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.

 

 

 

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The Poker Game of a Lifetime

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I had a thought tonight while pondering mid-life as my family has faced quite the challenges of late:

If life were a poker game, what card would I love to trade?

I can just see it now.  All my 40-50ish (and beyond) aged friends would be sitting around a round table.  Some of us would be drinking mojitos. Others would be drinking Ginger ale on ice.  Some of would be smokers, the others vegans.  Fat ones and skinny ones.  All are welcome here!  Some would be staunch conservatives, and others would be die-hard liberals.  Some of would be married, some widowed, some never married.  Perhaps some would be “questioning” all that.

We’d swap stories of our current status in life, trade success and horror stories of our marriages, our kids, our parents, our careers, our faith, or lack there of (any of the above).  And we’d talk about our health.  The entree to the former appetizers we’d linger on now for a while.

It’d be like a poker game for the post-menopausal mid-life crisis club.  Except that for us it’s not a crisis.  It’s standard fair for this stage of the game.  Mid-life.  Not young anymore.  But young enough to really want to LIVE still.  Tender enough to still cry.  Strong enough to perservere when we’re done.

We’ve seen some tragedies.  Some have lost parents.  Or breasts.  Or ovaries.  Or our homes.  Our marriage.  Our jobs.  Our sanity on occasion…sometimes we simply lose “it”!  In spectacular fashion even (the icing on the cake!)  Because it’s all just so much to keep up with:

Jobs, responsibilities, family members with issues, trials, health, chores, endless ways to communicate, finances, weight, and the ever-present thought:

My TIME is running out.  Not yet God.  Not yet.

So we’ll sit around the table and play a little game of poker, trading stories:

“Oh, I can top that!  I tell you what, I’ll trade you my leaky silicone tatas for your surgically stolen ones thanks to your BRACA results!”

“Ummm, no I think I’ll trade w/Sue over here because she said she’d give me her perky pets if I’d take her husband with the wandering eye and since I don’t need a man, that’s fine with me.”

“Oh yeah,” says Emmy who lost her husband at 47 to a sudden heart.  “No, I’ll give you my somewhat deflated tatas AND I’ll raise you one and give you my nice house that is paid for free and clear from the insurance settlement.  I miss Fred so much, so very very much.”

“Are you kidding?” Jane pops in who at 57 is back to where she was fresh out of college, renting an apartment after her husband became disabled and couldn’t afford to support the family after 30 years of valiant efforts.  A stay-at-home mom all these years, she now finds herself working at Target, grateful, that she is able to help out at all.  She is so tired, but doing the best she can.  “I’d give up my tatas to have a home, and especially to just rest some times.  I’m so tired!”

“Um…I don’t know”  Linda says.  “That might be a bad deal!”  She’s thinking she could trade her paid for home, and may consider consider trading her husband, okay only for a moment.  After all, Phil drinks way too much, has a red hot temper and at least Jane’s man is so loving, so kind to her all the time.

Round and round we’d all go.  Sometimes pining for the good graces we weren’t privileged to receive. Grateful for the trials we were spared.  But at the end of the night, there’d be no winners.  No losers.  We’d simply fold.  Together.    

We’d be the way we were when we first sat down to play this game.  All those years ago.  Before the botox.  Before the bankruptcy.  Before the cancer.  Before the addiction.  Before the coffins and the good-byes that came too soon…parents, spouses…..a child.  That one trumped everything.

And yet we are all still here.  The fortunate ones, anyway.  The blessed ones already left us.  And they are waiting.  Smiling.  Willing us to go on one more day.  Endure one more trial.  Wait patiently on that which you can not possibly know, see, much less understand.  Consider the joy set BEFORE us as we suffer.  And trust.  God has us!  He is for us!  Oh, how we get to practice that, lest we lose our minds totally.

And keep on loving our families, each other and counting so many blessings as we bet our chips on the tales from our lips.   With dignity, grace, and strength, we keep on keeping on at Poker Game of Lifetime!

Deal me in!

Driving out the Demons

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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.

Living in Today

Living in Today      I have a daughter who lives on the other side of the world right now.  It’s weird, because wherever she is, she is nineteen hours ahead of me thanks to daylight savings time and 8000 miles of ocean and continents.   Whenever we talk, she is always living in tomorrow, but I am still stuck right here: IN TODAY.   When we Skype, I usually start with, “So tell me, what can you tell me about MY tomorrow that I don’t know will happen yet?”

      I find it interesting that my Monday is always her Tuesday and so on.  So in an attempt to avoid Murphy’s law and various other pitfalls, I jokingly request she give me tomorrow’s headlines for my life as soon as she knows them.

Okay, not really, but it almost seems plausible.

          I find myself having this same beef with God lately.  Could you please let me know what’s coming down the pike tomorrow?

     You see it’s been a challenging year here.  Life situations  (aka “crisis events”) have been too many and too close together.

It’s too much!  I’d say while shaking my fists, as if God had suddenly decided that Job needed a twin sister!  I can’t bear another bit.  Silence.  Other than the sometimes discouraging and fear-inciting voices inside my head .

How many times have I looked at today’s headlines or story line in my life, and then logically predetermined tomorrow’s outcome?

Then like Ty Pennington giving some lucky family a spanking brand new home on Extreme Home Makeover, God who is merciful gave me a Big Reveal moment inside the quirky head that is home to what can only be described as Liz Logic.

Yes, the same brain that is home base to creative pursuits such as writing and photography and imagination of every dimension is also the executive studio of worry, FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real as Joyce Meyer adequately acronymed it!) and as a triple treat: anxiety.

It’s indeed hard to live fully present, in the present.  I haven’t perfected it.  But I have started attempting it more.  It’s a process of mindful letting goPrayer helps.  As does focusing on the positive moments of the day and small victories achieved.

Also essential?  A network of like-minded friends.  Negativity breeds in times of uncertainty.  So does positivity.  Pick one.

But the most important thing is living for today is simply LIVE TODAYNot tomorrow, today.   The bible tells us not to worry about tomorrow because apparently we were designed to have only enough mental storage capacity for worries for ONE DAY ONLY.   That is all the room for worry the human brain can comfortably hold.   We are told God’s grace is always sufficient for the day.  He even knows the number of exact number of hairs on our head (which for some unfortunate souls have diminished to the “less than 100” range as evidenced by comb-over fashion futility).  Yes, God dresses the lilies of the fields finer than kings and cares for the sparrow, how much more does he care about me?

If God’s promises are true for eternity, they are certainly true for today.  But it takes FAITH, an earnest attempt at, not just reading or memorizes promises, but believing them to be true.

Having a crystal ball or magic time machine that could tell me what tomorrow will bring wouldn’t ultimately fix the circumstances that will invariably arise.  But having faith in the God who holds tomorrow will at least help us get through.

SOME PERSPECTIVE ABOUT LIVING FOR TODAY:

Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.  Khalil Gibran

When Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow meet, only Today gets to shake hands twice. That makes Today twice as important as the other two. But it also means that Today must be careful, because who knows whether Yesterday or Tomorrow washed their hands after going to the bathroom.”    Jarod Kintz

The Crave and The Fix

One of my dearest friends in the world sent me King and Country’s  CD recently called “The Crave.”  If every other song wasn’t spectacularly amazing, this one brought it home—

It broke me

        If you’ve ever struggled with addiction or loved someone who has, then listen to this I beg you.  You’ll get it.

See I’m a strong girl.   These are the things I used to CRAVE:

  • Control
  • Stability
  • A Plan (see Control)
  • Having “it” together (family, work, my house, appearance, finances….the list goes on)

And then The Beast came to our home.  To my heart—an uninvited stranger who moved in without warning or permission—and foreclosed on my heart, and mercilessly tried to wreck my life, and that of my family.

We’re still processing and mending.  But above all I’m still believing and I’m still loving.  I’m living through something that nearly took away someone I love so much more than my own life and who all I wanted to do was :

FIX

      Surely, if I craved fixing my addict just a bit more than this person craved a fix, I’d be able to:

  • Convince them
  • Change them
  • Fix them
  • Make it all better

But I failed.  Or at least I thought I did.  Because sometimes human love isn’t enough I was so busy taking on the roles of detective, nurse, lawyer, and defensive lineman often simultaneously,   that it took me a while for me to learn it isn’t all my fault.  And it isn’t all theirs.

Addiction is two things:  A genetic predisposition and a choice.  The choice is the first time.  The addiction is all the times that come after.

I know now it won’t be me that can fix this.  Because THE FIX may be my goal, but it’s not my role.  This is something only God can do as my loved one decides to get extremely intellectually honest or in street lingo: Keepin’ it real y’all! 

“The others”–the ones what have walked this journey of one day at a time for some time now,  through shared experience, accountability, and unconditional love, will have to help my loved one pick up the pieces that I could not.

      This is what it’s like for the addict and the family:  Excruciatingly painful.  Isolating.  Really scary.  Exhausting.  Sometimes you feel judged or are misunderstood by those who haven’t ever been exposed to this.

But the suffering is also something more.  It’s redemptive.  Beauty shines brighter thru wet tears.  Appreciation for now comes when you lose so much and almost lose—well, everything.   Every other problem becomes so small.

And now I know people, too many, that have lost this battle.  People that suffer silently.  And I won’t be doing that any more.  My battlefield is becoming my mission field.

For I am not ashamed of the one I love who is getting the help they need.  I will forever be their:

  • Advocate, but not their enabler.  I will speak the truth, but in love.
  • Cheerleader, because encouragement is the seed that can blossom into confidence.
  • Prayer warrior, because the biggest battles are won on our knees, and the biggest war is fought for our hearts and mind.  If you think you don’t have an enemy bent to destroy both or either, you deceive yourself.

So devil take warning:

  • I am unmoved by you.
  • I am undeterred.
  • Above all I am not defeated—not now, not ever.

Because I have the King of kings on my side.  You have already lost.  For I have tasted The Cure .  His name is Jesus.  He is not just our Saviour, He is also our Saver and Redeemer.  He really does save the lost.  He really does comfort those who mourn and are crushed in spirit.   He does this not only because we first believed, but more importantly because He first loved us. 

Without faith, it’s not only impossible to understand this; I think it’s impossible to see the everyday miracles that God decides to bless us with.  Life is a mystery. It’s full of both joy and suffering, sometimes simultaneously.  Deserving neither, we experience both as a gift of opportunity to question everything until finally we reach the end of our limited human understanding.  That’s where we end, and God can finally begin.

       And to the families touched by addiction?  You are not alone.  You do not have to walk this journey alone.   May you find the courage to find a support group and attend meetings, find a supportive and empathetic church, and/or a close circle of true friends who get it, and may you come to believe and trust in a loving God who already has the power to heal all that ails you.    After all, we could all stand to take a hit of a drop of grace. 

Hope.  Love.   Believe.  And you shall live.

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Support possibilities for you or a loved one who suffers from addiction:

http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

http://al-anon.alateen.org/?gclid=CImZo7jw5LsCFa9lOgod2kcAkw

http://www.aa.org/

http://www.narconon.org/

http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/addiction_hijacks_brain.htm

 

       

Are We There Yet?

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PHOTO:  DISNEY     

Are we there yet?  Would anyone like to place wagers on how many times I will hear this question when our family leaves for Orlando’s Disney World tomorrow after school?   My seven year old son has been counting the days to our Disney Trip when the countdown was still over 100.

And then there was one.  One day left until we leave. Knowing how fast the last hundred days has gone is a bit troublesome because I don’t want our vacation to fly by.  I want each magical moment to linger.    I want each one of our family of five to forget about work, school, obligations, commitments, bills, responsibilities, and challenges.  Basically, I look forward to our reprieve from reality and really hope to drop anchor for a while in the new and improved Fantasyland (among other lands), that just re-opened up six days ago, on anticipation of our arrival no doubt.

This is our fifth trip in nearly thirty years of marriage and family.  It is the first real time for my youngest since he was in utero his first trip, and ten months old the second time.  He is beyond stoked for this trip.

  Personally speaking, it will be a homecoming of sorts.  A family reunion if you will.  Why there’s Uncle Mick with his big ears and chubby fingers and his sunny optimism about everything.  He is the family patriarch full of wisdom and sage advice and a voice that never matured when puberty came, if in fact it ever did.  There’s Aunt Minnie with her oversized furniture, her red and white polk-a-dotted dress, and she always wears a smile and looks as if she’s just baked a warm plate of cookies to greet whoever comes into her quirky and humble abode.  There’s Uncle Donald and his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, whose mischief and energy rival my son’s.  There’s the family dog Pluto, and of course Goofy.  Everyone has at least one Goofy in their family, do they not?

There’s beautiful Snow White and Prince Charming who always has his arm out to escort me and he pulls out my chair before I’m seated in front of a table lined with luxurious food.   There will be white and glass carriages escorted by perfectly groomed white horses for the ball later in the evening.

There are no arguments amongst our extended family members.  Everyone is well physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There is only endless exquisite happiness, laughter, joy,  and incredible talent on display be it singing, dancing, acting, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, tricks with birds and animals, feats of wonder, or acts of comedy.   This is the family millions of people run to and attach specifically to because it is such a great antidote to life’s often harsh realities.

This is the model familyThis is the World’s Family.   It’s a family where good food and drink, laughter, and smiles are always flowing and adventures abound.  Whether it’s being delightfully scared by holographic ghosts in the Haunted Mansion,  exploring all the real cool rooms of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house,  eating your way around the world in EPCOT, or watching the Spectro Magic parade at night with all the floats and characters lit up, you know you’re going to have fun.

    This is why we work in life.  This is why we struggle.  This is why we deny ourselves from having everything we want the moment we see it, because there are greater moments to behold later.

As for me and my household?  The next best thing to Jesus and the promise of heaven is most likely Disney World.  And you don’t have to go there to know it exists and that it’s great!  Kind of like heaven.  We sense it.  We know there is more than this life and its struggles.  There is a grand design, a purpose if you will, for our sufferings, our trials, our brevity here.  It’s because God has something better planned for us over there.

Of all the things God gave us in life to use, the most amazing thing he gave us in this life is our incredible mind.  A mind filled to the brim with infinite possibilities of what we could imagine and create, if we dare.  If we take that faith step and risk putting our dreams out there for the world to see.

It’s what good old Uncle Walt did.  He had a dream in his mind and a sketch pad in his hand and BOOM!  His soul connected his vision for animation and he drew what is now the world’s most famous mouse based on a pet mouse he once adopted at his first Kansas City studio.   Isn’t good he made a pet out of what most people would have so easily killed?

     Nothing in life is a coincidence.  I see things in life not with rose-colored glasses (okay, sometimes I do) but thru a lens of divine providence.    I try to connect the dots relating people and events in life as something God wants to use for good in my life and others.  I believe there is something good awaiting us at the end of our journey of toil and peril.   Disney World is man’s gift, a foreshadowing, to remind us of an even greater gift that God gave to us.  He just used vision to accomplish it in Walt.  He can use vision to accomplish it in us as well.  Open your eyes.  See!

Merry Christmas everyone!   We’re off to be a family, amidst all the other beautiful and diverse families of the world, as we watch and experience the magical family of Disney, keeping in mind that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but a great reason to live life in awe and wonder every day because of what He has done for us.   Life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Disney here on earth.    Heaven later.

I guess there are only four words left to say!

Are!  We!  There!  Yet!!

I Woke Up Channeling Woody Allen

Anxiety.  We all feel it sometimes.  The big questions in life plague us:  Why am I here?  Why did this happen?  What’s wrong with me?  Why am I feeling like this today?  Why can’t I just get happy?  How in the world do I solve this?  No biggie; just a momentary existential crisis; it will probably pass—or will it?

I’m no psychiatrist, just another person like you on the journey of life who tries to maintain some control and mental sanity.    It’s hard though.  There are so many things we have to navigate through—daily, and hardest of all simultaneously!

  • Relationships with spouse, parents, children, co-workers
  • Stress of job demands
  • Stress of finances
  • Prioritizing responsibilities—what can I reasonably accomplish today?
  • Health concerns
  • Spiritual dilemmas

As Madame Morrible states in the Broadway musical, Wicked, it’s easy to feel a bit despondiary.  That’s because life can all be so confusifying!  We deal with more and more situations and our feelings towards them with each passing day.  We quickly learn our sands of time will run out much faster than reaching the solutions to all that ail us.   Utopia doesn’t exist and nirvana rarely lasts more than a few minutes, a day at best, depending on what floats your boat.

Do you ever wake up feeling like Woody with the weight of the world on your shoulders?   Wanting to be a pacifist in a world that demands you stand up and fight?  Lamenting relationships that are far from perfect with those you love the most?  How do you come to terms with your youth fleeting and the possibility of your life ending?  What about the dreams you didn’t fulfill yet?  What if you haven’t even clarified to yourself what your dreams even are?  What if your time runs out?

Like Woody, we can get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and suddenly our feet feel like they are planted in cement, and our decision process feels about as stable as a ball trying to find 37 on a roulette wheel.  We keep spinning, the world keeps on turning, but are we getting anywhere?

Yes, like Woody so candidly and humorously often illustrates in his movies, it’s easy to feel like this on a given day:

  • Agorophobia – Fear of heights
  • Atelophobic—Fear of being imperfect
  • Autophobia – Fear of being alone
  • Cacophobia – Fear of ugliness  (also related:  Catoptrophobia – Fear of mirrors)
  • Claustrophobia – Fear of confined spaces
  • Hypochondria – Fear of illness
  • Nyctophobia – Fear of the dark
  • Obesophobia – Fear of gaining weight
  • Sociophobia – Fear of social evaluation
  • Technophobia – Fear of technology
  • Xenophobia – Fear of strangers or foreigners

Don’t laugh!  There’s tons of phobias!  You may even have some of these:

  • Barophobi – Fear of gravity
  • Coulrophobia – Fear of clowns
  • Ephebiphobia – Fear of teenagers
  • Porphyrophobia – Fear of the color purple
  • Selenophobia – Fear of the moon

We’re afraid to fail in life, and sometimes we’re even more afraid to succeed.  We spend too much time thinking about what we could have/should have done when thinking about the past as well as too much time thinking about what if related to the future.

So?  What to do?  Rush to the doctor and get a frontal lobotomy?  Even if you’re not iatrophobic (afraid of doctors), you already know you can’t stop your thinking process.     People can spend many hours and dollars trying to get to the bottom of what’s in their head.

I’m not convinced it can be done.  I’m not sure we were designed to have all the answers.    That’s why people with pedigrees have never impressed me that much.  Yes, I’m amazed at what people specialize in as a profession, but in their personal lives, they are sometimes messier than less educated people.  Sometimes a little bit of ignorance can be bliss.

Is there a way to move past thinking so much about things, and instead start doing things?

I’m convinced the answer is yes—sort of!  We can’t eliminate that which bothers us or we don’t understand entirely.  Instead we have to embrace it.  Can you let your doubts sit beside your knowledge and what you have faith in, until they decide to get up and leave?

The realm of psychology and faith and science all claim to have answers and infinite books to explain.   Only you know what works for you, but I’m convinced the mind grows on what you feed it!  So feed it well!    These things don’t work perfectly, but the more you combine them, the more likely life can improve.

  • Run!  (Walk, swim, or any form of physical exercise) – NOT AN OPTION in life!  Hormones, weight, and especially thoughts come into balance and focus when we exercise!
  • Eat Healthier – You know this.  More veggies, fruits, less processed food, less fat and sugar, healthy protein choices.  It’s true you are what you eat.  I find if I eat according to what I believe, I have more peace and don’t feel as guilty about my choices.  For everyone that’s different, but start eating with awareness of your beliefs regarding food.
  • Sleep!  Oh, it sounds so simple.  But trying to establish a regular bedtime and adequate sleep time is essential.  Everyone is different.  Not enough you’ll be a bear.  But I find, if I get too much, I’m a bear.  I want so much out of life, and I find I can be optimally happy with about 5-6 hours IF I’m eating, exercising, and utilizing my faith simultaneously.
  • Find something to do that you love!  Hobbies or things that give you joy are as essential as oxygen!  For me reading a great book, falling into the sound of music that I love restores my soul.  Do not rob yourself of finding something you love.  Make time to do it!  Schedule it!
  • Find Faith.  Life is long; trying to exist only on reason can be complicated indeed.  I’m not knocking people that do, I’m just saying for me, and many people, too much in life is mysterious, and if I had to have a concrete explanation for it all, I would go out of my mind.  But faith is a verb, it doesn’t work well, if you simply want it to exist in your head.  You have to put it in action,otherwise it’s just a bunch of words.
  • Identify and eliminate the toxins in your life.  You already know if you drink, smoke, or put other toxins in your body too much.  So I won’t lecture you!  Know the difference between moderate and abuse is all I’m saying.  Know whether or not you’d be better off if you totally abstained.  Enjoyment and enslavement are too different things.
  • Equally important:  Learn to eliminate toxic people!  Walk away from an argument.  You don’t have to prove you are right.  You only have to have peace with who you are, you don’t have to change others to think like you do.  If you are exercising faith, this becomes easier because you don’t have to figure other people out or fix them, only you.
  • Accept life on life’s terms not yours.  We all die.  We all suffer.  We all lose sometimes.  Life is not fair.   Once you can accept that, and move past having to know why, you can focus on how you can LIVE your life now without wasting precious energy and thoughts on that which can’t be explained.
  • Be thankful and loving!  It’s true, if you can wake up and first thing focus on all there is that is right in your life and the world, it sets the perspective for how you will go out and view the world today.  Treat others with kindness and a loving heart.

No one is perfect and no one is completely without fear at all times.  Embrace your fears, but don’t let them define you.

Love yourself enough to embrace life, and make right choices until they become habit!

And finally, a lesson from Woody:  Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself!

From Love and Death – A scene with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton:

Boris: Murder’s immoral.
Sonja: Immorality is subjective.
Boris: Yes, but subjectivity is objective.
Sonja: Not in any rational scheme of perception.
Boris: Perception is irrational. It implies imminence.
Sonja: But judgment of any system of phenomena exists in any rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.

Boris:  … Yeah, I’ve said that many times.

Sonja:  Boris, we must be believe in God!

Boris:   If I could just see a miracle.  Just one miracle!  A burning bush, or the seas part, or my Uncle Sasha pick up the check!

Scene from Love and Death: