Nothing Lasts Forever

tooth

It’s easy to write about overcoming adversity and relying on faith and keeping a positive perspective.  Oh sure!  It’s a cake walk, when it’s just me and my fingers playing footsie with the QWERTY board.  But when the rubber meets the road, when I actually get stuck in the middle of a trial, or a good three or more simultaneously, well then that’s when the:

  • whiner
  • baby girl
  • pity party planner
  • driveling doubter

comes to the surface, faster than Michael Phelps comes up for air while butterfly-swimming towards another gold medal.

That’s when I’ve been known to mumble or even yell out the obvious:

  • This sucks!
  • We’ll never get ahead!
  • Great!  When it rains, it pours!
  • Fantastic!  What could possibly be next?  (Don’t ever be tempted to ask this.  You will get an answer!)

Yesterday, I had to have a tooth extracted.  This is my 2nd tooth I’ve lost in my 40s.  This, after having already poured a small fortune into trying to save it, and all of its companions.

I don’t have the greatest teeth.  Week enamel.  Eroding gums.  Lack of bone mass in the jawbone. Lots of melted silver and even some cadaver bone bind what’s left of them together.  I brush and floss regularly, don’t smoke cigarettes or meth or even drink sodas and still I can’t seem to save them.  It’s not fair.

Yeah, like I was supposed to get the exemption to the “Unfairness of Life” principal.

So when I sat in the dentist chair I was given what in medical terms can be described as two bad options and one so-so option. With no time to mentally prepare, I had two minutes to decide to remove the tooth now, or go home and stew and cry some more and come back later and do it.  Pragmatism trumped emotion for once:  just do it….now!

1,2,3,4:  In went the shots of Novocaine.   My body never seems to “goes to sleep” without a fight it seems, so I usually get double the anesthesia,  just enough to feel like your heart is going to jump right out of your chest.  Speed now,  knowing the impending physical exhaustion awaits after an hour drive home in traffic.

Five minutes after the xray results are in, I’m already under the knife.  All is still.  And then it happens:

TEARS.

Not just a few, but giant sobbing tears.  I didn’t want to choke with instruments and a a wedge in my mouth while 2 surgical mask-encased faces in protective eye wear peer down at me.

“Are you okay?” the kind gentleman dentist asks?  “Are you in any pain?” the nice female dental assistant asks.

“I’h fiiii!” I lie.  (I”m fine.)

“I’h shuz rewy rewy saa!”  (Translation for those of you who don’t speak dental jumble:  “I’m just really really sad!”

“I know!” they both say in unison. They’re good at dental speak. “But it’s all going to be okay!” the good dentist says.  All I see are his deep brown eyes looking at me warmly.  Compassionate eyes.  It helps a little.  I begin to breathe almost normal again.  But still the tears keep sliding out both eyes.

The forcible pulling of something from me and intense pressure starts.

And then the real hurt.

It’s not the pull and pressure that hurts.  It’s my heart.  It’s this knowing I’m saying good-bye to something forever, even if it’s only a tooth.

But this tooth was a good tooth I think.  I kissed my first crush with that tooth in my mouth.  I’ve kissed my babies and my hubby with that tooth.  I used that tooth to shout out all the obscenities I’m ashamed to admit I’ve ever said; still it helped form those bullets I can’t take back now.  Hopefully some encouraging and kind words rolled off my tongue with that tooth over the years too.   That tooth tasted so much deliciousness for the better part of four decades.  It was both utilitarian for speaking and eating, but also vanity of vanities, a part of my smile, it was part of what makes me…..well, me!

Pride.

It goes before a fall.  Or an extraction. A removal of something.

As I sat there, I mentally murmured a prayer of thanks to God for allowing me to have the tooth as long as I did.  Even though I didn’t get to keep it my whole life.

And then I remembered some people I love so much:

So many friends that had to say good-bye to their hair, their ovaries, their breasts, all the things that made them feel womanly because they had cancer.  That wasn’t fair either.

I thought of my friends that have had to say good-bye to a spouse,a parent, or both parents, or a brother or sister.  They weren’t asked in advance if they were strong enough.  They simply were.

And hardest of all, most recently, watching someone I love so deeply face the long-term reality of facing every day with courage and grace despite having suddenly lost their son.  That’s not just loss; that’s major open heart surgery.  It’s having the biggest part of you forcibly, permanently severed without presentation of alternatives or forms of consent requested.

We are all terminal here.

I don’t know what movie or book I heard that in, but I know it stuck with me.

Nothing lasts forever.  We keep getting these opportunities to practice saying good bye to things until we learn to get it right :

  • Dreams
  • Opportunities
  • Complete control of our life
  • Options

And last of all, most important, most beloved:

  •   PEOPLE

I know in everything there is a lesson.  And I know even when I embrace it reluctantly, mine is this:  Be grateful in good things; more so in hard things!

This moment, this thing is the gift, the real present. And though we don’t get to keep any of our earthly possessions or earthly wardrobe (ourselves), we do get to choose which gifts to leave behind.  Memories, a loving heart, a giving spirit, a gratitude for even having had the chance to live at all.  These best things which can’t be extracted from those we love.

PHOTO CREDIT: chasing-skye @ tumblr

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Driving out the Demons

Solitude in Me at Deviant Art 1

PHOTO CREDIT: DEVIANT ART

How do you deal with your inner demons? I’m not talking about a Debbie Downer day where it feels like you’re walking under a black cloud all day and nothing goes your way.

No, I’m talking about a real wrestle-with-God, wrestle-with-your-own-soul day of darkness. The sixteenth century Spanish poet St. John of the Cross calls it The Dark night of the Soul. Sometimes it lasts a day or two, a week, perhaps a season. For him, it lasted forty-five years! However long it lasts though, it’s tough. It’s challenging to find even a pinhole of light anywhere, when it seems darkness surrounds you everywhere.

I call it fighting the demons. These demons are like riding out a storm at sea. Sometimes with these tall looming ocean waves, you have no choice but to bob up and down with it, rather than exhaustively fight it and drown.

A Christian writer that I greatly admire, Joyce Meyers, has an acronym for FEAR that has always made sense to me:   FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL

Well, I’d like to piggy-back on her acronym, and add my own: DEMONS

DOUBT (and) EMOTIONS MERGING (with) OUR NARCISSISTIC SIDE

Basically it works like this:

Our feelings and opinions shape our perspective regarding the trials and challenges of our daily life.   You can’t help it. They just do. This is the lens of how we see the world–our filter. Some of us naturally just have a sunnier, brighter disposition and see things from a lighter perspective. Others are a bit more cynical and jaded. We see life through a polarizer lens—everything is a bit darker as if looking out through sunglasses. Yet when light shines through, it is definitely sharper! It provides a nice contrast to the dark around it. Perhaps because sometimes we’re not expecting the light to break through.   Doubts are the demons we get to wrestle with.

Fear and demons go together actually. Both have the ability to paralyze us, rendering us unable to act. Both make us focus on and inflate our sense of self, rather than something so much bigger: God.   Doubt at its core tries to reduce and diminish God to a point of non-existence. The problem with doubt is: It puts the whole burden on us to make sense of it all.

Since our feelings and emotional thoughts drive our decision-making process, we need to remember that a logic based on faith would serve us better at being the DD (designated driver) of our lives.

BUT HOW?

How do you find light (hope and a sense of peace)?

How do you find logic (soundness of mind, an ability to see a situation sensibly and rationally)?

Above all how do you have faith (confidence and assurance that everything is going to turn out okay or at least in a way used for good)?

How do you find light, logic,and faith while you are in that season of darkness, or questioning, or your doubts seem taller than your faith? Feelings and emotions seem to trump all. Logic seems like a first sweetheart that dumped you decades ago. Faith sometimes feels like the imaginary friend you had in childhood, but gave up years ago as you slowly grew up.

I’m no expert. I have no degrees in psychology or theology.   Unless you count all the pedigrees I’ve earned from the School of Hard Knocks.

So how do you drive out those pesky demons? Those dark thoughts that threaten your peace, and sometimes your sanity? Especially when you have too many situations brewing? Or one or two that is just really more than you can bear?

I suppose the simple answer is YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE IT.   For me, I have to remember to believe:

  • Things are not always as they appear and unconditional acceptance of what is: My take on the situation may not be accurate. And even if it is, I have to accept that I do not have the power to control or change it. The only thing I have the power to control or change are: My perspective and my decisions on how I act.
  • There is a God and He is good. Because if not, then life is just a bunch of random events, chaos essentially, and then there is nothing to assign meaning or significance to. Then I am reduced to explaining the pain, cause, and results of these things beyond my control by the limitations of my own thinking, or even more mind-confusing: the expertise of others. This option has never worked in my life; I feel like a rat in a maze, forever frustrated while trying to find a way out. The key is to find the way UP in order to GET OUT.
  • God is in control. I choose to believe that God is not unaware of injustice, cruelty, tragedy, hardship, and the evils of humanity. Nor is He unaware of goodness, giving, kindness, faithfulness, and a love for others. And though I can’t explain the whys of situations on earth, God can. I believe God’s word in Isaiah 55:9: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. I’m not delusional and tell myself God enjoys giving us hard unfair things to deal with because it’s for the best. No! Rather I choose to look at life’s hard trials and dark emotions as something God will use for my best and His glory. Romans 8:28 All things work together for the good, for those that love him and are called according to His purposes.
  • I can freely choose to love and have faith in God. I’m not forced to submit to a rule-enforcing, legalistic, dictator-type God. No! I get to freely choose to obey and serve and LOVE a grace-giving God that says His love for me is unending, that I’m even worth dying for. I can read His promises knowing His hand is actively involved in my life.   Hebrews 11:1 says that Faith is the CONFIDENCE in what we hope for, and the ASSURANCE of what we do not see.

I guess it comes down to this: As I wrestle, I wrestle WITH FAITH, not against it. I fight my inner demons (negative, hopeless, or unsure thoughts) in partnership with God. I know He does battle on my behalf where I am weak. I do not go onto the battlefield alone. He equips me with confidence because I know and believe in His trustworthiness even when I can’t see God. Even when I can’t feel God’s presence.

So I eat, run, work, sleep, think, parent, write, love, and do WHILE I wrestle and pray, strive and hope, all the while: believing.

So I read God’s word. I question Him. I cry alone with Him sometimes.  I tell Him my doubts and my hopes and my fears and my dreams. I read some more. I pray. I think on it. I STOP thinking on it (that helps a lot!) I wait. All the while,I persevere in my choice to believe and trust.   A funny thing happens:

My faith grows. Slowly, sometimes erratically, but still it grows.

Belief (faith in God) is like running a marathon. You simply take a step. And then one more. You just keep going. It is this endless HOPE that propels you towards the finish line.  And with every step, the demons grow smaller and less powerful and the light and love of God and for God grows closer, and bigger. And on some days the whole sky is not big enough to contain it all.