Post Election Thoughts by Liz

It’s over.  The Donald is now the POTUS.

I just deleted about two dozen sentences after those first two, because no matter what I write I can literally feel the shouts of applause and the hurling of tomatoes no matter what I say.  Instead, I am just going to start out light hearted, end seriously, and then enjoy my day.  I hope you’ll do the same.   These will be my last post-election thoughts for a while, as I and probably many of you now need a total tv/social media break.  I really super-binged yesterday on TV and Facebook and am now feeling the aftermath of shame.  Of course a day of rest and stillness does wonders for the soul too.   I just get kind of mad at myself whenever moss grows around my outline on the couch.  Anyway, my thoughts:

  1. Ivanka would make a stunning Disney Princess and she conveys the calm demeanor I wish to have at all times.   I feel no jealousy watching her or the family, only inspiration.  I’d like to learn how to be gracious and not so sensitive as to what others think.  In my book, that is real woman empowerment.
  1. Melania would make a nice princess too; I love her simplistic elegance. Jackie O elegance on display just makes me happy; it just does. Especially if done at private, not public expense.  Though I think beneath her understated elegance, is not someone who is wanting to be known for simple beauty.  My intuition tells me we will find she is a woman of substance, a good and protective mother, with very strong views that are her completely her own.
  1. The grandkids are adorable and I’m still pretty sure one of them signed the first executive orders blowing rasberries as Nancy Pelosi watched ever so nervously. I chuckled as one of the little grandsons aptly worked his way through all the adults like he was parting the seas. He moved confidently to the Executive Desk in rapid order and put his arm over Grandpa while toying with the pens as if to say, “Allow me, sir.”
  1. I loved the music selections by talented, not the “in club” entertainers, especially kids!!   I loved Pelican 212! Those trumpet players, oh my. Those kids were beautifully diverse and had incredible passions for their amazing talent!

  1. As POTUS spoke, my ADHD brain kept receiving conflicting messages from his sign language. He’s really quite good actually. But as I listened to his plans, I kept reading L-O-L, or L-O-U-D, or F-O-U-L or F-O-L-D, but mostly a lot of LOL. I would like to see him conduct a symphony and see how it sounds. I mean that. It would be interesting.Sign language alphabet.png
  2. I am a composite of all my friends and family b/c some things DJT says make me want to cringe, but others make me want to shout Hooah! Above all, I am an optimist—mostly. I have to be. I wouldn’t survive the hard days if I wasn’t.
  3. Above all, I wanted to cry when the military danced with the First and Second families. My large family is full of members who either serves/served our country honorably for years in the various branches, and it was beautiful seeing THEM honored in this way.

Lastly, whether your candidate won or lost, how now will you live?   Whether SHOUTING our opinions  on social media if effective to hear our views is debatable. It may have worked well for President Trump’s campaign, but does it ACTUALLY work for you?  Does it actually accomplish things in your life or lead to a loss of time, or an increase of anxiety?  Just thoughts to ponder, no judgement here.

Is there something, anything each of us could be DOING to affect change, well effectively? What if we really were the change we wished to see, as Ghandi said? People would see us and think how cool it would be to join us when helping our fellow citizens.   Posters and tweets and shouting bring awareness for a short time, but acts of kindness, words of gentleness, and strategically managing your time and ways you help the causes you are most passionate about bring about the greatest change. All these thoughts are my humble opinion of course.

Finally, I pray you can stay positive.   Have faith. Reject fear.  Help someone else today. Set an example. Breathe.   Be grateful.   Make America Kind Again!!  Love, and in so doing, you will let live.

 

I Will Love You Louder

 

“Whom you chose to listen to, will determine the outcome of your life.” Daniel Messina, Crossroads Fellowship – Raleigh, NC

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.

 2016 was a tough year. Finally! The election was over, and I could get back to normal. I was so looking to 2017. While I was looking forward, God must have been chuckling. No, there are always still miles to go and tears to cry.  More reasons to seek Him, not my will.

That’s how life always happens. The wave of one crisis finally crests, and you’re treading water, ever so carefully, gratefully , hoping to quietly just float back to shore. And then you see it–the next wave. It’s so much bigger.

Lately the din of the news of the world coupled with the roar of life in my own kitchen has been making my head spin. I feel like it will explode on some days. Anxiety. Depression. Painful situations. Too many people I know are suffering. Is anyone in control up there in the tower? I’ve too many incoming planes and they’re all arriving unscheduled in my backyard from C and C Airways (Crisis and Confusion) and clearly their communication system is down. Help! I don’t know what to do! Hello? Is anyone listening?

So here we are. We’re hours away from a new POTUS and frankly, the world still seems as screwed up as it was before the election. The fault lines of our souls keep on cracking and dividing us further apart. The news media hurls the bad news fly balls faster than we can catch them. Apparently, mean tweets and anger and division swell ratings. Who knew?   Sheesh, if all I ever did was watch the news, and fall victim to every voice with an agenda, I’d swear our cities were burning down, we were in the middle of epic race wars, the planet is heating up to lethal temperatures, and mankind is continuously eliminating one another in the quest to dominate and be right—be it geography or the infinite, ever-expanding digital land mass known as social media.

But a weird thing happens when I walk away. I go outside and I see and breathe in sunshine. Or rain.   Or even snow. Regardless, it is a breath of fresh air. I put geographical distance and measured time between my eyes and the constant tap,tap,tapping of text messages on screens and BREAKING NEWS flashes. You see I’m learning, that if any of us are going to mentally survive going forward, you’re going to have to change the messages you listen to, in order to quiet your mind, to be a better, kinder, gentler person yourself.

Or you could just stay angry all the time. Or sad. Or feel hopeless. Or disgusted. Or whatever negative default state of disrepair you’ve learned is a safe fallback. Because as long as it’s the President’s fault (current, past, or incoming) or Congress or those on the other side of whatever viewpoints or opinions or theologies we currently hold sacrosanct, then guess what? We’re all absolved of any responsibility for fixing our own lives. Well—isn’t that convenient?!

Now before I get mean tweets of disagreement, let me say something. Disagreement does not equal disrespect for personhood or viewpoint. Though lately, many of us from the top to the bottom seem to have forgotten that. But you know what, we don’t have to engage! We don’t have to obsessively watch or listen to those voices which anger us. We don’t have to have angst anymore because others think differently then us.

In a world where uniqueness and diversity is celebrated, it seems like the last place that holds true is in the world of thought. And that’s actually where we most need to celebrate diversity. Without it, we wouldn’t have the great artists who create beauty, the scientists who solve mysteries, the doctors who find new ways to heal, the spiritual leaders who calm and inspire and teach us new ways of being.

Since the right to free speech doesn’t guarantee kind speech, we must choose what we listen to. We can’t regulate others’ tempers or temperament, only ours. I only know that if individually we become the voices of reason, kindness, gentleness and self-control, tolerance of viewpoint, and above all the blessed voice of silence because we choose to listen to others, some of the negative will be forced to retreat, to simmer down, perhaps even end.

Even if others don’t stop speaking ugly, you can still fill your head with pretty. But it’s your choice.   Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? How is it affecting your body, your mind, your soul?   Maybe it’s time to change the channel. Or go outside. Or listen to a symphony. Or read something that allows you to touch the words, feel them come to life as you turn the pages. I know! You could even get something done that you’ve been putting off! Or most of all, perhaps you need to learn how to sit alone with yourself and your thoughts. Surrender that which isn’t yours to fix. Pray for others. Make a plan. Rest. Rejuvenate.   Just be still. And know.

Changes are coming. Some will be great. Some will be terrible. Some will be made by us. Many will be made by others that are simply: out of our control.

So in light of all that? How now will you live? How will you choose?

As for me, I will resolve to speak less, listen harder.   I absolutely will be more selective on who/what I listen to. I will find ways to fast from those things that frustrate me or don’t help me grow. I will show love to those who think different, or who I disagree with.

 In the silent art of learning how to listen better, I will find I love you more. I will stop trying to change you. Perhaps you will grant me the same kindness?

In the gentle moments where my soul is quiet, I see I am able to love you. Even though we are different.   I will love you—louder.  Because it’s the only voice that makes sense to me.  It’s the only voice that will carry us all home safely.

 

 

 

 

 

STRESSED OUT: The Gift of What Just Might Kill Us

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Clara Bow — Silent Film and Talkies Star –1920s — She was the inspiration for Betty Boop.  She also suffered with mental health issues due to stress.

 

Stress. We all carry it. Like interest on a credit card, it compounds. Quickly.

We are living in extreme days.  Our country is polarized, and some of us, perhaps many of us feel like we are hanging on by a thread.

Our daily responsibilities exceed the available time to accomplish them. I’m talking only about the things on our “MUST DO” list. Forget totally about our “HOPE TO DO” and “WANT TO DO” list.

Then, predictably so, like a promise that arrives early, a CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS lands in your lap exactly as your energy levels drop below zero. Couple this with your due date for everything urgent was expected yesterday and before, and your list of what you have to post pone due to emergency, is stretched to indefinite, if not infinity and beyond.   Generally, this will happen when you don’t have the following to cope:

  • money to pay for it
  • time to absorb it
  • energy/resources to fix it

Everything from demanding jobs, to family crisis, to health crisis, to a death in the family, or news that feels like a “sentence” feel like they are going to pull us under the waves.  Up to now we were at least managing our overwhelm, however precariously, as we bobbed between the waves of life’s stormy seas.

Here’s the hardest truth of our lives: Sometimes it sucks. I mean that literally. The challenge of just getting to the next day seems near impossible, because TODAY feels like it is vacuuming every last ounce of our energy, time, and resources to simply deal.

We can’t take ONE. MORE. THING. And then…..

BOOM!

The unthinkable. The unimaginable. The unbearable.

Like it or not. It’s here. How now will you get through it?

I’m not a doctor or scientist or even theologian who claims to know. I’m just a girl who’s been around the block a few times. And each successive lap does get harder, but……

it’s true—that which does NOT kill us, really does make us stronger.

My Christian faith has comforted my heart, and my mind knows many of God’s promises. But that never negates the reality of what is, and the pain/frustration/fear one goes through when one is on overload. The feelings are real, even if our analysis of what’s happening doesn’t agree with others’ perspectives. The truth is: We feel what we feel.

So, how to deal?

Something I learned a long time ago at church. Our wise pastor told us:

You are going to suffer in life. That you don’t get to choose.

The only thing you get to choose is HOW YOU SUFFER.

Will you waste your suffering?

Or will it be redemptive?

I have never forgotten that lesson. I mean I have in terms of application sometimes:

  • I get negative ( I whine to others.)
  • I forget to pray. I forget to be still.  (I’m SO busy!)
  • I complain. (As if stating the problem a dozen different ways will somehow change it.)
  • I avoid reality, or at least dream of it. (I think I will hide under my blankets and pet the cats and just listen to music all day. Yeah right.  )

And then: I remember another profound truth:

IT IS WHAT IT IS

 Seriously, reality always wins.

 I pause.

 I remember.

I get to choose my suffering.   I. Me. No one else.   Other people or life situations—they may overwhelm, even slay me. But I CHOOSE how I deal. Or die. Or live. That is my power. And no one and nothing can take THAT away from me! No one can take the power that I believe God has already put in me, unless I give it to them.

There’s a lot of anger out there these days. The election comes to mind. I get the disappointment and anger. I really do. But seriously, how much power are YOU going to allow someone else to have over your lives?   What changes can you make?  More importantly, WHO will you CHOOSE to be?

We don’t get to change our circumstances much of the time. The only thing available for us to change is: OUR PERSPECTIVE

Stress can BE our friend.   We can “reframe” our situation.

These things I’ve learned for sure, especially in crisis mode:

We can only solve one problem at a time. Tackle your tasks and finish them one by one. It may mean going off-line, off-grid, turning your phone off. That’s okay.   People will live without you for a few days. But you won’t live without you.

If other people can’t understand your limitations sometimes, that is their problem, not yours. Is it good to care what other’s think of us?  Sure.  But our health, our life comes first.

“No” is a complete sentence. This is a biggie, especially for women. We want to give and help so much, we can give ourselves away sometimes. But say no sometimes. Even if it’s just to practice for a real emergency. It’s so freeing. The relief that comes from knowing you don’t have to be responsible for everything just because someone thought you were the most capable to do it.

Get enough rest. No matter what. No good decision is ever decided when running on fumes.   Which brings me to: Delay big decisions until you have had at least one good night’s sleep.

Ask for help. And then don’t be ashamed. Be it tasks or an understanding ear, reach out to others. Please. Other friends don’t always know when we struggle. They are stressed too.

Daily Quiet Time. (DQT) Prayer. Meditation.   Simple solitude where you simply empty your mind of all thoughts, if only for ten minutes. This is absolutely essential if you are on overload. Practice this now. Make this your habit, so you won’t forget in emergencies.

Breathe. Just breathe. Slowly. Take it all in, understanding you don’t have all the answers. Remember? You can’t control it all.

Consciously choose to accept with grace, to the extent that you are able, what is happening now. I recently read a wonderful quote by Corrie Ten Boom:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow
It only empties today of it’s strength.

For those of you suffering severe stress right now, I encourage you to watch this amazing TED talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend. I found just taking the time, all precious 15 minutes or so, recharged me. It reminded me why we are gifted with our present. We have this beautiful opportunity to be brave as we rise to the occasion of our challenges.

You WILL suffer.

You WILL have to make a choice (even not choosing is still a choice).

Be brave.  And may you choose well.

 

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Close your eyes. Just listen to some pop pscyhology. There. Did your demons float away if only for a few minutes?

Unprecedented: Voting for THIS President — November 8, 2016

Hooray! It’s here! It’s Election Day and the day we’ve been wanting to be over, is:

Almost Over

First, a disclaimer: I DON’T have a horse in this race. My person was out months ago. My heart still hurts, but like Rose on the sinking Titanic, it will simply go on, despite the uncertainty principal that awaits all of us come 2017.

This has been a hard year for me as I’ve watched the politics delve deep down from the gutter to the sewer then the swam, perhaps even Hell itself.

So it’s with no guilt or shame I tell you this: I took my 11-year old son to both a Trump and a Clinton rally yesterday. There are several reasons why:

  1. We are homeschoolers. This is Civics 101, American History, Sociology, and perhaps even Psychology at it’s very finest as far being a teachable moment.
  1. I am a shutterbug. Photography is my hobby. I wanted to see if I could capture some American history and personal history.

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(Liz obsesses more over lenses then candidates!!)

  1. I am an adventurer. I will drop just about anything, to go anywhere, if I think there will be interesting people, concerned people, beautiful scenery, unusual things/people, natural things, historic moments. I saw a lot of this yesterday.
  1. I have my personal biases, yes. So do you. But I am also open-minded! Did you know you can retain your principals and core beliefs but still mingle with other people that believe, behave, and vote differently than you? In fact, sometimes you can even love them anyway.  I plan to teach my child this, otherwise our country really is doomed.

I’ve spent a lot of time this year studying, web-surfing, worrying, fretting, whining, discussing, and then accepting and denying the choices that confront us. In the end, I too have to deal with the ultimate Sophie’s Choice that will forever alter our country. That’s an enormous responsibility to shoulder. You have the same burden. Our main choices seem so fundamentally flawed to me, and the smaller choices seem hopeless.

I’ve conversed and debated this year with everyone from personal to church to online friends, neighbors, as well as immediate and extended family. I’ve talked with a range of folks, from procrastinators to prognosticators. And I’ve come to a few conclusions.

There are a multitude of reasons we vote. All are valid, in the hearts and minds of those who cast them.   These are some of the reasons I’ve seen and heard this year, as to why we vote:

Principals: Certainly our principals guide us more than just about any other factor as to why we vote. The issues we care so deeply about are what drive our very lives. We are so divided because our principals our at war with other. Think about your “core” principals that are deal-breakers as far as the opposing candidates. How is our country going to mend, IF we can’t even listen to those that believe the polar opposite?

Even the word compromise is politically charged because some people believe you should always compromise, and others think you never should. Yikes, how does a country survive with that? How do you run your own family? Are other view points allowed?   If your “person” wins, are you willing to respect, even defend the other side’s right to believe differently?   I’ll say it again, we can never reconcile opposing principals if we totally lose our ability to listen.

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God bless our Secret Service

Pragmatism: One thing I’ve heard a lot this year. Well, I can’t vote for him/her (because of ssues A,B,C,D, etc), so I’m going to HAVE to vote for her/him.   It’s the “lesser of two evils” argument. This one is a challenge for me. At least with family members, and a few close friends, I have asked how to do they comfortably vote for Clinton despite the email scandals (being above the law), lying to the public (Ben-Ghazi), the pay-for-play schemes related to the Clinton Foundation etc. And much more, but that’s enough for this paragraph.

I have also asked my Republican friends how in the world do you vote for Trump? Someone who is so hot-headed, insults women, other ethnicities, the handicapped, the flat-chested, the “ugly”, the list goes on.   How do you say you vote “principals” over name-calling, insulting, temper tantrums, and often an inconsistent core principals on every single issue. If you vote principals first, than how in the world do you throw out character?

And because I have taken these heated discussions to many over the past few months, I have received heat that often feels like a beating from BOTH sides. But I did this not to berate, condemn, or alienate those I love from me. I did this because I HAD to understand from a different viewpoint other then my own, how they came to their conclusion as I struggled mightily with my own decision.

 Protest: I think this would kind of fall in the category: Pragmatism-taken-to-an-extreme. Or perhaps principal. When one candidate seems so detestable, that you do everything in your power to send a message to the other person, and/or party. Or perhaps you dislike both candidates, so you pick the he or she that have an infinitesimal chance of winning, but you’ll sleep good with your own soul at least.

Believe me, I totally get that!

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We didn’t quite make it in Reynolds Colliseum last night, but we did huddle outside at 1 am with several hundred other happy excited Clinton supporters.

Earlier that day, we saw the kindest people, both the longest lenses, buses, and neckties I’ve ever seen, and we found a quarter and a nickelon the ground as we walked out.

Protection: Fear of terror attacks.   Fear of gun violence. Fear of losing the freedom to defend one’s self/family. Fear of government overreach. Black lives. Blue lives. Keeping our own money.   Not losing our benefits. Our borders. Our national security.   Veterans. Syrian refugees. The autonomy of one’s body. The lives of the unborn.   These too are just a sampling of hot-button issues that we are passionate about protecting. And as you can see, even that which we should protect also divides us. Because sadly, in our flawed human nature, we are divided as to which kind of person do we protect. In our defective humanity, we assign a hierarchical value to people, swayed by our beliefs.   For some of us, we compromise, even sacrifice a lot of principal, and even lay down our pragmatism, and vote simply who will best protect my family, myself, my country, and the issues I care about?

 Popularity: We also grow passionate because politicians tickle our burning ears with that which we want to hear. They justify our inner anger and teach us it’s acceptable to let it out. Or is it? Perhaps we decry racism and then vote solely on race, or sexism and vote solely on gender. It happens in both parties to all genders. Popularity comes with perks. Maybe it’s getting to see Beyonce or or Lady Gaga or Bon Jovi for free. Free concerts, free college? Hey, that’s cool! Or perhaps it’s “We’re mad as hell, and we are DEFINITELY not going to take it anymore. We are Taxed Enough Already!” The corruption stops here.   But will it? Is either side capable of being totally transparent? Is either side truly honest?   And will either side deliver on their promises? Or are we simply voting, knowing they won’t, but it sure sounds good!

The hardest part of this election for me is that I truly want to vote FOR someone, and FOR something I believe in, not AGAINST someone else, and things I oppose. I want a person of integrity that truly believes the values they espouse, not just say they do. I haven’t found that candidate this year.

I finally had to vote on one core belief, and one belief only:

Prayerfully: There’s a melody I keep hearing in my head today. It’s from the U2 song “Ultraviolet”:

Oh– Sometimes I feel like I don’t know

Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out

I want to get it wrong

I can’t always be strong,

and love—it won’t be long……

So today–I’m praying as I settle my soul with the vote I cast.   I don’t want to actually get it wrong (but somehow feel I will). I want to be wrong about whoever wins. Because I want our country to heal more than I want to be right. I just do. Call me a mostly-conservative pacifist who just crazy loves her compassionate liberal friends as much she loves her loving evangelical conservative friends. I don’t know. I just want to have peace in my heart. And I want our country to just be okay. This peace! It’s the very thing that has soooo eluded me this election.

Perhaps some of you feel the same way.   I’ve never cared so much and felt like I had so little to choose from. You see, I love America so much.   Every day of my life, even the worst horrible days have still been slightly awesome days. Because the next day I always woke up with the freedom to choose differently. Above all, I don’t want to lose that.

And I want all those I’ve debated with, talked with, argued with this year—well, I need you to know something.   I saw this gem of wisdom on a bumper sticker. It’s been my favorite of the entire campaign season:

I love you. And I vote.

Today is our day America. This is the day WE decide. I pray you will consider this one question above all others. By tomorrow (most likely), like it or not, we WILL have a new President. Either “She” or “He” will win. So in light of that:

Will you still be the same person tomorrow, that you are today?

I know I will. I already know I’ll wake up a bit disappointed because I feel we are a nation in decline, we’ve lost our compass on how to deal with each other. I feel we have become selfish. We want what WE WANT, and we don’t want the other side to have what they want because they are wrong! We see our lives only through the prism of what the “bad guys” have done to us.

People are truly frustrated and angry over political decisions that have impacted our lives. Real people are hurting financially, facing employment challenges, have retirement concerns, or worry that they can even safely live due to their geography or skin color. Though much of our frustration is indeed justified, the way we treat one another is not.

This blog contains no answers. Only observations. But it is written in the utmost hope that you WILL vote. That you will consider things from all the perspectives you possibly possess. And I pray that you too will pray for both candidates and our nation as one seeks our confidence in their ability to lead us. Know this: we are not electing a king or queen. I believe we serve a higher power, we answer to a higher law, and we ought to respond to all who are around us with a higher love.  

Come hell or high-water, him or her, we already have the authority, the power, and the potential to live as good, kind, compassionate, citizens who have the opportunity, daresay I, the responsibility to serve our great country!

We CAN be the hope and light for others to see. We can be the catalysts in our communities and families that truly change our world for the better. These are not platitudes, these are promises for those that choose to live a life of self-sacrificing love.

When you go to the polls today (if you haven’t already voted), I PRAY you see the faces of those around you. Pray for them. Send them good mental vibes. Be neighborly.   May you be gentle with yourself and gracious in your interactions with others.

And despite America’s problems and divisions, we are still great, specifically because so many of us truly are good.   Let’s keep it that way, okay?

It’s Election Day. Vote and may it be well with your soul.

God bless America!!!!

 

Liz’s Favorite Candidate in 2016

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Liz and NC Governor Pat McCrory — December 19,  2015

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My son met Governor McCrory December 10, 2015

For those who care about HB2, this is worth pondering:

https://governor.nc.gov/press-release/governor-mccrory-takes-action-protect-privacy-and-equality

 

Things I Experienced While Running Away

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  ― Søren Kierkegaard

(Morning view where Liz and Marley like to run…okay, walk usually)

    It had to happen. I had to do it.

I’m talking about running. It’s been too long. You know when it’s time? When the earth’s gravitational force suddenly doubles.

You look in the mirror and see the pudge you’ve been avoiding. Tired eyes. A face that could use a lift.   An attitude that often hovers between exhaustion and who cares? Shabby clothes accessorized with a heavy dose of apathy.

I was just about to take a nap. After all, I’d earned it. Moments earlier I had daftly slid dinner out of a box and into the oven and had just plopped onto the couch after another repetitious day of exhaustion battling the minute by minute necessary chores and emergencies called life. You know what I’m talking about. You have those days too.

But instead, a rare divine moment of alchemy overtake me. That inner whisper that says, “GET UP (you sloth)!” That and the soft sadness of my dog’s whimpering. Oh, the not-so-subtle guilt of my lab’s droopy eyes and hopeful but pouty mouth.

     Fine then! I exerted a small amount of supernatural strength and laced up my running shoes. These suck. They hurt my feet and need replacing. Anyway.

Grab the poopy bags. In my case, it’s a minimum of a dozen; running with labs requires a bit of extra preparation.   Collar. Leash. Quick sips of water. Tunes. Keys. Lock door. Check. Slam door. Go!

Put something on with 4/4 beat and start pounding. It hurts. I don’t seem to have a regular rhythm or routine to running these days. It was the 2nd time in a week, but also in about six months as well.

So consistency is not my strong suit. What can I say? Keep going Liz I tell myself.

A few houses later I drift past my neighbor’s house. Her daughter will marry this weekend. Bless them I think. So busy I bet. Time to keep going. A few seconds later I float past another neighbor’s home with two dogs who speak in the language that only dogs know. They announce loudly, “HEY! IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ! DOES ANYONE IN THE HOUSE HEAR ME? IT’S MARLEY AND LIZ!”   I’m tempted to stop and go pet them. Better not. That’d be the end of tonight’s workout.

Huffing and puffing, I make it to the end of block one. YES! The next ten houses is straight down hill. I’m cruising to a little John Reuben singing Bobble Head.

     “Let me see your neck neck bobbing with the vertical fist. You put the two together and it goes like this.”

Christian rap. It’s the only kind I can tolerate. I feel kind of like a bada** listening to it.   When I was running, I knew I would have to write about it later. I knew right then and there I would at some point use the substitute word bada** because I don’t have the literary courage to say well…you know the real word.

I’ve now gone straight down the vertical hill bobbing with my horizontal fist pulling my dog who also doubles as my resistance trainer.  Ok, now I’m getting into it a tiny bit. Just keep going I tell myself. Like the wise Clownfish sage Dory who is forever embedded into our collective subconscience with her exuberant message:

     Just Keep Swimming

     Because that’s what I’m doing, metaphorically speaking. I’m swimming against the tides of life most days it seems.

Technology that overwhelms us with it’s incessant “reply ASAP” feeling. Or more frustratingly frequent: websites that give me the FREEZE OUT. Passwords that I know by heart suddenly don’t work. Pages don’t load.   Email I don’t have time for or read.  People I should but don’t reply to.  News doesn’t ring true. Trolls say mean things. Things disappear. And then fall apart.     Yeah, and that’s just my digital life.

So I keep going. Running. I’m playing a mental game I played in my early twenties when my first son had incredible colic. I used to run with a Walkman CD player on my hand like a pizza delivery man so it wouldn’t skip.

I’d run away. I’d run away from the noise.

I’d run from the responsibilities I didn’t think I could handle for one more day.

I’d run far, far away from the stress and go to the imaginary place in my head where everything is copacetic and cool. In this place in my head, people agree and life isn’t determined by income, time constraints, or other people’s desires. In fact there aren’t even voices, just faces. And music. And animals. And just this peacefulness.   I admit, it’s kind of a selfish utopia.   And though I always knew it didn’t really exist, it always felt so good to be running towards it, striving, endlessly striving to find it.

I’m about ¾ of a mile now. Not that far, but I’ve already thought more thoughts then steps travelled. This much I know is true.

I’m running away again. I’m running away from Hillary. I’m running away from Donald. I’m running away from ALL THAT because I’m so tired of hearing about it, thinking about it, and in shreds as what to do about it.

       I run thinking if I just run far enough and hard enough I might possibly be able to run out of this spare tire that is causing serious bladder inconvenience. I mean really. You throw a tire on a water balloon and see which object survives.

       I’m running away from my bullet-point two-page To Do List that I still haven’t gotten through from Monday. I’m running from all the responsibilities and future things I don’t know if I can handle. I’m trying not to run while amoritizing the remainder of my mortgage while simultaneously figuring out our emergency equity thanks to rising home values.   Still, worry thoughts creep in. I shoo these thoughts away with my hand while flying down hill again. My dog is so lucky. He thinks of none of this. He just breathes the cool air and keeps running.

A weird thing happens next. As I literally swat away my pesky thoughts, a small missile hits me in the forehead. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s a bug; who knows what kind? Clearly an armor-shelled kind like a beetle or something. I silently thank God for not allowing him to fly into my open mouth. That would’ve scarred me for life.

Still stepping out. Next stop. A teenage girl is melded into her boyfriend against a car under the street light in an intimate embrace. Oh yeah. I remember. I was young once. Slow down sweetheart I think.   It only gets harder from here. Then harder still. Enjoy. Don’t rush. You’ll be grown sooner than you think.

Soon, I’m by the house that always dries their clothes at night. My goodness! They use the best dryer sheets! It pours out of their dryer vent and perfumes at least three yards. It smells so clean and pure. At this moment I’m listening to U2’s “Lady With The Spinning Head” at top volume, an absolute running favorite of mine. I smell this and close my eyes and suddenly I’m six years old again. I’m running through sheets in a clothes line in a little dress with my wavy hair blowing and shoeless feet. I’m not really here I imagine. We are all just whispers in someone else’s dream. I’m breathing better. I feel the rope of anxiety releasing a bit from my neck.   It’s all going to be okay I think. At least I hope it will be.

It’s totally dark now. I always run at night since my first free moment from responsibility rarely falls before sunset. Anyway, I hit a dark patch for a while, and then I find myself under a tree arched over the sidewalk. A man with a jet black dog has suddenly appeared. I yank out my earphones as I realize he’s been talking to me for a while. I catch the end of his sentence: “We’ve been waiting for a while for you.”

I’m not alarmed. It’s not the way it sounds, but I had to quickly transition from the music-lined utopia in my head to absorb and comprehend what he meant.   Then I got it. His dog was as excited to meet my dog and I, as much as my dog was jazzed about meeting the two of them.

Anytime I come to a complete HALT after running hard, I sort of feel like my heart might explode, but mostly I was trying to just be cool as I didn’t want this neighbor I’ve not met yet to have to call 911 and deal with two rambunctious dogs.

We chat and laugh a bit over the crazy antics of excited dogs. Now I’m glad it’s nearly pitch dark. Like I said earlier, spare tire issues are seriously annoying me here! I need to get home to make the round-the-block bathroom trip again.

Home again and quick pit stop then it’s out the door to make another neighborhood orbit. It’s easier this time. Every house left behind is another step towards victory, another step in the right direction. I’m about to complete my second lap. I’m looking down focused on breathing mesmerized by my tall shadows under the streetlights. I’m skinnier when I’m fifteen feet tall. I like it like this and…..

     JESUS! I look up. Just standing there is a skeleton in a hoodie with a scythe in his hand. Seriously, I said JESUS when I saw this because that is the quickest best prayer you can ever pray when you have your wits scared out of you.

It was only a few feet from the sidewalk.   Out of the corner of one eye, I saw a glimpse of something as I was chasing after my own shadow. So I looked up. As I approached the darkened house with porch lights turned off, the dark shadowy figure seemed to come out of nowhere. Don’t panic! It’s just a skelly with a scythe–but it’s not real! The not real part took a nanosecond or two to click in. It was just a life-size Halloween decoration a few feet away from their front porch..a few days early.

See, Liz? I told you it was a good idea that you learn to run faster. Besides it was just a decoration. I did a double take. It hadn’t moved…. yet. But we live in a weird world these days. I double checked with my dog. He wasn’t alarmed. He was still pacing himself one dog’s length ahead of me, so it must be okay.

Life and death. Love and loss. Alone, yet not.  Cool breeze mixed with hot sweat.   Fear and hope and faith. Reality and dreamland.  Our only true constant we navigate by is change. Time passed and time still to go.   Miles still to run and words still to write, I press on. Ever onward.

 

 

 

Not Necessarily Namaste — Lessons from Yoga Barbie

Yoga girl sunset     YAY! It’s Friday and that means it’s Yoga Day in Liz’s world. Fridays, I decided are to be my “down days” from running and hitting it hard at the gym during the week.   It’s a physical reward, like getting a massage after working hard all month.

I’ve been on a roll recently, but I know from past experience if I don’t build in some gentler workout days, I’m liable to crash and burn. So yoga makes sense as an alternative to running everyday. So on Yoga Day, my goal today was to cleanse my seven chakras, elongate my muscles and relax my mind.   At least that was the plan.

This is what really happened:

I awake just before 7 am. I scurry downstairs in a caffeine-deprived stupor because on Yoga Day you should only drink water. Lots of water. No time for the filtered pure stuff. Just rinse out a dirty glass from the sink super quick and guzzle the tap. I feed our three cats and let the dog out so I can begin.

Time to get started. I roll out my yoga mat and live-stream Yoga Now on TV. Ah, so many choices. This one looks good: Total Body Super Core Challenge– 58 minutes.

The first thing I notice is the lovely young serene blond-haired blue-eyed yoga instructor; she is the epitome of tranquility. Her voice is a steady soft low, just a few decibles above a whisper. If I wasn’t being mindful, I’d probably shout, “What’s that?” or “Come again?”

Hurdle one: I will not compare my body to that of a woman half my age who is probably a trust-fund graduate student who’s probably never birthed children and has been vegan and well, stretchy, for most of her life. No, today I will take the hat of judgment off my body, and just keep my eyes focused gently on my teacher for today.

So we start with a few cleansing breaths before easing into Chaturanga Dandasana. Basically, that’s the snobby Indian way of saying planking. And although I was nearly comatose only moments ago under jersey cotton sheets and down comforters, I’m suddenly sweating profusely as I try to align myself parallel to the floor in order to strengthen my core.

The first thing I notice is just how much dog hair is literally everywhere; there’s entire could-be-sweaters hiding out under all the couches and TV stand.   And now thru my Pranayama breathing, I realize my yoga mat actually smells more like a dog than even my dog does.

So as I gently plank myself, I turn my gaze ever so softly towards the TV to make sure I’m still in sync with Yoga Barbie. She’s so peaceful I think. Her eyes are so soft, like she’s just waking from a great dream.

Well, no wonder I think to myself. My gosh! Look at that view!

Her mat floats atop short manicured green grass, that looks soft as carpet. It’s positioned exactly at the midpoint between two magnificent palm trees with an emerald green ocean in the distance, also proportionately placed between two mountains. The sun is just rising. In her world there are no vehicles zooming by, only tropical birds singing their morning songs.

In my world, I hear a humming dishwasher, a distant washing machine, and creaky plumbing sounds. Soon my husband plunks down the stairs before leaving for work. He asks me a question related to taxes and bills in a loud voice.   Talk about a harshed mellow. “Can we talk about this later?” I reply while trying to tune out all distractions.

I press on thru the planking so I can hurry up and get to Downward Dog which would be more appropriately named if it were called Upword Butt. Truly, that’s what it actually is.   You are making an offering, a sun salutation of sorts to the world that silently screams: This is my butt. Consider the view as a double sunrise.  Please deal with it and above all, leave me alone and don’t speak to me while I do this.

I alternate between Upward Butt and Painful Plank while Ujjayi breathing a few dozen more times. That’s where I steal some of the breath from the ocean directly behind Yoga Barbie.   I hear a fire truck siren in the distance that is growing ever closer. I briefly consider the possibility that our house is on fire so that I can wrap this up a tad quicker. My husband lets our dog back in because he’s afraid of fire trucks, so now he comes over to my side to howl closer to my ear. Oh come on! Really?!  Who’s the idiot that burns their house down on a Friday Morning?

Stop! Thoughts are like bubbles I remember. You can just pop them if they become a distraction. I mentally prick at them a few times.   Now my son has come down stairs and is telling me in detail about a video game he was playing upstairs.

I look at the clock. It’s only 7:25 am. “Why are you even up?” I ask. He normally gets up around 8. By now I’m doing some Cobra stretches to make my backbone more flexible too. I’m breathing, but if feels more like the “Ch, ch, ch, ch” I learned in Lamaze class all those years ago. I may not be doing this correctly, but hey, I’m trying.

Next, one of my cats decides to get in on the action. He’s a sweet fellow, just not today. He comes up to me and my nearby dog and bites my wrists while I pose like a dog again. I’m determined not to give up.   He’s happily purring; he just happens to want to snack on what’s currently holding me up.

I plank and stretch and breathe and soar like an airplane and reach my feet and arms far apart from each other parallel to the floor for what feels like hours. I walk my feet that are far behind me all the way to up to my hands on the floor and come straight up. I go up. And then go down again. Breathe. Stretch. Be Aware. Take up lots of space. I feel what my body is doing as my body does it. Relax. Go deeper into it. Release all thoughts. Be still.

Yes, be still

While the dog drops a saliva-covered tennis ball on your throat once you finally get to do a relaxing stretch. While you’re child asks their fifteenth question during a half minute of Child’s Pose. While the phone rings. And the sirens blare. And the door slams. And the dust-coated fur-balls rage under the couch. While your thoughts race as to how to make it all stop just for one freaking moment!

Yes be still and know: That life balance is not easy.   That trying to take care of our self is a concept we delude our selves into believing that is reserved only for those who have time. Or energy. We will try harder when we have a little more of each. Time. Energy. Later. We’ll get around to doing this eventually–later.

Except that it doesn’t. Later never comes.

 Our distractions of choice increase exponentially by the day. As moms, all the hats we wear, it actually is hard to do anything at all for our self sometimes. Much less, do it alone in order to do it well!

But as a Master Yoda once taught me: There is no try. There is only do or do not.

So I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to do it scared and I’m going to do it frustrated sometimes.  I’m going to do it busy, even if it appears aadha-gadha . (That’s Indian for “half-assed” ) I’m going to do it tired and frazzled sometimes. I’m going to do it ungraceful and undignified.   Because if fifty-eight minutes of pretzel-twisting mental-cleansing Yoga Barbie taught me anything at all: I’m going to do it FINISHED.  Because that’s what counts.

We have to decide to love ourselves enough to want to cherish what God gave us so that we can serve all those others a little bit longer and a tiny bit better.   Less attitude, more strength.   We’re deciding right now to exchange our whining selves for our winning selves. Gently. One day at a time.

Just breathe, then do.

Press on all my Sisters Seeking Strength and Serenity.

Namaste’

Photo Credit:  http://food.ndtv.com/health/the-ultimate-full-body-workout-surya-namaskar-769780

A Day with MC Escher: A Lingering Love and Linear Logic

 

MCE -DrawingHands

“Drawing Hands” — MC Escher 1948

Last month I took my son and his young friend to see the MC Escher exhibit at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh as part of our homeschool experience. First thing I noticed: THE ENTIRE PARKING LOT WAS PACKED! Hundred of parking spaces and not a single empty space. Wait, what? I’m at an art museum and having to drive around and around just to find a space? THIS IS AWESOME!!

We finally parked and purchased our tickets. I soon learned this was the largest exhibit ever in the world on display of MC Escher’s work in one place. It was certainly the biggest traveling museum exhibit I have ever attended. We spent hours looking, but I could’ve spent days. Easily.

In my photography club I’ve been learning about the Elements of Design (line, texture, shape, form, pattern, color). With Escher, he effortlessly expands on those elements and adds things like:

  • logic
  • precision
  • pattern
  • reflection
  • perpetual motion, still life, and sometimes a blending of the two

Perhaps what attracts so many people to his work is his unique gift of mathematically capturing concepts such as:

  • the finite and the infinite
  • the abstract and the obvious
  • symmetry
  • the proof of geometry

These are all awesome. But my favorite? Gravity Tricks!

Escher doesn’t create illusion, so much as bend converging realities. I keep studying how MCE defies gravity in his work. I study Drawing Hands where 3D and 2D overlap Hand or Circle Limit IV where the infinite is captured precisely by proportionately repeating patterns that grow ever smaller around the perimeter of a circle. MCE shows us in in Metamorphosis I how objects morph from collective to individual with no discernable delineation. Time seems fold in upon itself as large becomes small, then large, then small again. How do you even think like this, much less accurately draw it?

I look around. A beautiful deaf gentleman and his sweetheart are beside me. He is smiling, and tearing up and overcome with emotion. Their hands are fluttering in a beautiful synchronicity that speaks of a wisdom and secret language open in plain sight I don’t possess and am not privy to, though I wish I was. They never stop talking. In this beautiful space called silence, they are the loudest people I’ve ever seen! I mean, they just won’t shut up. They can’t. They have delved deeper into this than I even I get to go. It makes me want to cry.

My kids with me have finished up before I have. That’s okay. They are immersed in thoughts on a bench and are silently sketching their own thoughts–their own dreams and realities. Art is such a beautiful thing.   I keep perusing.

Seeing photos of Escher as a young man, a young husband, as well as his self-portraits in spheres and mirrors really moved me.  In this one, he kind of resembles Picasso I think. In this one, he kind of reminds me of Coldplay’s Chris Martin. No wait, I think I see some of me in there. Yeah, that’s me–if I were a man I think.

I look at his self-portrait in Hand with Reflecting Sphere which reflects both himself and the room he’s sitting in. But upon closer inspection, it reveals both reality and non-reality.

MCE Hand_with_Reflecting_Sphere

Hand with Reflecting Sphere” — MC Escher 1935

Those hands!! I look at mine. My goodness! Those are my hands! He has the same creases on the same life line. How is that possible?

 I look at the dates of his work.  I try to recall the history of that time. This one is dated 1924. I envision flappers dancing the night away and families gathered around their radio to hear President Coolidge speak.

Oceans away in Rome, Italy, a young Escher meets the love of his life, Jetta Umiker. While America was mass producing Model T’s, Escher was quietly drawing the beautiful towns and landscapes of Viterbo, Abruzi, Corsica, Calabria, Amalfi, and Sicili.  MCE loved Italy, but then Mussolini came to power. Escher found his fascist ideals deplorable, so he moved his family to Switzerland, and then Belgium and then ultimately settled in the Netherlands until 1941 when WWII broke out. He remained there until his death in 1970.

When he sketched, what was his work environment like? Did he hear music in his head? Did he sip some Italian vino as he drew? How does one so perfectly capture the essence of an ant or a beetle? How do you freeze in your mind the stillness of something so small as if the tiny creature had posed for a portrait? How many hours and days and weeks did he spend when he so meticulously captured the landscapes of Italy?

What must it be like to silently appreciate every detail in the vastness of a city by the sea like Atrani, Coast of Amalfi or smaller landscapes like Street in Scano to the intimate portraits of his father George. Even as his father lay dying, Escher’s portrait seems to capture every hair on his head, a visual reminder for himself and others to not forget the beauty of his father’s soul.

When he created, what did he hear? Did he tune out the world’s outer clatter and create in silence or did he immerse himself in the rhythms and melodies found in nature and find hidden symphonies that inspired him?

It’s obvious what inspired him: everything. Escher was not content to draw with flatness, but with depth and dimension. He tapped into his unique gift and learned how to draw in a way that expands and changes the way we look at things.

Escher draws us in to his work with optical tricks but quickly leads us to deeper truths. The longer you stare at his work, the more your mind continuously expands. You can’t help but be blown away when you contemplate the infinite when going around and around an endless staircase or the use of hyperbolic geometry and symmetry as you move from a large central image to an exponentially smaller one in a repeating pattern.   You can feel the deeper truth at work in your own heart the longer you look.

Perhaps it’s the tug of our own inner law of entropy at work: The uneasy awareness that settles in knowing over time, we all become small, then smaller–then gone.

When math marries imagination and memory, well–it’s a beautiful thing. As a person who is often rooted too much emotion and feeling, I feel myself breathe in utter relaxation and find a sense of calm as the linear logic of math and predictable patterns make sense.   Until it doesn’t again. Poof! Mind blown—again!

Like excellent music, I don’t think I could pinpoint a favorite MCE work; there are too many I love! But one that really touched my heart was Three Worlds. MCE explained his goal in this work was to incorporate and connect multiple realities.

MCE-Three-Worlds-I

“Three Worlds” — MC Escher — December 1955

That struck a nerve. Because this is the world where Liz resides! It’s called:

Nothing is Coincidence

and

Everything is Connected

 As someone who enjoys creating, I am most inspired by the way Escher refused to live a life of frustration constipation. (Living life doing the things that don’t interest you or motivate you). He didn’t hold back his art, or deny time for it, he let it out!

Escher seems to understand that when we create art, we leave behind something that resonates in the soul of someone else. One’s work easily transcends the length of one’s life when it has the power to connect with others. Something created can make someone else smile, or cry, or think about people or the world differently. The silence of art brings us both revelation and understanding of both the artist and ourselves.

MC Escher was known for restoring order out of chaos, be it one’s external world, or one’s internal mind. He also was a gifted genius employing techniques of beautiful precision. He found a way to visually articulate the ways that art can be composed of both math and science. Science and logic can beautifully coexist with nature and creation. As a creator, his work to me implies an understanding that he too was created. Perhaps in that vast space that lies between love and logic, vision and creation, he too found proof of God.

Official Site of MC Escher to purchase his work can be found here:  http://www.mcescher.com