Monday, May 26, 2014

Proper Perspective and Plate Spinning

If you’ve seen The Princess Bride you know this truth; when life gets overwhelming: go back to the beginning.  The Apostle Peter said it differently; “I will always be ready to remind of these things, even though you already know them…”  As noted in my last post this is a full season for me.  It’s not been a brutal time as some I’ve lived through.  Still it is to easy to keep spinning the plates and throwing on more platters until the whole thing feels it’s going to topple.  For me it’s both physical and mental; I’ve lost perspective.  When that happens I go back to doing the things that center me.

You have to be willing to set the plates down for a moment.  It means you’ve got to be a student of yourself.  Close friends who know what grounds you are important too.   I read.  Reading reminds me why I’m spinning the plates.  I process as I write.  I ride and I hike to remind my muscles what my brain says about spinning plates.  Today I (figuratively) dusted off my Bible---to be “reminded,” though I already know.  Play is good too.  The daughter wants to go on a hike and take pictures.  Perfect.

At times I’m so focused on the plate spinning that even penciling in play becomes another plate.  So I have to step away.  Time to take a deep breath, relax and get perspective.  I’ve got good things going.  Without sane, rested and restored perspective all I do feels like juggling plates.  My life’s more than that.  Better than that.  I’ve got to leave the stage and get quiet.  Then I find center.  Now I’m back in the game better than ever.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Normal Vs. Radical Lifestyle: Battles of A Normal Guy

They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you’re a credit to their teaching---
But can’t you hear the Wild---it’s calling you.

---Robert Service

I live in tension.  On one end I spend my days as the normal guy.  I go to work, enjoy my wife, delight in my daughter; pay bills, workout, go to church and try to accomplish my short list of goals.  Pushing against this everyday life is the challenge to live a radically good story.  I am not alone in this.  Sometimes I feel I go it alone.

Partly it’s the voices I struggle against.  I say these things to myself and accept them as truth.  What if they are lies?  I look at writers like Donald Miller and Stephen Pressfield and the voice says, “They are brilliant.  They are geniuses.  You are ‘a bear of little brain’ just like Winnie the Pooh.  Those writers are crazy and committed---or should be.  Myself, I am just a normal guy.  And what normal guys do is work hard, be good, play on weekends, make it to retirement then die.

I’m so freakin tired.  No wonder we live for our days off?  We drive to work and drive home; fight the traffic, schlep the children, catch a sit-com, kiss the wife and hit the pillow.  I want to find the energy to keep swimming upstream.  The vision stays alive but its ember and needs oxygen. 

Oxygen is difficult to find.  Yet we are wired to breathe it, wired not to settle for the air down here.  We are wired for more.  Settle into the Barcalounger and we die.  There’s that tension.  We are not content with status quo.  What’s the answer?

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Every 15 Minutes And The Death Of My Daughter

Today the high school called to inform me my daughter had passed away; they were sorry for my loss.  This is part of an exercise for Every 15 Minutes.   The program’s name was derived from the fact that in the early 1990’s, every fifteen minutes someone in the United States died in an alcohol-related traffic collision.  Per the website, 
“During the first day events the "Grim Reaper" calls students who have been selected from a cross-section of the entire student body out of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes….the student will return to class as the "living dead," complete with white face make-up, a coroner's tag, and a black Every 15 Minutes T-shirt. From that point on "victims" will not speak or interact with other students for the remainder of the school day.” 
As part of the exercise both parents and students are to write letters to each other along the lines of, “Today I died in a car crash.  Before I died I wish I’d told you…”  The question then is this: What would my thoughts be on the death of my daughter?

Here are some random thoughts bulleted:

  • I would be angry.  I would blame whomever was driving that got her killed.  I suspect there may be some self-directed anger as well; the normative “If only I’d…”
  • I have no regrets about things I should have done.  I was a great dad.  She made being a great dad easy.
  • My regrets would be for the future.  I’d miss seeing her grow up; the choices she would make, the friends she would choose, the boy she would marry.
  • It got me thinking about my current investment in “H.”  I need to pray for her more.  I really need to make certain to go through the list of things I want her to know before she’s on her own (changing oil, knowing parts of a car, balancing checkbook, sewing on a button—all the things I don’t do well).  I should make certain to affirm her as a person, daughter and female. 
 In the end this is a worthwhile exercise for any of us to go through.  We should evaluate before death our relationships with those in our inner circle.  I think it’ll only be worth it if you do it with guts and gusto.  A surface look will produce shallow results.  My hope is that the feedback we hear from ourselves will echo that which we desire to hear upon entrance into death, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  Enter into your rest.”