This morning I set out early cutting and weed eating the grass. There was rain in the forecast and temperatures getting into the nineties. Used the riding mower without any trouble, push mowed around hard to reach areas and then retrieved the weed eater and noticed it needed extra string. On a shelf, in my workshop, is where I keep it and finding it I reached down to get it when something moved and jumped toward me. I had my sunglasses on and couldn’t see well but when it jumped I jumped! It landed on the ground and I realized it was a frog. I don’t know how he got up that high but he survived the fall and hopped away. “Whew!” as I exhaled and finished up the yard work without any further excitement.
As I carried the weed eater I thought about life and how the unexpected keeps us on our toes. Whether it’s something silly like a nimble reptile or more serious events which change our lives forever we never know what’s around life’s next corner. Being aware, adaptable, accepting are ways we can adjust to whatever surprise that jumps on life’s path.
On Demand –
This afternoon I had a follow-up appointment at the doctor’s office. They needed to do a routine check-up and wanted a deposit. I had figured as much so I made sure not to leave my deposit at home before I left. I went to the restroom, readied the bottle and…nothing. No matter how much I concentrated there just wasn’t anything that was going to happen. After several minutes I meekly came out of the lavatory and explained the situation to the nurse. She then sent me to the staff vampire who had no such trouble sticking me with a big needle and taking my second deposit by force. I now have a cotton ball and medical tape covering a hole in my arm.
We live in an; “On Demand” world. We get and expect things instantaneously. The problem is sometimes life doesn’t work that way. We may demand expediency but delay and obstruction is what we’re given. If we decide to take what we need to wait on by force pain is often the what we receive instead of what we desire.
It does us good to wait, to not get what we want, to be told; “No!” It reminds us we aren’t all-powerful, possess full control, aren’t as able as we’d like to believe. Wisdom, and the lessons it uses in everyday life remind us who we are, who we aren’t and how to be at peace with both.
There are three kinds of problems; those we can live with, those we can do something about and those we must separate ourselves from.
It’s the last one which gives us the most trouble. Living with something aggravating and, at least in the present moment, is unchangeable can be a challenge. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we can tolerate a lot. This approach can create more hassles if something needs to be changed and we lack the direction, motivation or passion to do something.
Taking control, bending problems to our will, throwing our shoulder into a problem is an attitude we find easy. There’s nothing like grabbing a difficulty by the throat and forcibly doing away with it, changing it to our liking. The risk here is we can make a situation worse if we are too hasty, too stubborn or not wise enough in our decision-making.
Leaving it, for most of us, takes the greatest strength. To be faced with a problem and not change it but change ourselves, how we approach it, takes courage and trust. When we put up with it we are sullen and prone to negative thoughts and spirits. When we take hold of it and wrestle with it, we feel we are in control. When we decide to let go, step back, allow the problem to exist and find contentment at the same time, we have reached a place of genuine spiritual and intellectual maturity.
Safe to Land –
Today, I was mowing grass and doing yard work for a friend. Most of the grass has already turned brown for the winter except for a few green patches. As I mowed over a patch a large grasshopper jumped up and from the ground and landed on my shirt. I didn’t have time to figure out what to do because he got his bearings and jumped again to a safe space. This happened more than once as I kept infringing on his territory.
Each time the grasshopper hitched a ride I thought about our lives and the times we need temporary safe places to land. Not spaces we will occupy permanently but where we can get our bearings, catch our breath, take stock of what’s happening, see the challenge and the difficulty and perhaps a way to avoid it or, if needed, endure it.
I also reflected on the need to be a place that is safe to land for others who are in trouble. A place where they can feel accepted and be safe. A space that has a listening ear, no advice unless asked for, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, patience and empathy to endure and understand.
One of the advantages of insomnia is getting chores done while others are asleep. For the last five weeks, as I’ve battled sleeplessness, I’ve also been cleaning. One of the rooms I do most mornings is the kitchen. Today I noticed the filter in the sink was really dirty which means it’s doing its job. The purpose of a kitchen sink filter is to catch all the food and other junk before it slides down the drain and causes backups and other expensive troubles.
I spoke to a group of guys this week and we talked about the; “space in between” our thoughts, feelings and our actions, response. I told them; “the more space you have between your thoughts and your words, your feelings and your actions, the less regret and shame in your life.”
It’s a lesson we all must learn. A filter over our mouths, a pause before our reactions, a moment of stillness and reflection before words we can never get back, actions we can’t rescind slide out and cause unnecessary and costly trouble.
The lecture was over and most of the attendees had exited the room. One stayed seated finishing up his notes and another loitered near the door. I knew he wanted to ask me a question but wasn’t sure how to get started so I looked at him and inquired; “How’s your day going?” It was enough to break the ice and we chatted for a few moments until he found the courage to vocalize what was on his heart and mind. “I have someone in my life who is important to me. I love them but they aren’t good for me. If I go back to them I’ll follow them down a path which will lead to my eventual destruction and death.” I followed up; “So, what do you think you should do?” He sat down and sighed; “I have to leave them. They can’t be a part of my life.” I could tell this was a difficult choice and his heart was hurting. I looked him in the eye and said; “It’s a tough decision but you have to choose what doesn’t harm you and will allow you to live fully.”
One of the most painful things we’ll do in our lives is saying goodbye to someone we care about but whose influence upon us leads us away from peace, wisdom and purpose. It may be a family member or a long time friend. This person may have been a sounding board, supporter, provider, even at times a protector but they also bring troubles, trauma and temptation into our lives. Because of our history with them, the bond that exists, its hard to let them go and walk away but inside of us there is a growing realization that separation is the only option which leads to our survival.
The young man and I spoke a few minutes more. He thanked me as I packed up my things and headed toward the door. I turned and looked at him as I walked through the doorway; “Make good choices.” I told him. “I will.” he assured me. Walking down the hall and exiting the building I hoped he had enough strength and courage to say; “Goodbye.” to the things and people in his life who would stop him from continuing to move in the right direction.