I Still Believe

This weekend, I had the privilege of watching my friends’ little girl in her spring dance recital. It was a long recital, with many acts before hers. I found myself fascinated with one of the older dancers, who was probably nearing graduation. I was stunned by the resemblance she held to one of my former youth group students; I couldn’t get over it. Yet I knew it wasn’t her; it couldn’t be her. She was a few years older than this girl and had none of the same opportunities. As I sat there comparing the two, a girl I knew and the girl dancing on the stage, I was overcome with sadness.

While I didn’t know the dancer, I did know that she had been afforded the opportunity to take a wide variety of dance classes for many years. She had someone in her life who believed in her dream, who paid for her classes, who got her where she needed to be on time. She had someone who invested in her costumes, her haircuts, her shoes…someone who invested in her desire to be the best dancer she could be.

The girl I knew wasn’t given the same opportunities. She lived on the fringe, battling personal demons from a young age. Her mom was peripherally involved in her life but could barely keep her own together; her father was nowhere to be found. When I met her, she was full of unexpressed rage and pain. She was cutting, drinking and doing who knows what else, beyond the handful of prescribed medications she took daily to keep her hanging onto this world by her fingernails. Child protective services was aware of her but for whatever reason, they chose not to remove her.

She ran with a rough crowd and didn’t come to youth group with any frequency. I did my best to remind her she was loved and cared for when I did see her, always approaching cautiously and gently, encouraging her to share some of her heart with me. She’d occasionally let her guard down with me for a moment before she’d realize what she’d done – and the gates would crash down again. My heart broke for her each time and it broke again this weekend as I watched her very image dance across the stage time and again. We’ve lost touch over the years and I so hope she has found her way. Either way, I hope that she remembers that out here in the world, someone still cares and still believes in her.

The Shortness of Life

A physician I worked with for several years passed away last week. It was sudden – a heart attack, from what I understand. We had traveled and worked together often but didn’t have the type of relationship where we would have kept in touch after I moved to Virginia. Still, when I heard the news, I was taken aback for a moment.

You hear it said when people pass, "Life is short." "Hug your loved ones." "Make sure you never leave anything unsaid – you just don’t know." All these things are true; all should be paramount in our relationships regardless.

But we get caught up in the day-to-day, in the busyness of the business of life. We get wrapped up in and focused on the petty annoyances of life. We get stuck, stalled out in our jobs, relationships, and even more so, on the path to fulfilling our hopes and dreams. How often do we want to do something but put aside that dream for another day: after the kids graduate, after soccer season, after I retire…and then how often do those things come to fruition?

Think for a moment: what is it that is holding you back? Why or how might it be different in a year, two, sixteen? What would happen if you just took a leap of faith and booked the trip? Ended the relationship? Took a class? Took a walk around the block? Updated the resume? What would happen if you truly seized the day? Would your life be richer for it? I’m betting, in no small way, the answer is and could only be yes.

Settling In

I had an interview this week for my local CASA. It was somewhat startling, even to me, when I heard myself say that the two year commitment they request would be no problem, as I was not going anywhere. Even at my most stable time before moving to Virginia, I think that question would have caused me pause.

But now, I’m unpacked. My photos and artwork adorn the walls; knick knacks and souvenirs are scattered throughout. I have my new driver’s license and the last pieces to be completed, title and new tags, are somewhat underway.

Yet the mentality of not only my loved ones but also me, somewhat, is of wanting to grab hold of every last moment – to squeeze out every vestige of fun in the time we have together. I’ve reminded a few (and myself, if I’m honest) that I live here now. We can be in the moment, knowing well that there will be more.

Yet as I write that, I wonder. I have several friends dealing with the sudden and unexpected loss of loved ones right now and still others trying to reconcile terrible, possibly terminal, illnesses of theirs. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Not for anyone. How do we reconcile these two things in our lives? I don’t clearly know the answer but I’ll go with this for now:

Be present.
Be kind.
Never leave anything unspoken. I don’t want a single soul I love to leave this life or mine unsure of how grateful I am for them in my life, for all they do, for all the joy they have brought to me by being a part of it all.

It’s a Whole New World

I haven’t written in a long while. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, mind you, but because what I had to say wasn’t fit for public consumption and I was annoying my own self with it all. I was in a funk. I was downtrodden. I was in a bad place, for me, both figuratively and literally.

The last two and a half years was hard. And lonely.

But it was important. I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about how I relate to others in my life. And I learned who would be there for me, no matter what.

I learned how to put myself first. I don’t mean that in a narcissistic way, in the least, but in a way that is healthy and right. I learned that it is ok to say no, and let it simply be "no" without feeling guilty or over-explaining.

I learned that sometimes it is better to be alone than constantly on the go and exhausted. I learned that I not only need to take time to care for myself but that I deserve and need it.

I learned that sometimes what you are good at doesn’t necessarily equal what you truly should be doing or what you really want to do. And that sometimes, what you think you are supposed to do isn’t at all.

I learned that some things truly are just for a season or a reason, just like people.

I learned that change is not a bad thing but sometimes, despite every effort, things don’t work out. And that doesn’t mean you failed. It just means it wasn’t meant to be.

I had decided within a year of my move to Virginia that it simply wasn’t for me. I won’t go into the litany of reasons; I’ll simply leave it at that. I had started applying for jobs back in Pennsylvania about six months in, while halfheartedly still trying to make my experience into something different. When it became clear that change wasn’t coming, I redoubled my efforts – and efforts they were. The end result is that I found a job with a great and growing organization in my hometown and moved back at the beginning of this month.

Five years ago, I honestly would never have considered returning to my hometown. I’d left for college an hour away too many years ago and had stayed about that distance for most of my adult life. Though I stayed close with my family and many friends in the area, it was enough for me then to come visit periodically. But something shifted while I was in Virginia, and when this opportunity arose, I knew it was the exact right thing for this time in my life. It is important for me to be here. I NEED to be here.

And so I am.

I’m settling in well, both at work and in my new home. And I’ve been so lucky to have the support of so many friends and family to help me settle in and to join in my continuous celebration of my return. What’s next, you may wonder? Stay tuned!

Daylight Savings

I’ve become a blogger who doesn’t blog.

I had grand plans for this year; I was going to chart out a calendar and thrill you with my prose. Then, as usual, life got in the way.

I can’t say that I’ve been doing anything monumental at all, really. This winter has been cold and dark and my desire is most often to make my way home from work, crawl into my fleece sheets, and watch sitcoms until I feel motivated to do what needs to be done around the house. But with the “springing forward” of the clocks comes increased daylight, fresh air, and the hope that I’ll be back in the groove soon.

Spinning, Spinning, Spinning

I had all manner of grand plans to make a schedule for writing this year…and stick to it.  And here we are now, in the beginning of the second month – no plan in place. Yet I’m okay with that. I’m in a sort of odd time right now; I was traveling, then I was sick, and I just sort of feel like the world is just spinning, spinning, spinning.  I used to not understand the saying, “The days are long but the years are short” but now I seem to feel the very embodiment of that deep down in my soul. I’m sure there is more to say along that theme and I’ll ponder it for another time…

Joy to the World

Happy new year!  I’ve been saying that to whomever I encounter (and frankly, getting some odd looks since it is the 6th of January, after all.) I’m holding out a lot of hope that 2015 will be a much different year than it’s predecessor.

I’ve mentioned before that, instead of resolutions, friends and I choose a word that is designed to help us focus in the year ahead on things we’d like to change or improve in our lives. As we came to the fourth year of doing this together, I struggled a bit – not for lack of ideas but for too many swirling around.  Could it be “brave”?  Should it be “strength”? Perhaps “peace”?

As Christmas approached and I looked toward spending The Day by myself, a friend suggested I buy a few little things for myself so I would have something to unwrap that morning. I thought it a bit weird but who am I to turn away a gift (especially of my choosing!)  I bought a couple things I needed but really wanted something special;  something I would not ordinarily buy for myself…jewelry!

A few months ago, after completing a particularly trying assignment at work, I had splurged and purchased a charm bracelet for myself.  My first three charms spoke to all that I’ve been dealing with over the past two years:  faith, hope, and freedom.   And so I decided that, for Christmas, I’d buy myself a charm and wrap it up.

I scoured the website to see just what would be perfect and chose three to look at:  courage, strength, and joy.  I was drawn to each for different reasons but I knew as soon as I looked at them that my gift to myself must be joy.  The others were beautiful and meaningful but the sparkle and glint of joy summed up for me not only the true spirit of the holiday season, but also something I’ve deeply desired more of in my life.

I left the jewelry store with a gift wrapped box to place under my tree, smiling all the way.  While I started to think more about joy and about my word for the year, I still was unsure – until Christmas Eve.  I spent the afternoon with friends and then we all headed over to church.  My heart was full as I stood with my friends and sang carols on the steps of the old, beautiful church where the service was to be held.  Upon entering in, I was surprised to find that we would be beginning our time by lighting candles and singing Silent Night;  it had been my experience that the song, and the candles, were traditionally a way to close Christmas Eve service.  Yet the sermon that evening was all about joy and shining light in dark places, which spoke so strongly not only to the intense brokeheartedness our community had faced throughout the fall and even into the days leading up to Christmas…but also to that in my heart as well.  We held our candles throughout, ending the evening with one of my very favorite holiday songs:  Joy to the World.  And I smiled, knowing that my word had found me this year, instead of the other way around.

Accepting the Gift

It had been a long few days – an earlier start than planned due to forecast snow, running hither and yon to see as many people as I could see in the short time I was in town; the usual.  I stayed too late with a friend with whom I dearly needed to stay late and got on the road after dark.  Within an hour, I was sitting in stopped traffic on the highway, taillights for miles.  It was already 8:30, miles and miles and miles and hours to go before I got back to my place.  I steeled my mind:  I could make it.  It would be late and I would be very tired, but I could make it safely.

Still, in the back of my mind, a niggling doubt.  What if I fell asleep? What if I had to pull over on a windy, desolate back road on the way?  What if someone else fell asleep?

I’d been texting a friend earlier and I looked down to see a reply pop up:  “Just come here.  Seriously.” Her house was about an hour from where I was currently stuck and halfway to where I was ultimately heading.  But my insolence rose up.  I could make it. I wanted to sleep in my own bed.  I’d be fine. I was always fine.

Yet again, that tiny bit of doubt nagged.

Then the phone rang.

It was my friend, calling to reiterate her invitation, to make it clear that I was truly welcome.  I knew that in my heart;  she has always welcomed me into her life and home with nary a reservation.  It was only my stubbornness or, perhaps more accurately, my difficulty asking for and accepting help that was holding me back.  The old me would have declined and then regretted it for the next four hours of nighttime driving in the dark, alone and hypervigilant.

How ridiculous.

Thankful for the gift my friend offered, I gratefully accepted. I got off the highway as soon as I could and made my weary way to her guest room for night.  I continued on my way in the morning, as they set off in search of their Christmas tree, and made it back to town before lunchtime – safe and sound.

The Illusion of Normalcy

I blogged for 31 days and then fell off the face of the earth…or so it must seem.

I have a penchant for more prolific writing (and reading) when things are going well than when I’m struggling.  I realize this, of course, is the opposite of how things should be but as a friend reminded me this weekend, “You’re really good at pretending things are normal.”

On one hand, that statement made me feel a little burst of pride, primarily because it’s true.  But then I realized that that is exactly what I’ve been working hard over the past several months to overcome.  I’ve grown weary of the smoothing over, the unruffling of feathers, the defusing of tempers.  A “proverb” of sorts has become my mantra, in the days I can stand up and not fall back into my well-ingrained patterns:

not my circus2

I recently attended a seminar at work about partnering with your boss.  The overall gist is simply that you can fight and whine and moan and complain about how someone in leadership does things…or you can change.  Certainly, you can’t change them.  It’s the same with people-pleasing, with creating this illusion of normalcy – it doesn’t change anything. And if you want to see change, the only steps you can take are your own.