Not Quite There

Photo credit: derekskey / Foter / CC BY

My dreams once felt within my grasp. But there are times they float a little farther from me. But like a balloon on a string, they never go too far. Some days I feel like letting go of the string. But I can’t. This string is tied to me. In the rash movement of emotion, I can’t undo the knot. And once my mind calms, I realize I don’t want to untie it.

Some days, I sit and wish my lost hope would return. Then I feel a gentle tug. The dream is still there and within it lives hope. Never too far away.

Our eyes see what we want them to see. We can easily overlook the horrible things we see in the street, turning them into an unimportant blur in our memory. We can convince ourselves we are 12 feet tall and invincible or that we stand small as a thimble. If we are invisible, it is because we have made ourselves unnoticeable.

That gentle tug of our dreams isn’t always enough to pull us out of our own self-induced sadness. We’ve told our eyes that it’s dark and we can’t see, despite the lanterns lighting the way. We tell our cold legs that they can’t go on, despite the warm sun on the horizon. How easy it is to fall into that pit of despair when there is less to despair than we want to believe.

Life can be dramatic. Or we can make it so. And that can work in two different ways. We can be enthused and in awe of what’s around us in such a passionate display that people stop and take notice. Or we can convince ourselves that all is lost and there is no way out, even when the doorway is within sight.

The craziest thing about all of it is that we are in control. We have so much more control of our lives than we often believe. But we don’t have to take charge of our fate. We can sit quietly in place and let the world pass us by with all of the good and bad it may or may not bring. Anyone can live a passive life.

I want to live an adventure.

I want to stop in my tracks and gawk at the wonder surrounding me. I want to appreciate the things that have been put here to be appreciated. I want to see potential where others see misfortune. I want to reach up when I feel like collapsing down.

That comes from within. And if it’s not there now, it can be nurtured back in from wherever you buried it, no matter how long ago. But it takes time and patience. Self-forgiveness can be just as difficult as standing tall during trials.

Today, choose to see the best. See what could be instead of what is lacking.

Love instead of hate.

Be alive!

You will get there someday.

Photo credit: derekskey / Foter / CC BY

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The Luckiest Day of My Life

Photo credit: kaibara87 / iWoman / CC BY

Do you ever wonder why the person who expects the worst always seems to get the worst? It’s that whole “just my luck” business. When people say, “That’s just my luck,” they are implying that they never have good luck. Most of the time that’s just an exaggeration, but some actually believe that they don’t get any breaks in life.

It’s strange how the world works sometimes. I’m beginning to realize that my attitude needs some adjusting. I’ve been too busy searching out the worse scenario to see the good things happening around me. When you’re just waiting for the next bad thing to happen, it tends to fill you with unnecessary fear. And fear can ruin your day over and over again unless you learn to let go of it.

So instead of always speeding towards a stoplight in anticipation of it flicking to yellow or red, I need to sit back and just accept whatever may come. It’s not going to kill me to wait for a red light and if I get green, that’s a nice bonus to my day.

Maybe if I relax and let the dice fall as they may, the circumstances might fall in my favor. Yesterday, I decided to test that theory. I got a little angry at something that happened at work. Instead of stewing about it, I just let myself feel it and found something else to do to release that anger. Sure enough, it started to diminish. Instead of expecting my day to get worse, I just dealt with what I had been given and moved past it. And it kept me from ruining my own day.

Then, on my drive home, I didn’t rush or get uptight about traffic. I just leaned back in my seat and tried to remember to relax. Usually, when I’m rushed and in a hurry, I hit red lights at every intersection. But today, in my relaxed state, I was met by more green lights than red. And I didn’t get upset by the red ones. It made my mental state so much better when I walked in the door to greet my husband.

Did the fates align and produce good circumstances because of my attitude change? No. I’m sure I don’t hit as many red lights as I think I do. I just make mental notes of the red lights instead of the green ones. And in doing that, I choose to make myself miserable. But not anymore. Now, I want to choose to be joyful and full of hope. I want to remember the good stuff.

We have much more control over our lives than we often choose to believe. We may not be able to wield our circumstances to our will, but we can choose how we react. There’s something to be said about taking things as they come and making the best of the circumstances we’re given. It’s easy to focus on what we lack instead of seeing what we have. We have to choose the right kind of focus.

Too many times, I’ve made myself the victim instead of empowering myself to change with the circumstances and to accept what may come. If you believe yourself a loser, you subconsciously set yourself up to do things that make you a loser. I am my own worst enemy. *Cue the Lit music*

New Year’s Day is coming up, so it’s the prime time for some self-evaluation. I’m tired of playing the victim. I’m better than that. I will accept my circumstances and focus on the good things that come despite the bad I’ll also encounter. I’m not going to call this a resolution, because you condemn it by giving it that name. (How many New Year’s resolutions are broken year after year?) This is a change I’m choosing to enact.

There’s some truth to making your own luck. You may not be able to make yourself win the lottery, but you can make yourself feel like the luckiest person you know. It’s all perspective, after all.

 

Photo credit: kaibara87 / iWoman / CC BY

Team Change

Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/89927155@N00/331574242/">Fonzie's cousin</a> / <a href="http://foter.com">Foter</a> / <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA</a>

 

I see now that one person cannot change the world alone. It may look like someone single-handedly saved the day, but they had help. Something as vast as world change only happens when we team together. Though one person may be the leader or stand in the spotlight, it took a whole group of people to get him or her there.

No one can be an expert on everything. That’s why a team with the right mix of components and expertise can be so groundbreaking. One person shouldn’t be expected to know it all. That’s why you chose your teams wisely. You get the computer guru on your team so you don’t have to try to figure out how to code. This is obvious with any company or organization out there, so why do we overlook it concerning the world?

Pride. We think we can swoop in like Batman to save the day. But unlike Batman, we aren’t capable of handling a full-on assault, while saving bystanders from collapsing buildings, while holding a conversation with the archenemy, while clutching a baby in one hand. Superheroes make great stories, but they truly are a work of fiction. I still aspire to change the world, but I’ll easily admit that I need some help in doing so. I’m special, but not that special.

Too much multi-tasking wears us down and burns us out. We are actually less productive when we have too many tasks going on at once. Humans were not meant to do everything all at once. We are better off specializing in a few things instead of a couple dozen.

I have been guilty of multi-tasking with housework and errands during my lunch hour. I’ve accomplished long lists, which gives me a temporary moment of pride, but it also leaves me more worn out when I come back to work. That’s really not the point of a lunch break. We need rest and we need to treat ourselves to a break so we can come back to work rejuvenated and refreshed. A frazzled person is much less likely to work efficiently or to incite great change. They need someone to share the load so they can do what they are best at.

I think it’s time we all stop thinking of ourselves as so damn special that the world can’t go on without us. As it has with everyone who has gone before us, the world will always move on. When Albert Einstein died, we didn’t stop analyzing and trying to understand the world. He just started a new way of thinking.

It doesn’t matter who you are. The point is to do what we can to leave the world in a better state than it was when we first arrived. Then, we have to trust that someone will pick up where we left off and carry the load when we’re gone. THAT is how you change the world.

It’s not as glorifying as being the most important person in the world, but it’ll do.

 

Photo credit: Fonzie’s cousin / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Unshaken Love

There are some types of love that you just don’t mess with.

When I was ready to date during college (at a small Christian university), I was met with disappointment. Every boy I was interested in seemed only to be looking for a wife. I just wanted to date. I discovered that I am not preacher’s wife material, as they made obvious when I showed any sign of interest in them.

At the time, I was hurt by this. They were telling me that I wasn’t good enough for them. I thought we were on the same playing field. Instead, I was on the bench feeling lonely and left out.

I was always magnetized to the guy who was already magnetized to his future preacher’s wife. And she was nothing like me.

In one instance, I had a crush on this genuinely good guy. One day in the cafeteria, I was sitting with a group that included him and his girlfriend. I watched the way they interacted and how they looked at each other. I could feel the electricity between them. It was not shallow, lustful electricity, but something true and strong (albeit subtle).

Later, I told my roommate that I knew they were going to get married. She said, “You don’t know that.” But I insisted that I did and that if she would just wait, she would see that I was right.

They are married today. *Insert smug grin.*

Anyway, my point of that story is that I saw and felt their love. This was the type of love that you don’t mess with. Even if you tried, you couldn’t easily break their bond. He had chosen his lady and even then, I knew she was the right one for him. I stepped down and distanced myself from my feelings until they withered away. My feelings for him were so shallow in comparison to hers.

It was a foreshadow. Just like an author drops hints to what is coming, God was nudging me. At the time, it didn’t feel like a nudge. It really felt like a kick in the gut.

Yet another foreshadow was when two friends of mine married. I watched them grow from friends to newlyweds. At the start of their relationship, they loudly denied that they were dating before finally and slowly reaching a point where they could deny no more.

I had never shed a tear at a wedding until theirs. In fact, I always thought it was ridiculous when I heard sniffles from other wedding guests. But when the bride came into the church, I was overcome with emotion. Truly, this was a match made by God. I knew it because I had seen it grow. They were made for each other. Their relationship planted a seed of hope in me that I’ve only just begun to recognize.

My husband and I started as friends, but it was not until we were alone together that we saw the potential that hadn’t come to the surface before. More than common interests, we have similar worldviews.

It was uncanny how his comments would echo my exact thoughts. It was like realizing you’re lost at the same time someone finds you. I didn’t know how much I longed to be understood like that. Perhaps this is what my friends above went through before they tied the knot. Perhaps they had shown me the possibility.

As our relationship grew into something more, we reached a point where we could no longer deny it either. We were in love. By accident really. And so here we are today: married and grateful to have found each other.

All along, those stings of love and the relationships around me were not God’s cruel trick on an aching heart. They were hints of what was to come. I just misread His intentions.

I wonder how often I do that with other elements of my life. When I spit complaints and anger at God, He could be in the process of doing something to make my future life that much better. How dare I think otherwise.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Muddy Eyes

Photo credit: Viewminder / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Viewminder / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

As a kid, part of me dreaded the arrival of fall. What kid didn’t after a sunny summer of swimming pools and freedom from classes? Fall represented a time of being stuck indoors in a classroom. But at the same time, I didn’t really hate it. Call me crazy, but I was also eager to see my classmates again. Not that I would’ve admitted that out loud.

Fall is the end of summer. Leaves are falling, creatures are preparing to hibernate, and plants are going dormant. In one sense, it can seem like the end of life. But the end of one thing is always the beginning of another.

I’m happy to leave the heat of summer behind and put on a light jacket. This year has been a bit challenging–okay, tumultuous–at times. It wasn’t awful, but the hope that I had in January was quickly diminished. So yet again, for me, this fall is the beginning of a new beginning. We’re coming up on November, the national month to be grateful. But I’m not going to wait until then to acknowledge my blessings.

This year, I’ve felt very stuck emotionally, mentally, physically, etc. In every way, I have felt like I’m standing in a mud pit and no matter how hard I try, I can’t get out. And when I panic and fling my limbs around in protest, I’m only getting mud in my eyes.

And that only gives me bad visibility on the reality of my situation. Usually, things are not as bad as they seem. But how can you tell with dirt covering your eyes?

But even with that, I’m starting to see that I have an out. It may not come at this exact moment, but I feel like help is on the way. I’m not going to sink any deeper into this pit. I will break free, even if I have to be humbled enough to accept help in doing so.

And the bitterness of this year will be a reminder to me during the better times. I will realize how truly blessed I am. And I will know how good I have it and be grateful.

That’s a gift worth suffering for.

Woven Traits

Authors give their characters all the weapons they need to complete their story. For instance, Harry Potter has courage, but he also has a tendency to break the rules. Without both of these traits, he likely wouldn’t have been as fascinating to so many people. Nor would he have been able to complete his story. He was equipped to fight before he knew he had to fight.

James Bond and any Marvel superhero always have the suave skills or “secret power” to get out of trouble when it comes. They were written for their story and therefore have the traits to make a good story. No one else but James Bond could do it. Anyone else would fail somewhere in the storyline.

Are we the same? We’re born into the world with some inherent traits and others that we learn along the way. Some of those are brought to us by good or bad circumstances. We learn to survive on the streets by being forced onto the streets. We take piano lessons and become a maestro. Good or bad, we are all fashionably knit-together.

Did God equip us for our stories just like authors equip their characters? I think so. And it’s kind of fascinating. Why are some of us so generous and kind? Why are some talented in speech-making? Why are others so successful in marketing themselves and their company? Because these individual traits have been woven into them so they can complete their story. No one else but you can do what you were meant to do.

It makes me feel so much more special than the world makes me feel. But special does not equal more important. That’s a common misunderstanding. We’re all unique in our own ways because our stories are unique as well. But my story is not more important than yours.

If you sit down and listen–really listen–to some old-timers tell their life story, you’ll find that everyone has a story to tell. Just because the topic isn’t interesting to you doesn’t mean it wasn’t there for a purpose. Our stories intersect to create great things. And many of those great things are beyond our comprehension and sometimes beyond our sight.

Singularly, we cannot change the world, but if we combine all of our traits, both good and bad, we can create a beautiful story of the world. And it’s always changing and moving. A living breathing tale that started long before any of us were born and will continue long after we’re gone. Given that, I have no regrets for my flaws. I was written that way.

 

“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” Jessica Rabbit, Roger Rabbit’s wife.

 

Wonderfully Mundane

Sometimes we need small reminders about the good things in our lives. It’s easy to get used to what we have and to overlook our blessings. It may take someone else’s fresh look at our life to give us new perspective. But it’s rare to hear what other people honestly think about our lives. For many people, compliments are harder to pass along than negativity.

The next best thing is occasionally taking that trip down memory lane. Ever since the invention of digital cameras, most of us have taken more than enough pictures of us doing anything and everything you can think of. We no longer have to wait a few days or *gasp* a week to see how our photos turned out. And that means we have more pictures of the seemingly mundane things we do throughout the day.

For me, those mundane moments have given me great perspective. My husband and I recently filled the memory card on our camera (yes, we still use a real camera and not just our phones to snap pictures). In the process of getting the old pictures on my computer, I got to see what my life was like just a few years ago.

Things have changed in small ways, but my life is very different now compared to just three years ago. It was the very beginning of my marriage. It’s interesting to see how our living room was arranged because those things tell our story. We had to improvise to find room for two households of stuff in one house. There are pictures of us vacuuming, sitting at the computer, cooking, etc. For anyone who wants to argue about why we would take pictures of that, just take a look at half of the selfies out there and you might think we’re a bit more sane.

For us, those pictures mean more because of the look of happiness on our faces, the pet cages in the background, or just the feeling we get when we remember what our life was like at that time. It was the fresh, new take on marriage, the calm before the storm of trouble that every relationship finds, and an optimistic view on life and careers. So much more than vacuuming. No one else may get it. To everyone else it’s just vacuuming. To me, it’s life in all its beauty. The small bursts of happiness are what add up to make life worth living.

So don’t wait for someone to compliment you on your lifestyle. It doesn’t matter what they think anyway. Use those mundane snapshots to remind you how far you’ve come and how blessed you are. I’m beginning to see my life with a clear perspective. And it’s beautiful in all the horrible and wonderful ways combined. Wonderfully mundane.

Photo credit: MildlyDiverting / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 

Photo credit: MildlyDiverting / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)