July 2015 archive

Push/Pull

imagesI learned something awesome from my ex-father-in-law once. He said, “I never make a decision when I feel rushed.” It’s advice that stuck with me. Too many times to count since then I’ve felt someone pressuring me into a decision and instead of panicking, I slowed down. I paused. And sometimes while I was paused and thinking, the decision sorted itself out.

I heard a sermon this week from Pastor Furtick and in it, he mentioned the difference between the push and the pull. The push is the rush. It’s the thing that wants you to make a decision RIGHT NOW. It’s the thing that APPEARS to be an emergency. And it may be an emergency, but it’s usually someone else’s emergency; not yours.
On the other hand, the pull is the experience of knowing. It’s not always a pull towards something you WANT to do, towards your first choice, but you know somewhere deep inside that it’s what you need to do. The pull doesn’t always make sense. It may seem like you’re turning your back on something very important or extreme. Usually, though, it doesn’t turn out that way.
The pull is the gut feeling and the push is the outside pressure. I don’t want to get on the elevator alone with that guy but I don’t want to seem rude. The pull is that thing that tells you that you should become a writer even though you have a neuro-physics degree (that someone pushed you into getting). I’m not entirely sure that neuro-physics is a thing, but my point is that we all know the difference between between pressure and divine guidance. It’s just that we all think that little voice only comes along every once in a while for really big decisions.
The other day when I was leaving the gym and I decided I’d run by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. I felt a pull. “Don’t go to CVS right now.” I looked around. There was no rain. No SWAT team raid on the building. Parking spots were everywhere, even in the shade.
I’m going in. There’s no reason not to.
I walked back to the pharmacy. It was not being robbed.
People were working there. I don’t know what that pull was about, but it was wrong.
“Hi! I need to pick up a prescription…”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry, our computers are down. They should be back up in a few hours but we have been on the line all day waiting to find out when it would be fixed. Again, I am so sorry.”
“Not a problem!”
Sooooo, that was why.
The pull can be anything. It can keep you from danger and from inconvenience. It can lead you towards a sunshinier day or abundance beyond your wildest imagination. Pay attention to the pull. Trust the pull. And ignore all the pushers.

Get it Together, Curtis

I read this article today.
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It’s not like I regularly Google 50 Cent. Or cents. Or Fiddy Cent. However you say his name…Curtis Jackson. His name is Curtis Jackson. That’s how you say it.
Anyway, this past month I’ve been catching myself with a case of comparisonitis.
So-and-so has financial stability.
She isn’t divorced so she doesn’t have to deal with her son being gone for a week at a time.
He didn’t break is leg so of course he can run a marathon.
It has felt to me like everyone around me is celebrating, nay, simply LIVING a very normal, predictable life. And I have not had normal. Not for more than a day or two in a row. Not for a very long time. It gets exhausting. It gets…damn frustrating. I stay positive and upbeat, not because I’m faking it but because I can most days see how lucky I am. But I have those moments of, “Eff this. I’m out.” <mic dropped>
As it would happen, in the past week it has been revealed to me again and again that people are not what they say they are. They do not have the money they say they have (ahem, Curtis.) She may not be divorced, but she wishes she was. He didn’t break his leg, but he’s gambled most of his family’s savings away. These stories I tell myself about other people’s lives weren’t all true, and sometimes the truth wasn’t even as good as my lie.
I am the worst at painting everyone else’s story in a big, bright light and my own with a sad, dull brush. Part of the trouble is the way everyone presents their lives. Fiddy Cent there sure made his life look good, didn’t he? Most people do, using the excuse of, “I simply don’t share my personal life on social media” with the caveat of “unless it paints my life in a joyful, perfect light.” But the truth is that people don’t just enjoy boasting the best about themselves on Facebook. Some of them are actually taking it so far as to be dishonest with themselves. They work so hard to make their own lives look good that they lose reality. Curtis Jackson has obviously been lying to himself, unless he actually has millions of dollars stashed in the Caymans in which case he’s still lying to himself and everyone else.
It’s part of the reason I write this blog. It’s my attempt to share some honesty with the world so other people know it’s not just them. When I was about 17 my mom wrote me a letter and reminded me that as long as I could look myself in the eye and be OK, I was on the right track. I look myself in the eye in the mirror at least once a day. I am blessed and I give praise. I don’t have everything. I don’t feel good all the time. But at least I don’t lie to myself about it.

An Albino Mockingbird, A Kiwi, and a PB&J

Y’all. I have written 8 blogs in my head this week and ONE that I’ve actually published. I hate using the word “busy”, but I’ve been busy.

This summer I’ve had my son most of the time, Bear’s son full-time, and Bear’s mom has been with us for five weeks (she has helped me GREATLY with the kids so I could work!). We’ve been out of town every weekend for the past five weeks. We have gone on daytime adventures, Abe’s been in camp some of the time and home some of the time, and I bought a new rug. (The rug part wasn’t stressful or overwhelming. I just love the new rug.)

I’ve also been in physical therapy twice a week. It took me eight sessions, two visits to my primary care physician, and a LOT of hours on the phone to get my insurance to cover it. But just this week, insurance approved the physical therapy. Because occasionally, with enough atta-boys and “You can do it!”s, insurance companies actually insure their clients get healthcare. It’s like the sighting of an albino mockingbird, but it happens.
I told you earlier this summer that I was going to write a blog about how wonderful physical therapy was and blah blah blah… Well, it really was. My hip slowly but surely tilted back into the proper position and, as it did, I learned just how out of whack my muscles have become!! I compensated for the pain in my leg when I broke it by using other body parts, and that caused all my muscles to get confused. One muscle would grab the jelly, another would grab two pieces of bread, and by the end everything would be shoved into the peanut butter jar and served with a fork. We still ate lunch, but it was NOT the way we used to do it.
On the first day of physical therapy my Kiwi Therapist (he was from New Zealand) asked me to lie on my back, tense my transverse abdominal muscles (the ones right behind your hip bones), and lift one knee at a time. I flexed them.
“Go ahead. Flex,” Kiwi said.
“I am.”
“No, right here. Where my fingers are. Flex there,” he repeated.
“I am.”
“Oh. I see. Ok. Change of plans…”
Just that one little “exercise” demonstrated how far behind the curve I was. So, we started with just trying to tense my muscles. I didn’t even get to knee-lifts until week 3.
It’s not that I’m weak. It’s that I’m out-of-order strong. But Kiwi worked with me every week to find the sleepy muscles and wake them up after he gently tried to unjam my hip with his bear hands.

Kiwi is very strong.

Three weeks ago, Kiwi suggested I get a gym membership and continue the simple exercises with heavier and heavier weights in the coming months. I called around and tried a few different methods for getting a gym membership I could afford but I just kept coming up short (on cash). They all required sign-up fees of anywhere from $50 to $100. They had contracts. They cost $30-$100 monthly. Some covered the whole family. Some, just me.
Last week, I finally said this prayer:
God? I would like a gym membership at a gym near my house without a contract. I don’t want to pay a sign-up fee. And I don’t want to have to find the gym. I want you to tell me which one it is. I want it to find ME. 
Guess what?
Last Thursday a representative from a local gym happened to be at a restaurant where I was eating and offered me a week-long free pass out of the blue. I told him I wanted a gym membership with no contract and no sign-up fee. The next morning I got a call from the manager of that gym asking me to come in and get my key-card. The monthly payment is less than the others and includes my whole family.

Bam.

The entire point of this blog is that I’m still surrendering. A lot. It’s the word of the year, in fact. I’m surrendering to being busy. To having a full house. To physical therapy. To insurance companies. To gym memberships. I’m finding that surrender actually requires me to make a very specific request and then REALLY giving up my will and what I wish would happen. It seems counterintuitive, but truth is I don’t have control over anything. Literally letting things happen around me can seem kind of pacifist at times, but I assure you it takes strength and action to remain in life’s flow. Think about being caught in a raging river. You can try to swim against it; huge energy-suck and certain death. Or, you can go with it; still a challenge to survive but far more doable if you can keep your head above water.

IMG_2597I went to the gym this morning. I did the exercise bike and some light weights while I watched the spin class having so much fun…
Surrender, y’all.

7 Shades of Crazy

joshgroban_345x290After a lovely weekend with Bear on a mini-vacay in an AMAZING hotel on a last-minute deal, I return to life this Monday morning.
And that always sucks, doesn’t it?
I woke up almost in PAIN missing my son. There are some weeks I don’t have him that feel like a much-needed breather. Other times, it feels like a punishment. I decided my best choice was the get down to business. Start writing. Start praying. Start checking emails.
I did my thang for a while until I heard the dogs start to go ape-shit…only it wasn’t near the front door, as it usually is. It near the door to the back yard. I peered into the back room and there they both were, huffing at a wall.
Mice.
We live on a creek and occasionally a mouse will run up and under the crawl space of our house and make little noises that aggravate the hell out of the dogs. I refocused on my computer only to be interrupted again, this time by barking and whining.
“Guys. It’s under the house. I can’t fix it. It’ll go away. A snake will get it. I promise.”
I talk to my dogs. Like they’re people.
But the dogs were relentless. So I wandered into the back room to show them nothing was there and that’s when something was there.
A MOUSE.
And in fact, that is the exact text I sent to Bear upon realizing a mouse was IN our house, not under it.
MOUSE.
“Where?” he texted back.
IN OUR HOUSE.
I spent the next 30 minutes with flash lights, glue traps, and 2 VERY angry dogs trying to hunt the little sucker down. Do you have any idea how infuriating it is to be 8 times the size of a mouse and completely incapable of catching it?! IT LAUGHED AT ME. I HEARD IT.
I gave up. I set glue traps around every corner of the room because no I’m not going to simple shoo it outside with a broom. I’m going to kill it and leave it as a warning to its friends. Go ahead. Call PETA.
I drove to the grocery store because we have nothing to eat except Mouse and I can’t even catch it to cook it. Walking down the organic rice aisle (have you seen Winn Dixie’s new organic aisle?! It’s really nice!), Josh Groban comes on.

Fly me up to where you are.
Beyond the distant star.
I wish upon tonight
to see you smile.
Weeping. Silently weeping near the rice. Why? I don’t know. Because my mini-vacation is over and I miss my son and I can’t catch a mouse and we’re out of groceries.
I’m now realizing that I’m several layers of crazy deep into this day, so when they’re almost out of my favorite creamer and the last one is at the back of the top shelf, I think nothing of climbing through and stepping on milk and soy products to get it. Do I care that those other cartons are now dented all to hell? I don’t. I want my creamer. IT’S ALL I HAVE.
I get to the check out and the young man handling my groceries is new. Brand new. I think I might be his first customer. The bagger is usually the guy who checks me out and he’s coaching New Kid.
“Oh, you accidentally rang me up for 4 rice boxes. I only had 3,” I kindly showed him. I hate that feeling, when people are watching you try and subsequently fail, knowing all the while you have to start over again with a new bag of unmarked produce as soon as this customer leaves.
“Oh…” New Kid said, flustered.
“Just select that item in black,” Bagger Dude said, “and then hit void. See? You got it.”
He was so encouraging. So supportive. He never once let New Kid feel like he was screwing everything up (which he was). And once the line got long enough, Bagger Dude simple said, “Here, I’ll take care of this one for you and help you bag it so you can get through and start the next one, ok man. No worries.”
Again, I almost cried. Because here I am going down the rabbit hole of crazy (I don’t have PMS, btw, it’s just me) and here’s this Bagger Dude being SO helpful and SO kind to New Kid. I walked out of Winn Dixie thinking, “People need to be this kind. They need to be this patient and this helpful to each other. Why aren’t we constantly finding ways to make each other feel like, “Hey! You’re not the only one! I was New Kid once, too!”
I spent the rest of the day humming Josh Groban and trying to find ways to be NICER to people because I may be damn near the last shade of crazy, but I can still see those sparkle-moments that make me think we could all be doing better.

BTW – Can someone tell me I’m not the only one who’s wept near the organic rice in Winn Dixie when Josh Groban comes on? ANYONE?!

I Did Not Burn a Building Down Today

white_flag_surrenderI’m reading Michael Singer’s new book called The Surrender Experiment. In short, he decided to spend a period of time (which ended up being his entire life) COMPLETELY surrendering to whatever life handed him. Instead of protesting, attempting to change things, or improve things, he just said, “Ok. Yes. This is what is happening.” Even the day he came home to find a person building a house on his land. He said, “Ok. Yes. This is what is happening.” (Good thing, too, because the person who moved in ended up being his wife.)
It’s kind of akin to Jim Carrey’s movie “Yes Man”, wherein he had to say yes to everything for an entire year or something like that.
You know that stuff that happens so perfectly, so coincidentally when you aren’t even expecting it? You get a bill for $500 and before you can panic, a $500 check winds up in your mailbox for some old class-action lawsuit or something. You have to be in downtown by noon and your car breaks down at the same time they call to tell you the entire meeting has been rescheduled to your side of town the following week. You stop trying to meet a boyfriend and Mr. Right walks straight into your house to fix your washing machine. It’s those times that you aren’t fighting for something, you aren’t asking for anything, you aren’t working on anything…you’re just living; surrendered to what’s going on because your sweet little brain doesn’t really have an opinion about things at that particular time.
I want to stop listening to the opinions, likes, and dislikes of my brain and just try being surrendered for a while.

It’s awful.

Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s tough. Little things like this:
I saw a carpet in Target that I really wanted. It was $150. I knew I couldn’t afford it but I felt SO drawn to it, so positive this was the rug I needed that I bought it without too much thought. I didn’t pray for the money or do affirmations. I surrendered to the feeling that I HAD to buy this damn rug.
I tried selling the old rug that it was replacing but it wouldn’t sell. I posted it to craigslist and updated it and added new pictures. Nothing. So again, I surrendered. No praying, no nothing, just…Ok. That’s how it is.
The next day I got a small writing gig for $150.
The day after that, the rug sold for $100. My family was supposed to go out to dinner that night and I knew we were kinda waiting on this week’s payday to have a meal out. When the folks who bought my rug left, Bear looked at me and smiled. “Dinner money. Thanks, old rug.”

My point is that surrender isn’t this long, drawn out, meditative process. It just means saying, “Well, Ok. That’s how it is.” Our egos tell us that this is NOT safe. When the insurance company refuses to pay for something, WE FIGHT ABOUT IT. We highlight documents and contact lawyers and ask for letterhead. But have you ever wondered if just surrendering to what has happened might not only bring you peace but ALSO, everything will work itself out because it always does? Seriously. It always works out. Whether you fight and bitch and torch the building, or whether you accept what is happening and move forward with a full surrender that it will be fine.

I’m not good at it. Because today I wanted to burn a building down.

But I didn’t! And eventually I realized that I was back in that pattern of fighting to get what I needed. I didn’t realize it until a woman from the office I was fighting with called me and casually said that it had all already been taken care of and they only needed the document I would be providing them tomorrow. Had I just surrendered, I would have gotten that call while sipping an afternoon coffee and getting work done instead of driving home a sweaty, angry, flustered mess.

I don’t think it would be human of me to ask you to eliminate ALL of your reactions to the world and what it offers you. I do think we can actively surrender more often than we think we can and that, inevitably when we do, the outcome is often the same or better.
Repeat after me: Well. Ok. That’s how it is.
No matter the INJUSTICE, no matter the problem, no matter how COMPLETELY inappropriate it seems, surrender. Just try it for a day. See what happens.

Are we all as deeply saddened by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce as I am?!

Are we all as deeply saddened by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner’s divorce as I am?!

Ok. Truth be told I’m deeply saddened by any divorce. I hate divorce. I hate what it does to people, what it turns them into. It makeimagess people selfish, entitled, judgmental, downright MEAN. It made me weak, pathetic, so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like my ex-husband and I had a TOTAL handle on what divorce would be like, and we didn’t. I had no idea how awful it would be. It’s still awful, quite frankly. I still hate it. When I think about it for more than a few minutes, I feel like I’m back in bed on a sunny morning praying that no one would ever find me.
I’ll learn from that experience forever.
Divorce taught me the most about relationships. Bear and I have both been married once before, we both have boys, and neither of us want to get divorced again. On a certain level…we both get it. At least we get it in a way that we didn’t the first time around. We get that a wedding is adorable and expensive and basically a big fun party for other people. We get that loving each other is not enough. We get that passion doesn’t just sustain itself. And we get that the growing, the working, the whole HUMBLING experience that IS partnership and marriage isn’t meant to be fun all the time anymore than your job, being a parent, or eating your favorite food isn’t fun ALL THE TIME. But as we quit our jobs, watch our children eventually grow up and move out, and choose a different food, we stay married. Forever. That’s the idea.
Why isn’t every newly-engaged person being asked to consider eating the same breakfast every day in the rest of their lives?? WOULDN’T THAT HELP?
Bear and I get that we will NOT like each other every day.
We also get that there are days we love each other so much that it is physically PAINFUL.
We get that it is his job to take out the trash but that I am here in this relationship to love and serve him, and so if I know it will make his life easier, I take it out. I don’t keep score after that, either. I just do it.
We get that we have different styles of parenting, budgeting, and decorating. We get that compromise is a long, tedious process. We also get that it’s sometimes just easier to give up the thing we want SO much just so we don’t have to deal with the big, long Compromise Conversation. (We also often get that we didn’t care near as much as we thought we did…)
We get that we don’t get each other sometimes. He has NO idea why I just want him to sit and listen to me cry and do NOTHING to help me. And I don’t get why traffic makes him so cotton-picking angry.
We get that we will both change and grow into new, sometimes altogether different people. And that when we decided to commit to each other, we committed to all of those people, too.

I knew none of this when I got married the first time. I’m sure people told me. I’m sure someone said, “It’s not a fairy tale blah blah blah.” But it’s nearly impossible to hear that when you’re wedding dress shopping and choosing brides maids and cake-testing. I almost think we should be REQUIRED to be married for 5 years before we get a wedding.
AND THEN when we DO get the wedding, we should be required to pay for it ourselves. Because how badly are we setting newlyweds up by paying for their LAVISH weddings and then SHOWERING them with money and gifts and then sending them off into the shocking real world of, “No one cares.”
HELLO? GIFT THEM A BUDGETING CLASS.
The wedding will be a practice in working together to invite ONLY THE PEOPLE THE COUPLE WANTS. As a team, as partners, they decide who they want celebrating with them because they’re going to create a brand new boundary…THEIR OWN.
Oh, and the colors? The flowers? The dresses? Also decisions they must make together. Because if you think choosing guest lists and hors d’oeuvres together is difficult, try choosing a parenting style.
Here’s my point: it’s a set up. Marriage is a set up. It is both the greatest and HARDEST thing you’ll ever do. And I know because I did it once and we screwed it up.

I have no idea if Jennifer and Ben tried super hard to save their marriage or if they knew all these things before they got marriage. I’ll bet that it’s just the most awful thing either of them have ever been through, though, and I’m just so sorry they have to experience it. I do kind of appreciate what their tarnished little “fairy tale” highlights for everyone else: marriage ain’t a fairy tale. And as I go into this next phase of my life, I do so blessed and humbled that I am so loved and cherished by the hardest working man I’ve ever met…and I also do so blessed with the experiences God gave me that I pray have enhanced my wisdom and understanding of what marriage truly is.

 

The 30s Epidemic

Just a whimsical cartoon the lighten the heavy.

Just a whimsical cartoon the lighten the heavy.

Chatting with a friend of mine today, I realized that most women my age face an epidemic. It feels embarrassing and downright STUPID for us to talk about it sometimes. I mean here we are, out of our twenties and out of most of the day-to-day “Am I going to eat ramen today?” or “I need my mom to pay my car insurance…again” issues. In most cases, we’ve reached a level of financial stability and likely some kind of family (whether it’s a community of friends or a partnership). The children we prayed for are probably already here. The house, the car, the job…it’s all here or in the works. We’re sort of sitting pretty in the part of life that it feels like we spent 10-15 years striving for.
And somewhere in there we wake up one morning and ask:
Is this all there is?
It’s not a mid-life crisis. It’s not a quarter-life crisis. It’s this weird thing in between where so many of us get bored. We look around for those fireworks we had in our 20s, the adventures we expected to await when we started making money, the magic that came with having a family. Reality sets in and none of that stuff happens. And we kinda can’t believe it.
Why does this happen to so many of us?!
I don’t have the answers, but I’d venture a guess…

Expectations.

We have an idea of what will happen when we GET all the things that we want. But once we get them and the great Everest-style climb is over, we summit, look out over our accomplishment, and then what? Climb down. And then it’s over.
Now what?
Is there more?
Do we do something else?
WHAT DO WE DO?!?! SOMETHING BIG IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN NOW!!!
And so…we quit our jobs. We blow up at our families. We leave our partners. We move. We do anything to change our realities so we can feel SOMETHING close to what we thought we would be feeling. But the SUPER fun end-game is that whatever you change…you wind up back in the exact same place sooner than later. (Those are the people who say things like, “Why do I always attract the cheaters?” or “I always have asshole bosses.”)
We get bored. And wondering when the point of life will illuminate itself.

You’ve seen the 5,000+ cliche memes that basically say if you want your life to change, you have to change yourself? It’s SO annoying.
And it’s SO true.

Someone recently asked me why am I with Bear; what it is about him that makes him “the one”. My answer? Because that’s what I chose. It’s not because I love him, because there will be days I don’t. It’s not because he’s adorable, because there will be days I don’t think he’s so cute. It’s not because he’s hilarious, because there will be days containing ZERO laughter. The answer is that I choose him everyday. It’s not as fluffy and romantic as everyone would like for it to be, and neither is accomplishing a big goal or reaching a destination.

Even when you accomplish EVERYTHING, happiness and satisfaction are never the end result. There is no achieving happiness. It’s not a destination. And that is so frustrating because I reeeeeeeeally want it to be a destination. I wanna get there and just have IT be the thing that makes me happy. But just like Bear is my choice, happiness is my choice. Even when I don’t know what the point is.