Thursday, August 28, 2014

on life and death

I think we should be talking about a topic that, generally speaking, a lot of us tend to avoid.

We let the moments of our days burlap-cover and tuck underneath what fear says we can somehow protect. We force-feed ourselves with various remedies that we think will manipulate a kind of growth to make our heart superhero-strong from pain.

Just below the undergrowth that we use to camouflage the tender shoots of our heart is a unique, one-of-a-kind treasure that was specifically designed for this crazy, mixed up, wild-like world. Yet, we don't believe it.

Acknowledging death in the periphery of our vision, we shirk off any consideration that our hearts matter and we try to better ourselves with busyness, expecting it will actually give us life.

Fear partitions us from our senses, keeping us focused on protecting ourselves at all costs.

We sacrifice the gift we can unwrap in tasting flavors mixed together because we're so famished for attention and we have this idea that we need to look a certain way to have what we crave.

Engaging with our children or even noticing them as they play feels like a waste of precious time and we want to do things that really matter, so we sacrifice the gift of seeing and feeling all that play and the perspective of a child can give us.

. . . and the list goes on.

People have shared their experience with me of how quickly time goes and they have encouraged me to hold onto it and to treasure the moments before their gone. Though they've been well-intentioned in their advice, I've always felt like their comments were itchy, like a wool sweater. I want to appreciate it for its warmth and comfort, yet this heaviness I experience with this kind of advice is sometimes too much for me.

I'm discovering that time is not something we can control. The vulnerability of not being as strong as we would like to be is what scares us the most I think. We fear the imperfect of our humanity, that we will miss something about a moment, or that our choices in how we allocate our time will somehow be wrong.

I believe that we were created by God who fully knew that we'd make mistakes. To go a step further, I believe He purposely created us this way.

We would be wise to face the hard fact: we will always miss some. thing.

We were purposely created as imperfect beings. This may be simple truth to some people, yet for me I somehow managed to misplace my focus for so many years. I spent my living days aware of my imperfections and thinking that my purpose each day was to fix me, or at least make strides toward fixing . . . toward perfecting what isn't. I thought God tasked me with the responsibility of fixing His mistakes or what He left undone.

My fear of complacency has been like a worm that wreaks havoc on a body, including the neurological system. I was afraid that if I accepted my imperfections then I was resigning myself, giving up on what I could be, and that I won't have what I hope for if I don't put in the effort to get there.

Did I think that my hope was used as some sort of carrot to be someone better?

Did I think life was a cruel test of will? 

Perhaps it's the American way, or maybe it's just me, but somehow I thought success was a constant highway of always improving, always growing, always striving; while, maybe, someday, arriving . . . at least mostly.

In the Spring I was faced with a question that rocked my world:

     How have I spent my life so far?

Truthfully, my own answer made me cry. Because, for so long I wanted to be someone who I'm not -- at least not yet. I've held such hope in my heart that I'll be someone different or better and so I've focused on being her, instead of simply me.

I didn't consider Who gave me my hope . . . Who will lead me to see it fulfilled . . . Who wrote a part for me in the plan for this world.

When I stood at the altar nearly 14 years ago and committed my life to my groom, words stirred in me that have stuck with me. They were words that made me consider how limited my time with him will be and that is what I focused on more so than the other part -- the part that said, "I love you so much I am giving this man to you as an example of my love for you."

There weren't expectations that I be someone who I wasn't, just that I know I am loved. That I receive the gift.

Back then I was ten pounds heavier than I am now. I didn't think then that I had any weight that I needed to lose. Now, if on any given day I'm a bit squishier or pudgier than the previous day, I somehow think I need to hide from the man who said he'd love me until death and who shows it to me everyday with his steadfast stickwithitness. Because, I've learned to eat even more healthy and to take care of my body even better than I did before. Knowledge has side-swiped me from living free to living focused.

I've focused so much on the end -- on when our end will be and how it could be any time, or on what is good for me and will help avoid this or that disease.

I've focused on so much that I thought would protect me that I limited myself from simply falling into the moments and receiving them. 

Living free is vulnerable and scary. I've seen people have the proverbial rug pulled out from underneath them, gutted by utter surprise at death or disease and I've not wanted to be left in a lurch like that, so I've done everything I could do to prepare myself and protect myself.

: : : 

This summer has felt a bit more like winter to me in that it's been a time of restful sitting on the couch with a cleared agenda and calendar. That my family and I haven't had plans has actually felt refreshing, like the comfort and warmth of a blanket.

I've discovered that I actually want to be home, even though it's not exactly the way I want it to be. Traveling and hustling with plans to do this and that really is just one big headache and my typical attempt to avoid the discomfort of imperfection.

I've discovered that I'm loved, even though I'm a wreck a lot of the time and as much of a yo-yo emotionally as the weight of my body. I've felt like new life is hidden just underneath the burlap and that an unfurling will happen, even though it's not quite happening when I think it should.

In the midst of feeling like each moment I live is one step away from falling on an icy patch and feeling tempted to be timid even to breathe, much less walk, I've realized that like my legs, my heart actually feels better when I exercise it instead of focusing so much on keeping myself safe and secure.

I found that by accepting the conditions of each moment, I am able to really live. And by that I mean, to embrace joy in the midst of the jaw-gripping, fault lines of life.

There's a young man who died recently, sparking so many conversations about people's perceptions of other people, particularly of biases as it relates to race. So much of the world noticed because the killing seemed unfair, judgmental, and irresponsible. People have been angry and rightfully so, yet I wonder if they expected some sort of perfect that hasn't transformed humans in spite of the strides that have been taken around human rights.

There's another young man who died recently, sparking another kind of conversation about how experience and success should somehow making him exempt from incurring pain or harming another person.

And then there's a third young man who died recently, sparking attention from a smallish-size group. Though not a nation-wide news story, people stood in lines for hours upon hours yesterday to pay their respects to a roughly 40-year old young man's family -- a village bartender -- who suddenly died of a heart attack.

I feel badly for the families of these men. I feel badly for their having the weight of sadness and for how these deaths have affected so many other people connected with them. I even feel badly for seeing goodness in all of these stories, because declaring any smidge of beauty in the brokenness feels so trite and dismissive of the pain people are experiencing.

Yet . . . I believe there really is more beauty than there is brokenness in this world . . . and most especially, that brokenness always gives way to beauty -- that it's purposed, even though we sometimes can't fathom how or even begin to pretend that we agree.

In the winter-like summer that I have experienced this year, I have hibernated and learned to rest. While doing so, I have contemplated the fragility of life and the risk of love and life.

I decided that I want to live, even if it means I'll experience brokenness.

I decided that holding my heart hostage from joy is more torture than any loss could ever be.

Death will happen. I will likely come when I least expect it. And though I am sometimes tempted to consider which way is a better way or which is a crueler way, I want to stop doing that as often and instead just breathe -- while I can -- sipping, savoring, and sometimes even slurping down the moments.

I'll sometimes evoke all my senses and might even taste life as I drink it in, yet there will be times when I'll gulp it right down with the mindlessness of a 1,000-thoughts-at-once frantic human being.

Maybe talking about death more would help us to be more comfortable with the imperfect nature of how it comes upon us. Maybe it would help us not to be so consumed with the idea that we can somehow perfect our handling of it.

Like parents do with children, we will mess up life.

We will forget to watch our tone and we'll even forget to wash our hands. We will forget that we really don't want the cookie and we'll reach for vices that have become our habits.

Life isn't something we can perfect or get through without pain. Though we want to be better, the truth is that we will die and we will die imperfect.

I don't want to spend all my energy trying to perfect me (or others) when I'll never finish the job anyway. 

I've decided that if Someone decided this world was worth having me a part it, then I can trust that Someone knows better than me.

That Someone wants me to embrace what is, as it is -- even what isn't exactly right or how I'd like it, including myself and other people.

Who am I to question Someone's Art?

Linking with Jennifer and Bonnie.

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