Tag Archives: potential

Unexpected Casualties

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Today, on my way to work, I hit a bird with my car.  It was bizarre and traumatic.  I was driving along, cursing how hot it was in my car and wishing the blasting air would start to cool it, and then it happened.  A small bird flew out from the brush to my right and was right in front of me.  I didn’t see it pass my bumper, and as I looked in my rear-view mirror, I saw it tumble down to the road.  I screamed and was so confused about how I had run a bird over with my car.  I felt horrible!

I forgot all about the bird as my hectic day went on.  I got back into my car, tired and ready to be home, and left work.  As I pulled out of the parking lot, I remembered the bird.  I was saddened as I thought about it and, because my mind is frequently in hyper mode, thought about the implications.

It was weird and a (hopefully) once in a life time accident.  But it happened.  We do harm when we don’t intend to, or even understand that we are about to.  We say and do things that seem small, that appear to be innocuous, but they break and kill and wound.  You expect to hit a cat or skunk with your car, but not a bird.  They have defenses, the upper hand.  The odds were against me taking out a flyer, but I did.  So much of what we say or do has no evil intent.  We shouldn’t be able to hurt others with the little jabs, but they leave scars that never fade.  It catches us by surprise how powerful we are, how destructive we are, how fragile we are.

This should be an epiphany.  I should know that I have the ability to change others with small actions, to devastate with my words.  I should remember that the smallest gestures matter, that sticks and stones may shatter bones, but words go after the soul.  I affect others, and may not even realize when it happens.  And yet, the snarky remarks will slip (or spew) out.  The eye rolls will sneak in.  I am me, in all my cruelty and callousness.  I am more than just that: I am kind and considerate, loving and loyal.  But the darkness is there too, defines me just as much as the good.  It is also just as powerful.  If nothing else, this will hopefully cross my mind from time to time and remind me that there are big consequences to all that I do, even when it’s a little accident.

“We’re all damaged, it seems.  Some of us more than others.  We carry the damage with us from childhood, then as grown-ups, we give as good as we get.  Ultimately, we all do damage.  And then, we set about the business of fixing whatever we can.” Gray’s Anatomy, “Damage Case”

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Settling for…?

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“I’ve always believed the greater danger is not aiming too high, but too low, settling for a bogey rather than shooting for an eagle.” –Peter Scott

I have thought a lot about the idea of settling lately.  Like nearly everything in life, there are two sides to the argument, multiple perspectives to the idea.  Settling can be bad and good, life and death, enough or disappointment.

I watched an episode of the Bonnie Hunt Show where the staff was discussing the book Marry Him!: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Mary Gottlieb.  I have not read it myself, but the jist seems to be that we have so many little hang ups, such high expectations and dreams about the man we will love, that we miss amazing people.  We imagine that our husband will be tall and Catholic so we do not give the short Baptist a chance.  With all of these trivial criteria, we let wonderful people slip by us.  To settle is to be realistic, to accept the flaws and see what really matters.  It’s learning to throw out preconceptions and plans and be open to finding love where we might not have imagined.  Perfection is overrated.  We are told to settle for nothing but the best.  Why eat Hershey when Godiva is available?  We spend our lives trying to be the best, be first, be perfect, and miss so much along the way.  Life is messy and we need to be willing to settle for something different, something we never expected.  We need to see that “good enough” really is enough, is fulfilling and satisfying. 

Then the flip side is that “good enough” is not “good,” let alone “great.”  It is not what we truly want, it’s what we can get.  Settling is selling our dreams, our plans, ourselves short.  We fear that something better will come, that we deserve more, that we’re tapping out before the fight is over.  It’s the tension that drives the mediocre Deal or No Deal game show.  Do you push on?  Are you being offered enough?  Is there something better waiting to be discovered?

I’m flailing somewhere in the middle of these two points.  I am settling left and right in my life.  I have begun to try harder to get a new job, but for three years, a job I hate has been enough.  Times are hard and a paycheck was worth settling for.  I feel unchallenged and degraded, but I’ve begun to feel like there is not much else for me.  I used to dream big, hope high.  I’ve come to question why I think I’m better than this, what makes me so sure that I deserve more.  I have thought momentarily about pursuing a credential to teach.  I love children and language, but I can’t bring myself to become a teacher.  Since I was young, I’ve been told I would be a great teacher.  I studied English, so every person I meet asks if I plan to teach.  I feel an anxiety attack come on when I think about teaching not because I don’t think I’d like it, but because it feels like settling.  I feel cornered, pigeon-holed before I could choose.  I don’t want to settle, but I have been for years. 

I think about relationships.  Do you hold out for the one who is perfect, the one who might be out there?  Or do you settle for someone good and kind, someone who is willing to settle for you?  Even in my friendships I settle.  I hang out with friends from work because my other friends have moved away.  I do what they want just to not be alone.  And it all feels worth it, to not be alone.  But they are not people I would choose for friends, if I could afford to choose.  They don’t challenge me, support me, bring me joy, but I settle for them because they are here, willing.  Sometimes it’s enough, and for that I am grateful.  Sometimes it’s not enough, and for that I feel all the more lonely.

So what do you do?  What do I do?  Do you take “good enough” and enjoy what you have?  There is something to be said for enough, for adequate, for average.  Friends are better than no one.  A crappy job is better than unemployment.  Or do you refuse to settle?  Do you decide that you earn, need, deserve, want more?  Do you refuse to settle for something less, demanding the best?  Do you fight and work for what you want, risk not achieving it, for the chance that you will?  I don’t know.  I have no answers here.  I just feel like across the board, I have settled for a lot in the past three years.  Some days it feels okay, like I expected too much and enough really is enough.  Other days, I am overwhelmed with fear that I have settled too often and missed my chances to try.  It’s two sides of the same coin.  Maybe it depends on the situation, the thing you are settling for, and how much you are willing to sacrifice.  Maybe it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice, so you can stand to put away the dreams.  Or maybe it’s too big, too important to accept less than you want.  How do you tell?  And how do you cope when “good enough,” isn’t?   

“There’s something to be said about a glass half full. About knowing when to say when. I think it’s a floating line. A barometer of need and desire. It’s entirely up to the individual. And depends on what’s being poured. Sometimes all we want is a taste…” –Grey’s Anatomy  

In a Past Life…

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“Sometimes someone says something really small and it just fits into this empty place in your heart.”My So-Called Life

Yesterday I saw my high school Algebra teacher.  He was accompanied by his wife, who also worked at my high school as a counselor and vice principal.  This would be unremarkable if I were in my home town, but I was at work 600 miles from home.  I second-guessed myself when I fist saw him, but his wife was unmistakable.  I wanted to find a reason to speak to them, knowing that a decade after I took his class he would have no reason to remember me, but was busy with customers. 

My mood lifted when I saw them, a piece of home where I never expected it.  Finally I approached his wife and introduced myself.  She was never my counselor, so she also had no reason to recognize me.  When I told her my name she smiled and said that she remembered it from my time at the school.  While this may have been polite courtesy, she then asked who my parents were and nodded as I named them, making connections in her head.  Finally, she asked I attended the elementary school that, in fact, I did attend.  She laughed and said that she knew me through my sixth grade teacher, her close friend and walking partner.

This whole interaction left me glowing.  A woman who had no business knowing me and, in fact, did not know me, somehow knew who I was.  She remembered my name, my history, my people.  She could have feigned recognition, but she knew me through a teacher that I loved.  There was a time in my life when I was someone people knew.  I was involved, a leader, someone who stood out.  For twenty-two years, I was noteworthy.  I’ve spent the past three years being reminded how unimportant, unremarkable, insignificant I am.  I am surrounded by people who do not know my name, even when I am wearing a name tag.  I have come to have a hard time discerning which me is the real me, which is the fraud. 

Tonight I spent time with some friends from college.  I met many of their new friends, most of whom are pursuing post-graduate degrees or are working in fulfilling “real” jobs.  I felt out of place, embarrassed whenever I was asked what I do.  At the same time, I talked with new people, asked about their lives, was engaging and enjoyed getting to know them.  In a moment of clarity, I saw the me that used to be confident, personable and social.  I saw the person I used to be, that person that relative strangers knew.  Inadequacy quickly took over and I was ready to hide in my anonymity soon enough, but for a few minutes, the old me surfaced. 

On the way home, my friend played a “sweet” song for me.  Not being a fan of country music, I was biased and not incredibly inclined to listen, but I gave it a shot.  My polite patience turned into almost immediate tears.  The song was “The House That Built Me,” about going back to your roots when you’re lost.  It’s about revisiting a childhood house, but it’s so much more.  It’s finding the place that created the person you are, the world that bore you.  Finding that origin, that point of creation, might bring back the person we’ve lost. 

While there is a powerful healing that comes from visiting my house, home is much more.  Home is seeing the friends who knew me when I worked hard, achieved high and led my peers.  Home is seeing my parents, getting notes from them in the mail.  It’s seeing someone who knew you by reputation, who remembers you a decade later, and gently reminds you that you are someone worth seeing. 

I was someone important, someone impressive.  I do not say this arrogantly or lightly.  I say this because I was reminded, by a piece of home, of who I used to be in my past life.  I say this because I hope, deep inside, I still am. 

“I thought if I could touch this place or feel it/ This brokenness inside me might start healing/ Out here it’s like I’m someone else/ I thought that maybe I could find myself…”  –Miranda Lambert, “The House That Built Me”

A Season of Potential

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“Mary, did you know/ That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?/ And when you kiss your little boy/ You’ve kissed the face of God…” –Mark Lowry

I love the Christmas season.  Advent does not even seem long enough to prepare for Christmas.  A mere four weeks simply does not give enough time to be ready for the holiday.  I have always loved Christmas, as far back as I can remember.  I’m sure that the showering of gifts didn’t hurt my childhood love of the holiday, but there is so much more to it than that. 

I love the preparation for Christmas.  As I think about my family’s traditions, so much comes to mind that I will have to save that for another night.  So full of nostalgia and comfort, our rituals are as much a part of the holiday as the date itself.  I love the closeness of people, the openness and generosity, that surrounds the holiday.  I love the food, the celebration and joy that surrounds the day.  And I especially love Christmas carols.

Working retail has almost broken me of my love for Christmas music.  For a holiday that is deeply religious in its origin, there are few songs that are strictly secular.  Those few are the ones that repeat all day long in the store.  They are jolly and festive, but rarely as moving as those that at least mention, if not celebrate, the origin of the holiday. 

Today, for the first time this season, I heard part of Mary Did You Know? on the radio.  This song, first introduced to me in Catholic elementary school, has always moved me.  The lyrics are beautiful and the song is almost haunting in its questioning.  Did she know that the baby she carried would be who He was?  I have studied the Gospels in detail and I know the stories of the Nativity relatively well.  Biblically, the angel came to her and another visited Joseph.  Sure, they got the jist of what was to come, of how much this child would change their lives.  So little scripture is devoted to them and the start of their family, that it’s easy to over-simplify the gravity of their situation.  I wonder how much they really understood. 

This song hits so deeply at the personal side of the story.  I think this is probably why I find it so moving.  My dad has told me that as a parent it is a completely different experience to listen to the lyrics.  Did that girl have any idea what she and her little boy were in for?  As she felt Him grow, as she gave birth, as she held and fed and bathed Him, did she have any idea?  Could she have foreseen the crucifixion when she washed His scraped knees?  Did she really understand the incarnation of God in her baby?  Can anyone wrap their mind around that in a finite way?  Or was she just a new mother, glad that the child was alive and had ten fingers and toes? 

I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle and my two young cousins.  One of my cousins just turned five and the other one.  They are such tiny people, already forming personalities.  They have opinions and ideas and tell stories.  Despite these things, they are so unformed.  There is so much more about them that will develop and grow and define them.  It’s exciting to think that they are just starting to become actual people, to be more than cute little talking dolls.  I don’t see them as often as I would like, so when I do, they are so different!  They change and grow so quickly, and I’m excited to watch them grow up.  The older they get, the more excited I am to know them and witness their lives unfolding. 

I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way.  Did they revere their son and see Him as God, or did they get excited when He started to become someone.  Did they know He was destined for things that the word “great” doesn’t even begin to describe, or was is just fun to hear Him tell stories and be excited over bugs and leaves and every little that caught His eye?  I know that Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, place Mary in high esteem and like to think of her as holy and special.  I do not think that she was unimportant or ordinary.  I do think she was human.  I think it makes the story so much better to think of her that way.  She was a young, first-time mother who knew her baby was different, knew that she was different, but couldn’t possibly know the big picture.  She was a mom.  It had to have been hard and tiring and exciting and scary and joyful and frustrating and everything in between.  It had to have been fun to watch His hesitant first steps and hear Him talk about His friends and watch Him be a big brother.  The biggest part of the miracle of Christmas, the part that is so important, was the humanity.  God became human.  It’s a much better story when His parents are too.

“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.”  –Maria Montessori