Brokenness, Comparision, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, Growth, identity

The comparison trap

I love it when a good blog topic comes together! I always know I am supposed to write about something when I get this kind of affirmation from God. Let me tell you what led up to me sitting on my couch talking out-loud about one of my hugest character defects: Comparison. If you ever struggle with feeling less-than or better-than, you are in good company and I hope you can learn a couple things that might alleviate some of the pain that comes from living with the emotionally detrimental effects of comparing yourself to others.

None of this is a new battle for me, I just have become excruciatingly aware of the damage it has on my serenity through some recent and serious comparison “opportunities”. As a result, while driving 3 hours to Missouri, I finally listened to some CDs a friend gave me about a year ago ( sorry, girl!). There were 6 CDs hammering home “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene’ Brown, a Shame Researcher. Ya, I know, just some light travel entertainment. She said a lot of poignant junk that I could definitively benefit from, but one particular phrase that stood out was, “comparison kills vulnerability.” According to her, comparison is the number one blocker of real, authentic relationships with others and peace with oneself. I knew immediately this was an area of growth that was gonna involve some retraining and rewiring of my default setting: comparing myself to practically everyone.

This new information had been marinating in my mind for a few days when I had a revelation one morning while jogging on the treadmill next to some “real” runners. Well, that’s what myself told myself. I was running with all my might and felt a little like my heart was going to burst. I was about a stride away from just flying off the back of the treadmill into the people on the rowers-who I am pretty sure were staring at my backside and feeling sorry for me (“bless her heart…she thinks she is a runner:). The people on either side of me were clipping along at a much more rigorous pace and yet they were smiling, talking and hardly sweating or breathing hard. What gives? This is when the slogan I have often quoted to myself but not totally bought into, apparently, came to mind: “Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides”. This is exactly how it works; I feel something or know something inside me and determine I am a mess, a failure, a loser, because people around me (in my office, at the gym, at my church, and on the guru of all vulnerability killers, social media) SEEM to be just fine and dandy. They don’t seem to be “huffin’ and puffin’”. Their life looks glamorous, their kids and husband appear successful and kind and amazing. None of my internal reaction to what goes on in my dark, insecure, egocentric, judgmental, embarrassing insides makes me want to share anything with people who I perceive as having it all together based on what they portray on the outside.

The final “sign” to me that this is an area I could stand to do some work on, came when I sat down to write about it. I had piddled around so long that I ran out of time so I decided to just do my daily reading in my Recovery book and revisit this blog another time. I opened to the page for February 13th and just started crying. Here were some of the phrases:

-Comparing myself to others was a defect of character that plagued me all my life.
-I didn’t like myself because I wasn’t living up to what I believed to be true about others.
-I (now) know that my growth can’t be compared with anyone else’s…I have learned that I can’t judge my insides with other people’s outsides. We’re all doing the best we can.

Another reading earlier in February points out that when we live like we are are on a ladder, “everyone above me-to be feared or envied-or below me-to be pitied”, we kill vulnerability. We sacrifice our chance to have authentic, meaningful relationships with others and ourselves. We ante-up or work to protect our secrets and flaws. We can’t relax and just be our whole-hearted selves. We end up lonely and exhausted.

And by we, I mean me. Though I have a hunch I might not be alone in this Comparison trap. In order to get out if it, I plan to change my belief and expectations about who I wish I was and who I am meant to be. I have to own my own story and stand firm in the knowledge that I am exactly who and where God wants me to be today.  I am enough. And so are you.

Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality

Junk drawers, closets and character defects

As I have mentioned before, I am a Realtor. I have shown hundreds of houses over the past 4 years. And should you ever decide to sell your house, spoiler alert, we will open your closets and junk drawer (or drawers). We try our best to give people a reasonable notice before a showing, but the reality is that sometimes we happen upon your house while looking at another and our clients want to see it; preferably right now or in the immediate future. Since we encourage our sellers to never turn down a showing, this leads to a fair amount of panic on the seller’s part and the quickest way to tidy up, is by shoving things in the nearest closet or drawer. And while it works for a one time showing, it’s a poor plan for a long term solution to organization. Eventually you have to remove that toy, laundry basket, backpack or item of clothing that doesn’t really belong there.

i think it’s safe to say that we all have a closet or a drawer that has accumulated random items over time and is threatening to overflow the next time the door is opened. One friend of mine said her junk drawer was so full that the contents were forced out the back of the drawer into the cabinet below. She discovered it when she found her toddler, who was playing with in the Tupperware cupboard was entertaining herself with random, not so child-friendly items from the junk drawer above! A sure sign that the time has come to exert some effort sorting out what belongs in there and removing what doesn’t.

For me, this is a helpful visual for what happens when I don’t deal with my emotions or reactions to my circumstances in a healthy, head-on way. I get my little feelings hurt, my ego takes a shot to the head, a loved one is in pain, I fail at something that’s important to me, a friend betrays a trust, I hurt someone I care about, I act like a selfish brat, etc. I develop character defects. I often don’t take the time necessary to reflect and pray and give it to God. Instead, I toss it in the drawer/closet because I am too lazy-or terrified-to hold it in my hand, name it for what it is, and either discard or put it in it’s rightful place (in God’s hands is the best place I have found thus far). Because if I don’t, if I keep shoving it in, it’s only a matter of time before something big happens that tops off the drawers’ capacity for holding all the junk you thought was safely and soundly hidden away. Or someone else opens that door or drawer and all hell breaks loose; stuff (like anger, harsh words, craziness or crying) is spilling out on to innocent people that were just the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.

While it’s challenging to fully address every emotion or circumstance at it comes at us, it’s paramount that we don’t neglect it for long. I have a couple closets and a junk drawer that sing my name like a haunting siren’s song every time I walk past. I have been ignoring them for far too long and now they are causing me great anxiety, maybe greater anxiety than they should because instead of asking myself, “does this belong in here?”, I just throw it in and pray to God it will shut without issue.

I could learn a couple things about myself using this analogy. One: Stashing the junk away without thought or consideration will eventually catch up with me. i can deal with it one hurt or confounding problem at a time, or I can deal with a plethora of them when they burst out on their own, often without fair warning, harming me or other innocent bystanders who were just looking for some scotch tape.

Two: When you get rid if the stuff you don’t need, it becomes easier to access the stuff you do. There have been many times that I have needed a small screwdriver or measuring tape, which I know for a fact are somewhere in my junk drawer, and after rummaging for several minutes have had to walk all the way to my basement (sigh) and get one from the tool box. The junk that shouldn’t be in there (i.e. Bars of soap, 7 pair of scissors, toilet bowl bleach pod, lotion, gum wrappers, and 47 pens) keeps me from finding the items I really need. The interesting thing is, when I sort my junk drawer, most of it actually goes back in. That’s the cool part. Once I take it out, I look at it and determine if it is worthlessness or dangerous and should be taken out of the drawer. If it is useful and necessary, I put it back in an organized fashion, easily available for when it’s purpose calls.

I love this summarized thought from a book called “Courage to Change (p.65)”:

“We don’t ask God to add anything, but rather to take away the things we do not need. I found that every single defect that was removed had been hiding an asset. I didn’t lose myself at all. Instead, as I let go of the things I didn’t need, I made room for my strengths, skills, and feelings to become more fully a part of my life. I take comfort in this, because it reminds me that everything I need is already present…God knows exactly what I need and has already given it to me. My job is to keep it simple and ask for God’s help in relieving me of the extra stuff-the shortcomings that keep me tied down.”

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

A note to you…

I’ve been stalling. Since Nine O’clock this morning I have been stalling. I know I want to write something but for lots of reasons that you don’t need to know, I keep coming up with other “‘necessary and spiritual” things that require my attention. I almost always write first thing in the morning, mainly because by the time I hit 3:00 PM on most days, I’ve ceased caring about doing anything productive or addressing anything that might hurt my brain. Nevertheless, here I sit in my writing spot on my blue couch, feet perched on my coffee-stained table, thinking out loud on paper so I can get a grasp on some of my recent hauntings.

I have a couple things on my mind, but today a new special something has cropped up. Might as well share it, since those other hauntings will no doubt hover around until I reason them out with you another fine day. Here’s how this blog came about…

I have recently determined to follow through with connecting with a few women who I would like to get to know a bit better. They seem like people I could laugh with, learn from and maybe even encourage if God chooses to use me in that way. I reached out to them and set up times to get together. I met with one of them today. A morning meeting lasted until this afternoon and my heart is so full. When I write, one of my main goals (aside from unloading and unpacking all my craziness on paper for my own sanity) is to help those who read feel less alone. Less weird. Less defeated. Less hopeless, afraid that they will never change or grow or heal. Today, this woman did that for me. I came home refreshed and lighter and less of all the things I long to alleviate in you.

Not only did I come home with a new energy and hopeful spirit, I sat for a few minutes to reflect on the fact that had my life not been a virtual roller coaster of chaos and challenges that seemed to crash relentlessly for years, I may not have ever even met this woman. I may never have met you, or come to the kind of relationship we now have. I write and you read (can’t imagine why, other than I know first hand the gift of realizing you’re “not the only one) and we have a special bond. I can feel it. Even when just one of you comments, I know I am doing what God has prepped me to do. Without the messiness and grittiness of cancer and family addiction and upheaval of almost my entire social network in one fell shwoop, we would still be strangers or superficial acquaintances. All that stuff really sucked (Sorry mom! A Nicer-lady-like word doesn’t really do it justice 😬 ) and at times I wished every bit of it would go away and my life would go back to “normal”. But God…He had other plans for me. For all of us.

During times when I feel self-pity calling me to curl up and isolate from all humans outside my house, I review a list I once made. A list of all the people I have met or reconnected with in a new way since everything flipped upside down 8 years ago. There are at least 100 people on it. I could probably add more if I sat down today and reevaluated. My point is, without going through the stuff that I thought was ruining my life, I may have never met or enhanced my relationships with those of you who saved my life.

When I came home from my marathon get-to-know-ya meeting today, I picked up a book by Anne Lamott and read the final chapter before I put it back on its’ place on the shelf. I got to the bottom of the page and read, “she was diagnosed with Leukemia”. Lamott spent the rest of the chapter talking about her friend’s life and the memorial service that her friend actually attended, insisting she be present for the celebration before she died. After I cried like a baby for a minute or two, I smiled and prayed a grateful prayer for being allowed to live. I don’t know why I didn’t die. I know for sure it was not of my doing. Plenty of sweeter, kinder less needy, selfish and bossy people die all the time. That’s confusing to me but I am certainly not pointing this out to God just now.

February 6, 2020 will mark 5 years since my Leukemia Diagnosis. I am “all clear”, whatever that means. It’s an appropriate time to sit here, where I have sat about 1,000 times with books and IPad at my fingertips and say “thank you”. ‘Thank you” to God. ‘Thank you” to you. We go through what we go through so we can help others get through the same. God does not waste any of it. Remember that. Always remember that.

Faith/Spirituality

The blank space_____________________

Waiting: not my favorite. Pretty much everything about that word gives causes me to feel anxious and agitated. Now that I am writing about it, i am becoming even more aware of how much I hate to wait. And if I do have to wait, I try combat the monotony of it by doing something productive. Having a phone helps (or contributes to my problem) because I can answer calls or send emails while I am waiting. I have actually almost missed a flight because I avoided getting in line to board the plane until the last possible second so I wouldn’t have to wait in the long, smelly corridor one more minute than necessary. Apparently flight attendants are not very sympathetic about my aversion to waiting lines.

Today is January 7th; only one short week from the biggest goal-setting day of the year. At a time when most people are fired up and ready to make it their”best year ever!”, I still feel like I am in limbo. I Feel like I am waiting on something whose outline has not been revealed. The who, what, where, when and why are hazy and seem excruciatingly far off.

My tendency during a phase like this is to become aimless, discouraged, immobilized, or worse yet, prone to taking some random action just to feel like I am at least doing something. My timing and God’s timing are very different. My timing is typically “now”. I feel  ready to grab the bull by the horns, saddle up, and get going already! But, as it usually works, God brought me a “word” through 2 of my daily readings yesterday. Both of them spoke to me about this nonsense of waiting. First, Oswald Chambers put it to me softly: “When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.” I most definitely  want to “get after it” if we are gonna do it at all. And if His guidance is not clear, I can easily just make it up as I go along, forcing solutions, fabricating a spiritual sounding yet selfish game plan and asking God to please bless it as I plow ahead.

Maybe I am wiser, or just older and more tired of doing it the hard way, but I think I am going to try something different this time. Instead of viewing this interim time as “waiting”, I think I will try consider it more like “lingering”. We linger over things we love or don’t want to end. We linger long after a party ends or over a romantic dinner or at then end of a memorial service where everyone is sharing beautiful memories of our loved one. Maybe in the lingering, if I am willing, I can learn a couple things that will prepare me for the next phase. Maybe I can linger, rest, relish, recover and let God do His thing in me. There is such a fine line between having the sense of being “stuck” and valuing this period of lingering. Sarah Young, author of “Jesus Calling”, uses scripture to point out that God tells us “time is a trainer, teaching you to wait upon Me, to trust Me in the dark.” I will do my best to trust Him in that blank space and resist the urge to fill it in myself.

God, help me trust that my time of waiting is a gift. A time to linger with you and learn until your perfectly timed “next thing” is revealed. Amen,.

Faith/Spirituality, gratitude

Intermingled

I have decided that Thanksgiving is probably my most favorite holiday. I am 49 years old and just realized this. Some of us like to take our sweet time when it comes to self-reflection. 😏 Besides the obvious “blessing” of a holiday celebrated mainly by gorging oneself on a flood of carbs and high-fructose corn syrup ( this year it occurred to me that my sweet potatoes and my pecan pie had essentially the same ingredients), I decided that I really enjoy the chance for my thoughts to revolve around what I am thankful for.

In the past few years it seems that there has been a general push in the world to make the practice of gratitude a regular part of our lives. Look around for words like “grateful”, “blessed”, or “thankful” printed on wall decor or pillows. Sometimes we throw it around without much actual consideration on Facebook and other social media venues. In light of all that, I have to admit that I don’t always make living with an “attitude of gratitude” my top priority.

When I looked up “grateful” and “gratitude” in the dictionary (OK-when I googled those words. Same thing), I became away of a tiny but huge difference between these words. Gratefulness is a feeling, while Gratitude is more about the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness as a result of that feeling. I can be grateful in my heart all day long for the people I love and God and even the hard stuff of life that causes me to finally grow up. But my expression of that gratefulnesss, both verbal and non-verbal, is called gratitude. If we want to fully benefit from a life lived in a constant state of “thanks-giving”, the outward expression of what’s in our hearts is mandatory.

And one more quick thought on Thanksgiving. A couple days before the official holiday, I read an entry in “Jesus Calling” that reminded me that at any given moment, we all have something to be grateful for. However, at an given moment, we also have a few things that we wish we could change or even eliminate from our lives entirely. Pain, suffering, heartache and disappointment are always close at hand. The author reminds us that God has given us the gift of a new day, every day: This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). God is basically saying that “to protect our thankfulness, you must remember that you reside in a fallen/broken world, where blessing and sorrows intermingle freely.” Too often we “walk through a day brimming with beauty and brightness, seeing only the grayness of our thoughts”.

In other words, we have a choice as to what we focus on. There is always ample opportunity to choose to be grateful or grumpy. This was especially powerful for me because, I was reading those words while in Las Vegas for Thanksgiving. Our visit was a pleasant gift because we got to spend a week with my in-laws and my two baby boys ( 23 and 19, but still babies to me). A beautiful blessing. My daughter wasn’t there because she was in Israel with my mom and the rest of my husband’s side of the family. Also a beautiful blessing. But “intermingled” with that, my father had been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, which is what triggered our trip and allowed my daughter to take his place on the trip to Israel. Doesn’t feel like a beautiful blessing at it’s root, but some of what has come out of it has been exquisite and could have been experienced in no other way than through what could be viewed as a curse from God and the universe by those not willing to dig deeper.

Every day, every minute of every day, we all have the choice to not only choose to acknowledge what we are grateful for (including the gifts that can come from tragedy, frustration, long-suffering, etc), but to live out that “attitude of gratitude” by letting it be the driving factor in how we interact with everyone we come in contact with. This is the best way I know to express my love to God-by loving and caring for his kids.

Faith/Spirituality

Swipe right…

If you read my last entry, “Swipe left” (if you haven’t, pause and read it now, then come on back!), you may be wondering, “So, when do we get to swipe right?”. Well, the obvious answer, is any thought that is good, wholesome, uplifting, kind, positive, etc. gets a swift swipe to the right. But this week, as I was putting my inner swiping APP into practice, I came across some thoughts that I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with. They weren’t bad thoughts, so swiping left didn’t seem fair.

In dating world, you swipe right when you want to revisit someone’s profile at a later point. You are categorizing people either as potential future dating material or a hard and fast “no chance” to the left (nothing like basing your relational happiness on looks, right?). You then sit down and look a little closer into the self-described profile for similarities and intrigue and then keep or reject those also. This is how I would encourage you to view any thought that pulls you away from the present. Is it realistic to expect that  while I am working out at 6:15 in the morning I won’t think about tasks that are coming up that day? Probably not. But as they come up, I can acknowledge them and swipe them to the right, revisiting them when I get to work and have time to give them my full attention.

We should not be surprised by the tendency to let our minds wander to tasks/worries/obligations/fears that have nothing to do with what we are doing at the present moment. There is so much to distract us in this world. We tend to idolize people who can multi-task. They seem efficient and successful. But when we are doing one thing while being preoccupied with another, we literally miss out on  actual life. I once heard the phrase, “Where we are is our only option just now.”

Sometimes I actually plan to do one thing while thinking about something else! I will plan to write a blog in my head or figure out vacation plans while I am working out or sitting in a meeting I am supposed to be paying attention to. I will plan to go to my kid’s sporting event and take books to catch up on whenever my kid isn’t playing 😏. Sometimes it’s not too big of a deal. But other times, it absolutely robs me of connecting with people I love. Sometimes I am sitting with a friend for coffee and thinking about the people I need to get in touch with regarding seeing houses. Or I am hanging with my husband but not really present because I am fretting over my future and whether or not I will do this or that next week. You get the idea. It’s not that I never need to consider the thoughts that are distracting me from being fully in the moment with who is in front of me. They are often important and necessary.  But I create much stress and anxiety for myself when I am not fully engaged in the present. I can’t embrace what God has brought my way if I am rehearsing or regretting what has already occurred or strategizing and worrying about what might occur in the future.

So-add this to your practice. When thoughts arise that are legitimate and need further analysis, swipe those suckers to the right. Save them for later. Save them for a time when you can sit and give them your undivided attention. Don’t let them drag you out of the present or keep you from experiencing life on life’s terms. Practice the art of living in the now.

Swipe right, my friends.

Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, freedom, thinking

Swipe left…

Not that I have used them personally, but because I try my best to not bury my head in the technological sand just because I am 49 (…and happily married, I might add), I know a thing or two about dating sites. Bear with me…

The one thing I know is that at least one site allows you to swipe the picture on the screen to the right if you are interested and may revisit their profile later, or swipe left if you (by merely looking at someones face/body/body parts) give that person a thumbs down. You basically move them to your “trash”. It sounds insane when you say it like that, right? Well, before you get too worked up about it, let me assure you that I am just using this as a metaphor to help you have a visual for how to control your thoughts without letting them control you.

I mentioned awhile back that I was reading a book about how to Detox your brain. While I still have miles to go, I have tried to come up with ways to get this done, because my thoughts-my negative, destructive and degrading thoughts-often hijack my mind and create stress and anxiety and fear. For some reason, this idea popped in my head a couple days ago and I have been attempting to utilize it, sorting through my thoughts as the pop up. I am still in the process of tweaking it, but I’ll give you the gist.

When any thought pops in my head, I am trying to discipline myself to ask a couple questions about it. The first is: “Is it my thought or my business?”. This question is easy to answer and can eliminate huge amounts of time and energy I might otherwise give it. Let’s say, for example, I am with a group friends and one of them brings up a subject that I know is a sensitive issue and might trigger anger in another friend. Typically, I would immediately feel some tension and perhaps try to figure out how I can smooth out or fix what has just happened. But, if I ask the question, “Is this my thought or my business?”, the answer is clearly NO. So I give it to God. I swipe left. I “trash” it and mind my own business, leaving me to enjoy my friends for exactly who they are and where they are at that moment. Or how about when I notice I am fretting about what some one else is or might be angry/frustrated/worried/stressed about? “Is this my thought?”. Nope. It is a thought that belongs to them alone and I don’t have to give it any attention or let it effect my serenity. I give it to God. I swipe left. I trash it.

The next question I added after I had been practicing this for a couple days: “Can I control it?”. This one is pretty cut and dry. You can’t? You know what to do with it!

The last and biggest question you will have to decide for yourself, as long as it falls into a similar vein as this: “Is it beneficial, kind and true?”. If you have a relationship with God, you can simply ask “Is this from God?”, because that will automatically alert you to all the good thoughts that God imparts and represents (His thoughts and ways are lovely, kind, nonjudgmental, gracious, forgiving, compassionate, empathetic, honest, uplifting, encouraging, gentle, etc.). I definitely need to ask this question so I can better relate to people in my world; my family but also my clients, my friends and people God puts in my path as I go through my day. But the main reason I started this practice was to eliminate repetitive thoughts I have about myself that are very much NOT “beneficial, kind or or true”. When I have thoughts, which are often subtle and sheepish but have razor sharp teeth, like “I’ll never get better at…”, or “I don’t think I will ever be able to…” or “I am always going to struggle with….”, I have to put them to the question test. 9/10 times my thoughts fail that test. But instead of continuing down the mental, emotional and physically draining path these thoughts try to take me on, or worse yet, beat myself up for having them in the first place, I now have a tool. If the answer to my question is “NO”, I give it to God. I swipe left. I trash it. I move on and replace those thoughts with the God’s instructions:

“Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-Think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Swipe left my friends…

Anxiety/Worry, awareness, Faith/Spirituality, Trust

I’ve hit the wall! (…or is it hitting me?)

I am writing today because I need it. Badly. In Runner’s Speak, I have “hit the wall”. For a runner, that means they have been running for a lengthy period of time and have depleted their glycogen levels and feel like they are potentially going to keel over or “bonk out” (I learned that phrase just this morning while googling “hitting the wall”). In Heather terms, the phrases still apply. Don’t get excited, I haven’t been running again or anything (been there done that). But I feel like I started a few life “races” and was plugging away nicely until the past couple of weeks. I have lost my breath, my energy, and my sight for why I started the races in the first place.

In the beginning, I was excited and hopeful and experiencing just enough success to continue with a smile and a skip in my step, but this past week I started to feel a heaviness coming over me as a result of doing a lot of “footwork” with no results in sight. I am struggling to continue picking up my feet and continuing to do the “footwork” necessary to finish the marathon.

Do you ever feel that way? Please tell me you do, and I’ll just go ahead and apologize now for wishing that on you. It’s just that I have also been convincing myself that no one else has this problem and that makes the discouragement feel that much deeper.

I was reminded the other day of a blog I wrote on “waiting” (https://heathercarterwrites.com/2015/05/07/waiting/ ). I used to wait on blood work and test results and the green light to go back in the hospital for Chemo. One would think that I would be a little more grateful and patient with anything else I have to wait for ever again. But alas, I have to operate in the “today”, and today I am waiting for other things. Luckily they are much less daunting than life or literal death, but I guess my mind has moved on from that possibility.

I am writing today to remind myself of what I already know. That’s usually how it works for me. What I already know, is that life is not about the end results, it’s what happens in that space between that equal “living”. The end result may or may not manifest itself, at least in the ways we predict or hope for. I may work like a boss at my job and never sell another house. I may meet with dozens of people to promote my book or secure a speaking engagement or draw people to my site with results I may never see or know about. I may pray numerous prayers for people I love and yet continue to live in that mysterious unknown about the answers one way or another. If I forget this and start living as if God or people owe me recompense for all my efforts, I end up where I am today; frustrated, tired, and frankly, mad. Mad that my equation isn’t working.

While I am in the space between, while I am doing the “footwork”, I have to ruthlessly remind myself to ask, “What am I learning? Who am I helping? How am I growing? Where can I be of service?”. The “footwork”, as I define it, is every activity and thought that contributes to reaching that goal. And here’s the good and bad news: the most important component is not the goal, it’s the footwork. Whether I like that news or not, it’s still true. I have no control over the outcome or the length of time it takes to get there. I can either complain and wait impatiently in anxious and frustrated expectation, or can accept life on life’s terms and as it comes; one moment at a time. The moments, as we know, are all we have to work with. Where I am is all I have to work with just now.

Dear God-I need your help to live in the moments. Help me get my “second wind” that comes after I have endured the daily, monotonous, seemingly unfruitful present, and pushed myself beyond what I feel is possible, wise or worthwhile. Help me to remember that you alone-and your purposes in the space between-are my continuous and consistent reward.

Faith/Spirituality, forgiveness

“Gimme some-whole-ness”

It’s probably not a coincidence that I came up with an idea to write a blog on “unwholesome talk” while I was running (or trying to run) on a treadmill. Remember how in my book I talk about how the doctors made a note on my medical chart that says “she runs marathons”? Well, I did run two half marathons right before I got Leukemia but haven’t run since. Thus the “unwholesome talk” blog epiphany. It wasn’t like I was letting the profanity fly or anything, but I was definitely abusing myself mentally and verbally: “What is wrong with me?” “Everyone else is running-I’m so out of shape!” “That girl next to me is just showing off!” “I’ll never be as fast or thin as her, and she looks about 10 years older than me!”. You get the idea.

There is a biblical principle in Ephesians 4:29 warning us to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful…that it may benefit those who listen.” Well guess what, I was listening to myself and it was not helpful at all. I used to think this verse was mostly addressing flat out cussing or mean-speech and potentially some pretty dirty and outright judgmental gossip. But that’s just the obvious stuff. Most people, even those who don’t really have a commitment to living like Jesus asks us to, believe that kind of talk is detrimental to all involved. It’s that sneaky self-talk that we tend to accept without challenge.

The synonyms for “unwholesome” help me understand the damage this kind of talk can bring about: destructive, damaging, poisonous, harmful, ruinous, injurious, unnourishing. On the contrary, “wholesome” is defined as conducive or valuable to our physical, mental or moral well-being. And I would add our spiritual well-being as well. You have heard of the golden rule (which also originates from God’s plan for how we should love each other in Matthew 22:39): Love your neighbor/others as you love yourself. The problem is, most of us do. When we are cruel, critical, judgmental and harsh with others, it is most likely because we are cruel, critical, judgmental and harsh on ourselves. Our self-talk is “unwholesome”. Practically, this means I have keep to my thoughts and words in check, mostly when I am frustrated or disappointed in myself. I need to catch and redirect phrases like “I am such an idiot!”, “I’ll never be able to ….”, “I am always screwing that up”, “I can’t seem to remember anything or keep details straight” (that’s one of my favorites-I try to blame the Chemo but apparently Leukemia chemo doesn’t have that side effect. Whatever), or “I will never be __________ enough”.

The kind of talk I participate in with and about others starts with how I talk to myself.  I have to ask myself if my silent and out-loud words bring “some-whole-ness” to my life? If the answer is yes, then I am on the right track and it will be much more natural for me to bring “some-whole-ness” to others when I open my mouth. As usual, if I want to bring love, joy, peace and happiness the world around me, it has to begin with me taking tender, thoughtful and gracious care of myself. My wholesome talk has to start with me.

awareness, Faith/Spirituality, gratitude, identity, Relationships, Serenity, Trust

49er (almost 50 but not quite!)

Tomorrow is my birthday. It’s not the big 5-0, but I will be turning the number only one year away from that. I can hardly stand to even talk about that right now. So let’s just look backwards instead. I remember when I turned 30 I was sorely disappointed because in my twenties I envisioned myself being a “wise woman of God” by the time I arrived at that mile marker. Needless to say, that was “no-go”. I remember my 40th birthday well. A group of ladies went out to dinner with me at Indigo restaurant. It was a special time. My husband and I also celebrated our 40th by going to Grand Cayman for a week! It was awesome, but, side note, as I opened the doors on the veranda of our hotel room at the Ritz Carlton…again, on my FORTIETH birthday….there was a supermodel doing a photo shoot right below us. In a swimsuit. Sprawling across a speedboat. Posing and working the camera with great fervor. She was there for some sort of supermodel convention that would begin in a couple days. Supermodels trickled in throughout the week. I remember laying on the beach as they literally carried said supermodel across the sand to her next shoot about 20 feet away from me. Perrrrfect.

I had sort of blocked out that part of my birthday history until just now….

So, back to my original reason for writing. It’s not to get you to tell me happy birthday tomorrow. It’s about what I have come to understand about life and birthdays: God’s plan is better than mine. It would be easy for me to get pretty sad if I think about the fact that 50% of those friends that celebrated me on my 40th birthday are no longer in my life. Or when I recollect that after my 40th birthday my life pretty much imploded (or exploded?) and has been a serious learning curve ever since. Up until that point of my life I don’t think I ever really knew the pangs of betrayal, heartbreak, terror, rage or despair. I guess I was lucky to not experience it until 40, and for that I am grateful.

But here I am, 9 years later, and I have new eyes to see with as a result of what God has brought me through. I am still not the “wise woman of God” I had wished to turn into when I was 30. But that’s ok. What I am, or in the process of becoming, is more joyful, more humble, more content, more relaxed, more vulnerable and authentic. I am also becoming less of a few things: less judgmental, less angry, less fearful, less insistent on my own way. I have come to realize that though I would not have chosen to go through the struggles I have faced in the past almost-decade, God used them to mold me into a person I finally like. I finally feel like I am leaning in to what He wants for me instead of trying to manipulate him into giving me what I think will make me happy.

I had to go through the fire to reap the benefits of the refinement that comes only through the intense heat of extreme circumstances. There is no other way but through if you want the serenity that comes from trusting God in every single event, challenge, opportunity, accident or heartache that comes your way. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly was not bravely challenging the storm to “bring it on!” most of the time. But I didn’t give up or curl up. I trudged away. I found new friends to celebrate with these past few years. Though I had to say goodbye to many relationships, I have added more than double what I lost. My life is richer now as a result. I would say that I know and interact with at least 100 more people that have blessed my world, all as a result of circumstances that seemed as if they would be the figurative and even literal death of me.

When I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning, I skipped ahead to the reading for my birthday. Here’s what I read and what I will do my best to remember until I turn 50 (at which point we can chat about whatever new revelations God has brought my way…):

“If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how untoward (read: horrific, undesirable, agonizing, disappointing, sucky, etc.) fcircumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God’s purpose in the end. If you agree with God’s purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.”

Thank you God. Happy Birthday to me.