After posting on Monday about choosing hope over despair, I thought I’d revisit one of the first pieces I wrote this year, to remember how far we’ve come.
2018 was the year that I stopped rucking. I finally had to set down my pack.
According to my son, who served in the 82nd Airborne, “rucking” is a long march, 15-20 miles or more, with a heavy pack of gear strapped on your back.
The soldier carries necessities — provisions, weapons, extra socks, and the like — and moves forward. The more he does this, the better he gets at it — the longer he can go, the more he can carry. Soldiers practice rucking, of course, so that when they have to go on a mission, they have the strength and endurance they need to endure.
I had gotten pretty good at rucking in my former life…
I was standing behind him in a crowded grocery store on my lunch hour. We were in the line for the personal checkout — the one where you scan your own items and pay electronically.
I had just a few items in my cart — a few last minute Thanksgiving ingredients and a cup of soup for lunch. I barely noticed him at first. He was clad in dress pants and sport coat, and I only really acknowledged him because I noticed he had opened his bag of kettle cooked jalapeño chips and he was crunching away.
As I waited, I noticed that our line was rather long and I was blocking the entrance to the checkout lane next to us, so I tried to maneuver my cart to create an opening. When I did this, I came within inches of bumping Mr. Jalapeño, which I wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t said, somewhat loudly and in an irritated tone, “What’s happening here?” as he waved his arm in my direction without turning his head to look at me.
“Oh, I apologize,” I offered, “I was just trying to get out of the–“
He cut me off by flinging his hand into the air, again not looking in my direction, signaling nonverbally, “We’re done here.”
Well, alrighty then, I thought, but I said no more. Sure, internally, I muttered, “Sheesh, what’s got your panties in a knot?” as I watched him walk forward to the next open checkout to pay for the remaining crumbs in the wrinkled chip bag he clutched in his hand, but I didn’t let any sounds come out of my mouth. His words, and that brief gesture, had stung me. I instinctively wanted to sting back.
It took me about five minutes to scroll through all the replies I could have given him as I paid for my items, walked to my car, and put my items in the trunk. Then I snapped myself out of it and started reciting the phrases that have gotten me through many such situations.
His behavior says more about him than it says about me…I have no idea what this man has gone through this morning or what internal battles he’s facing… Lord, have mercy on him, encourage him, surprise him.
As I sat down in my car and turned the key, I felt my adrenaline subsiding. My mantra was working. I checked my rearview mirror and backed my car out of the parking space. Then, as I shifted from reverse to drive, I noticed another car that had just backed out of her space. We’d have to jockey a bit to get around each other, so I backed up, slid over, and shifted back into drive. As we approached one another, to make our way out of the parking lot, I raised my hand to smile and wave a greeting.
However, I saw no reciprocation. Instead, I saw a face drawn back in a stressful expression. Her mouth was moving, but it was not smiling. She was clearly upset.
Oh, dear. I thought. Here we go again.
Her behavior says more about her than it says about me…I have no idea what she has been through this morning or what internal battles she’s facing… Lord, have mercy on her, encourage her, surprise her.
‘Tis the season, my friends — the season of the Grinch.
And, hey, no judgment — I, myself, have been the Grinch.
I have sneered, I have muttered, I have glared, and I have sputtered.
What with all the pressure to find the right presents, make the best meals, get to the parties, and find the best deals, a person could find herself bogged down and annoyed; she could feel overwhelmed, under-sourced, and un-joyed.
(I can’t stop; I promise, I can’t.)
And in this season of giving, celebration, and love, she could find herself fuming and wanting to shove.
So, dear ones, if you, as you wander about, find yourself cheerful and happy, and light on your toes, have mercy on those who are feeling the woes. When they glare, give wide berth, when they sputter, breathe deep. Don’t retaliate, lash back, say harsh words, or weep.
Just remember that underneath all of their sass, these grinches have hearts; they have feelings, alas, they are burdened by struggles, by wounds sometimes deep. If they could, they’d be springing through tasks like young sheep. But they can’t. Not now, but they might again, soon. So hope for them, pray for them, give them some room.
Hurt people hurt people. That’s what they do.
They’ll find their way back. I did, so did you.
In the season of giving, of love, and of hope, let’s make it our business to help others cope. Let’s keep our eyes open, let’s slow down our roll, let’s open our hearts, let’s make peace our goal.
It might make a difference. It might; it might not. But if loving and caring is all that we’ve got, let’s use it, let’s share it, let’s hope for the best. God, we can trust, will take care of the rest.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”
As we head into the holidays, let’s gently remember that not everyone in our path is looking forward to reunions. I re-read the words of this blog this morning and remembered writing them through tears last year — we were broken and anticipating feeling all of that brokenness at the holidays. While much healing has happened in the past year, we are still tender enough to remember — and in that remembering, I want to be sure to take care.
Though we may not have admitted it — we are well on our way into the holiday season. It started with emails and phone calls early in October. Who is doing what for Thanksgiving? Who is hosting? Who will travel?
Discussions of Thanksgiving have already turned into talks about Christmas. Where will we…
In Monday’s post, I described a new relationship I’m building with my emotions, one where I trust their warning flags and stop to listen to their message. The post that follows, from August 2018, comes from a time when I was mired in sadness. As I waded through the tears, I built the muscle that prepared me for this new way.
Barbara Brown Taylor, in Learning to Walk in the Dark, asks “What if I could learn to trust my feelings instead of asking to be delivered from them? What if I could follow one of my great fears all the way to the edge of the abyss, take a breath, and keep going? Isn’t there a chance of being surprised by what happens next?”
I got up early one day this week and headed into work with an extra spring in my step. I was looking forward to some concentrated time to attend to several tasks that needed to be completed by the end of the week and was expecting about two hours of almost uninterrupted time to focus on them. I was charged up to be super productive, and I drove to work practically whistling “Hi ho, Hi ho!”
I parked my car, walked into the building, and ascended two flights of stairs, excited to get right at my work. However, when I walked into our office and saw our office assistant on the phone, I had an uneasy feeling. A 7:55am phone call could mean one of two things: 1) a student was cancelling instruction, or 2) a staff member was calling in late or sick.
I quickly learned that it was the second option, and I would need to cover a session with a student, sacrificing one of my coveted hours of uninterrupted work.
My inspiration and positive attitudequickly turned to frustration and irritation. I mentally stomped through the center gathering materials, grumbling under my breath about how I would be behind for the rest of the day.
I was annoyed, and it was going to take real work to shift my attitude.
Now, I love working with students, but this was not the morning I had expected. The plan that had me whistling and practically skipping into work had been altered, and my psyche was flung from enthusiasm to disappointment. I had to take action so that I could still give my student — and myself — a quality hour of instruction.
With set jaw, I mentally talked myself down — certainly I can recover from one lost hour. I could ask our office assistant to reschedule an appointment, I thought, logging into my computer. I could still get everything done. My blood pressure was coming down; it’ll be ok, I thought. Then, I settled in with my student.
By the time we were finished with our surprisingly fun and effective session, I had mentally realigned my tasks and developed a new set of expectations for how the rest of my morning would go.
And then, you guessed it, my office manager informed me that after my meeting, I would have to take another student hour and sacrifice my newly adapted plan.
I bet you are thinking that at the second change in plans, I much more easily adapted.
I am quite sure my face said it all, “I am not happy. This is not how I pictured my day going.” I glowered and muttered a few discontented comments as I looked at my calendar and my list of tasks. I was definitely and obviously frustrated.
Once again, I talked myself down: Ok, Ok, shift this here, shift that there. It’ll be fine. Come on; you’re a professional. I completed a couple of tasks and then moved into the meeting. I celebrated with a parent who shared some great news, I fully enjoyed my second hour of instruction, and I did, actually, manage to once again redistribute my work and make another plan for its completion before the end of the week.
Everything I was hoping to get done, would get done; it just wouldn’t happen in the way that I had expected.
So here’s the question: why did these small interruptions make me so upset? Why couldn’t I more easily shift gears? Why did I get emotional at each transition?
I retold this saga to my husband when I got home that day, still kind of simmering emotionally. “Why,” I asked him, “why did this make me so upset? I hate feeling this way! I want to be a team player, to go with the flow, to step in and help. Why is it so hard for me to shift gears?”
He, the therapist, said, “That’s your flag. When you respond to something in a way that seems off, you need to ask yourself why.”
As we talked some more, we unearthed a couple of things that were bothering me — some stressors that I hadn’t been realizing were stressors– and I made a plan to address them.
By the next day I was able to communicate some of those frustrations with the people who had the ability to do something about them. This allowed me to stop burying my emotions and, rather, express them appropriately.
I am feeling stretched thin. I am disappointed by this reality. I don’t feel heard.
When I stated my grievances, I was told, “Please be sure to share these things when they come up; don’t carry them around for so long.” But, you know what? I didn’t know how much I was bothered until I started paying attention to the flags.
When my husband said, “That’s your flag,” several images popped up in my mind of other times recently when my emotions flipped like a switch as a result of seemingly insignificant circumstances. I thought to myself, I’ve been overreacting to small things for quite a few weeks. I guess I have been more bothered than I was aware.
This has, of course, happened throughout my life. I’ve snapped at an inconvenience, I’ve growled at a surprise turn of events, and I’ve stomped and slammed when the people in my life didn’t behave in the way that I expected them to. However, rather than noticing these behaviors as flags, I often just chided myself and felt guilty for reacting so emotionally.
I saw myself as too emotional — I cried too much, laughed too loud, and had big emotional responses to almost everything. But I’ve come to see my emotions as a gift — they reveal what’s going on inside of me when I am unaware, and they stand by the side of the road, waving bright red flags so that I’ll stop and take notice. They draw my attention to internal hurts and frustrations so that I will do the work that allows me to be present for others.
Paying attention to the flags this week helped me unearth the real issues. I was never upset that a coworker called in or that I needed to work with a student when I wasn’t planning on it. I was upset for legitimate reasons that had nothing to do with the current situation. I just wasn’t allowing myself to admit it.
Now that I’ve acknowledged some underlying stressors and have some strategies for managing them, I’m hoping to have a more balanced response to the unexpected changes that will undoubtedly arise this week. Maybe when my plans get rearranged, I’ll be able to roll with the punches, unfazed.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
InMonday’s post, “Off the Couch, at the Table”, I briefly mentioned my weight. As age, illness, and circumstance are reflected in my body, I am often tempted to address the surface issues rather than what lies underneath. In this revision of a post from 2015, I recommit to not falling into this old pattern.
What’s your Achilles’ heel — that one weak spot that, if carefully targeted, can render you helpless.
I know what mine is. No, it’s not my drive to be successful. It’s not my tendency to jump in and dothings in order to take charge of a seemingly out of control situation or my ability to turn off emotion in order to get through difficult times. It’s not even autoimmune disease. Those are all things that I battle, of course, but they aren’t…
This one goes way back to September of 2014, but Monday’s post about my momgot me thinking about my grandparents, so please indulge me as I reminisce.
I must mention my grandparents. I was blessed to know my great-grandmother, Elsa Laetz, until she died when I was twenty-four. I knew my grandparents, the Meyers, until they went to join her when I was forty-one. I could write for days about the lessons I learned from these three, but I think I’ll focus today on the importance of family.
I remember climbing into the car with my parents and siblings and driving literally through the woods and over the river to see my grandparents. As we we exited the highway, passed mansions in the historic district and then the Kroger and the Big Boy, my excitement would build. As soon as my dad slid the car into P for park…
On Monday, October 28, 2019, I wrote about writing –how considering purpose and audience impact what we write. Today, I’m re-visiting a post from July 2019 where I closely examined the power of the writing process. Many truths about writing can be applied to life in general.
Every week I feel a hum of anxiety around Wednesday or Thursday….”what am I going to write about this week?” Usually by Friday an idea is forming — an image, a topic, or the sharing of an experience. On Saturday I put words on the page. Sunday is for revising, slashing, and rewriting in order to form a cohesive draft before I fine-tune on Monday morning and finally click “publish”.
Last weekend, I dug out a months-old draft and decided to carry it to completion. I wrote most of the day Saturday — drafting and deleting, writing and revising. By Sunday morning, I…
This post was written in April 2016 — after the first period on the couch and before the second. I was in motion, and I chose to reduce the amount of time I spent on the phone to put more margin into my life. However, my recent stay on the couch may have returned me to some old habits, so I am re-visiting this post in October 2019 to inspire a return to that practice as get back of the couch.
Sometimes when God nudges us to make a change, we make that change and then slowly over time notice the benefits. Other times, we get an immediate indicator that we are heading in the right direction. That happened for me this week.
If you read my recent post, Margin, you know that I decidedto turn off my phone from 8pm to 8am every day. I…
This one goes way back to April of 2015, whew! I had no idea of the lessons I would be learning in this next chapter…but four and a half years later, the children are still leading me toward learning.
This morning I sat across from a six-year old boy who is learning to read. He has memorized many rules and exceptions to rules over the past couple of months. This morning he had so much confidence when reading some words — in fact he helped me ‘learn’ how to break some words into syllables and how to play some games. At those moments his eyes were bright and his smile was wide. But the same six-year old boy had moments of frustration where his eyes were focused on the words, his brows were knit together, and he just couldn’t make sense of the message. He could persist in trying to…