In the Darkness

Every several months I take a social media fast. Not that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with being on Facebook, Twitter and the like, but over time scrolling through the noise becomes deafening. So I stop. I let the urge to click, refresh, scroll down, refresh, express my emotion instantly, scroll, and get lost in the labyrinth of friends’ profiles pass me by, even as my fingers seek the keys instinctively. There are days that in my search bar I start typing “Face….” and stop myself just in time, although often I click enter before I can stop myself and come face to face with the tempting log in screen. It’s a daily battle with myself, which I hope will make me stronger in the long run.
The silence hits. Seconds, minutes, hours open up to a new possibility. Where once my eyes perused a 4-inch screen to discover its every last message, now I begin seeing the little details around me. My mind begins to flirt with thoughts that I’ve shut out for months or ignored vehemently by seeking an alternative train of thought at the touch of a button.
Am I enough? My mind searches desperately for a reason to escape giving an answer. Do I need to forgive? Maybe there are dishes that still need to be washed, laundry that needs to be folded, a room that still needs to be vacuumed. Do they really care? Reading is supposed to be good for you, maybe it’s time to pull an old classic from the bookshelf and lose myself in the prose of an author who actually had it all figured out. Am I where I should be? I bet there are still some unanswered emails in my inbox, and it would be rather rude not to respond to them right away, even though they’re from last week. What do I need to change?
It’s in the silence, deliberating with myself, that I start to hear the squeaks in what I once thought was a well-oiled instrument, accentuating areas that need tending to, especially in the painful-to-reach corners. The unnerving process of confronting each thought head on often gives me a headache. It’s not like I’m going to figure out the answers to all of my questions right now anyway. So why try?

These thoughts lead to somewhere in the darkness. Maybe the darkness is exactly where I need to be from time to time.

Day 5: Look up

Today’s was that day we all look forward to with excitement and anticipation. Jury duty day! I spent hours and hours sitting in a room with 50 strangers to fulfill our civic duty of being there just in case we could participate in the justicial process. Long story short, there was not a single case that required our services. Maybe next time. 
My mood

There was a sort of generation gap in the room. Many people thought to bring books (I’ll admit I was a little jealous), a few ladies even had knitting to work on. Then there were the 35 and unders who were all on electronic devices, myself included. I’m a little awkward in those situations anyway, so any excuse to avoid eye contact is welcome, although after a while I got a little tired of staring down. So I did the unimaginable. I looked up. I couldn’t help but notice some interesting things about my fellow citizens. The room was completely silent. Every once in a while there was a whispered question or “excuse me” as someone got out of their seat to go to the bathroom. There was the occasional whir of the coffee machine, though that may have sounded louder since I was sitting right next to it.

Day 5: Take time to look up at the world around you. Soak it in, observe, draw conclusions, commit some things to memory, let other details stir your imagination, just look around, you don’t need to be entertained every minute of the day. This is one of those lessons I “know” and am often quoting to my husband when he’s chronically our adventures with his camera. But there’s something very special about just sitting down and doing it. I try hard not to be overly connected with my phone. I almost never take it to lunch and am usually the one person at the table not staring at something. But to sit in a room full of strangers, with no one to talk to, no screen to watch and nothing new to learn gave me a wonderful opportunity to play in my own mind.

My most exciting view

So thank you jury duty for reminding me of this great skill. Sometimes the best place to spend some time by yourself and get in touch with your thoughts is in a room full of strangers. 

Day 3: Enjoy!

Welcome to day 3! It’s been a lazy Saturday with relatively little drama. We learned a bit more about the inner workings of generosity this morning at church and celebrated our 11 month anniversary. It may not sound like a long time, but being locked up in a tiny apartment with me for 11 months is probably enough to drive most normal people crazy. I feel like there were a lot of interesting life lessons today, especially from this morning’s sermon. Remember, people aren’t grateful for what they feel entitled to, so live as if everything is a gift. Deep right? Pastor Mike said it much more convincingly.
But I’m going to cheat and use the wise saying from my Yogi Tea for today’s lesson. Day 3: The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment. Ok, so I’m not sure if I agree with this 100%. I think that looking out for others is important, and true love is selfless. And life certainly isn’t a marathon of happiness. We, unfortunately, live in a fallen world and deal with a lot of bad stuff. 
But, I do see a whole lot of value in enjoying every moment, especially with sense of appreciation. Especially the little moments. Enjoy doing the laundry, not because it’s fun (unless it is for you) but because you have clothes, you don’t have to do them by hand (so glad that chapter of my life is over for now). Not that every moment will be fun, but can possibly be enjoyed. Today some of my greatest moments were strange misunderstandings with my husband, which under the wrong attitude (read: if I was feeling moody) could have led to arguments and hurt feelings, but were instead turned into an opportunity to laugh together at ourselves. There’s a big difference in my mind between enjoying the task, and enjoying moments. I may not always love going to work, but I love the little moments of interaction with my coworkers. I certainly don’t enjoy doing the dishes, but seeing the process of something going from used and dirty to clean and orderly is addicting. Cooking isn’t always my thing but put on a little salsa music and it becomes a whole production in my kitchen. 
So tonight, maybe you don’t have anything “enjoyable” planned, but stop a few times and ask yourself “Am I enjoying myself right now?” And if you aren’t (which is very possible) figure out one small thing you could do to fix that. Because a life well lived is a live well enjoyed.

Day 2: Enjoy the drive home

Some days are not terrible, but not the greatest either. Ok, maybe most days are like that. It’s actually pretty rare to get one of those “amazing” days. That’s not to say that the other normal days aren’t worth it, in fact those are the days that make up the grand majority of life. So be prepared for extremely normal posts 87% of the time.
Today I went into work for a few hours to make up for some lost time this week. It’s normally my day off, but I’d rather spend my built up vacation hours on a vacation. Crazy talk, I know. On my drive home, I had two scary experiences. First, a car tried passing me on the shoulder, which didn’t go well for them. I, being the patient and caring person I am, sped up so there wasn’t room to cut in front of me. Kids, don’t try this at home. The driver slowed down and pulled in close behind me, and just as we were going under an overpass, his tire blew. Not just a flat tire type of deal, but a loud, reverberating blow. And while I was watching the driver in my rearview mirror pull over to the shoulder, the car next to me decided he wanted to be in my lane, exactly where I was. Whether I was in his blind spot, or he was a jerk, I’ll never know. But he certainly “didn’t hear” my horn as I warned him of my existence. Thankfully I have fabulous braking skills. Now, no my daily lesson has nothing to do with driving. Although I’m sure I still have plenty to learn in that area as well.
Day 2: Appreciate the safe drive home. Very rarely as I leave my home does it occur to me that I might not make it back. It’s easy to celebrate when you survive an accident, but why not celebrate when nothing happens! What’s wrong with thousands of days of celebrating “I made it home safely!” Sure, staying safe is the norm, and accidents are the exception, but what a great norm! So tomorrow when I make it home again, it’s time to jump for joy that it’s a normal day. 

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.

Disappearing Thoughts

I just had one of those “writer’s worst nightmare” moments. I always act as if they will never happen to me, and yet they do (quite often as a matter of fact).

I wrote out a brilliant blog post, brilliant I say. Humorous yet deep, well worded yet conversational, just brilliant. And what do I do? Yes, you guessed it, pressed close instead of save. There’s something about the comfort and ease of using a computer that encourages me to press the close button with far too great of a frequency. It must be that certain clicks comes so automatically.

After this tragic mis-click I thought to myself, “I know what I wrote, I’m sure I can just do it again.” Three lines into it I realize that was just wishful thinking. Yes, the thoughts come from the same brain, but this time they don’t fit together as well as they did before. Isn’t that just the way it goes?

I’m sure there’s a solution, and it’s likely not “blog about how I don’t have interesting to say any more,” though it doesn’t hurt to try. But I think my most helpful course of action will just be to go to bed, dream of my brilliant blog post and hopefully wake up in time to write it down.

Has any of this ever happened to you?

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.