It’s Called Cheating

When you don’t know the answers to the test questions and you ask the person next to you, that’s cheating.

When you copy the answer off the people sitting next to you, that’s cheating.

When you text a classmate and ask them the answer that’s called cheating.

When I tell you it’s not ok to copy or get the answers from another and you tell me that you didn’t do that, that’s lying and cheating.

In todays, public high school classroom, cheating is very common.  Many teachers have learned not to see it because not seeing it makes their lives easier.  They don’t have to make a phone call or explain to a parent why a test grade is a “0” and have the parent insist their child doesn’t cheat.   We humans all believe what we want to believe for good reason or at least we think it’s a good reason.  Protecting one’s job, keeping one’s sanity, are good reasons to avoid acknowledging what is happening around us.

I wish I didn’t see so many students resorting to old-fashioned cheating sometimes with new technology, but I’m a witness.  Children often cheat.  People cheat.  Lying about it or not seeing it doesn’t change what it is.

After a day of witnessing rampant cheating, I confront my son and ask him,

“Have you cheated on a test?”

He hesitates.  I prepare for the answer I know will follow.  I know he is going to say, “yes.”

He knows I am full of righteousness and he knows better than to lie.  “I did last year, all the time. . .”

The pause and the silence tell me that if he cheats this year, he is not eager to admit it.  I know it’s possible.

I tell him,   “If you don’t know the answers and get an “F”, that is an honest “F”.  It’s the grade I prefer.  Cheating is wrong.  I don’t want you to do it.  You are cheating yourself when you resort to that method of getting by.  It doesn’t feel good.  It’s a temporary fix for ignorance.  It’s a cheap fix.  Do your own work.  Rely on yourself.  It’s ok not to know everything.  It’s never ok to cheat.

I remind myself that at least he didn’t attempt to deny it or toss out a bald-faced lie.

Boldly announcing this to the world may not set well with everyone.  I’m ok with that.  I’m actually a little peeved that cheating is so common and there are so few consequences.  What are we really teaching our children?

The Gatherer

For years, I have operated under the delusion that my husband is the pack rat of this pairing.  Apparently, my capacity for denial is extremely well developed.  This past week, we have made 6 trips to donate “stuff”.  We’ve only begun to de-clutter.  I am the source of the acquisition of most of this “stuff.”  I am an amazing gatherer.

All this stuff has been making me a bit crazy.  The clutter tugs at my mind with confusion.  What to focus on?  What is important?   What to keep?  What to give away?  These are important questions that have often been lost in the”stuff” that floats around me like a Sargasso Sea.  I am the center of this stagnant spot.  With admission, comes a wee bit of shame, but mostly relief.  When I begin to see clearly, I will make better choices.  Delusion:  it’s time for you to go.

While I am an amazing gatherer and I’ve learned how to gather on a dime and make a profit on this flotsam, it’s not helping me any more.  It became an insulation against the world.  Building a fortress of others’ cast offs has been a simple way of protecting myself.  This stuff insulated me from feelings of loss, disparity, injustice, rejection, poverty.  It’s time to look this stuff in the eye and see it for what it is.  It’s looking back at me and helping me see that feelings of loss, disparity, injustice. . . are not ends in themselves, they are steps along the path.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  By giving things away, I’m clearing what has blocked the light.

“Light!  I’m so happy to see you.”

“I thought I’d find you by holding on.  I was wrong.  It’s all about letting go.”

A Great and Terrible Adventure

On the way home from school, my son expresses his struggle dealing with our present reality.  I give a 2-minute inspirational talk which to him must have sounded like so much blah, blah, blahdy blah blah.  The same kind of things dogs and cats hear as we pour out our souls to them.  They are such great listeners.  Given that pets understand words like food, sit, roll-over, fetch, walk, those deep talks we sometimes have with them wash over them like a breeze.  They are great listeners because of their dependence on us not because they understand the words but because they understand our hearts.

I hope my son understood mine.  I gave it my best shot at motivational eloquence.

“How was your day?” I ask my son as we walk to the car.

“Ah,  it was boring,” he says with a voice loaded with dramatic sadness.

“What’s bothering you?”  I say, because I know there is more on his mind.

“Ah, what’s happening at home. . . (pause.) . .with the house.  I’m tired of being poor.” he says with a voice that almost drips tears.

Mentally, I start spraying the sadness repellant and reply.

“I know it’s tough but it doesn’t have to ruin our lives,” I say.

I can tell by his posture he isn’t convinced.  We navigate the parking lot and make our way home.  I feel that I must try again to pull him out of his funk.

“It’s not going to be fun to seriously downsize.  I can’t tell you exactly what will happen and when.  We can chose to be broken by this and become bitter and angry at the world or we can try to see this as an opportunity.  I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’s going to be easy.  We need to start thinking of this as a new beginning.  We need to let this carve out compassion in our hearts so that we can really know and feel for others.  We can let this destroy us or we can become stronger and we can use our experience for something good and much bigger than ourselves.  Think of this as a great and terrible adventure. “

I look over at him.  Even his hair is sad.  He wipes a few tears from his eyes.  I need to let him have his sadness.   There are things I can’t fix.  I have to let it be.

My words are so much blah, blah, blah.  For a brief moment, I feel the power in them.  Life is a great and terrible adventure and so are many moments and chapters.  I have to let them be.

Hardship Letter

I held my daughter as she cried.  My husband and I have been discussing short sale with a real estate agent while she’s been listening in the next room.  She doesn’t want to lose the only house she’s known but neither of us can spare her the grief.  It is the only option left.  It will  provide closure.  It is the dignified way.  Going down with the ship is important when all you have left is personal dignity.

I have the task of writing a hardship letter to the bank, the great unfeeling, unethical, dishonest bank.  In the letter, I must describe what our lives were like before we stop paying our mortgage and explain what our lives are like now.  In the actual letter, I must use figures, dates.  This letter will be emotionally draining to write but it must be done.  I’ve done this multiple times in the last few years.

This last few weeks, my prefrontal cortex has been so busy trying to control my frustration, my grief, my anger that it’s starting to fail.  My emotional reserves are being maxed yet life and circumstances pile on more demands.  I struggle.  I fight back tears.  I rage.  I know why.

I am sharing what I’m about to write publicly, because I’m tired of feeling ashamed.  Both my husband and I have been blamed for our situation by people, many of them relatives,  who chose to find fault with us and our choices.  They choose to be angry with us.  They distance themselves from our lives as if what we have is contagious.  They don’t call to see how we’re doing.  They don’t offer emotional support.  We are the enemy.  In their minds it’s evidence of our character flaws.  In good times, they were near.  Why not now?

We never expected that after 18 years, my husband would be fired from his job, accused of falsifying time cards for a sum of approximately $100 dollars over a 2-year period.  We didn’t expect his union to tell him that the company’s got a “hatchet man” eliminating positions.  What idiot steals money so slowly?

“There isn’t anything we can do,” the Union Rep said.

What has happened to us can happen to most people.  The fast majority of people struggling with poverty are there not because of poor financial decisions but through job loss or a medical crisis that creates an insurmountable financial burden.  You can check my facts.  I have.  I’ve read about poverty in America.  It’s a topic that seems to make a lot of people uncomfortable.  Maybe they realize how easily it can happen to them and just don’t want to entertain the thought.

Once upon a time, we were comfortable.  Never well-off, we made do.  We had nice vacations.  We travelled.  We planned going to Europe together.  We could retire and be comfortable.  I was a stay -at-home mom, a good one.  I kept busy.  I was creative.  I networked with other moms.  I enjoyed being domestic.  Suddenly, I had to go back to work.  Those years spent out of the work force were a liability.  My age worked against me in a tight job market.  My skills were questionable.  I was a college-educated English Major who had worked in my field, several times, something not many English majors could say.   Now, I was lucky to get an interview for entry-level positions.  I couldn’t get a call back for jobs cleaning toilets and I had experience. . . work experience besides years at home.

After almost two years in a cubicle with a 90-mile commute each day, I found work closer to home, with the school district because things were starting to unravel at home.  I’d make the same choice today.  I’m still criticized from a distance by people who have never walked in my shoes, who don’t know my heart, who have learned to practice a profound indifference.  The status symbols of the American Dream and the desire to associate themselves with the images of success cut us out of their lives.

My husband has sent our more resumes, followed more leads, visited more companies, than any one should ever have to in the quest for a job so that he has a chance to provide for his family.    Some would have me give up on him now.  As much as I’d love to run from all this and from the problems that lack of work, isolation,criticism and indifference have created in his soul, that would not be the honorable or the right thing to do.  He’s made a valiant effort and if his spirit fails him, it is not without cause.

We’ve gone through harassing collection calls, bankruptcy, state assistance applications and reauthorizations that require oodles of daunting paperwork and proof of how poor we are.  I still hope that no one I know will see my using my Food Stamp card at the grocery store.    It’s how we eat.  We paid into the system those years were were working.  We understand how important such programs are and I have seen grown men cry in DSHS knowing that they can feed their children.  I’ve also seen those who abuse the system.   Life, assistance is more complicated than most people realize.  I never expected to sit in a room for hours waiting for my number to be called while I struggled with a deep sense of shame.

The feeling of failure is toxic.  I know first hand.  I’ve seen what it does to people.  I know how it stirs chaos in my mind and soul as I struggle to remember that I am a hard-working, decent human being who has fallen on hard times and I am doing what I can to get by.

As I prepare to write my hardship letter, I know that shame is counter productive.  As much as I want to believe that “something good will come of this” and “God has not abandoned us” there are many moments when I don’t feel this way.  I’m tired.  Everything feels like a struggle.  There isn’t enough of me to go around and there are never enough hours in day.  I look at my life, my job, my house and feel that I don’t belong in any of them.

We do not have a housing alternative.  I do not make enough to qualify for average rents in the area not to mention the lousy credit that would prevent our acceptance as tenants.  We’re a bad risk, a terrible risk.  As for agencies and churches,  the demands on them are overwhelming.  Phone calls end in dead ends.

Some times I feel sorry for myself.

Some times I feel angry.

Some times I feel sad.

I start to cry as my own daughter struggles with letting go.

I write this to educate, to inform, to put a human face on a problem, knowing that people have a commitment to their own views that is not easily shaken.  If one person sees the human underneath this, if one person is raised up just a little in knowing that bad things happen to good people not because they deserve them but because they just do.  Good can come of this.  I’m staking my life on it.

Don’t give up when things are difficult.  Know your value, your incredible worth even when others fail to see it.  You matter.  The world may feel hostile.  It is neither hostile or kind.  We shape our corner of it.  We can use what we have, who we are, to fight against the poverty of compassion.  We can be the light in the darkness.

Write Me Beautiful

My soul has been weary.  I dream about being someone else, having a new identity,  going into witness protection.  What I’ve been witnessing isn’t pretty.  I need protection.

Decisions should never be made when life is too heavy.  Such decisions arise out of panic, not reason.  A knee jerk reaction to life can end up kicking one’s own behind.  Staying calm in a world full of crazy is more than a challenge.   Last night, in my sleep, both knees and legs start dancing like fleas in a hot skillet.  Poor husband, who is awake staring at the cracks in the ceiling and pondering their significance, witnesses his wife appear to run while laying down.  Sleeping with me is never boring.

The timing of this activity is everything.

Just the other day, I was demonstrating to my husband what HIS jimmy leg is like.  When he is overly tired, he has a leg that jerks in a pattern that eludes my capture.  Fortunately, it doesn’t happen often.  If I’m not asleep when it starts, I have to move to the couch to get some shut eye.  Now in addition to hitting him in the head, sitting up and giving commands, raising my hand and talking about absolutely anything in my sleep, I can add running…sleep running.  I’m way ahead in this insane contest of who can be the most active bed partner.

My husband has my deep and sincere sympathy.  I’d have a hard time sleeping with me.

Notice how I went from soul weary to challenges with self-acceptance.  I’ve been miserable struggling with both and seeing little if any progress, until today.

Today, I had met 3 strangers who gave me messages of hope and one hug.   In those brief meetings, all excess fell away, all the struggle began to have a meaning, even if I can’t see it yet.  While I’ve felt like I’ve been sleep walking through a nightmare, I have been busy.  I have been making a positive difference in ways that I failed to understand.  And the world, that I often find so inadequate has been busy showing me the things that I need to see, even when I didn’t want to see them.

For days, I refrain from writing because, the words aren’t beautiful or inspiring.  They are heavy and full of whining.  I want to write more.  I want to give some thing beautiful, some thing precious and hopeful in my words and when I can’t I feel frustrated and empty inside.    At the same time, it is important to me to be REAL.  No sugar coated platitudes, or simple-minded denial for this gal.

As my evening begins I find these words on Pinterest:

“So build yourself as beautiful as you want your world to be. Wrap yourself in light and give yourself away with your heart, your brush, your march, your art, your poetry, your play. And for every day your paint the war, take a week and paint the beauty, the color, the shape of the landscape you’re marching towards.  Everyone knows what you’re against.  Show them what you are for.”   — Andrea Gibson, Evolution

God’s timing is perfect.  I’m going to write my world beautiful!    It’s time to remind myself what I’m for.

Too Small?

My life is a size 8.  I’m a size 20.  Nothing fits.  Nothing.

For a moment, I try to wrap myself in a dream.  There on a great wooden ship with sails billowing in the wind,  I ride a wild ocean.  A tall, handsome, stranger with a white puffy shirt, hair dancing around his head like a lively halo, grasps me firmly about the waist. . . well, he tries to grasp me firmly.    He ends up settling for a spot of muffin top and gives up on the encircling embrace.   I get pushed overboard.  Wild oceans can be icy cold.  Shiver me timbers and my bones.

Let’s face it.  I could never stand those bodice ripper books any way.  Fabio does nothing for me.  I hate puffy shirts.

Back on solid land, I sigh.  Escape is temporary.  Kissing dry land is out of the question.  I try to set sail again only this time, in present day.  Heading for Canada, passport in hand, Gucci suitcases in the trunk of my baby-blue, two-seater, soft-top Mercedes convertible.  I’ve got contacts, Jackie O sunglasses and a Grace Kelly-style scarf wrapped around my head.   I look fabulous!  I drive into Canada, through Vancouver, north to a great lodge in the wilderness.  From the warmth of my room, I search the surrounding forest for the elusive spirit bear.  Traffic woes, the demands of too many e-mails, too many obligations, no time to breathe and just be, fade away as the great spirit bear slowly lumbers into view.  Through my telescope, he seems so close.  I watch the majestic beast in the heart of a vast wilderness and I know that as long as there are spirit bears in the world, I’m going to be ok.  My heart rate slows.  I leave my telescope and crawl under a warm quilt and sleep for centuries.

But only in my dreams.

In my size 8 life, the alarm rings.  I had set the radio for soft rock.  I get a rap that sounds like gorillas beating their chests as they rapidly descend on their prey.

Before hope dies and the gorillas have their way with me, I wonder,  “Is this Saturday?”

A quick review of the days recently survived, would indicate that I’ve only made it to Wednesday.

“Maybe I am sick today?

Am I sick today?”

“Not sick enough,” reason says.

“I hate you, Reason!  You responsible fool.”

I give myself 5 more minutes to close my eyes and enjoy the feeling of a my body, warm and relaxed.  This feeling is non-existent in my day.  I want to capture it and package it so I can pull it out and put it on any time I want.  I forget I’m a size 20 in a size 8 life.  It just doesn’t fit.

All day, the complaint department is open.  I don’t know if I’m manning the desk or if I’m seeking services.  Every one wants something.

There isn’t enough me, enough time, enough money to go around.  What’s happening?  How did I get here?

Did you check your e-mail?  Did you watch that cute video?  Did you wear your Valentine socks?  Didn’t they have ham lunchmeat on sale?  Where are all the healthy chips for my lunch?  Did you give him permission to do that?  Why is she getting an F?  Did you read the e-mail I sent about the meeting? Why not?  You’re going to have to find time to check it. Doesn’t he have any homework?  Who has dishes tonight?  What did you plan for dinner?  Why don’t you know?  If you don’t know, who does?

This is how a size 20 gets stuck with a size 8 life.

My crazy life has ended up with pirates and gorillas bouncing around in my head but precious little fun.  I put off writing for weeks, months because the demands on my time, on my sanity are constant and over whelming.  I’m not having fun.  I’m not sure I can even spell the word any more.

There are so many things building up inside me, things I can’t say, can’t write.  I’ve got to protect the innocent and if not the innocent, myself.   The words spin around my head like dazed captives held against their will in a dark and evil gulag.  They long for freedom.  I am their captor.

Tears of sadness, frustration, anger push against the inside of eyes.  I fight against them.  I need to maintain a calm exterior.  I can’t let the armor crack.  If I give in to tears, I don’t think I’ll stop.

Suddenly, I remember a plump, middle-aged woman who was a student in an American Lit class.  The prof has just gone through a nasty divorce and seemed to want to take it out on women, this women in particular.  Several times, during class, he reduced her to tears.  Embarrassed for her and ashamed of his cruelty but fearful of his wrath targeting any of us, we cowards, looked down at our notes and didn’t say a word.  Tonight, I hold her in a heart filled with gentle regret.  I give her a hug.  She was a size 20 too.  She’d stumbled in a size 8 world and didn’t know how to make it fit.

Maybe it’s not too late for me.  After all I’ve got a pirate with a great ship and a whole bunch of gorillas at my disposal.  Better yet, I’ve got words.  Maybe I can’t pour every detail of my life on to public pages but I can write something.  I can write to save my sanity and remind myself that fun still lives inside me.  I can write for all the size 20s who live in size 8 worlds and let them know that we can do better, we can make the pieces fit.  We can overcome.

My life can expand to fit me.  I need to toss a few words on a page, now and then,  for emotional release and realignment.  I can slip into a big, beautiful, size 20 gown that will have been earned by not shrinking to fit the confines of my size 8 world but by allowing my world to grow to fit me.

Have any of you seen a pirate and a small band of gorillas?

The Mud and the Stars

The Mud and the Stars

Once a year, at Christmas time, I hear from a dear friend. This year, when I first got her letter, I waited to open it. I knew it would be full of good news and I didn’t want to envy her. I wanted to be happy for her with a heart that was full of pure intention

This morning, I read and responded to her with a happy and open heart. I’m convinced that it required a grace that I don’t posses on my own.

I found myself taking a clearer look at the circumstances of my life as I wrote the letter. I am sharing some parts of the letter here because I feel it is important.

This isn’t about me, although it seem it is.   I know how hard it is to find the good in others or in bad situations and I’m sharing why and how I struggle with this to encourage others.   If I can manage this, I’m pretty sure most people can. I’m not all that strong, or kind.

So often I hear people complain about money and all that they don’t have. All of them have a lot more security than we do. Poor people don’t usually complain a lot. They are too busy getting through the day.   Many people have sat in judgment of me, or us. Andy and I are often blamed for our own bad situation.   While I know that our choices or lack of effort is our responsibility and that it can have a negative impact and that it has a negative impact, we are human and we are struggling with challenges that threaten to crush us and to especially crush our spirits. Given this, I think it very important to appeal to hope, to faith and to our capacity to love. Life isn’t a dry run. It is the run. It’s the test. All this practice is part of the test.   Find joy where it is given. It can be hidden. Find it.

I had to find my joy before I could respond. At first, I felt small and jealous. I was missing the point. In time, I grew beyond my small edges. This is what I share today. It’s raw and honest and I am grossly uncomfortable sharing it. Here goes:

 

Dear ……….,

You’re letters help make the season bright! So happy to hear how well life is going and that you await the joy of more grandchildren.

We soldier on. Most days it feels more like battle than a joy but I’m beginning to believe that God gave me what I could handle and that there are lessons here that I need to learn.

Foreclosure is a long and painful process. As of yet, I have not solved the problem of future shelter. Hoping to be able to get through the winter and the worst of the weather before contemplating a tent in a nearby wood.  

Dear God, please send me some options. I’m taking a beating down here and am starting to lose it. Yesterday, I had several moments when I acted from my broken pieces, I didn’t rise above the fray but contributed to it. I’m sorry. I want to be so much better than I am.

I frequently label the fray, the mongrel hoard. Usually, this is done in the caverns in my head.   It’s those petty moments of retaliatory thinking that make me shed a light on the depth of my resentment. Wow, is that an ugly thing!

How I prefer cooperation over conflict, kindness over cruelty, generosity over selfishness.   How I long for unicorns, pink castles, lottery winnings, pigs that fly, an end to all war and the whole world singing as one. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

Real is often dirty, rude, messy, some times heartless and cruel. I can be all of those things.

I sit in the mud puddle of life and I look up at the sky and the stars. Their beauty makes me cry. It also helps me get out of bed in the morning. It boosts my spirits and drives me to paint a smile on my face and create fun morning songs for my children. 

Yet, there are days or moments when I forget about the sky and the stars. All I see is the mud and the other people sitting beside me and I hate all of us. I question the whole Christian premise that “Christ died for our sins.” Really? Honestly? What was God thinking? We’re not worth it. We’re a disaster 

It’s a really good thing I’m not in charge. It’s time to leave philosophical/theological questions to greater and better-paid minds. My energy needs be applied elsewhere.

In this darkness, my children are another very bright spot in my life. ….

And my dear husband, Andy…this last year we’ve watched as numerous couples in our circles have split. It frightens both of us. We know how stressful troubles can be, how easy it is to blame the other, to not work together, to grow apart.   We don’t always like each other. Our communication is less than perfect. Single life can beckon like a beautiful yet deadly siren. Together, we are better than when we are alone. I said, “for better and for worse, for richer for poorer, for sickness and in health.” I have a commitment to honor.   He is also one of my best friends. That is another blessing.

While I can’t judge the relationships that split, I still feel shaken and sad. They may have the best reasons for parting.   It isn’t the path I want to travel. Life in the mud puddle is hard enough without losing my partner and a dear friend. This can be easy to forget.

From my mud puddle, I see the sky and the stars. My life is a mess. That sky and those stars remind me that it is also beautiful and that there are blessings right beside me in the muck and mire. The beauty overhead gives me hope and something to reach for. This is a good life. There is much be to learned and much to do.

At the end, I can say, “I did what I could. I didn’t give up without a fight. I fought to find the good in others and in myself and in situations that looked like hell.”

God must love this broken person very much to give her so much. I am blessed.

It just doesn’t look like much from the outside. 

I love you. Your letter forced me to sit down and write out my heart and soul and I’m so grateful for what you inspired in me. You are a treasure. Your letters are a treasure. Enjoy those wonderful children and grandchildren. I am so happy to hear from you and to know that you are doing so well  

Take care!

Have the Merriest Christmas and a New Year full of miracles!

 

 

 

Up on the Rooftop

Dec. 7, 2014 Sunday afternoon: Time to give Santa some competition.

Donning a stocking cap and a bright pink anorak with large front pocket, I shove a hammer in said pocket and climb up the ladder.  Slower and less agile, I am surprised by how carefully my feet move up the rungs.  Then, I reach the roof.

As a child, I was small, agile and quick.   As an older adult, I am none of those things.  A nasty case of shingles several years ago, affected my balance.  Up on that roof, I suddenly appreciated the loss of that balance in a new and profound way.

“Oh, Lord!”  I say out loud.

Inside, I’m praying like mad.  “God help me find the strength and courage to be able to do get this tarp tacked down over the bad spots in the roof.  Make my feet swift and sure. “

I remember the story of the devil tempting Jesus to jump off a great height and have angels come to save him.  I start praying for angels. . . principalities, cerebrum, seraphim, arch angels, the guy next door with a head band halo…

Closing my eyes, I will my fear away or at least to insist it hide for a time.

Soon, my husband joins me.   I’m so glad I’m not alone.  “Breathe in courage.  Exhale fear.”

“Oh, Lord.”

Months of inactivity and overeating suddenly take an obvious toll.  Flooded with regret, I close my eyes and tell myself that self-loathing can come later when I’m on solid ground.  Self-loathing on rooftops is a really, really bad idea.

I close my eyes and swallow my fear again.  Fear is like cud.  It keeps coming back.

Together, my faithful spouse and I awkwardly crawl up to the crest of the roof.    Huffing and puffing, the side of my leg is raw from scraping across the roofing.  I thought yoga pants were a good idea.  I cling to the peak of the roof and look at what I now need to climb down.  An expletive leaves my lips.  I didn’t count on that.  It’s the fear talking.  Damn fear.

I close my eyes.  “Oh, Lord, Oh Lord.”

Since the roof has been leaking for some time, we know that the sub roofing may have been compromised.  I insist on being the one to cross the uncertain terrain.  Slowly scuttling like a half-boiled crab with a leg and claw missing, I begin to enter the potential danger zone.  Taking the hammer from my pocket, I hit the roof before me in the most awkward position possible.  The people passing on the ground below are being entertained.  The young neighbors down the street who are the secret stars of my imaginary reality show entitled, “Hillbilly Mechanic”  pass the house on a slow walk several times.  Their amusement is payback for my creating an imaginary show for them in my head.    (I learned of their interest later from my son.  I was too busy hanging on, hammering and praying for safety to notice what a spectacle we were.)  Maybe it’s time for a new imaginary reality show called, “Hillbilly Roofing Repair.”

Ah, but I digress.  I’ll do anything to sidetrack that fear thing from rearing its ugly head.  Even if its trying to rear its head in memory only.

Together on the roof, we unfurl the first tarp and discuss a plan of action.  I add nails to the hammer in my front pocket and we begin tacking down the tarp and then hammering slats down over the tarp to help secure it against the wind and rain that will come.  I rest a lot.  We lose a lot of nails.  They tumble pell mell down the roof and over the side.  Husband pinches his best bass playing finger and has a lovely blood blister to show for his efforts.  He lets out a weird howl at one point.  I expect to see him go over the edge.  Instead, he’d sat on a roofing nail.

Most of my injuries are covered by clothing in places my swim suit covers.  Fortunately, my gluts were a counterweight that helped keep me on the roof as long as I kept them in close contact with the roof’s surface.  My poor gluts.

After huffing, puffing, clinging, shuddering and almost crying, we finish.  I lay against the roof eyes closed and breathe.  Finally, I feel strong enough to head for the ladder.  Fear is absent as shaky calves find the rungs.  The ground is in sight.  I almost kissed it with genuine joy and gratitude.

Roofing is for the young and the thinner.  Santa, I’m afraid my little adventure shook my belief in you.  Up on a rooftop, going down chimneys, you’ve got to be kidding me.  In your dreams, Santa.  God, on the other hand and a bunch of angels were working overtime.

 

Fear

The urge to put words to paper often overcomes me.  Then, I remember how uncomfortable I became, how opening oneself up and putting it out there for the world to see put me at risk and contributed to what was to follow.

Not everyone liked what I wrote.  Writing and sharing made my world less friendly, more hostile.  Yet, I opened myself up to it knowing what was likely and was still surprised when the inevitable happened.  Maybe, I was looking for a reason to stop.  I had begun to feel as if I had nothing to say, nothing of value to suggest.  If I made others responsible for not writing, I didn’t have to face what I felt about what I was producing.  Writing had become a way of making myself feel better at a time in my life when so many things were falling apart.

At this extremely challenging time in my life, I have learned a great deal about human nature.  People who I expected to be loving and supportive are not.  I had to process the hurt, the grief and find hope.

I, who can easily sit in judgment of others found myself at the end of others poor opinion.  I was blamed for my own problems, given loads of advice and experienced rejection and anger when I wouldn’t do what others thought I should.  Since, I’m not exactly new to this earth, you would think I’d have been better prepared.

I am the first to admit that yes, humans, me included, often create problems for ourselves and then invest lots of energy into maintaining them.  Problems become a mantel we don’t break through.  We allow problems to define us.  They give us reasons to stop striving, to stop reaching beyond ourselves, to stop growing.

For a long time, I’ve been stuck in trying to figure out why others outside the problem have such an emotional investment in it.  As interesting as the answer may be, it really isn’t important.  Their reactions are their responsibility.  I have enough on my plate.  I allowed my problems to become excuses.  Problems can be reasons but when they become excuses something is wrong.

My limited readership is most engrossed in what I write when I write honestly about the nuts and bolts of my life.  While I prefer distant, philosophical fluff, it isn’t nearly as interesting.  I’m afraid to write about the real and maybe that is the only reason that I should.

My writing is imperfect.  I am often embarrassed by it but I can write moderately well and I feel drawn to do so.  I know what it’s like to be me.  I spend a lot of time thinking.  I spend a lot of time finding ways to cope.   This is something I know a lot about.  This is what I will try to share in the days and weeks ahead.  The world is often a cold and hostile place.  Some times that hostility and indifference comes from those close to you.  As painful as this can be, it provides an opportunity for growth, a chance to rise above.  It can open a pathway to being a more loving presence in a world desperately in need of redemption and love.

Violence begets violence.

Hate fuels hate.

Negative talk creates negative thoughts and feelings.

Love is the only force that can heal.

Love can be tough.  It may not look like love.  Love may create boundaries and say “no.”  People may accuse you of being unloving, of not doing the right thing.  They may tell you that you’re wrong or selfish.   They can be wrong.  Dead wrong.

It’s time to face my fear and begin again.

(Now, to tackle my fear of falling through the sub roofing and get up there with Andy to see if we can get some tarp to cover the roof where the rain is pouring in.  Welcome to my world.  There is rarely a dull moment.)

 

Powerfully Weak

I’ve missed writing.  Words empower me but  for a long time I have felt weak, defeated, a victim.

I allowed myself to become all those things.  I even sent out a few invitations to my pity party.

Fortunately, nothing lasts forever.  I started to get angry, first at others and then myself.  I was not very nice.

On a recent day, when my internal judge and jury reared its head and pronounced silently in the courtroom of my mind, that the people I was with at the moment were a mess, the wiser part of me stepped forward quickly and said,  “You’re a mess too.”

OUCH.

Wise me was right.  I didn’t want to admit it.  I started listing all the challenges in my life in hopes of building a case for myself.  What was I trying to justify?  Victimhood?  Dysfunction?  I deleted that list quickly.  There goes that blog entry.

Time passes.  I still wanted my fingers to flutter across the keys while words appear like magical rows of expression but I won’t let it happen.  I don’t feel worthy.  I don’t feel powerful.

Finally, a breakthrough. . . (which is a lot better than a breakdown.)

When this morning’s alarm went off introducing a chorus of guttural groans into my slumber, I stumble to the shower only to catch an unwelcome glance at myself in the mirror.

Internal judge and jury quickly announce “you look like a sack of potatoes!”

Wiser me tries to temper my unflattering announcement but gives up quickly.  I do look a bit like a sack of potatoes in which a few of the potatoes are not yet done shifting.

Finally, in the shower, the image of a burlap sack with a few loose potatoes falling into odd places made me smile.  There, in that little cathedral of soap scum and creeping mildew, I knew that in my weakness and imperfections lie my greatest strength.   Life and potatoes had distracted me.

As I shuffle into evening, I find this quote in the book I’m reading.

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is make perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

Need I say more?

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.

Connect

I am reading

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
0 / 170 Pages