venue doesn’t matter. Point being, I’ve morphed into a complainer and I know it.

And the thing about complaining is that it disguises itself. It makes you think you are releasing the weight of what you’ve been carrying, like it’s some sort of helper, but in actually reality, it’s not a helper at all. Complaining is a play ground bully and a instigator that tries to make problems seem bigger than solutions and I fell for it. Hook. Line. Sinker. In the end, I’ve become my own worst enemy…at least my continuous bouts of negativity have been.

The critical inner voice is the language of this enemy of mine and it’s universal. It is an internal dialogue that drives rumination, self-blame and self-loathing. It mocks us, shames us, scares us and lures us into self-limiting or self-destructive behavior. It tells us not to trust the people we love. It points fingers and places blame. It influences us to not try to reach a goal. It advises us and subdues us, keeping us seemingly safe inside a miserable, albeit familiar, shell.

As a result, the most important battle we may fight is the one going on inside ourselves – the real us versus our critical inner voice.

And I’ve allowed my critical inner voice to take charge.

How are you doing August?

Oh…let me tell you.”

And one day last week, I met my quota. I woke up and felt heavy and worn, not out but through. I realized I was tired, but not from my circumstances, but FROM how I’ve been responding TO my circumstances. I recognized that I’m a better responder than what I have been and an overall better person than what I’ve presented so I’ve decided to make a shift in my thinking and have *mostly* been keeping my mouth shut because when my mouth is shut during stressful times, the words inside my head lose their audience, get bored and find more constructive things to do.

This is a true story.

If you find yourself in a negative rut, stop digging. Stop whining, complaining and ranting. Stop breathing not so sweet nothings into the air for anyone or anything to hear. Once can be freeing, but doing so on a frequent basis becomes an addictive habit that just buries everyone and everything alive with your dirt.

Take it from me, talk is cheap. Some things aren’t worth being said.

Create Space

Today is the last day of our cruise so needless to say, I woke up at 8:45 AM with a vision of how the day was going to go and in my mind, it was going start with coffee and some breakfast.

My kids, not so much. All the lights may have been turned on and all the words may have been said and for a brief moment in time, visions collided and our togetherness became separateness in a very small cabin on the seventh deck. Sadly, division oozed from the four corners of the room of minutes.

Truth was, I was trying to do what I thought was best. I was up at what I thought was a very reasonable hour and to be honest, could no longer lay in bed in a dark cabin and pretend to be asleep for the sake of three other people. And as their Mother (and yes I began playing the Mother card) I didn’t WANT them to be asleep any longer either. I didn’t want them laying in their beds, thumbing through their phones.

As their Mother, I wanted them to squander their day as I had planned…which was having breakfast together and doing nothing but lay by the pool.

As their Mother…I had an expectation. I was the boss. I was steering the ship of the vacation that I had paid for.

As their Mother, I can be an asshole.

Long story short, I left the cabin agitated but told the kids that I wasn’t when I clearly was and marched off to have breakfast on my own. Looking back now, I needed that hour by myself. I needed to sit in silence and think things through and figure why I was getting all bent out of shape over such non-important things.

The answer of course, was easy to spot. My vision was all good and such and was perfectly perfect but it was MY vision for the day and mine alone. My kids on the other day, though birthed from my body, had their own that were separate that I forgot to consult. As their mother, I often get what I think is best entangled with what is right and what was right on this day, in that moment, was to allow them to have their own day just as I wanted to have mine. We are all so very different.

So I came back to the room and told them what I’d like to do today and let it at that. I listened and was open to suggestion but more so, had extended them each an invitation to do somethings together. The last thing I wanted was to be likened to a tyrant whom told them this was this and that was that when deep down, all I was really wanting was quality time with my children. You can’t really have that when you force a HAVE TO on the people you want to spend time with. Sometimes you just need to put it out there and hope their WANT TO (and not yours) brings them back into the center of life’s hub.

I think if you create room for people to step into that space on their own rather than bullying, guilting or coercing them into what you think is best or right, they will meet you in the middle and your relationship can remain intact and strengthened. And if they choose not to take that step, it’s not you. It is them.

Unless of course you’ve made it about you, just like I was trying to do this morning all about me.

When you take people’s freedom to choose away from them, even if you feel like you have earned the right to pull some special card at the table, you better be prepared to have more than just a choice or two taken away from the mix.

It might cost you the very relationship you say is most important to you.

Be Brave

A couple weeks ago, I was bartending and as bartending goes, I was privy to hearing things. Two friends were talking about a friend they had in common whom had been struggling with depression and had recently been hospitalized for it. I heard “nut house” amongst other not nice things and it made me kind of grumpy as I finished my work. Sometimes you can’t unhear what you’ve heard despite all your best attempts to forget that you had.

Obviously, it wasn’t the kindest conversation. In fact, I felt they were rather brutal in talking about their so-called “friend” who had obviously been struggling and they appeared to have little to no sympathy for him. It broke my heart and made me think on the subject here weeks later. Here’s why.

All of us have probably received the news that someone that we loved, someone that we knew or someone that we knew of committed suicide. In my short forty-five years, I have had several acquaintances succumb to the depths of depression and lost their will to fight. And every time I hear of it, my thoughts are always the same: “I had no idea because they seemed like they had perfectly “normal” life. I wonder if they reached out for help. Did anyone know they were struggling?” Trying to wrap my head around such tragedies always throws me off-kilter, as it should.

And here I was again off-kilter as I listened to these friends make fun of and belittle someone for checking themselves into the hospital. It was taken lightly and ridiculed. I’m sure I would have been privy to a different conversation had their brave friend chosen not to get help. This needs to change.

There’s a stigma attached to reaching out for help, especially when it comes to mental health. No one should struggle. No one should have such thoughts or reach such depths. No one should fall a part and reach that level of vulnerability because when they do, they tend to be looked upon negatively in many different ways.

Weak.

Incompetent.

Crazy.

A danger not only to themselves but to others.

How do I know these things? I’ve been told these things by good and well-meaning people.

Personally.

A year ago today I got up on a Saturday morning and cleaned the house. I did the laundry and folded the towels. I made meals for my family and lined them into neat and tidy rows in the fridge and then I drove myself to the hospital, went straight to the ER and told the check-in nurse I needed to speak to someone in crisis.

Because I was in one.

I hadn’t harmed myself or anyone else but I was severely depressed, had stopped eating the week before and my thought life was a spiraling mess. I kept thinking I would get better on my own but the reality was I was scared that one day, in just one moment, I wouldn’t be able to fight the thoughts I had been having off any longer.

Looking back now, it was, without a doubt, one of the bravest decisions I’ve ever made and it showed me a lot about who I am. In all the right ways.

Since that day a year ago today, I’ve fought a hard battle but have persevered thanks to the love and support of my family and friends, particularly my children. I found a good therapist who helped me understand how and why I got to where I was and a good psychiatrist who did not think I was crazy or needed labeled with a permanent diagnosis, but rather realized how present day circumstances and our environment contributes to one’s mental health state. It’s been a year of hard work, taking ownership, assigning responsibility, establishing boundaries, accepting what is, letting go and looking to the future, but I’ve kicked some major ass and made it through. At the end of this week, I will be released from my doctors care. I did not take the chicken exit and am making it through to the other side. Happy Anniversary to me indeed.

But I have more to do.

God has been faithful and ever-present and for that, I am incredibly thankful. It’s been a humbling journey and I have learned a great deal about God, myself and others. If you ever find yourself sitting with a friend on the other side of the bar at a Beer Stube, remember your words and that everyone you meet is fighting a battle of some sort and sometimes, those battles are incredibly painful and hard. Once more, we need to do better. We have to. The ones that reach out for help are not weak, but brave. They need encouraged and supported. Not dismissed or jeered.

And if you’re like me and ever find yourself in a position where you need help of any kind, don’t go it alone. Don’t wake up day in and day out scared of your thoughts. I don’t care who you are or what you do. I don’t care of the title you hold or your position in the community, get the help you need. Don’t listen to the lies telling you you’ve failed or that’s it’s all your fault or if you were stronger or more this and less that, you would be better. Don’t listen to your Churches stance on medication and mental health. Pay no mind to what other people think or what they might say.

There is never ever shame in being brave and asking for help. Ever. I am with you.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

About Last Night

When we’ve gone through something enough times and we get sick and tired of being “sick and tired“, we promise ourselves that next time, if faced with a similar and familiar situation, we will do better. We will make different choices. We will respond differently. We will do anything but be…sick and tired.

And I have been doing well. I’ve placed my feet upon the path of health *not happiness* and each day I’ve drawn a new breath and a had stronger step. But the other night, there I was. Face to face with a situation that was oddly similar and familiar.

Same story. Different day.

And through it, it brought up an immense amount of fear, an entire of ocean of it to be exact and I found myself drowning somewhere in the middle. No one likes to drown. I’m done drowning. It’s the sick and tired” I no longer want to subject myself to.

So, I swam. I swam far far away out of tide that was trying to pull me under. In reality, I literally hopped into my Jeep and didn’t look back and when I got home, I sat under the carport and cried.

And after things settled, and they always do, I was able to sit and listen to Truth and identify what was the similar and familiar that I could not quite put my finger on in the moment and call it by name.

Rejection.

Same story. Different day. Different person.

Here’s the things about rejection. It’s NOT a person though it is easy to attach a name with a face. It’s not one particular heartbreak. It’s a wound. A lie. An evil spirit from the pits of hell. It bides its time and patiently waits. It uses any hosts it can find without permission. People will show up in our lives as unsuspecting pawns in a game our emotional wounds try to play with us and unbeknownst to them, old situations arise in us that are similar and familiar and we are faced with the choice to sink or swim.

Or drive far far away.

The thing with rejection is that it feeds you the lie that you are not good enough which makes you feel small and insignificant. Flip the coin. Same story, different day…it can also feed you the lie that you are too much. Too much to handle. Too complicated or too messy. Heads or tails. It whispers one or the other.

Both lies place a heaviness in your heart that’s suffocating. A heaviness that makes you feel “bad” for being who you are, like if you could just mathematically fit into the equation, things would be different. But they are not different because here you are, finding yourself in a similar and familiar situation because you are feeling rejected and with rejection brings shame because if you had been more than or perhaps just a tad less….

And it’s your fault, so you apologize.

“I am sorry for being me.”

And that apology leaves your insides raw and achy because you know that you’ve stopped another layer of your identity away so you can be less or more of the person someone else wants you to be.

I wish I could go back in that moment the other night and know at that moments notice what I was dealing with but I didn’t. I just know what was taking place was hurting and I took that hurt personal. I made it about me. Things weren’t going the way I had hoped because there was something I was doing or perhaps not doing right. If I had been dot dot dot, things would be different.

Lies. Just lies.

Days later, here’s some things I’ve recognized:

1. There is no once and done. Learning, or rather, unlearning, is a life-long process. As Maya Angelou once said,

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

And each day after that, do your best until you know even better. And so on and so forth. It’s how this one wild life works. It’s not a race or a competition so go easy on others and yourself. I truly believe at the end of the day, we are all truly doing the best we can.

2.  Most likely what you are “sick and tired” of will chase you around your whole entire life unless you deal with it, and not once and done deal with it but continually and intentionally deal with it. You are not Jesus and are not the embodiment of perfection. Rejection has been my nemesis. My lie. My inner wound. Do I recognize it right away? Not always. Am I doing better with calling it by name and seeing it for what it is? Absolutely. Someday I’ll stand face to face before it and I won’t run. I won’t need a stone or a sling to knock it off kilter. I’ll just stand and rest in know that I am neither not enough or too much. I am who I am. I will just be.

3. I am not one to avoid confrontation. I am learning to say my thoughts and express my needs without being an asshole, to respond rather than react. I’m not necessarily afraid of that though I do not enjoy it. I don’t need someone to agree with me, in fact I question relationships that agree on everything because we are all different and unique with different and unique thoughts and experiences and yet we tend to show up to the table the same? Come on. I don’t buy it.

What scares me is that we out one another. We cross each other off our lists because we value being right more so than being in relationship with one another. So rather than be crossed off someone’s list, I’d rather run away or build a high wall to protect myself. I am afraid of is being vulnerable, of showing up and then being rejected for it.

These are thoughts that I’ve had since the other night. Knowing why you sink or swim or erect a high wall is important. Ask the question: What is going on inside of me? It’s revolutionary question because there is always an answer and that answer will help you do better next time.

4. Don’t take anything personally. My face-to-face situation that was oddly similar and familiar from the other day had nothing to do with me being not enough or too much even though my feelings told me so. The person in the situation was not trying to be malicious or harmful. How I felt actually had nothing to do with them either. Rejection is a blame-shifter. Since it won’t take responsibility for being an asshole, it tries to make everyone take the fall. We are all journeying along, reacting or responding to life and to one another. Keep your focus on where it needs to be.

5. I’d be remiss not to mention that I walked into the situation with high hopes. It’s enticing to go with the vision that pops into your head of how you think things are going to go and run with it. Needless to say, expectations, even seemingly good ones, can lead to being disappointed, which ultimately can lead a person with high hopes *like me* to feeling rejected.

6. Forgive and move on. I realize I still have healing to do which just embodies everything above I’ve previously mentioned. There is no once and done when it comes to healing a deep wound and forgetting it and calling it healed it doesn’t work. Forgiveness does. Do it with yourself and others and get on with it and when it come back up, which it will, do it again and again and move forward. If you don’t, it only reattaches the wound to you so you can drudge a heavy ball and chain through the mire and much creating more of a mess. Forgive and move on.

7. Jesus. ALL of Him in ALL of this. Always. The end.

Friends, my words of advice are to keep at it. Simple and sweet. Wherever you are at, keep going. Do the best you can with your one wild life. I think that’s the very best thing we can do with it.

 

The Opportunity to be Inconvenienced

For quite some time, whale watching has been on my list of things that I’d like to do and this past week, I had the opportunity to cross it off the imaginary pad of “someday maybes” that fill my head. I got to see one Humpback whale along the coast of California and it was an amazing sight but as sights go, once and done was once enough.

When we boarded the boat, we immediately sat in the back on one of the bench seats because in theory, it would make the best seat for sight seeing. It didn’t. It did however make the best seat to get wet *as in soaking* We eventually found our way into the cabin and sat beside a young couple with a baby visiting the states for the first time from the UK. In my good opinion, babies are better to watch than searching the ocean for a blowhole so it didn’t take long till we were talking because their baby looked close to the same age as my grandson.

Thankfully, my oldest daughter is wiser than me and we made the trip to Target to purchase Dramamine prior to our adventure. However, the young couple from the UK did not and it wasn’t long before baby Leo was thrust into my arms for half the trip because his parents became increasingly seasick.

Long story short, I got to see a Humpback whale, tail flip and all so I got my monies worth but in the in-between times, I ended up watching someone else’s baby…a baby who was also increasingly seasick. I won’t gore you with details of the experience but use your imagination and we’ll be on the same page. The captain of the boat ended up offering me two free tickets for a future trip because he felt badly but the truth was, I was grateful I got to help. I can only imagine being so sick that you literally hand your three-month old baby over to the stranger beside you because you can’t take care of him yourself.

It broke my heart.

In the end, I declined the free tickets because I think we all have opportunities in this one, wild life to be a helper and on that day, in that boat, was mine. When the moment is before us to step in and hold space *or hold a baby* for someone else, it doesn’t always look pretty and it usually cost us something *like a clean jacket and pair of pants* It’s how it goes. It’s an exchange that should not have a price tag attached to it because extending your heart or your hand to another is the one of the greatest expressions of God’s love that we have to offer to one another.

If you have an opportunity today to be a helper, take it. Be inconvenienced in the best possible way. I can guarantee you, it is worth it.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑