Sunday, June 29, 2014

When "I'm Fine" Isn't

You answered that you were just fine when I asked you how you were doing. The road Life had pushed you onto looked like a hard one to me, and so I was concerned for you, my friend.

You said you were fine... and I believed you.

And you looked fine! You handled every obstacle with bravery. You faced every trial with dignity. You never complained, you just did what needed to be done.

So I believed you and I let myself worry about you less. 

You were brave and you didn't call attention to your struggle... and I forgot. I forgot that even though you were strong and even though you were quiet and even though you weren't calling out...

Even though all those things were true, I forgot you were still struggling. And I forgot to pay attention.

And I forgot that "I'm fine" doesn't always means "I don't need you." 

Sometimes "I'm fine" means "I'm doing okay... because you're here and because you care."

And so, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I forgot to see the struggle, and I'm sorry that I didn't make more effort to be here.

I forgot you needed me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What do you really want?

I was on a walk with my daughter yesterday afternoon when she asked me, "Mom, what are you afraid of?"

I'm sure the answer she was looking for was the normal things that I would have said...  bears hunting me down for dinner, falling out of a roller coaster, getting run over by a car, horror films, etc.  because her answer was along the lines of "death, zombies, and horror games."  Giving that answer wouldn't have been untrue -- I'm scared (usually idiotically so) of those things, too.

But that wasn't what came out of my mouth.  After thinking about it a few minutes, I answered:

Having my trust broken
Being taken advantage of
Not knowing when I'm being lied to

Maybe they're not as death-inducing as the flesh-hungry bears... but they wrap my heart up in knots more. Maybe it's because I know that attack by bear is probably pretty unlikely, despite all my big talk.  But, my trust being broken, not being told the truth -- those feel almost like givens. Maybe because I know that I'm about as good at discernment as I would be at fending off a bear.

And I wish that this wasn't so.  I wish that these weren't so likely, and that I didn't have such a hard time dealing with them. But, they are and I do. Sometimes I wish that I was a harder person -- that I was less soft, less pliable, less trusting. That cynicism would protect me from trusting that which shouldn't be trusted. Maybe that would be easier.

But I wouldn't be me.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tricks I Play On Myself When I Run (and When I Live)

1. Think small.  

Sometimes I start out running and the plan of 5 miles feels far too big. At 1/2 Mile, I think "There's no way I can get through five miles today. No way. Let's just walk now."  And that's when I think, "Don't worry about 5 miles. Worry about the next half-mile.  That's all you have to do. Half a mile."  I can run half a mile... and I don't worry about the rest just then.  I can worry about the rest later.  But the first challenge is just that half mile.

Living my life is similar.  Some things seem really big to get through and I want to just throw in the towel. So I think small.  I don't have to get through a week or a month or a year. I just have to get through today.  Or sometimes even just this hour.

2. If they can do it, you can do it.

This is a trick that plays on my own stubbornness and competitiveness. I have friends who run faster and farther. And when I want to throw in the towel and walk away, I think, "They can do it. There is no reason that you can't, too." Part of that is probably an unhealthy comparing... but part of it is the realization that the only thing standing in my way of getting to that level is time, determination, and my own head. I'm healthy, I'm getting stronger every day... And while I don't expect myself to perform at the level now, I know that I could in time if I put in the work now. There is no reason that I can't do it, too.

And it's the same for qualities I'd like to emulate... Nothing is really standing in way of being like the people I'd like to be like... except me. My own selfishness, anger, etc... But if I'm willing to change my heart, if I'm willing to learn to let things not-bother me as much...  those qualities are in my grasp.  It's not an issue of can't, but won't.

3. When you get to the top, you can choose to rest.

This is usually something I tell myself when I'm about 80% o the way up a hill.  I want to quit.  It's hard. I'm out of breath and my legs are burning. At this point, I'm pretty sure that I'm going to die. But, telling myself that I can quit when I get to the top of the hill encourages me to keep going just a little further, and gives me the enticement of rest to get me the rest of the way.  And most of the time?  Once I get to the top and I'm out of the perceived hell of the incline, once I get a taste of comparative rest of the crest or a downhill, I don't need to rest.  My mind and my body realign and I realize that I could go a little further.

My life is the same way. Sometimes the things we walk through seem so hard, and we want nothing else but a respite, a break from the pressure. And so I tell myself that I can have one... as soon as I get through this. Sometimes I take one -- I believe in taking care of yourself so that you can healthily give out to others. But sometimes... when I get through the problem -- sometimes I find that I don't need the break. Sometimes I find that I'm okay and that the obstacle, in the end, wasn't as awful as it seemed in the middle.

4. You will be so proud when you are done.

Running is hard. I think that, physically, it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. And it keeps being hard because I keep upping the ante of what I expect from myself.  A year ago, hard was running for 10 minutes.  Now, hard is running for an hour.  It's always tough. But that moment when I finish?  That moment when I look behind me at what I just accomplished? That is a beautiful moment that is full of such pride in hard work -- It's worth it.  That moment, that feeling... it's worth it.

And getting through my life's trials has the same pride. Sometimes getting to the other side has come through so many tears, through so many setbacks, and so many starting-overs. It has come with heartache and confusion and so many failures --  that to get to the other side is amazing. The other side is reached with relief and gratitude, and, oh yes, pride.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Choosing the People Who Influence You

When I was about 13, I had a friend that I spent a lot of time with. I didn't really recognize it at the time, but she wasn't really wasn't the nicest person ever. She was my friend, so I didn't see it... but she definitely wasn't nice to her mom and, even more so, not nice to her younger sister.

My mom has said that, when I would spend extensive amounts of time with this friend, I would come home and, for a couple of days, I would act out in the ways I had experienced. I would be nastier to my sisters myself. I would be snottier with my mom. I, of course, denied these things at the time... but in retrospect, I can look back and see that they were true.

It was probably this experience, more than anything, which taught me that who you spend your time with makes a difference in how you behave and who you become.

A Big Idea for me over the past year has been the thought that you get to choose who you want to be. If you want to be a kind person, you can choose to be a kind person. If you want to be well-read, you can choose to be that. If you want to be compassionate or rude or generous or stingy, you can make those choices.  And the choices that other people make don't have to dictate the choices that you make for yourself.

But along with that... there is an understanding that who you expose yourself to has an impact on the person you are choosing to be.  It's a lot easier to be positive when you are spending time with positive people. It's easier to spend time reading when you are around people who understand the value in that activity. It's easier to choose to show kindness to those around you when you spend some time with people who are kind themselves.

And these things are connected. You get to choose who you want to be, and you can choose to be that thing, no matter what choices the people around you are making.  But perhaps who we spend time with is an extension of our choices. If we choose to spend time with people who are mean and cruel, maybe that says something about how shallow our conviction to kindness really is.

I don't know... it's something to think about, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Letting Go... Again

On Wednesday, I sat at the river's edge and I prayed that I could let the hurt go.  And I did.  I let it go. I breathed a sigh of relief and felt the weight lifted off my shoulders.

On Thursday, I remembered something they'd said, and the pain twisted in my heart all over again. I took a breath and I let it go. I breathed another sigh and felt the weight lifted off my shoulders.

On Friday, I scanned through my Twitter feed and saw that a tweet of theirs had been retweeted by a common acquaintance.  Just seeing their name made everything flood back in anew. And as the tear wound its way down my cheek, I shook my head, took a breath, and let it go.

But with a little frustration.

I had done this the day before. And I had done it the day before that and the day before that and the day before that.  When was it going to get easier?

Sometimes letting go is like that. It's not a choice that you make once. It's a choice that you make over and over again. The opportunity to pick it up rolls in front of your feet so often at first, and it's tempting.  It's right there. You could just snag it with your fingertips and roll around in it some more.

You could let the bitterness seep back into your skin. No one would even have to know.

But you would know.

It would color all over again the way you see people, the way you see things, the way you see you. Healing is sometimes a slow process, and it requires us to let go, one moment at a time, until we can let go two moments at a time.  And then three.  And then half a day.... and so on.  Eventually, we don't have to choose so often. Eventually, we really do let it go.

But in the beginning...  in the beginning, we may have to choose to let go multiple times. That doesn't make you a Letting Go failure. It just means this is hard -- and it is. It is hard. You're going to take a lot of breaths, and the you're going to shed a lot of weights off your shoulders. And you're going to have to choose a lot of times.

But, my darling, keep choosing. The road to healing can be a hard one, but the road through bitterness is worse.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Thursday Tales: His Loss

(on Monday)

Things ended.

So I got my hair cut, and I rejoined that gym. I bought a new dress. My friends took me out to brunch and told me how much better off I was without him.  How I was more than he deserved. How I was lucky to be free again.

Maybe they were right. So I told myself the same thing.  That I'm better off without him. That I'm more than he deserved. That I'm lucky to be free again.

And maybe I'm right.

But relationships don't exist in vacuums, and their demise doesn't lie on the shoulders of any single one of us. We ended because of things he did, yes.  But we ended because of things I did, too. And things he didn't do and things I didn't do.  And things we did and didn't do together.

And while my friends are taking me out to brunch and telling me how much better off I am now...  I know that his friends are doing the same thing.  Taking him out for drinks, telling him I was crazy, and that he's way better off without me, how lucky he is to be free again.

Maybe they're right too.  Maybe everyone is right.

But... as much as I toss my head and bring up every one of his offenses...  as often as I say, "Well, it's his loss!"  If I'm honest?  If I'm truly honest and I look deep into my heart, I know that the loss is mine, too.

And maybe we're better off apart, maybe that's true. But I loved what we were when we were together, too. And so I miss that... and I grieve that...

It wasn't just his loss.  It was ours.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Live from Intention

Habits are easy. They feel natural because they either are our natural responses, or we've done them so often that they've become our natural responses.

We get up and we take a shower.
Someone says "Thank you" and we say "You're welcome."
We get nervous and we bite our nails.
We get mad and we lash out.
We witness "uncomfortable" and we... do nothing.

Habits. They're easy.

But what happens when your habits are things that you don't want in your life? What happens when your habits are things that you don't want to be or do any longer? They're easy, but they're unwanted.

So, you choose to live from intention. You consciously decide the person that you want to be, the traits you want to exhibit, the reactions that you want to become your habits.

And that's difficult at first... because sometimes the things you want to be don't feel natural. They aren't habits you've had in the past. They're new. They don't fit yet. I'm a Northwesterner... and so, back in the 90s, we all had Birkenstocks. And when you get Birkenstocks, they feel weird at first. Eventually, the sole will mold to the shape of your foot... but at first, even when they're the right size, they don't fit.

Living from intention is something like that. 

Your intentions are new, and sometimes you have to make the choice to live in line with your intentions every minute. And you have to choose anew every single minute. You have to learn to catch yourself before you fall into your old habit. And you have to choose every time.

But eventually, you choose less.  Eventually, your new intentions become easier to choose. You don't have to fight against your old habits quite as hard. And sometimes they become new habits.

Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they stay hard. Sometimes they remain things that you have to choose over and over. Maybe, at that point, you re-examine and you decide if that intention is really what is meant for your life. Maybe you make the choice to walk away from it.

But, maybe you decide... "No.  It's still who I want to be."  And so even if it's hard, you keep choosing.

Because you get to choose. You get to choose who you are. You get to choose what you say. You get to choose what you do.

Living from habit is easy... and you can choose that, too. But I'm not happy with who I am when I merely live from habit.

I like the me that I choose to be.

Friday, June 6, 2014

When We Protect By Attack

Have you ever been a part of a community when war suddenly breaks out within it? It begins with two people in the group getting into a disagreement, sometimes a big one... and before you know it, the entire community has taken sides, drawn lines in the sand, and begun pelting each other with word bombs.

To my chagrin, I must admit to having done this. I've taken the side of someone I cared about (that's not cringe-worthy, necessarily)... but I've participated in the attacks on the people who sat on the other side. But, far worse, I must admit to being part of the original disagreement. I must admit to letting people take my side. And I must admit to saying nothing when people who took my side defended me by attacking those on the other.

There is a kind of smug satisfaction that comes when people defend you in that way. It feels like a validation that you're the one that's right -- that people care so much about the offenses done to you that they're willing to attack in your name. If that's so, clearly you must be the victim. Clearly, you are the one worthy of that sort of support. Clearly, you are the one who is right.

But... perhaps it says something about you that people are willing to attack others in your name. But more, it says something about you that you are willing to let them. That you being right and you being the victim is more important than exhibiting kindness and compassion. That you being right is worth other people being attacked.

I know the temptation to protest, "Oh, but I haven't asked them to do that... they're making their own choices!" Like this absolves me of guilt.... but, in truth, it does not. For, if I said something, if I protested that it wasn't right to treat others in that way, don't you think that it would have an effect? The way people defend us, and the way we let them, it says something about who we are.

And if you're the person thinking that attacking someone else is a good way to protect and defend the person you love... Stop and think about that. Stop and think about what that says about you... and what you're saying about the person you're trying to protect.

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