Anxiety/Worry, Brokenness, Control, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Relationships

Rules are made to be broken

For some reason, while I was taking my in-laws to the airport last week, I made a comment about how I was a “rule follower”. I was a little surprised that they seemed very surprised that I thought this about myself. They didn’t share my assessment. It might have something to do with a couple maneuvers I made to get them to the airport on time, claiming that certain traffic laws were merely suggestions. At any rate, I guess I should explain that even though I many not agree with or follow certain rules, there are a couple rules I have about myself that I can’t seem to not follow, even though they aren’t necessarily based in reality or contribute to healthy, whole-hearted living.

Lately, I have been writing about finding my “skip” again. Learning how to “play” and live a light-hearted and joyful everyday life. I’d say I am making a little progress, in case you were wondering how it’s going. But I realized that I have established a couple Rules when it comes to my “play-time”. When I keep these rules, I find it hard to truly engage, relax and fully enjoy what I am doing and who I am doing it with.

One of the rules is for me, and I have mentioned it before. This rule tells me that I have to earn the right to play. It’s the Cinderella syndrome: until I have scrubbed the floors, dusted, vacuumed, mowed, helped kids with homework, cooked dinner, sold 3 houses, and helped out at church, I can’t go to the Ball. And if somehow I managed to get there, but hadn’t finished all my tasks, I couldn’t dare enjoy myself while I was there. I had to think about all that wasn’t done yet and all I had yet to do. I had to hold on to the guilt of taking care of myself and letting somethings go. I couldn’t dare just admit that I simply can’t keep the pace I have set for myself. I had to admit that I wasn’t Wonder Woman and that once in awhile I just had to take a break and let my hair down, and no one was going to suffer. I don’t know where I got this rule exactly. But I have been letting the rule rule me for far too long. It’s time for an uprising.

The other or rule I have is for you- for my friends, family and people who I “play” with. This one can be illustrated with a real-life example from my past. Several, as in about 10-15 years ago, I organized a game to play with a group of our friends. I am from Napa, as many of you know, and this was a Napa Valley board game. I had purchased the wines from the wineries on the board that one might land on, as well as educational information about the wines that, naturally, they would want to learn about with acute attentiveness on a Friday night…with a large group of friends….while drinking wine. Needless to say, my expectations of the evening did not end up matching the reality of it. But boy, they were having a blast! They were not, however, cooperating with my rules about how they were supposed to be having this so called “fun”. I remember being quite incensed. Wounded. Hurt. Taking it personal and pouting that they weren’t “doing it right” (read: “doing it my way”). I didn’t enjoy myself at all because they weren’t playing by my rules.

When I follow such a rule, I give other people the power to ruin my day. To steal my joy, as I often put it. And, I might add, I will not be invited to many events that require a light-hearted, easy going, relaxed presence. It hurts everyone when I try to control other people and dictate their manner of fun-ness. No one can truly engage in life-giving play when Mrs. Bossy Pants is around. Especially me.

Since, at my core of cores, I don’t really like rules, may I make a suggestion? Whatever rules you are following, that you have made up from the broken, wounded, controlling, fearful, anxious places in your soul, annul them today. Are they about how you give or are willing to receive love? How you speak to others and yourself? How you share? How you think about yourself, or God or others? What you expect from your life and the people in it?  Whatever rules you have been playing by, if they rob you of the ability to live peaceful, happy, and free, obliterate them. Declare them invalid.

THESE RULES WERE MADE TO BE BROKEN.

Faith/Spirituality

Are you a dead ball?

So, I have been focusing on re-learning how to play. Maybe I have been practicing a little too much, because I haven’t written in over a week!?!?

If you were to look at my life from the outside, it would be hard to make a case that I don’t know how to play. In the past couple years I have travelled to Paris, Hawaii, California, Las Vegas, Missouri and Michigan (hey, it’s not Illinois so those last two still count!). I have gone to concerts, sat poolside at friend’s houses and made day trips to shop in St. Louis and Chicago. I’ve attended plays, laughed myself silly at a Seinfeld show and hosted numbers of girls-only patio parties and dinners around my dining room table. To an outsider, this might seem like evidence that I haven’t forgotten everything about how to play.

And yet…

Playing is not just about being present at the activity, it’s about being present in the activity. Big difference. I have been thinking about this world “in” and how it relates to play. My mind keeps going to baseball terminology. Even if you are not a baseball fan, you probably understand the basics enough to track with me for the next couple paragraphs.

Baseball is a game that people play (I know…profound insight, H). For the purpose of this blog, let’s pretend you are the ball. I think it’s fair to say that ball is a crucial part of the baseball experience. But the ball has a job to do in order for the game to be played. It can’t just lay on the pitching mound or in the dugout or sit in the 2nd baseman’s mitt. It has to be an active participant. The ball has to be “in play”. If a player hits it outside the lines into foul territory, it is considered “out of play”. Don’t you just love it? What a perfect metaphor for how we must play! It’s not enough to just show up for the activity. We have to be present and engaged in it. We have to be “in play”, otherwise the game is not fun. It’s not exciting. It’s not fulfilling it’s purpose.

So much of the time, I am attending the game but I am not “in play”. In Recovery, we remind ourselves to “keep our head with our hands.” It means that we remind ourselves to keep our mind where our body is. To focus our attention and love and laughter on the current moment without letting our brain wander off, rehashing what happened yesterday or worrying about what will happen next week. I have participated in many “play-full” activities over the past few years, but too often have been outwardly present while inwardly “out of play”.

It’s not complicated. I can probably just shut up now. You get the gist. Again-being at vs being in…Two tiny words. At. In. But whichever one you choose to embrace will either inhibit or enhance your ability to play.

One last thought on the baseball front…
You remember what they call a ball when it is “out of play” right?Dead”.
But thank God the opposite is also true.
Only when you are “in play” can you be “live” and get your game on.

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, fear, Trust

Are you coming on the Expedition?

I am going on a journey. If you want to come with me we can call it an Expedition (which sounds much more adventurous!): a journey or voyage undertaken by a group of people with a particular purpose. I told you in my last blog (https://heathercarterwrites.com/2018/05/30/i-left-it-in-montana/ ) that I am going to get my “skip” back. If you have noticed that yours has gone missing too, then stay connected for at least the next few entries and maybe we can rediscover it.

As I said, incorporating “play” into the daily minutia of life is challenging for me. And that’s putting it mildly. My plan is to explore some areas of my life and heart that have squelched my playful, light and fun self. I am very aware that I will need God’s spirit as my guide and as luck/fate would have it, He showed up right on time.

I am singing at church this weekend, and as usual, after I practice the songs ahead of time and sing them 3 or 4 times at rehearsal, I sing them in my sleep! Last night I was restless and woke up several times. I can typically choose from a plethora of things to worry about as soon as wake, but last night, since I had been at rehearsal earlier that evening, my first thoughts went to the lyrics of the songs.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the titles were as follows: Your Promises, I Surrender, Build My Life and Trust It All. Here are some of the phrases that came effortlessly to my mind:

“Doesn’t matter what I feel. Doesn’t matter what I see. My hope will always be, Your promises to me. Now I’m casting out all fear, for your love has set me free, my hope will always be, Your promises to me.”

“You are everything, everything. You are all I need, all I need. I trust it all to you.”

“My life is in your hands…I trust it all…I trust it all to. My dreams and all my plans…I trust it all, I trust it all.”

“I surrender, I surrender, I surrender all to you.”

“I will build my life upon your love, you are a firm foundation. I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken.”

So-here’s what that taught me about light-hearted play and getting my skip back: it’s exhausting to try to skip when you’re carrying something ( or things) heavy. When I was young, playing was effortless because I wasn’t carrying around a collection of worries, fears, burdens, hurts and resentments. I have been collecting them over the years. Oh sure, I give God the stuff that I know without a doubt I can’t lift, but keep all the “little” items and try to carry them myself. I wouldn’t want to over-tax an all-powerful God.

As a result, my ability to skip has been depleted. SO-Step ( do not read “rule”, because these are merely my ideas and are probably flawed, like me ) #1 for getting my skip back, is to trust God and let him take care of my circumstances, my loved ones, my enemies, my efforts and their outcomes. If I can unload what was never mine to carry, I will be off to a good start. Are you comin?

Anxiety/Worry, Faith/Spirituality, Recovery

I left it in Montana

If I could go back in time and experience my life again, I know exactly where, and when, I’d go. Without a doubt, the time in my life that I felt the most free and happy was during my years in Helena, Montana. I lived there from kindergarten through 3rd grade. I lived next door, on a private lane in the mountains, to my best friend and her two brothers. When my mind goes to that time of my life, it’s not just those valuable relationships that stand out. If I had to come up with one word to defined those years it would be Play.

Sometimes I wonder if I left my creative brain in Montana. I haven’t been able to play like that since. I played with freedom and fierceness. We built forts (with real wood, hammers and nails) and learned to snow ski in the gully behind our houses-both slalom and bunny Slope. Sometimes one of us would say, “Hey, you wanna play motorcycles?”. It’s exactly what you would think; a bunch of kids running up and down the gully pretending to be riding a motorcycle (in Montana this was more of a dirt bike) with all the accompanying sound effects (I always admired how the boys could do that sound with their mouth that made is sound so authentic). We wore ourselves out until the sun went down. When Halloween came, we would pull all our candy and create a candy store in her basement, displaying the mini candy bars under plastic record player covers. We played “Bears” with our stuffed bears, dressing them in my baby sisters clothes and putting them to bed on suitcase with a pillow on top. We played light as a feather, stiff as a board, listened to the band KISS (I don’t think my mom knew that 😳), conned our brothers into eating dirt that looked like brownies, and tormented each other at sleepovers (hand in the water, shaving cream in the palm of hand with a tickle on the face, the usual). I didn’t have to work at playing and never felt an ounce of guilt for doing it.

A lot has changed since I left Montana. A lot has changed in me. I am not sure when it happened, but I lost that sense of play that used to come so naturally to me. Somehow I started following a rule and have been following it ever since: Here it is: you have to earn your play-time.

I talked about this in my blog a couple days ago. I have this voice in my head that tells me that Play is a reward or celebration of something good; closing on a house or two, losing a few pounds, my kids getting out of school (or starting school after summer break!) or having a birthday. It also tells me that I have permission to play as a consolation for or comfort for something bad; the sale of a house falls through, my kids being demanding and driving me crazy, gaining a few pounds, or, having a birthday 😜.

You get the idea. But I’ll tell you one thing for sure, it is never about play for play’s sake. Even if I schedule a fun event or vacation, I feel like I have to kick it in to gear so I can earn my right to relax. No wonder my heart has become so heavy. When life becomes about being productive and impressive and efficient, there is little room for creativity and light hearted play. And, I have found that even when I am playing, I am not really present. I am always thinking about what’s next or what just happened or grieving that my play-time is almost over (as if I won’t get another opportunity for months!).

Man, I sound messed up. But awareness is the first step toward recovery. I think I need a 12-step program designed for people who have forgotten how to have fun. Brene’ Brown, a researcher, author and speaker talks about Play being essential to living a “whole-hearted” life. She said she was perplexed and a little put-out when she interviewed who she considered to be whole-hearted people and discovered that they “fooled around” a lot. It took her some time to put a name to this frivolous “hanging out and doing fun things”. The idea was so foreign to her that she didn’t even recognize it as Play. She says “we’ve got so much to do and so little time that the idea of doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress. We convince ourselves that playing is a waste of time…spending time doing purposeless activities is rare. In fact, for many of us it sounds like an anxiety attack waiting to happen.” Sobering words for someone who has forgotten how to play.

Reading is good. Praying is good. Meditation is good. Serving is good. Working is good. Learning is good. And so is playing. I hardly know what that looks like as a 47 year old woman, but I intend to seek God, learn from others who do it well and often, and recover my ability to play. Somewhere along the way I lost my skip, and I am determined to get it back.