Stop Go Stop –
Yesterday, on my way to a community men’s group in Shelbyville, TN I came upon some road construction. The line of traffic wasn’t too long and there was a man holding one of those signs with “stop” on one side and “slow” on the other. After a few moments he turned the sign around and we began to creep along. Suddenly, after only flipping the sign around he did it again! The car in front of me slammed on its breaks as did I. Raising my shoulders and my hands as if to say; “What’s happening?” I watched the sign man walk across the road to a county work truck in the other lane, throw his sign in the back and hop in. The man was done working for the day. His job was finished and he left the rest of us to figure out how to untangle ourselves from his mess. Eventually, traffic began to move and soon we were all back on our way to our destination.
On the road of life, there are people & happenings which slow or stop our progress. This is not always a bad thing. Rest and reflection give us time to renew and make sure we are still headed in the correct direction. However, there are those times when people are only concerned about themselves and put roadblocks in our way because it makes life easier for them. Wisdom allows us to know the difference between the two and how to navigate around them and get moving again.
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This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
One of the hardest things we do on the path of wisdom is to discover we are not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise. From the time we are born, we are learning. It might be good, positive lessons, not so good, or, most likely, a mixture of both. As we get older we hopefully begin to separate the good from the not so good. We learn that there are lessons we need to relearn and others we simply need to forget.
One of the most important lessons is we are not meant to carry the mountains we climb. Each of us deals with challenges, struggles, and difficulties. Some navigate incredibly tough paths because of what they endured as children, adolescents, and adults. The climb to the top of the mountain, to overcome these negatives is a great success. However, once the top is reached the question is asked; “What now?” When all you’ve known is pain and heartache it becomes a part of you. Reaching the mountain top doesn’t bring the joy and relief expected.
Unfortunately, some, instead of descending the mountain and continuing on with the journey now free of great burden pick up the mountain and carry it with them. The mountain has become a part of them and to separate from it is like breaking off a piece of themselves and leaving it behind.
Wisdom teaches us how to climb, how to descend and how to let go. It may still feel we are leaving part of ourselves behind but we trust our journey will take us to a place, a discovery of our new selves.
I could tell she needing something without knowing how to ask for it. Finally, she began to say a few words, jumbled, somewhat coherent, and then blurted out a need her husband had and could I help? Responding in an assuring voice with, hopefully, peace giving words I told her; “Yes” and “would she like a card?” She smiled affirmatively, took the card and said; “Thank you.” “Anytime,” I replied back. “I hope you have a nice weekend.” I don’t know if I’ll hear from her or her husband again but it was not my first time I’ve encountered someone looking for assistance and yet hesitant, resistant, to ask for help.
I reflect on our brief conversation and wonder; “Why is it so hard for some to admit need?” I think part of it is our; “Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps” culture. Folks who need a helping hand often feel they are somehow “less than” others.
Maybe it’s the thought that; “Others are so much worse off.” It seems selfish to take food out of their mouths, clothes off their backs, a roof over their heads.
Might be, perhaps the darkest reason; “I don’t want to be lumped in with the people who ‘have their hands out.'” They are judged, looked down upon, seen as lazy, under-achievers, taking advantage of people, churches, community organizations and the government.
Being in need is nothing to be ashamed of. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual we all need each other to make it. A wisdom proverb states; “No one can navigate the road of life alone.” In truth, we are all needy, weak, impoverished and cannot do it on our own. Asking for help is not helplessness it’s having the right balance of strength and humility to admit we are flawed, defective, deficient, have shortcomings, imperfections, in short,we are all; human and to be so is to be in need.
“Someone asked the great Master one day; “What is the gospel?” The Master replied; “The gospel is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” Wisdom Proverb
On my way home from leading a couple of Addicted Fathers’ groups today, driving up a windy country road, I came upon a sign warning me of a; “Flagger Ahead.” I immediately slowed down and sure enough, a little further down the road, there stood a flag man, his sign read; “SLOW” and he was gesturing emphatically to move over and stay in the left lane. I followed his instructions and began cautiously moving up the curvy road looking for the reason I was told to drive in the “wrong” lane. Up and up I went with no reason in sight for staying in a lane which made me anxious. I kept thinking another vehicle would come around the next curve and hit me head on. Finally, I saw a big tractor with a large attached mower cutting grass, bushes and trees in the right lane. It was a great reason to be in the other lane! Soon, after passing the big machine, another flagger, standing in the left lane motioned me to get back in the left one.
Moving into the lane, feeling more comfortable, and continuing on my journey I reflected upon the truth that sometimes we must travel in places which aren’t pleasant, agreeable or feels safe. There are folks we trust who warn us about the way ahead; threats, hazards and risks to avoid. One of the greatest gifts are wise ones in our life who can help us navigate the road of life. The question becomes; “do we listen and trust their guidance or remain in a place, which may feel safe, but puts us in danger?”
Someone asked me last week; “How long does it take to heal a broken heart? How long before you’ve moved past the pain, betrayal and loss? How long before it doesn’t hurt any more?” I wearily smiled and replied; “I’ll let you know, as soon as it happens.”
The act of forgiving someone is more than saying the words; “I forgive you.” It is a head and heart change, a spirit and emotional shift that takes time. Forgiveness is a process, a journey, which begins with some of the most difficult steps we can ever make. When someone has consciously, purposefully wounded us, torn apart a relationship, chosen to grievously harm us, there is no; “quick fix” prayer, magical spell or shortcut to a place of healing. To forgive is to make the choice to move on, not hold on to the bitterness and heartache, to allow the offending party and yourself to be free, and this choice is repeated many times.
The path of forgiveness is at first a downward spiral. We journey deep into ourselves and come face to face with the pain caused by the other. We admit and accept the hurt which has been done to us. We then bring the injury into the light by talking about it with someone we trust, someone who can help us navigate the path from brokenness to wholeness. Depending on the depth of the wound, healing, forgiveness, could take years. Remember it is a choice to let go of the blame, the pain and the burden of carrying around an act of selfishness, carelessness and callousness done to us by another. The choice is to hold on to the hurt or embrace freedom of mind, body and spirit. The decision might be made countless times until the impact of the betrayal is finally, permanently, all gone and we find the long, hard path to restoration complete and worth it.
Crawl. Walk. Run.
A couple of weeks ago I shared; “My Depression and Anxiety Story” (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/) after I had gone on my first run in over two years.
My goal was simple. I would run/walk as often as my physical and mental health would let me. Knowing it would take time to build strength and endurance I took days off and did my best to pace myself. It was important that I didn’t push too hard so I tried to be careful not to strain or sprain anything. However, after two weeks, I noticed both knees were beginning to hurt and by Wednesday of this week I couldn’t walk without severe pain and there were times I thought about crawling from my office to the truck or from the couch to the kitchen. On Friday I went to the doctor and she noticed there was swelling on both knees and we made the decision for me to receive one steroid injection in each leg. Following the shots the physical therapist told me; “Stay off your legs as much as possible until Sunday afternoon. The less you are on your feet the more potent the steroid will be to the injured areas.” So, on a beautiful weekend, I am stuck on the couch. “Ugh!”
Long journeys never seem to abide with our plans. Doing my best to follow the doctor’s advice the last couple of days I’ve had time to reflect on this long journey with Depression and Anxiety. Much like dealing with knee difficulties there have been days with depression and anxiety when all I could do was sit despondently and watch the world go by. Other days I’ve crawled along the path. Most days I walk, albeit slowly, and one day I hope to be able to mentally run on my journey toward recovery.
Wisdom teaches us to crawl, walk then run. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there is a pace, a rhythm. One must be in sync to find and navigate the path towards wholeness and healing.
On my journey with these diseases I cannot dictate the speed. Instead I must accept that each day will be unique and sometimes stillness is the only way forward.
It’s slow going today. A minor ice storm moved through the area last night and this morning, so everything was put on hold for a few hours while the temperatures warmed and chased the ice away. Days such as this are hard to navigate. You rearrange your schedule, work at home for a while, adjust to the glacial (pun intended) pace of a day that refuses to be rushed.
In a conversation earlier this week I talked with someone about life and its absolute refusal to be controlled. Our plans, calculations, designs and anticipations most often come to naught because life refuses to be corralled and tamed.
As I drove in to the office this mid-morning, the ice was losing it’s grip on the trees, gutters and power lines. I was reminded that we are at the mercy of life’s rhythm. Only when we accept our place will we be at peace.