Why?

Hello, world.  It’s been a very long time.  As to the why…I don’t really have a reason.  If anyone cares to read the last post from Dec, 2008 (Pursuing What You Love), then I guess I could kind of continue from there with the fact that I did get the job I spoke of in that post, and have been in it ever since.  I think, at first, I did not write because I was focusing on trying to do what I spoke of in that post…learn how not to sub-consciously put myself in some position of superiority, but to really live out love with the people I encounter.

I would say that at first I did pretty well with that, reigning in internal grumblings that would usually cause me to become frustrated with co-workers or work in general, i.e. my schedule being changed from 8-4 to 10-6.  I wasn’t a fan of that, but in trying to live the servant life, took it all in stride and figured God had it all in control, so I didn’t make a fuss.

However, as with all things, I am confessing now that the novelty of being loving seems to have worn off, and I am back to being grouchy with others and thinking about myself and what I want all the time instead of living in the knowledge that most of the things I am wanting or I am frustrated with are not important AT ALL.  Realizing that I have slowly allowed satan to creep back up on me in this area is just making me frustrated with myself, and I have not managed to pull out of the cycle yet.

It comes back to re-surrendering “self.”  Allowing the Holy Spirit to take control again, which will in turn cause me to live as Christ did, unconcerned with self-promotion, unfazed by injustices done to me, actively seeking the good of all I come in contact with, whether friend of foe or some intertwined mess of both.  Most people are that, you know.  Most of the time, the people we have a hard time with are those we would call our loved ones and our friends.  They are not enemies, and yet we treat them, or at least feel inside that we must always be prepared to stick up for ourselves and our own rights against them, or else they will all constantly be taking advantage of us or taking us for granted.  The bottom line is that even if that’s true, it’s not our job to make sure we are treated correctly or recognized sufficiently by everyone around us.  That is not the reward.

The reward for acting like Christ is never shown as a warm, fuzzy existence in which no one will ever get mad at you or treat you unfairly.  Paul was repeatedly imprisoned and held on false charges which the government knew to be false, people routinely tried to kill him, and he was in multiple shipwrecks.  Christ Himself had it no better.

This is not to say that we should react smugly to poor treatment as if we are martyrs who must be living the Christ-life to be treated this way…that only comes from condescension which has nothing to do with love.  Our responses to others must not be based on their responses to us.  Love your enemies and the Golden Rule do not give conditions.  If I am walking in love because I am waiting for the world around me to applaud my behavior, I will always grow weary, because there will never been enough praise.  There will always be at least one person around me who cannot be pleased or who finds something wrong with what I do.  If I walk in love because Christ is in my Spirit, and He is living through me, nothing can burn me out…on the condition that I continue to seek Him above all things.

That is the key.  I believe through this after a time, I stopped seeking my strength, my identity, my validation in Him, and started looking to others for approval and reward.  That is when my spirit grew cold, and “loving” started to seem like an impossible drudgery.

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Pursuing What You Love

A bundle of appetites.  That’s what I am as a bodily entity.  This fleshly tent in which I abide is intent on and, unfortunately, often content with finding things that satisfy it, please it and make it feel comfy-cozy.  Any twinge of displeasure or dissatisfaction is immediately addressed sub-consciously with, “What can I do to alleviate this abomination?”  That thought arises no matter how small the discomfort may be.  Or even if it is not discomfort…even if it is just a thought like, “I want something pleasing at this moment,” which is actually often the follow-up to feeling discomfort in some area, though we may not connect it in such a way at the time, because often the pleasure we choose has no logical connection with the discomfort we are feeling.  This is a commonly known phenomenon.  For example, I may come home from work feeling tired and somewhat disgruntled, thinking my boss is unfair or my co-workers are untruthful, but instead of quitting my job or looking for a new one or trying to come to terms with the situation, I eat a package of M&Ms and watch a funny sitcom, ergo subconsciously trying to alleviate (or rather mask and ignore) one discomfort by allowing myself something that could, in a perfect world, be a good, simple pleasure.  Comfort foods, mind-numbing television…those are two of the most obvious choices.  They are the easiest to come by and the least associated with negative connotations.  Some people do choose alcohol or drugs or lasciviousness or something that happens to be more associated with what the Christian community would dub inherently to be “sin.”  But it all amounts to the same thing, and used in this manner, is itself inherently sinful.

 

The funny thing is that this appetite does not have to be so animalistic as I have painted it in the above paragraph.  It can seek deeper things, even lofty things, aspiring to greatness and achievement. 

 

So, what is one to do with this?  How does one cease constantly desiring and seeking to appease one’s appetite for comfort, for greatness, for recognition, for love?

 

I am not an expert.  I usually say this somewhere in my posts, so perhaps you are getting tired of hearing it, but I need everyone to know that I do not claim to do the things I discuss.  I claim to recognize the truth in the things that God shows me.  I am not always so good at living them.  But God did show me something a couple of months ago that I am attempting to keep in the forefront of my mind as I go through my days.

 

I will not go backwards into what my life has been like this year, but if you care to know the history, read previous posts or shoot me an e-mail.  I will start with the fact that I was in the process of interviewing for a new job.  It is a very regular job with regular hours and regular pay and regular dress codes, etc.  This has not been the reality for most of my life.  I have had very odd jobs, or even if it was somewhat regular, I have predominantly been in charge of my own schedule.  In fact, in looking back, there have only been about 3 years of my adult work history in which I did not control my own schedule.  So, while I was interviewing for this position, I started to get a little freaked out.  Only having two weeks of vacation, and even when I get that is somewhat managed and completely out of my hands??  Well, frankly, that sounds a little like hell to me.  I nearly backed out of the process altogether.  Then one morning I woke up and God spoke to me.  I was still in the hazy state, lying in my bed.  I was not thinking deep thoughts.  I was thinking nothing when these words appeared in my mind’s eye, “Only pursue what you love.”  Well, by the world’s standards of what that means, I have done a pretty good job of that in my life…rarely letting a job take away my freedom to do the things I actually enjoy doing, etc.  But in that moment, I knew that was not what it meant and my next thought was, “What am I supposed to love?”  And everything sort of fell into place for me.  I am supposed to love God and love people.  I am not supposed to LOVE writing or creating or singing, unless God sets those in front of me as ways to love Himself or other people.  And honestly, I have been pursuing those sorts of things in lieu of pursuing the love of God and people for most of my life.  OK, well, “in lieu” of might be an exaggeration.  I have pursued loving God and loving people, but not with such passion and vigor as I have pursued my own pleasure and my “dreams.”  At the very least, I was acting like not being able to pursue those things would inhibit my ability to love God or love other people, which is simply heresy.  First off, I had the order wrong.  I wanted to pursue the things I loved (yes, things) in order that I may better love God and love people.  I was waiting for some moment in the future when apparently, I would feel I had pursued it enough or gotten enough satisfaction from it to be able to start pouring that contentment out on others around me.  How ridiculous.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

 

I have always had the attitude that whatever job I had was evil and keeping me from doing whatever I was really supposed to be doing, i.e. anything important.  I have been realizing for a while now, even before this revelation from God, that this was a serious slight towards those I worked with.  The attitude that “anything important” is outside the sphere of whatever work I am doing negates the importance of every human being I came into contact with during the course of that workday!  It was a self-serving attitude that, at heart, believed “I am more important than these people and I should not have to join in these menial tasks with them.”  Definitely not the heart of a servant.  So, I confess and repent of that here to you now.

 

At the moment God spoke that to me, I knew I needed to get over myself.  I needed to get over my arrogance and let go of myself.  Let go of behaving like a child…as if I could only obey God’s commands to love if He gave me what I wanted first.

 

But let’s take it somewhere else as well and make sure that y’all know I am not saying that God is out to kill all of my fun and enjoyment of life.  Not in the slightest!!  My own selfish desires were fueled by societal training such as Nike’s “Just Do It!” and Barbie’s “We Girls Can Do Anything” philosophies.  I am not trying to negate pursuing excellence in things you enjoy; I AM trying to discourage pursuing those things as a fulfillment separate from those two most important commandments that Jesus spoke and that I am relentlessly repeating here: to love God and love people.  Pursuing or achieving excellence in something does not mean anything special if you are horrible to everyone on the way up, if you crush those who stand in your way or if you are unfeeling or negligent to those around you.  I may not have been horrible and I may not have been crushing people, but I have definitely been unfeeling and negligent.  And I am beginning to understand that pursuing the thing only creates more disenchantment and dissatisfaction, because no matter how hard you pursue something, you are still at the mercy of others to determine its worth.  A song I write only grants me so much fulfillment if no one else likes it.  And even if others do like it, it still only grants me a measure of fulfillment until it begins bringin’ in some cash, right?  All of the doing requires recognition of some sort in order to bring any feeling of satisfaction.

 

But guess what?  Loving God?  Self-fulfilling.  Because God is PERFECT.  He loves you as fully as you can ever imagine being loved.  I’m not saying you feel all warm and fuzzy all the time.  I’m just saying that when you forget yourself and you really are about loving something outside of yourself, there’s much less that will rattle you.  It’s not about, “What’s in it for me?”  It’s about, “What’s in it for God?” which can usually be answered in a much more satisfactory fashion.

 

And when you are really about loving others, the pressure is suddenly gone because you are not relying on their reactions.  You only want to love, to give.  It’s the one thing that you can do, though even that only through Christ’s strength because He has to act through us so that we do not let that bundle of appetites override our love.  It’s suddenly not about you anymore and the stress is off.  THAT is what I felt when God spoke to me.  It didn’t matter anymore if I only had two weeks of vacation or if I was at the whim of the not-so-esteemed corporate elite…they could not stop me from loving.  And loving was suddenly what mattered.  All of the other stuff was mere self-serving prattle…the modern heresy of “following your heart” and “chasing your dream,” which thought very little of others and therefore, by default, could not be thinking much of God.

 

I have spoken of similar things in previous posts and I will give the same disclaimer here:  I in no way believe that putting this into practice leads to that asceticism which denies its own needs or becomes an unhappy martyr.  If the manner in which this life is being led does not lead to joy, then there is still some heresy deep within.  I am still uncovering my deeper heresy, to be sure.  God calls us to this sort of life because He KNOWS us, and knows what our spirits, minds and bodies need.  I heartily believe that living life according to His guidelines will lead us into peace and joy and hope, and that fulfillment which we seek by doing such things as “chasing dreams” will be realized in Him and only in Him.  I do not mean externally; our world may be falling apart around us.  But our hearts will be wholly His and wholly, well, whole, and that bundle of appetites I spoke of at the beginning will not be so ravenous and insatiable.

 

I re-posted my title poem yesterday as a pre-cursor to this.  I did so because I would like people to read this post, and then continue down to read that poem through its lens.  I used to view it as more of an individualistic evangelism, stating that we should pursue our dreams.  Now I know that the idea of passionately pursuing those dreams is part of the mold the world and Satan would like to press us into in order to keep us focused internally, always looking for our own fulfillment and happiness instead of trusting it to God.  It is a road that will wind around into an interminable maze of confusion.  It is much easier to stay on a single path and actually arrive at a destination when I am not bowing to the constant caprices of my own will, instead trusting the Will of Someone all-powerful and all-knowing who will not lead me wrong. 

Who’s Controlling Who?

I think (really I know) that I’ve mentioned in the past how I have recognized when I get that desperate, grasping, panicking feeling about something, it is never from God.  It is always me stressing about making sure I am getting what I want or what I think I need, and not trusting God to do it.  So, as time goes on, I learn to recognize it more and more quickly, and back off when I’m pushing for something because of that feeling.  Well, that happened last week.

See, I’ve been pretty broke…yes, I know I live in a tent and all, but between the staph infection bills and having to get a new car (another story for another day) and the unexpected shortage of work I’ve been having, well, let’s just say I’m not really getting ahead.  I was “making it” before when I had rent, and now I’m “making it” without it.  So, God knew what He was doing because if I had rent right now, well, I’d be gettin’ kicked out for not paying it or going into major debt one of the two.

In response to this, I have been evaluating whether it might be time to get a “real” job instead of all of the random things I count on, especially since I cut out the nannying, which to be fair, is part of the reason (not all of it) for my shortage of work, and was a decision I made myself. 

But, in all of it, I have not felt out of God’s will.  At one point, I asked Him if He wanted me to be out pounding the pavement looking for work, and I got a “No.  Just keep doing what you’re doing.  I’ve got it.”  So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing that I felt was God-inspired, and, let’s be honest, a lot of relaxing.

So, a friend of mine brings up a job that is about to come open at the same place she works.  She said it’s a great environment, the same position she holds, just in a different department.  She works closely with them, and says that if she were looking for a job, she would want that one.  She asks if I would be interested, and I said, well, maybe.  She told the supervisor for that position (who she is good friends with) about me, and that girl seemed excited about the possibility & said she would keep a lookout for my application.  I’m thinking this is God’s provision and a great opportunity at this point. 

When the job posted, my friend sent me the link and the job code to apply online, but for over a week, I couldn’t get the website to come up.  So, after that week, I started to get panicky…did I mention I’m really broke…so I called my friend.  “Can you get the website to come up?”  She tries, and she can’t.  So, she said she’d call HR and see what the deal was, and I said OK.  She wasn’t at work yet.

But a couple of hours later, I realized that I was having that feeling I started telling you about…the one where I am graspy and stressed out about missing something I need.  The one I get when I am trying to control God instead of letting Him take charge of my life.  So, I let go.  I called my friend.  “Don’t call HR.  If I’m supposed to get it, it will work out.”  And she didn’t.

Two days later, she calls me – the supervisor for the position called her and was flipping out because she just found out that the HR website had been down since the job posted so as of yet, they had 0 applicants, and need to fill the position by a deadline.  So, the supervisor asked if I would forward my resume directly to her.

Haha.  Thanks, God.  When I let go, instead of me grasping for making sure I got my resume to these people, THEY were grasping for me to get it to them.  Now, this doesn’t mean I’m going to get the job.  But even if I don’t, it was a lesson of how letting God handle stuff instead of pushing because you’re scared is much more effective. 

As a disclaimer, I think that sometimes God wants us to push.  I’m just starting to recognize when I’m pushing because He wants me to and when I’m pushing out of fear and distrust that He can handle it.

Nothing to Give

I wrote a very factual post earlier today, but it didn’t really have very much meat.  It had been so long since I wrote one, I think I felt the need for excuses, and since I had pretty good ones, that was easy.  But now I’ve been sitting here with my leg elevated all day like they told me to (I have a staph infection if you didn’t read the earlier post), and that leaves a lot of time for reflection.  OK, so I didn’t actually spend much time reflecting, I just had a sort of an epiphany.  I spent a lot of time surfing the internet and working on a story I am writing, which sometimes turns into reflection for me.

Anyway, I was thinking about my recent life situations and choices.  Everything I have been trying to do lately is because I am at a point where I feel like I have nothing to give.  Not just to other people or whatever…but to jobs and to chores and to basic life functions.  I want to hand over all responsibilities and decision-making to someone else.  This is another reason I decided to live in a tent; less “things” to fool with, less decisions to make, less stuff to do. 

My work environments have been making me crazy.  See, I purposely choose jobs which give me very little responsibility for decision making.  I don’t care about jobs enough to have to figure things out for them.  If you give me a straight-forward task, I will do it well, probably better and faster than most, but I can’t stand it when I start feeling like I am in charge of something.  That’s why when I got to the point managing a Chick-fil-A when I probably could have had my own store, I left.  My philosophy: “It’s just chicken.”  Who really cares about chicken?   Ummm, not me. 

I figured out then, that I did not want positions of authority.  The annoying thing is that they always seem to find me.  People figure out I am not stupid and start giving me real work along with whatever purposefully simple job I have taken on, i.e. repetitive data entry, waiting tables, answering e-mails. 

You may be thinking, “Why don’t you just say no?”  But I DO say no to 90% of the requests.  Example 1: Do you want to take some classes on X for me?  No, I am really not that interested.  Example 2: Will you do some internet marketing for me? No, I have absolutely no skills in that, and am not interested in learning them.

But the 10% that I concede always ends up being enough to make me want to pull my hair out and quit.  I am not sure what to do about this, but it works its way into the rest of my life as well, and I find myself feeling that I have nothing to give to anyone, unless I feel like giving it at that exact moment. 

So, I am in a place now, where I think I feel MORE like I have nothing to give than ever.  Hence the tent.  Very few bills=much less work=fewer requirements for my brain.  Or are there jobs that don’t require you to think?  Because all of the ones I have tried have engaged my thoughts far too much.

Am I the only person with this problem?

I do know that God is who I am supposed to hand all of that decision making to, but I don’t think I am supposed to hand over all of the responsibilities, although that is what I feel like doing. 

So, now, possibly for the first time ever, you get a post before I am trying to pretend I have it figured out.

Top 10 Signs You’ve Been Nanny-ing Too Much

1. People have to tell you when you have Blue’s Clues stickers stuck to your pants.

2. You tell more stories about your nanny kids than most of your friends tell about their own.

3. “Boo-boo” and “potty” have become part of your regular vocabulary.

4. The theme song from “Little Einsteins” is frequently stuck in your head.

5. The kids you are nanny-ing call you “mommy” on a regular basis.

6. You use your sweater as a kleenex when there are none available.

7. You count chasing the kids around the house as exercise.

8. You eat what the kids left on their plate and consider it a meal.

9. “Nap-time” means you get to fall asleep on the kid’s floor while they play in their bed.

10. You think you have to decide between peanut butter & jelly or macaroni when you start thinking about what you want to cook for dinner.

How Bad Things Can Be Good

Well, I am moved.  I have been moved for 2 weeks, but it does not quite seem like it.  I didn’t have internet for the first week and a half, and I’ve been playing catch-up otherwise.  I am somewhat calmed down from my frenzy, although I still have tons of things I want to do.  My place is unpacked and settled if not quite how I envision it when I finish all of my projects.

There were several things that happened around the move that reminded me that even things that get on your nerves can be positive sometimes.  To put it God’s way, “All things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  That is something that is easy to forget when things happen that are frustrating or annoying or not how you planned or due to someone else’s mistakes. 

Situation 1:  I work for a caterer, you know.  And at this job, I do almost all of the office work, some serving at events, a smattering of food preparation, and if there are no males around, anything you would get the “guy” to do, i.e. taking out the trash, breaking down the boxes, climbing the ladders, carrying the heavy things.  I don’t mind doing this stuff when I’m there.  However, it can be a point of contention for me when it comes to the boxes.  These are not like packing boxes – they are boxes made to transport fruit and stapled and folded and doubled, etc.  They’re tough boxes.  No one else wants to break them down.  So, for a while there, I would come to work after not being there for a few days and there would be stacks of un-broken down boxes all waiting for me.  Doing it when I’m there is one thing.  Having stacks of boxes that will not be taken by the trash pick-up left outside getting gross for me to breakdown when I get there is another thing.  It started getting on my nerves.  I mentioned it to my boss.  You know, that it would be good if someone else would break down the boxes when I am not there.  She mentioned it to the other girls, and it has drastically improved, but there are still the days where I come in to random un-broken down boxes lying around.  The day before I moved I worked for my caterer, and this is what I found.  Only this time, I had run out of packing boxes when I only had a few small things (read, difficult to carry individually) to pack.  There were just enough un-broken down boxes at my caterer’s to fit all of those little odds and ends I needed to pack.  And so, what usually gets on my nerves was, that day, exactly the thing that I needed. 

This next thing actually involves something that is annoying to someone else and not me, because it involves their things and not mine.  It counts, though, as an example for what I am talking about.  The day of the move, we used my boyfriend’s band bus, my caterer’s van and various friend’s cars.  The fun part was that the power steering went out on the band bus the night before on the way back from their band’s show.  If you’ve ever driven a car when the power steering went out, you can imagine the difficulty that presents in a bus.  My boyfriend was trying to figure out if it was a quick fix of adding power steering fluid, so he took the catering van to the store to get some.  (I just drove the van home from work, so I did not even have my car.)  He came back and that was not the issue, so he just had to drive the bus with no power steering.  Because of this and the fact that I moved to a place on a very curvy road, he decided he would leave before the rest of us because he would have to be driving so slowly and he didn’t want anyone else to have to wait.  He left, and then about 10 minutes later, the rest of us were about to get into our respective vehicles and head out when it occurred to me that he never gave the keys for the catering van back to me after taking it to the store.  Uh-oh.  I said, “I hope he left the keys to the van in the ignition.”  Someone looked.  He didn’t.  Uh-oh.  This meant that he and I would have to come back later and then take the van & unpack it by ourselves because everyone else was not coming back to my old place.  Not the end of the world, but definitely an annoyance.  Well, my catering boss finally a couple of months ago had multiple extra sets made of her keys because they would frequently be accidentally taken home by whomever drove to whatever event we had going on.  This was, of course, not good when she needed to drive her vehicles the next day only to find there were no keys.  The day of my move, one of my catering co-workers was helping me.  When we realized I had no keys to “Bertha,” as the catering van is affectionately dubbed, this friend pipes up, “Wait!  I think I accidentally took a set of Bertha keys home the other day…I think they’re still in my car!”  She runs to her car, and emerges, triumphantly, with a set of Bertha keys.  Moving crisis averted all because of something that is a continual frustration to my boss…forgetting to return keys.

The third situation involves my cat.  I think I have mentioned his obsession with the linen closet before.  Well, while I was taking a shower the morning of the move, he managed to get in there, and I thought, “That’s not actually a bad idea.”  And I closed him in so I would be able to find him when it was time to leave with him.  Since he is indoor/outdoor, with all the commotion of people moving everything and doors being open constantly, I knew he would disappear somewhere outside and I wouldn’t be able to find him when it was time to go.  He did not mind being shut in there, so this is not like a punishment if you are worrying about him.  So, we loaded the bulk of my things and only left my cat and some cleaning supplies at the old place.  I don’t like to take him in the initial run because he gets freaked out driving anyway, and I would have to leave him in the carrier until everything was inside and doors closed.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking him to an entirely new place, not giving him a chance to get acclimated and then him running around outside.  Anyway, after we unloaded everything at the new place, we went back to my old house to do a final cleaning and pick up the cat.  He is a terrible traveler – always gets sick or goes to the bathroom in his carrier…he’s just terrified.  My boyfriend recommended tying his collar to my porch so that we could maybe get him to go to the bathroom before we got in the car, but still be able to find him when we needed to leave.  I decided it was worth a try.  I think it was not such a good idea.  🙂  Try tying up a cat who has never been tied up before.  He was NOT happy.  But he was out there, and I was cleaning inside, when I was informed that he had made a break for it.  I went outside to find that he did not just slip out of his collar.  He BROKE it.  OK, tying up not such a good plan.  Of course, then he was mad and disappeared and would not come when I called him.  I had to leave, though, because I had some pieces of furniture that I had bought to pick up from people while I still had the van, and I also needed to get some necessities at the store before heading back.  These errands were kind of lengthy, because I had to drive about an hour out of my way to pick up the furniture and I had two different things to pick up, plus you know how things just take longer than you think they will.  It ended up taking us about 4 hours before we were ready to go back to my new place, at which point we stopped back by my old house, my cat came running, and I scooped him up & took off.  And it all worked out beautifully.  I don’t think driving my terrified cat around for 4 hours would have been a very good idea, or at least it would not have been very positive.  Initially, I was frustrated that I had to go back and get him.  In the end, it was the best scenario. 

Now, these are all sort of petty situations.  There was nothing severely detrimental.  But they were clear pictures of how things I think of as bad can end up being good.  The bottom line is that if it happens in petty things, it can happen in important things as well.  And I am sure that most of the time we are not able to see the full circle of events enough to understand this.  These events were clustered and it was spread out in front of me like a lesson plan so I could see the beginning and the end of how it all worked together.  I’m hoping that I can translate this into a little bit of faith…that I would be able to accept events calmly as they come and not freak out about whatever difficulties they bring…that instead of waiting until, if ever, I can understand how they work for good, I will trust God’s word and know that what He said in Romans 8:28 is true.  Because it is.

Yes, thirty. Yes, really.

This is a play off of my “Thirty?  Really?” post if you missed that one.  That was only August, but for some reason now I am actually feeling like I am in my thirties instead of my twenties.  I think this is for a couple of reasons.  This post could be taken to mean I am thinking of all of this negatively, but read on, and you will see my summation. 

First of all, I don’t, as a general rule, look like I am 30.  Most people assume I am in college, and I have even had a couple think I was in high school, as recently as a year ago.  I think this contributed to my feeling like I am not “thirty” in that sense of being stereotypically thirty.  I am aware that part of this assumption of age is based on the fact that all of my jobs are “glorified teenager jobs,” to quote a guy I met one time.  I work for a nanny service and a caterer and a vegetable farm.  People see what I am doing and assume my place in life, which probably contributes to the age bracket they give me.  But moving on, my point is that for the past week or so, I have been looking in the mirror and thinking, “Hmmm…why do I all of the sudden look thirty?”  I have begun to notice the infamous lines around and bags under the eyes, etc.  I think this has been exacerbated by the fact that I have had a cold, and have also been burning the candle at both ends non-stop for over a month.  I guess I need to stop, huh?  Stress really does age you!!  🙂

My second moment is great, though, because of what it symbolizes to me.  It is more like an emotional marker that I didn’t even recognize until after I had done it.  This guy I went to high school with found me on myspace.  He was a few years younger than me (it was a small school), so we weren’t best buddies or anything, but we had a good repoire.  Anyway, he was always one of those kids (I say kids because in high school, he was enough younger than me that I thought of him as a kid, although, of course, the age difference is small enough to be inconsequential now) that was just good-looking…no, good-looking doesn’t get it…hot.  OK, he was hot.  So, now he’s a grown-up.  And guess what?  He’s still hot.  And he’s also in med school.  So, he “friended” me, and I wrote him a message.  And in the message, I told him (along with the fact that I am VERY happily dating the best guy in the world) that I thought he was trying, successfully, to set the bar for the stereotypical “handsome doctor.”  And I did this competely un-self-consciously.  I just said it because I thought it.

“What does this have to do with your age?” you may ask.  The point is that, a few years ago, I would never ***I repeat NEVER*** have told a guy that.  And if I had, by some chance, said that to someone, I would have been kicking myself afterwards…stressed out that they would think I was hitting on them or desperate, etc.  Somehow, now, though, I have gained a different kind of security with who I am and where I am, and a different perspective in my thoughts on what other people might be thinking about me.  I have a good friend who is about 15 years older than me.  She told me once that she felt that as she got older, she got “more comfortable in her own skin.”  She said that if, when she had been 20, she had been as secure in who she was as she was now, at 45, she would have lived life differently – happier, more serenely.  I tried to make it a point right then not to wait until I got to be 45 to feel that…to stop judging myself by how I guessed others might be viewing me, and just be myself, say what I wanted to say, or at least, say what I wanted to say after checking in with God to make sure I was not just spouting off, which I also do.  My point is that I guess I have, to some extent, gotten there.

So, today’s lesson is this: for a minute, I started worrying about the wrinkles around my eyes.  And then I remembered that when I look at people, I do not see wrinkles, I see people.  I do not count their wrinkles or creases or age spots.  What I love in people has nothing to do with that.  And if I want to worry about that and spend a lot of time figuring out how to look younger, then I am going to be taking away from becoming a person that others love because of who they are, and giving them a pretty shell instead.  But even that would be temporary, because, time does not care where you go or what you do…it will find you.  I chose, when listening to my wise friend, to learn to be “more comfortable in my own skin.”  And I’m not going to stop now. 

Thirty? Really?

*Preface: the universe swallowed my first draft of this post…if it seems choppy, bear with me.  My impatience may leave out the trails behind the resultant thoughts.*

It doesn’t seem possible.  This is my reaction to turning thirty, which happens today.  It’s not negative…just weird.  I don’t feel thirty.  Maybe no one ever does.  More than anything, it makes me reflective.  The other day, I watched Peter Pan (the live action movie, not the cartoon).  I’ve always loved this story, but this particular version really brings home the sadness of Peter choosing to stay a boy, alone, rather than growing up with others and to responsibility.   

I have more than a little bit of Peter Pan in me.  When I was eleven, I decided that I wanted to stay eleven forever.  It seemed a good age to me…old enough not to be under constant supervision, young enough that my livelihood was not dependent on my own actions.  I don’t know if most eleven year olds think things like that…maybe I was just odd.  But, as you can see, my wish to remain 11 forever was not granted.  And I’m OK with that.  Actually, eleven was pretty miserable as I remember it.  But, in looking back, I am wondering if all of my nineteen years since have been spent trying to resist growing up. 

In the movie, when Hook is threatening to kill Peter, Peter replies, “To die would be an awfully great adventure.”  But at the end of the movie, while staring wistfully into the nursery window at Wendy and Michael and John and the Lost Boys now welcomed into the family, he says, “To live would be an awfully great adventure.”  But he cannot move past his unwillingness to take on the responsibility it requires.   

I have had the same sentiment.  More often than not, it seems wonderfully exciting and dramatic to think of having to fight for something with swords or of having to sacrifice myself, leaving behind a legacy of heroism.  But moving on, day in, day out, seems almost nothing but arduous.  Satan uses tragedy to trip some people up.  For me, he uses monotony…the routine that lays out in front of me, and from which I can see no escape.   

Paul (in the Bible) must have had the same war within himself.  In Philippians 1: 21-26 he says, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.”  He must’ve been tired of the day to day as well, but knew that Christ had him here, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of others.

All of the great stories of triumph that we love seem to be full of excitement.  But the waiting and the sameness and the loneliness in those stories all ends, for us, after a chapter.  We are able to reach the zenith of the tale in a day, and see that all of this character’s suffering was worth it.  And during the struggle, we urge them on.  We will them not to give up, not to lose heart, not to doubt.  Their years of plodding along flutter by us as we turn the page, insignificant in light of the glory to come.   

What of my own life, though?  I cannot turn the page when all I have to do is continue walking in the path I have been walking, not knowing where it is taking me.  All I can do is walk or not walk.  It becomes a question of what kind of character I want to be in my story.  Do I want to be the character who languishes, loses interest in the quest, drifts out of the story because of their inability to hang on, to believe?  The characters I love are the ones who persevere, even when all reason is against it.  That is the character I want to be.   

There is also a point in Peter Pan where the mother explains that there are different kinds of bravery.  Dialogue below: 

Children: “Father? Brave?”                  

Mother: “There are many different kinds of bravery.  There’s the bravery of thinking of others before oneself.  Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens, but he’s made many sacrifices for his family… and put away many dreams.” 

Children: “Where did he put them?”                     

Mother:  “He put them in a drawer.  And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them.  But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer.   He does.  And that is why he is brave.” 

I think I am full of Peter Pan bravery, but I don’t have much of Father’s type.  Not that I’m saying I have to put my dreams away in a drawer, but I would like to have the kind that thinks of others before myself, the kind that does not fault the world for making dreams difficult to reach, the kind that does not allow circumstances to shape who I am.   

With that said, I must say goodbye to Peter Pan.  I accept responsibility for my actions and my reactions, for my life, for my relationships, and for what comes out of them, because I know that to live is an awfully great adventure.  It does not cease to be so, simply because I cannot see the grand finish, and will have been so even if I never see the outcome of any of my actions.  Apparently, God knew I would feel this way.  Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Every renewal of hope, every remembrance of beauty, every act of kindness, every smile and every mundane thing in life that is performed with joy – these are feats of heroism. 

Peter Pan

by Patty Griffin 

Hey, Peter Pan
I’m going home now
I’ve done all I can
Besides I’m grown now
I’ll think of you all painted with the night
You sit and watch from somewhere
As one by one the lights go out

I wrote a note to tell you how you matter
When the rain came down
All the letters scattered
And washed away
Drifted off to Never
Where you’ll be safe from me now forever

I believe you now when
You say that this will hurt
So I don’t have to go and
Play with you in the dirt now

Hey Peter Pan
I’m going home now
I’m all grown up
You’re on your own now
I’ll think of you all painted with the night
You sit and watch from somewhere
As one by one the lights go out 

Lessons from a Six Year Old

In case y’all haven’t figured this out yet, I over-analyze everything.  Or maybe I just analyze everything.  I’m not really sure if there is an overage.  The past few days I have been seriously contemplating the psyche of this six year old girl I babysit pretty frequently.  I was telling my boyfriend that if she didn’t figure something out, she was going to lead one miserable life…not that I’m giving up on anyone at six, you know.  She’s a great kid – smart, funny, all that stuff.  Her problem is that no matter what is going on, what game we’re playing or how many people are around, she tries to control everything.  Rules, rules, rules…she is constantly making up rules that everyone else is supposed to follow…things like which side of the yard boys are allowed on and who is supposed to play with whom and when it is time to move onto the next game.  But those are the big rules.  Just trust me when I say that she has serious micro-management issues.  And she always gets upset, because the world (other people) just don’t always follow her rules.  The other day it was slightly chaotic as there were cousins visiting.  Four cousins, to be precise.  Add this to my standard two and we get six, yes, six kids.  So, as you could easily surmise, this was a recipe for disappointment for my six year old girl.  Getting her sensitive, introspective four year old brother to be her puppet seems to be a specialty.  However, trying to use the same treatment on said 4 cousins was simply a hopeless case.  Nobody would EVER play what she wanted to play, and definitely not the way she had envisioned it being played.  I always try to talk to her when she gets upset by situations like this, hoping that some of it will sink in at some point.  I say things like, “You can’t expect everybody to follow your rules all of the time, especially when there are this many people.  You just have to kind of go with the flow and try to have fun.”  Response: “But I don’t WAAANNNT to go with the flow,” with much sobbing.  Me again, “Well, everybody doesn’t want to play the same thing you want to.  They get to choose what they play, and you get to choose what you play, but you don’t get to choose for them.”  Her response, “Why is it always about what they want?!”  I’m not sure how to get across that it could be about what she wants, too, if she let it be, but controlling her own destiny is not enough for her.  “I want to play with _______ (insert name),” she says.  The problem is she doesn’t care if they want to play back as long as they do.  She really does want little puppet playmates who will sit where she wants them to sit and play with the things she tells them to play with (and nothing else, mind you) and do it exactly the way she imagined.  The other kids around are usually quite content as long as they get to choose for themselves what they do at a given moment.  She is not happy unless everyone is following her command.  That is what she wants to do, so unless there is a subject to control, she is not getting to do what she wants to do, even if she has chosen her own action.  Are you following me here?  I have a point, really I do, but it’s even sort of lost in my own head right now, so I’m sure you guys have probably all stopped reading by now.  I can see how, given that what she wants to do is tell everyone else what to do, it could seem to her that she never gets to do what she wants to do.  I sort of feel bad for her in that I’m not sure how to make her see that if that person does not want to play what she wants to play, then she really does not want to play with that person. 

I have actually sort of taken this in a different direction than I meant to, although I have thought these things.  But it’s taken me away from my point(s).  My point is that I have been looking at myself and realizing how much I follow in this pattern of thinking.  I want everyone to behave the way I think they ought to (as mentioned in my Recipro-City post), and I get really grouchy when they do not.  I do not exactly expect to be able to control them, but I do always think that they must not be trying hard enough to listen to the voice of reason.  I do, actually, often think it is my duty to show them what they are doing wrong and what they should do to fix it.  So, in a way, I do try to control because then I am frustrated if they do not change. 

You may have gathered from a few of my other posts that I have been a little frustrated with jobs and things, which translates into something akin to depression as jobs take up a lot of time, you know, and so when jobs are what’s buggin’ you, well, it’s hard to get away from it. 

But tonight, I took a lesson on what NOT to do from a six year old.  I always wish that I could make her see that her position is not so bad…that at this moment, she gets to choose her activity.  I am not making her do anything unpleasant.  She is surrounded by fun things to do in the great American home of toys and more toys and yards and swing sets and sprinklers and puzzles and books and crayons…all of which she enjoys.  All this to choose from, yet she is choosing to be miserable instead. 

I have been doing this myself…coming home from work and choosing to allow the frustration to follow me around like a shadow into everything else I do.  When I am not at work, the moments are mine (well, really God’s if I let them be, but you know what I mean).  They are mine, but I had been relinquishing them to the power that I had given to my frustration.  All moments were held captive by what I was not allowed to do or by what I was forced to do.  Tonight I looked at my evening and remembered that it was mine.  I got to choose what I did with it.  I have not been choosing very wisely here lately…turning to things that keep my mind thoughtlessly occupied, and in this only adding to the feeling that I was not doing anything worthwhile. 

There are a lot of points that I have not made, although I alluded to them.  Here are two of the main things I am trying to teach myself through this:

1) Even if my rules are the best rules and the game I made up would be the best game if everyone would pay attention (which is all highly unlikely), I can only force the rules upon myself.  Trying to force other people into my mold will always make me miserable.

2) When I am allowed to choose what I do with my own time, I should choose wisely and let it be enough, because THAT moment is my own.  The bad should not be allowed to creep into the good.  (By the way, I think this is sort of a lazy-man’s fix.  The real fix is to figure out how to get the good to creep into the bad.)

My Farming Adventures and Change

I wrote a while back about perhaps taking on a little work at an organic farm.  This I have done.  This is my fourth or fifth week there, I can’t remember.  I’ve been working 1-2 days a week in between my other duties.  I’ve stuck with the second one I tried.  The first one was a larger 60+ acre farm, and seeing as how I was wanting to do this so I could learn how to garden organically for myself, well, it just wasn’t gardening the way I would have to be gardening in my back yard.  If I ever get a back yard, you know.  No, that farm had tractors and many other types of farm equipment which I cannot begin to name.  I didn’t think I would learn as much because the work would be so much more spread out…I would get left out of a lot of the steps in the process.

So, I moved on to this approximately 1.5 acre farm, with 2 big plots and 3 greenhouses (or hoop houses, as my boss there calls them).  This is more back yard speed, although it cannot be called a back yard operation by any means.  This lady makes her whole living off of an acre and a half.  Pretty impressive to me!  She does the local farmer’s markets and supplies a few things to some local restaurants.  But it’s all by hand, you know, hoes and things.  She also has chickens and bees.  I think she does the chickens and bees herself as we’ve never had to mess with them yet. 

Well, I’m learning things, and I picked a great time to decide to do this as we are just at the hottest part of the year.  Fortunately, I don’t mind the heat nearly as much as most, but it still wears you down after a while!  I like to learn things, although one of the things I’ve learned is that I am allergic to tomato plants.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I didn’t even know you could be allergic to tomato plants, but, let me tell you, you can.  The first couple of times we picked them, I just got a bit itchy.  Last time we picked them, I got an unbearably itchy rash.  Thankfully, it went away after a couple of hours.  This marks the beginning of long-sleeved tomato picking. 

I also have learned that I think this would be much more rewarding if it was, indeed, my own garden in my own back yard where I was growing things for my own dinner table.  No big surprise there really.  The point is that it has not cured my growing restlessness and need for some CHANGE!!! 

I think people get nervous when I start talking like this…I can hear the whispers, “Uh, oh.  What’s she going to do?  Is she going to quit her job before she gets another one…again?”  No, ladies and gentlemen, I am not known for my stick-to-it-iveness.  Mostly in the area of jobs.  Not exclusively, but we’ll leave it at that for now.  I don’t think (I repeat think) that it is because of a lack of ability to persevere.  I just have not ever felt that any of my jobs were important enough to me to persevere through them if I started disliking them that much.  And, unfortunately, I can’t think of a job that I would feel that way about.  Refer back to my Ambition post if you need more explanation for my complete lack of that quality. 

So, does anyone have any ideas about jobs that would be exciting and/or interesting enough to hold the attention of this non-degreed (therefore mostly unqualified), yet very versatile (if I may say so myself) individual?  I like to hear people’s thoughts.

I promise I’ll get back to being intellectual one day.  Right now I’m trying to figure out my life.

Last random thought for the day: if they only grow vegetables, can I call it a farm?  Because when I say farm, everyone thinks I mean cows and stuff.  But saying garden just doesn’t seem right….

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