Posts Tagged ‘life’

A Gift

 

Over the past year I have been fighting.

 

 

I have been fighting against my natural inclination to wallow in the midst of life’s circumstances. I have been purposeful in trying to make myself happy. Trying to find some sustainable source of happiness through activity, busyness, mission, relationships with others, and also in isolation. Each of these provided some temporary elevation of mood—as a smoke that temporarily masks your view from the things around you, but just as quickly dissipates.

 

 

I’ve read books, positive quotes, bible verses, watched Ted Talks, sermons—just about everything I could think of, I tried. I wanted to take the power away from my circumstances, and to be honest the power of people to influence my ability to be happy. I meditated, practiced mindfulness, de-cluttered, traveled, filled up the pages in my passport, went outside my comfort zone, learned, took risks, met new friends, and crossed things off my bucket list. I’ve done everything I could think of to try to outrun and win the battles waging in my head.

 

 

I know I’m not alone in this. The prevalence of self-help books, videos, and articles on how to make yourself happy are a testament to the fact that many of us are seeking this missing link that would make our life more fulfilling and bearable.

 

 

Many people try to find that happiness in people, money or education. But the truth is many of these things though important, are often times insufficient. Life generally does not afford us perfect circumstances.

You can have money, education, and a family that is falling apart.

You can have a one true love… who loves someone else.

A beautiful house, a wonderful family, and lose your job.

 

The one thing that life can actually guarantee us is that we should expect the unexpected, and that rarely will everything be perfect all at the same time.

 

 

That lends to the common belief that happiness, or some would say joy, should transcend circumstances. But how? That is what I’ve spent the past year trying to discover. How! The answer is incredibly simple. Maybe I didn’t need to travel across the world, and isolate myself to discover it, but then again maybe I did.

 

 

 

There is a story in the bible of a woman who lost a coin.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'” Luke 15:8–10

 

Though Jesus was using this story to talk about the importance of saving lost souls (which I fully support), I also think this story very aptly describes human nature. Our penchant is to be unsatisfied with the 9 coins we have, and seek after the 1 we are missing. The hoax is that there will always be 1 missing. There will always be something that makes our joy incomplete. Something negative that if we choose to focus on, will steal our joy concerning what isn’t missing and is still present. If we took the same happiness that the woman had when she found the 1 lost coin and multiplied it by 9, we might see that what we do have is more than what we do not. And happiness comes in our perspective in choosing to focus on the 9 remaining even while we search for the 1.

 

Recently I’ve begun to keep a gratitude journal. When I first started it was hard to even think of one thing to put down because all the things that were going wrong weighed so heavily on my mind. But over the past 80 days of writing in this journal, which thanks to the 21st century I have on my phone in the form of an app, it has become easier to fill the lines for each day with things I’m grateful for.

 

Nevertheless, gratitude, and perspective are not the tools for happiness that I have found to be most effective. It is far simpler than that. The tool is simply the knowledge and acceptance of one fact. And that fact is that there is nothing I have that I deserve.

 

We become unhappy because we think we do not have something that we should. We think that life or God, owes us something. We think we deserve to have the things we have, and even the things we don’t.

 

Biblically we could turn to Deuteronomy 10:14 that says “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”

 

Or for those of you less biblically inclined we could consider parents that lose their kids in a school shooting, or kids that grow up in poverty. Did a child who has no agency (defined: the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power) deserve poverty more that you who grew up in relative abundance? Or do you as a parent deserve to have your kids alive and healthy more than another parent does? Of course not! So if all the bad things that happen to us are not necessarily happening because we deserve them, then the good that happens is not always necessarily because we deserve them either. So all the good things that happen to us are then not owed to us, but rather a gift.

 

 

Thus I’ve realized that I should measure happiness not in what I lack, or that which I think is owed to me, but rather by the gifts I’ve been given. And when I do that I find them to be present in surplus.

 

 

“Breath is the finest gift of nature. Be grateful for this wonderful gift.” ― Amit Ray

 

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Perched

 

 

This is a letter to myself. A letter to myself that I am sharing with you in hopes that it might help you as it is slowly helping me.

 

Today I was at my wits end. Recently I have been struggling with intense overcast feelings to the extent of not wanting to leave my bed and feeling as one without hope. I blamed these feelings that I felt on many circumstances that I was drowning in. External pressures, external loss and disappointment. I was a victim of my circumstances. And I couldn’t overcome it. As a Type A personality I do very well at burying my feelings and emotions under work. I schedule my days to leave no time to think, reflect… or to breakdown. My mind is always moving, always achieving. But I couldn’t shake the cloud that had been following me. It was persistent, vigilant, shaking its hand at every ray of sunshine that tried to lighten my way.

 

Then something happened that took me from sitting under a cloud, to sitting under a cloud, as it began to downpour. With no coat or umbrella, I felt like shaking my hands at God. Was I not low enough? How well was I handling the cloud, that made you decide now was the time to bring the rain!

 

During this pity party, which was hosted and attended by me and myself alone, I came to the realization that my perception of the intensity of my circumstances stemmed from one issue. I tried to quiet all of the external voices for one second and the only voice left was my own. And I was screaming one thing. “God why have you discarded me! You have left me!”

 

The only reason my circumstances were drowning me was because I no longer believed that I had a lifeguard watching over me, ready to dive in and buoy me up. I felt that God was absent, uncaring, and un-invested. I felt like I was fighting a battle myself when I should have been letting God fight for me. But how could I sit back and let God fight for me if I didn’t believe He was on my side? Or even if He was on my side maybe He was unfeeling. He didn’t have anything to lose in this game! When I am doubling-over in pain that’s just me hurting, me alone. Why should I let him direct me if I have to face the aftermath by myself? When Job had sores on his body (Job 2:7) and his breath was putrid. God was unaffected!

 

I shocked myself with my thoughts. I pride myself on being pretty well read biblically. I could have quoted to you: Isaiah 49:15, which says “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Or Lamentations 3:32, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

 

But the problem was the Bible is just a book, unless you believe in the power of the words there in. In my pain I reached out to someone, which in and of itself is incredibly unlike me. But I needed someone to remind me of those words. But not just the word, the power behind those words. I needed someone to tell me those words and hear in their voice that they believed that which they were saying to be the truth. Like a match to a candle I was reminded of what I had long sought.

 

Romans 8: 38-39; “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

I wish I could tell you I am equally as persuaded as Paul was when he was writing this verse; after facing beatings and imprisonment. I am not there yet, partly because I haven’t been tested on that level. I don’t want to be to you like Peter who swore twice He would not deny our Lord and Savior, only to deny him thrice (Luke 22:54-62). But I will tell you that though I still remain perched under my cloud, the rain has slowed and when I reach out beside me I recognize that I am no longer alone.

 

Not special, but Strong

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are strong. Stronger than you know. Stronger than you give yourself credit for. Strong despite those who left you or hurt you. Your worth is not a variable that someone can thumbs up on Facebook, or unfollow on Twitter. Your worth is grounded in who you are. Who God made you to be. Even on your worst day, after your biggest mistakes, in your loneliest places, you are worth something.

 

No matter how much loss you’ve experienced, rejection you face or road blocks in your way, the fact that you are still here, still alive, still waking up each morning, putting one foot in front of the other and weathering whatever storm life brings, proves your strength! I don’t care if you break down and cry, or get lost in periods of depression or self-hate. I see your strength when you put on a brave face and show up to work on time, smile at a stranger, or make dinner for your kids.

 

Take time to appreciate how far you have come without drowning in the awareness that there is still further yet to go. Notice the wounds that have become scars. Maybe they aren’t fully healed, and maybe they are still tender to the touch, but Praise God for the ones that no longer bleed!

 

This life is hard; but take comfort in the fact that your struggles don’t make you special, because we—individuals all over the world, are with you, struggling together. Your struggle is like a unique snowflake but together we are snow helping each other stay alive, whereas alone we might melt. Today I am praying for you, in the same way I hope you are praying for me. That we keep fighting, we keep surviving, and we keep overcoming.

 

You are strong! Find your strength.

 

 

 

 

Overstimulated

How much of our life do we spend searching for, seeking, or desiring the companionship of others? Whether family, friends, or lovers, oftentimes we are searching for someone to share our life experiences with. We use the presence of others to keep us from feeling the full force of the burdens we carry from day to day.

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The problem comes however, when we are so dependent on other people that we are unable feel content when we are alone. We automatically equate being alone with being lonely so we avoid embracing time spent in solitude.

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Even when we do find ourselves isolated from society even momentarily—we reach to our phone, tablet, or laptop to plug us back in. It is priceless to be able to find peace in solitude, to quiet the voices of doubt, regret, stress, pain, and loss, and to see life as a gift without feeling the need to drown yourself in outside voices.

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#firstworldproblems

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I tend not to complain out loud about my problems unless I am talking to my mother– since we all know it’s every mom’s duty to listen dutifully to just about everything you have to say regardless of whether you are 25 or 40. If I complain about my issues to anyone else it might sound overwhelmingly like #firstworldproblems, an impression that may only be partly wrong. I called my mom once… –just last week if I’m being honest–in the middle of the night after I hadn’t been able to sleep all night for 3 nights in a row, plagued by my own mental demons, and she picked up. She picked up– even though at that time she was with a patient who would be taken off life support soon.

 

She was just reading a few bible verses to him, and I am pretty sure he couldn’t hear her and was totally unaware of his surroundings or anything else for that matter, but I was shocked that she as a physician was taking time out of doing her rounds to read some verses for a patient that couldn’t hear her and to pray for him before he passed… and also that amidst all this that she picked my call because she was worried about me. I proceeded to tell her I was completely fine, she should get back to work and after I hung up I began to cry. The perspective that the call gave me forced me to tell myself that: hey you should be happy and grateful you’re not deathly ill or dying, and that your problems are so small, and in the grand scheme of things– probably even meaningless.

 

But the truth is minimizing our problems by comparing them to someone with bigger problems can be both helpful and at the same time hurtful. It can invalidate your hurt and your pain and trust me it is incredibly hard to heal from something you don’t fully let yourself feel. If you don’t come to terms with pain in your life because ‘hey there are people starving in Africa and you have it much better than them,’ which may very well be true, but that doesn’t mean that your suffering, albeit privileged suffering, is any less real or any less hurtful. Much of our own life is shaped by our mind–our thoughts, and thoughts can be powerful enough to cause a person to pull a trigger, jump of a bridge, or prevent them from trying to achieve something they have always wanted to achieve.

 

It is good to be grateful and to see life from a perspective other that your own. Be thankful for your privilege. But also be gentle with yourself. Know that it is okay to let the small things sometimes get to you. It’s okay to not be invincible all the time. To feel weak, overwhelmed. It’s okay to simply just let yourself feel. Now it’s another thing to dwell, to sink, to never move forward. But just for today I want you to be honest with yourself about the emotions you’ve been keeping bottled up, the frustrations laying there right under the surface of all the pretense and fake smiles and cheerful demeanor. If you can’t be real to people at least be real to yourself, because honesty takes you to a place where true healing can finally begin.

 

Overcoming obstacles

Sometimes it is easy to wallow in self pity. When I get in that frame of mind I tend to dwell in it for quite a bit. I wake up not so ready to face the day and with a feeling of two large hands pressing down on my chest. Then there is also the feeling of walking under a perpetual cloud. Today was one of those days, where I kinda just planned on barely making it through the day. I got to work and after some semi-challenging news I started feeling like the cloud above me was going to burst. I picked up my phone hoping to distract myself, but as usual there is never really anyone to talk to when you really need them, so I ended up going online and reading an article about a woman who has every reason to wallow in self pity but doesn’t.

She literally goes around giving TEDx talks exuding positivity and strength; when she can’t sit down and has a to use an external bag as a stomach. She’s extremely skinny because though she eats 8,000 calories a day she only retains 20% of it. Which most of us would think great right? But not when the rest drips out of what should be her stomach. I thought wow. If I was going through that I would be such a mess. I mean imagine relationships, the limits in getting closer to people, the constant rejection and explanations she has to give. Never really being able to be ‘normal.’  And the bitterness that doctors actually made everything worse. But she literally just pushes past all that and lives a meaningful life. Traveling, meeting people, sharing her story- her insecurities, and exuding strength and courage.

I know sometimes looking at how worse off others are can be a means of disregarding our very real problems and suggesting that what we are going through isn’t valid. But that’s not what I am suggesting you, or I for that matter do. I feel like stories like this should give us strength to tackle whatever obstacle we are facing, and encouragement that we are not alone in our struggles. There is no one out there living a ‘normal’ life. We all have our own versions of normal. But we don’t have to be overwhelmed by it, or just accept it, we can thrive through it.

Well I am off to finish facing my own obstacles. I wish you the best in tackling yours!

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The Dead Sea

There was a boy who loved a girl, when she didn’t love herself. But as she learned to love herself, the boy resented her for it. As she became stronger, more confident, he told her that she’d changed. That she wasn’t the girl he had fallen in love with. That she was no longer simple, and that she was no longer unique. As she found herself, she lost him.

 

There was a husband who had a wife that was outspoken and intelligent, a go-getter. At least she was before she married him. But after the marriage suddenly something changed. The husband wanted her to speak out less, and conform to his will more. Forgetting that it was her spark that he first fell in love with.

 

There was a woman that had a man that she loved to control. She didn’t mind that he had no job, and preferred that she provide for all of his needs. But the man began to feel, like not so much of a man. He went out and got a job. He began to provide for himself, and contribute to the relationship—but his woman despised him for it. Now he had a voice, now he didn’t need the woman in the same way–he still wanted her—but he didn’t need her, so she no longer wanted him.

 

When waters are stagnant life cannot thrive. When our loved ones change, we don’t stop loving them. We don’t have to grow apart from them—we can grow with them. Relationships can morph and change and grow, if we let it.