Every morning, I do a once-over of the children before they depart for school, and make sure they look solid. Before I consider them fully inspected, I give them that one last look from head to toe to confirm no hairs out of place; clean corners at the mouth; smooth, unbent collars; fully zipped coats; smiles all aglow; and covered necks and chests. “Child, don’t be taking no chances with this weather…can’t be coming down with a chest cold!” (Now say it in the most southern twang you can muster.) :o I’m beginning to sound like somebody’s grandma…probably got it from somebody’s grandma! Inspection now complete, they walk off, and I’m assured that they are all set.
Once they leave, I settle into the domestic affairs of cleaning off the table and counters, and putting away cereal boxes and orange juice. My eye catches hold of a small pile of school papers which contains unsigned permission slips and school announcements, some now moot because of past deadlines. These were all from only one of their backpacks, seemingly from a few days ago. How did I miss that? They probably snuck that past me, I thought. Darn it, I forgot to check the inside of their bags…again! It occurs to me that I haven’t personally checked the inside of their backpacks in quite some time. I’ve trusted their little growing independent selves to handle this aspect of their organization, dismissing the fact that they may need a little help along the way.
In fact, I haven’t been checking on the inside of much, as of lately. Ouch! I consider the question of how often we check on the inside. Sometimes, my steady auto-pilot feature is so engaged, that I don’t do due diligence to my total self by checking on the inside, so by all appearances, it all appears well. This small example of not checking my children’s backpacks is a microcosm of our avoidance to thoroughly check the inside, and sift through the contents of our personal selves. By all appearances, we appear well, but beneath, lies an emergent self that is steadily evolving as it navigates through life and seeks to apply the wisdom gained over the years. It busily trods through life, hoping to present itself better, stronger, more equipped for the race with each new day, yet, it is bombarded with numerous messages, of things unattended, and of stories untold.
Left unchecked, this emergent self carries its ramblings, notions, musings, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and epiphanies under wraps, sealed, to be released probably never, and most certainly, too infrequently. Occasionally however, there is a need to check its contents. A thorough inspection is required to ensure that we have what we need when we need it. We may very well need to review its contents; discard what’s no longer useful, and replenish what’s needed. In my children’s backpack, it was the announcement of the school’s new SMARTboards, a middle school parent orientation, and a May field trip (which thankfully, I will submit in time). In a broader sense, however, a review might indicate that our priorities are in need of reorganization. It might be the realization that we haven’t tended to matters of the heart. It may be the acknowledgment that we need to nurture some personal connections, rest, or are on “to-do” overload, or that our bodies are lacking some key nutrients, exercise, and quality down-time. Perhaps life has become so routine and formal, so deadline-driven; but within, we are in need of some organization, prioritization, and yes, fixation…on the inside.
Check the contents not only to find what’s missing, but to also celebrate what’s in place; what you deem most important, what you’ve insisted on carrying, what propels you. Perhaps those things are glaringly evident, indicating that you are right where you need to be. Celebrate that as well, that you may give yourself permission to occasionally mess up on those things that show up on the outside. If your personal house – your very essence, your compassion, your storehouses of love, generosity, the very inner hearkenings of your heart, talent, art, ministry, gifts – is in order, who cares what everyone else sees? Only you know the hard work that you put in to get it that way. Pack carefully, but don’t keep piling it on. Streamline often, to avoid getting bogged down by dead weight. Broom the crap, and groom the rest! Write the stories, and get it out one way or the other. Unleash the uneasiness that comes from avoiding what’s inside, and take joy in seeing it morph into tangible action. Experience the sweet joy that springs forth from releasing the pent-up frustration and seeming inability to move forward on said project, or action item. Eliminate those things that add no value to what you say is most important to you – your values, your core, your master plan! Cultivate and enhance only the keepsakes – those contents worthy of keeping – that you may rightfully grow into that beautiful beyond-emergent self, from the inside out!!
So when you find yourself becoming anxious about the “defining moment”, and how your Now moments will culminate, consider the lessons that you are learning, and need to learn, in the process.
In addition to being a wife and mother, one of the things that I pride myself on is building a legacy for my children, one built on a solid partnership with my husband. We do our best to regularly discuss our mutual and individual goals, purpose, and our respective trajectories on various components of our lives. In our most recent powwow, I shared with him that while I felt good about the broader portfolio of writing that I had been developing, I was also anxious about what is to come, and what will transpire between now and then – when that elusive “defining moment” unveils itself.
This discussion gave way to the whole concept of “Now”, and begged the question of whether I was truly living in the Now. I’m sure many of you have heard a lot about the “fierce urgency of now”, and its characterization in speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and later, President Barack Obama. Then, there’s also The Power of Now , by Eckhart Tolle (by the way, I have not read the book, though it is part of our home library). My insight on this subject, however, takes on a less political, but definitely more personal meaning as I contextualize it against the backdrop of my life anxieties.
So many times, we become consumed by our own angst, which occurs as a result of our preoccupation about what’s to come – the future, the what-ifs. As such, our success and happiness are hinged in the conditional. The attainment of our deepest desires becomes dependent on a condition. If we could only lose ten pounds, get our hands on more money, find the right mate, were there instead of here, had that job instead of this one, if only we had more time, if only we got published :o, then, and only then would we realize true happiness. Inarguably, we could all use more time and resources (financial or otherwise) to iron out the kinks, to improve and implement our plans, but we actually lose time when our minds overlook the Now. Moreover, we miss the beauty around us as well as the opportunity to create meaning.
While it is important to plan, and to work toward a certain goal, we must develop a deeper understanding of how our Now moments fit into the larger plan. A series of Now events must take place along the journey before we can proceed to the next level. Furthermore, the cultivation of, and engagement in, these moments as well as the required stillness will surely prepare us for more, for greater, for the destinations that lie further ahead. Too much anxiety about what’s to come only heightens our sense of paranoia, resulting in fitful nights of sleep, thereby causing an unshakeable anxiety which ultimately renders us unable to move forward anyway.
So when you find yourself becoming anxious about the “defining moment”, and how your Now moments will culminate, consider the lessons that you are learning, and need to learn, in the process. What you take away from them may very well define how you will handle what you call success. Appreciate how this Now moment is preparing you for what’s to come. Being in the Now teaches us some important lessons, including not taking our success for granted, humility, and patience. Also, it quietly affords us the reflection that we may not have when the rapid pace of success takes off! Now you know what I know: Now is a very necessary path in the greater unfolding of our ultimate dreams, hopes, and visions.
Now is fleeting, so hurry…you don’t want to miss it!
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It’s Day 4 of my youngest child being sick with what looks like a wicked virus, or stomach infection. Hopefully, she turns the corner today because she’s quickly becoming a poster child for Huggies Pull-ups. She’s become very clingy, so I’m on borrowed time, even as I type. The last few nights have been punctuated by frequent changes of diapers and full clothing. I’m awaiting the next explosion, so I’m going to try to get this in before the thoughts escape me. :-)
I’ve been mulling over my last post, titled “It’s ALL PurposeFULL“. In that article, I explored the questions that we often have regarding the mysterious nature of the life-changing events in our lives, including “Why?”, “Why me?”, and “Why Now?” My goal then was to provide assurance that we ultimately become better and fuller selves as a result of the more difficult, inexplicable events that occur in our lives. This isn’t to say that we should have to experience loss, tragedy, or hardship to self-actualize, but rather that, the occurrence of these situations in our lives wisen us and enhance our potential to live and love more authentically.
Perhaps I took you to the conclusion a bit too quickly, without letting you in on the middle of the “journey”. While I will never share with you sordid or personal details, or provide you with a blow-by-blow account of the events in my life that shape those truths (certainly not in a blog forum), I can tell you that during those moments in which I questioned the mystery of life, and God himself, I often felt alone, misunderstood, isolated. My faith and hope seemed to be shaken, lacking, questionable. To this day, I will maintain that it was not the actual death of a loved one that shook me the most. Unlike many, when my grandmother (my first true mother) passed away, I had an amazing sense of peace and understanding. As she neared the end of her life, she agonized over increasing physical pain and articulated on numerous occasions the gratitude that she had for a life well-lived. My grandmother believed wholeheartedly that she would be in a better place. Her death was only physical to me. I maintain a relationship with her that most would not understand. I miss her dearly at times, but most times, I feel that she is with me.
I have had other losses that bore a sharper sting than I could have ever imagined. Those jarred me to the core, leaving me to question where I went wrong, and whether this was some sort of karma. What was life trying to teach me? I grew jealous and bitter as I witnessed others around me, realizing the very dreams that I thought were mine just for the asking. At that time, I could not see a plausible explanation for any of it. It seemed that my dreams were always on hold, always waiting in the wings, but for some reason or the other, it wasn’t quite time for them to materialize.
Fast forward to the “now”. I wouldn’t change it for the world! My past experiences, good and bad, have launched me right where I am now. In this very moment, I can be a source of encouragement for those that have gone through similar situations. More importantly, my soul continues to heal as I share the stories with others, especially wives, mothers, and daughters. I come alive as I reveal the anguish of that difficult moment, and share the joy in knowing what I believe that moment was designed to teach me.
By the way, I’ve been hurled on once (good thing I wasn’t making a hat at the time), and performed two additional diaper changes since I started! It’s going to be a long, but beautiful day! It can only get better. :-)
Ever asked “why”, “why me, or “why now”? Of course you have, as has anyone who is truly living. We go through things in life that leave us dumbfounded, speechless, at a loss. We find ourselves having more questions than answers. No amount of schooling or living seems to have prepared us for the moment that seems so ambiguous, so vague, so meaningless, so incongruous with what we’ve witnessed, experienced, or ever anticipated thus far. We struggle to find answers and make sense of the moment, thinking that perhaps after a good night of sleep, it will all be clear. Joy comes in the morning, right? Well yes, but that’s just part of it.
I’m not here to convince you that everything will make sense, or that somehow the lightbulb will instantly light up amidst your tragedy, loss, suffering, or other life event not necessarily defined by loss, but perhaps by rejection of some sort. However, I do believe wholeheartedly that, in the final analysis, it all serves a purpose, whether by design or default. The stars do line up, and the epiphanies and discoveries do follow…in time. Eventually.
The purpose seems to be that of self-actualization. Ultimately, amidst our grieving and coping, our tearful cries and quiet whispers, our rage and tranquility, and our futility and fortitude, we find a stronger voice. We learn something about ourselves, that until now was undefinable, undiscovered, and certainly underdeveloped. We discover gifts within us, tap into amazing coping abilities, learn humility – how can we not be humbled by the order and timing of things – assume unparalleled strength, and dispel myths that we once believed to be true.
Just when we think that we can take no more, we find ourselves morphing from fragile to uncompromising. We transcend beyond our situation and become faces of hope, as we share our stories of triumph. We conquer our situations as we are forced to go within. We transcend our circumstances by finding consolation and comfort in the knowledge that many have come before us that have endured far worse, and managed to make it through. We find our resilience as the carpets of comfort are pulled from beneath us. As we reach out and across, we learn that we don’t have to go it alone, and we learn to finally understand the meaning of community, and its necessity. In the process, we redefine our networks. Lines of friendship and family become blurred in the process, but we find amazing clarity in the truth that we must connect…with each other, and are not designed to suffer in silence, or rely on our own wit to get us through the situation.
In the end, we learn to love more authentically. Our need to open up trumps our desire to retreat into our shells during our most difficult moments. Our dissatisfaction, disappointment, displeasure, disengagement, disenchantment with half-fulfilled hopes, and dislocated hurt, anger, and pain brings us to our knees, while we are forced to acknowledge that we are in need of a personal touch, an affirming voice, and an encouraging heart. This is when we know we are growing, becoming our truer selves. We are actualizing, becoming connected. Yes!
As we become unglued from our own seats of seeming security, from the places which we sometimes occupied for too long in our roles…as parent, wife, husband, or lover, son or daughter, and even employee, we find freedom in the expression of our most sincere feelings, joy in the liberation from not having to do it all, and light in the exposure of all that once remained suppressed. We emerge victoriously and assuredly, albeit through some very painful processes and lessons. This is especially true if we live with the acknowledgment that life is trying to teach us something. In turn, we become whole, grounded, humble, resilient, uncompromising (where it counts), resourceful, and confident. We become ourselves, as we were designed to be!