Don’t Resist –
This afternoon I stepped outside and the warmer temperatures wrapped me like a blanket. The sun shone on me and the warm breeze stirred my soul. It’s been cold the past few weeks. Only a couple of days ago the ground was covered with snow and ice. Today, there is little snow to be seen and the remnants are being chased away by the balmy weather. The kicker is I didn’t have anything to do with the high and low temps, the sun or the clouds filling the sky, the wild difference between now and the near past. All I did was stay warm on the cold days and breathe in the warmth this afternoon.
Life is mostly filled with things we have no control over. We want the ability, the power to make things bend to our will but this is an illusion. If we pursue this type of control our lives will be filled with suffering. The secret to contentment and peace is to allow life to progress at its pace and accept what we think is good and bad, wanted and unwanted, desired and abhorred.
When we are able to practice this discipline we discover the ever-present now is exactly what it needs to be and so are we.
It is COLD today. Thankfully the sun is out and the icicles and patches are melting. The yard looks so brown and bland. I went to check the mail last night and the ice on the grass crunched under my feet. It’s winter and though I try not to have favorites this particular season isn’t in my top three.
It’s hard to see the green for all the brown but knowledge, wisdom and experience tell me that it won’t stay that way. Even today, in spite of the cold, seeds are germinating and sometime, hopefully soon, they will make themselves known. I anticipate that day but need to be patient. Long, cold, seasons have their place in our lives. True, they help us appreciate other seasons when they come but finding peace and acceptance in the barren times is an important discipline.
Too often we project our lives to a period in front of or behind us when we can discover life, real life, exactly where we are now.
Today, while working out, I began to think of someone I haven’t thought of in a long time. It was a song that started the flashback. The memories began emerging and it wasn’t long before I began to feel the emotions, experience the memories and time melted away. It was almost as if I was back in the place, with the person and struggling. This person and I had a difficult relationship. There are times when two people don’t mesh. Sometimes there are reasons other times there are not. The pairing produces negative results, hurt feelings, harmful actions, and regrets.
I was thankful my anxiety didn’t take me too far down the road. There are times when my anxiety disorder goes into high gear and I can’t turn my thoughts off. They keep coming and it seems I am at their mercy. Today, the flashback was only a few moments and I was able to move on.
Though unexpected and unwanted the flashback was a good reminder that I have put a lot of distance between what was then and what is now. Most of the pain has vanished, the hurt feelings healed, the memories and experiences seen differently. The person is no longer my adversary but a fellow sojourner trying to find their way home on another path.
Cleaning Out –
The last two days my mother and I have been working in my dad’s garage. It may be mom’s house but it will always be dad’s garage. We’ve been going through a lot of stuff which needed to be sorted. By the time we finished I had things to throw away, to keep and the garage was clean and organized.
It was a sad and enjoyable time rummaging through dad’s things. He loved tools and one could tell as we tried collecting them in one place. There was paint from projects long ago completed and recent work. Other items hadn’t been opened yet and we wondered; “What project was he thinking about when he bought this?”
The garage was a sacred space for my father. None of us would’ve dared gone in and rearranged it before his passing. My mom said this morning; “I know it needs to be done but I don’t want to do it.” I understood what she meant. There was a sense of invading another’s domain, eery and holy at the same time. There were items we kept not because they were important but because we just aren’t ready to part with them.
I think this best describes our walk down the path this week. We know we must go on without dad but we just aren’t ready to part with him.
My friend, role-model, and father passed away early this morning a little after midnight. His fight was over and he was ready. He sat up one last time as if to say, “It’s my time. I’m coming home.”
The house seemed empty today when we returned from all the breathless running around one does after a loved one takes their final breath. Even though he hasn’t been home in a few weeks it seemed he had just left the house. Keys, hats, computers, movies, his chair all still in their proper place. It seems this is still his house, his home. But…it’s not. Sure, there are memories and experiences. A lifetime of highs and lows to relive for the rest of our time on this shadow side of eternity but he has moved and left a forwarding address.
I sit in the quietude with his presence still lingering. I think about all of the rough days he’s had over the last 8 months, the noises of the machines which were keeping him alive. After we received the phone call we drove over to the hospice house to say our; “Goodbyes.” The room was so still. No beeping, whirring, pumping, dripping, nurses checking in. It was motionless and the silence was deafening. My mother began to fill the atmosphere with soft cries, and soft words to her best friend and lover of the last 40 years. My brother and I standing in the background, witnesses to a heart affair which is rare in this world. Finally, after a few more kisses from her on his hands and cheek, we left all thankful we’d never see that room again and that he had moved on to his permanent address.
And now, we are left to carry on. To occupy a house which isn’t home without him. To learn to adjust to a new normal we didn’t choose. To loosen our grip on this world, this place, because we know home is waiting for us on the other side.
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
A friend and I were discussing the wisdom proverb; “In each rain drop the universe is contained in full.”
As with most wisdom sayings, there are many interpretations but we focused on the truth that in each moment all of life is contained. When we try to grab for more it’s like grasping water, nothing is there.
We prefer a life which is predictable. Things to be, and stay, normal. However, what we are after is control. We try to make life stay much the same as it was in the past if we’ve been relatively satisfied.
We’d prefer not to dwell on the truth that life can change in an instant and never be “normal“, the same, again. We don’t like the idea of unemployment, sickness, death, other stresses, tragedies and heartache may be what the next moment holds.
We’d rather ignore this insight and live in oblivion until life ceases to grant us this illusion. This moment is ours, nothing more is promised, nothing more need be if we treasure our only possession; now.
Beth and I stopped by Lowe’s Home Improvement store on the way home from church today. One of the items on our list was a gallon of paint. We found the right brand and then went to the kiosk where they mixed in color. There was a line of three people and one woman working as hard and fast as she could. After a while it was our turn and as we walked up to the counter a man came up to the counter, got the employee’s attention and proceeded to have his order filled. I was frustrated. He had cut in line while the rest of us had waited our turn. Seemingly without noticing or caring he had his paint mixed and then left.
After we finished and checked out, I asked Beth; “Was he in line before and I hadn’t noticed?” “Nope.” she said but in a way that told me she had moved on and was in the present while I was still reliving the past. “Well,’ I said, ‘no big deal.” and following my wife’s example I moved on as well.
In this life we will face injustices and inconveniences. Injustices are worth fighting against for they impact past, present and future. Inconveniences, however, are just distractions that take our distort our focus and blind us to the now, the present, where life happens.
Brian Loging (Twitter)
Patience is… –
A few moments ago I was standing in a long line at a store, waiting patiently while a young man, who didn’t seem thrilled to be working on a Saturday evening, checked out the plenteous people in front of me. I glanced around and noticed none of the other registers were open so I took a few deep breaths, thought about my day, and practiced stoicism in the face of this minor irritation in the grand scheme of things.
Finally, I was next in line as an elderly woman checked out and, for some reason, her check card wasn’t working. As she was finishing up another employee walked up to the front and said; “Register two is now open!” and the people behind me took advantage. I shook my head and thought; “This is my life, summed up in one experience.”
They say if you pray for patience you will receive temptations, trials, and travails. Patience has never been one of my virtues. Part of it is my anxiety disorder which propels me to always be thinking, moving or a combination of both. However, I am also a product of our “got to have it immediately!” culture. To wait is an offense to our too busy lives. We long to escape our hectic, event-filled, crazy, chaotic lives, but how?
I stand in a line, take a few more deep breaths and remember life is made up of these moments we call; “Now.”
Last night I took the dogs out for their last opportunity to do some business for the day. I was about to release them when a shadow caught my eye, then another. I grabbed both dog’s leashes and strained to see what was running through the yard. I couldn’t quite tell but it was either stray dogs or coyotes. I kept the dogs close to me to be on the safe side. This morning, when I let the dogs out again, our Siberian Husky began chasing scents all over the area where the other animals had been. He was so preoccupied with tracking the shadow’s trail he forgot to do what needed to be done.
I watched him dart to and fro and thought how sometimes we are like my crazy dog. We chase after shadows of the unknown, things that scare us or bring confusion and doubt. We allow these distractions to take our focus away from the present and from our purpose.
Don’t dwell in the past or be obsessed with the future. Live in the now.