Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Little Feathers: Let Me Say This About That

Little Feathers: Let Me Say This About That: My mom and I were laughing about how no one wants our advice...even though we clearly have some great advice to give. But we laughed because...

Let Me Say This About That

My mom and I were laughing about how no one wants our advice...even though we clearly have some great advice to give. But we laughed because we know darned well, we don't want to take other people's advice either! At least, not about the big things, the real things. We may take advice on how to accomplish a task, or become proficient at something. But not about the important things.

Here's the thing about advice-giving: we aren't qualified to do it. Because we have not been in the exact situation of any other person ever. We have not felt their emotions the way they feel them, because every human's emotional makeup is as unique as their finger print. Even within a family, the notion each member holds of life and how to live it is different.

"If I were you..." is a goofy way to begin a sentence. Because we have no way of knowing what in the world we would do if we were them. We've never been them. I had a friend, long ago, who said that to me so often, I even rolled my eyes now, years later, as I typed it.

So...let me say this about that: I love learning things from other people. I love hearing their experiences. I love discovering their strengths. I love witnessing their hope. But good boundaries require me to interpret their truth through my own filter. It's work I'm obligated to do to be honest with myself and true to my own identity. That can be hard to do with someone you really admire, or someone you have subconsciously put on a pedestal.

When difficulty strikes, when life gets challenging, or downright hard, it is good to be able to lean on each other. It is a gift to be there to help when someone needs it. And it is very good to remember that we help each other the most when we give freely, with no strings attached, with no expectations.

In many 12 step rooms I've heard the phrase, "Take what works and leave the rest". What an amazingly respectful seven word sentence.  I like it so much, I'll just say this about that: there are many things I can't control. My own behavior is about the only thing, and sometimes it's a quacking duck. But it is empowering to realize that we are not obligated to take advice, or give it!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Little Feathers: Lent and Ultimate FOMO

Little Feathers: Lent and Ultimate FOMO: Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. Even the ancient language can't hide the message, though it is a truth I spend a lot of ti...

Lent and Ultimate FOMO

Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return. Even the ancient language can't hide the message, though it is a truth I spend a lot of time and effort pretending doesn't apply to me.

Lent always catches me unprepared. Ash Wednesday comes really early for me each year, even when Easter is later in the year that usual, like this year. I know it is because I would prefer to think that ashes to ashes is just a saying and not a reality. I suppose it is because I do that thing that many people do...pretend that life will go on an on.

For creatures who know from the outset that we will someday be dead and gone, we sure spend a lot of time imagining, pretending that is not the case. We think it's morbid, somehow, to talk about the thing we all will do, eventually. We will die. We will be gone from this earth. But there is such a cultural restriction on talking about it that we have made up a litany of phrases to avoid saying the words. 'He passed away. She went to her maker. They passed over Jordan. When I'm gone.'

Bob and I are in that strange time of life when dying has turned out to be something people our age are doing. We watched it happen to our parents, and noted their surprise. But somehow it is different when it is you.

When I first heard FOMO, someone younger than me had to explain that it was an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. I applied it in my mind to fear of missing parties, events, fun things that others got to do. But now I see I have FOMO. Ultimate FOMO.  Because I don't want to be gone. I don't want to think of our loved ones going on without me. Of the generations to come that I will never see. Of the Christmases I'll miss or the family birthday dinners where I won't be singing along.

Some might say that a Christian shouldn't feel that way. That our faith should be strong enough that we don't fear anything about death. Maybe that is the case for some people, but I would not be honest if I said I don't mind the idea of being dead and gone.

But here comes pesky Lent. Today. To remind me that I can't put my faith in this life. That I will die. And that I need to do some work on my attitude toward death. Just look up books on dying and you will see how big this task is for human beings, by the number of people who have written about it. And that doesn't count the huge numbers of people who wrote about it and didn't get published. Or who grappled with it and never wrote down a word. It's a subject so deep and wide, so ultimately unfathomable that it is sometimes easier to ignore it. Until Lent. Lent may be a church season, but it's also a time of life. It's a time when we are forced to turn and look at this thing we don't really understand.

Today when I get ashes on my forehead in the shape of a cross, they will be an aid to me. They will be a benediction to my spirit. Because they remind me that death is not the end of my relationship with my creator. It heals me to know that there is solace in that symbol of sacrifice and death. And that burned-up palm branches/cries-of-hosanna turned to grief at the foot of the cross reminds me that there is no death I can endure that will separate me from the love of God. Though that doesn't eliminate my fear, it gives me hope that even in that state of human need, I will not be alone. And I have no doubt that God has the whole FOMO thing covered in some fabulous way that I can't imagine on this side of the great divide. Sigh. Since Lent is here, since it is a time and and a state of mind, I'll take the ashes for the gift they are. And I'll say it's okay, even when it isn't, because I have to believe that ultimately it will be.