Tag Archives: self-awareness

What’s Wrong with a Wish?

One of my favorite musicals is Into the Woods. I saw it for the first time as a sophomore in high school when our music/theatre departments collaborated to bring a very difficult show to our stage.

Mesmerized by the witch in the show from the first rehearsal I snuck into and for multiple performances there as well as over the years following, I have spent most of my adult life believing that the most compelling message of the show had to do with needing to disregard finding fault in our situations and instead pulling together to find solutions.

I recently flew from Minneapolis to Dallas on a Southwest flight on a Saturday. I rarely fly on Saturdays as I find that most of the best deals happen on Tuesdays. This particular fare sale aligned with my desire to be in Texas for specific dates. As I approached the gate area for my mid-morning flight, the gate attendant’s voice announced that the flight was overbooked and that there would be a decent amount of money granted to those willing to change their plans by two hours.

I accepted the offer and jumped on a flight connecting in Chicago rather than Kansas City. This is a risk – the Chicago area can claim many hours of a traveler’s time should the travel occur while Chicago has precipitation. Phrases like “I hope” and “I wish” rattled through my brain – all for nothing because it was sun-sparkling awesome in Chicago that day.

As “I wish” traveled through my mind, it turned into the song from Into the Woods.

In the fifteen minute character-introducing first song of the musical, various characters enter the stage as they sing the same two words: “I wish.” From Cinderella to Little Red Riding Hood to Jack, characters share their desire for life to be different.

Cinderella wishes to go to the festival and dance before the prince.  The baker and his wife wish for a child. Jack and his mother wish to get out of poverty. Little Red Riding Hood just wishes for some bread.

Their wishes are all metaphors. Each lacks satisfaction in his or her current condition and things that a change – the wish – will bring satisfaction.  Without ruining the musical too much (impossible because these words don’t do the musical justice), the point of the show is to realize that satisfaction is found in being happy with what we have and in our relationships – good or bad, family or not – rather than in what we could have.

Side note: if you can see the show on stage, you should spend the money to see it. Even the junior version used by middle schools will be delightful. One of my nephews was recently cast as Cinderella’s prince in a junior version, and I can’t wait to see him in it.  If you do not have this opportunity, Disney does a decent job with the musical in movie form.  And – Meryl Streep plays the witch.  Say it with me, “Cool!”  Seriously.

I write down ideas when they come to me so that I can use them in future blog posts.  My notes from that thought time on the plane included concepts about going after what we want, setting goals, and making our wishes come true.  As I sifted through and deleted various notes from that trip, I realized that even I – the one thinking about the dissatisfaction that the characters in Into the Woods experience once their wishes come true and they return to living life – continue to miss the point.

Yes – goal setting is a great idea. I do not know anyone who can jump on a plane to Europe tomorrow just because they feel like it.  The people I know have to save, sacrifice, and let ideas simmer before they take that trip.  There is nothing wrong with setting goals and having a bucket list.

Where we go wrong is when we think that attaining the goals and achieving the bucket list will bring our soul the complete satisfaction it seeks in finding a joy-filled life in the here and now…the today…the present moment.  I can certainly have an Amazon Wish List as long as I balance that with the truth that I have enough already.  Even if half of my belongings were carried out of my home tomorrow, I would have enough.

It is not about the amount of things left after a bunch of things have left my possession.  My attitude and my willingness to find joy in what I have today determines if I am satisfied regardless of what I have.  My attitude and my willingness to find joy in what is right now determines what I am and who I become.

The final song of Into the Woods catches me off-guard every time I see it.  With a touch of melancholy and a heaping cup of warning, the characters caution the audience about their wishes:

Careful the wish you make
Wishes are children
Careful the path they take
Wishes come true, not free

I think that the serious nature of the song is what surprises me, but I also think I do not want to listen to its warning.  I want to dream, to hope, and to wish.  More than that, I want my wishes to come true.  Sometimes, this can be all consuming: a new job, a new house, a new outfit, and so on.  I can be so wrapped up in wishing that I also do a lot of missing.

If I am off track about human nature and how we wish, I hope that readers will correct my path a bit.

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

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Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts, Travel

Mirror, Mirror – Embracing Our Fractured Selves

I love words.

I love how they look inside our heads, on pages of books, and even on screens of various devices.

I love how words form clouds of vibrations in the air as people give voice to them.  I love the sounds that they make, how they can put weight on our hearts, and how they can lift our spirits.  I love the tones that we give them, and I love the emphasis that we place on just the right words in sentences we say.

I love how words take my jumbled thoughts from my mind and make sense when I type them into a blog post.

What I love most about words is the pictures that they create in our minds with their various meanings and how those pictures become clearer as we understand the meanings of the words in different ways that impact our lives in meaningful ways.

The word embrace has become that for me recently.

According to Merriam-Webster.com, embrace has many meanings.

One use of the definitions tells us of a physical “hug” type experience.  This would seem to require at least two people who like each other enough to touch each other, to hold each other, and to be near each other for a few seconds or more.

Another sense of the word is that of acceptance in a wholehearted way. This is different than seeing reality as it is and being ok with it.  Instead, we “hug” reality in the same we would a friend whom we have not seen for a long time. We bring it into ourselves and realize that how it is will be a good way to move forward once we accept it.

These definitions of the word can mean so much more when we turn the concept onto ourselves.

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When I look in the mirror sometimes, I do not have a clue who it is that I see. There are glimmers of a person who was as well as who is.  Who I am today is a sum of parts.  Some are negative while others are very positive. If I were honest, I would say that I most often feel compartmentalized into the various ages, stages, experiences, and feelings that combine to make me Stacy today.

Rarely – though more so as I age and become very conscious of this concept – do I feel whole.

While there is no running away from the sum of our parts, most of us have parts that we would like to shed.  We write stories in our heads about these parts – we think of it as memory, but is it?  I do not think so.  How I recall a situation and how you recall the same situation may be very different.  Where do we find the reality of it? We rarely do.

How scary is that?

The revisionist historian in me wants re-write my past so that I am victorious when I was not. When I am tempted to do this, I ignore the parts that make up my whole.  I desire to shed the poor decisions rather than look at them, learn from them, and grow because of them. Who I am today would be different if the path that brought me here changed.  When I attempt to change the past (impossible), I would risk changing who I am today.

I drove a lot last week.  Over 1200 miles of thinking time can be risky.  In this case, I think I found something. Somewhere in the last hundred miles, I found an image in my head that I cannot shake.

In my mind, the now-Stacy turned around and saw myself at an age that I would love to shed.  We all have them. We all probably have more than one of them. I certainly do.

I looked at her, and I realized that I am older, wiser, and stronger because of her.

Without her, I do not exist.

In my mind, I embraced her in all of the ways that the word can be used. I held onto her as you would a friend who is about to leave or who is about to fall apart. I apologized to her for wanting to get rid of her, for ignoring her, and for not seeing her strength. Perhaps most importantly, I accepted her into me as part of my whole self.  I allowed that me to be absorbed into the today me.

There are more little bits of me that need this type of embrace, and it probably is not a bad thing to take a moment each day to ask “myself” if there is a bit that is feeling rejected from me.  If rejection from others hurts, how much more does it hurt when we reject a bit of ourselves?

One of the synonyms that Merriam-Webster gives for embrace is cherish.

I love a good word definition search.  The thesaurus may be dying in some worlds, but it is alive and well in my world.  Give me a word, leave me alone to search down its likenesses, and I will find another way to see that word.  That is exactly what happened to me as I considered embrace in reference to myself and these parts that nag at me to see the world their way instead of as a combined vision of the whole of me.  In that search for what it really means to embrace those parts of me – to alleviate their stress of seeing the world their way – I found cherish.

All of the definitions I could find about cherish points to a very special way of seeing a person, place, or object.  When we cherish something, somewhere, or someone, we love and hold it so deeply that we can barely describe why. Words leave us, and emotions flood our senses.

As I stared into my eyes in the mirror yesterday afternoon, I asked myself if I could continue to have the compassion that I found over the weekend. Time will tell, but it is my intention to look at the parts and shower love, understanding, and acceptance on them.

 

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Ending #2 – for those who want to hear about how God fits in to this in my mind…..

One of the reasons that I bother to look at the bits and pieces of myself is because I trust the truth that these are words that God uses to see me. It is unfortunate that love is not the word that many people associate with God, but God is the ultimate lover of humanity. The now-Stacy trusts, knows, and hopes that God embraces and cherishes us regardless of the redemption and restoration that we need.

It is because of His eyes that we can embrace and cherish those bits and pieces of ourselves. It is God’s presence with us through it all that makes our shaky path straight – not because of who we were or are but because of what He did and does on our behalf.

He takes our bits and pieces and makes them whole again.

 

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I have written about “parts of me” before, so I thought I would share with you the links to a few of those posts:

A Little Thing Means a Lot

I Like to Run…Away

A Confession: I Prefer Not to be a Bother

Image credit: http://oathkeepers.org/oktester/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/broken-mirror.png

 

 

 

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Filed under faith, Thoughts

Life in “Standby” Mode?

It is the second half of the school year, and I am traveling quite a bit around the state of Minnesota.  As the dean of students for an online school, my primary role is to deal with attendance issues.  Yes – we take attendance in the online setting; it just looks a bit different than in a seat-based school.  If you ever want to attend a training on it, let me know – I have connections (or I will just run a webinar for you and you alone).

This role takes me to far-off place like International Falls where I can see Canada just across the river from a gas station on my way to court.  I drive almost everywhere, and my trusty Honda Civic’s stereo is my best friend as it pumps out the tunes or a book on CD.

On a recent trip, I realized that I was in complete silence as I drove. I could not remember when or why I had I had chosen silence over noise, but I had.

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I played with the volume knob a bit before I glanced over to the stereo and saw that it was indeed in “standby” mode.

Standby….waiting….

As I drove through the frozen tundra of Northern Minnesota, I realized that I was missing all of the beauty that was there for me to see.  I drove, day-dreamed, and “spaced out” – completely lost in thoughts that no longer have much bearing.  I doubt that the thinking was productive.  I doubt that the day-dreaming truly involved dreaming – by that I mean that I was not making future plans for great things in my family’s life.

I just stood by.

Well, in this case, I was sitting…and driving.

Regardless of what the position is – standing by, sitting by, laying by – life is going past us as we stand by.  Sometimes we have to wait. We wait on the Lord. We wait on other people to make decision. We wait.  But most of the time, at least in my life, I am not waiting on anyone else…I am just not being an active participant in life. 

I am letting it pass by me, allowing it to go on without much thought, and lacking much interest in how it impacts me until I am so unhappy about something that I stomp my feet and say, “Stop! This isn’t how I wanted it to be.”

But I had not taken any time to consider how I did want it to be.  I had not actively done anything to make it go differently.  So when I get to point B without realizing I had left point A, I want to blame everyone else rather than looking in the mirror.

When I live in standby mode, I am to blame for life going in certain directions.

I give life implicit permission when I do not explicitly take a daily inventory of how I want it to be.  And – if I do not take time to consult God about how He might want my life to go, I certainly cannot blame Him when it just goes poorly.

Is this happening to anyone else?  Are there some times that we let this happen more than others? Or perhaps in certain areas of our lives more than others?

I would love to hear your thoughts today in the comment section!

PS: I have a renewed sense of wanting to write in this blog; however, I think that a daily submission might be overly ambitious at the present way that life is.  I am hoping to have  a Monday-Wednesday-Friday submission routine down.  It’s March 1, and some things need to change and be re-prioritized.  I hope that this sense of ambition remains!

How are you all?

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Filed under faith, health, Thoughts, Travel

A Coat, Boots, and a Grown Up

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Two years ago, I made the decision that it was time to grow up.  I had been living my life as a pretend grown up by doing all of the grown up things that other grown ups were doing:

I held a job.

I was married (not that this is a requirement).

I had children (again – not a requirement…seriously – I don’t think I was much of a grown up when my kids were born, and there are plenty of non-grown ups having children).

What I was missing was the true signs of being a grown up: sensible winter items.

Let’s be clear for a minute – I had what I needed if I wanted to spend time in the snow – those essentials for sledding and such.  But these were not the “daily use” smart clothes of a grown up.  In fact, they looked a lot like kid stuff – hats, gloves, ski coat, and snow pants. These were meant for snow fun but did not define me as a grown up because none of those items went with me on a regular basis as I drove the 40 miles to work in snowy winter Minnesota.

As if I need to illustrate further how un-grown-up I have acted, I will allude to a year-long sandal wearing contest that I had with another teacher back in 2004-2005.  That is another post, but the short version is that we went the whole school year…even through the snowy winter…wearing sandals from our car, into the school building, during carpool duty, and back out to our car.  He won because I changed schools at the end of the year, but neither of us backed down on the sandals.

Fast forward a few years to December 10, 2010…the night I became a grown-up.

The forecast was for a big winter storm, and I had decided that I needed better winter gear.  The huz and I headed to the Columbia outlet store and purchased a styling but sensible down coat complete with a hood and a pair of cute but extremely winter smart boots (I think they will keep my feet warm to –30 F).

The next day, as the entire family shoveled and then walked a few blocks to have a celebratory meal (one of many that winter), I felt so grown up.  I could have jumped on a sled and enjoyed that, or I could have been walking the downtown skyway system with other professionals.  My grown-up clothes were perfect for either occasion.

Today, as my hometown – Grand Forks, ND – has a snow day (some are celebrating; some are not), I will be heading to work in my grown up boots and coat.  We had snow but not enough to cancel much of anything except my trip “up north” and west (where their conditions were bad enough to cancel school) for a meeting.

When did you decide that you were a grown up?  Are you there yet?

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Filed under Thoughts