Embracing the not-so-perfect life

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An example of a cookie that no one should strive for. Who spends 20 minutes on one freaking cookie that looks like your grandmother’s quilt?

Seriously it’s insane.

Stop it.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter or something. Watch a movie.  Stare aimlessly into space dreaming up new ice cream flavors. Anything.

Expectations.  I look at them.  I manage my life against them.  They are the bane of me.  The ruiner of things.  A destroyer of hope.  When we plan out our lives in accordance to some lofty expectations, we will not only likely be disappointed and regretful, it’s almost guaranteed to be so.  We will constantly look back and think what if and why me and the dreaded “but this is not the way I had it planned.”  Of course it’s not the way you had it planned.  Who plans disaster and divorce and cancer and death?  Who plans to make ugly sugar cookies or burn toast?

Maybe it starts in childhood.  If you have a good one, you want to repeat it.  If you have a bad one, you want to replace it.  You have a certain map in your mind that lays out the future of your life, and when it goes off course you can either learn to correct it or just sit and cry. Many times you course correct.  You think of yourself as brave and clever and keep going new directions.  Until one day you hit your limit of turns. So you sit and cry, for no other reason except you are so damn tired.  Changing things takes a lot of work, especially with a brain like mine that sees things in predictable chapters.

I was practically born in church. The comfort of hymns and carols and preachers saying things is strangely calming to me.  It brings back memories of my mother stroking my hair in the church pew.  It brings back nights of my youth running around the halls and playing games.  And it brings back the peace of Christ when all else failed. Some people don’t see this.  To them, God is the keeper of a far-away and elitist circle that has power and influence, and if you aren’t inside of it, you’re out of it. I suppose I am inside of this circle and can’t see it, how the collective people of believers may come across to those on the outside.  But when people close to me see my faith as foreign, it’s hard.

I was practically born a lawyer.  I knew from a young age I would plow forward to law school, form arguments, write things.  When I was in college people sometimes asked if I thought of music as a career and I’d say “oh no, not me.  I’m going to be a litigator and go to trial and #winthings and #beatpeople and #stealtheshow.”  Although I didn’t say it that way.  But power and winning is intoxicating.  Today, I’m a transactional lawyer and my goal now is not to win but to simply solve my client’s problems.  I’ve learned after all these years that stealing the show is simply living in the background sometimes, doing the right thing, consistently. A win for the client can be at your expense if necessary, and compromise really is the way life works.  If I could only see how the real world worked back then in law school, the way honor and ethics and being true to your word is the only win that matters.

And I was born a control freak.  As a child, I’d tell my sister what to do.  I’d tell my mother how I thought things should go. I actually told my piano teacher enough already with Beethoven and perhaps we could work on composition rather than just playing things other people composed.  That was the day my mother quit spending her hard-earned teacher salary on piano lessons. But the fact is, I do know the way to line a sugar cookie and flood the icing.  I do know how to write a brief to make it compelling and persuasive. I do know how to make a wonderful crock of split pea soup with ham.  And I know what is best for all the children of the world that belong to all people all of the time.  Or I don’t.  After living these years, I can say with certainty that my way isn’t the only valid way.  I can see how my controlling tendencies can be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and just flat-out wrong sometimes.  And for someone into #winning and #nailingit and #lawyering and #prettysugarcookies, it is hard to be wrong and to be flexible and to admit that I don’t have all the answers.  It’s not just hard, it’s exhausting.

So today I look at expectations and say to them, “I give in.”  I cannot keep up with you.  I don’t have the perfect situation and the perfect life and the perfect body and the perfect image of what I expected.  Because expectations mean that we feel we are in charge.  We are not.  We are one hundred percent without a shred of doubt not in charge of what happens around us in this crazy life. Thank heavens.  We’d probably screw it up even worse.

I have a very good life with so many wonderful things.  And so do you.  What I have learned is that out of the most barren fields, sprouts can grow. Out of the most unexpected of places, a child was born to save the world.  Out of the most confusing of pathways, Jesus came.  Out of a family that is different than I expected, a career that looks different now than it did back then, a life more adjustable than I ever imagined, and more life twists than a pretzel, here I am. Standing up.  Moving forward.  Living.

Sometimes you just have to let it all go, the image of things, and look at what’s in front of you.  Maybe it’s a huge turd or a diagnosis or crying that never seems to end.  Step over the turd.  Acknowledge that you have this sickness and get the best help you can.  Let go of the anger.  Tell people you are trying out for a new play and you are trying to get the crying scene down. You are #noquitter.  Embrace the turns, because it’s the only life you get.  If you don’t keep moving with the pathways, you run face-first into a tree.  And then, no one will be eating your beautiful sugar cookies because you’ll have oak-print on your face spitting acorns out of your mouth and can’t make it to the kitchen.

So cry until you’re done and then stop it already.  Get up, wipe your face, and stick a smile on it.  After all, ugly cookies are still cookies. They are from the heart.  Your kids gleefully dump sprinkles on them.  Nobody I know hates cookies.  Whether it’s grief or Lyme’s or cancer or divorce, you can do this.  One step, one left turn, one day at a time. Let go of your bullshit expectations.  To me, that’s really the definition of #nailingit. One cookie, one foot, one turn at a time.

photo:

(three w’s).flickr.com/photos/oldworldcookies/5485884188/in/photolist-9mLAf9-qdkyuu-XAP5qr-and7zN-isAK7Y-C6U6hE-8urFji-iosL9K-6dgoJj-8ykqC3-7tW4BA-ZabPij-6uCeXv-ZbmT62-h9uiv3-ecTZZJ-im6LPt-91wDUU-pWAko2-ph3vsC-91ty6i-91wC5d-91txqD-LJsk9-91tvxD-91wGHU-dQohcc-7eaH44-q552a9-7kjUcY-UHn7qz-6vFCv2-9hwXaX-91vikv-bo6Mvt-aTqWbK-91yADw-91vrgk-91vhwi-91vsrp-8sXLz8-dJp23u-91vktt-7ZqK2-91yzwJ-dTYLiQ-ziGgz-91vqZx-91vrtX-5RQ7vg

 

From Shootings to Starbucks: Overcoming Evil Starts with Us

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Do not tell me it’s only a mental health problem when people shoot up churches and country music crowds like it is a video game series.

Do not tell me you’re shocked at our current headlines when you see movies where people’s heads explode like fireworks and all the television on all the stations glorify crime and violence and anger and greed and revenge. It’s funny when, in The Kingsman, all the people die. I mean, after all, it’s a cute guy who happens to be in the secret service, avoids the bullets, and has sex in the end.  Pass the popcorn.

But we are what we consume and what we eat and what we soak up like sponges.  We are not driven to madness, as these shooters are, but we are part of the problem.  To distance yourself, to put up a shield and do nothing about it, only exacerbates it.

We cannot continue to wring our hands and simply hope that love prevails. The fact is, we have to live out that love.  We have to be extravagant and diligent and roll up our sleeves and do the hard work to change our world.  After all, love is not just a feeling, but a verb. Even in the Biblical narrative, Jesus walked and healed and did actual things.  We have to stop just talking about it.

Yes, the Texas shooter was crazy.  The Vegas shooter was crazy.  They are crazy in that sane, normal people do not just shoot and kill innocent people. Insanity, after all, is when your illness is so severe that one cannot distinguish reality from fantasy, when someone can’t conduct themselves in accordance with their own will, when one lacks all impulse control or does not understand the consequences of their actions.

But if asked, I’m sure these two shooters actually were aware that the bullets they fired would, in fact, result in death.  They knew the year, and the name of the President, and the fact that they had breakfast, their birthday.  They were not the typical definition of crazy in that they were unaware of their surroundings.

More than crazy is the concept of evil, a sinister urge that runs through all of us.  Evil causes a man to beat his wife, beat a dog, hurt a child, rape a woman. Evil is the snake the slithers in the grass, that whispers to us in our darkest hours.  Go ahead and hit her.  Give in to the rage.  Show him who’s boss.  Get your guns and blow their fucking brains off. You know you want to.

And just perhaps, if we’re honest, to a lesser degree, we’ve all been there.  Perhaps it provides a moment of satisfaction when the act is done.  It’s the revenge that gives Clint Eastwood all the good lines.  Puts the high school cheerleader in her place.  But it is the classic double-edged sword, because when you make a deal with the devil you’re the one who loses.  It’s not Hollywood.  It’s someone’s grandmother that got shot, blood seeping out like tears.

This is not an urge that manifests overnight.  It’s a slow burn from off-white to grey to pitch black, born over years of abuse and torment and the feeling that one is utterly and hopelessly alone.

Enough.

This country has more gun violence than any other country.  And yet we are the richest, the most advanced, the most prosperous, dare I say the most beautiful.  And yet we’ve allowed this pulse of evil to grow stronger, richer, more desirable.  We underfund mental health care, and we make people feel stupid or weak if they need to be on medication or go to therapy.  We glorify violence, we endure molestation in the church, and men simply aren’t allowed to cry. We have grown to a place where our women must stand up stronger, bolder, fiercer.  We are no longer protected and we must learn to protect ourselves.

So do we have a mental health crisis in this country? Yes. Can angry fellows can simply obtain a semi-automatic rifle and shoot people if they get mad enough, which unnecessarily magnifies the damage from their rage? Apparently.  But make no mistake – we also have a crisis of evil.

We have to be the change. It’s not going to happen from the top down.  We can’t rely on our current administration or government or church hierarchy. It starts with us. We vote. We can be kind. We can ensure better lives for our children.  We can reach out to someone who is struggling and simply be extravagant with our kindness.  Love the unlovable.  The invisible. The untouchable. Be absolutely fearless in our generosity of heart.  And yes, we can take tangible steps to limit the access to weapons that can fire on multiple people simultaneously.  We can do this with our collective voices.

Would that help change the heart of an angry white guy in Texas? Would that reverse what happened? No.  Those lives are gone.  But future men and women, mothers and fathers, janitors and presidents and teachers and lawyers – they are just toddlers, full of heart and hope, full of smiles and jars of smashed peas.  We owe it to them to take the lever, the big one that is life that we have to hold with both hands that measures good and evil, and pull with all our might toward good.

Sit with your family and think of how you can send an anonymous package to someone in your neighborhood.  How you can help someone who is feeling lost.  Invite someone to eat with you that you wouldn’t normally talk to. Look around and think of how to be active in love.  Can you afford Starbucks? Then pay for the person behind you in line.  Can you carve out an hour of your week? Volunteer.

It starts with us.  All of our lives depend on it.  We as a nation, as a people, should accept nothing less.

 

photo:

(threew’s).flickr.com/photos/paradisefound/35018164003/in/photolist-Vmrf9k-aweR2a-9A98u9-QPpnKq-T2cNhq-8pX7jG-avZUVo-oSn1UX-Tcyush-7B213y-jEPN3b-eBWbNx-2Wfc83-Lt7jU-VKBGUs-9gRWNy-UfBbd6-bNv3Sx-6Sgmk9-cp9hFm-SKK2Fm-fU174V-rdQoo-qbyP7P-hgG1pH-iRbDRC-UERsUu-64qbTH-TiXckh-aTZSPn-7G4dQZ-n87su4-6zdJU5-Rk9Xjm-a2zSHW-8Phen2-e3oDqf-7geQyM-dHABeL-8c1scU-qbyNu6-73ae45-8xYEZi-bjBrT6-6Jr2Xm-7vzeGg-7vD3Sf-8AdWJo-qsQpHP-XAafvJ

An Open Letter to Humanity {about humor and prayer}

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Dear Humanity, Have you heard the stories about how good friends or spouses can sit in silence and never say a word?  I say it’s because they are boring stiffs, but others say it’s because their peace and love for each other is so vast and their comfort with being still is so strong there […]

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Battle of the Sexes: A movie review

You guys know that I like to write funny things.  I like to write heartfelt things about love and God and butterflies. Okay maybe butterflies are a bit dull.  I rarely get on a soapbox.  But today, I feel like delving into something that I just can’t shake. Last night I watched “Battle of the […]

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Right now I am on a plane

Right now I am on a plane, headed to the rich crust of scenery that is Northern California, seated next to a handsome middle-aged man who is reading the paper. There is nothing abnormal about a nice-looking man reading the paper on an airplane. But I’m struck by the ring on his left hand, just […]

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Bumper Sticker Brilliance

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  Yesterday I saw a truck emblazoned with the marker “1794 edition.” Since cars were a twinkle in Mr. Benz’ eyes up until the 1880s, this seemed strange to me. In 1794, Frenchmen were being executed in a large-scale revolution.  There was a whiskey tax revolt in America.  Eli Whitney got a patent on the […]

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Antique Apathy

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  I sat in church and was agitated.  I fiddled with my skirt.  I twirled my ring around in circles.  I looked out the window to the outside world, brimming with birds, the slow wave of oak tree branches, cars parked in the Texas sun.  I longed to be there instead of here.  I waited […]

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Summer Camps for Today’s Youth

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Ah, summer.  The time of year when our kids, depleted from an arduous school term, are ready for some relaxation.  After all, school is hard, with all those crust-less sandwiches, pressed smocks, French horn practices, and engaging philosophical discussions.  I get it how students just need a break from it all. But summer can lead […]

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Martha Stewart’s Guide to Unclogging a Toilet in Six Easy Steps

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(1) Invest in the Proper Infrastructure: The key to success is a properly-designed toilet. I recommend those made by craftsmen in Portugal, where the ceramic is air-dried in the sun and there is a hand-carved seal of approval for quality. They may be more expensive, but my general rule of thumb is to pay five […]

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The house on the hill

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The rain came down, the stream rose, the winds blew, and beat against that house.  Yet it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock. Matthew 7:25 I recently moved. It’s closer to my fiancé, his children’s schools, a new life. I wanted a place similar to my old one.  I longed for […]

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