Posted in Life

What is Standing in Your Way Right Now?

I’ve been decorating my new apartment over the last two weeks. I think it’s been the outlet for my all of my extra creative energy, as of late, because I haven’t been able to find any writing inspiration after the day’s work has had its way with me.

I’ve found that the going trend in home fashion are these inspiration wall hangings. They say, things like, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination” or “Dream,” or “Inspire,” or the cliché “Keep calm and carry on.” (I HATE that phrase. It has no wit, depth, cleverness to it. Where did it come from, and why do we keep dignifying it?!).

I think these are nice things to put in your living room, and set the tone for your family life. I would think a home full of these things would be beautiful and positive. But, I ran across a magnet, a simple question, that has rocked my world this weekend. It said simply, “What is standing in your way right now?” I didn’t buy the magnet, but I should have. I loved the way it was worded, with “right now,” adding immediacy. I thought and thought about this question.

What is standing in my way at this moment? What is keeping me from being who I am supposed to be? Now, if I said “nothing,” that would be dishonest, because if nothing were standing in my way, I’d be a fully fulfilled completely perfect person that has done everything God created me to do, and have no room for growth. And, if that were the case, why would God still have me on the earth? It would seem if there is nowhere for me to grow, and expand, then I would no longer be a fallible human, subject to my sin nature and confined to pull of a fallen world. I would, in fact, be ready to graduate from the earth. But, the very fact that I am still here, shows that God is not done with me yet. That’s good, because I’m still a pretty screwed up human desperately in need of God’s grace.

So, having called my own bluff at my “nothing,” answer, I thought some more. I thought about who I know I am supposed to be, and who I am, and the gap between. What is in that “space between?” (Yes, I heard Dave Matthews in my head too).

I think my biggest obstacle is that I procrastinate. I can be a ridiculously productive person, when I get to it, but under pressure, I will do anything but what I am supposed to do. If I’m a deadline, I will feel this queasy feeling in my stomach. Then, I will clean the house. Use the bathroom. Make a snack. Shop on Amazon. Give myself permission to take 5 minute break. Turn on music supposedly to get me going. Realize it’s distracting and turn it off…the list goes on and on. Then, about 45 minutes before deadline, I break into a cold sweat and type like a crazy person, and then produce a fairly decent piece.

I’ve been thinking about procrastination. At the root of procrastination, I’ve realized it’s fear. Fear of failure. I worry that if I take on a monumental task, I will get overwhelmed and fail at it. So, I procrastinate until I have no choice. But, if I were to not procrastinate, I’d be ridiculously more productive and way more successful.

So, it would seem what’s standing in my way right now, is fear. I’m so scared of not being successful, that I don’t properly give myself the chance to be successful. That’s crazy.

A life without fear. Scientology is a crazy bunch of crap, but that’s part of their teaching—living a life completely devoid of fear. I would love to be that. Devoid of fear. Sort of that like that Fearless Girl statue on Wall Street.

It’s time to obliterate the fear. What is standing in your way right now?

 

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Posted in Life

Where is this going this time?

I moved last weekend. I signed a fifteen-month lease on a beautiful new apartment. It’s in the center of town, literally walking distance from…well, everything. Including, being directly across the street from Starbucks. That in itself should be enough. I mean, what else could a writer possibly want? There’s also a Target next door, located about fifty feet outside the complex’s main entrance. In the last week, I have spent way too much money there.

The apartment is gorgeous. All white and beige inside, with pristine carpet, and sparkling appliances, new cabinetry and countertops, track-lighting in the kitchen and dining areas, and a French door leading to a third floor patio with a poolside view. There’s even a built-in desk, complete with shelving—an instant home office neatly niched into an out-of-the-way cranny. Could this be more perfect for a writer?

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If that’s not enough, the complex has a 24 hour fitness center. I have become a regular there, hitting the treadmill twice a day. I have spent the last week, wandering around in shock that this is my home. And, then my next question is…now what?

There’s no furniture in our living room. My roommate and I have to buy couches. But among the things we have to buy for the apartment, couches are near the bottom of the list. So, we just don’t use our living room. It’s still as empty as the moment we moved in. I somehow feel like that’s a metaphor for my life right now. Big, beautiful, possibilities, yet unfulfilled.

My question these last few days, has been…now what? Where is all this going? I’m in something of a new town. My writing is enough to pay the bills, but, it needs new life, fresh energy. So, here I am in the big, beautiful place, and now what?  That’s what I have been asking God. It’s like that Scripture about “enlarging your tent.” My tent has definitely been enlarged. But, comparatively, it’s empty. I don’t even know how to fill it.

I don’t know where this is going. I don’t know what’s going to happen with me over the next year. It’s an odd feeling. What is this all about?

There’s a feeling of elation, freefalling into the next season of my life. I don’t know what’s about to happen, I’m just hanging on for the ride. Then there’s something of a feeling of fear…will I be enough? Can I handle this next part? Will I recognize the steps I need to take? Or will I fizzle? And then in another way, there’s a feeling of gratefulness. I can’t believe I have this place, and I can’t believe that I’m in a place where my writing can pay for it. Then, there’s a feeling of anxiety, dread. It’s as if any moment, the proverbial “other shoe” is going to drop.

Where is this going? And the answer God keeps reminding me is…Trust.

Posted in Life

Apologies

Why is receiving an apology so satisfying, so diffusing, so necessary?

It’s like an admission that we are human, and fallible, and we screw up sometimes. How can we fault a person that genuinely admits that? After all, we know that we screw up sometimes ourselves. We know, more than anyone, how fallible and human we are. So putting out “screw up karma” is in our best interests at some level.

There’s something that identifies with the shame, the smallness, and the indignity that a person must take on to apologize. That’s why it’s so hard to do. But, when we have been wronged, somehow we are not satisfied until we can ascertain that the other person feels that shame. It’s a bit twisted when you think about it that way—but since the Gospel centers around forgiveness, I guess any fault I may find with it has to do with my own understanding. To err is human, to forgive divine.

But, when no apology is offered for a wrong, it eats at you like a worm inside. The hurt. The anger. The sense of injustice. It gnaws at you, getting bigger and bigger. And then, you have to do one of the hardest things—forgive anyway. Forgiveness with no apology is an inner healing thing—at least when it goes that deep. They say people forgive their rapists, or their abusive parents, or kidnappers this way.

I’ve never had any of those things, so in comparison the one-sided forgiveness I’ve had to give is very small. They say it’s for you. So, that it doesn’t eat at you anymore. So that you don’t become a bitter, dried up rotting fruit inside, with maggots swarming about your soul. I don’t want to be a dried up, rotting fruit. But, I don’t understand forgiving with no apology. It’s like saying, “It’s okay that you treated me this way.” But it’s not. Maybe I don’t know the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Can you truly forgive and hold on to the wisdom gained by the offense?

What’s brought this up, is a very small example, but it’s had me pretty upset today. All this week, I had been considering a very expensive purchase. It had a long-term commitment with it, and I spent a good deal of time carefully considering the deal. In the end, I decided to walk away from the table. The merchant, presumably vindictive, had my checking account, and decided to charge me without my knowledge or consent. It was a trumped up charge that I never understood, and they didn’t feel the need to explain. It was mainly just a $300 fee for wasting their time. I spent the rest of the day causing havoc, sending e-mails and voicemails to everyone but Santa Claus trying to get my money back.

Finally, I was told I would be sent a refund check for the full amount. I should be happy. But I’m not. I’m still mad. Very mad. I’ve been trying to figure out why. I think it’s because the entire ordeal is lacking an apology. An admission of wrongdoing. A resolution. The carefully worded e-mails I have from the merchant are conspicuously devoid of an apology or anything of the sort.

And, I know I will never get it. I don’t expect it. But, without it, it still doesn’t feel like the wrong’s been made right. I guess I’ll just have to settle for a check.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Life

We’d Like to Think We Are Better Than That…

When I was a kid and I learned about the Nazi Holocaust in school, it amazed me how such horrible things could go on, right in front of people, and no one did anything. I would imagine myself in Nazi Germany, saving Holocaust victims, or red faced in front our own presidents with the horror of human rights violations.

Surely, our Congress, our people, would do something about it. I remember in junior high, reading books from concentration camp survivors, and thinking that we are so much better now. We wouldn’t stand for such atrocities.

But, here we are again. The latest pictures coming out of a Syrian military prison, show the same thing, chilling in similarity. Not to mention, what’s going in the Muslim refugee camps. The starvation. The rape. The child abuse. The misogyny. The death and violence. The nightmare of life for these people. Not unlike the Nazi victims.

And yet, in our culture, we are so much more informed than any other civilization that has ever occupied this planet. We literally have the world, complete with all its photos and videos, in our back pockets. A scroll, and a tap, tap…and there it is. The shame and degradation of people groups. The genocide. The horror.

And what do we do about it? Nothing. We live our lives. We pretend it’s not true. We downplay it. We rationalize. We politicize it. Anything to cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed at the atrocities. Because honestly, there is nothing we can do.

And that’s how they must have felt in the 1930’s. How do we handle it? What do we do? We live our lives as if the world isn’t falling apart just beyond our shores.

We’d like to think we were better than them. But we’re not.

Posted in God, Life

A Little Closer to Grace

Bowie was the last to die. Drawn and quartered by the pack. Snickers was decapitated, Mickey got run over. And God only knows what happened to the rest. But, someone had to pay for the crime. So the orange, shaggy dog took a bullet to the head. He took it as well as any I guess. Squealed, and then hobbled home like the wee little pig. He never knew what was coming, until the pain ripped through him. I just hope it was short, I wasn’t there, I just heard the bullet pop.

I still felt squeamish about the whole deal. The law of the jungle, I suppose. But, it seems like such a nasty affair.

We live in a fallen world, and nothing goes as planned. We are hybrid creatures, longing for love, yet mired in sin. There’s not room enough for us all to be loved, so we push each other around looking for love and acceptance, each one of us making a case for why we are more deserving of love than the other. And so it goes until the day we die. Life is a nasty, brutish mess.

I write about it all the time. The man who raped his girlfriend’s toddler, then went to a bar, stabbed a woman over a drug deal, then came home, stabbed his girlfriend, and then took a nap until the cops came. Or, what about the 18 year old that beheaded his mother with a butcher knife, and then answered the door to the cops, casually holding her severed head as if it were the television remote.

Then there are the perverted, like the teacher who put hidden cameras in the girls locker room, or the other teacher who was impregnated by her 13 year old student and then casually invited his parents for dinner. Or the trafficker who held a 14 year old runaway in a hotel room for three months, forcing her to pleasure hundreds of men, while the hotel staff said nothing of the johns coming in and out, the wastebaskets of used condoms they were pulling out of the room, or the scantily clad teen wandering the hall…

Or the Muslim extremists who force teen girls into slavery, and then tell them that if they go on this suicide mission, the bombs will not hurt them, and then they will be rewarded with freedom and a handsome husband of their choice.

Life is a brutish affair. And such a sordid mess, only God can sort us all out. That’s the beauty of the human condition. God is so gracious, he gives us shot after shot to get it right. And he works with us, time and and time again. Each time, he moves us a little closer to holiness, and little closer to grace. A little closer to something beautiful. And maybe that’s what it’s all about anyway. The beauty of Christ, shining against the mire of sin. So, we lean further and further into the grace of God.

The cats got off cheap I guess.

Posted in Life

The Easiest Part of Your Life

Today I am working out of a community college library. I do that sometimes. When you work from home, the house gets stale. So, you mix it up with various coffee shops and libraries to keep the energy flowing.

But today, I was listening to these college kids study. It sounded like a science class. But they recited their facts to one another, trying to make it stick. And I thought about my days doing such activities. I thought less about college and more about high school.

I remember anxiously studying for exams, brow furrowing with sweat. I remember dreaded reading assignments of reading half a chapter of a textbook two or three times a week.
I thought I was such a martyr having to take notes on really what amounted to about three or four pages that were subtitled, with bolded vocabulary words.

I remember the dreaded, “White Paper,” in tenth grade honors history. We were each assigned a country, and given a hot button political issue for that country. We spent a month of class time researching the issue, and painstakingly creating a research paper regarding that issue. I think it was supposed to be about four double spaced pages.

Tenth grade English included several five paragraph essays in preparation for state assessment testing. We would write an essay about every month. The first few we would spend all of this energy and work into pre-writing and graphing and organizing. Whole folders full of notes and worksheets on how to do an essay.

I can write a five paragraph essay in about fifteen minutes. (I’m not exaggerating, I did one for an open-ended question on a job application once. I actually pulled a receipt out of my purse, did a quick diagram on the back, and then answered the question with a proper five paragraph essay, all while sitting in an office lobby. I got the job).

I remember Junior English, was known throughout the school for the “research paper.” You had to read a piece of literature and write a five page paper on what scholars thought it meant. We spent the first half of the term learning how to do this, and the second half of the term doing it. It was supposed to be about 1,000 words.

This was all supposed to be a brutal undertaking. Now I just look back and laugh. Really?!

When I arrive at work each morning, the first tasks of my day, include skimming somewhere around 10-12 news articles and analyzing their sometimes complex content, all within about an hour. Then, I use them to write three to four articles a day–each one the equivalent of this “Junior Research paper”—a multi-sourced 1,000 word piece on a complex political issue, with graphics.  This means finding and reading somewhere between six to eight “sources” a piece, and skimming them for content so quickly there’s not even time for note taking.

And at the end of the day, I’m  a little tired. But, then I wake up and start it again. My point is, I thought I had it so hard back in school. If I would have known then what I knew now, I wouldn’t have whined and complained and bucked and procrastinated. I would have known that life is a matter of hard work and self-discipline. There are no shortcuts to success. You just have to power through. School is by far the easiest part of your life. If you’re in it, savor it. Cause it’s only uphill from here.

Then again, I still whine and complain and buck and procrastinate. But I get it done. So maybe I haven’t changed all that much.