Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Desert and the Monster

September 2003

I'm lost. I can't find home if I ever had one. I feel like I've been on this journey for months and months with no end in sight. It's late, but I'm hungry. So hungry. Looking for something to eat, just a nibble, to hold me over until the next time my stomach's needs threaten to overtake me with wrenching pain. I come to a black strip of desert. How I hate these. There are evil creatures that frequent these deserts. Monsters that come upon you when you least expect it. Loud, obnoxious, life-stealing. Sometimes you could beat them at their own game. Escape them. But, I'd heard tales of how they could best you. Easily. I'd seen the devastation that they caused. Yes, I hate the deserts. And I hate the monsters more. But, they are everywhere and you have to trust your luck.

My eyes peer through the darkness, looking ahead, right and left. Checking behind me. But, for now, all I see is the dark and the lights beckon me forward. I take a breath and make a break for it. Oh please, let me make it! A quarter of the way. A third of the way. I'm almost halfway there. I can hear? feel? my heart beat in my head with a frantic tribal beat. Halfway there, oh, I'm HOMEFREE!!!!!

I take another step and my worst fears come to light. One of the creatures whips around a corner that I didn't see. He was probably lying in wait for me, just daring me to come out of hiding and brave his domain. What do I do? Oh what do I do? I never understood the panic, the confusion, the horror and terror that would rush over you at this moment when every step could be your last. When you are so frightened, you don't know which way is up or down or sideways. I don't even know what direction I WAS going, much less what direction I should go now! I spin around and make a dash back toward safety.

The wrong way. CRUNCH. There is darkness. Total darkness.

--written by the cat I accidentally ran over on Thursday

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Simple Thought

I come to you with a simple thought today... brought to you through the words of a friend, shared with me during a time that my heart was really hurting.
There are people in this world who just feel good when they are hurting others. We can't be like that. Sometimes the best thing we can do when we are hurt, or when those we love are being attacked, is to hold our heads high and exert as much kindness as we can find.

A simple thought.
Sometimes hard to live out.
But one of the best lessons I've learned.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Tales: June 17th

Dalia sat in the middle of her bed, wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe, and stared at the dress across the room.  The fabric was a creamy white with champagne-colored flowers sewn around the bodice and down the skirt.  She loved the way it skimmed her hips when she walked.  It wasn't the full poufy princess dress that she saw in the bridal magazines, but it was what she had picked for her wedding.

June 17th.  This was the day that she and Landon had selected for their wedding date, and June 17th was today.

Dalia thought back to the day she had first met Landon. The sun had shone that day, but a spring rain had fallen. She sat in a crowded coffeeshop, her college books strewn around her as she studied, when a handsome young man with brown hair that curled just so over his forehead asked if he could sit with her.  That had been the beginning.  He had smiled down at her, and her heart had been lost.

She stood now and let the robe fall from her shoulders.  Stepping naked to the dress, she shimmied into it, once more revelling in the way the fabric slid over her skin.  She stepped into the matching shoes.  Then, she sat on the bed and waited.

A knock on the door sounded, and her sister's voice asked, "Dally?  Are you ready?"

"I'm ready," she answered. "Come in."

The door cracked, and her sister Kelly peeked in.  "Oh Dally," her eyes widened.  "You can't wear that. You just... you can't."

Dalia stepped to the mirror, placed a black veil atop her head, and answered quietly. "I bought it for today. I will wear it for today."  She stepped past her sister without a glance and left the room.

June 17th was also the day of Landon's funeral.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thursday Tales: Poison

The forest was thick. The sky was fading to dark.  The wall in front of me was smooth and high.  Very very high, and it seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see in both directions.  It would take me days to walk around it, and I didn't have days. My best friend, Reese, rested two miles back on the forest path, an arrow through his stomach, and the only medicine in this forest was on the other side of the wall.

"Caitlin, no," he'd protested.  But I couldn't just let the only friend I've ever known perish, could I?

I'd never been on the other side of the wall. I don't think I even knew anyone who had, but the tales and legends of magic and medicine were known to us all.  But how to get through?  I couldn't get around it.  There were no gates, and the surface was as smooth as polished stone. I didn't think I could climb it, either.

Sitting on a fallen log, I dropped my head into my hands and tried to find a solution.

"You could always use the door, you know." The voice made me jump.  It came from a little man, not more than four feet tall. His face was weathered from untold years, and his brown hair out in tufts underneath his faded green hat.

"What door?"

"There." He gestured impatiently behind him and I suddenly noticed a little yellow door at the base of the wall.  "Little" being the operative word here.  It couldn't have been more than 18 inches high.

"I appreciate the help," I began. "But, I think that's a little small for me."

He smiled not unkindly. "As you are, of course. But if you drink the potion..." he trailed off, a bottle and key in his hand.

I leaned forward and plucked the bottle from his hand.  It was a pretty crystal container, with a rich pink liquid inside.  I read the label that accompanied it.  "Mr....?"

"Daythan. Just Daythan" he provided.

"Daythan... Is this some sort of trick?  This says its 'poison.' It doesn't seem like it'd be very safe."

"The world isn't very safe, Miss. Poison is relative, anyway.  It's only poison if you aren't immune to it. Why, you might call the air of your fair city 'poison,' wouldn't you?" He wrinkled his nose in distaste. "And yet your folk seem to live in it.  The words you speak to each other?  Poison of another variety.  And you survive."

I quirked a smile at him. "And the poison that comes in a bottle marked POISON?  I'm supposed to believe that's just fine?"

"It's only poison to the weak, to those who aren't braver than their fears.  But to the courageous? The strong?  Those who have the resolve to resist its powers?  They can withstand the dangers.  The question is...  are you one of them? Young Reese awaits."

Indeed.  Was I one of them? I didn't feel particularly strong and courageous.  I felt afraid. I felt worried. I felt helpless. I plucked the key from Daythan's hand, popped the top of the bottle, and drank.  Sometimes you had to have more faith in what could be than in what you feared.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Don't Wait.

Why do we wait? Why do we hold back? Why do we let fear stop us from saying the things our hearts beg us to say?

The things that are sweetest, the things that are kindest, the things that are the most meaningful, the things that are the most real... these are the things we keep locked up.  These are the things we allow the possibility of embarrassment, the fear of rejection, to keep silent.

We are given so few years on this earth.  So few.  And every moment is a gift that could be the last one.

Too often, it is the I'm mad at you's and the how could you do that's which we give voice to...  and we keep hidden all the I love you's and the you are special to me's and the I really admire you for's.  

Don't wait.  Today.  Give voice to your heart.  

Don't be afraid.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Word of the Day: Hope

Sometimes hope is all we have to hang onto. That can be a blessing.  When all else fails us, we still have that hope.  It's the last thing we can cling to and there are times when we really need that.

When the road is long and hard, it's hope that gets us out of bed in the morning. It's hope that allows us to face the day of uncertainty and hardship. And it's hope that lets us forge ahead because maybe today will be the day that it all comes together.

I believe in hope. It's powerful and it's important and it changes things.

But, sometimes it seems so small and paltry.  Because sometimes you know that hope really is the only thing you're holding onto, and that under that thin layer of hope lies a whole lot of fear.

But you hang on anyway when it's the only thing that you have.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

12 Things: Full Accountability

11. I take full accountability for my life.

This is something I've really thought a lot about over the past several months.

"Own your choices and mistakes." I'm big on this one.  Now, I have a lot of work to DO on this one. I'm not always as good at practicing as I am at preaching, but this is something I'm working on. I feel like it's really important to be honest about the consequences in your life.  We can't treat ourselves like victims all the time.  It's really important to understand and internalize that a good portion of the things that "happen to us" are consequences of our own actions.  It seems really popular in our culture to blame our problems on other people.  And maybe it's not just our culture, maybe that's just human nature.  But I think it's dishonest.  Some things, sure.  But in general, we have more say in what happens to us than we like to admit.  So I think it's really important that we're honest.  That when we make mistakes, we're willing to say "That was wrong of me," and when the consequences come, we understand that they are consequences and not just random things done to us out of sheer cruelty.

On the flipside, taking full accountability means that we also get to take credit for the successes, too.  Not all of life is failures and mess-ups.  Sometimes things go right.  Sometimes we CHOOSE RIGHT.  And if we're going to own our choices in the bad things, owning our choices in the good things is just as important.  It's okay to be proud when you choose right, when you do right.

Actually, I find this important even as we're owning our bad choices.  (Thinking as I type here...)  I've never really had a ton of trouble taking the blame when things go wrong.  Once I see it, I'm often very willing to take it... and take it ALL.  And that's not quite honest either.  I'm thinking in a relationship/friendship sort of context here.  Friendships are two-way... and when they go bust, the blame usually goes two ways, too.  Of late, I've been learning to take responsibility for my share, but for only my share.  No longer am I willing to blame myself for everything, when everything isn't mine to own.  Does that make sense?

Friday, June 1, 2012

12 Things: Forgive Those Who Hurt You

10. I have forgiven those who once hurt me.

I am happy to say that this is something I've made a LOT of progress on this year.  I'm not saying I've cornered the market on the ability to forgive.  In some areas, I still have a long way to go.  But I really feel like I've made a lot of headway over the past few months and that fills me with a tremendous amount of relief.

I think that sometimes we operate under this mistaken assumption that it's the people we're mad at who need our forgiveness, like it's something we dole out if we are feeling particularly kind and accommodating that day.  But, I think I've come to realize that it really isn't about them at all.  Sure, there will be people who just can't operate until they've heard an "I forgive you" when they've apologized for something.  But, forgiveness really isn't for the people you're forgiving.  It's for you.

Here's the thing about forgiving... I think we have to get rid of the idea that there are conditions on it.  "If Alexis does this, THEN I can forgive her for what she did."  Let me give you a vague example. I recently was in a situation where I told someone that I was mad at them, that I had been very hurt by them.  This is something that had been going on for a really, really long time... something that I kept shoving under the rug because I didn't want the confrontation.  But I had the way it was going to go built up in my head.  I was going to explain my hurt.  They were going to apologize. And then I was going to forgive them.  The bolded part is important.  My forgiveness was totally dependent on that apology.  I had convinced myself that I could absolutely forgive them, but only if the apology was forthcoming.

Part 1 went more-or-less okay.  Hurt was explained, and then--  Apology was...not what I expected. It wasn't what I wanted to hear.  It wasn't what I thought I needed to hear, and I felt really deflated.  There was disappointment that they couldn't give me that one thing... but there was also a big sense of "Well, now what?" My condition for forgiveness was really not met the way I had laid out.  Could I still forgive?

As it turned out, the answer I eventually came to was "yes."  But, let's be clear on what forgiveness is.  It's not about saying that whatever they did to hurt you is no big deal.  It IS a big deal.  It's okay to feel that it's a big deal because it is.  Forgiveness isn't about laying yourself back down in front of them and letting them walk over you again. Forgiveness isn't about laughing goodnaturedly and saying "Oh, that spear you shoved through my heart didn't hurt at all, it's okay.  Don't worry about it..."  

It's not that.  But it is saying "That hurt a lot...  and that's not okay.  But, I'm going to choose not to harbor hate and anger toward you over it all the time."  That's what's left when we refuse to forgive.  Something has to fill up that hole that once held love.  And when we choose to not forgive, the things that end up in that hole are hatred and anger and self-righteousness and a desire to stab back.  Why do we do that to ourselves?  The only person that really hurts is US.

And so, too, the choice to forgive is really about us. It's about choosing to boot that anger out of our hearts and fill it back up with love.  Maybe that forgiveness means that you can walk out a continued friendship with the person you've forgiven.  Maybe that forgiveness means that you can finally walk AWAY from that friendship, and just not dwell on it anymore, stuck in the hurt and the what-ifs.  But, mostly, that forgiveness means that you can stop harboring hurt, you can stop harboring anger, you can stop wanting to inflict pain back.

You can finally say, "That sucked.  But I'm not going to let it drown me anymore," and walk on. I'm walking that out in a number of places, and the love that fills back in the holes is pretty nice.