Sometimes a journey doesn’t need a destination

We all reach a time when we’re no longer happy where we are. For some it’s just a matter of restlessness, others have grown to a point they need a new challenge, and occasionally it’s just about becoming so uncomfortable where you are that the unknown holds more hope than your present reality. For some of us lucky ones, we’re hit with all three of these motivations.

I come from a family of restless people. My dad grew up in the mission field, so standing still is a relatively new concept for him. My mom grew up in one place and I think had stood still for too long. So I grew up moving around, but never fully understanding the reasonings behind the decisions.

For the most part, I just experienced the consequences of moving, good or bad. I learned how to make new friends. And I learned that friendship isn’t forever, so you have to enjoy every drop of it while you can. I learned that being somewhere new doesn’t mean you’re alone as long as you’re with family. Treating where you live as if you’re just passing through allows you to live like a tourist in your own town. There’s no expectation of “well, next year I’ll check out that festival” because you really never expect to be there next year.

There were definitely some things I missed out on learning though. I’m not that good at fighting for my friendships or making them work long-term. I don’t really know how to settle down without the expectation of leaving. I’m not going to say I learned to run away from my problems, but I did learn that problems stick with you as long as you’re holding on to them.

But now that I’m on the side of making the decisions about whether or not to move, I find there’s so much going on behind the scenes, and I don’t even have kids to worry about (oh, my poor parents). For once in my life I’m seeing the value of hitting the open road. And maybe what’s really important is the change, not necessarily what’s at the end of the map. I’ve learned today, that sometimes just getting in the car is the step that needs to take place.

I have no fear of the destination, or lack thereof. Every city has amazing places to visit, every church has some incredible lessons to teach you. An office will always come with some fun new challenges and some frustrations. And friends can be made anywhere. Every destination is a good destination. And every journey ends somewhere.

Pain

They say that pain is a signal that keeps you from causing more damage. Example being, you feel pain when you burn your hand so that you pull your hand away and keep from burning it worse. Sure, I get that. But I’m not so certain that all pain is valuable. Headaches can signal dehydration, lack of proper nutrition, and probably much more (I’m not a doctor after all).

Pain is one of those strong emotions that helps burn a memory or lesson into your mind. This makes sense, because why learn that pressure washing your foot is a bad idea if you are just going to forget and do it again the next week?

But today I have a headache, and I have NO IDEA WHY! Sure, I could go through the long, long list of what causes headaches and systematically eliminate potential reasons. But, let’s be real. Who’s gonna do that? I might drink 16 oz of water, and if it’s still there, give up. Much more likely, I’m going to break my cardinal rule of “stay away from medicines” to take a pair of iBuprofen. After all, why be at work if I’m getting no work done due to my pounding temple?

So is pain valuable if you don’t know the reason behind it? If there’s nothing you can fix, does it serve any purpose? If you don’t even know what to fix, often times we end up fixing the wrong thing.

I feel like this happens in my relationships with others. I don’t like confrontation. I pull the most ridiculous stunts JUST to avoid running into people I have issue with. So this is kinda a big deal to admit… If someone hurts me, innocently and without realizing it, and I say nothing, my pain is in vain. Sure I may learn not to trust someone or to put my guard up, but haven’t we learned this pessimistic attitude enough? This doesn’t mean I should lash out, or yell, or accuse. But perhaps, the only way for meaning to come of it is for me to sit down, calmly and logically, and let them know what they did and the result it had on me. Only by sharing this will they have the opportunity to learn from it.

Disclaimer: This does not guarantee they will learn from it. You can’t control what others do and they may hurt you again.

So maybe this level of vulnerability is what I need to learn next. Let people know how their actions make you feel if they need to know.

Give it Up

There are many moments in our life where we feel like giving up. Some times are simple, like a game you’re never going to win even if you keep trying. It can get a bit more serious, like a friendship with someone who is selfish and never takes you into consideration. There are also the big moments, like quitting a job, deciding to file for divorce, moving away, etc. And some people even get to the point that they want to give up on life. For the record, I never encourage this one. Never give up on life.

I have a hard time giving up. I will often stay waiting for hours for someone because I’m afraid that as soon as I walk away, the person will arrive. I hate that thought of missing something amazing because I walked away a minute too soon. I’m not sure where that particular fear comes from but I’ve lived with it for a long time.

I think this way on so many topics. What if I walked away from this person, and they were just about to change? Or what if I give up on this project right before the committee decides to adopt it. I guess that’s me living in the land of “what if” and letting it control my life again. This is a dangerous way to live. I keeps too many of us in bad situations because of how they may some day change. Don’t give up too soon, sure, perseverance is incredible important. But perseverance for the sake of perseverance may not get you where you want to be.

There are moments to give up on some things. I have always grown up holding tight to my memories, because somehow I thought that a moment wasn’t worth living if you weren’t going to remember it anyway. But in the last few years I’ve learned the value of giving up negative memories. Yes, negative moments may have helped shaped you into the person you are, and maybe you should never forget the lessons that you learned as a result, but you don’t need to hold on to memories that hurt you. Give it up. Some habits or traditions are in your life for no good reason. If they’re not there for a good reason, they probably shouldn’t be there. Give it up. Some things if your life might be doing damage.

Maybe, just maybe, learning to give up the small things to make a better life for yourself and those around you will give you the courage to give up the big things that are holding you down.

Day 10: Laugh with Anyone

We had a great day at church, learning, delivering food, enjoying a Thanksgiving meal together and watching a movie. I knew a few people, and they’re great, but there were so many people I didn’t know. At first the room was very full, but as the afternoon went on people trickled out. As the group got smaller we all felt more comfortable with each other, even though we weren’t taking directly. And we laughed together.

Day 10: Laughter doesn’t require previous intimacy. It’s easier to laugh with friends and people you know, but as long as you are all open and willing, you can laugh with anyone. Some of the most freeing laughter can come from a brief exchange with a stranger. So let your guard down from time to time and make a well-timed wisecrack if you dare. 

Day 6: Keep traditions

I’m rather forgetful. I wish I was different, that certain things sparked my memory or haunted my thoughts, but nothing sticks for too long. One of the things I’m particularly bad at is dates. I would forget my own birthday was coming if Facebook didn’t remind me of it. So of course, as life often happens, I married someone who took the effort to commit things to memory. He’s the anniversary keeper in our marriage. And he knows it all, the anniversary of the first day we met, the day he asked me out, the day he proposed, the day I left Peru, the day he came to the USA, the day we got married, the first time we changed a flat tire… he knows it all. Although I highly suspect he has an App hidden somewhere helping him out with some of those.
But we’re a family that likes to celebrate, so it works great that he has in mind so many dates to commemorate. Tonight the occasion was the 1 year anniversary of when he arrived in the USA. We had been apart for 11 and a half months, and only got to see each other once in that time for about 3 days. A year ago I picked him up at the airport and for the first time ever, drove him around. Although it was late, we grabbed a quick bite at IHOP before I dropped him off at the house where he would be staying until the wedding. I tend to bring people to IHOP when they first arrive from overseas, though I’m not sure why. I guess it’s the most American food I know. A year ago it seemed strange to sit down across the table from this man that used to live in my iPhone. 

When we went out tonight I thought to myself, “What a silly anniversary to keep.” Though that never gets in the way of having an excuse to order stuffed french toast. When taken from The word “tradition” holds a strange connotation for me I guess. Most of our family traditions growing up were for us kids. At least I had always assumed that they were. We celebrated Easter the same way every year, because us kids liked it so we wanted to do it again. We opened presents in the same way every Christmas because kids need some sort of structure to know what to expect in these sort of events. When I grew up I didn’t think I’d worry about keeping any special traditions of my own, though I always heard “you’ll start your own traditions when you have your own family.” I just always assumed that I would set up those traditions for my kids when they come around. Then I had a few sad holidays with no traditional aspects, and they were horrible. For several years I celebrated Christmas out of the country, and nothing about it felt like Christmas. In Brazil I ate tacos, in Peru I watch Titanic on TV then fireworks with my sister-in-law over Skype, and ate lemon pie. None of which says “Christmas” to me. 

And now I have my own family. It’s just me and Dani right now, and that’s pretty awesome. We’re still in our first year of marriage, but we’ve spent 2 Christmases together (3 if you count that one of our first dates was eating lemon pie together on Christmas afternoon). We still haven’t established traditions as they’re often understood. But tonight as we sat at IHOP chatting into the evening, I realized the true importance of traditions. Day 6: Creating and keeping traditions helps us blend the past, the present and the future. It’s not a matter of pulling out the same ornaments every year just because that’s what we do. It’s pausing normal day-to-day activities to appreciate what you’ve been through together, remember the great moments, evaluate the time that has passed, express what you’ve both learned and share the experience together. There’s no need to live in the past, but I’d be a fool to pretend like it didn’t happen. And one of the best ways to hold onto the good and keep getting better is to take the time to mark moments in history as they’re happening and remember the value moments that have gone.

Hold on Tight

Life has its ups and downs. We’ve all lived it, a few days where nothing can go wrong, then a week of “blah.” Maybe there were a few months of horrible then a scattered sprinkling of hopeful possibilities. Of course the moments that we deem worthy of sharing of the good ones, the great ones for those of us that don’t share as often. I may choose not to share online every time I have a bill to pay and I’m not sure where the money will come from or every time I have a low-grade fever. The big lows we may share, being in the hospital, a car accident, etc. But does that make them more worthy in our life?

A full life is not made of Facebookable moments, but rather of life in all its glory. We need those highlights, those marking moments to keep on our horizon to keep us from getting sea sick during life’s normal ups and downs. Maybe you’ve had less of those “amazing” moments, that doesn’t mean you lived any less. Soak in those ridiculously simple moments, bask in the glory of your trip to the grocery store or feel as bored as the moment demands.

What makes you feel alive? I’ve come to realize that life, much like love, is a choice and not merely an emotion. Oh yes, there is emotion involved. But you love because you choose to love. And likewise we keep living even when sometime the emotion of “feeling alive” isn’t present. Sometimes living is an act of faith, faith that things will get better, that the flat moments will somehow lead to new highs, that the low moments will once again be followed by the slow climb up.

Sometimes our only hope is to hold on tight to the life we have, stay in the car and hope that’s enough.

A Cup of Tea

Here at work, our department is full of tea drinkers. It seems as if the pot is always boiling or at very least, always hot. Our “chocolate drawer” is actually filled with tea bags. July and August were perhaps our highest months of tea consumption, despite the heat. Even our office plants drink (cooled down, left over) tea; they grow like weeds now. In short, we are a tea office.

I must say there is something so fabulous about a cup of tea. The hot water melts away stress built up slowly throughout the day. The soft flavor awakens sensitivity to the hints of subtle beauty in the world. The warmth of the cup soaks into your hands reigniting the consciousness of the connection between the mind, heart and body. And a conversation on the other side of a hot cup of tea resinates longer in your ears, reaching further into the depths of your soul. Nothing quite compares to the morning’s first cup of tea.

I once had a grief counselor talk to me about the value of “sitting down to have a cup of tea with your grief.” The basic concept is to become friends with your grief, face it straight on, experience it and understand it instead of avoiding it. Once this daily or weekly meeting is over, stand up and live the rest of your day away from your grief. I can think of no better setting to address such a difficult reality on a regular basis, with a hot cup of tea soothing the one wound which takes the longest to scar.

I am sure you have heard the theory of people being like tea. It is when we are put in hot water (difficult circumstances) that our true flavor (character) can bloom and be fully appreciated. Or maybe that is not a common thought, and I just created a brilliant new metaphor. Someday I will revisit that thought.

Excuse me, I have to get back to work; it’s tea time.