Breaking Up with Fight

I was a fighter. I was a goal setter, a rule follower, a planner. I could follow a training plan like nobody’s business. I could set aside rest, celebration, life, in order to accomplish. I could hang with the best of them in discipline. I was a fighter.

Yesterday, I looked around and discovered my fight left, probably for good. Fight has been on it’s way out the door for awhile, I have been unwilling to own this. I haven’t wanted to recognize my will, my heart, my mind no longer care to fight for the fight. We need to break up.

When in Gunnison, I have a specific route I like to run. I warm up for a mile and half along County Road 10 where I gather my gumption and confidence before turning onto 743, an undulating dirt road that winds mostly up. I can choose to go as far as I want, depending on how many miles I need to get in that particular day. I usually set my mind to run the whole thing, to not stop and walk.

Yesterday, my mental and physical resolve decided to stay at the house, lingering at home with a cup of coffee and warm stove. The once latent pain in my back was knocking on the door of acceptable comfort, legs each holding a 10 pound weight. Usually, I can fight, I can scrap, I can set aside discomfort and fatigue to plow ahead, to force my way to worthiness.

Fight has learned to take advantage of me, she can tackle me down in my weakness and insecurity. She knows when and how to elevate herself, through my comparing.

But our relationship hasn’t always been like this, we had a lovely thing going…

She taught me so much about who I am, about what I can accomplish when mind and body are put to the test. She led me through training for and completing nine marathons, an Ironman, and countless other races and adventures. She brought me through a wonderful education, long days and nights of three blessed babies, marital challenges, tragedy. What a gift she has been to me. Fight has helped me to overcome, to be brave, to stand firm while fear nearly ate away my resolve, to move beyond status quo and achieve. I am so grateful to her for revealing my dogged determination, for beckoning me out of bed for early training and studying bouts, relentlessly calling to do more, be better. She has truly been a gift, revealing me to myself, my capabilities, my capacity.

Unfortunately, Fight doesn’t show up alone. At first, she appears strong, powerful. She is admired and envied. She produced things in me that proved my worth, elevated my standing (at least to me, in my eyes). But after awhile, Fear made an entrance. When Fight and Fear are paired in tandem, a perfect storm forms of striving and proving. Fear is a contender, a game-changer, diabolical almost. Fear is nonsensical, doesn’t back down easily. Fear/Fight took over my kindhearted nature and drew me into believing ridiculous, inane lies. Fear marked itself as Pride, Worthlessness, Shame, fanning the flame of what once was a wonderful accomplishment, into a drive, a need for more, better, more than, better than. Fight can become an addiction when in the context of Fear. This addiction can become the relentless draw to Next…the next race, the next diet, the next goal to prove worth…to rise above, to be noticed.

Fight and Fear are being ushered out while I welcome Strength, Discipline, Wisdom. Instead of scrapping and proving and rising above, I want to settle in. I want to live with Strength of character; with Discipline to accomplish lasting, sustainable things; with Wisdom to know when to buckle down and when to let go. I want to rest in me being enough without Fight, without the pursuit of more and better. I want to rejoice in witnessing others rise higher, accomplishing greater. I want to be a cheerleader, in the arena, okay with sacrificing standing and admiration. I want to be side by side, arm in arm with fellow humanity, championing causes, righting wrongs, and loving severely in the darkest and fiercest of times. I want to say goodbye to being better, more, better than, more than. It is time to hang up the boxing gloves. It is guaranteed my pride and ego will take more hits as a result, maybe beaten to a bloody pulp.

It’s fine with me. I’m ready. They haven’t served me much lately.

Upslopes

5410103711_dbedf5b3df_bColorado has been fortunate this winter, some cold snowy days, but February was a string of warmth. We have had a winter storm warning for the past three days, starting midweek, getting ready, waiting. Apparently, the liquor and grocery stores were packed on Friday, people anticipating. I had a little “wait and see”, but I longed for a good snow dumping. The beautiful thing about Colorado weather, is you can try to predict it, but until it happens? Well, better to just not say too much.

Mid-morning Saturday, with an inch or so, the streets were only wet, temperatures balmy in the 30s. My mom, daughter and I headed up north for a little shopping and lunch. By this time, folks on social media were mocking the weather, and raining down veiled insults upon the sacrificial meteorologist lambs. Many believed the bluff was called. While in J. Crew, my daughter having the time of her life debating denim choices, we watched the storm barrel in like a brakeless freight train. The roads once only wet, were now icy and packed down, visibility just barely, cars inching along with little to no traction. This upslope was a contender.

These powerful storms, all eventually leave, but when they are central to your existence, nothing can channel thoughts elsewhere. Upslopes gather moisture from the south, rotating clockwise slowly, wrapping the region, bumping up against the foothills. The energy stays on the Front Range, where snow can fall in feet down here, while the mountains may be sunny and warmish.

What about the storms I face? My upslopes?

I have issues that regularly wrap around and back, with insecurity arriving from the north, purposelessness gathering steam in the south, to collide perfectly at my center: food, weight, body issues warning of impending record-setting events. Yes, I can sometimes predict when they will show: spring after cold winter months of eating comfort food; after very busy life seasons; during grief, new kid stages, certain marriage events, holidays. I try to anticipate, but these upheavals can still come unexpectedly, and with force. The force is sometimes more than I can manage. It seems these life events wrap around, coloring all of my existence, my faith, my hope, my purpose. They bump against what I know, what I’ve learned, the strength earned. Gaining momentum or losing it, depending on many factors, mostly fueled by my choices toward surrender and control. Some are here to stay, creating in me a new existence, a new manner of viewing the world, challenging me to my core. Not moving out anytime soon.

If I get so focused on the fear of the next uprising, the howling wind, the cold, I lose the opportunity to see beauty. How the snow falls when it has settled in, the naked tree branches perpetually reaching higher as if awaiting a pat on the head for the effort, birds on wire in defiance. The opportunity afforded to rest in the unknown, to acknowledge the change in landscape, finding a new place to discover oneself. Life-giving moisture for drought-prone land.

These upslopes in my life and heart change and switch, move and shift. Some show up unexpectedly, and some predictably. Sitting, twisting, churning and moving out. They always move out, it might take a few years, but we all eventually reach a new normal. After the spectacular show, a gap is present, small or big doesn’t matter. The terrifying suffering is more behind me than in front, a return to normal seasonal temperatures, dry weather, regular days, stepping in time. And this is me. The upheaval rocks my world, sends me into a spin, challenges and discomforts. It always leaves…with me anew, changed, adjusted.

What do I do with the gap? The regular and settled in days? Do I take what I learned and water others? Do I move to a new place in my faith journey? Do I recognize the risk of vulnerability and take more chances? I hope so. I hope I don’t just stand braced for the next one, but instead, live my days with gained truth, from a place of fresh hope, surrendered strength, muscle ready to fight for what I now know.

There is always new life in the aftermath. Green, sprouting, fresh, stored up energy for the next journey, the rising day, the long-awaited rebirth. There is always hope, even in the bleakest and severest. Let me remember to cling tight when the cold rattles and re-shapes my bones, when life will no longer, ever, return to my idea of normal. Let me grow stronger, taller, ever-reaching, reinforcing the old supports. Settling in with grace and confidence, trusting the strength of not me, but the strength of the One who holds me fast.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/81474147@N00/5410103711″>Snowpocalypse Chicago Snowmageddon 2011</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

The Last One

Snow falling in clumps like wet Kleenex, ground slushy and puddled, chimney across the way pumping out smoke. Kids finishing procrastinated homework, hanging with friends, gearing up in snow clothes for a ten minute play outside. Laundry humming along, hot chocolate steaming, a long run to work out the cobwebs. Dog covered in local dirt road mud, bounding at first, lolling at end.  A day home, holiday celebrating Presidents. A surprise egg, from our infamous Truffle Hen who defied a grisly fox-death and sacrificed a toe in her harrowing escape.

All bits of one day, moments held briefly and so easily forgotten. Reminders of those gone by, rejoicing and grieving simultaneously at children growing and becoming, differentiating and leaving. Ten years like dust, when baby number three emerged, to join what seemed like two big kids then, recognized now as toddlers. How perspective shifts and bends, grace withheld for all I thought I should be doing, rather than just getting through some days, with coffee and Diet Coke as my only joys. I hear folks say, “Don’t survive, thrive”. I want to wring their necks and have them sit in my then-home with three baby-toddlers and make them write it out longhand thousands of times on the slate of my sanity.

Boy now, gangly, sinewy, lanky and lean. This ten year old body, on the cusp of separation, still allowing tender moments between mother and son. Hair shaved, eyes and ears too big for face, pants at ankles, instead of nicely folding over the shoe. Child with his fair share of suffering, for a privileged white middle class upbringing. Great heart and head for understanding and mercy, compassion and reflection. Is this learned? Maybe, but feels more like instinct, a soul discontent early from being unable to spell out his burden wreaking havoc inside.

This Last One, seeing him across the room, wondering, “Is that really my kid?” The changes all of a sudden ganging up on this mother, not wishing it any different, but taking pause, taking notice. A mother’s heart has to defy all logic, all fear, all slashes that come from carelessness. These children, take my naked and vulnerable heart, with no understanding for the pain leveled when they hurt or hurt others. This ache is felt constantly, ebbing and flowing with circumstantial life, conjoined with relief for the freedom. Oh! to no longer be the parent of baby-toddlers! Yes, they are becoming, this is the natural order of things, but never chosen with ease. Mothers across the globe, spanning all time and space have fought and lost the battle of keeping our children small and held tight, with very good reason.

My greatest mothering work is to relinquish, to allow the emotion and feeling to wash over, to settle in, to release, once processed, into the abyss of the collective grief and feeling of all mothers.  There are probably enough tears to power entire countries with this weight…of longing, hope, relief. Tears of pain and joy, equal, salty, flowing, some waiting for redemption, for forgiveness, others redeemed and forgiven.

My beautiful boy, high pitched screams and shrieks, just three years from deepening. My beautiful boy, my youngest child, sealing the door just behind him on this parenting gigue that has been both beautiful and obnoxious. I hear often, “Once a parent, always a parent…the fear and concern never leave”. I don’t like it. I’d rather they say that all my hard work will pay off, all misunderstanding will cease and none of them will do stupid, damaging things. An impossibility, I know.

Lazy home days, taking notice, remembering, forgetting, appreciating the mundanity, the divine in the smallest and most insignificant of moments. This holy work of parenting, mothering, is not for the weary or faint of heart. Let us all give grace freely, recognizing none of us has a corner on this crazy market of letting go. Let us mothers notice one another and cling tight for these days are short. Our children will leave, some peaceful and some in fits and tantrums. Hopefully, they will return as friends, people with whom we may grow, generously and respectfully. People who challenge, teach and question us while providing for their own young families, repeating the wonderful, necessary cycle of raising up and letting go, honoring and learning the truths that come from this holy, messy, beautiful work.

Words

photo credit: Glasses on paper via photopin (license)

The din of the local coffeeshop, folks discussing a myriad of topics, infinite options..job opportunities, wrinkles, neighbor problems. A small cross section of Boulder County American life. A typical morning, relationships of all shapes and sizes forming, growing. Hellos and good-byes. Reunions with faces long unseen. Children with mothers seeking caffeinated sanity. Slices of life, random Thursday mornings.

Ordinary life. How are you? Fine. Good. Okay. How much do we really know what happens in a soul, a body, under the serene surface? What is bubbling under the fines, goods and okays? What beauty? What strife? Which questions are being pondered and agonized? What isn’t being said?

Some friends I can look at and just Know. The underneath is a boil, scalding hot pain, leeching, uncertain.

Some friends I can listen to and just Hear. The edge of precipice, the fear of a leap, the agonizing questions without answers, answers that will not come without risk, without surrender. Successes shared with but a few.

Some friends, I am present with and gain strength. I know and hear and see the lives lived, the pain forged through, the hearts on sleeves, the joy released, the fear overcome. These same friends know the depth of what is bubbling under my surfaces, even though I don’t fully know the cauldron some days. Honestly, the number of people where I am privy to the revealed highs and lows is a handful at best.

The good, fine and okay friends have to be satisfied with my goods, fines and okays. Moments with the deepest revelations come with well built trust, patient compassion, abundant grace and suspended judgment. They come with merciful, humble and listening hearts. My open mouth, one who openly shares regularly, must believe and know the person on the other side has my back. She has my best interests at heart, in agreement or disagreement, knowing when to speak her truth to me as she sees it. Sometimes, though, truth is not necessary nor does it need to be shared. It needs to hibernate for later or never. Sometimes truth needs to be requested. Mostly, it is about asking good questions, timely questions, an inquisitive stance. The people who get the information out of me are the ones who love me, not because they say it, but because they do it. They do love…they do grace, they do mercy, they do judgement suspension.

In my early years, I believed truth had to be told, if I knew the truth, I was obligated to tell. No more. It is about responding to a person with patient compassion and wide openness. Brutal honesty may work for some, but for me brutal honesty could put me in the hospital, the dissemination of words and thoughts without overflowing sensitivity is my Hell. My greatest fear, my deepest wound.

There are times, however, for painful truth, for others speaking when I’ve said a cavalier word, or created a hurtful moment…the things I do or say that damage another. I pray I hear and receive without blame and defensiveness, that I listen with my heart, with love for the person who respects and cares for me enough to tell me. I pray my perceived fragility and insecurity do not cloud a timely truth telling.

Why I am capable of doing to others what hurts me most will forever be a mystery. I cringe when words come flying with abandon out of my face aimed at the softest parts of those I love the deepest. Words I could never take, that if directed at me would handicap so horribly.  Words expertly lobbed at my husband, my children.

Forgiveness is my salvation. Forgiveness is my only hope some days…when I wound another and I receive an “I forgive you” in return. This is how we do love, how we do grace, how we do mercy, how we do judgment suspension. I forgive you, I have your back. You are my friend, and I love you.

photo credit: Glasses on paper via photopin (license)

Worthy Chickens

We have a sweet hen we call Truffle. She is a fraction the size of our other girls, runs with her chest puffed out, as if she’s seeking an edge over the finish line. Truffle has become an outcast, the lowest in the pecking order. The other three hens, all sisters, chase after her cruelly. The only time they are together is at night, in the coop. She sleeps separated while the others pile in, layering on top of one another. Each morning  when the chickens are released, she flies out the open front door, while the sisters shuffle through the back, into the fenced area. Truffle, instead of being subject to angry pecks all day, prefers to wander the yard at her leisure, cavorting with the sheep, and meandering the remains of the garden beds.

Typically, in the dark winter months, hens take an egg-laying hiatus. With the colder temperatures and shorter days we have needed the heat lamp for warmth, so the hen bodies have been tricked into believing the days are longer. The other three have been laying religiously, while Truffle, unless she is laying in an undisclosed location, does not provide us with her daily egg, probably from the stress induced by the other birds.

Apparently, once a hen’s laying days are over, once they are no longer useful, it’s time to make a meal. What about our Truffle? Since she is not currently laying, is she of less value to us than the other three hens? What is her worth?

This idea of worth is very important one to consider. I cannot begin to express the number of conversations I have with women regarding their perceived value, particularly among the subset who stay home, not with the little children, but with the tweens and teenagers. On the outside, it can appear a vacation…six hours a day to oneself. How is my purpose as a wife, mother, woman determined when my children really don’t need or want me for most of each day? And, as a good and wise parent, it’s my job to let them go.  How do I define my worth? What am I contributing to the world? What do I contribute to my family?

In this land of ours, worth is widely defined by our monetary accomplishments and accolades. If I’m not bringing home a decent wage, contributing to the bottom line of our family unit, then what am I worth? If I’m only taking but not giving, why keep me around? I know it sounds a bit harsh, but isn’t this the heart of our struggle? What am I worth if I don’t make ___, or weigh ____, or wear ____, or eat ____, or accomplish ____, or have _____ or look like ______. Clearly, this list is endless…and I’m only speaking from my female perspective. What about our male counterparts? Our husbands, fathers and sons? What kind of pressure is on them…same underpinnings, different scenarios.

I have recently come crashing up against this as a mother to a fifteen year old young man. Here I find myself in this land that makes no sense. The days of anticipating and providing for most needs, gone, seemingly vanished overnight. My purpose as his mother is nebulous, with no specific role to grasp. I know my theoretical importance, but the practice is quite fuzzy. The problem seems to lie mainly with how I feel about my role..when, on a good day, I might exchange 10 words and spend 10 minutes with the child.

I have come to realize, like with my sweet chicken, our worth is in the being…being present, available, human. That little chicken brings more laughs than I feel free to admit. She will more than likely, never be in our soup because of the joy she brings to us all and the void her absence will create when she is gone. Because she has a name.

My work now is to recognize my worth as a human being, because I am alive, because I breathe and move and talk and am. Because I have a name. My value as a human, as a woman, has absolutely no association with my outward proving: what I do, who I’m with, the heritage of my family of origin, the amount of money I earn, or what I own. My worth is inherent because I am, belonging to this planet, loving and being loved. Ultimately, I am worthy because I am created, made not to accomplish anything in particular, but to be known and loved by the One who knows and loves me beyond measure. Just as I sit and watch that funny little chicken, deriving joy because she’s just being Truffle. How much more does God see in us…this masterpiece, not just made of flesh and bone, but wit and ferocity and grace and beauty and opinion and feeling and fight and severity.

I believe that when we live out of our worthiness, we will find freedom, beauty, gratitude and grace…not for others, but for ourselves. Out of this will flow our work, our purpose, our calling…able to set aside fear, moving forward in love and trust.

Nothing more needs to be accomplished in order for us to be exceedingly valuable and remarkably beautiful.