Monday, February 27, 2017

Little Feathers: Baby Steps

Little Feathers: Baby Steps: I love the movie, What About Bob. I love how goofy Bill Murray is, how self-righteously too-dignified-to-mock Richard Dreyfuss is. You can s...

Baby Steps

I love the movie, What About Bob. I love how goofy Bill Murray is, how self-righteously too-dignified-to-mock Richard Dreyfuss is. You can see the gag coming a mile away, but it's still just funny. The movie also gave me one of my favorite sayings that I whisper to myself a lot. Because it's a kind way to give myself the message; it comes with a chuckle. Baby steps. And if I really do whisper it and not just say it in my mind, it works even better. I can't say it without smiling.

If you haven't seen the movie, you need to. It's part of our cultural experience. Then you can add this fabulous Baby Steps mantra to your self-help arsenal. Richard Dreyfuss plays a pompous therapist in love with himself. When Bill Murray's neurotic goofball character attaches himself to Dreyfuss, following his family on vacation, the antics are howlingly funny. Running through the dialog is this advice Dreyfuss gives his patients (just out in book form!), how to manage their recovery by taking appropriate actions in small doses- baby steps.

Another way to say it comes from some great 12 Step literature. They call it doing the next right thing. Because recovering addicts know better than anyone that it can be too overwhelming to attempt to quit whatever they've been turning to for solace. But anyone can do one thing. The next right thing. Just one. I haven't heard or read anything in the 12 step rooms that I didn't hear growing up in the church. But somehow, people whose lives and well-being depend on recovery from their addiction have found beautiful ways to couch the wisdom in a plan of action. Not just "thou shalt not" or "you should", but hey! here's some help for your spirit, mind and body that will make a difference. You can do it like this.

I said I am giving up fear for Lent. And since fear is really, really addictive, I'm making a plan of action. Doing the next right thing to keep me turned toward God and away from fear will be an experiment in humility. It isn't even Ash Wednesday yet, and already I've fallen into the fear pit a few times since deciding I'll give it up. Fear just could be the small pox of the world right now. It's contagious. But unlike small pox, I do get to decide whether or not to subject myself to those germs of mass hysteria. And I would be remiss if I choose to think that I can avoid fear because I'm smarter or more whatever than anyone else. That's where the humility comes in. My go-to admission that will help me remember to take these baby steps is that I don't know. I don't know. But God does. Can I sit with that type of humility, and trust that things beyond my control are not beyond God's notice?

I don't believe that God is arranging world events. Because I believe in free will, I believe that things happen that break God's heart. But I do believe that there is nothing and no one beyond God's compassionate grace. What does that mean, exactly? I have an inkling, but I can't really know yet. I'm willing to take the chance that it is true, and let it keep me from fear. By doing the next right thing. By seeing fear for what it is.

To borrow some great church words, with an edit or two, I admit that I am in bondage to fear and cannot free myself. But God, who is faithful and just, can set me free from my own regret, and my own fear. It's a small thing, admitting our character flaws. But it's a powerful one. A really big baby step.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Little Feathers: It's the Little Things

Little Feathers: It's the Little Things: When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time together as a family. Camping, exploring the mountains and beaches and rain forests in the bea...

It's the Little Things

When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time together as a family. Camping, exploring the mountains and beaches and rain forests in the beautiful state of Washington. I have wonderful memories of those days, and I realize how they shaped my life. My mom was resourceful, adventurous, and hard working. She also loved to get away from her normal routines and responsibilities and find fun things to do. Sledding, skiing, hiking, picking huckleberries, digging clams, riding the ferry, fishing, picnic-ing, finding the sun in Eastern Washington when the rain was too much. My dad was the same way, always up for an adventure. Even to the point of putting chains on the car in the winter (I always wondered if there was a worse task). My parents gave my brother and me the huge gift of seeing them work hard, be responsible, and then enjoy life to the fullest. I also saw them getting a lot from their work. Not that there weren't hard parts, because every job has hard parts. But both of them took great reward from doing their jobs well.

It's the little things that I saw as a child that showed me how well they balanced our lives. I remember the things my dad did to pitch in when my mom worked later than he did. He cooked dinner for us a lot. That may seem like a small thing, but it was a building block in my view of how marriages work. Not that all dads should cook, but that both partners pitch in, both do things to make life better for the family. My dad also took me to ballet when his work permitted, or to clarinet lessons.

It's the little things I remember that showed me how to problem solve. My mom was super flexible, because as a fireman, my dad's schedule of 24 hours on, 48 off, meant that we couldn't set traditions in stone. Christmas was a moveable feast, and we celebrated as a family when my dad was home. My mom made it look easy to work around that schedule. She also could make a frying pan from aluminum foil to cook the fish on camping trips, if by chance the frying pan didn't make it into the box of utensils. I don't remember big drama about that. I just remember we did not go hungry!

It's the little things, the moments of pure joy, that fill my memory of my childhood. Jumping in a freezing cold river in the summer, my parents both participating and laughing. Sitting on a log by a cold racing mountain stream, watching my dad fish while the watermelon chilled in water so cold it hurt your bones. Arriving on top of a mountain in our open-top jeep in time to see the sunset over the beauty below us. Walking the waterfront and listening to the seagulls, anticipating those clam strips at Ivar's.

I'm realizing more than ever that life is sweetest in the small moments. Traveling the world is wonderful, educational, and can also be filled with sweet small moments. But we don't have to leave home to make those moments happen. All we need are grateful hearts and a desire to share what makes us happy. My favorite times with my grandparents were in their own homes, times when they gave me their attention and shared who they were with me in little ways.

It's important for me to remember that waiting for something big to happen in order to be happy makes me miss the magic happening around me today. But it's here, it's now- the magic. In the little things.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Little Feathers: Another Million Dollar Idea

Little Feathers: Another Million Dollar Idea: I keep having million dollar ideas. I can't tell you about most of them, because they are so brilliant you will go make them happen befo...

Another Million Dollar Idea

I keep having million dollar ideas. I can't tell you about most of them, because they are so brilliant you will go make them happen before I can. (Slight exaggeration, maybe). But I have one million dollar idea that I want to share because then maybe someone will make it happen before I can.

If you are like me, you might feel called to do something more, something bigger. But you don't know how to get started. Some people skip that step entirely and go about doing something great because it didn't occur to them that they needed permission, or instruction, or approval, or funding. Like the incredible kids making water purifiers from cast-off trash.

If you are like me, you may have spent years of your life trying to make a difference, trying to lift up people who need lifting, giving time and money to good causes. But you feel called to do more. Not in a punitive, your-effort-is-never-enough way, but in a way that makes your heart beat faster just thinking about it.

Are you waiting for my million dollar idea? Well, if you are a tech innovator, the mistakes I make in describing this may make you roll your eyes. BUT if you are a tech innovator, or an innovator in general, I hope that won't be a stumbling block to my Big Idea.

You know how the plugged-in world now knows what size pants we wear, what color dress we like, what magazines we read and who we "like" regularly? What if someone creates the perfect algorithm to connect people who are passionate about a cause to an organization that can put their ideas and efforts and funds to the best use? Or put them in touch with people who can help them create their own organization to accomplish their passions?

Is it out there already and I just don't know? Has someone done this work that could make such a contribution to the good of society that we can't even fathom the impact?

This idea may not make anyone a million dollars. But it is a million dollar idea anyway, because it could be worth even more than that. It could be a billion dollar idea, because it could change the course of human history. And how can you put a price tag on that?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Little Feathers: Not This Time, Facebook

Little Feathers: Not This Time, Facebook: It's hard to resist the temptations we see on facebook to determine our personality type, to see if we are smarter than a 5th grader, to...

Not This Time, Facebook

It's hard to resist the temptations we see on facebook to determine our personality type, to see if we are smarter than a 5th grader, to see how many heroines of literature we can identify. But one that popped up today was a cautionary tale. Reduce your life to one word. All you have to do is login with facebook, which we know gives access to all your photos, comments, info to someone that we can't see or know or evaluate. Sometimes I do it anyway, because curiosity killed the cat.

Reduce your life to one word by letting someone see your facebook posts. It's really absurd, even for a facebook lover like me. But sometimes I have lemming tendencies, so I ignored my thinking brain and listened to my lemming brain. Ha! I got a big old smack on the lemming-head. The one word this entity picked for me from my facebook offerings- Perfect. I laughed out loud.

My life is as far from perfect as anyone else's. I do post pictures I love of places and people (and food, wink wink) I love. I do post positive thoughts and quotes. Not because I'm perfect, or my life is perfect, but because spending time celebrating the positive parts lifts me up. Anyone who knows me will get a chuckle from the word "they" picked to describe my life.

It's more proof of the same notion many of us grapple with. The Great Compar-ithon. We see the good parts of the lives of others, and compare our laundry room with their dining room. We see glimpses of the lives of others, and if we are not thinking, if we are stuck in our lemming brain, it can make us feel less-than.

I love the book our son Josh gave me years ago, The War Of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It is full of wisdom, full of practical advice for facing down the noise of self doubt. A line I read this morning is perfect as a  follow-up to the practical-joke on facebook. "Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into what we imagine we ought to be, but to find our who we already are and become it."

I went on a women's retreat last weekend and spent a day and a half enjoying women I admire, and being challenged by our wonderful presenter, Jane Pettit (look her up if you need inspiration) to ask myself two questions: Who am I? What am I doing here?  We spent time looking deep for answers to those questions, and it is work that will go on as long as I live. Finding the answers isn't the goal. Asking the questions, looking for authenticity within my response, holding myself accountable to rigorous honesty with myself, those are goals.

I know someday I'll be perfect. But not in this lifetime. Not on this earth. Not here where I say hurtful things or judge others unfairly, or insist on my own way too much. When I'm gone, if there is still a facebook, they can feel free to add some wings (although I'm not sure about the limitation of feathers in heaven) and put that word on my life. Because it will be my new life. My life where I will leave behind the "blunders and absurdities" I made yesterday, as Emerson says. They won't follow me like little lost lemmings. At least, that's what I'm counting on.

You get some stuff right, facebook. You help me stay in touch with friends and family. You give me baby goats to laugh at and thought provoking posts of others. It's just this time, you are kinda laughable. Oh, facebook, thanks for the blog-prompt.