Thursday, October 6, 2011

We Are Right Now.

Last week was the annual South Plains Fair. Holly and I take the boys every year. We eat in the FUMC booth. We "win" a few goldfish with some tosses of pingpong balls. We, mostly the kids, ride a few rides, and  we all share a funnel cake. We do it every year and the boys think it is life at its best. I remember having the same feeling at Jubilee Days  back in Knightstown.

 I snapped this shot with my phone on "armband night". Three cans of food and thirty-five bucks lets you ride all night. Clayton and Davis were riding the spinning big chair swing when I took this picture. Eli was standing with me, bravely fighting back tears, because he is not the required 48 inches tall to ride it, yet. Right after they finished this one, all five of us went over and road the Big Wheel in the distance.

Clayton and Holly had worked their shift at the FUMC youth fair booth. The fact that I just typed Clayton and "youth fair booth" blows me away. The days are absolutely flying by. Next year, Eli will be easily past 48 inches and riding the big chair swing. A few years later, Davis will be in the youth fair booth. Just a couple of blinks later, and it will be Eli in youth.

I am so grateful because I feel that recently I have been given a gift, the awareness or ability to see the beauty and significance of these days in real time. I have been given the perspective to see the significance of now. The days have taken on a significance that is greater than the fact that they are fleeting, numbered and limited. They have a depth and meaning simply because they are. Somehow, long ago, in my pursuit of whatever I had been pursuing, I had lost an appreciation for the importance, significance, and beauty of the present. I had long ago developed a posture of working toward something, some nebulous (or well-defined) "someday". What I had given up in the trade was an awareness of the depth, beauty and significance of the present and the people of the present, including myself.

Unfortunately, there were some other things that came along with this mindset. Once I bought the mindset that I was trying to become "something", I somehow also bought the corrolary that I wasn't yet "something". When I looked in the mirror and saw a guy who wasn't quite yet the picture of fitness, or  a guy who wasn't yet full of patience, or a guy who still fights temptations of this or that variety, I internalized that this guy was far from who he "should" be. It was tough to walk away from the mirror without hearing a word of criticism (at its worst), or a pep talk to do better (at its best). Interestingly, I would then see others and everything in this way, and was quick to offer criticism or pep talks depending on how I "was doing".

This same viewpoint of my relationships occasionally created more stress. If things were going smoothly with Holly and the guys, it was manageable. But if things became difficult in any of these relationships (like, daily) then I would see the relationship and myself (and, at times, the other folks involved) as not being what we should be, and therefore being something we shouldn't. This realization added yet more anxiety and stress and sometimes created a downward spiral, it reinforced my own feelings of failure. I would find myself standing in front of the mirror asking (or thinking, but afraid to ask) the question "when will I be the person I am supposed to be?"

Somehow in the middle of all of this, I knew that life was good. I felt very fortunate, or blessed, and I felt lots and lots of love. I would have characterized my satisfaction with life, my marriage, my job, and my family to be very high. But I also was still working for "someday" when things would be, I would be, good, right, acceptable, and loved, the way I am supposed to be. This was essentially the description of what I call my mid-life crisis.

To that point, it had not occurred to me (in a way I could believe) that the answer to the question I asked  of the mirror would come back in some way, "You always have been the person you are supposed to be. You are right now." I am coming to the place where I am believing that response. I think of Eli, fighting those tears of sadness at the fair and I can see him wishing he was 48 inches tall. I pray that he doesn't somehow turn that, as I have in my life, into thinking he "should be" 48 inches tall, and begin to see himself as less than the person he "should" be. Although, as I pray, I wonder if it is inevitable.

We all know that Eli is the height he is, there is no should to it. He just is 46 inches tall, and falls within two standard deviations of the mean height for a five-year old boy. Even if he didn't, there is nothing he can do about it. He just is. As he grows, he will gain the ability to do certain things with height requirements, and he will lose the ability to do other things that have certain height or weight restrictions. All the while, he will be whatever height he is, and he will be powerless to change that. In addition, he will be loved by Holly and I without regard to his height.

Over time he will grow, but for now, he is right where he is. Part of me reacts negatively to this even as I type it, but I wonder if this is not the best measure for myself, and all of us. Over time we will grow, but for now, we are where we are. I have believed that accepting myself as I am was a pretty sure way of preventing me from becoming better (and possibly the fastest way to become something bad). I do not believe this anymore. If Eli accepts himself as 46 inches, he will continue to grow to maturity. In fact, I believe I had reached a stalemate using the old criticism and pep talk technique. That is to say, it wasn't working, if by working I mean helping me become more like I desired to be. Loving myself as I am, or believing I am loved as I am, may be a far better way to enable future change. And I  believe it is a far better way to live, right now.

I now believe that seeing ourselves as we are and calling that "good" might be the closest thing to the truth. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, I remember someone else saw us and called us good, very good.

Needle and Haystack Life

The world begins
With newborn skin
We are right now
You’re a needle girl
In a haystack world
We are right now
You breathe it in
The highs and lows
We call it living
- Chorus -
In this needle and haystack life
I’ve found miracle’s there in your eyes
It’s no accident we’re here tonight
We are once in a lifetime
No, don’t let go
Don’t give up hope
All is forgiven
You breathe it in
The highs and lows
We call it living
All is not lost
All is not lost
Become who you are
It happens once in a lifetime

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