Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, September 24, 2012

B-E Aggressive?

"Not causing harm obviously includes not killing or robbing or lying to people. It also involves not being aggressive -- not being aggressive in our actions, our speech, or our minds."
- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

My spiritual director lent me the Pema Chodron book with the disclaimer that it wasn't negative, or that he meant to imply that my life was falling apart. I took the book with the assurance that my life had certainly fallen apart and I was willing to get whatever input I could on how to put it back together again. Be careful what you wish for.

In last night's reading I found the quote above, and what immediately leapt to mind was my high school cheerleaders singing "Be aggressive, B - E aggressive!" at our basketball and football games. It's been part of my mindset since I was at least 11 or 12, seeking to compete in school and sports. And yet Chodron says I need to break this cycle in order to be non violent with myself and with others.

I see that competition, like anything else, can be done to excess. I see that it isn't inherently bad, but can turn bad.  I've never before seen it as violent. Yet now, as I reflect on how I punished my body in self-competition, drove wedges in friendships due to competition with others, I see that competition is violent, and I am more ready than ever to excise it. Unfortunately, I have those damned cheerleaders singing in my head and each day I have to plug my ears to them, as well as to the voices that tell me I am lost, am no one, if I don't compete for status, money, position, influence, excellence.

But all that was taken away from me in the past four months and those I love and care about did not desert me. It really does turn out to be that my presence is more important than my accomplishments, that "be-ing" is way more important than doing. All I need to do now is remember that little fact as I re-enter the mainstream of life.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thursday Thoughts on Love

I spent a lovely hour with my Just Faith family this morning, and during our time of prayer, meditation and reading I gathered a few wonderful quotes. My daily email from Richard Rohr yielded a third. Good food for thought as I re - vision my self and purpose.

"Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but love that does not lead people to a whole new kind of power is mere sentimentality and emotion."
- Father Richard Rohr

"My occupation--love. . . it is all I do."
- John of the Cross

"What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who knows you, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything."
- Pedro Arrupe

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Don't Call it a Comeback

I don't know if you saw the Broncos play the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday but it was a dire and desperate first half for the Broncos. I went to bed in exhausted disgust, leaving Rob to cheer on the home team.  Next morning, the headlines showed the score narrowed to 27 - 21 (not in our favor) and Rob observed, "the Broncos almost staged a comeback."  At which point our six year old started to rap, "Don't call it a come back, don't call it a come back."  He has the lyrics to 80's rap song "Mama Said Knock You Out" apparently on speed dial in his brain.

The gut-busting laughter that followed was a great moment but even more than that, Daniel's rap got me thinking. Am I staging a (lengthy) comeback or am I headed in a new direction? On Sunday (well before the game) I went to 9:00 services at church and heard a great sermon on how "passion plus vision equals transformation."  I've been long on passion in my life but not always strong on vision. Reverend Millard compared passion to a car's engine and vision to it's steering wheel. With a lot of passion and no vision, your car goes tearing around in circles. With vision and no passion, your car is pointed in the right direction but never gets anywhere. For the past eighteen months I have approached short-term goals (mainly in athletics) with great passion but with no long-term vision. I circled off onto a specious road-ramp, away from the main highway and purpose of my life.

So I wouldn't say my prayed-for return to health is a comeback. I need to restore both my energy and passion as well as install a long-term vision for how I can best serve my family and friends and community. That's a lot of work to do, and sometimes I think my healing is slow because I have so much spiritual and mental work to do as well as so much physical damage to repair. As always, I struggle to be patient and trust any timeline that is not my own. But a little music and laughter goes a long way.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Re-entry is Bumpy

I just re-read my previous post and wanted to scratch its eyes out. What idiot wrote about recovery and new directions in such an irritatingly positive and light-hearted tone? Re-entry is bumpy and difficult and uneven.  My tendency is to want to tie things up in a knot, but as soon as I turn my back it all unravels like the twine supposedly holding my string beans in the garden.

A good friend of mine, who is a retired Presbyterian minister, once said, "sometimes God just says 'no'. The door slams in front of you and He doesn't open a window anywhere, or at least not for a while. You're just left staring at the closed door." In discussing this with another friend, who is a social worker, she observed that it's really hard to see a window opening when you are throwing a temper tantrum in front of the closed door and banging on it for all you're worth.

Saturday became a day of closed doors, frustration and anxiety, as I failed to nap well (I sound like a colicky infant here, which indeed I was about 41 years ago), had difficulty herding my son and family to the soccer game, and struggled to assist my husband in any way with the new office. Fortunately I made it to church Sunday, where our minister preached an inspired text on accepting the will of God. He noted that if we don't get what we want when we pray, we're not alone. It's fine to ask for life events to bend to our will but when we're left in a different situation we have to trust that God's will takes us to a better place. Life is like Denver's western skyline, uneven peaks and valleys where the only rule is that "this too, shall pass."

So I continue to struggle with accepting the pace of my recovery and my current limitations. I try to accept where I am and not worry about where I should be (or where other people are). I am definitely on the road up from a deep valley, but it's going to take a while. I have a lifetime of stubborn willfulness to combat, where splintered doors are more common than new windows.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Things

"Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
- Isaiah 43: 18 - 21

I spent twenty amazing minutes in the pool yesterday, carefully monitoring my heartrate and pausing between fifties to breathe deeply and stretch out. This slow re-entry to the water was a baptism of sorts. Swimming is an old activity for me, but my approach is new. In fact, many things now will be new, though I am certainly the same person, with the same crazy personality and same loving family and friends.

My body continues to improve, and as I get stronger I become less anxious about the future and more excited to start a new path. I am eager to spend time with friends again, reveling in the freedom to spend long mornings with them instead of cramped sessions between workouts. I want to return to yoga, start pilates, look for dance classes - any activity where I can stretch myself, be creative, and avoid competition. Of course, I may have to wear a blindfold to entirely avoid comparing myself to others, but hopefully I'll come around!

There remains some grieving to work through. I will miss the energy and adrenaline rush of competition and boot camp class, and I will miss the camaraderie of these activities. I will miss the image of myself as a Super Woman and athletic winner. But I won't miss being tired all of the time, and I won't miss constant nagging injuries, and I certainly won't miss illness.

I am grateful to be emerging into this second chance at living my adult life. I know I need to be careful and not rush into any activities - old or new - but I have enough family and friends to remind me of that! Love to you all - Laura