Wednesday, April 29

You Are Not Dismissed

As the two women at the table next to mine readied themselves to leave the coffee shop, their unsatisfying conversation was coming to a stilted close. Certainly both had done a lot of talking ~ the weights and lengths of their children, their on-hold careers (or not), their frustration with their husbands, and their annoyance with "Megan" had all been duly aired. They'd all but tripped over one another in their efforts to tell all. But they left me with the feeling that neither of them had been heard at all.

Why do we only listen with half of our hearts and a fraction of our attention? Why do we so quickly interject our own opinions and superimpose our own experience on the story of another, instead of enlarging our perspective on our shared experience?

We're so much alike, right? Our struggles, fears, hopes, and joys ~ the same. Some of us have grown too focused on ourselves and have become convinced that our suffering and trouble, our talent and purpose are more critical or more at risk than those of our friends. We've been so long gazing in the mirror that we've neglected to glance out the window at the shared journey we're walking alongside our remarkable sisters.

Each of us
  • is conscious of our beauty ~ and our lack of it. We are hard on ourselves to the point of cruelty and resist assurance that we are lovely enough.
  • is maternal. Those of us with children agonize over countless dark and hopeful things regarding our babes. Those of us without wonder if we should have them; wonder if we're incomplete without them; wonder if we could manage them if we did have them.
  • is professional. We are skilled and intelligent. We resist the thought of appearing (or actually being) purposeless and realize, on some level, that we can be more than we are.
  • is worried about losing our memory, our bone density, our skin tone, our hair, our mind. We fear cancer and hate cellulite.
  • carry grief. Some public. Some secret. Women are in pain and manage it in various ways with varying degrees of success.
  • dream.
  • hate.
  • need to rage against the injustice we have personally experienced and personally witnessed.
  • want to count for something to someone.
  • wrestle with the juggling act that our lives have become. We want to juggle well, but worry that we might be dropping more balls all of the time; certain that we're dropping more balls than the friend next door who has it all together.
  • want to be seen.
  • want to be understood. Truly. Deeply.
  • want to be made to laugh.
  • want to be heard. Our words. Beyond our words. To the bits of the story we don't know how to tell but quite necessarily need to voice. We want to be heard.

Today has been a day of selfish listening on my part. I admit that I was half-hearted in my efforts to hear and wanted, more than anything, to impose my own telling on the stories of my sharing friends. I dismissed their crises as histrionic or temporary. I clamored for the safety of my kitchen and a warm patch of sunlight.

That's not okay. We need to hear each other. Fully. Generously. Consistently. We must not dismiss the stories of our friends. In listening, with whole attention, we become a point of safety, release, and reassurance for a worthy other. By allowing ourselves to become immersed, completely drawn in by their story we are presented with the opportunity to expand our own lives just a little.

Wednesday, April 22

Dad Taught Me...

  • "Everything is going to be okay. But when it's time to worry, I'll let you know." That sounds a lot like God.
  • "Rights" aren't all they're cracked up to be. People will tell us that life is all about getting what is rightfully ours, about defending our own rights, about being right. Consider a life of absolute surrender to God instead ~ consider laying down rights in exchange for relationship with Jesus; consider trusting that the Way of Jesus might be safer, wilder, more rewarding, less arrogant than living for self alone.
  • Listening takes time. Listening requires that the hearer be silent, slow to speak.
  • Sometimes physical health (or it's absence) is a choice. Choose wellness.
  • Compassion is sweet and powerful...and sometimes hidden.
  • Crying with another in their grief is right. Do it. But don't make it about you.
  • It's okay to mumble the odd expletive, especially if, while patiently teaching your daughter to drive, she nearly spins everybody into a ditch.
  • "Integrity" is about what goes on in secret; about who we are when no one's watching.
  • Diplomacy and wisdom invite peace. Sometimes they even make peace.
  • Forgiveness is what we live, no matter how angry we are or how much we're hurting.
  • It is never okay to disprespect our elders. It is never okay to disprespect anybody.
  • Change is possible. Teachability is imperitive.
  • It's probably better to err on the side of generosity, even if the service is bad and the meal is cold. Who knows what sort of day your server is having?
  • Silent laughter, the kind that sees tears coursing down a cheek, heals.

My father lives his faith. Every day. His largely silent example (italisized with the occasional, well-timed German cuss word) shapes me. It shapes my family. It works itself more deeply into who I am with every year that passes.His journey has been as real-life, human, painful, successful, uncertain as any. But his steps are sure and he's carved a path worth following.

Monday, April 20

Under My Skin

The two year anniversary of my seventy pound weight loss has just passed.

The food madness that has plagued me since puberty continues to be my undoing. I drink staggering quantities of soda. I eat chocolate every day. And, whatever any health guru would have you believe, my control over the amount of food I ingest is as tenuous today as it ever was.

But the pounds have stayed away. So I celebrated! How else? With a trip to the doc for an annual physical. Good. Times.

"Dr. Z," I said, preparing to ask the question I've been too-scared to ask in the past 24 months, "I'm stuck. I got rid of 70 of the excess pounds I was carting around, but I can't seem to shake the last 8."

She gave me her less-than-comforting-bedside-manner up-and-down look. There was a pinch test. There was another look -- rueful. Humoring? Annoyed? "Well. This could be the problem: You're trying to lose your skin."

Twenty years of overweight, obesity, and pregnancy have left me wobbling. And wobbly I shall remain without the aid of vanity-enhancing, pocket book-shrinking cosmetic surgeries because there's no more weight to lose. Just skin.

It's time to come to terms with the numbers as they are; on the scale, on the measuring tape. It's time to acknowledge that I won't be getting that nose piercing I've wanted re-done (it was the reward for a seventy-six pound loss).

A surprising sort of calm has come with this new understanding. I've done the work (and will continue to do the work, of course). Now it's time to focus on other things (We heard a preacher suggest that our souls are very fat: we spend too much time thinking about ourselves, our weakness, our strength, our this, our that. We've become obese in our self-awareness. I wonder what a seventy pound loss looks like there?). It's time to be. To rest more. To strive less in this respect.

I'm guessing this will be easier said than done! But it's a good time of year for new goals and hopeful objectives. I'm excited to turn my focus outward again ~ away from me and onto others. Broader, more productive, more generous pursuits ahead.

Wobbly bits and all!

Thursday, April 16

Jesus says there's nothing more important than Love.

Religion says there's nothing more important than being right.

It's possible to be very religious without knowing God at all.