Friday, February 24, 2012

Lent: The Benefits of Self-Discipline

Two years ago, I published my very first blog post!  That particular blogpost was about Lent.  Since Lent season is upon us, I decided to go back and read the post that documented my very first experience with it.

In 2010, I decided to fast from things that would truly be a challenge; things I would have have to really think about:  Elevators and Escalators, The Mall, My Time, My Diet.

Elevators and escalators represented convenience.  Convenience makes me dependent and complacent. I found myself pushing the button for the elevator and becoming impatient if I didn't hear an immediate "ding!"  Elevators and escalators are also not necessary in order for me to function. Taking the stairs made me aware of where I was and sometimes I had to really search to find a stairwell.

After committing to Lent, I took a trip and stayed in a hotel.  I checked in and headed toward the elevator with my ginormous and overpacked suitcase, but then remembered that I couldn't take the elevator. I found the stairwell and slowly trudged upward, thankful for suitcase wheels but resenting my Boy Scout methodology to packing--always be prepared-- which of course means that I brought my entire bathroom and closet with me!

Two floors up and five more to go, I had an amazing idea! I could put my suitcase on the elevator, send it up to the seventh floor, and probably run fast enough up the stairs to catch it! Yes, this was indeed the best idea ever!

Actually, it was not the best idea ever. It was ridiculous and was essentially cheating, but I did it anyway. I ran up to the seventh floor and waited outside the elevator doors. My suitcase was a no-show. However, a man got off of the elevator and noticed that I looked frustrated and perplexed. I humbly and shamefully told him my story and he laughed and laughed. . .and laughed. . .but then offered to help me. He rode the elevator to each floor until he found my suitcase sitting all alone on the second floor. He brought it to me and then told me to have the front desk call him when I was ready to check out and he would help me down the stairs with my suitcase. I did not end up calling him, but I appreciated the offer. 

What did I learn?  It would have been easier to stick to my commitment and struggle up the stairs than to try to get around my commitment and end up inconveniencing others. 

The Mall:
Because of the elevator/escalator fast, I discovered that I couldn't go to the mall unless I wanted to stay on one level. OR I could exit the level I was on, get in my car, and drive to another parking lot with an entrance on an upper level--but that's not practical at all! I decided to avoid the mall completely!

The mall was the place I would go when I needed to numb my brain (and look at pretty clothes and makeup and shoes....and I have plenty of those things at home that just sit in my closet). I liked to walk around and window shop, grab a coffee and people watch. What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. However, I realized that I experience a lot of anxiety when it's overcrowded, which by the way, is terrible and the exact opposite of "numb" or relaxed. I also found that while people watching I would compare myself to others and would feel inferior....and sometimes I felt superior. That's not cool.

Giving up mindless trips to the mall was awesome!  I go shopping very rarely now and don't miss it!

I also decided to focus on my time.  I spread myself too thin.  I did two years ago and I still do now. I am always going in multiple directions at once, never saying no, and always feeling guilty. I wasn't referring to that type of time. It was the 30 second to 2 minute conversations that happen at work when afterward, I would sigh and think, "I did not have time for that!" or "That guy never works! He just talks all day--going from office to office bothering people!" or "Oh my goodness, I can't handle whiners!" and sometimes its a sigh followed by "Gah!".

To be honest, that practice was less about my time and more about my attitude.  I was more compassionate, more in-tune to others.  I gave my time willingly and without sarcastic comments (!).  Now, I continue to intentionally take time out to really listen to little stories that I used to view as time wasters and that I now view as connecting.

My diet:  I am a vegetarian. I also keep dairy products out of my diet as wellas processed foods in general. My diet is strict, mainly for health reasons but also for religious reasons. I found myself slacking off on the religious side of it. The main reason I  slacked off was to avoid offending other people who have prepared food. I also became tired of explaining to people why I was not eating certain foods at family events, work events, and even church. Each explanation resulted in having to listen to well intentioned people talk about the food pyramid and "God created this. . .so we should eat it!"

Two years later, my strict diet is my lifestyle.  I love it.  This lifestyle saved my quality of life and continues to positively affect me.  Caving to one simple food for the benefit of someone else's chosen diet or lifestyle leads to an immediate regression in my health. It's a constant reminder of why I follow such a restricted diet in the first place!  It isn't for fun; it's for my quality of life!  My diet is the reason I can participate in physical activities of my choosing, it decreases my migraines, alleviates allergic reactions, helps support my next-to-nothing immune system and is how I maintain a comfortable and healthy lifestyle independent of prescription drugs.   

There were many nay-sayers who told me that I was really overdoing Lent and that I should give up chocolate or something else that might be a little easier.  Well, fasting is not about ease.  Fasting is about sacrifice and ultimately bettering yourself and hopefully becoming more spiritually aligned.  I do not practice Lent because I believe it is required or because I believe I will burn in hell fire if I don't. I practice Lent because I have learned the value that self-discipline has in my physical and spiritual life. 

My goal two years ago was to achieve a better disciplined mind and tongue, have more accountability, and even burn some calories by taking the stairs.  My personal belief is that if you can do something or give up something for 40 days, you can probably do or give up those same somethings, forever!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It Is Your Business

We have all been faced with those conflicting, awkward moments when in public, at a friend or family member's home, at work, etc. when we realize we are witnessing abusive behavior. Benefit of the doubt causes us to wait a little bit longer and evaluate the situation further. If it's real abuse, we tell ourselves, we will call the police but often fear and the firm belief in this statement, It's none of my business results in the turning of our backs. Maybe not all of us respond this way, but most of us probably do.

A child being mistreated IS your business, even if you try to justify it as maybe a more extreme verion of discipline than you yourself would use. Think of it this way, if you treated another adult in the same fashion as what you are witnessing a child being treated, would assault charges apply? A woman being antagonized and verbally or physically abused IS your business. {Insert inappropriate and damaging situation here}, It IS your business.

It's uncomfortable to step in, but measure your discomfort to the amount of emotinal and physical pain and scars of the victim. It's conflicting to call child protective services. It is difficult to dial 9-1-1 because what if you are wrong?

More than likely, you aren't wrong.

Often victims of abuse are made to believe that they are at fault or that they deserve the treatment. But if one person, especially a stranger, steps forward and makes it known that the behavior is wrong and that he or she is willing to hold that person accountable, it does wonders for the victim. It validates the victim. Even if nothing changes, validation can change a life.
Abuse does not equal bruises. An abuser is not a tattooed drunk wearing disheveled clothing. Abuse has many faces, economical statuses, religions, and justifications. It's complicated and yet we try to put it in a box. We try to set limitations for what is "real" abuse. Victims of abuse don't see the same structure we do. They only experience immeasurable amounts of pain, the worst being mental and emotional.

Being enraged at the situation does nothing for the situation. Feeling compassion for the victim afterward and sharing how outraged you were about the situation on Facebook does nothing for the victim. If you are enraged then step up and take a risk. If you were the victim in the situation, what would you want someone to do for you?

Do it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: Dear Single Ladies

Dear Single Ladies,

Reading your sad facebook statuses today inspired me to share why this single girl LOVES Valentine's Day.  First of all, why begrudge a whole day, based on your present relationship status, that you may consider sad or pathetic, when you can delight in something greater?  If you are going to hate a fluffy, chocolate filled holiday just because you are "alone" then you should hate everyday of the week.  You should post a facebook status on a random Tuesday about how much you loathe Tuesdays because no one special is sending you flowers.  And then on Wednesday you should post Ugh.  STILL single.  Seems like I'm single every Wednesday. . .then onThursdays, well, you get my point. 

This is what I celebrate on Valentine's Day:

Chocolate!  I don't care who provides me with it or if I have to buy it myself, I will be eating ridiculous amounts of Reese's Peanut Butter cups.  Keep in mind that Valentine's candy goes on sale the day after, so. . .I might be eating discounted chocolate for weeks!

Cheesy Valentine creations:

My 5 year old nephew, Baby A, made this card for his "girlfriend", Amelia.  It's a fly (yes, as in the annoying insect) stuck to a heart.  He is confident that she will love it and that someday she is going to marry him.  So sweet.

This fly Valentine may or may not have been inspired by the Tick Valentine I made for Baby A after he tortured me one night by throwing a disgusting, stretchy toy rat in my hair.  He thought it was awesome because it would get stuck in my curly hair and I would furiously yank the gooey, disgustingness out.  When I was no longer phased by the fact that a rat was in my hair he exclaimed, "It's a TICK!" He takes joy in grossing me out.  It brings me joy that Baby A and I share the same weird sense of humor :)

I celebrate my mom who still buys me cheesy holiday specific socks.  This year, I received tall, fluffy, heart speckled, pink and white socks.  I LOVE them.


I love these kiddos so much I'm shocked my heart hasn't exploded yet.

Baby A

My boy, C

T-Rex, Sky-Bye, and Little E

Little E



Today, I celebrate that I am single because according to 1 Corinthians: 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I remember Valentine's Days in the past spent with boyfriends who did not fulfill this definition and in the midst of being dressed up, receiving overpriced flowers and chocolate, and sharing a special dinner, I was miserable.  So instead of being down today about being single, be thankful that you aren't in a terrible relationship but also have hope that someday you will be in a relationship with someone who will make you feel special all year and not just on a day when society tells him to. 

For real, though, with all of that said, I seriously mainly celebrate all of the chocolate :)
Happy Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Still the Tempests Rage

It creeps in seemingly slowly, until suddenly without warning the shoreline vanishes and water surrounds your previously dry beach chair.  Scrambling, snatching belongings you move further up the beach to dry sand, cautious now of the pace of the tide that is ready to inch stealthily toward you.

It creeps in if only to touch your feet, the cold moving through your body, shocking your system.  Your previous state of peace now interrupted by an unwelcome force.  Escape is short-lived.  High tide is in full swing with each crash of its rolling waves the ocean speaks incessantly, rhythmically.  As it rolls in forcefully....NOT. . .and crashes. . .ENOUGH... faster and faster not enough, not enough, not enough, notenough notenough notenough notenoughnotenoughnotenoughnotenoughnotenough.

Drowning, gasping, pleading but the waves flood your justification of worth before the words can even form.  You're not enough.  Not pretty enough, not talented enough, not nice enough, not tough enough, not smart enough.

Wide awake, paralyzed by the waves of negativity, swimming against it is in vain.  Another whooosh! NOT ENOUGH sucks you under and in its grip you hate yourself for having been fooled into believing you were in any way adequate.  You're not even adequate.  I'm not even adequate. 

All at once, the tide recedes.  Cold, stripped, shaken-you're left on a deserted beach.  The sand no longer soft, no longer warm.  Every ounce of worth, diminished.  Hours pass in the dark.  Just lie there, it whispers. Don't get up.  They'll be disappointed that you don't have it all together.  They'll hate you for it.

Here lies she. 
Hurt boiling up at the surface.
Here lies her make-up.
Here lies her pain.
It's easier to lie there.  To slowly fade, shivering.
Here she lies and no one will come looking. 

As the sun comes up, pours in through the cracks in the blinds, I kick the blankets off of me.  Disheveled hair, dark circles under my eyes tell a silent tale of a restless night of struggle.  I can still smell the ocean, I can feel it in my bones.  A dull pain, gliding up toward the left side of my chest threatens to take over.

Deep breath.  Get up.  Start a new day.

I called to Adonai in my distress,
and He answered me.
Rescue me, Adonai, from lips that tell lies,
from a tongue full of deceit.

What has He in store for you, deceitful tongue?
What more will he do to you? 
A warrior's sharp arrows,
with red-hot coals from the broom tree.

. . .I have had to live far too long
with those who hate peace.
I am all for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.

Adonai will guard you against all harm;
he will guard your life.
Adonai will guard your coming and going
from now on and forever.