“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.
Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)
Over the past year I’ve survived the first week of menopause, growing out my bangs, college financial profile applications, and clumsily learning Quickbooks for a second business. I’ve watched someone I love lose a local election, while others I most definitely don’t love win nominations for the White House. I’ve seen marriages break-up, kids get bullied, and elderly people have their meal plan taken away at a retirement home due to new owners and contract interpretations. I’ve become acutely aware that God doesn’t always make sense because bad decisions seem to win more than choices toward good. Our bills have increased, my daughter’s acne treatment hasn’t worked, and our white, AP scholar son has been denied acceptance to a few of his top college picks. He’s learned, as have I, that people can work their ass off for a lot of good things–like impressive GPA’s, or well written books–but that is not always enough.
Where does that leave us? Choosing tomorrow, otherwise we curl up and die. Here’s some hard-won pieces of advice I’ve gleaned while taking a blogging break, evaluating the future, and ultimately moving forward:
- Get dressed, even if no one sees your outfit. God created us with unfathomable tenacity and pliancy. After months of choosing self-care, instead of writing for a world who skims and clicks elsewhere, I’ve decided to throw myself into the blogosphere all over again. It turns out that we can plant our face on hopeless linoleum, question our mission, and scream to a seemingly silent Creator, yet still find ourselves sitting back up. We can hide for a time, but then choose one random day to shave our legs and go back outside again. The difference is that we stop dressing for others. Just pick out the shirt that fits you. Just don’t be in too big of a hurry because there are a lot of lessons to be learned in your robe on the bathroom floor.
- Grab needed items from the pantry, but don’t live inside. I know… that 2’X3′ space offers so much comfort and warmth. Who needs anything else when the cubby holds a box of wine and and a bag of chocolates with no room for another personality to complicate your party? But here’s the thing–at some point we have to come out to empty the blatter, or lay down to sleep the voracity off. Before we make it down the hallway, however, we realize mom called, the Visa bill is due, and a family sits on the couch. Sure, an occasional splurge can offer a break, but when we’ve lost the ability to pull up our jeans, or see clearly, it’s time to hear the siren that’s been blaring through the rest of the house. The pantry doesn’t solve our problems, food and drink only offers a temporal delay. Pay attention to the lie that awaits in every consumer establishment.
- Walk, dine, or stalk the friend who has no agenda. We all need the gift of a friend who can stop, listen, and hear our spoken and unspoken words. This is the friend who doesn’t filter every conversation through her own agenda. Does such a person exist? Yes–it just may take until menopause to find her.
- Walk, dine, or stalk the friend who is brave enough to challenge your agenda. We all need the gift of a friend who can stop, listen, and hear our spoken and unspoken words. And then say, “You’re screwed up!” Well, maybe she’s kinder than that, but hopefully not too much, because we’ll miss it. Does this person exist? She’s everywhere, but we’re too prideful to appreciate her. Chances are, we’ve had a friend like this all our lives, but until menopause we’re too insecure to accept the advice as wise and sound. We balk, silently judge, and then find someone that will kiss our agenda’s ass.
- Write yourself permission slips. It’s so simple, why has it taken me so long to offer myself the freedom: “Kim, today you have the permission to choose joy when those around you complain.”Kim, today you have permission to exercise, just because it’s good for you!” “Kim, today you have permission to pause and sway to that song because it moves you.” “Kim, today you have permission to ask for help.” “Kim, today you have permission to change your attitude… forgive… apologize… serve someone from pure choice… go to bed early or stay up late… “Kim, today you have permission to be beautifully imperfect.”
- Choose today what you now wish you chose yesterday. Somewhere along the line–that day I gave myself permission to exercise–I did something to my right arm. The pain resides right in the middle; the part that bends and has an elbow on it. Honestly, I’ve never felt pain in this particular spot before. I’ve also never had a hot flash, until last week. My joints hurt, my eyes can’t read my Bible at dusk, I sag, and my natural hair color reminds me of a soot. Some days I find myself begging God for the ability to go back. Father, can I please just return to five years ago and decide the gym that day and then two thousand more after? The pain I feel today, makes me want to choose different yesterday… But I can’t go back. I can only choose today. What will those decisions be? The past shouldn’t define us, but it can sure helps point us forward, because we don’t always get it right, but we can learn and get it right next time.
- Life isn’t fair, so don’t teach elementary school PE. I began substitute teaching in January, on a part-time basis. I’ve taught everything from College Literary Analysis to 5th grade math, but elementary gym class has taught me the most about fairness. I tried, really I did! The kids let me know right away what wasn’t fair about the game… five hundred and thirty six reminders, in my face, within ten minutes. I spent several classes after that attempting to ward off all unfairness and teach needed life lessons to four foot spark plugs. But by hour six and class nine, I sat the lively mob down and said, “Listen. This game isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. Someone’s going to take your ball. You’re going to fall down and your bare hands will burn after they’ve smacked the hard floor. Just do the best you can, and if your not bleeding, I don’t want to hear about it.” This all sounds much meaner in print. Really–the kids love me! And once we established that all wasn’t going to be fair, the remaining classes ran much smoother.
- Be one of the 80% who follows directions, but learn how to respond to the 20% who can ruin everything. This is the other glaring reality I’ve learned from teaching. Every class has students who are attentive, respectful, and ready to learn, but a few knuckleheads have to be carefully handled or else all control is lost. The art of mastering a classroom, or a life full of difficult people, is all in the approach. I too have been a knucklehead, so I’ve learned to be generous in my approach toward the 20% who want to mess with my day. I had one fifth grader ask if I already knew his name. He was communicating clearly that he was “that kid” and I should prepare myself for his challenges. I firmly, but warmly challenged him back. “Who says you have to be that kid today?” I asked him. “The great news is that you can make a different choice. Don’t label yourself and then feel like you have to live up to that label.” Sure, he still tried to rock the boat a bit, but he was also a great, spirited kid and he did rise to the generous assumption I placed on him from the start. This approach works in life too. I’ve been tempted to be bitter about some things over the past year, but I’m choosing to be generous with my assumptions about people’s intentions and God’s plan for my life.
- Never give up on the power of possibility. Without possibility we have no dreams. Without possibility we fold. Settle. We fail to dare any longer. In moving forward, I’ve made my own decisions about the future of my business. Some of those efforts have already been made, some are still in process, many more are yet to happen. The sobering reality is that I could still be in the same frustrated place next year. No dream or possibility is sure without the grace and will of God behind it, but if it kills me I’m choosing to believe that the future possibilities are endless.
- Forget about what you can’t do. I can’t crack the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) code. I can’t master social media marketing by myself. As a company of one, I can’t compete with staffed corporations. But while I admit my limitations, I can’t forget my strengths. My daughter, and many others, are teaching vacation bible school in Mexico next week. They’ll be putting on skits and working with kids, all revolving around a central theme: Superheroes. When the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, we each have superpowers. There are just days, maybe months, when we need to be reminded of what those strengths are. Find them, remind yourself of them, then fix your cape and fly toward all the things you can do.