Where You Heading? –
I’ve spent much of this week thinking about my past and considering my future. It’s always scary, wondering what’s around the corner.
I started two new jail classes this week. One of the first disciplines I teach is for them to consider their present and think about their future. The first part is necessary because it helps us take stock of what we’ve done, who we are, and how choices have led us to this place in our lives. After you’ve accepted where and who you are, then you decide if it is where you want to stay. “If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”
Most of the men I work with tell me they want to make better choices, be better men and fathers but it’s not enough to want, action must be taken. Different choices must be made to be a different man and father. I explain that; “What you do today determines who you’ll be, what you’ll be, tomorrow.”
This is true for all of us.
Born Again –
I desire to be born again, each day emerging from a blanket cocoon, different from the person I was yesterday. Each day we take steps toward who we will eventually be at the end of our lives. Some are making progress toward love, grace, kindness, and peace, others walk in another direction.
What we do today determines who we will be tomorrow. This is a truth I try to live by. What we put our minds to, invest our emotions in, allow our spirits to inhabit, shapes the person we’ll be tomorrow and in the future. We underestimate the “big” and “little” experiences we encounter each day. We dismiss character flaws, hidden hurts, negative habits, and other behaviors and attitudes that either place chains on our souls.
To emerge, new each day, takes work today. We choose where our path will go, not what our path will go through, but its destination. We can’t make our path easy or difficult but we can decide how we handle both. The decision isn’t on tomorrow’s agenda but today’s.
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.
When I woke up this morning my positive thought was; “It’s not Thursday!” Yesterday I had to go to the dentist and while there are times we must do things which bring us anxiety we can celebrate I am thankful I didn’t have to repeat the process today.
It’s also a beautiful day. Sunny with a few clouds. Temperatures in the low to mid-80’s. In a few moments, I will go and mow the grass. Some weeks, especially during the hot summer days, it’s more a chore than a joy but as the days grow shorter I will bask in the sun on my face and driving my little yard tractor.
One thought or several, can indeed change the way you see your day. I know in the future I’ll have to go to the dentist again. Soon there will be no need to cut the grass. By the look of the trees and their colors, the days will quickly be cold enough that even the sun won’t be able to warm me up.
One of the most positive thoughts, disciplines, we can have is focusing on the good each day brings and not the uncomfortable change which may come with tomorrow.
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
Gospel of Saint Matthew 6:34, The Master
Heart Hunger –
This afternoon I attended a meeting where a speaker talked about babies born being addicted to drugs. The mothers of these soon to be born children were addicts of both prescribed and unprescribed drugs and when the baby emerged from the womb it too craved the narcotics.
It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of some of the moms. 85% were on welfare, didn’t have much in the way of education, lived in poverty and were receiving the help of many community and national organizations. What was even sadder was the moms knew their addictions were harming their unborn child and yet couldn’t break the cycle. The addiction had overtaken the heart of the mother and superseded their instincts to care for their soon to be born child. The hunger for being a good mom was less than the appetite for the drugs.
Our hearts, the souls, and spirits of us are powerful. They can give us the strength to overcome the greatest of challenges and reach heights unthinkable or take us to the depths of hell and nightmares unimaginable. Wisdom teaches us to choose today who we will be tomorrow. Choose carefully because our decisions mean life or suffering and death.
Flies and Sweet Tea –
On Friday, midway through raking and mowing the front lawn, I stopped and went inside, fixed myself a ham sandwich, a large cup with a lid, of iced tea, and went outside to have lunch on the porch. After finishing the sandwich I still had some tea and let it sit while wrapping up the chores for the day. Heading back inside I grabbed the cup of tea, took a big swig of drink satisfied with the accomplishments of the day.
Inside I took a shower, went back into the kitchen and refilled my cup with ice and more tea. For the next hour or so drank, worked on my blog and other things waiting for Beth to come home from work. When she arrived we discussed what to have for dinner, decided on something easy and fast, cooked it and was ready to eat. Before heading into the living room with my dinner plate I took the lid off of my cup of tea to add some ice and that’s when I saw it! A fly had somehow gotten into it, I assume by crawling through the straw when I had left it on the porch. From then until I spied it I had been drinking while the fly, and all that came with it was drowning. At least I didn’t swallow it!
I showed it to Beth and she was grossed out. I thought it was funny. We both thought I should get a new cup. I’ve thought about that insect several times over the last few days. What’s interesting is I didn’t know the fly was in there and so it didn’t bother me having a drinking buddy. However, when I finally did see it, something needed to be done.
Wisdom teaches us that we are learning, absorbing like a sponge, whatever we come in contact with, surround ourselves with every moment of each day. I often tell my clients; “WHAT you do, think, choose today is WHO you’ll be tomorrow.” Self-awareness comes when we are humble enough to take the lid off of our closed lives and look inside. What we find there will be good and not so good. True self-awareness is doing what we do well and improving upon what we could do better.
Not too Late to Start Early –
At a luncheon today myself and about twenty others sat through two presentations. The first was on the newest technology for breast exams; a 3D machine that can catch cancer 40% earlier than most of the equipment currently used in hospitals and doctors’ offices. As a husband who’s married to a wife with a history a breast cancer in her family, I was extremely interested. Breast cancer which is caught early can have a survival rate of up to 90%!
The meeting was held in the social commons area of a large funeral home and the second presentation had to do with pre-planning your funeral. The speaker gave the advice we all know to be true but would rather not think about; “We each like to think we have more time in life than what we probably have.” She then went on to speak about making a record of our basic information, preferred funeral themes, embalmed or cremation and a host of other options one can choose as their way of saying; “Goodbye.”
After the luncheon I thought about doing things early, being ahead of the game, not procrastinating. Procrastinating is not a big problem for me. My anxiety disorder tends to skyrocket when things are left undone, not finished. It’s like a gnawing in the pit of my stomach until I complete whatever is bothering me. However, there are a few things which seem to be able to slip under the radar and can be put off “until…” I don’t forget about them I’m just able to slide them on to the back burner until they threaten to boil over.
Breast exams for Beth do not fall into this category. Because of her family history with this dreaded and damnable disease I make sure she sets and keeps her yearly appointments. Funeral plans on the other hand we haven’t talked much about. We both know we’re getting older, that death comes for us all and not at the time of our choosing. Wisdom tells us to live in the present moment of today but also be aware there is an unknown tomorrow.
Leaving Tomorrow Be –
Yesterday I spent most of the mid-morning and early afternoon raking leaves. It was a nice day, almost 80 degrees and the job was pleasant enough and kept my mind from racing as it so often does. After raking for a while I noticed that as soon as I raked a leaf another would fall in its place. I looked up and saw the trees were more than two-thirds full which meant I would be doing this again, and again, in the near and distant future.
There was a part of me that questioned the validity of raking leaves when there would be more tomorrow but I know if I don’t take care of the ones I can today, tomorrow may be too much to handle. So, I raked, front, sides, back and when I finished, sure enough, leaves were already covering parts of the yard. I, however, took heart at a job well done and accepted the truth of repeating the chore.
Wisdom tells us that we are not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries of its own. Leaves will keep falling until the trees are almost bare. I will keep raking until the yard doesn’t need it any longer. I have learned the lesson of doing in the present what can be done and letting go of what may happen tomorrow. When tomorrow does turn in today I will again do my best and that will be enough.
Come Out & Play –
Ever feel life is similar to this poor Giant Panda Bear (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_panda) staff member? You’re doing everything you can to keep your life neat and orderly, to do what you need to do, and forces beyond your control are conspiring against you to keep it from happening.
Watching this video I couldn’t help but feel sorry and empathize with the zoo keeper. I’ve been there. On good days, when my Clinical Depression and Severe Anxiety are kept at bay, I’m able to accomplish what I set my mind to do. However, on those days when my D&A decide to run wild it takes everything I’ve got to get the simplest project done or task completed.
Those days when Depression and Anxiety; “come out to play” and wreak havoc I do my best to remember tomorrow, or some day soon, they’ll stay away long enough for life to regain a semblance of order and serenity.
#EndtheStigma of #MentalHealth
Last night my wife made a delicious, mouth-watering, sumptuous meatloaf. It was wonderful! It’s one of my favorite dishes and she makes it just the way I like it. It was so good we began planning on how we’d eat the leftovers before we went to bed. Maybe with dinner rolls one night, meatloaf sandwiches for lunch? We had our meals set for the next few days.
However, when we the alarm went off this morning, and we stumbled into the kitchen to make our coffee, we made a horrible discovery! After washing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, putting (almost) everything in its proper place we forgot one thing…the meatloaf. Somehow we’d missed it and on the counter it sat, all…night…long. We couldn’t take the chance it hadn’t spoiled and so, with sadness in our hearts and stomachs, we threw it away. “Oy!”
Included in my Facebook notifications today, under the; “On This Day” memory and nostalgia page section, was a link to an article I wrote last year only a few days after my friend Mary had died. It was entitled; “Lumped Together, Fading Away.” As I read back over the post a portion resonated in my spirit;
“Wisdom tells us that everything, if we are willing to see, bears witness to the transience of this mortal life. All is constant change, everything is fading, dying, dissolving into nothingness. It is a truth inescapable. To accept this, one of wisdom’s greatest lessons, is the key to appreciating, and fully living in, each moment this ever so brief life has to offer.”
I thought about Mary and I thought about meatloaf. Life isn’t lived tomorrow. We are only given the present moment. If we’re too busy thinking/planning ahead we’ll miss feasting on what life offers today.