Let Go

When I look back on my life, I begin to see what was probably obvious to everyone else: I’ve been a control freak. In college, I tried so hard to find new friends that I effectively scared them away from me. Instead of letting things happen organically, I tried to force it.

As more of a tomboy, I sought out the friendship of boys. And as anyone could guess, that often led to trouble during my college years. I found myself on accidental dates. Or worse: the time I asked an acquaintance out for coffee.

I really wanted a friend and he was someone I admired. I knew he had no romantic interest in me. I just wanted to talk and maybe become friends. He didn’t reply to the message I sent. That’s the last time I remember interacting with him.

There were so many times I did this to myself. I worried and clutched tight when I really needed to let go. Letting go is one of those things that sounds so simple yet always leads to a struggle. It could be key to happiness for so many people, myself included.

If I could just let go of my grip, some of the bad things would blow away. And that would leave my hands open to receive the good things life has to offer. This is the great lesson at this time in my life.

I switched to a new job. It’s not perfect for me, but I really can’t complain. The atmosphere is tenfold better, which was enough for me to accept a pay cut. Except I actually ended up with a raise instead.

Everything seems to be lining up, except one tiny detail: it’s temporary. It could end if funding doesn’t allow them to renew my contract. And as a recovering control freak, that is downright terrifying. (Perhaps this is when I am forced to recover? Can a control freak be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to?)

Maybe life’s trying to help me with this self-improvement project. This job could be exactly what I need in ways I could never have guessed. Worrying isn’t going to help my situation. So I’m trying to just sit back and enjoy the ride, wherever it may lead.

It’s time to let go of the worry, anxiety, and anger. It’s time to start fresh with open, empty palms. That way, when opportunity sweeps in, I’ll be ready to catch it.

Cheers to letting go.

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Photo credit: another.point.in.time via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

I Do All My Own Stunts

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Maybe it’s an American thing. We want to to do it all on our own. We lay claim to our successes like we accomplished it all single-handedly. And I’m sure that could happen. But likely, you’ve had help with your successes, whether you’d like to admit it or not.

I find it interesting that so many actors and actresses out there claim that they do all their own stunts. But if they do, what do the stuntmen do? The stuntmen are always there during the backstage videos, but rarely given proper interviews. It must be a hard job to risk life and limb so someone can inevitably tell the world that you were never there at all. That you did nothing. But do we do this in real life too? Do we take full credit when it doesn’t belong to us?

We are such a prideful bunch. We don’t like to confess that we don’t have it all together. That we might need a little help. This stunt may be a bit too big for us. That’s okay to admit. There are times when we need to call in the stuntmen so they can do what they are trained to do.

Moving to a new city has been quite the adventure in good and bad ways. Everything seemed to hit all at once. And our checking account felt the strain. We had enough to cover our bills, but I still worried about all the other sneaky expenses that always pop up when you aren’t vigilant.

I believe in God and I believe that He has been looking out for my husband and me in ways we may never know. We received a financial gift from a friend (call it paying it back or forward or whichever direction you choose). We also received an unexpected refund check from the chiropractor. And then my husband’s first paycheck at his new job came in. More than we expected. Things were looking up. And then it started to get a little freaky.

My husband and I went to a small-town grocery store for our shopping last night. It was dark and cold and neither of us wanted to be there (First World Problems, I know). When we got in line to check out, a guy came up behind us. He told the cashier that he remembered what he forgot.

As we were making small talk with the cashier, that guy kept close. He had a container of Tic-Tacs on the conveyor belt, but he didn’t put the little plastic bar down to separate our items. The cashier asked if it was ours. I said it wasn’t. Then he spoke up, “Go ahead and add this in. I’ll get theirs.”

He pulled out his wallet and handed her some cash. Our groceries were almost $60 total. He just had Tic-Tacs. It was so surreal. I stood speechless for a moment. Finally I asked him what I had done to deserve that. He said, “It’s God’s blessing. You guys just get yourself to church this Sunday, okay?”

We just stared at him like he was selling something. “Any church.” He clarified.

We shook his hand and thanked him several times and walked out of the building with him. He gave us his name and then proceeded to hand us the fourteen dollars that he had been given for change. He reiterated the church request. (How could we say no at this point?) Then he left.

I was stunned. I didn’t even know the appropriate way to react, because that has never happened before. My husband said that he made eye contact with him several times in the store and he noticed that he was lingering. My husband was a little alarmed at first, catching that something was going on. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary until the man got in line behind us. Total surprise. I didn’t think people like that really existed. It was pretty amazing. And it came at a good time.

This really is the start of a new phase in our lives. We’ll make it through, even if we can’t do all the stunts. That’s why the stuntmen are sent in. And I just want to extend some gratitude for their part in this.

Thank you to all of the unspoken heroes. Thank you to God for always watching out for us and for letting our lives cross with others on the same mission.

Let us not forget to thank those who deserve it.

It’s Okay to Love Art

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I’ve always excelled in school and book work. I didn’t particularly love math, but at least I didn’t loathe it. I was curious about the world and how it worked.

Biology and environmental science drew me in. But I found that although I had the aptitude to excel in the scientific classroom, I really didn’t care to know why the sky is blue. I just loved the fact that it grows darker and lighter depending on where you look. It’s a privilege to see how it explodes into beautiful colors in the right conditions. Real scientific, huh?

I can excel and flourish in science and math, but I really just want to observe life and create. I’m curious to why things happen the way they do, but I hate the step-by-step scientific process to figure it out.

When I’m really honest with myself, I realize that I’ve never actually been good at the scientific process. I get bored doing things in an exact, precise way that never changes or is challenged.

What I love is the human condition. We are capable of such wonderful beauty. And at the same time, we can be so terrible that the acts we commit are unspeakable. We are conflicted. We are not one thing, but many and all at once. It’s our greatest feat to be so varied and yet sometimes so predictable in nature. It’s a mystery, even as we think we have it all figured out.

Just because you’re artistic doesn’t mean you can’t excel in science and math. But equally, just because you excel in science and math doesn’t mean you can’t create. I am many things, all rolled into one. Varied and yet predictable. We all are.

Considering how long I’ve identified myself with science, this is actually kind of ground-breaking for me. I now have permission to be what I’ve always been afraid to be: creative. I’ve let the world beat it out of me. Everyone says you can’t make a living by being artistic or creative. You must be able to do well at math and develop analytical skills. Don’t try to think outside the box; just follow the rules like everyone else. Don’t rock the boat.

But innovation comes from these things.

I’ve been so convinced that I can’t make a career out of creativity that I’ve been successful in not making a career out of my analytical skills. I’m frustrated in my career because I’m not being true to who I am. They say follow your passion and the money will also follow. I’m finally starting to understand what that means. I haven’t been making a career because I’ve been trying to force myself to fit into a field I don’t belong in.

It’s time to break free. It’s time to be me. Free. Creative. Artistic. Me.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

 

Photo credit: Matthew Kenwrick / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Instantaneous Me

We are a society that demands and encourages instant gratification. It’s the reason people struggle to stick to their budget–they want what they want and they want it now. It’s the reason some people overeat or binge on junk food. They must have their food now, no matter the caloric cost. It’s why people actually buy those diet pills that promise weight loss in just two weeks. They don’t want to sweat it out and lose the weight naturally (and slowly) through habit changes.

We are an impatient people.

But despite our desires for instant results, life changes and progresses in baby steps. Sometimes the steps seem so insignificant that we don’t even know how we got where we are now. We can’t retrace our steps.

I want change. I think that’s quite obvious from my previous posts. But I wanted a big, explosive, life-changing event with instantaneous results. I wanted to be propelled forward into that grand, picturesque future. But life doesn’t work like that. There’s growth that must be had along the way. Instant results are bad for us. As it is said, the struggle brings character. It makes us stronger. Wiser.

I’ve overlooked so many baby steps. I don’t know how I got where I am today. I couldn’t do it over again in the exact same way. But I am here. And those little steps–those tiny changes–got me here. Some were so small that they felt insignificant. But together, they created my life as I know it today.

I’m too impatient. I want the big screen TV without the big screen budget. Life doesn’t offer credit cards. You can’t get what you want without the actual resources you need. But in the end, I think we’re all fully equipped for the future we’re meant for. We just have to have the courage to use those resources. The courage to act. To risk. To let go. To be patient.

Even a change in mindset can be a step in the right direction. The key is to keep moving. Something great lies ahead, but it’s not the end; it’s just a place along the path. A place to linger and enjoy the view. But the sun is hot and you’ve got to keep moving. One foot in front of the other. One good thing at a time with anticipation of the next one ringing in your ear. Avoid the snakes on the path. Stop. Breathe. Learn. Be grateful. Therein lies the reward.

We just have to be patient.

Death’s Knock

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

People don’t always know how to react to death. A close co-worker of mine died this past weekend. I could hardly hold myself together after I heard about it. She haunted my steps because she was part of my routine. And now I was expected to go on with my routine as if nothing had changed. But everything had. I had just seen her a few days ago. Thank goodness, she was in high spirits after a  battle with her health.

When I hit the parking lot on my way to lunch, I was already crying. Once I got home, I finally felt like I could release all the sorrow. And I’ll tell you what, it felt good to finally let it all out. But why did I feel like I needed to hide away to cry? I mean, it’s death. No one can tell you to be ashamed of crying for a lost life. Or can they?

From what I have observed, people do whatever they can to push themselves farther from death’s door. Some resort to indifference, even if they have to fake it. Others try jokes, which can come across as morbid or disrespectful, especially to those who really care about the life lost. Some even talk and speculate so much that it becomes gossip. And maybe that’s what some of them want. Because gossip is better than facing death. Another common response is pretending it never happened. I’ve done that too much myself. And this time, I refuse to ignore it. I lost a friend, not just a co-worker. And I’m still dealing with that fact.

No one wants to face death. No one wants to admit how helpless it makes us all feel. That’s why it invokes such fear and confusion. How do you stand against something so utterly powerful? We can’t do much except fight it and most of the time that only prolongs the struggle. We still can’t win against death.

Most of us try to get far enough away that we can’t hear death’s knock. But we’re always just a step away from it, despite the illusion that we’re immune. My co-worker was only 50 years old. She died thinking she would come back to work on Monday like always. She was so excited about a grandchild soon to be born. She thought she had tomorrow, as we all do.

I’m not writing this to be gloomy, so I hope it doesn’t come across that way. It’s just, since I heard about her death, I’ve noticed more beauty around me. The sky was amazing yesterday. There was a faded pink sunset and only a few clouds to hold the color. Birds flew carelessly above me. Then, this morning, I drove right into a sunrise more beautiful than that sunset. This is a new beginning. It’s amazing how death can make you appreciate life so much more.

Life is too short. Everyone always says it, but it takes death to make us feel it fully. I turn 30 in a few months, so 50 doesn’t seem that far off. And that scares me. I’m not afraid of turning 30; actually I’m embracing it. But 50 is too young to die.

What I have learned through this is to stop waiting. Do what you intend to now. You never know when you might hear a knock. Don’t sit around being miserable. Do something. Pursue your happiness. Don’t let others’ reactions bring you down. Often, they don’t realize how powerful their words are.

Make your own positive words more powerful. Don’t give up on getting the gold.

Live.

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

 

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)

My One Thing

Childhood. Summer.

When I first told a friend of mine that I was engaged, she said, “I think you’ve finally found what you’ve been searching for.” It took me back. She knew me very well. I had never realized that I was searching for something, especially that singular special thing. I smiled and thought, “Maybe you’re right. Things are going to get better now.”

She was right in some ways. Marriage was something I had been searching for, whether I realized it or not on a conscious level. And my life has gotten better since then. I’ve improved as a person with the help of my very patient husband. I’ve taken many steps forward in a lot of different ways. But marriage was not the “one thing” I needed.

So, she was also wrong in some ways. There isn’t one single thing that settles you in for life. You always end up wanting more. After marriage, you want a house, or a baby, etc. There’s nothing that you can have solely by itself and be content. And if we did find the one thing that makes everything perfect for us, it would be a curse. Because life is full of so much more. If we found the “one thing” and we wanted nothing more, we would stop seeing all the other wonderful things life has to offer. We would miss out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not meaning that marriage is not fulfilling or good. It’s just one piece of the bigger picture. It’s one thing of many. Marriage has not magically turned my life into a picture-perfect image. It hasn’t solved all of my problems. It hasn’t provided me with a continual, eternal state of happiness. And no marriage will. As every married person will say, marriage is hard work. And if you work hard on it, it becomes a very special and very fulfilling part of life. And it can make you very happy. But it cannot singularly complete your life.

I’ve been married over three years now, and all I know is that I’ve taken a step in a better direction. I’m happier than I was before marriage. I hold more promise for my future. But I’m still searching. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop searching.

Life is a journey, not a destination, so nothing will stop us on the path and make us sigh with utter completeness. Life is just not that perfect. We’ve got to bring those good things with us as we continue along. We are blessed with many things, not just one. And I think that’s a better way even if we don’t get them all at the same time. That means no matter how great things become, we still have something to look forward to.

So, ultimately, my one thing is everything. And no one can have everything. So I’ll just keep searching to see how close I can get. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as I remember to hold onto the good things I bring with me and to let go of the things that aren’t meant to be mine.

 

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