Tuesday, May 3, 2016

{Almost} 11 Months Later

I am not sure I'll be able to write a post "12 Months Later", at least not right away, so I thought while I had the thoughts, I'd better write now, at 11 months, unconventionally.

So I guess it's May and the year is 2016. I realized this, sure I realized when it was NEW YEAR'S DAY, but...it really dawned on me the other day when I was uploading photos of our second year here in California. It dawned on me that I had not started the 2016 album, so I'd needed to do it. But it's MAY. In reality I guess that is true, but in my reality, it's still just after Christmas. It is most certainly not May and it is most certainly not almost a year since my best friend and "life partner" passed away.

I feel like for the last several months, although I've had some breakthroughs in my grieving process, and all that means is I've healed more and more, because when you experience loss you can get stuck in a certain place and not "move forward", and you end up struggling with whatever. If that makes any sense. I'll explain more later. So I have been feeling like I am just pushing through the last several months. New Year's came, it was awful with the reality of Amy not being here, Valentine's Day came, same thing (she loved that day), countless days like my birthday, her birthday, her husbands birthday, her sons birthday and on and on. Even these NATIONAL SOMETHING days can remind me of her. It is endless. But because life calls you and it's important to stay "in life", I've picked up a few projects, and that has stunted some of my grieving. Much like it probably does someone who works FT at a 9-5p, leaving them with little time to focus on healing. I actually do have the time to heal, but with projects and a few other commitments I have going on, it's prevented it a bit.

Here's where I am 11 months later:

1.TIME- Time is an odd thing. I literally am not in May of 2016. If you've experienced a significant loss, I would gather you feel the same way. I am not sure when time will catch up with me, does anyone out there know? I felt like I fully prepared for Amy's birthday, and when the day came I was able to really feel pretty good, except it felt surreal. But the week leading up to it I was fighting to not be in bed the whole week. But other dates I have felt rushed, like I haven't given them the attention that they need, or the attention myself that I need. It is tough because I get blindsided by so many things that remind me of her and I wish I could give them ALL ample attention, if that makes sense, but it's humanly impossible. But everyday there is a flood of them. I think time is standing still for me overall because it's almost like I'm still in that place with her dying. Even though clearly I am not. It's very hard to explain. I'm still "back there" but life is "up here" right now. And it keeps going and I'm trying to be in May but I'm not.

2.PRECIOUS MOMENTS-Lately I've been thinking again about the sweet tender moments I had with her during her illness. Even when her brother got married a few years ago, she wasn't able to bathe or do her hair or make-up, and I helped her. I got to her house early that day and curled her long thick hair, and I adored putting make-up on that face of hers. The face I had been touching and seeing since we were 15! What an honorable and a humble experience for both of us. I like thinking on those tender moments. There are many more, but that is the one I've been thinking of lately. There is one more too that I keep thinking of, and it's when I was massaging her back in the hospital last May. And rubbing essential oils on her shoulders and spine. I don't know how that was almost a year ago, but it was.

3.THE UNDERCURRENT- One big breakthrough I had was just last week. Grief was ruling the day and it does that. It gives no warning signs as to when it will be worse, or feel breathable. I was suffocating that day. I sprawled onto our ottoman and just let go. It was like an UNDERCURRENT, that was there for days, sometimes weeks, and you're waiting for it to take you under, and boy did I go down. A lot of times we don't 1, allow ourselves to let the undercurrent take us because we have to be present to our day and we have responsibilities, and 2, we are afraid of the undercurrent because it's so so painful. Usually when I experience this I hate it. I think it's my enemy because it hurts so bad and I want out of it desperately. But this time, after 11 long months, I finally did not wish it away. I let it be, I went with  it. I didn't call it names and beg for it to go away and leave me alone. I sat in it, felt it. I was gentle toward myself instead of being mad at being swept under, STILL 11 months later! Like I'm suppose to have it all together with grief by now, ya right.

4.ACCEPTANCE- I have a few chapters left in my main grief book, and one of them is ACCEPTANCE. I'm afraid to read it because I don't want to accept Amy's being gone, because let's face it, it's unacceptable. But maybe, just maybe the chapter will talk about accepting that grief is a part of our life now. That it isn't something to get rid of, but rather something that will always be there, although healing overtime, but it will always be. Maybe the chapter is talking about how grief becomes a part of us and it needs to be accepted and integrated into our lives. I don't know, but that is how I felt for the first time last week when the undercurrent took me. I felt like this was ME now. This was my new self, because I am different now. I look at pictures or videos from before she died, and I look and sound very different. It's very strange. It's like there is a BEFORE YOUR LOVED ONE DIED SELF and an AFTER YOUR LOVED ONE DIED SELF. And it's sad.

5.TALKING-Oh how much I still want to talk about it, but not many around me want to or know that! I stopped going to my grief support group that I had attended since July last year, because one of the members, a good pal from the group, died. I mean I could NOT and still don't believe it and I just couldn't get myself to go back to that room where we all shared together for months and months so intimately about our loved ones. I just couldn't deal with his death or the reminders of that room.
I went to a new grief group that Grief Share offers here in Oakland, but I didn't like it so much. I felt rushed and I felt like the members were telling me what to do, how to feel and how to handle things.
So not sure where I'll go from here with this. But it's important to keep talking, and because my hospice/grief counselor time is up after June 15th, I need to figure something else out! But talking keeps her memory alive, and it's part of healing!

6.REGRETS-Most people that have experienced loss end up having some regrets, some people end up having a lot. And a huge break through I had was realizing that Amy is WHOLE AND PERFECTED. She is ALL SPIRIT and she has not ONE regret or thought of MINE. She is literally perfected with her Father, and she does't view any misunderstandings, squabbles, discord, or unrest that the two of us may have ever had any more! It's all wiped away according to her. She is made new and whole, so her view is not the same as us tiny humans, who experience pain. Along with her not experiencing physical pain anymore she also no longer experiences mental or emotional pain, so her slate is wiped clean! She would never want me under the bondage of regret, and your loved one wouldn't want you to be either! She is set free, so so am I!

I am speaking at church on Mother's Day and then I have one other writing project due at the end of May, but other than that, I plan on doing a lot of grief work, and more of a focus on self-reflection and alone time. The year anniversary of her passing is June 5th, and I'll be planning that day soon.

"Should his heart break and the grief pour out, it would flow over the whole earth, it seems, and yet, no one sees it."
Anton Chekhov

"We almost feel we need to experience the world for two people." Martha Whitmore Hickman

"Our separation is temporary, not permanent." Martha Whitmore Hickman

"So in our healing from the wounds of grief, a generous amount of silence will help us rest into the depths of our own souls, and find peace." Thomas Merton

Friday, April 15, 2016

One Word Photos




























Monday, April 4, 2016

Living Where You Are

Let me be clear, I don't mean physically your location. I'm talking, how about not merely existing, but living, right where we're at physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually?

Day after day, week after week I hear from people from all over: "I'm not creative enough at what I do, so I'm just not going to do this anymore, so many others are more thoughtful and creative."
"I missed my kids band concert, and I raised my voice and lost my temper, I'm a terrible mother and am riddled with guilt."
"I'm so overwhelmed with working, raising children and being a good wife, and that doesn't include all the other people and events tugging me. I can't do it all, I feel like a failure."
"I'm waiting on this job, my dream job and it's just not coming through for me. I'm simply not good enough."
"My health keeps me down, and it prevents me from doing all the things I really want to do! I don't have a purpose."
"I've been trying to have children for years, and I am unable to get pregnant, I must not be blessed."
"I really miss my adult kids, I wish they were near me, and I wish I had grandkids to fill my life with!"
"My book, photograph, whatever wasn't published. I'm tired of trying. I don't have what it takes."
"I miss my family and wish I lived near them, my life is so empty without them! I'm missing out on so much."
"I missed my loved one, I am grieving so deeply, I don't want to face or live life without them."
and on and on and on and on. . .

If you can relate to even ONE of those, then you're not alone. We can all agree that life hurts, it's unfair and we don't necessarily want to be "where" we are in the process of it. We want to be there, or there, or we want this to be true, or that. But it simply isn't. Reality bites. But the radical acceptance of reality, and learning to live from a place deeper than ALL of this can help get us through. No, I bet it WILL get us through.

Is it possible to live right where you're at? Even if you are in the middle of a divorce? Even if you are in the middle of a transition, or health scare, or job dreaming??? Is it possible to know that in the middle of spilled milk, lost tempers, and tearful nights that you're OK? That that is OK? That that is where you're at and that you're more than OK, that actually right where you are is where you can live? Live how you wonder? You are alive, right? But maybe just existing and dreaming and run down, but not living? Are you in a perpetual place of, "When....." "If....." Well you don't have to be. Neither do I.

What and where is that "deeper" place I mentioned? I believe it lies deep within our souls, a place we don't like to go very often, or at all. But a place that is necessary to go to, when we want to learn to live well. People aren't taught how to do this, I wish they were! I wish it was taught in schools. But it starts with asking yourself a few questions: "Why does this hurt?" "Why can't I let this go?" "Why do I think this about myself?" Once you begin the ponderings of yourself, you'll start to hear or "see" the answers. You'll soon find out that there is something deeper within that hurts, or scares you, or bothers you. Maybe something you're angry about. And these are things worth of talking about but it's not a popular thing to do, so what happens? We keep quiet, and continue in our days, pretending we're fine, but really wishing things were different. But I know for a fact if we faced these internal "monsters that are crying out", we'd find more peace, and we'd be able to accept reality a lot easier. But it's not easy to face and be honest with our own thoughts and souls. But, it's vital we are.

Living where you are depends on it. Our life is worth a bit of soul tending.

"We never know the wine we are becoming while being crushed like grapes."
Henri Nouwen

 How are some ways we can live where we're at?

1.) Accept that there is no "right" place to be, but where you are in the process of life, can be filled with beauty. We can choose to turn our hearts to something Bigger, yes I'm talking about the One who made you, and if you don't believe that, I believe you can still shift your perspective by accepting that you're in process, it's all beauty when counted that way, and we can be thankful. Just by a shift. A new thought. Thoughts like, "This is just a season, there is a time for everything, and this will change." Thoughts like, "I know this is painful, but I believe I can still find beauty and something positive in this pain." Thoughts like, "I'm not purposeless, I'm not worthless, I'm not a failure, I'm not one lump sum of something negative just because something negative happened."

2.) Stop comparing yourself to others. We hear this all the time, but it's more than just a novel idea or thought. God made you, YOU! As cheesy as that sounds, make the most of YOU! Find your gifts, start looking within, and find what you are passionate about and how God created you to be unique to this world. God is so smart that if He wanted to have created us all the exact same way He could have, duh! Focus on who He made YOU to be. If you feel you've been jipped in any way, and that you're life simply isn't as "blessed" or full as another's, then make it full! We are such good wallowers, but we weren't made to be. We can live in possibility and thrive.
Trust me, when I did this it changed my perspective and way of life immensely.

3.) There is no doing it all, there is no failure. If I can scratch these thoughts and ideas from our line of thinking for good, I would. I literally detest them! How about we are all flawed and broken, and make mistakes and that's all part of it??? How about you're ok? How about IT'S ok even when it feels like it isn't because there is new birth and there are waiting periods, and it is hard. But it won't last forever. Trust in new birth. Trust in new things. New life. New ways. Trust in hope.

Monday, March 14, 2016

When You're At A Loss Over Their Loss

For the last 9 months I've been living with a mark I never thought I would be. I am living with loss. A great loss. My childhood friend of 26 years. And during my loss, others have been at a loss as to what to do or say. I'm here to help and speak up about that today.

After a great loss, one never wants more than to wake up from the most inevitable nightmare they are living. They never, ever have wanted there to be a traveling back in time invention than they ever have now, and they never thought others would cast them aside, or their pain aside, while they endure the hardest, most traumatic experiences of their lives. But it's all true.
There is about a 5-10 second break in the mornings for me. You know, when your body is awake but your brain isn't quite there yet? Ya, that. In those seconds I don't have the reality of my loss, and I feel like I use to before it ever happened.

It's the greatest feeling in the world.

But then it hits me, and the reality of my loss is alive and kicking like never before.

I'm learning, oh I'm learning alright. Reading and doing a daily devotional (mediation), about loss, and I'm journaling and even talking about it still--to whoever will listen. Pathetic, right? I'm still in a support group and still have my session with the hospice counselor every Friday at 10am. We made some excellent progress last week. She helped me see that because I met Amy at 15, that is the age where I feel the loss the most. Meaning, we bonded at 15 like madness, we both needed the love each was giving, and we became so enmeshed and dependent upon one another, to the point of no healthy boundaries, that all that intensifies the loss for me. We were basically one step away from being married. Married couples had better boundaries than we did most of our friendship.

I'm learning to live with the pain of loss. My grief counselor says that as I heal and do the grief work, time will do me well. As I get further and further away from her death, the less agony I will feel. And it's true, it has been less debilitating, less intense, less frequent. And I've learned not to hate on those feelings and thoughts when they happen, but to allow them. That's helping too.

I understand someone not knowing what to say or do with a grieving person, I've been there. But I obviously am now on the other side of it and if I can give some tips to someone who knows someone who is experiencing great loss, so the griever can feel less like they belong on a deserted island, well then, I'm gonna. Because believe me, we feel like lepers walking around in a society that has no clue what to do with us.

Say something, anything at all! It is NEVER too late to tell the grieving person you are sorry for their loss. It is never to late in the process to tell someone that you are thinking of them. WE want to be acknowledged, because most of the time people avoid the subject and won't even look us in the eyes. So please, say something, anything! Don't worry about being awkward. Grief IS awkward, because we were never meant to deal with death. Saying something is much better and more loving than saying nothing at all. Most people use the excuse that they don't know WHAT to say. That's OK, say it anyway, it's the fact that you are saying SOMEthing that means the world.

When I didn't understand a grieving person (someone who had experienced a significant loss), I admit, I would judge their situation. I wouldn't understand why they would still bring it up. Why they would still talk about it, share about it, or even be sad about it. I literally did not get this at all. I am not ashamed to admit this, because a person cannot understand a thing until they themselves go through it. That's super true people. It's not possible to have a clue unless going through a similar loss yourself. But trust us, there is no "getting over it". We need to share, we need to heal and we need the world to be kinder as we do! So whether you understand or not, I'm asking you to TRUST us as we grieve that it's really THAT BAD. It really DOES HURT like anything we've ever experienced. We just want safe places to heal and express what's in our hearts without judgement. So just take our word for it, as crazy as we might seem, we're not. Our lives have been completely turned upside down and we are now different. We wish were weren't.

3. JUST LISTEN and maybe ASK
I have had a few select people that have "saved" me in my grief. My mom, my other best friend of 16 years and my husband. I have also had a new friend here in Cali who has been wonderful as well. They have done the hard, uncomfortable, loving, selfless thing: they've listened. They've asked. Probably when they didn't want an answer. And I've been extra lucky, they've spoken truth to me when I've needed it. They've not just listened, they partake. Their goal was me and love, I could not have gotten through the last nine months without them. I feel indebted to them.
If you don't know what to do, or what to ask, just listen. Maybe you could ask the person grieving what they'd like to talk about? Ask them about their loved one? Just like it's never too late to say something, anything at all, it's never too late to check in and ask or listen. You don't have to say anything profound. Just sit and listen. We need the ear.

4. READ and LEARN about GRIEF
Take a few minutes out of your day to read about grief. It's stunning all there is to learn, and how other cultures handle grief. And BTW, Americans handle it the worst. We just don't know, we just haven't been taught well. But there are other countries that are absolutely amazing with mourning as weird as that sounds. They hold the grievers up for as long as necessary. They tend to them, take care of them. They allow them to rest. Here, in the states, we are back at work after the funerals/memorials. I am sure if I worked a traditional job, I would have been fired the week I had returned. I'm grateful to have had the space to grieve and heal. That is crucial because all healing is a vertical process. If we are healing healthily, we are vertical, which means we are upright, standing, strong, and sturdy. If we ignore our grief, and don't do the necessary healing, it will all come out sideways down the road, which means uncontrollable emotions like anger, or bitterness, or poor behaviors and patterns. Sideways means not good.

As grievers, we don't like being marked by loss. It's torture. And as someone on the sidelines, don't be marked by not saying anything, or learning empathy, or not looking a griever in the eyes, or not listening. Grieving people everywhere need you. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

When God's Love Trumps Our Hate For Trump

Let's just get it out in the open, I'm going to talk about something, well, super popular and unpopular at the same time. A person we all love to hate. Donald Trump.

But this is not a person God loves to hate, because He literally hates no one. Not one solitary person because hate is antithetical to hate. God IS love.

It's super easy to hate a villain, huh? We all love to hate one. And this year, many of us have jumped on the hating on Trump train. What's not to hate, right? When someone is referring to me, I'd rather hear, "What's not to love??!!", would you rather hear that?

But when it comes to Donald Trump it's obvious there is a lot about him to make ones blood boil.
I mean his racial slurs, comments and even faces (mocking). His derogatory comments toward women, (he's got a LOT of balls to say the things he says about women, let me at him!), his beyond appalling jokes about the disabled, I mean I could go on. It's actually quite unbelievable what comes out of this guys mouth, this HUMAN. I'm still shocked by his ego maniac-ism--is that a word? If it's not, I'm making it one now. I often think, "What on earth does his wife think? Surely she can't agree or condone this sort of behavior. Who could?"

God doesn't condone it, approve of it or like it. But I can tell you without a doubt, God loves Donald Trump. If God created US, He created The Donald. Donald Trump is precious to God. What?! Yes, precious! Just like I am precious to God, and you are precious to God. No one is exempt from God's love. Not even Donald Trump. As a Christian, I am called to love others and love my enemy.
This doesn't mean God made Donald Trump the kind of guy he is, (because we have free will), that could be a different blog post --how Donald got to be so obnoxious, but just because one doesn't condone, approve or like what someone does, it doesn't mean one can't love them.

What does loving them mean then? What does it, or would it look like to "love" Donald Trump?

For starters I think we can do the harder thing. Doing hard things are rarely based on feelings. It's usually things we must do to endure or persevere through. Sure there are things we plan to do that are hard that we want to do, but love, agape love, has little or nothing to do with how we feel about a person or a thing.
The harder thing here is to not jump on the Trump hating train. What good does it do our hearts? Is it changing us for the better by "hating" on someone or calling them names like most others do? It's super easy to call someone names, but a lot tougher to not give into that. So we could challenge ourselves to refrain from this sort of partaking. We simply don't have to add to the "hate".  How are we any different or better by wishing someone unwell, and calling them names? It might feel good momentarily to put that energy out in the world toward them, especially because so much social media is at our finger tips, but does it resolve anything? Is there something else we could do with that energy that would make a difference?

I think often times we give into this sort of behavior because we think "slimy" people need to "pay" for the way they behave or have behaved. Trust me, if anyone gets this, it's me. But all that brings me is more misery inside. All it does is get me worked up and bound up and hot tempered. Hate breeds more hate. But love, peace, contentment breed more of what we need in our hearts, love.

Love is an action, so we don't have to like Trump to not partake in the poor treatment of him. He treats others poorly so why do the same? What about the golden rule?

"Do onto others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

This verse doesn't say, "expect the political animals, liars, cheaters, cruel and obnoxious ego maniacs like Donald Trump, you don't have to do this in regard to him!"

When God asks us to "love our enemies" He's talking about the very people like Trump (and Bin Laden, Saddam etc...) that hurt society by just being in it! Why?! Because of the upside down Kingdom of God and the radical message of Jesus! He's that loving and amazing, that we are asked to love "monsters", because God does. And that can be something as simple as not adding cruelty, name calling, bashing, and hate into the world. We can choose to see someone through the lens of Jesus, seeing them how He would. Which is seeing that people like Trump have an EQUAL value as a human in this world as any, anyone else.

Hard pill to swallow? That's ok, you don't have to agree with me. I just have learned through the years that all my hating and bashing of someone I don't like or strongly disagree with in the least bit, has done nothing to add to the beauty of the world around us. I know first hand that all it's done, whether it feels good in the moment, is add to the chaos in my own heart. And it's ugly & debilitating.

I'm free when I set the person I'm hating free, and it's no easy call to do that. But I honestly have no control over Trump's actions, or whether or not he'll win or not. I can't ever control the outcome of his destiny. But I can stand up for what I believe in in the meantime, and free the oppressed and speak up for the orphan, or the refugee, whatever I'm passionate about, but I don't have to hate on Trump while I'm doing that. I can tend to my own heart and not add to the hate because by golly, there's already enough of it in the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The List of Adding Down-Especially At Christmastime

Last week, I was busy counting all the things that weren't ok, that I wasn't happy with in my life, the things that I simply wish were different. Boy was I adding them up, or "down" rather. A lot of things have been building and adding up in more ways than one, which is probably the reason for the silence around these parts. But today, I just wanted to chat about the things that I was ruminating over.

The things can really add up, or they can add "down" if that even makes sense. If we take the time to see, we'll realize and have the opportunity to re-adjust a bit, and start counting and adding the things that really matter. Cuz those things we count down, they just don't so much (they matter but they don't have to consume us). When we take the time to add up, and collect the things that are right, that we do have, that ends up filling us up, and in turn, we aren't so deflated, defeated and miserable. But we gotta count, we gotta add em' up. We actually have to do something.

Not just at Christmas time but at most times in our lives, there is a list. The list of all we wish was different, the list of all that is wrong, the list of all the things and people we mourn. Life hurts. It's hard. It's broken, and fragile. At best, we can see the things we have if we get our heads out of the gutter, and take a look, at very best, we can do it with a small smile and a tad bit of grace. Because let's be honest, there's always a diagnosis, there's always a pain, there's always a break-up, there's always an addiction, there's always self-loathing, there's always a job loss, pay cut, divorce, dead-beat dad, unpaid bills, undreamed hopes and dreams, weight gained, tears shed, fists lifted, eyes shedding, hearts beaten, bodies sick, and guns a firing. It just doesn't stop.

But can we choose to look at things that are there, and maybe ever so quietly they exist and they are gifts? Can I choose that? I did this week, when my list that was adding down, was drowning me.

We all have the ability to look, to see (whether your eyesight works or not). We all have the ability to change our minds. We all have the ability to notice something that we hadn't before. What is that for you? What is that for me?

Sometimes it's a matter of loosening our grip, and allowing for something new to happen, for something different to bloom, even if it's not what we wanted, or imagined. It comes in the strangest ways. But ends up being beautiful, if we take the time to see.

Last week, a few of the things on my "adding down" list were: missing my daughter and wanting her in California with me, not having any ornaments or stockings (I couldn't fit them in the PODS when we were moving across the country), not being apart of my christmas traditions that I hold so dear, like shopping with friends, or going to a cookie bake, or even a christmas party. Not having a car and the toll it's taking on me, and finding out something new about my health that is scary to me. But I think I'll stop there, because again, the list of adding down is long. If I let it be. But I'm working on adding up.

Yesterday we, in the most non-traditional sense got a Christmas tree! We did it without a car, my husband walked the tree home for over a mile! How strange to get a tree with no snow, no boots, no Columbia coat, no hat and mittens, and NO cold weather! The trees were super expensive and we had to get a short one because of our tiny apartment. But I say all that to say this: I chose to SEE something! The hilariousness of my lumberjack hubby hauling our tree on his shoulder up to our apartment after a mile of walking. Actually NOT freezing, and screaming and complaining of not being able to feel my toes as I usually do when we are picking out a tree. The fact that the guy that took our photo at the tree farm, did a selfie before he took a pic of my husband and I (oh yes he did). Sure the tree we got looks like an animal of some sort attacked it, (I'm not kidding you, it's like missing half it's branches, we should have qualified for a discount), it's totally lopsided, and it's bare, except for some lights we picked up at Walgreens. These, because I choose to see, are new memories. They might not be what I ever imagined or envisioned, and not exactly how I want it, but it's something I can "add up" on my list, as a gift, as a classic memory that goes down in history in the Norman books.
christmas tree guys selfie 

The other thing I addressed on my list of adding "down" was my daughter not being here. But guess what?! I get to be with her for over a month and for her 21st birthday! She's coming to California this week. Now if that is not a blessing, I don't know what is! Seeing it in this light, let's me add up on my list instead of down, and I re-adjust my seeing; I appreciate what I will have when she's here. I've spent a few days adding up up and up, and my adding down list has become so small I can hardly read it.

Whatever your list of "adding down" is, what can you "add up"? The lists matter, because they help us to see better. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Expecting Perfection In An Imperfect World

"One of our biggest troubles we have with ourselves, is thinking we can be loved perfectly in an imperfect world." Francis Frangipane

I would be lying if I said I didn't try to get loved perfectly most of my whole life up until about 4 years ago. Not only that, but struggled and still do with my own ideas of ideals. My struggles have been endless, I have had a bounty of struggles! I've dealt with the idea of perfection in my own way for many years, up until about 3 years ago. They are milder now, but still speak loud from time to time. We all have our own set of ideals, we all, at least most of us struggle with the idea that things should be perfect, or wish they were, if not that at the very least we wonder why life is such a mess and so painful, and why we can hardly shed enough grace on ourselves to put one foot in front of the other sometimes. Why these expectations? Where did they start? How did this sort of thinking and these unrealistic ideas even come into play? They are countless really.
There is so much pain and suffering around me, including my own that I can hardly bear. Just this year alone my parents have endured two of their children going through divorces, and one child moving across country and seeing her deal with the death of her best friend (that would be me). I can only imagine how heavy hearted my parents must be. And I am not even mentioning all the "minor" annoyances and tough things along the way this last year. Life hurts. Life sure can suck. And we don't like pain as humans. We naturally don't like physical, or emotional pain, so our instinct is to fight it. To hate it when it happens. There's got to be a better way. I know there is. There could easily be a PART 2 to this!

I'm going to share 4 areas that I believe the idea of perfectionism gets started and takes root. I am only listing 4 of the main ones, but there are several more and each one takes different directions and have deep deep roots. It's complicated, and typically a huge wound in our life. 

1. Competitive Sports: Don't give up on me yet. There is something good in everything and everyone. But what these sports, especially professional, do to ones psyche is actually quite astounding. Take the Olympics for instance, again, I'm not bashing the Olympics, but these players try to be perfect. If they make one mistake are they rewarded? No. They are rewarded if they do better, if they are closer to perfect. And if they "fail" they carry that for the rest of their lives and it takes it's toll on them! They carry the loss for the whole team, and no one human should have to bear such a weight. It's not healthy. The behaviors in training feeds and feeds the person, to the point of actually believing they can be perfect at their skill. And nothing is perfect in an imperfect world, not even athletes, but we many support the sport, and encourage this type of thinking. We want our team to play perfectly, why? So they will win! Why? That's another blog post. But the perfect persona starts at a very young age with sports.
2. Physical Appearance: Never was there more of a time, well actually, I think it's calming down a bit, but the last 20 years with images in the media, TV, billboards, book stores, endless places to have "perfection" slapped right in front of us. Hundreds of years ago, beauty was not looked at the way it is today. Today it's all about being polished and tweaked by photo shop, and plastic surgery. We see make-up and beautiful hair, and we think we can be perfect the way they look in the magazines. Tween girls don't know that a celebrity or a model is actually sitting in a chair for about 3 hours to get the final look, plus if she's in a print spread, the computer will make her appear even more "perfect". Meet her in real life and she's like a different looking person. She's real looking. She even has what we call "flaws". Pimples, greasy skin, some dandruff maybe, and oh, maybe even some cellulite. Oh no! Thing is is most physical flaws are not "flaws" at all! We've just been so brainwashed to think they are. Even with social media there is a belief embedded that people have such perfect lives because they can CHOOSE what they share behind a screen! They are probably leaving out 80% of the behind the scenes.

3. Academics: There is an emphasis on getting A's that I personally think is unhealthy, and I'm not hear to suggest I know all there is about academics, I'm also not political,  and it's also not that I don't believe that kids can do well, or should do well and work hard, but with that said, it seems to me the pressure to perform perfectly at school is a painful one. There is little talk about the child itself, but more about his performance in the tasks and how his or her grades could be better. I understand it's education, so there is an emphasis on performance and assignments, but what if we spent 10 more minutes at conferences talking about our children? Talking about who they are, what they like and how they are a wonderful human being? What if we didn't talk about grades as much? It makes me sad when parents give money to kids if their report card is full of A's. The idea of perfection is out of control if you ask me. But maybe no one is asking me. So it doesn't really matter what I think. But this is an area that perfection can start to take deep roots. We praise for A's. What does that even mean?? I think we are missing a more whole picture here. A more whole student. A more whole person. But that's just me.

4. We want to be loved: From the time we are little girls we want to be rescued. If our daddies weren't there for us, we look elsewhere. We have an instant longing, (I'm not sure how men feel about wanting to be loved specifically, because I'm not a man; maybe it isn't much different, but I can't speak of it). We strive to find love, get noticed for being pretty, or just simply try to get noticed. We want the attention of someone. Sometimes many someones. We enter into relationships that are romantic and non-romantic and we are so hurt along the way. Damaged really. We somehow didn't learn growing up that people can't love us perfectly. Or we maybe knew that, but when it came down to it, we were too devastated by being hurt that we couldn't adapt to being loved unwell. We still expected for whatever reason to be loved perfectly in an imperfect world, why? Is it a lack of remembering? Do we forget in our hurt that people can't love us perfectly so of course they will cause us pain? And we them? I think so. Simply put:others will hurt us something fierce. Beware if you haven't figured that out already. This does not mean we cannot or will not be loved well, so don't lose hope! Lowered expectations is a good place to start. And looking within to see how we might be affecting the relationship or adding fuel to the fire. 

Simply put, we live in an imperfect world. Sure we hear that all the time, but I don't think we really hear it. I don't think we really get it, because if we did, we wouldn't be so hard on ourselves, AND we would accept the crap, the hard times, and the overall ups and downs of life a lot easier, more gracefully, and we wouldn't be so blown away the next time our car needs repairs, or all three kids are sick at the same time, or the water heater goes out, or we have relationships struggles, or we lose a job, or we don't get the promotion, or we don't get the house we so wanted. The list goes on, does it not? And there is never a day that goes by that we say things like, 

"Just when life was going so good.....XY AND Z happened", or "I just can't win!", or "I just can't seem to catch a break!" We are all familiar with these sayings. We either say them out loud or to ourselves. Here's the deal. Life is good and BAD. Life is joy and SORROW, life is easy and HARD. Life is beautiful and UGLY. Life is fun and BORING. Life is life and DEATH(yes even this, sadly). Life is healthy and SICK. Life is happy AND sad. I think we have this idea in our heads that "If I just get to this point or once I'm through this hard time then.....". It doesn't work that way friends! Life is life and it will keep us on our toes in it's perfectly imperfect manner until the end of time! 

My simplest way of explaining in my belief why the world is imperfect is the Garden story in the bible. Might seem like a myth, but I believe that God gave us, like He gave Adam and Eve in the Garden, a choice. They chose against what God said they could do and it has never been the same. We have free will, we chose a different way than what God chose and wanted for us, that means there is sin, disease, evil and much more in this world. It means it's imperfect, and it's not how God set it up to be. So we have a royal mess. So wouldn't we then expect life to be messy if we know this to be true? Even if you don't believe in the Garden story like I do, we can all agree that this life is broken for some reason or another. So that means it's far from perfect, and that must mean that WE are far from perfect. Our everyday. Our every week. Our every month. Our every year. And there after. But yet we are still surprised when things go wrong or get hard! Why??! 

What if we stopped imposing perfection in an imperfect world? What if we accepted that this is reality and we can't do anything about it expect maybe something about our attitudes in it? Maybe we can find a way to live at peace in a set of crappy circumstances? Maybe we can not be shaken when life throws us the curve balls we know it will. Maybe that's the way to approach the imperfections of life. If this life and the people in it are imperfect, including me, how do I live in it well? Maybe living through the lens of "tomorrow will be good no matter what because I accept it with all it's imperfections, including myself", is a good place to start.

And remember, life isn't out to get YOU. It's not personal. Life isn't particularly hard on you. You're not the only one! Life happens in different ways to all of us. It can be harder at certain times for certain people and then harder for others at another time. It's ever changing and up and down. But it's not out to get you. WE all have our own messes, pain, troubles, dreams, goals, stories and hopes. We are all affected and touched by life. All of us. We are all perfectly imperfect.
And if you want to know "why me???!!" It's simple, life is imperfect.
God is the only one who is perfect.