About Liz Gray

Loves to write! Writes at: http://u2areloved.com (Just a Jesus Girl who is also inspired by the music of U2) https://lizlogic.wordpress.com (Life is complicated; then there's Liz) http://writersreflect.com (This writer's journey; what's your story?)

Day Trippin’ With The Fixaholic on the Zig Zag Express

   Hello! My name is Liz and I’m a fixaholic. 

       But let’s not talk about me because tick-tock, time’s a wasting!   You see, this is about YOU!  And girl (or dude!) you’ve got a problem! Even if you don’t know it, I’m here to FIX YOU!

      I get that you have a problem with substance abuse.  Or perhaps it’s mental illness. Or perhaps you’re addicted to toxic, ineffective, abusive relationships. That’s terrific!  Just put me on speed dial, because I have a bag of tricks at the ready, just as soon as you summon me. 

      Maybe your finances are out of whack because you don’t understand limits. Maybe you’re so busy doing your thing and you just need to me to run an errand or seventeen for you. Hey, how’s your prayer life?  Oh my goodness, is that a frown on your brow?  Perhaps you’re spiritually sick– say no more.  Because I’m here to RESCUE you. 

        All you have to do is SHUT YOUR MOUTH and DO AS I STRONGLY SUGGEST. 

      Wait, huh?  Thou doth protest a bit too much, no?

      This used to be me.  OK, it still is sometimes.  See I’m a person in recovery.  But not in the way most people think of.

      I don’t have any exotic tales of personal terror of how alcoholism or addiction or mental illness or relational dysfunction made my own life a living hell.  But I do have this:  profound symptoms of trying to understand and fix those who do, who have.  I’ve experienced silent PTSD and done my share of wrestling with fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) because of other people’s illnesses or choices.  I’ve dealt with exhaustion and disorganization from trying to fix people and things that are NOT my responsibility at the expense of taking care of my life.

       I’m learning I have a self-imposed disability at recognizing boundaries; I often misunderstand where your dysfunction ends and mine begins.  I think of it as blurred lines.

        Here’s a harsh truth.  I may be sicker than you are. 

        Long after your problem’s status can safely be categorized as in progress or solved or remission, or in recovery, I still need to help sometimes.

        You may be okay (relatively), but I’m still stuck in the past.  I still need to fix you!

        I imagine the worst if the phone rings.  Like the boy in Sixth Sense, I see dead people.  At the very least, I see the future….sort of. 

       Like an aeronautical engineer, I frantically mentally map out all possible outcomes on the Flow Chart of Possible Catastrophes when you either:

  1. Say something (that triggers me)

      or:

     2.  Do something (that triggers me) 

       This is how it ususally goes.  Person A calls Person B (The Fixaholic) and says, “I’ve kinda got this situation here…..” and then: 

      I’m on it! Bam-o!  Grab the phone, keys and I’m out the door like Super Woman on a mission.

     But more likely, it goes like this:  Person A DOES NOT call or respond to the Fixaholic’s calls or texts in a “reasonable”amount of time.  (Refer to the Flow Chart of Possible Catastrophes again). Something must be wrong here!  It all leads to the same net result:

      I’m on it!!

    Because that’s what a Fixaholic does.

  •    They see what isn’t visible.
  •    They know the future better than God Himself sometimes.
  •    They borrow trouble and pay the interest on the debt so others won’t have to.
  •    They just want to help. Oh, how they want to help!
  •    They’re so busy doing, then don’t know how to just be. 
  •    They can’t seem to:

             Just. Be.  Here.  Now. 

     Yes, we Fixaholics are a special breed.  We’re more conditioned then Pavlov’s dogs.  You provide a stimulus (of dysfunction) and faster than you can take the next breath, we jump, ding the bell, salivate, speak, or implement a plan of action before our brain can even articulate to itself what exactly that may be.   

       We zig. We zag.  From person to person, text to text, place to place—running and doing and ruminating and collaborating (usually with those who actually do care less) regarding what needs to be done NOW! 

       We don’t mean to be like this.  It’s just that we really care about you.

      A little bit too much.

     In the shock and awe of what you are going through, somewhere along the way, we kinda forgot who we were, are, or could be.   

  • We just love you. 
  • And we don’t want you to hurt.
  • Or suffer. 
  • Or go without.
  • Or harm yourself or others. 
  • Or die.  Whoa. That’s a heavy one. 

       So we zig.  We zag. We pay for, care for, decide and take responsibility for all that is yours until we slowly unravel.  Our momentum usually fades paradoxically the exact moment we hit the proverbial: 

WALL

    Or as Oprah would say, we experience our “Ah ha” moment.   

  •     We figure out we can’t do this after all. 
  •     Or by ourselves. 
  •     Or without your participation. 
  •     Or here’s a good one:  Without your permission

        When we finally come up for air, as we take a fresh gulp of reality, we may even listen to you, or oddly enough to our own tired body and mind and what it’s been trying to tell us:

        REALITY ALWAYS WINS.  Let go and let God.  God is God, you are not.    

        Finally.  We pause. We refuse to take a single step forward despite our triggered brain that defaults to any number of messages that all have the same status:

RED ALERT!

URGENT!!

        It finally dawns on us that if we stay stuck this way–always doing and doing, spending our entire existence being your fixer, we are robbing you of so many wonderful, possible opportunities that you were no doubt about to discover for yourself, just before our compulsion (misplaced compassion) took over.

       We take a breath.  And then another one.  Perhaps even three or more if we’re really working our recovery.   We remember we have our toolbox and you have yours.  We can phone a friend who gets how we are, not how you are.  We can stop and not decide anything right this moment, which is often the best choice. Perhaps hardest and smoothest of all, we can simply let go and trust that you’ve got this girl (dude!).   

       YOU ARE CAPABLE (of figuring this out!)

       LIKE ME, YOU ARE FLAWED, BUT YOU ARE LEARNING AND YOU ARE ON YOUR WAY!

       YOU WILL FIGURE THIS OUT, AND IF YOU CAN’T, I WILL BE HERE TO SUPPORT YOU IN YOUR RECOVERY:  I will shut my mouth and just listen to your constructive ideas as to how YOU will solve YOUR problem.

       I’m strong enough now to not enable you if you suggest that which is destructive.  I will choose to be brave, if you implement that which I think could harm you.

       I will tell you the truth (as I perceive it) in love, but I WON’T tell you what to do.

      You are already more than capable.

      Life is full of ups and downs, hills and valleys.      The last thing you need during your trial as you figure things out is a wild ride on the Zig Zag express train. 

  •       I’m so sorry for the times I tried to fix you.
  •       I know now I can’t, but I think you can do this.
  •       In fact, I know you will!
  •       In God alone, I trust.

Oh and one last thing:  I just love you.

 

If you know or love someone in recovery, here’s a link to a place of miracles that saved and touched the lives of many I love/and have loved.  Check out their podcasts for support,.  Please donate if you are able!  If you struggle, PLEASE reach out for help.  If you love someone that struggles, please find an Alanon/Naranon/Family Support Group in your area.  When you heal yourself, you will more effectively be able to support (not enable) the ones you love who are in or seeking recovery.   

https://healing-transitions.org/about/stories-of-healing/

    

 

   

 

       

 

Dearly Beloved: I’m Dealing With Döstädning

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“But Jane–imagine, you could die tomorrow.  I don’t think you will, but…. who’s going to take care of all this crap?!  Oh, God!  I don’t think we can all finish this today.   This will take hours.” — Margareta Magnusson @ 3:10

I’m going to die.  Okay, I got that one out of the way.  Yes, I’m going to die.  No, I most gratefully do not have a terminal disease that I know of.  However, I am all of a sudden (as in the last year) starting to actually think about the art of dying.  Because though it is oft-repeated cliche, it’s also actually true:  If you can plan and get past your own death, you truly, truly are free to live.  

What is it that I want people to remember about me when I’m gone?

More importantly:  What is it that I still want to do?  Still must do?  What gives me joy and most honestly–what steals and kills it?  

I realize there are some things holding me back.

Like many people, moms especially, I feel the daily crush of:

  • Housework
  • Work outside of the home
  • Kid’s activities
  • Taking care/helping a parent
  • Too much email
  • More bills with less money
  • Too many questions asked of me
  • Too many decisions required by me
  • Too much time doing and far too little time just being

For a few years I’ve been handling the status quo despite dizzying headaches and a chestpain that never seems to subside.  Despite trying my darndest to eat mostly healthy, take supplements, exercise at least a couple of times a week and not freak out despite areas of life we aren’t sufficiently prepared for.

This question has been haunting me the better part of a year:

WHY CAN’T I SEEM TO HANDLE MY LIFE ANYMORE?

I realize it’s more than just the myriad of responsibilities and the changing hormones of menopause (which that of in itself often feels like I roll out of bed in the morning after a losing end of a bar fight the night before.)

It’s no longer satisfying enough for me to survive each day.  My spirit is begging me:  PLEASE….let me LIVE….AGAIN!  I remember who you were, do you?

Enter Döstädning.

You may have heard of it.  It’s also known as the Swedish Art of Death Cleaning.  It’s not morbid at all.  In fact it’s super freeing.  At least it looks like it is.  That’s because I’ve just begun.  But I have started.  Consciously.  

This is Swedish Death Cleaning:  You start systematically going through and purging your stuff that would not bring others joy, were you to pass.

I have had to realize some hard truths about myself this year:   Primarily this one:

You get what you choose in life.  If my life is challenging, it is because I have elected to make it so.  I have made it so by the dreadful disease of hanging on.   

Not just stuff.  Emotions too.  For every object I own, there must be ten corresponding feelings that go with it.  To toss the object, means to throw away a part of myself.  Or does it?

After consulting the internet and articles and videos, I can unequivocally confess that I hang on to memories and souveniers and items….most all of them.  It’s as if I spent 30 years of my life documenting through photos and writing and saving trinkets from trips and memorabilia as proof that life my life–my family’s life was good.  Proof, that I was a good mom.  That I took my kids to some amazing places.  That despite challenges and setbacks, our family had a fantastic time here.    But in the process of saving and documenting all these memories, I lost sight of something:  My kids have grown up, save one– our baby, who at nearly 13, is 2/3 grown!   It’s painfully sad, but childhood is actually a short chapter in our lives, despite a few long days.

Apparently, my husband and I have done at least an okay job because guess what:  They are living their own life now.  Working and relationships and planning and hoping for their futures.  All good things.  All not requiring things I thought were worthy of saving:

  • Souveniers from trips and interesting (to me) household objects
  • Kitchen stuff they might want one day
  • DVDs and tapes we watched together; games we played, crafts we made
  • Books we read together and many that were never read at all but I always hoped we would
  • Baby clothes and blankets
  • Albums from my childhood.  Wait, you’re a Millennial and you’re telling me you don’t want to listen to Mom’s old favorite music?  What’s that? You say you can just listen to it on Spotify if ever interested?  Oh.

The painful truth is, the above items are an infitesimally small fraction of what I actually saved.  To list it all would be to bore the reader, and depress myself unbearably. Because starting today I have vowed to myself I will do this:

I will prayerfully and hopefully and with encouragement begin a year of Döstädning.  Though it is emotionally painful to release things, I am going to try to anyway.

If I were to die tomorrow, what my kids would inherit would be cruel and inhumane.  It would be a house full of scrapbooks and notebooks and clothes and books.  If I haven’t put it together well in all these years, how on earth could they do it in days to weeks?  I must think about this.

 I choose to think about this with joy, not self-condemnation, but with a divine sense of urgency because I love them so.

I have limited time left with my parents.  I have limited time left myself.  I hope I have all the time in the world with my kids, but life in it’s sometimes cruel and majestic mysteries  have already shown me this very real truth:

NONE OF US ARE GUARANTEED ANOTHER DAY

So with that, starting today, I will live different.  I will be giving less gifts and I’m also begging others for less.  I don’t want things from people.  I do want genuine face-to-face time, not texting, emailing, or that altogether phony but noble indefinite plan to get together “someday soon”.

I want to be free to wake up and be creative.  Or active.  Or responsible.  Or all of the above.  But it’s impossible, if I’m chained to objects and the repositioning of them, as opposed to the releasing of them and in return the freeing of myself.

It’s going to take a while.  One doesn’t get fat overnight.  Neither does one get fat with stuff suddenly.  Like a new diet and exercise routine, it’s going to take some profound spiritual muscle and some heavy mental lifting.  I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of crying, so I am allowing myself a small fund for tissues. But otherwise, NO NEW STUFF!

It will take time:  Boxing up and donating or selling will mean choosing how to spend my time with intention.  It will take mental energy even when I’m physically tired.  I will do it anyway.

It will take courage:  This was so special to me, but I’m choosing to let it go.

It will take efficient time management:  Dear Lord, since seconds count in life, help me decide swiftly and efficiently as I handle this object.

It will take prayer:  Beloved object, mere thing–you served me so well at one time, but it is now time for us to part.  I now put you in the garbage and bid you adieu.

Perhaps some prayers will be painful:  You are attached to a sad or painful memory to me; I no longer need to hang on to you.  I am purposely choosing to let you go.

Or perhaps this prayer:  Dear object, gift from someone I truly love:  I was not a good steward of you.  Whether it was personal taste or disorganization, I did not enjoy you.  It is with love, I fondly remember the giver as I release you, said object, into other hands or a new dimension for you.

Whether I close my day or close my life, I do hope I can leave this world honestly with this prayer:

God:  I had an amazing life, overflowing with people and moments and blessings galore!  I got so much more than I deserved!  Thank you! These are the things I hold in my heart through every transition of life:  Love.

That’s it.  One word.  The only thing that we truly carry from this world to the next.

Let the gentle purging process begin.

Liz Fave Resources:

By the way, my neighbor wrote the second book.  Because when you let it go, you’re free to do what you love!

 

Flushing Out Santa

Flushing Santa

It had to happen.  I’ve been dreading this conversation even more than the one we already had about the “birds and the bees.”  After all, that was just stuff easily discussed about basic biology, some good-feeling stuff, and some high-octane emotions all tangled up in a cosmic stew necessary to keep the human race going.

But this conversation was a bit more serious.  Because this involves things like magic, the wonder of childhood, and most important: faith and doubt.

I should have known something was brewing a few days prior when my husband told me he found a couple boxes of laxatives laying on the bathroom counter.  I hadn’t noticed, I told him.  The deep forest of bathroom products on the counter is pretty dense after all. Stay with me, it’ll make sense soon enough.

015

You see our baby-yet-not-a-baby-anymore, but rather tweenaged screenager and I had just had a very enlightening conversation on the way to the library.

“Mom, I read an article online that said that NORAD denied the existence of Santa, and they aren’t tracking Santa anymore because Santa is a hoax!  Is that really true?”

Startled, I started going thru a mental rolodex of thoughts simultaneously:

  • I’m about to rip his heart out.
  • Why did I wait so long to talk to him? I should’ve had this conversation long ago.
  • He’s going to think his parents are LIARS!
  • If he can’t trust me at Christmas, how in the world will he trust me in bad times?
  • He’s going to lose the magic of Christmas, right here and now, while we wait in the Starbucks drive through line.
  • Christmas is going to be sad now.
  • What if he doubts what I’ve told him on other things, like the existence of God?

“Well, what do you think?” I shot back.

“That’s why I’m ASKING you Mom!  I need to know.”

Since we were in a drive through line, I asked him to show me the web article on his phone.

So he showed me this:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-air-force-retracts-claim-santa-claus-not-real-article-1.3593233

“Wait a minute,” I said.  “It says right here, and I quote:”

In response to a story from the Washington Examiner — titled “Air Force confirms Santa Claus isn’t real while chiding quarreling bases on Twitter” — the Air Force walked back its initial claims.

Santa is real!” claims the article’s author. I quoted this line from it: “Bluffing to get @Whiteman-AFB and @TeamMinot in line. Tracking him in Dec.”

“See! You just have to read the last two paragraphs of the article” I said obviously stalling.  “You see, there is always someone that wants to kill the Christmas magic, even in the military sometimes, but it clearly says at the end of the article he is real.”

Wrong choice, Mom! (Screams my inner voice)

I could see he was getting more agitated.  He started telling me scientifically it just doesn’t make sense.  There are too many houses–houses without chimneys and millions of kids who live in huts or high-rise apartments.  He doesn’t have to totally understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to realize somehow that if Jeff Bezos can’t get birthdays done with a jabillion employees, how in the world does an overweight, ever-aging Santa pull Christmas off each year?

“I just don’t see how Santa delivers all those presents to every kid all over the entire world!”

Believe me, it ain’t easy!  I internally screamed thinking only of my three kids over the last 30 years!

More questions ensued.  I just kept asking him what he believed and thought.

And then it hit me.  The jig is up.  It’s time to come clean about Santa.

IMG_4821

I was just about to open my mouth to speak and tell him the bittersweet truth in love.

But then he surprised me with this:

 “So that’s why I got the baking soda and the laxatives out earlier.”

“Wait, what?!”

“Yeah.  I’ve been checking different websites online and about half say Santa is real and the other half say he isn’t.  It says here on this site, if you want PROOF that Santa is real, you should sprinkle baking soda on your floor and that way when he puts out gifts, he’ll probably leave a boot print.  And it also says you should put laxative pills in the milk we leave out with the cookies.”

“WHAT?!?!?   WHY??” I asked incredulously.

“Because that way if it is your parents, you’ll know for sure, because they’ll be in the bathroom a lot on Christmas day.”

Okay.  Now I knew he needed to know the truth for sure.  If only to make sure my plan for a desperately-needed, post-holiday nap would not be foiled. Instead this little angel child was actually considering wrecking my intestinal balance in order to prove a scientific hypothesis he had been contemplating.

“Are you trying to tell me you would actually allow your parents to be semi-poisoned to prove your theory denying the existence of Santa?  Furthermore, what IF Santa IS real?  Now you just gave him the gift of the runs after he was so kind to pay you a visit.  Is that anyway to treat someone who’s been so good to you all these years?

At that moment we both started laughing.  We laughed so hard for so long. But inside I was crying a little bit.  Then we both grew very quiet.  He was looking out the window as if far away.  And looking in the rear view mirror at my last-born son, I knew this sweet magical tradition we’ve carried for a little over three decades  with all our kids was finally coming to a close.

I know.  Don’t say it.  I waited way too long.

The thing is, I didn’t mean too.  The truth is, a bunch of things happened along the way, and time slipped away while I was so busy tending to more urgent things. Suddenly, like his siblings before him, he too has grown up, perhaps the fastest of all.

I mean, it seems like yesterday when he sat joyfully on Santa’s lap year after year.  Well, except for the year when he was two, and for some reason this was the year he was traumatized by the mere sight of the jolly fat man in the red suit at the mall.  In his annual portrait that year, he is sitting on his middle school-aged sister’s lap.  She is holding back hysterical laughter.  His red teary eyes are more blood shot then Snoop Dogg on a Sunday morning.  I’m terrible, but in some ways this is my favorite picture of all.  Partly because it’s funny, but partly because I knew then he would grow so fast.  That moment that seemed so scary then, would be met with joy and elation the following year.  And it was.

And the year after, and the year after that.  Until suddenly, it was this year, and I realized we forgot to get our picture made with Santa this year.  And last year too.  And probably even the year before that.

“Son,” I told him.  “Now, you know another hard truth in life.  The Santa that you had always envisioned in your head doesn’t really exist.  But there was a real Saint Nicholas.  And there are many people of days gone by and many people now who keep the spirit of Santa alive by being one of his helpers.  It’s a sacred honor when you think about it. Parents and various helpers (like grandparents and mall Santas and elves) love to keep the magic alive, because they remember how they felt as a child when they believed.”

“I know you know the real reason we celebrate Christmas—it’s to celebrate Jesus birth and remember what He did for us.  And Jesus IS real and so is His power in our lives.  This part of Christmas will always be true.”

“Of course Mom!  I know that’s why we celebrate!  I know it’s not just about getting gifts.”

I continued: “I know you know this too; it’s often a horrible and scary world we live in now.   You know terrible and dreadful things about people in this world now I wish you didn’t have to know, but you do because these things are true.  Denying the existence of these evil things won’t make them any less true.  Some things you have to know, so you can plan on how to stay safe.  But I see that continuing to treat you like an innocent child in this regard isn’t doing you any favors.  I think your heart has been questioning for some time it sounds like.  And I don’t ever want to lie to you.”

“Oh mom!  No, I’m fine.  I was just afraid YOU would be really sad that I was figuring this stuff out.  That was making me sad too.  I’m going through a lot of things in my head these days, but I HAD to know.  I just did.”

“I know.”

By now we were both sipping on our adult beverages.  I’m talking about coffee here.  Don’t rush it.  12 is just 21 looking back in the mirror.

“You know, I’m really excited now that I know mom.  I have a whole Christmas plan!  Of course, Santa will always be real in my heart.  But now it’s even better, because I get to be Santa.”

The next three hours he talked non-stop of things he wants to do this Christmas.  He hasn’t been this excited in a long time.  He talked about things he could do for and with his grandmas.  And his brother and sister.  He mentioned things he could make for his dad and other people we know and love.  He asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him anything that is FREE and HOMEMADE means the most to me!  And breakfast in bed would actually be really groovy!)  He talked about everything but what he wanted for Christmas.  That was a first.

I wrapped up our conversation finally by sharing a deep truth found in the bible (1 Corinthians 13:10-12) that says:

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And so we grow up, some sooner, some later, but always right on schedule on God’s cosmic timetable.  Truth is revealed as we are forced to let go sometimes of all which we think we know.  New facts emerge.  We mature and change and press ever onward. Other than faith, change is our only sure constant in this life.  And as we let go, we find a love:  truer, bigger, and better then ourselves.

These are the times we get to be Santa to others because our faith rests secure in the love and true spirit of Jesus.   This is life at its blessed.  This is Christmas.

 

THANK YOU TO ALL THE WONDERFUL SANTAS WHO BROUGHT US CHRISTMAS JOY AND WONDER ALL THESE YEARS!   GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Soul at Peace On The Ones……Life on 11/11 at 11:11:

I love numbers.  I find them significant.  Take ONE for instance.  What do you think of

when you hear Number One?

Don’t you think of first place?  First rate?

Best in class!  The champion team!    The champion!

The best!  Better then all the rest!

When comparing quantities of anything, do we not first compare it as it related to one?

According to mysticalnumbers.com:

“The Pythagoreans referred to number 1 as the “monad”. It symbolized the creator.

It is a male number. Number 1 represents strength.

One is also the number of the loner, someone who will not follow the crowd.

One symbolizes the creative spirit and individuality.”

When we hear one, we think of both individual and unity of the group.   We think of beginnings.

With this I’ll close; perhaps by now you may even have to go “number one”.

Or perhaps you’re PAST DUE on reading others’ words and your one minute attention span has peaked.  It’s your time now baby!  Time to look out for number one!

That’s fine, you do your thing; and I”ll do me.

Just remember this ONE thing……

Though you are just ONE, out of 8 billion humans, no one possesses your same uniquities.  How cool is that?   If your life could be summed up into ONE entire summary sentence who would you say you are?  Who are you as ONE?   How do you live as ONE in groups that move as ONE?  Are you living life as the ONE you were called to be???

We are each our own ONE, our ONE self, in this ONE MOMENT in time (the only ONE moment we’ll ever have”.  And it’s not for long.  It never was destined to be so.  So make it count.

One.  Beautiful.  Moment.  At.  A.  Time.

P.S.  And in case you still can’t get enough of number one, here’s some fun math facts for you.  Look at the beauty and pattern and symmetry in math.  It can be the same way for you each day. (also taken from mysticalnumbers.com)

Number 1 Fun Fact

1 x 9 + 2 = 11

12 x 9 + 3 = 111

123 x 9 + 4 = 1111

1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111

12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111

123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111

1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111

12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111

123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111

And if you’re tired of thinking of only ONE…please get involved:  ONE Campaign

 

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