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.
The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.
Space Between –
Today has been a day of waiting. A weather front moved into our area on Friday and it has been raining off and on for three days.
Outside the living room window is our front porch with a tin roof. There is no mistake rain is falling when listening to one of the best songs ever. On a cool, cloudy, rainy day a tin roof is a nap maker, guaranteed.
Although the sound of raindrops on the tin is beautiful we also have a dog who lets us know when he’s ready to go outside. We try to wait for a lull in the melody but sometimes we force him and ourselves outside.
I have a friend who’s in a place where they’d rather not be. They are trapped and wanting a way out. However, there has been no indication its time. It is a season of waiting, a space between being unable to move and desiring very much to do so.
Living in the space between can be frustrating and maddening. Wisdom teaches us that existing in the time between the seasons, the challenge and the overcoming, the obstacle and the crossing over it, the sickness and renewed health, isn’t easy but can produce in us growth and maturation.
It is the seed planted in the ground which grows not the one carried with us.
It is a gorgeous day in February! Almost 70 degrees outside. The birds are singing, the flowers are budding, the wind is lightly blowing, the sun is bright and the skies are blue. I, on the other hand, am sick.
A nasty flu bug and stomach virus is going around several counties in Tennessee. School districts have closed schools because of how many students and teachers have been impacted by illness. I haven’t been in any schools but I’ve been to the county jail twice, to a large council meeting yesterday where people were coughing and sneezing, plus numerous other places where bugs and viruses like to hang out.
So, with my achy body and pounding head, I’ve rested most of the day. It seems like such a shame to sleep away a day like this but sometimes rest has to be at the top of our “to-do list.” There’s a phrase I tell dads and parents; “If you can’t care for yourself you can’t care for others.” It’s tough, but sometimes you have to take your own advice.
It started yesterday morning. I got up and while getting ready for work noticed my throat was scratchy. As the day went on my head started hurting, body began aching, eyes watered and a cough developed. I was sick.
The weather has been unpredictable since January. Its been rainy and cool the past several days when it was balmy and almost 70 degrees not long ago. Many people in the office have not felt well and my wife has been battling bronchitis for while now. I also connect with a lot of folks during the week and any number of them could’ve re-gifted their germs to me. “Sigh” I guess it was just my turn.
What hurts the most is not the aches, pains and chills but that it is a beautiful day. Blue skies with brilliant sunshine mock me as I lay on the couch. I’ve been waiting for weather such as this but today there’s nothing to do but hope more are around the corner and getting well is more important than being out and about.
Life is unfair or at least ironic. Wisdom teaches us that patience in all things is important. There are special days, moments, seasons we look forward to only to have them taken away by unforeseen circumstances. We can begrudge our luck, become dismayed at the turn of events or trust that there may still be better days ahead.