Let Your Fear Be Your Guide

At the age of 18, I went canoeing for the first — and last — time.

Don’t get me wrong. It was an extremely successful venture. I was with my church youth group at a river in northern California, known for its great canoeing. It was perfect for beginner and advanced canoeists alike, as the more treacherous areas all had an alternate route (walking).

In particular, there was one rocky streak known as “WipeOut Curve.” No one — I mean no one — made it through WipeOut Curve. I was in a canoe with my friends Debbie and Russ; Debbie was manning the back of the canoe, I had the front, and Russ sat in the middle, sans paddles. Both Debbie and I were novices, and we were advised to walk the path that bordered WipeOut Curve.

We weren’t particularly adventuresome gals, and knew our limits. We’d been doing well, handling the worrisome areas like experts, guided by Russ’s experience and our own common sense. It felt good, but the odds remained against us. For some reason I have long forgotten (quite possibly we were too self-conscious to walk in front of all the picnickers in our bathing suits), we decided to go for it. We headed straight for WipeOut Curve.

We made it.

The crowd of a two dozen or so people were incredulous and cheered us through the treacherous waters. We were focused on the river, so only Russ waved back, but we were thrilled. We had conquered WipeOut Curve. The two of us, who had never canoed before, had done what the most experienced canoeists hadn’t been able to do.

Group of Canoeists on a River Through a ForestWe successfully completed the rest of the route and enjoyed the admiration of the others in our group, particularly the boys, for the rest of the day. It was a high point of my teenage years.

I haven’t been back in a canoe since. The opportunity hasn’t presented itself, and I haven’t sought it out. But that victory has stayed with me.

The truth is, both Debbie and I were scared of wiping out, and that kept us upright as much as any skill we may have had. I don’t remember if it was the embarrassment of looking like drowned rats or the fear of hurting ourselves, and being teenage girls, the former is just as likely as the latter. If I’d had a choice, I may never have stepped in a canoe to begin with.

Except I did have a choice, and I chose to take the risk.

How many times do we succeed because the fear of failure is so strong? Is the victory any less sweet?

Taking a risk doesn’t always pay off. That day, the worst that could have happened is we failed to do what everyone else failed to do, so the risk was nominal. However, something about it motivated us to try the seemingly impossible.

The motivation doesn’t minimize the success. Let your fear take you places you didn’t expect to go. Yes, pay heed to the warning signs, weigh the risks, but be willing to take the curve.

Success is just around the corner.


Photo Credits: (River) © Jason W. Rambo; (River with canoeists) © Steve Boyko. Both stock.adobe.com.

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What My Soul Knows

I have an important decision to make…and what I’m thinking of doing doesn’t feel right.

I won’t do it, no matter how logical may seem. I’ve learned my gut, my soul, has valuable things to say.

Seeking My WayIt’s almost as if logic and reasoning is the lazy way out sometimes, although I’ll never dismiss the necessity to reason through a life-changing or costly choice. Sometimes, however, what the prevailing wisdom might say is the right thing to do isn’t right for me.

When you know, down to your core, what you’re doing or about to do is wrong, it can be difficult to justify sometimes. The logic points one way, but the logic is missing some vital information.

There have been times when I’ve been told to trust people or trust a system I’m not familiar with, and my soul has known better. I knew once I was being led in the wrong direction by someone I should have been able to trust, desperately wanted to trust, and instead of saying, “this isn’t right,” I accepted his decisions. I was afraid not to; I had lost faith in too many people.

I should have let go. Ultimately, perhaps only a very short time later, my faith would have been restored. I likely would have found someone to trust, a person who could have provided me with the support and power I needed to rise above an impossible situation. Instead I let this individual lead me down a path where even more people betrayed me.

Q CatIt was a horrible lesson to learn. Rational thinking has its place, but you can never dismiss the weight of knowing you don’t have all the facts.

I’ll make my decisions in the future using all the resources available to me, the rational, the instinctive, and yes, the spiritual, for all of my major decisions need to be doused in prayer for wisdom.

Changing your life isn’t easy.


Images: © Geosap — stock.adobe.com

Better Days

Is there a balance of pain?

Do people with chronic illness, loss of the precious, or injustice in their lives get a break elsewhere?

We all face good times and bad times in life. Some have chronic problems, others have temporary, albeit serious, challenges. It’s hard to view the latter as temporary, however, when the consequences can stay with you for years, decades, a lifetime.

BalanceLife isn’t always fair, and you may be faced with more dark times than others around you. The balance, as I see it, is in part how those times change you and make you a better person.

Yes, I’ll say it, the people who have been refined by fire are better people. More compassionate, more accepting, wiser and perhaps, if they’re lucky, more content, regardless of circumstances.

But in the middle of the storm, it can be difficult to face the day when you know it will be a challenge. The choice to escape, in whatever way is available to you, becomes an overwhelming temptation.

Those escapes sometimes bring their own problems. Watching television instead of taking action might drag out the time you will be facing difficulties. Drugs or alcohol, well, I don’t have to detail what they can do to you, robbing you of everything you hold dear.

Motivation becomes its own challenge. The chipper platitudes don’t always work when times are tough. It takes experience to know there will be an end to the loneliness, fear and sadness. For me, the quotes that acknowledge my pain, yet hint (at the very least) at hope are the most meaningful.

It’s darkest before dawn.

Maybe it looks like you got more than your fair share of bad times. I can’t promise there will be enough good times to offset those days, but I do believe there are better things ahead.

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We are told “life is good,”  “make lemonade” and “don’t worry–be happy,” but sometimes we have to acknowledge a sorrowful time in life. If you don’t do so, you likely are compounding the problem.

But once you do, you are free to do two things: address the pain, and truly believe the sun will rise.

It may rise slowly, but one day you will look up and there it will be, high in the sky.

That’s the hope of better days.


Image Credits: (Rainbow) © Pellinni — Fotolia; (Balance) © frender — Fotolia; (Balloons) © Bigstock

Let It Snow!

I lived in Minnesota long enough to find snow annoying, dreary and burdensome. And I’ve lived in Arkansas long enough to appreciate the northern states’ prompt and thorough response to winter weather. To make my point clear, it’s a lot easier to get — and stay — snowed in when you’re living in southern states.

But I love winter weather. I’ve said it before, but on this day when my car doors were nearly frozen shut as I helped a neighbor get ready for Christmas, I am compelled to say it again. Some of you wondered back in November when I was griping about the endless warm weather if I’d truly be happy when the temperatures dropped. Tonight we’re hitting single digits.

I’m happy.

Wondering, as I am so emphatic, just what it is that makes this miserable weather so desireable.

I confess I’m halfway hoping I’m snowed or iced in tomorrow so I can justify staying home and knitting, reading and snuggling with the cats. I have plenty of cat food, Oreos and Diet Coke, as well as more nutritious food and a shelf full of books I’ve been dying to dig into, all while wrapped up in a cozy quilt.

This is a challenging time for me, and I’m a bit stressed about the next few weeks. For whatever reason, snow is a comfort to me today.

So let it snow.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Wisdom and Roadblocks

I’ve been binge-watching the show Younger for the last few weeks, and in addition to being entertained by the program, I’m intrigued by the idea of going back in time and starting over, knowing now what I wish I knew then.

I remember my twenties as agony, my thirties as much greater fun. As my body calls out with daily new aches and pains, I long for the time when age wasn’t catching up with me. With what I’ve learned up to this point in my life, think of what I could do with all that health.

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Me at 27 — or 29 — doesn’t matter, it was a long time ago.

There are moments, somewhat fleeting, when I’d love to be 27 and have the full opportunity to start a new career, with a lifetime of growth in that field ahead of me. In my mind, I can picture myself as professional, successful, innovative, and admired for my deftness in cutting edge work. I have long hair and a stylish wardrobe, and if my lipstick wears off, I doesn’t dangerously age me.

As intriguing as the idea of a second chance may be, it discounts the opportunities available to me today. Yes, youth has its advantages and its appeal in the workplace. But for many, too many, it comes with limitations, arrogancy and insecurity.

Younger isn’t a going-back-in-time show, it’s a pretending-to-be-14-years-younger-than-you-really-are show. The reality is, I do, in fact, look younger than a lot of women my age. Not 14 years, but enough. It’s heredity, and I’m thankful for it. Still, not enough to pretend I actually am in my 40s, with all the opportunities that still exist for women of that generation. That’s because, at some point, in some way, I’d have to return to the angst of that decade. And as Younger shows us, you can’t escape who you are.

I’m best at being who I am today. At times confused, somewhat scared, yet more than anything else, optimistic. In recent years I have been blessed with greater wisdom and insight, and a more relaxed attitude toward life. I don’t worry as much about what others think, I see through the lies and pandering of popular media, and I’m better about standing up for myself. Far from perfect there, but I no longer fear the consequences of saying “you can’t treat me like that.”

There is a reason I am where I am today, and given the chance to take my life experience and place it in my resurrected 27-year-old body would fail the human experience somehow. I am meant to be taking risks, making friends, loving my family and defining my priorities in part by the age I am, with all the gifts and drawbacks that brings.

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Me today. Yes, I’d prefer it if wearing my hair long didn’t age me. But in the scheme of things, that ranks low on the happiness scale.

Authenticity and being true to oneself are such lofty terms. I don’t seek my authentic self. That self is already here. I seek integrity in my actions, reality coupled with creativity in my goals, and those precious moments when my cat curls up in my lap and purrs himself to sleep. I have my insecurities, but they don’t dominate my life like they used to do. I have my responsibilities, and I seek to meet them.

Authentically, honestly, I am 56 years old. That brings baggage and relief, wisdom and roadblocks. It is like any other age, with limitations, frustrations and opportunities. Life is a journey, one you are constantly having to re-navigate. Thankfully the tools get better with age. After all, I now have more wisdom and experience to break through those roadblocks.


Radical Authenticity

As I Appear Before You

How do I know who you are? And what do you know about me by looking at me?

As I write this, I’m wearing clothes that need a good wash, my hair is in desperate need of styling, and any makeup I put on earlier today has worn off. I need some groceries, but I hesitate to head to the store. I don’t want to be judged by my appearance. It probably wouldn’t be complimentary.

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Yet even at my best, my most cleaned up, there are going to be those who judge me in a negative way.

Just as so many make assumptions about others. We all do it to a certain extent, sum a person up with our first impressions. That quick assessment is based on our beliefs and previous experiences, and is likely to be limited and narrow.

You won’t know me until you talk to me, and even then it will take some time. You won’t know me until you see me in separate circumstances, and most people don’t have that opportunity.

We have our beliefs about others that are tidily summed up in stereotypes. The Germans are stoic, if you’re from Latin America, you’re passionate. There is some truth to those beliefs culturally, but not necessarily for individuals. Each of us has our life experience that shapes our unique personality.

In America, if you’re from the south, you’re a bigot, a racist. Yankees are rude. For that last one, I’ll tell you as someone who’s lived in both southern and northern states there is a more genteel, some might say passive, approach to manners in the south. So in contrast, those from up north do appear rude.

bigstock-Cute-Cartoon-Fairytale-Princes-111350732 [Converted]For example, the idea of mirroring someone’s statement to show you understand them is simply not done at the very Southern company I worked for several years ago. It’s considered rude, confrontational. Instead, you should… well, frankly, I never did figure out how you’re supposed to handle it.

And while I wouldn’t call all Southerners racist, there is a remarkable them/us view with many of the people I know born and raised south of the Mason/Dixon line. They don’t see it. In fact, they justify every word of their own beliefs. As do I, with my own beliefs.

There are times when I need to challenge those beliefs. For example, you might arguably say I have some prejudice against those from the southern United States.

We make broad judgments based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, manner, clothing, accent, and whatever else we take in during those first seconds of meeting someone. And those judgments stick with us.

Some stubbornly maintain their beliefs, while others are willing to challenge themselves. Some give others a second chance, some are one-and-done.

AdobeStock_98604035 [Converted]Some have seen me at my worst, and don’t want to risk knowing me any further. My disappointment at those times is a challenge for me overcome.

People who know me know I’m a caring person, compassionate and kind. They know I’d do anything for my family, and that includes my cats. They know I shrivel up inside at the thought of hurting my friends.

They know other things about me, too. Things I won’t list here, because why spell out my faults?

They have forgiven me my insensitive moments, my selfish moods.

Each of us is complex, even those who seem the most simple. We all can surprise those who think they know us with an unguarded moment.

So who you think you see is not who I am. Nothing is at it appears, no one is as she appears.

 

Image Credits: © sapunkele — Adobe Stock

Reflections

Time to Clean House!

Literally. I mean that literally. Rather than sitting here writing, I should be picking up, tossing out, throwing in the laundry…you get the idea. I was house sitting for six weeks, and came home only periodically. When I did, it was generally to dump something into one room or the other, and leave.

me and walter
Me and Walter

I didn’t plan to do things that way. But first my computer crashed, and all that equipment is sitting in a pile in the corner, along with the box the new laptop came in (and the DVD player box…it’s a slim laptop with no DVD playing capabilities…grrrr). Then I learned Hancock Fabrics is going out of business, so I bought a few yards of fabric at a great discount, and that’s sitting in a couple of bags on top of the sewing machine table. Not to mention I haven’t completely unpacked from house sitting.

But this has been a good thing. I finally was able to get my tooth fixed properly, and when my computer crashed I could afford a new laptop. Now I’ve got a small savings account toward all the things I need to get in the near future and any kitty-cat emergencies. It’s a lot easier to save when you’ve got some savings started.

Life is good right now. Yes, there are some question marks. But I have my friends, my cats and hope, and that’s enough.