html

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

IF I WANT TO BE DIFFERENT THEN, I HAVE TO MAKE CHANGES NOW


I've talked before about the level of energy and production I have.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say I 'do' more than most.
When I want to do something, I generally get after it.
And yet....in spite of all of my hustling, there are some to-dos
that just never seem to get checked off.
Things I've told myself are important and are going to happen.  
Things that I don't want to let go of for some reason but I always 
move lower on the priority list because...
well, I haven't been 100% sure of the because. 
Why do I keep moving particular items from the top of the to-do list
to the middle, even though I agree in my bones
that they are important and need to be done sooner rather than later?
It's been one of those annoying but consistent mysteries 
that falls in the same category as single sock syndrome.

Here are some things that I have said are a priority and 
then repeatedly nudged to the lower middle of the to do list:
doing a pull-up
developing a daily intentional connection with God
scheduling hard wood floor replacement in my home
making eye contact-especially with people who are different than me
having a highly informed opinion when I vote
avoiding inflammatory foods-like ALL THE TIME, not just on Mondays
dusting (anything)
writing one of the 3 books I have outlined
lots of corporate paperwork for Bloomin


When I look at this list, it appears to be a mix of large, 
chewy things and small irritating minutiae.  
It's hard to find the invisible thread that runs through them all.
At first I thought it was laziness.
I know what to do if I'm feeling lazy.
I wake up my internal drill sergeant
and have her bully me over the top of the wall.
Except-that didn't work.
Trying to work on these items felt like carrying dead 
weight over that wall.
I couldn't lift one-much less carry it and myself.
Maybe they are too boring or uninteresting?
Not shiny enough?
Nope...that doesn't fit either.
How about too hard or complicated?
Maybe I'm intimidated by them?
Possibly but...that doesn't feel quite right either.
I'm not usually avoidant of complications-quite the opposite.
What is it about these tasks that makes them slippery?
I don't want any of them to come off the list
and yet, I can't seem to manage to move them over the line.
What is the difference between work that I say is a priority
and work that actually becomes a priority?
What connects these things that I have such a hard time
moving off of my list?


There's something about writing that very often unlocks doors 
within my brain that I haven't even realized were there.
I create a draft blog post and then let that topic percolate
 through my subconscious while I go on with life.
Every couple of weeks I check in on it, turn it over,
and then walk away again.
It's a kind of magic that works a lot
like composting or fermentation.
I can't see what's happening but eventually I will 
have an epiphany just because I set my mind to work on it.
I've been giving this topic side-eye for multiples of months-
letting this post age and breathe but making very little progress.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I were talking about her ability to 
sustain long runs on the soccer field.
She's a fast, competitive little hummingbird who
has some serious natural talent for this sport.
Her innate abilities have been enough to keep her in the 
game until very recently.
Lately though, she runs out of juice by game end
and that's pretty frustrating to her.
She wants to be able to run as fast in game minute 40 that 
she can run in the first 10 minutes.
That is possible but it will take some investment
in the form of long runs a few other days of the week, 
solid nutrition, and probably some mental conditioning.
Her genetics and inclination will only take her so far.


I said this phrase to my daughter:
If you want to be different then, you have to make changes now.
This happens a lot-where my subconscious speaks to me
when I think I'm teaching someone else.
If I want to be different then, I need to be different now.
Well duh.
How obvious and easy does that feel?
Except, of course it isn't.

Back to my never completed mid-level items.
Each of the items that keeps getting bumped off of the top 
of the list has the ability to cause me a protracted amount of discomfort. 
I won't be able to rely on my natural abilities to get them done
without some planning and training to support those efforts.
Don't believe me that dusting would take a long protracted effort?
Well....here's a hot tip that I have recently realized:
  I've mislabeled a few items to keep
the list small and to pretend it's not that challenging.
Dusting is short hand for 'get my house right'
because it always leads to protracted cleaning and decluttering.
Which I like in theory but can derail an entire month of weekends.  
(See Insights from a Garage).   
This is exactly the same barrier to replacing our flooring.
Replacing our flooring will mean several weeks
of upheaval in the heart of our lives.

 Other items on this list will mean months or weeks of extended failure.  
None of the books that I've framed out are nearly as clear and 
direct as any of my blog posts.  
Some of the content in my books will require me to warn
my children before the rest of the world
understands exactly how screwed up I have been.
Writing a book will mean I intentionally spend weeks in the recesses
 of my mind, tugging on imperfections, remembering really 
uncomfortable situations and somehow turning that into work worth sharing.
Saying what needs to be said but using my own soul for the catalyst. 
Also, I've never written a book and I'm pretty sure my first drafts
(and third and fourth drafts) will be horrendous.
I will have to hang with that content for months until it becomes real. 

My point is, each of the items that keeps sliding
needs me to develop some habits to support my ability to 
be uncomfortable in my own life for a protracted period of time.
These items might not be hard for someone else
but they hit me in tender areas that aren't naturally resilient
enough for me to endure a protracted campaign.
If I want to move them off the list,
I'm going to need to do some training.
If I want to be different then, I have to make changes now.



Short term perseverance has been a towering strength of mine
but long term, consistent change has often eluded me.
Especially if we're talking about personal change.
My signature move is to provide an overwhelming amount of focus
and energy to hit a crazy goal, and then drop 
back into my old patterns as I search for a new wave to ride.
I would never describe myself as someone 
who avoids hard things.
But I would describe myself as someone who lacks structure
or consistency...someone who has a weaker
amount of self-discipline.
Anytime I've had consistent improvement or change
in long term self-discipline,
I've had an external structure to support that goal.
School, career, motherhood.
A reason outside myself to push through to the goal.
I haven't been able to move some of these personal
goals forward because no one outside of myself cares if I do them or not
AND they require me to develop new habits that need
to persist for longer than a few weeks.

If I want to be different then, I have to make changes now.
I'm starting to see that making small amounts of discomfort 
a daily habit is key to reaching many of my goals.
I am afraid of being uncomfortable, of failing, or doing it 'wrong'.
Not on things that matter to other people-
but on things that matter the most to ME.
This is uncomfortable but also, exactly who I want to become.
A person who stops shuffling her priorities in favor of 
her own immediate gratification.
Someone who doesn't need external validation
or an award to move her own agenda forward.
Someone who respects herself, nurtures herself, and doesn't
 regret her avoidance when she's eighty.
How do I do that?  
I'm planning to cover that in a series called #shiftingperspective.





Thursday, November 01, 2018

WHY CHRISTIAN AND MY EVOLVING FAITH




I've been to a couple of conferences recently that are Christian focused-
that's two more than I ever thought I'd go to in this lifetime.
Attending the first conference was accidental-
a beloved college friend thought it would
be interesting for us to attend this little conference 
called Why Christian that was happening in Durham, NC.  
Why Christian is one of the first times where I've felt 
completely free to be whole in a public space.
A place where discussion of God didn't need to be
segregated to one kind of person, one kind of space.
A place where I wasn't a fantasist or intellectually inferior
because of my belief in something greater.
A place where what I believe can be held loosely by others
without a need to pick at my edges.
The attendees represent my bubble-the people
I am most comfortable being in communion with
people of color, women, LBGTQ, the broken and brave.

There was a flyer for another conference called 
Evolving Faith in Black Mountain NC for the fall.  
I've just returned from that event and it was profound, messy, and deep.  
Most people attending were wrestling with wounds inflicted in the name of Jesus
 and then of course, their own awakening to the wilderness.  
The speakers were from a rainbow of traditions and perspectives.  
The space was beautiful and there were also lots of topics that pushed 
us out of our comfort zones (starting with the torrential monsoon all through day one).
 Previous experiences lead me to believe that I'll spend the next few weeks
 processing before the new connections made this weekend
 will settle into something I can use more fully. 

 However, there is something rumbling around within me that 
would like a little immediate attention. 
Specifically, why am I personally a Christian?  
There were a lot of interesting people at this conference who asked
 me earnest questions about doctrine and my own beliefs.  
I didn't have a lot of firm answers for them because in general,
I don't spend a lot of time worrying about points of religion.
I don't hold legalistic religious attitudes towards God
and this is one area of my life where my heart leads before my head.
 If I've learned anything in this short life though, 
it's that we benefit from shared experience.  
In case there are other seekers like me, 
I thought it might be helpful to write down my perspective.  
Just like anything I share on mental health or tools....I'm not really qualified
 to talk about doctrine, structure, the church or much else.  
I'm not trying to convert anyone to any way of thinking-
except perhaps that love is the answer.



I've spent a long time in the wilderness-in fact, I was basically 
raised by wolves (or one wolf in particular). 
My childhood was punctuated by weekend respites from the wilderness
 at my Aunt Lillian's house.
Aunt Lillian's house was filled with magic-
creative costumes, comfy nooks, extra doughnuts, and long walks.
Sunday mornings were started with waffles and then
walks up to our church.  
Aunt Lillian sang in the choir so I sat with Aunt Ruby on the front row,
 eating sugared orange slices and playing with my Barbie.  
I learned that Jesus loved me no matter what-although I wasn't sure what kind
 of people were red or yellow-he loved them too. 
On Sunday evening it was back to the wilderness where love needed
 to be earned and would be withheld on a whim.

As I grew up, I stared into homes that seemed so much better,
 safer and loving than my home and I tried to figure out the formula.   
I wanted that white picket fence, the 2.5 kids, the parents who remained 
married and didn't look for their feelings in the bottom of a bottle. 
I wanted to be safe, to be able to trust what would happen next.
I became a disciple at the temple of conformity, chasing and catching 
the money and structures that would match this place I imagined
where people weren't messy or inadequate.
This temple turned out to be surprisingly fragile and lonely.  
I never really felt like I belonged but I did have a modicum of safety.  
I knew how to push and pull these levers,
 I knew what defined success and failure, I used the system to remain static.

In 2015, the life I built around conformity shattered.  
In many ways, I died as the carefully crafted ideas
of what I thought of as success and my own worth went up in flames.
Dancing for money or approval or belonging was not going to work.  
Labeling myself as a wife, a mother, a safe white woman
in a safe little suburb had not kept the wolves from finding me
and doing their damnedest to destroy me.
I followed the formula and I still ended up heartbroken,
standing firmly with the wild things.
While wandering again in the wilderness, I realized that I felt
more at home than I'd felt in years.
Who should I be? What promise would I trust?
God was an active presence during this time-
speaking to me directly, laughing gently at my tantrums.
'You have lost nothing worth keeping little one' She said.
Be still-and know that I am God.
So I tried to be still and quiet and listen for guidance.


What is the thing that I follow when I'm lost and can't find the ground anymore? 
What remains for me when everything else falls away?
It surprised me to realize that my North Star is basically summed up best by a middle-eastern man a couple of thousand years ago.

Love God (the Divine) with my whole heart.
Love my neighbor as myself.

It's kind of hard to call myself a Christian.
That word means an awful lot of things these days-
few of which reflect the path through the wilderness
or actually embrace all people as valued and beloved.
The Church has become the empire and abused it's power for several millennia.
I don't identify with so much of what our culture calls Christianity
 and in most discussions with professed Christians, 
I get attacked or voted off the island pretty quickly.
But I suppose that I am a Christian in the sense that these words 
are my guideposts and Jesus is my highest teacher
who I believe is an embodiment of the Divine.


I am not a Christian because I dislike other religions, 
because I think everyone else on different paths will burn in hell for eternity, 
or because I think this is the only way.
If I sit down and think about it very hard, 
then I believe that there are many many paths to God.
I think that perhaps I need to never try to out-think God or limit God...
She is most likely unknowable to me in the way that my human brain wants to define Her.
The mystery and magic of God just can't be contained or understood (by me)
 in legalistic systems that limit who's in or who's out.
It feels resoundingly TRUE to me that everybody is in.  
Always.
Them and us.
And even if someone is 'out', I am incredibly unqualified to determine which 
slot a person falls into.

I am not a Christian because Jesus died for me on a hill soaked with the blood of many;
 the imagery and story of the cross is a bloody and violent reminder to me of the
 worst instincts of humanity. 
 Humans consistently want to kill things that scare them-
why does killing God surprise anyone? 
If  you believe that we are made in the image of God, 
then you have to accept that we allow, encourage or condone the defamation
 of that image hourly. 
 If anything, the reminder of the cross draws me towards movements 
like Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ equality.  
Whatever the Empire is so afraid of that it must be murdered must be holy.

I am not a Christian because I want to belong. 
If anything, I think it is important to hold my community loosely.  
It's really easy to be drawn towards comfort and begin to ignore God.  
I have an amazing church family and tribe that walks along side me in this season.  
I know that the mix of that tribe and my own comfort within in it will necessarily 
change.  Nothing on this earth stays the same forever.  
The denomination within which I worship is addressing an important topic-
whether or not LBGTQ brothers and sisters are enough, just as they are.  
I am actively giving grace and practicing patience-
both which are hard for me-as I await the decision. 
It will break my heart to find another place to worship if this denomination 
decides to continue to not welcome these precious brothers and sisters.  
But that is what hearts are for-breaking.  
My family will not sit in comfort and give our time, gifts and service to any 
organization that wants to pretend to do the work of love instead of actually doing it.

I am not a Christian because I want to be wealthy or receive glory-
in this life or any other.  
Choosing a religion that rewards it's members with monetary or social gain 
feels like a pyramid scheme.  
I have to ask myself, who's winning there?  
If those that are poor or less fortunate are receiving punishment for 
something, who was the judge?  
How does that fit in with the broader story? 
 If I take out the symbols of peace and unity and just look at the actions, 
it seems clear that the prosperity gospel is a lie sold to desperate people
 who believe they are inherently bad.  
Do good, get good is not a new idea, is not the good news, 
is not pushing us collectively towards a new idea. 
 It's a social norming idea that has been around for several thousand years
 and is a good first step to taming savages.  
It's not particularly compelling now.

I am not a Christian because I'm hoping to be with all my friends
 on streets paved with gold after I die.  
I have no idea what happens to our souls or energy when we die 
but I have felt my grandmother beside me many years after her death.  
I can connect with the Holy Spirit right now. 
It seems to me that nothing is wasted or consumed.  
That whatever the essence of what we are...it remains. 
 It also seems to me that this earth is (or at least was) a paradise filled with magic. 
 If this life is somehow preparing me for something better, I probably need
 to use my stewardship of this life as a dress rehearsal that matters.  
If I were looking to give someone keys to an amazing kingdom, 
humans are the last race I would give them to.

I am a Christian because I want to keep it simple.  
Simple is not easy-it's actually very very hard.
Loving God and loving people give me serious heartburn on normal days. 
I will be working on these two items right up until my last breath-
which actually excites me to some degree.
I don't need to suss out new tasks or challenges-
Jesus set me the absolute hardest already.
It's chewy work worth doing that will meet me where I am-
every day for the rest of my life.
I am not going to get to the end of it and wonder...what next?
Is that all you want me to do?
I am a Christian because of the here and now,
because we are capable of loving each other and healing
each other and ourselves through these words.
I love God-but not with my whole heart on most days.
There's usually some lust for a coffee and worry
over minutiae that gets in the way.
I love my neighbors about as good as I love myself-
which means that I ignore them, run them into the ground,
forget that they need grace and have
a robust number of ways to criticize them.
I am a Christian because these two bits of direction
have served me better than anything else I've ever heard.
Love God.
Love people.
The End.








Friday, October 26, 2018

IT'S NOT ABOUT ME-SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE


Street are by the incredible @Guscutty

I
'm not quite sure if I'm done with talking about triggers.  
It's likely that I have more to share on that specific topic but 
I think it's time to pause for a while.
I feel the urge to take a slight left into another, 
not wholly unrelated tool that's been really helpful for me.

This is another simple concept that is not 
easy to accept-at least not for me.
It's not quite a mantra but it has become a 
touchstone for shifting my own perspective.
It's not about me.
This phrase is not to say that I'm completely unimportant or
or imply that I don't take up space in the world.
It's something I use when I need perspective
that seems impossible to achieve in the face of
damage wrought by someone else.
The choices other people make, are rarely about me.
When I'm tempted to feel angry because of someone else's actions,
I try to remember that it's not personal.
Or I should say...it's not personal to me, it's personal to them.
Humans make choices based on their own needs, wants or experience.
A healthy person might consider other people while making 
choices, they might be able to accurately take into account 
how other people feel or what they need.
The final decision is still ultimately about them-
what feels best to them, what feels ethical or right,
what they understand given the breadth of their personal 
experience with the world.
Unhealthy people or people reacting to triggers are 
not considering the impact of their actions on anyone else.  
They are reacting to their programming.
Even if they are reacting to some mental version of me, 
or some perceived notion of me-
I am not actually inside the person's head causing 
them to behave in certain ways or make certain choices.
It took me a long time to accept this and begin to
 use it to support my own healing.

The answer to everything and the age I was able to use this tool.

One of the things that I need reminding of often
 is how little I can actually impact the behavior of anyone else.
When I'm in pain or afraid, I have a tendency to center 
the discussion around me.
I will try and look backward to measure all the ways that 
I could have avoided this pain,
if I had only been different.
If I had only made different choices, 
worn a different outfit, 
started with a plea for support instead of a sarcastic remark.
If I had shown up early, spoken out, avoided the cracks 
on a sidewalk, tossed salt over my shoulder-
then all of this pain could have been avoided.
This kind of thinking is a lie that attempts to heal my wounds
 by accepting responsibility for someone else's actions
or assigning myself a part in their internal dialogue.
I am not that important.
People injure each other often-
because they don't know how to avoid it, 
because they don't have the tools or knowledge to make any other choice,
because they are hungry or lonely or lost.
I don't think there's any scenario where 
I've been hurt by someone else's choice after
they sat me down, 
asked me for a perspective, and 
then intentionally tried to hurt me.
But there are hundreds of times where I decided
that a friend, family member or abuser intentionally
set out to take my health and happiness.
More @GusCutty work

Here's a faulty connection that is rooted in my own experience.
When I am hurt by the action of someone else, I will often go to this truth
'They didn't think about how that would effect me'.
I will immediately jump to an internal story about 
how I am unimportant or unlovable-
which will lead me to feel rage and frustration or begin to 
negotiate with the superstitious feelings above.
This is a trigger and it needs a pause.
There is something true in this reaction but the whole shebang
doesn't actually hold water once I pause.
That initial thought is true-
'They didn't think about how that would effect me'
but the rest is a mess.
I can choose where I go next-take 
my thoughts in a new direction.
If it wasn't about me, if they didn't even think about me, 
then I was not intentionally injured.
If it wasn't about me, them I am collateral damage-
not the target of a protracted campaign.

That doesn't mean that I'm not hurt, that I'm not angry.
It means that I can think more clearly about myself-
I can spend time focused on my own needs, my own injuries and not
waste time trying to write a story that causes more pain.

Art by my daughter-no website yet

Here's a different way to think of the same thing.
When toddlers throw a tantrum, their arms and legs turn into whirlygigs.
They spin and contort in ways that seem impossible.
They slam their heads into faces, wiggle their little bodies until 
they fall through an embrace,
spew their feelings all over anyone within a ten foot radius.
And yet....healthy parents realize and understand that the 
cause for this behavior is
that the toddler is tired, hungry or over-stimulated.
It's not because they hate the parent or have planned the best possible way to hurt the parent by spending the past two years 
sussing out the tender weaknesses.

Imagine if the parent of a toddler sat down after every tantrum
and decided that the toddler intended to hurt them.
Imagine if the parent then tried to take on responsibility for the machivellian schemes they imagine the child created.
There would be ONLY giant toddlers running
around after a generation or so because no one would model 
a different behavior for the kids.
There would be no time outs, no calm chats over how to make better choices,
no snuggles to comfort or future relationship.
The parent would be scared, angry and afraid of the toddler
because they assigned information to the behavior that wasn't accurate.
The negative behavior is still not acceptable-
but it's not about the parent, not directed to the parent,
and no matter how great a parent you are, there will be tantrums.

Every time I've been abused, hurt or injured by another-
it's not because they intentionally set out to hurt me.
It's because they were unable to even see me.
They forgot (or never knew) that I am a precious, beloved gift of God.
They can't remember that fact about themselves,
how could they possibly remember it about me?
The beginnings of a restored heart (art by me)

I am not that important.
It's not about me.
I worked a long time to get to this understanding.


Maybe this will be helpful to you.
What if that thing that hurt you had nothing to do with you?
What if that time someone broke their word, stomped all over your boundaries-
what if that was because of something within them?
What if the blow of those hits you've been taking are 
compounded by your own perspective.
What if you weren't that important, what if everything wasn't about you?
What choices would you make then?