Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 In Review

onion cutting
I'll be honest.  When I first started thinking of my year in 2011, I thought of a good deal of hurt.  Under the surface, I'm not sure this was the easiest year I've ever had.  There were lots of different "me"s fighting with each other over what was and what should be and what was to come.  A lot of onion-peeling, if you will.  So, when I first started thinking about the year, this is where my mind went... to that hurt. But do you really want to remember a year that way?

So I dug deeper.  And when I did, I found that there was so much more in my year than I initially remembered, and it's made 2011 a year to be proud of living.

I got a dog who has become a much-loved and completely-spoiled part of our family.
I read a bunch of good books.
I learned to linedance.
I took a lot of trips with my best friend and never once saw the sunset. (Here's to 2012!!!)
I saw more concerts (and more varied!) than I've ever seen in one year.
I celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary.
I started writing again.
I watched a LOT of college football.
I discovered a new guilty pleasure in Once Upon A Time (marathon January 1st at 4pm on ABC!!)

I saw my family often, enjoying quality time with my folks, and my two sisters.
I rediscovered old music that I still love but hadn't listened to for a long time.
I made a lot of good memories with my kids.
I lost my grandpa.

I dealt with hurt and disappointment, both new and old.
I was convicted of things I was allowing myself to do
I listened to the people who loved me enough to say No
I found my self-respect
I grew in strength and wisdom

That's more than just hurt...  that's a year full of goodness.

May I be able to say the same of 2012...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Let it go...

Last week, I took a trip to Wenatchee to pick some things up from my step-grandmother, Pat.  My girls sat in the house watching iCarly and not breaking anything, while I went out to the garage/office/thing to gather the things I'd come to pick up. 

Maybe she's just old and lonely, I don't know.  But as we rifled through things, she was talking about things that happened in the past.  Years and years ago, there had been some sort of legal/money trouble related to some dealings they'd had with my mom's cousin...  20 years ago, maybe?

As I offered the listening ear and the "smile and nod," I just thought about how sad that all was.  It was clearly something that she, and perhaps my grandfather when he was still alive, was still upset over, still went over and over in their heads, drumming up new anguish and indignation over.  I don't know enough about the situation to know who's right and who's wrong, but in the end... I'm not sure it really mattered 20 years later.

In fact... I'm sure it didn't, and it just seemed so unfortunate that it was still something that needed venting so long after it happened.

But don't a lot of us do the same thing? Someone wrongs us, someone's mean to us, someone does something that is so heinous that we don't think we can forgive it... and we don't ever let it go.  Every time the pain or the anger of it starts to fade, we do something, think something, say something that stirs it all back up again.  That kind of thing can eat away at your soul... eat away who you are, erode the good parts of you until you're just left with a shell of bitterness where a person with a good heart used to reside.

Sometimes we just have to let things go.  Otherwise, they will strangle and drown us.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bravery

I don't remember what the action was, but I remember what was said afterward.  Casey had done something which required stepping outside of her comfort zone.

I took her aside and told her, "I want you to know that I'm really proud of you for what you did.  It was very brave, and that's a big deal."

conquering the dragon
"Mom, I wasn't brave at all," she protested. "I was really scared to do it."

"Baby, being brave isn't about not being afraid. Being brave is about being afraid but doing what you're afraid of, anyway.  The fact that you were scared doesn't make you not-brave.  But the fact that you did it EVEN THOUGH you were afraid?  That makes you brave."

It takes strength of mind and heart and a core of faith to step over what we are afraid of to get to the other side.  It's a lot easier to play over on this side of the fear... fear of the unknown, fear of reaction, fear of the dragon waiting for us.  It's safer.  We know what's over here and it requires nothing from us.

But facing the fear and doing what we fear anyway, despite what COULD happen, that takes bravery and strength.  Even if we cower on the inside while we're doing it, taking the action makes us brave.  It makes us conquerors.

Is it possible that doing the things we fear can come back to bite us?  Yes.  Can they make us hurt?  Yes.  But it's also possible to climb over the fear, to do what we thought would be impossible, and to look back and say "You had no power over me."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I want to count.

"I just want to do something that counts."

It was a sentiment I heard often when I was a teenager in high school, when the most important thing we ever did was study for today's history test.  Then, it was something I heard when I was in my 20s, and we were all caught up in the quest to fall in love and change the world.  Then, it was something I heard when I was in my 30s and we were all just a bit lost in mothering and wife-ing, and we forgot who we were.  And it won't surprise me much if it's a sentiment I hear from around me as I enter into my 40s...  those many, many, many, many years down the road. *cough*

We want to matter.  We desire to count.  We don't want to get to the end of our lives, or even the end of each phase of our life, just to find out that we just spent the last 10, 20, 50 years not-mattering.

But, I think that somewhere along the way, we get a funny idea of what that means.  We start to buy into the idea that only the big things matter, that the only way to matter is to be the best at whatever you're good at.  The most successful writer, the best actor, the most successful singing career.  The Teacher of the Year, the cover of Forbes magazine, the one that everyone around says "I want to be like her."

We miss something when we go there.

It's an oft-told story of the man throwing back the starfish.  There he is, on a beach full of hundreds and hundreds of starfish, and he walks along the beach throwing them back into the ocean, one by one. Another man comes along and says, "Why are you throwing the starfish back into the ocean?  The tide is coming in and there's no way you'll be able to save them all.  You can't possibly make that much of a difference."  The first man bends down and picks up another starfish.  He looks at it thoughtfully and then throws it into the ocean.  "It made a difference to that one."

Our culture tells us that being the biggest and best is the way to achieve success, the way to matter, the way to count.

My heart tells me that starting small, and touching who I can with what I have matters more... whether that's the harrowed mom at Target, or the little old lady who needs help putting her groceries in her car, or the young husband looking befuddled at the 12 different kinds of flour and which one he's supposed to bring to his wife.

Every one of those counts.  When you live a life where you look to count in the small ways, I think you'll end up counting more than you ever could have if you had only gone for the big ones.

So when your heart cries out that it just wants to do something that counts, look around you and find a starfish.

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Photo Credit: Cielo de la Paz

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Barn For Lease

"BARN FOR LEASE"

In the practically-middle-of-nowhere, halfway between Duvall and Carnation, WA (6500 and 1700 population, respectively), there is a Chevron station.  Sharing the parking lot of said Chevron station, there sits a large red barn with this sign atop its roof.

Not THE barn.
I want it.

The barn.

I want the barn.

I don't know why.

I have no need for a barn.

My largest livestock is a beagle who prefers sleeping under the covers of my bed.

I think, "That would be a cute place for an antique store... or a restaurant... or a hick dance club."

I'm sure it's a completely viable location for a thriving business, sitting there in the middle of nowhere. *cough*

But I want it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A tug-o-war of thoughts

Something I've been thinking on with absolutely no conclusions...   Today is not a 'complete thought' sort of day, but you can come along while I think.

Sometimes I feel pulled between two seemingly-conflicting mindsets:

1.  "It's not the people that stand by your side when you're at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you're at your worse that are your true friends."

2.  "Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they'll make room for you. You shouldn't have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth... The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special, too."

I believe both of these.  I believe in the kind of love where you stand by your friends and loved ones, even when they're stupid and kinda don't deserve it.  I want to be that kind of friend, and I have friends who are that person to me.  When you have that kind of people in your life, you want to be that kind of people, too.  Though I often fall short of who I want to be and the kind of friend I want to be, I keep trying.

But... I find the flipside, too, to be something to be believed in.  There comes a point in your relationships where you have to take an honest look and accept that the people you love don't also love you.  When you get there, you have to take the hard step and leave it behind.  It hurts to do that.  For so long, you live in a place of "things could be different if only..."  But, you can't live in if-only's, and there is always a place where you have to have more respect for yourself than you've been giving. You have to be able to get to a place where you can assert, "I'm worth more than this" and act on it.

The tug-o-war between these two ties me in knots sometimes.  I suppose the biggest question mark is just knowing when "standing by in love" becomes "being a doormat."  I want the former. I don't want the latter.  But sometimes my desires to be a good friend and my beliefs in respecting yourself just leave me feeling conflicted and confused.

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Photo Credit: Bev Sykes


Friday, December 9, 2011

2-Minute Freewrite: Used

It's a hard thing to feel used.  That moment when you take honest stock of the situation and realize you've been stupid and gullible?  Not a happy one.  Mostly, I think you just feel embarrassed at first.  In retrospect, it seems so clear...

For awhile, the natural response, after the embarrassment fades, is one of anger.  How could they do that to you?  How dare they treat you that way, have so little respect for you and your thoughts and your feelings, so little care for what you were?  You stay there for awhile...  There is a bit of satisfaction and vindication in the anger and the revenge and the retaliation, even if those things never get past the imagination stage.

But, there comes a point where you have to stop allowing yourself to play the part of the victim... because it's not quite honest.  Eventually, the goal will become healing and growth and wisdom learned and moving on.  When that's your goal, the anger cannot be where you stay, and you have to get up and look in the mirror.  You have to take a good hard look at, not just the situation, but yourself.  And you have to admit that you had a choice.  Were things done to you?  Yes... and they weren't right.  But, somewhere along the way, you had a choice and you chose to devalue yourself enough that using you was a possibility.

You have to own that choice.

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Photo Credit: Petr Mika

Monday, November 28, 2011

7 Quotes I Like Today

1.  "When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." --Edward Teller

2. "Heroes know that things must happen when it is time for them to happen. A quest may not simply be abandoned; unicorns may go unrescued for a long time, but not forever; a happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story." --Peter S Beagle

3. "Responsibility is the price of greatness." --Winston Churchill

4. "This thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down." --Mary Pickford

5. "Do not forget that you are who you decided to be. Stay in control of your life." --Stephanie Cook

6. "The higher you build the walls around your heart, the harder you fall when someone tears them down."

7. "If you judge me by my past, don't be surprised when you become part of it."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

After The Storm - Chapter 4

Chapter 3

I stepped inside the cafe, letting my eyes adjust to the change in light from the day's sunshine. It was much like you'd expect any eatery in a town that time forgot to look like.  There was the long counter across from the kitchen, spinny stools at the ready.  Booths lined the walls, covered in shiny pink vinyl, though perhaps less shiny now. Countrified knickknacks and plaques lined the windowsills and walls, like a flea market had heaved its guts all over the place before picking up and leaving town.

"Can I help you, darling?" The voice came from a plump woman standing behind the counter.

I walked to the front counter and took a seat on one of the stools.  I always loved twirling around on these as a child. "Hi...  could I just get some coffee, please?  I'm waiting for the guy next door to order some parts for my car."

"Oh!! You must be Kyle's damsel in distress!!  I'm Julia..."  The woman's red hair bounced as she turned to grab the coffeepot off the backcounter.

I laughed, "Well, I don't know about damsel in distress.  You make me sound like a fairytale character, but I suppose it's close enough.  I'm hoping he can get me fixed up quickly, so I can get back home."  I felt like I'd seen this woman somewhere before, or maybe she just reminded me of someone, but I couldn't think of where or who.

"I'm so sorry that car troubles interfered with your day.  Where were you headed, anyway?  Not many people find their way out here," Julia asked.

I sighed.  "I just needed to get away from home for a bit, ma'am."

"Momma, leave the girl be. She doesn't want to tell you her life story." A tall young man got up from his place at one of the back tables and came forward, his book tucked under his arm.  His blue eyes sparkled as he extended his hand with a smile.  "I'm Lucas," he introduced.  Did all the men in Terrance come with such large hands?

"I'm Melissa... it's nice to meet you, Lucas.  And you, Julia," I added, taking a sip of coffee.  "It's okay, I don't mind.  What are you reading there?" I gestured to the book.

Lucas sat down on the stool next to me and set the book on the counter.  "Life of Pi, by Yann Martel? It's about a boy whose ship capsizes and he's left--"

I nodded at him, "I've read it, it's good.  How are you liking it?"

"Nervewracking!" We sat and talked about his book for a bit, as I ordered a bowl of soup.  I realized I hadn't eaten since I'd left the house that morning and I was starving.  We were animatedly discussing rabid tigers when the bell over the door rang and Kyle ducked under the doorframe.  The place seemed to dwarf a little, once he was inside it.

"Lucas," he nodded.  "You work fast."

My new companion grinned at Kyle, "Can't have you taking ALL the new blood, now, can we?"

Kyle made a face and I couldn't help but laugh.  I imagined that he had made the same face when they were 5 years old and stealing each other's Tonka trucks from the park.  "Ok, Kyle...  how about you tell me how we're doing with my car?"

He sat down on my other side, and turned the coffee cup over with a mindless gesture to Julia. "Well, most of the parts are being driven up right now and I can have them installed fairly quickly.  But that flux capacitor is proving a little more difficult, and it's going to be, probably, three days..." he said, apologetically.

"Three days?!" I exclaimed.

Lucas choked on the coffee he had just drank. "A flu--?" Kyle cut him off with a shake of his head. "Of all the...." his muttering took him along the counter to find some pie.

"I'm really sorry, Melissa...  but it looks like you might be stuck here for a couple of days."

My mind started turning.  This clear-my-head drive was turning out to be more headache than it was worth.  I had three books, a swimsuit, an extra pair of jeans, and a car that wouldn't move.  I was stuck in a town that I didn't even know EXISTED with two goodlooking men-- Well, okay, that part wasn't so bad.  I guess there were worse things?  I resigned myself to my fate.  "I guess I'm going to need someplace to stay."

"I can help you with that, dear," came a refined voice from Lucas's table in the back of the cafe. I expected it come along with a delicate teacup, pinky out. I looked up to see a teeny little woman make her way up to our group at the counter.  She was diminutive in stature, barely coming up to Kyle's elbow, but carried herself in such a way that I had no doubt she could be quite a formidable force should it be needed.  Her silver hair was coiled prettily into a loose knot at the nape of her neck.

"Mama, are you sure that's a good idea? Since you were sick..." Kyle seemed perturbed. Mama?

"Nonsense, young man. Go get her things."  I smiled to see the big cowboy put in his place. The little woman ran things around here, you could just tell. "Emily Terrance, Miss Melissa.  I run the inn across the street and you'll be staying in my best room."

"Oh, that's not necessary, ma'am." I began. "I can stay in whatever's easiest--"

"Nonsense to you, too. Not a lot of tourists come through here, and I don't get to play at innkeeper often. "

I met Kyle's glance over his mother's head and he winked at me.  I didn't think his mother was used to not getting her way, and I didn't think I was going to be the one to change that.  "Alright, but I'm going to need to make a phone call first and let my family know I've not been kidnapped by aliens."

Emily hurried across the street to ready the room I was apparently going to be renting while Kyle walked with me back to his car shop to use his telephone.  I dialed my mom.

"Mom?  It's 'Lissa.  Look, I went for a drive this morning while you were at Megan's, and I ran into some car trouble...  No, no, everything's okay.  It just needs to be repaired before I can come home, but apparently it needs some part that's really hard to find and I'm going to stay in this inn here in town till it's ready. ...  I don't know, a few days is what the car guy told me. The vacation is probably good for me, anyway....  No, it's okay.  I just need you to keep an eye on Daniel for a few days....  Thanks, Mom.  I'll call you soon... Bye."

I hung up the phone and we walked across the highway to the grand Inn.  "Daniel?" Kyle asked. "Is that like a pet goldfish or something?"

"No," I said quietly.  "Not like that at all."


Sunday, November 13, 2011

After The Storm - Chapter 3

Chapter 2


I grabbed my duffel bag from the back of my car while Kyle the Handsome Cowboy set his truck up for towing.  I really hoped it wasn't going to cost too much money.  Or time.  Surely I had things to do... like... okay, maybe I didn't have anything to do but cry and eat my mom's chocolate chip cookies.

I watched from the side of the road as Kyle worked on attaching the chains, and then we jumped into the cab of his truck.  I didn't really know where we were going... I wasn't even positive where I was.  I'd taken so many twisty turns in my driving, I was fairly lost.  I leaned my seat back a little and just watched the scenery go by in silence.

After a few minutes, I sighed to myself, "It's so beautiful here..."

Kyle looked up from the road briefly, "Hmm?"

I spoke a little louder. "I said that it's beautiful here...  Where ARE we, anyway?  I was just driving to drive, and...  well, truth is that I guess I'm lost."

"Well, miss...  you are on your way to the booming metropolis of Terrance."

I smiled over at him. "Please, call me Melissa.  Terrance.." I turned the word over in my head.  "Sorry, I don't think I've ever heard of it."

He laughed a little.  "Don't worry... no one ever has.  Blink and you'll miss us." He tapped his fingers on the steering wheel to an imaginary beat in his head.  "In my experience, Melissa, no one goes for long drives, not paying attention to where they're going, unless they've got something on their mind they're running away from."

Cheeky and meddling.  "I'm really not sure that's any of your business," I responded icily.

Kyle grinned and held up one hand in defense.  "Fair enough...  sometimes it helps to talk."

I guess that wasn't totally fair of me, so I said quietly, "Sorry...  okay, yes.  Man trouble...  I broke up with the man I was dating." That hurt inside... that sounded so much less intimate than what it had really been.

"Ah.  What happened?"

I looked out the window at the trees floating by.  "I don't know."  My voice broke on the last word as I tried to keep the emotion out of it... ineffectually.

"Aw, come on now, Melissa," Kyle protested.  "You're not going to cry on me, are you?  I'm fresh out of Kleenex from the last time a girl fell apart in here."

He was making me mad again.  "Well, if you're going to ask!!"  I sniffled a little and turned to stare pointedly at whatever was not in his direction.

He reached behind him to the back of his truck cab and placed a small box of tissues on my lap.  "I thought you were out," I commented as I pulled one out to wipe my eyes.

I could hear the good humor in his voice.  "I might keep an extra box for the pretty girls."  A town rolled into our view.  "Welcome to Terrance, chica....  don't blink."

Terrance wasn't a huge town.  But, to be fair, you might have to blink at least twice to get through it.  It ran the length of the highway for a few blocks before the road picked back up into the great unknown ahead.  Along one side, I could see what must be Kyle's auto repair shop, with one gas pump sitting outside.  Next to it sat a pretty little restaurant with daffodils lining the walkway... "Julia's Place."  On the other side of the auto shop, there was a little teensy grocery store with Pepsi signs plastered all over the outside.  On the opposite side of the highway, an old house stood next a neighborhood park, restored to an antique perfection.  "Terrance Bed and Breakfast" was painted on the archway that stood over the house's walkway.

I searched the road for the one thing I needed.  "No Starbucks, then?"

Kyle laughed, "Ah, no.  No Starbucks... Funny, their corporate headquarters didn't seem to think we could support one.  Julia makes a mean pot of coffee, though..."

"That's a pretty home that your town bed and breakfast is in," I offered, honestly.  I didn't REALLY want to offend the guy... who knew how much he'd charge me?  "Do you get a lot of tourism here?"

"No, not really, just lost girls with broken cars" he answered.  "A whim of an old woman, really.  But the owners are good people."

We pulled into the bay of his auto shop, full of car parts I didn't understand.  He bade me to wait a moment, and he came around to help me down out of the truck.  Kyle ushered me into what must have been his office.  "It's a little messy in here," he offered with an apology as he moved magazines from the one waiting chair.  "Why don't you wait a few minutes, and I'll take a better look at your car."

I tossed my bag into a corner, and sat obediently where I was told, not that there was much of anywhere else TO sit, while he backed out of the office to do car stuff.  My eyes perused the magazines he'd dropped on the floor, looking for something to entertain myself.  Car and Driver. Hot Rod. Motor Trend.  Not a single girl magazine in the stack. Getting up, I took a little tour around the little room, studying the pictures on the wall.

There was a shot of Kyle with three friends about high school age, all young and smiley in football uniforms. One of him kneeling with one arm slung around a black lab, sweet.  A certificate from the state auto mechanic license board, awarded to Kyle... Terrance.  That was interesting. A photo of him looking close with a beautiful brunette... girlfriend?

His voice came ringing out from the shop and I jumped back to my chair, grabbing a magazine off the floor and tried to look occupied.  "Melissa, we're going to need--" he entered the office and grinned at me with the magazine in my lap. "Good magazine?" he asked.

"Oh sure," I replied with attempted authority. "I've always been interested in carburetors."

"Well sure, who hasn't?  I'm afraid your car's going to need a little bit of work before you can get back on the road.  Why don't you run on over to Julia's Place while I see about getting some replacement parts sent out here?  Tell her I sent you and she'll get you all fixed up."

"Is it going to be a lot?"

"Well... not oil-change cheap, but I'll do the best I can for you.  You need a timing belt, like I said...  and a new alternator.  Plus, that... you were definitely right about the flux capacitor.  I'm going to need to track one of those down, too. I'll come over when I get that straightened out."

"Okay..." I picked my purse up and wandered out of the shop to the daffodil-lined sidewalk of the cafe.  I pushed open the door and the bell over the door announced my arrival.  All heads turned... and by all, I mean "all four."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trust is Like a Vase

Loss of trust sucks.

It is tremendously hard to take personal responsibility that you are the one to blame for someone else losing trust in you.  But, I'm coming to realize that it is sometimes just as hard and heartbreaking to be the one who has lost trust in someone else.

It's not just something you can fix with a simple solution.  You can't patch it with tape or glue. It's just there, undermining everything.  I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song I like:

"Well, a month or so has passed and now you're back again with me
But the cracks remain unmended in our once so-perfect team.
We seem to spend all our time just trying to make things right
But there cannot be a winner in this neverending fight."

It's like that.

You can try to fix everything else... but the loss of trust just sort of hangs out in there, picking at the tape, melting the glue. Just always there...  and that's true whether you're the one that broke the trust or the one who lost theirs.

It's just sad... that's all.  It's just sad to know there is no trust where there once was much.

Friday, October 28, 2011

English Passengers... and Perspective

I've just finished the book, English Passengers, which I know I've spoken of a few times already-- so please forgive me if I speak of it once more. Sometimes this is just what happens when I spend several days reading a book. I've been fairly busy lately, so the reading of this one took a lot longer than the books I'd read just previously. Also, this copy had really small print! I remember commenting to myself, upon opening the book initially, on how small said print was.  But, my eyes must have adjusted over the two weeks it was in my hands. I just opened my next book tonight, with less teensy print, and the font looked huge!!


Synoposis


The story was pretty interesting. It began with a Manx brandy-smuggling sea captain who had to take on charter passengers to avoid getting caught by the British customs agents-- passengers who were apparently intent on travelling to Tasmania to find the Garden of Eden (don't ask). At the same time, the story backtracks 30 years and, through the story of one half-caste boy, chronicles the history of the Tasmanian aborigines following the British occupation of the area.

The writing style of the book was different, rarely staying with one character for more than about eight pages. It took a little bit of getting used to, this constant change of first person narrative. But, eventually, I came to really enjoy it. Most especially, I liked the full picture that emerged when you melded all the perspectives together.

You would start with an understanding of a certain character.  Then, the narrator would switch and, as you saw that character through another's eyes, your understanding of the character would change. By combining them all, you got a fuller understanding of character, events, and story. But, it was clear that each narrator viewed the story from his own flawed and biased perspective.

Personal Thoughts

I have always (well, if not always, then "attempt at quite often") approached personal conflict with the belief that there are few relational conflicts which can be blamed solely on one party. We like to paint ourselves as victims when we feel put-upon. But, I find that, most of the time, responsibility falls, perhaps to varying degrees, on the shoulders of each member involved. I'm sure exceptions exist, as they usually do-- but in general, this is my belief. I suppose it keeps me honest- in both directions. I can neither excuse my own blame nor take it all on myself, as is often my instinct. It takes two to make a relationship, but it often takes two to break it as well.

Reading the varying perspectives of English Passengers refocused my thoughts on this idea. No one ever had an accurate picture of how things really were-- they only had their own flawed viewpoint, based on their experiences, their feelings and, most especially, their assumptions. I suppose it just made me newly aware to be careful in my own analysis of what truth is. I need to be cognizant of the idea that we are biased, and that those biases and assumptions color how we see things, and that often what I take for truth is little more than merely my own flawed perspective.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unpacking: Slow Down!

To 18yo Me

14. Enjoy it. Stop and take in your surroundings once in a while. This isn't a race.

And we're finally to the last one of this series... Next time I take it into my head to expound on every single point in a post, please remind me to do it with one with less points!  :)

I spent the better part of my 20s waiting for the next phase.  I was a young mom with three daughters, with just 17 months between the whole lot.  Every phase was in stereo.  Add to that premature and developmental issues, and I was just... tired.  And so I waited for them to get out of colic.  And then I waited for them to get out of diapers. And I waited for them to get out of the terrible twos. And I waited for them to get out of the "we can't talk yet and this is really frustrating" phase.  I spent so much of that time waiting for things to get easier that I never stopped to enjoy the things that WERE.

I look back now and think of maybe how much I missed because I was just hanging on until things were easier.  Maybe that was a survival thing... coupled with depression, there were some time periods in there that were REALLY rough, and for some of those, hanging on was the best I could do.

But, there was so much motherhood had to offer, and sometimes I feel like I missed some of that, trying to be the perfect mom... when I probably could have been a much better mom, and a much happier mom, if I'd just strove for "a pretty good mom" and enjoyed the ride a little more.

So much of the American life is rushed.... "the rat race"... it's about getting to the end first.  With the most prizes and conquests.  We forget to stop and enjoy the life we're given in our rush to have the best life there is.

Surely we're missing something there...

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Photo Credit: Vijay Sonar

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 4 (of 4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I need to back up to yesterday again.  Writing tip: If you bother to outline things you want to say, it would be an awesome idea to actually refer to said outline when sitting down to write.  I got off on the tangent of that whole analogy with the walls and owning that sometimes the walls we butt up against are walls that people have erected against us because of things we've done in the past, and I did want to touch on that idea of personal responsibility and not being all "oh poor me" all the time about those walls.

However, I also wanted to point out (and this is the part that I forgot) that when we're the "them" for someone else... when we've erected our walls, and we're hiding behind them with our archers and our knights...  could it be that we're the wall that someone else is butting up against as they try to change, too?  Are we the ones that are discouraging someone else, making their road to a better "them" that much harder?

I don't really know the answer to this. I'm not promoting not protecting yourself.  Relationships are hard.  People are flawed.  Some people are mean on purpose, some people by accident.  But, sometimes intent doesn't matter, and all mean hurts.  I can't blame anyone for wanting to shield themselves from that hurt. I certainly do it myself. But I've come to know how frustrating it is to be working so hard to change your heart, change your thoughts, change your actions... and to butt up against those walls of being judged, not on who I am right now, but who I was last year or last month or four years ago or what-have-you.  It makes me really think about the times I've been a wall to someone else, and how I can somehow better balance the two ends of the spectrum.

All of this said, jumping back over to the first side of the coin...  Where does that leave us when we're trying to make those changes?  When people look at what or who we've been and decide that we will always be "that," can we still make the changes we desire to make?

I have to believe the answer is a resounding "yes."  I have to.  Maybe, it's the optimist in me... maybe it's the hopeful in me.  But I can't believe that the obstacles in our roads are insurmountable.  Maybe we just butt up against that wall with a battering ram until we've run through the stone.  Maybe we trick the policeman and sneak our way through a backroad to get to where we want to be, and once there, we can say "See?  I told you I just needed to get right here!"

Or maybe we just have to step back a moment and examine why we're making the changes we are.  Who are they for, really?  Do we really need "them" to validate the changes our hearts tell us to make? Maybe it's just a matter of realizing what is important, understanding that sometimes we can't change what others do, and that maybe what people think of us isn't nearly as important as what we are.

If you're successful in the heart changes you want to make, maybe someday they'll see that...  and maybe they won't.  Either way, you'll know in your heart who you are, where you've come from, and what obstacles you had to climb to get there.

And maybe that's the most important thing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

I'd like to jump over to the other side of the coin for a moment.  I feel like this is getting to sound just a little more victim-central than I want it to, that it's solely "them" that are holding me or you or whoever back from becoming something better.  Maybe, in some cases, that's true.  But, as I've reflected on this topic, I've also realized that sometimes I'm someone else's "them."

Where do you fall on the spectrum when it comes to faith and trust in others?  In general, I feel like I fall (and truthfully, this is where I'd LIKE to fall, so maybe that colors where I see myself) on the end where I am a trusting person.  You start out with a clean slate with me, I don't need you to prove yourself.  I will trust you. I will confide in you.  But, if you break that trust?  Well, now we're talking something different.

There's that saying which goes "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."  In practice, it's more like 3 or 4 times with me.  But once you pass that line, I find that I put up a heavy brick nothing's-getting-through-this-sucker wall between us.  It's protection.  It's self-protection.  It's not necessarily that I believe you can't change or be different.  It's just that I don't believe that you want the change honestly enough to risk you stabbing me through the heart one more time.

On the one hand, this seems wise, doesn't it?  Someone hurts you repeatedly, why on earth would you let it continue to happen?  I've thought a lot about forgiveness over the last month or so, and what it means.  I saw a quote I liked that said something to the effect of "Forgiving you doesn't mean that what you did to me was okay.  It means that I'm not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever."  I liked that.  If you realize someone is using you for a doormat, you can forgive them for using you as one without going back and lying down in front of their door.

But, I think for me that, often, my method of "not being used again" (or whatever the offense was) is to put up a giant wall around my heart that they cannot penetrate again.  Once the wall is up, I find that I'm very hard-nosed and stubborn about it... I won't let you over the wall. I won't let you through the wall, under the wall, nothing.

Why go on and on about this?

Simple.  Because sometimes, when I or you are trying to make changes in our lives, we need to realize the wall we're butting up against from others...  the officer that keeps turning us back...  They're there because someone has erected a wall against us... because we did something to them that hurt enough for them to need it.

You have to own that.  Personal responsibility is IMPORTANT, and you have to own your part in your road's obstacles.

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Photo Credit: Ari Helminen

Part 4


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 2

Part 1

I am a strong believer in the value of striving to become better.  Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that I don't like who I am now.  But, everybody has faults, and I don't believe it to be a bad thing to want to make those faults... lesser.

Sometimes, though, I find that it's very hard to change in the face of other people's expectations of me.  Those that know us, they do create expectations of our behavior.  I think it's important to to understand and own that, much of the time, they create expectations based on our previous behavior.  We acted a certain way last week, or last year, or last decade...  We made choices, good or bad, and those all combine to create people's expectation of us...  they're natural consequences, folks.  They aren't applied with cruelty, but they ARE consequences to the choices we've made in the past.

But, sometimes when we're making efforts to change those behaviors, the expectations become a wall that we butt up against time and time again.  Expectations can be a powerful tool to keep us STUCK.  It's a bit like marching down the road toward a goal, when just as you are about to reach it, a police officer steps into your path, blows his whistle, and tells you to stop and go back.

"What?" you say.  "But where I need to go is RIGHT THERE," pointing to a spot just beyond the officer.

"I'm sorry," he says, "but that won't be possible.  Last year, you were here and we had to have the whole SWAT team out to clean up your mess."

"But, you don't understand," you implore.  "I'm different now.  I've been changing.  You are absolutely right that last year was awful, but things are different now.  Can't you see that?"

But, he is immovable.  "Sorry. Go back."

So, you do...  Sometimes the frustration is too much, and you DO go back.  Why try if they're just going to foil you at every turn?  Sometimes, you backpedal and try a different path to get to where you want to be, but they just show up again.  Again and again and again, shutting down every attempt.  And you want to scream "Can't you let me do this? I know I made this pit, but I'm trying to climb out of it, so stop throwing dirt on me!"

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Photo Credit: Kenneth Ristau

Part 3
Part 4


Monday, October 17, 2011

Changing When You Can't, Part 1

Last week, a song that I've always thought was pretty came on the radio.  Maybe it was just that it was one of those moments where you really listen to the lyrics hard, and they match right up with your introspections...






As I listened to the lyrics, these words stood out to me over and over:
"I've lived in this place and I know all the faces,
Each one is different but they're always the same.
They mean me no harm, but it's time that I face it,
They'll never allow me to change."
They got me thinking about growth and change, trying to become a better person, and how sometimes it isn't us that's so hard to change... but the expectations of us.

Everyone believes something of us.  Sometimes that's based on things we've said and done, sometimes that's based on things they've heard that we've said or done.  But, good or bad, people believe something about me, they believe something about you.

What if we wanted to change that?  What if we wanted to do something different, be something different?

Could we do it?

---------------------------------

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Retiring to Montana

On the way to Oregon yesterday, somehow the topic of retiring to Montana came up.  I don't know WHY Joel has this thing about retiring to Montana.  I'm not sure he's really even set on retiring there, I think he just likes bugging me about it.  :)  To be fair, after visiting Glacier this summer, I'm not as against Montana as a destination... I just don't like cold, so you can see my problem.

I finally admitted, "Ok... we can SUMMER in Montana. Would that make you happy?"

"Well... happy-ER.  What's wrong with Montana?"

"I don't like the cold."

"You don't like the cold HERE."

"But I have my fireplace, so I'm happy."

"We'll get you a fireplace in Montana."

"And I won't be able to leave my house!"

"I'm pretty sure they don't ground you in Montana."

"But it snows.  And I don't like to drive in the snow..."

"Why not?"

"Because I'll crash into things!"

"What?  You crash into things here!  I hardly see the difference."

*glares*

Cheeky boy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

After the Storm - Chapter 2


Chapter 1

The days passed as I went about my life.  The storm, both of them, had left a good deal of damage and debris behind.  The yard needed picking up, the barn needed boards nailed back into place, the house needed patching.  The work was good and kept me busy during the day, and that was needed.  It kept me from thinking too much about the work that needed to be done inside my heart and hurt.

The evenings weren't too bad.  I spent a lot of time avoiding my mother, but a good bit of time over a bottle of wine (or two or four) with Megan.  A lot of talk, a lot of laughter.  A lot of jabbing at Zach's little flaws which, I guess, is supposed to make you feel better when someone leaves you.  But, it didn't much. I didn't hate him, I didn't even dislike him. It was never that he was so much the jerk, or that I was impossible to live with.  It was just us.  "Us" just couldn't find a way to work out.

But, I missed "us," if I was honest.  So the nights were hard. I missed someone to whisper with in the dark of night. I missed someone to poke fun at me when I dropped eggshells in the pancake batter yet again. I missed the feel of his skin before he'd shaved, and the smell of his neck after he had. I missed his breath on my cheek, his hand at my back, and the way he held me when we danced.

I missed my smile, and I missed him.  The work and the wine were little match for that.

But, tomorrow was a new day, and tomorrow, I was determined to find my smile.  If only for a moment.

--


The morning light trickled through the curtains onto my pillow, slowly pulling me from the dream filling my subconscious.  Something about elves, probably just as well that it was morning.  I stretched lazily under the blankets and opened my eyes to peer at the clock.

9:00.  Way past time to be up.  I picked my cell up off the bedside table and checked for my email.  There was a text from Megan. Mom's here for breakfast. Help.

I grinned at the karma there.  Sorry, going for a drive. Try some wine. Will call later.  Course now that I said I was going for a drive, I guess I'd have to actually do it.  I pulled myself out of bed and went to get ready.  I showered and threw my hair into a ponytail.  Jeans, comfy T-shirt, boots.  On a whim, I threw a change of clothes, a swimsuit, and my favorite book into a bag to throw in the back of the car.  You never knew when a river would beckon for some swimming.

I threw the bag in the back of the car, checked my phone one more time (not enough wine in the world) and turned to the open road.  I wasn't really sure where I was going.  I don't think it even mattered.  I just needed time to think, to be by myself without anyone trying to cheer me up. I needed to figure out what to do next, how to move on, how to heal.  I wasn't even sure I could find the answers... but avoiding them with a hammer and nails wasn't doing me any good.

So, I cranked up the radio and I drove.  Far from the city, far from town, far from everything I knew.  If I came across a road I'd never been on before, I channeled my dad and thought "Well, let's see where this goes."  Actually, those were fond memories from childhood.  "Let's see where this goes," Daddy would always say, and we would find out.  Sometimes they went nowhere. Sometimes they happened upon fields of daises, abandoned swatches of riverbank, ghost towns that had been long forgotten.  Sometimes we'd end up in towns I'd never heard of and sampled their diner food.  I thought I'd like to remember him today.

I went up this mountain, down that hill.  I drove through farmland and across rivers.  I didn't have a clue where I was, but it was beautiful.  My radio was cranked, and I found myself singing along to "Landslide."  Beautiful song, but oh it made me cry.

Then, it happened.

BANG!  And then... smoke.  Crap.  That couldn't be good.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and ran out to pop the hood.  Smoke billowed everywhere.  It wasn't on fire at least, I was pretty sure that was a good sign?  My phone had one bar on it... maybe I could get signal.  As it turned out, it was just enough to call AAA and have them send a tow truck to Hwy 238 "somewhere east of Caster City."  I kicked back in the car with my book waiting for them to show.  Two hours can get you through quite a lot of book.

Finally, a tow truck did arrive.  It came at me from the other direction, passed by, then turned around to park in front of my car.  I jumped out of my car as the driver hopped down from his cab, his cowboy hat shielding his face from the sun.

I smiled my winningest smile as I walked forward with my hand out to shake his.  "I'm so glad you're finally here!"  At this, he looked up to answer back and I stopped in my tracks, smile frozen to my lips.

Good lord, he was handsome.  I hated handsome men.


Don't get me wrong. Sure, I liked gazing at them... from a few tables away. Who didn't? I was more than happy to admire a good-looking guy from across the room over a nice glass of wine. But talking to them outright? Ugh, I hated it. I can never understand why the right cheekbones and a couple biceps can reduce me to such a stammering mess. I'm perfectly capable of carrying on a coherent conversation with normal people. But around a handsome man? I always feel like Baby in Dirty Dancing-- "I carried a watermelon." What, really??

Worse, this one was a car guy. There's nothing more patronizing than the look auto mechanics give you when you try to explain what's wrong with your car. "It's making this cluck-cluck-cluck sound when you turn the wheel--" and then, of course, it never does when THEY try it. So basically, I was screwed. A hot car guy. In a cowboy hat. And boots. And beautiful eyes.  Zach what?

Perhaps I stared a little too long. Mr Cowboy Man tipped his hat in greeting, and raised one eyebrow questioningly, a smile just tweaking his lips. "Miss? Is there something wrong?"

"Umm, no... I have a car." I winced inwardly. At least it wasn't a watermelon?

His eyes crinkled up at the corners. Deep brown gorgeous eyes. "Well, I did happen to notice that. I have a truck."

Melissa, what is wrong with you? I thought to myself. Get it together! He thinks you're an idiot. I shook myself and straightened up. "So you do," I smiled back at him. "I bet yours actually moves, though. Mine appears to be a bit dead."

"Let's take a look at it, then." He stopped and extended his hand to shake the one I had dropped. "I'm Kyle, by the way."

"I put mine in his much larger palm and tried to shake it firmly. "Melissa.  It's nice to meet you, Kyle." And please stop smiling at me.

"So what appears to be wrong with it, Melissa? Any ideas?"

Did I look like I knew anything about cars?  No way I was saying "cluck-cluck" to this pretty cowboy. "I was just driving along, and there was a big bang and smoke and--  I did look under the hood.  I think it might be--" I searched for a car-sounding word... "--the flux capacitor."  That sounded good.

Slowly, he repeated, "The flux..."

"Capacitor, right," I confirmed.

He looked at me strangely for a few seconds and suddenly turned to my car. "Right, well that's certainly... possible," he finally finished.  Kyle poked around under the hood a bit, looking closely at what I thought was the engine... or the carburetor... or... something.

"Anything?" I asked, hoping it would be cheap.

He removed his hat to wipe an arm across his brow.  "Well, Melissa... I'm going to need to tow you into town. I think you're might need a new timing belt.  And I'm probably going to want to take a look at your... flux capacitor." There was something about the way he said that which gave me pause, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I guess we were going to town-- wherever that was.


Chapter 3

After the Storm - Chapter 1


As dawn broke, the morning light filtered through the slats in the ceiling and I surveyed the night's damage.  The storm had blown through while the stars shone, leaving behind just the wreckage of broken boards, overturned furniture.  Holes where once there was strength.

We had gone up last night to watch the storm from the barn.  There was a board or two up there that needed fixing anyway, but they made the perfect makeshift skylight to take in nature's sights. Probably should've taken a blanket up there to lie on, too...  but there were some old chairs left from years ago that worked almost as well.

We watched the sky and listened to the winds as the tension mounted between us. "So are we going to talk about this or what?" he asked me quietly.

I clenched my fists and inhaled sharply.  "Now? No, we're not."

"Dammit, Lissa."  He stood up so quickly that his chair clattered behind him to the floor. "We can't keep pretending and playing this game!"

I struggled to keep my voice calm, but it wasn't much good.  He pushed, I hid.  I attacked back, he deflected.  Always this dance.  Always this way.  I might have thrown things.  Maybe it was him.

All I could really say this morning was that he was gone and there was a mess to clean up in the wake of his absence.

And I think I missed him.


I righted the chairs, picked up a few boards from the floor and leaned them against the wall.  My pocket buzzed, and I pulled the cell phone out of the pocket of my bathrobe.

You guys okay?  My little sister.

I quickly texted back House is fine. Zach left before sliding it back into my pocket.  I barely had a chance to sit down before she replied Went to store left or left left?

Left left. Isn't coming back left. Ever left.

Don't go anywhere.

A light laugh escaped my throat.  I hadn't even taken a shower yet, where was I going to go?

I finished putting scraps of debris into a pile before I climbed back down the barn's ladder and went back to the house to make some coffee. I had a feeling I was going to need a lot of it.

I was sitting at the kitchen counter when I heard Megan's car roll down the gravel driveway, and her door slam.  She banged her way through the kitchen's screen door and set her purse on the table.  "Alright, girl." She took one look at my face, and exclaimed, "Lord, you look a mess."

I stuck my tongue out at her.  "Thanks a lot. I don't suppose you know anyone who might be here to cheer me up?"

She grinned, "Nope." Spying the cup of coffee in my hands, she wrinkled her nose in distaste. "What do you drink that stuff for?" Megan asked.  "It's going to stunt your growth. I brought you something better," she said as she pulled out a bottle of wine.

"Geez, Meg. It's 10 o'clock in the morning, put that away.  Besides... I'm 31.  I think I've done all the growing I'm going to do."

Another car crunched up the driveway, and my eyes flew to Megan's.  Maybe Zach came back?  I tried to keep the hope out of my heart, I really did. I recognized the car, but it just wasn't the one I was hoping for.
I turned and looked accusingly at Megan. "Mom?  You called Mom?"

"What?" she protested.  "I thought I might need some backup."

I poured another cup of coffee.

The door opened and Mom poked her head around the doorframe.  "Yoo hoo....  is anyone here?"

"Hi Mom," I said with resignation.

"Oh," she began. "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop in and see how you were after the storm--"

"No, you weren't.  Megan called you and you thought you'd unload the cookie jar on me." I nodded to the box in her arms.

A stubborn look came into her eyes. "Cookies fix everything. It's in the Mom Handbook.  Now...  what happened with Zach?"

I gave Megan a knowing look over Mom's shoulder.  I really wasn't ready to talk this out with my mother just yet.  Megan just grinned and pointed to the wine bottle.

"Mom, we..."  I stopped.  What DID happen? What, really, had been the problem? I'm not sure I knew... only that it had finally been too much for us, and we were done.  He wasn't coming back, I knew that.  But I hadn't quite gotten to why yet.  Maybe it was just that we couldn't agree on the laundry and the dishes.  Maybe it was the fact that I could only let him in so far, maybe it was that he pushed when I needed him to lay off. Maybe we wanted different things.  Maybe I just wasn't enough.  "Mom, he left five hours ago.  I'm just not quite ready to talk about it yet.  Okay?"

"Alright."

"OKAY?" I glared meaningfully at Megan.

"Oh alright, alright," she mumbled through a mouthful of chocolate chip cookie.  "I'm just here for the cookies, anyway."

"Now... if you two don't mind, I have a shower to take, a storm to clean up, and a life to figure out."  I smiled at my sister. "Maybe leave the wine."


Chapter 2

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unpacking: Change for you



13. Change. Grow. Create character. But do it for the right reasons. Don't let bitter unhappy people change who you are.
 I told you that remark from Joel made an impact on me.

I am a fan of character growth. I am a fan of striving to be a better you.  I am a fan of identifying where you lack and working to fill in the gaps in those areas.  I think these are good things.

But, as I look backwards at the things I have sometimes worked to change in myself, I realize that some of those things I've tried to change have not always been bad things. I haven't changed them even because I thought they needed to be changed...  but because there were others that did.  They weren't even always people I cared about that much.  But, I just felt that changing was what I needed to do to make them happy.

The more I explain this, the more idiotic it seems.  Why on earth would I do that?

Change is good.  Growth of character is good.  But, go after it because it's something you earnestly believe needs to be changed in the way you conduct yourself.  Don't chase change just because someone else would like you better if you did.  If that's their basis for being able to love you, then they don't love you really, and they aren't worth your efforts.

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Photo Credit: Thomas Tolkien

Saturday, October 8, 2011

10 Day "You" Challenge - 8 Fears

8 Fears... oh my gosh, why can't the hard things be at the bottom of the list where I only have to come up with two?  I'd switch with books, movies, songs.. heck, pictures, easy!!

1.  Oh, let's just get this one right out there.  BEARS.  BEARS BEARS BEARS.  Really, I have an underlying fear of most wildlife, harboring a secret belief that they're all waiting to attack me.  But, the bear component is the strongest.  Partly, I imagine that's due to living in the Northwest where there... ARE... bears.  But, mostly, I blame this on a movie I saw on TV once where a homicidally-inclined bear was out hunting these guys through the forest.  I know, I know... bears don't eat people, blah blah blah.  Don't bother. Joel's been trying for years, and it doesn't work.  You CANNOT win an illogical argument with logic.  You would think Joel would have learned this by now.. but no.  Judging by the arguments he tries to have with our hormonally-charged, this is a lesson he has yet to learn.  So yes, #1.  Bears.

2.  I don't know about yours... but my kids didn't come with instruction manuals.  I don't know what I'm doing. Because my kids are so close together in age, I don't even have the luxury of screwing up the first kid and doing better on the last one.  It's just "sink or swim" in stereo, and I worry that I will get to the end, having completely screwed up all of them... I don't think you get awards for that.

3. I'm a very good chameleon. I am skilled at becoming who I think you want me to be. I will change who I am to make you happy...  and not even to be someone you will like better, but just to be who you EXPECT me to be.  Does that make sense?  But, the older I get, the more weary I become of all that, and my desire to chameleonize myself gets less and less by the year...  but I'm left with the concern that if I stop being the chameleon you have come to know, will you still love the person who hides inside?

4. I am afraid that the world's supply of food will be depleted and all that will be left is cheese.

5. Oh, ants.  I know, they're not exactly the scariest bugs in the world.  But, one time when I was in the 6th grade, I came home from school to find the bathroom walls COMPLETELY BLACK with ants crawling oall over the walls, and I've had "issues" with ants ever since.  *shudders*


6. Big Dogs. I LIKE dogs... if I know they're friendly.  But, I've always been a bit scared of big dogs.  My mom taught me a little mantra when I was a little girl "big dogs do not eat people big dogs do not eat people"... and when I'm out for a walk or run around the neighborhood, I still find myself muttering it to myself when I pass by houses where they have big dogs who aren't happy that I am in the near vicinity of their territories.

7. That I'm not enough.

8. that someday I will fall into an emotional hole that I can't pull myself out of.

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Photo Credit: SteFou!, Samantha Henneke

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unpacking: Pleasing everyone


12. You also can't please everyone. It can't be done with honesty. Look around... worry about your relationship with those you are in close relationship with. The rest... let it go.

Until getting involved with CT, I didn't really realize how deep was my desire to be liked... by everyone.  And so, this is a lesson I've had to learn and relearn, a little bit more each time.  It's been a little like carving a figure out of a large piece of wood.  You start by hacking away at it... and then your shavings become a little more refined.  A piece here, a thin slice there...  With each pass at it, you get a little closer to finding the image that lies inside the wood.  Does that analogy work?  Perhaps not.

Initially, I wanted to make everyone happy.... cast, creatives, fans.  I laugh now to look back and think of the fervor with which I threw myself into attempting such. But, no one is on the same side as anyone else, and you can't make everyone happy.  There is an inevitable backlash, and it caught me by surprise.  I remember confiding in someone about it, and they told me I had to learn to let those things roll off my back... that I would drown in it if I didn't. Let's just say I wasn't very good at that. But, it was the first pass at learning the lesson, and that's okay.

I took several more passes at the lesson over the ensuing three years...  each time, I learned a little bit more about understanding that I couldn't please everyone, and more importantly, that not everyone needed to be pleased.  I learned to identify friends, and to focus my energies and emotions on those relationships instead of trying to make everyone happy.

I will never forget something my husband once said to me.  I was worked up about something that now seems silly...  but I was trying to explain the situation, and the backstories, and why I was upset over it.  I so clearly remember him shaking his head at me and saying, "I guess I just don't understand.  Why would you let people who are clearly bitter and unhappy change who you are?" That has stuck with me ever since. It was the comment that helped the most to wash away everything that was unimportant, and has helped me to focus energies on things that are.  Because, truly.... why would I do that??

I know I've talked a lot about this in relation to the CT fan community, as indeed I've learned some really important lessons from being involved there.  Sometimes, I've thought to myself, "If I could just go back and NOT hit the 'up' arrow, I could have saved myself so much hurt..."  But, I don't think I'd do it.  I've learned REALLY good lessons that I may not have learned otherwise, and I don't think I'd give that up.  But the great thing about the lessons is that you may learn them in one place, but you can apply them in other places, too.  This is one of those.

I'm actually delighted to find that this topic was the next one on the list.  I was just thinking yesterday about the people who are my friends.  I was laughing with Stacey and feeling blessed and delighted in our friendship. I was chatting with Diana and Lisa, and feeling grateful and full of love. I was at Weight Watchers this morning, and sharing in comfortable camaraderie with the friends I've made there.

It is these friendships, plus a few others too, that I've come to realize are important to me.  It is these relationships that I want to devote energy to, that I want to see grow and mature and come alive.  But the rest?  The rest I can let go. The rest I can let roll off my back.  I couldn't do that before.  But, I can now.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Unpacking: Letting Go

To 18yo Me

"11. You cannot change anyone. That is their call and their call alone. If you cannot accept them for who they are right now, accept that and let them go."

It feels like it goes against conventional wisdom. It flies in the face of what we're so often exhorted to do. Forgive anything of anyone. Support no matter what. Turn the other cheek. Never give up because what if...  what if it's your support that ends up being that which they need? What if it's your steadfastness that gives them the strength to become what they needed to become?  What if, what if, what if? What if you held on just one more time, buried the past just one more time, mended the pain just one more time, gave up your self-respect just one more time?

But, what if you didn't? What if, this time, you had the strength to let go? Not crush them, just let go. It isn't the conventional wisdom of holding on at all costs. But, I've come to understand that there is a wisdom to letting go, too. Sometimes it's more humane than clinging to something that will never heal.

Sometimes it's that you've inflicted far too much pain on each other to ever find your way back to healing and love. Sometimes truth comes out, and you just don't like who lives underneath the mask. Sometimes you both change, neither one in bad ways, but in ways that are simply different... and you lose the commonality that held you together before.

Letting go feels like quitting, like losing. We don't like to quit and we don't like to lose. Letting go feels weak, but I think we're wrong in that. I don't like to let go, but on the occasions, and there have been a few, where I have made the choice to do so, it has taken far more strength and courage than hanging on would ever have demanded.

But still, we have the compulsion to fight, to stay. I don't think that's a bad thing at all. But sometimes, it does more harm than it does good.

I have a hard time judging which is right when I'm in the midst of it. I get too close to the problem at hand, and my ability to see with wise eyes diminishes. It's here that I find wise counsel to be invaluable. People who are far enough back to see the big picture, but who love me enough to be honest-- even if it's honesty I don't really want to hear. I've come to appreciate and trust the wisdom of those in my life, learned to listen to it.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." Sometimes you just take different roads. You can push and pull and scream to get them to go down yours with you. But every once in a while, you find it's wiser for you both to just say Goodbye and Good Luck, and to explore the road on your own.

Sometimes life and love and friendship don't work out. Sometimes you let go so you can be whole without regret. And there is wisdom in that.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

And That Was My Grandpa

What I would have said if I'd had time to think... and if it had been the right time and place... (which it probably wasn't)

-----

My name is Joanne, and I'm Jim's eldest grand-daughter... by birth. I feel a little out of place here. I didn't know most of you before two weeks ago, though I knew OF some of you. And yet, we're all here, trying to celebrate the life of a man.  But, listening to people talk, I'm not sure I knew the same man you did.

I almost feel as if I'm hearing about a stranger, this paragon of virtue you praise for his prompt church attendance, self-control, and patience.  Indeed, it makes me laugh just a little because I know the past, both from experience and from story.  Maybe it's just that it's a funeral, and everything we remember is supposed to be all sunshine and rainbows, but that wasn't my grandpa.  Or at least it wasn't all of my grandpa, and it seems to be almost a disservice to not remember him as he was.

Perhaps he spent an exorbitant amount of energy in the time you knew him ranting about the "words on the wall" and how the Chinese and the Mexicans are taking over the country.  I'm not really sure where that all came from.

He didn't go to church when I knew him... and that was my grandpa.  He was raised in a sort of funky church, and by the stories I've heard, was a bit of the family's black sheep.  And I don't remember him ever attending before he got old and ranty about hymnals.

He took out his teeth to make me giggle whenever I asked... and he'd sit for hours and listen to the same terrible knock-knock jokes for hours and laugh at them every time.  And that was my grandpa.

Once, he got mad at something at the hardware store, threw handfuls of nails on the ground in a pique of temper, and stormed out of the store, leaving the poor bewildered employee to clean it all up.  That, too, was my grandpa.

There is a poem from the '60s that starts out:

Listen, my children, and you will hear
of my Daddy's great quest to go shoot a deer.
He left on a cold day in October--
He drove off in the truck, and I think he was sober.

That was my grandpa.

He was the man that taught me to drive a riding lawnmower when I was 8, taught me to watch for bird nests on the side of the road when I was 6, and saved me from the bear rug under the bed when I was 5 (and 6, and 7, and 8, and...).  And that was my grandpa.

He was the man that hooked me on to Zane Grey, though I always wondered what it was Mr Grey hated so much about the pesky Mormons that they were always the bad guys.   And that was my grandpa.

He was warm and funny and kind and good-hearted.  But, he was also impatient and quick to lose his temper.  and that was ALSO my grandpa.

He was married pre-1988 to my grandmother, and she should have been mentioned today.  Shame on you for leaving out such a large part of his life.  My mother, their only daughter, is sitting right here in the front row. They are both a part of the history that made him who he was, and it was a history that deserved to be told.

Today, maybe I'm the only one here that feels weird celebrating only a small part of who he was.  Maybe it doesn't bother anyone else that we're only praising the sunshine and the rainbows.  But my grandpa was more than just the sunshine and the rainbows.  He was whole and he was real, and I loved him for listening to my knock knock jokes just as much as I loved him for leaving my mom's aunt and uncle stranded in the middle of Arizona because he was ticked off.

It's these things that we pass on to the people we live behind.  The good and the bad of who we are... and both figure into the stories and the memories we leave in the wake of our lives. Both make us who we are, and both are important to remember because they make us REAL, and not just caricatures of virtue, prettied-up shells of our real selves.

And if I'm the only one who feels this way, so be it.  I'm not ashamed of that... I will go home with my memories and all the stories I've heard of his whole life.  I will tuck them into my heart, and remember the man that was.  All of him.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Be true

Sometimes things happen just the way they're supposed to. Even when they're hard things, things that you don't WANT to happen...  sometimes they're right.

You can rail against that.  You can fight it.  You can jump up and down and scream that you don't want it.  You can cry and you can be mad.  You can preach about how unfair it all is.

And when you're all done screaming and hitting and throwing a general 2 year old's tantrum, then you can stop. You can stop and you can really look at it. And you can admit that you didn't want it, but you've got it... and you're so much better for it.


Last week, I had a talk with one of my girls about this, in a way.  I can't remember the situation exactly, but I had told her not to do something.  I didn't explain why, it was one of those "do what I tell you to do NOW and we'll talk about why later" sort of things.  Like when you tell your 2 year old not to touch the stove as they're reaching for a hot pan... you don't take five minutes to explain the reasons, you just say "DON'T TOUCH THAT."

Well, at 11 years old, they think they don't need more of that, and that I don't know what I'm talking about.  Course I did... and they ignored me, and the thing I didn't want to happen ended up happening.  And, as a parent, you just want to go "IF YOU HAD JUST LISTENED TO ME!!!"  But we talked about it later...  that I don't tell them to do things just to be mean and to make their lives miserable.  Sometimes, it's because I know more, sometimes it's because I'm wiser, sometimes it's because I've had more experience, and I understand what will happen next. And sometimes I just need them to ACCEPT that and do what I say.

I've been doing some of my own tantruming and ignoring of wisdom for a good long while.  But, of late, a lot of things have come together.  Maybe it's time.  Maybe it's the right friends.  Maybe it's the wisdom I'm finally in a place to listen to.  But things are right... and I can see that now.


Sometimes it's hard to strike out on a new road when you feel... cleansed and different. You want to move on, you want to walk fresh, you want to shed all that you had and were before and forge a new road with the newness of where you are.   But... people don't always let you, do they?  Maybe they can't forgive you for the past. Maybe they don't believe that you can change. Maybe punishing you has simply become a habit. And it's easy to drown under that cloak.

But they don't own you. And they don't own your heart.  And they don't know you.  So, you need to stop listening to that poison. Be strong in the knowledge and the wisdom that where you are is right. That where you are going is good. That who you are becoming is true.

Stand and be true.

--------
Photo Credit: Tiffany Terry, J Cook Fisher

Friday, September 9, 2011

Unpacking: Who's Your Joshua?

To 18yo me


10. You should have three types of friends. 1. Someone who mentors you. 2. Peers. 3. Someone you're mentoring. All three are crucially important. If you're missing one, you're doing it wrong.


Many years ago, Joel and I were leaders in our church's high school youth group.  One year, I remember we taught a bible study called Project 365, where we led the kids through the Bible over the course of a year.  As went through the Old Testament, we learned about Moses and Joshua and the unique mentoring relationship they developed as Moses prepared to pass the baton of leadership.

We talked this over for awhile, and how that was beneficial to both of them.  We developed a philosophy that it was important to be both Moses and Joshua...  That it was important to have someone wiser than you in your life, someone who could teach you, shepherd you, lovingly correct you.  But, we also came to believe that it was important to also be someone's Moses... to share what you've learned with someone who needs it.

"Who's your Joshua?" quickly became our study's catch-phrase as a reminder of the relationships to look for.

Even though I was the leader, that was a lesson that always stuck with me after that... even now, nearly 15 years later, the phrase pops into my head and makes me smile.  But, it also makes me examine my own relationships.  It reminds me to make sure I have people in my life who will lovingly guide and teach me, and also to make sure that I am pouring into someone else's life as well.

Who's YOUR Joshua?  And whose Joshua are you?
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