Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When Stories Are Over

Some doors are just ready to be closed. Some chapters are ready to be over.

It isn't a bad thing, though sometimes I think that we see it that way. Like we only close books when the stories have hurt us and we need to move on from them. But that's not always true.

Sometimes... the stories are just over. And we've had the experiences that we're going to have from them. We've cherished the memories. We've enjoyed the relationships. And sometimes when that's all done, it's simply time to move on. Not because we're hurt, but just because what was for us in those stories just isn't there anymore.

Closing the door, closing the chapter... it isn't so much marking the end of a story as it is making room for new ones.

It's like if you keep running back to what was... if you keep looking out the window, hoping that what used to be there is back... if you spend all of your time running backwards, you lose the opportunity to run forward.

What's coming up that is also for you....  well, if you're always looking back, you'll miss it.

Sometimes we allow stories to be over so that we can open up room on our shelves for new stories to unfold. And that's exciting.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Celtic Thunder, Catty Chaos, Comas, and Confidence

When I became a fan of Celtic Thunder, it was very much something that I just stumbled into. I didn't set out to become one, or to get so embroiled in the fan community.  It was just something that unfolded, and so I really didn't have a plan going into it.

One of the things that took me the most aback, in retrospect, is that I simply was unprepared for the Dog Eat Dog experience. It was like someone had taken One Direction, dropped them into the middle of a junior high girls school, and locked up all the teachers.  It was catty crazy chaos.

But I have to be honest. I was a part of it.

It was easy to get swept up into it. After all, everyone else was. It was easy to buy into the competition. It was easy to set the favor of your favorite artist as the prize to be won. It began to seem normal to be constantly eyeing other fans, being sure that they weren't prized more than you. It wasn't enough to be appreciated. You wanted to be favored, above all others. Jealousy ran the show. Envy ruled.

I got swept up in that. I did.

It took a brush with death (and not my own) to get shaken out of it. My favorite singer ended up in a coma.  Funny... those things tend to bring life into focus, and this did. I realized that it didn't matter how my relationships compared to anyone else's. What mattered is that they existed at all.

All of a sudden, all that power play lost its importance. It stopped mattering to me what other people's relationships were. They didn't have anything to do with me. And when they stopped mattering, jealousy and envy became something of the past. It became a lot easier to love people, even if I didn't like them that much.  They didn't have anything that I thought I needed, so how could I hate them for it anymore?

And in the end, I was simply a lot happier.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Coming Apart to Come Together

Sometimes the answer to a broken relationship isn't so much "No" as it is "Not yet."

Or even "Not as you are."

It hurts when a relationship breaks up, doesn't it? You wanted so much for it to work out, and then it doesn't. And you're left with heartache, broken hopes and dreams, new fears, and a wondering of what it was about you that wasn't okay.

But sometimes it isn't that you weren't meant to be friends or lovers... but you just needed to grow up a little first. You needed to grow. They needed to grow.  And then you could start again.

My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We began dating in the spring of our sophomore year, wee babes of 15. We made googly eyes. We passed notes. We spent every waking moment together. By Day 3, we were saying "I love you."

And by the middle of that summer, we'd broken up.  There were lots of little reasons for that... 20 years later, we probably still disagree on what those reasons are.  But, the honest truth of it was that we just needed to mature the tiniest bit.  We needed to approach our relationship differently.  And a few months as "just friends" allowed us to do that...

It wasn't really even that long before we tried again, but with different perspectives...  and we have nearly 20 years of marriage to show for that.

But it isn't just romantic relationships... friendships, too.  Sometimes things don't work out the first time. But the second time? The second time can be much better. It can be more honest, more intelligent. You learn things by coming apart that you need when you come back together. And learning those things makes you a stronger person, and can make the relationship stronger as well...

Sometimes it isn't the relationship that needs healing. It's the people that need growth.  And it's okay to come apart for awhile in order to do that.

If you're meant to be connected, you'll find each other again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Jar of Pickles

My mom lives by herself.  Like many of us, she's one of those people who buys food with really good intentions of eating it... and then, because there's only one of her, just doesn't end up consuming it before the expiration date.  Only... she never cleans those things out.

One of the first things I do when we visit is go through her fridge and toss all the things that are expired.

So that we don't die.

Usually, this is milk... yogurt... strange things in tupperware boxes.

But then there was the year of the pickles.

This might have been the first year that I did a major clean-up of my mom's food supply. Like usual, there was the usual yogurt. Salad dressings that were past their prime.  And the pickles.

Friends, this was in 2006.  The pickles?  Oh, those had expired in 1996!! She'd had the same pickles in her fridge for 12 years!  Now, I counted back.. and as I sat there in front of the fridge surrounded by my 6-year-old twins, I realized that these were probably pickles that she bought for my high school graduation open house!  These were some old pickles.  Cucumbers from the harvest of 1962. She moved HOUSES with them.

I guess we all have our own pickles, don't we? Things that we should get rid of, things that just aren't for us anymore. Its not that they're bad things... they're just a jar of pickles that we've had in the fridge for too long.

But somehow, it's hard to get rid of those things. They don't bring us the joy that they once did... but once... they did. And getting rid of them feels like saying those memories and those past joys are invalid. But the truth is that those pickles just don't taste the way they did when they were fresh.  And every time you try one, you become just a little more unhappy with pickles in general.

Maybe you have something that you need to let go. Maybe you need to just be okay with throwing out the jar of pickles.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday Tales: Bad Blood



I scanned the lunchroom and my heart sank.  One seat in the whole place... and it was across from her. The girl who had somehow become something like an arch-nemesis.

I didn't hate her... there was just bad blood. Old bickerings, old insults.  They still hung in my mind, and maybe they still hung in hers. But it was either there or in the pouring rain outside. What choice did I have?

Practically tiptoeing up to the chair, I slid into it quietly -- like if I didn't make a sound, she wouldn't notice that I was there. I kept my eyes downcast... but the sigh of disgust that blew my way let me know that my ruse was up. Our eyes met and I mumbled, "Sorry."

We sat there in uncomfortable silence as I carefully laid out my lunch...  Avoided looking at each other, avoided speaking to each other.

Finally, I blurted out, "Look, can we start over? This is silly..."

She looked at me a long time, and then shrugged, "Yeah, sure, whatever."

Talk was stilted... but at least polite.  But when her friends walked up and she got up to join them, their words floated back to me.

"Why are you sitting with her?" they asked.
"Ugh... she just sat down. She's so awful."

Tears stung the back of my eyes...  of course they did. But I made a choice in that moment.

Maybe there would always be bad blood...  it just wasn't going to be mine.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

When Integrity is Elusive

Integrity isn't always easy. Doing the right thing isn't always the thing that we want to do.

Sometimes that's because it requires an extra step, an extra bit of effort. Sometimes it's because doing the right thing will make it impossible to do the things that we secretly want, and it can be hard to climb over that selfishness.

Sometimes doing the right thing is lonely. You're the only one -- and that's hard for a couple reasons.  To begin with, you're alone. Hard things are always easier when you have someone to share it with. So to do something alone... it's heart-challenging.

But, too, when you're the only one doing the right thing... it sends a message to everyone else. And perhaps it isn't one that you intend.  Perhaps the message you intend is more like "This is what's right for me, so this is what I'm going to do."  But often the message that gets heard is "This is what's right... and you're Satan's spawn for not doing it."

The truth is that all of us do things that are wrong...  Much of the time, we even know that it's wrong and that we should be choosing something different. So when we're already dealing with an inner conscience who we are purposely ignoring, it's doubly uncomfortable to get a message from outside that reinforces the message of the one that we're getting on the inside.

Because... we know.  We already know.  But, the more voices that tell us we're wrong, the harder it is to ignore and, truly I think, the more guilty that we feel.

We don't like feeling that way.

But changing what we're doing...  well, we don't want to do that either.  So the other choice for making the feeling go away?  Oh that choice is to attack the outside voice. If we can make that voice disappear, it's so much easier to keep on going, doing what we were doing.

So, when you're the outside voice...  it can be awfully lonely doing the right thing.

But I think that integrity is important -- and so you still have to go after it. You still have to keep trying to do what's right -- because, at the end of the day, I would rather be the one person holding out a hand than to be part of the crowd throwing stones.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mistakes and Beating Yourself Up

We had a small crisis the other day in my house.

After writing on an English assignment for 17 pages, my daughter realized she had misunderstood the directions, had been writing the wrong thing, and was going to need to start over. Understandably, she was upset. But as I tucked her in bed that night, she wasn't as upset that she was going to need to start over but that she had messed up again.

"Why am I always screwing up??" Her frustration and self-incrimination were palpable.

So we talked a bit about mistakes and how everyone makes them.  But that they're just mistakes -- that you own them, you do what you have to do to fix them, you learn from them, and then you move on.

I was always a perfectionist dieter-- which is not a great thing to be if you're the kind of person who occasionally caves in to her cookie cravings.  When I inevitably succumbed, I would do the same thing that my daughter was doing. I'd beat myself up for the mistake and tell myself that I was never going to be able to do it.  And who can succeed with such negative self-talk?

But what made the difference for me was that when I returned to losing weight last year, I promised myself that I wasn't going to do that.  Not that I wasn't ever going to cave to cravings, but that I wasn't going to beat myself up. I wasn't going to put myself down. I was going to forgive myself. I was going to extend grace to myself.  And if you ask me what my real secret to success has been?  That's it.

Forgive yourself.

I got to put that into practice last night. It was my first day filling a role at work that I've never filled before -- and I messed up.  It wasn't an end of the world thing. It was fixable... but required 20 extra minutes plus the help of two other employees.  And honestly, I really didn't want to mess up on my first day!!

But you own what you did.
And you do what you need to do to fix it.
You learn from it so you don't do it again next time.

And you forgive yourself.

Friday, October 10, 2014

When what we think we deserve changes

We accept the love that we think we deserve.  Have you ever heard that? I can identify with that.

There was a time that I accepted and soaked up the first adult female friendship that came my way because I thought that was the best that I could expect. But the truth is that it wasn't a very healthy friendship -- fraught with jealousy, painful manipulation, and one-up-man-ship, one that required constantly walking on eggshells so as to not upset the delicate balance that kept us all upright.

But that wasn't the best that I could expect.  There was so much more that could be friendship, but I accepted less because I truly didn't think that I could hope for more. I hardly deserved more, did I? I was so broken. I didn't deserve more --  and I believed that.

Until I didn't.

Until I realized that, yes, there was far more that one could expect from friendship and that, yes, I absolutely deserved more. Not that I was somehow specialler than anyone else, but I wasn't broken-er than anyone else either. I deserved goodness and commitment and caring and trust.

The funny thing about beginning to recognize your own worth is that it becomes a lot harder to stay around people who don't. It's hard to stay around people who don't respect you enough to treat you like someone worthy of respect. And why should you?

That doesn't mean you act in cruelty. You stay kind... you stay caring. But perhaps it means that you don't continue to put yourself into their path. You don't give them the option anymore of treating you as less-than.  That doesn't make you wrong. It makes you someone who respects themselves.

There's strength in that.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fixing Yourself by Breaking Someone Else

Have you ever tried to fix yourself by breaking someone else? It doesn't work very well, does it? Sometimes it's person-specific... maybe they hurt you, and you want them to hurt back. Sometimes it's a lot more general... you're having a crappy day, and gosh darn it, if the world isn't going to have a crappy day too!!

The thing about breaking other people to fix yourself is that it's a lot like emotional eating. It gives you a bit of satisfaction for that moment that you're engaged in it... but when that moment is over, you're left with guilt and regret ---  and have done absolutely nothing to fix the problem that you were trying to solve in the first place.

Breaking someone else to make yourself feel better is a little like that. It fills an ugly little hole in your heart for a moment... but it's an even uglier fix to a problem that you still haven't solved -- only created new ones on top of your brokenness.

So what can we do?

First, I think that we have to recognize that we're even doing it. You can't stop something if you don't know what it looks like.  Just become aware of it... even if that's after you've done it.  But at least become aware.

We have to think of ways that we can create the same emotional response other than making them feel bad too.  Then, before we open our mouths, we can stop, acknowledge that we're looking for that response, and choose a different mode of getting it -- preferably one that doesn't hurt someone else.

And when we stop creating more problems for ourselves all the time, we can actually go about the business of healing the wounds that needed the emotional salve in the first place.

We can fix ourselves without breaking others... in fact, maybe it's the only that we can.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

When No One Understands

It's okay if no one understands.

I don't know what it might be for you. Perhaps it's a dream you have, an ambition that burns in your heart. Perhaps it's a crisis of self... a changing of thinking. Maybe it's a relationship that no one understands why you engage in.

It can be hard when no one understands. You get to feeling a bit alone.

But I think it's important to understand yourself that there might be a difference between "alone" and "wrong." We get trained into conformity. We're rewarded for it, aren't we? When we're like everyone else, we get the prize of being accepted. And sometimes when we're not like everyone else, we get the shame of being excluded... and that teaches us not to be different. It teaches that "alone" is "wrong."

History is full of people who were "wrong."  Yet not actually wrong... just different. They believed something else. They dreamed something else. They loved something else. And I can imagine that sometimes they felt pretty alone too.

But I like to think that maybe they understood that alone was okay...  Maybe they came to a place where they embraced that being different, that believing different, that dreaming different... even if there was no one else who understood them...

Maybe they came to a place where they understood that different was okay.
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