Lady in Waiting

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down”. –  Lily Tomlin

We’ve all heard the idea that life sometimes throws obstacles in your path to force you to slow down- and that the slowing down will serve a purpose. All right, sure. I’ll take one for the team here, so we can find out how much truth there is in that idea. For the last month, I’ve been living this particular lesson as I’ve been recovering from foot surgery.

Before I went in, someone told me they’d be interested to see what I learned from this time. I felt sure that it would offer me yet another lesson in patience. It did … but, as usual, my conclusion in that regard is that I still have a long way to go. I do not wait well.

Whatever.

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Fail Safe

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” –Indira Gandhi

I’ve been thinking lately about the nature of failure and forgiveness.

The thing is, I can be selfish.  It’s not intentional, but I have introvert tendencies, and when I get overwhelmed or exhausted, I withdraw my energies… and my powers of observation seem to tank right along with them. (To be honest, they’re pretty weak to begin with.  I’m not very sensitive and tend to miss both verbal and nonverbal cues that other people seem to pick up easily.)

A couple of years ago, I got very sick with a mystery illness that absolutely flattened me for the better part of 6 months. The doctors had all sorts of gloomy predictions for what might be happening, and the stress of dealing with those ideas, along with the endless testing and overall feeling of crappiness led me to pull back on the time I devoted to making sure I stayed connected in my friendships.

I took it one step further, however, and here’s where the selfishness really kicked in: I was so focused on my own issues that I failed to see that someone I loved dearly was really struggling- and what she was going through brought a much deeper pain than any physical issue I was having. Wrapped up in my own problems, I was totally oblivious…until one day, my fog suddenly lifted, and I thought… “Wait. We haven’t really talked about anything of consequence in months. And that’s not normal.”

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Diamond in the Rough

“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”. – Augusten Burroughs

Raise your hand if you agree with the idea that “We’re all our own worst critics”.

Everyone’s hand up? Yes? I thought so.

It seems to be part of human nature that we all give more weight to our flaws, slip-ups and inadequacies than our good choices and successes. It’s not an entirely bad thing; we do need our brains to tell us right from wrong so that we learn the correct lessons in life. The issue, however, is that the mechanism rarely stops there and too often flows into destructive self-criticism.

“Hey”, your brain whispers as you lie awake in bed at night, “Remember that totally awkward remark you made the other day? Other people don’t say that kind of stuff. Your social skills are the literal worst. In fact, YOU are the literal worst”.

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The Bright Side

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better”. – Dalai Lama XIV

Would you call yourself an optimist?

For years, I would have answered this question with a no… I preferred to think of myself as a realist, with a bent toward cynicism and pessimism. I didn’t hold with the idea of pretending that everything was wonderful when it clearly wasn’t.

I also prided myself on recognizing that some things simply couldn’t be changed and didn’t waste my time trying to remake bad situations. I tried, instead, to accept them for what they were. The smart money wasn’t in a Pollyanna approach to the world; there were just too many difficult things in life. I couldn’t possibly be an optimist, because I was a realist.

Why was it so hard for me to walk on the brighter side of life? The crux of the issue, for me, was ego. I equated a pessimistic mindset with intelligence. I wanted to be taken seriously, and I thought that pointing out and dissecting problems meant I was thinking more deeply about life.

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Profit & Loss

Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future. – William Wordsworth

It seems that when your mind is on a certain topic, you can see connections to the idea everywhere. Lately, life seems to be presenting the subject of love… and what is gained, and lost, by its presence.

About 6 weeks ago, our very old dog passed away. We had known for some time that she was coming to the end, but that didn’t make things any easier when she finally died. I cried on and off for days, partly from my own sadness, and partly from watching my family suffer through losing her. I still tear up over it at times.

There are people who would scoff at that level of grief over a dog, but I know I’m not alone. I’ve since spoken to one friend that said it took her over a year to get over the loss of a dog, and another who said she’ll never have another dog after having lost one several years ago.

I’m not saying all love, or loss, is the same. Those things vary by degrees, but sorrow seems to be an inevitable consequence of caring, and that’s what’s difficult about love. We must hold the things we love very gently- not to keep them from breaking or ending, but because we know that eventually, they will.

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Lock and Key

“Communication sometimes is not what you first hear, listen not just to the words, but listen for the reason.” – Catherine Pulsifer

I recently read a book lent to me by a friend, which is always an interesting proposition, because I find that when someone tells me “you’ll love it!”, I frequently don’t.

She made no such claim, only suggested I read it, and while I can’t say I loved it, the story did interest me enough to read all the way through. It follows two young people who move through their high school and college years in an on-again/off-again relationship of sorts that can never seem to find solid footing.

I say a relationship “of sorts”, because they had a very odd dynamic- neither seemed to be able to fully invest in the relationship, but neither would walk away. Their connection was made of misunderstandings, and it seemed that both were purposely obtuse during critical emotional tipping points.

It was so aggravating.

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Between the Cracks

Before that, we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never seeing inside. But once the vessel cracks, the light can get in. The light can get out.”
― John Green

The Japanese have some really lovely concepts, and one of my favorites (it doesn’t really translate in Western culture) is wabi-sabi, which teaches that there is beauty in imperfection, and that we should place a high value on authenticity.

The idea of wabi-sabi began in the Zen Buddhism tea ceremony, where the most prized bowls were handmade, and thereby unevenly shaped, with flawed glaze and cracked surfaces. These imperfections made them unique, and therefore precious.

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