My True Self Remains Unchanged

August 17th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

open window breezeThe sound of the lawn mower drifting through the open window brought a whisper of memories long forgotten. They aren’t real memories – more like a forgotten essence of moments in my being. Like the Summer breeze floating through the curtains, the wisp of time settles on my soul, reminding me of my journey and the continuity of my life.

50 years ago and several thousand miles away, I lay in my bedroom, listening to lawn mowers and laughter as I contemplated my childhood. Concepts of introspection and temperament were unknown to me, and usually misunderstood by our culture. It’s only been recently that society is discovering the blend of diversity that goes beyond race, gender, and ethnicity. Yet, my five year-old self was already exploring the depths of an introvert’s trajectory.

Summers would last forever as we slurped homemade popsicles, rode bikes with the neighbor kids, and played made-up games in perpetual, timeless abandon. But even at that young age, I sought alone time. Whether in my room, on top of the garage, or tucked away in some secret fort, I found time to contemplate the verities of life.

These childhood moments swept over me this afternoon and overwhelmed my ability to comprehend how I traveled from then to now, and from there to here. How did it happen and why are those moments are so fresh in my mind? How could 50 years pass yet at the core of my being, I am the same child? What happened to me as I traveled through time and space, to arrive so far from my place of birth? I’ve lived in seven states, experienced three distinct careers, and enjoyed dozens – if not hundreds – of friendships.

I don’t remember the details or particular colors and smells of my childhood house, but I remember the Summer breeze, the open windows, and the contentment of solitude. Like most, childhood represents a freedom that seems unattainable now. I tell my eight year-old that these are the best years of her life, but her pre-teen self silently defies my insight. Like me, she is eager to get on with her life and be the adult she thinks she is already.

unless we become like little children…

My Dad urged me to not “wish my life away” – too eager to reach the next milestone that gives adult privilege. I didn’t know I was trading innocence for privilege; I didn’t know that privilege is purchased with responsibility; and I didn’t understand that I could never go back.

Tupperware Popsicle

Today, for just a few moments, I realized a moment of that freedom. Though I am four times larger and 50 years older, it felt as if I were a five year-old, drinking in the essence of my life. Like the Summer breeze that floated into my room, and distant sound of the lawn mower, I was transported thousands of miles away and lost in time. For just a moment, I was free of the constraints of adulthood and lost in the essence of my soul.

My body may be older, my heart may be scarred, and my mind may be weary, but inside, at the core, I am the same little boy and the same person I continue to be.



A Good Attitude is a Real Attitude

July 9th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

TruthFor as long as I can remember I’ve wrestled with my attitude. Some of this is Nature and some is Nurture. I’m a melancholy. There’s no getting around that. Much of my attitude is based on my feelings. Believe me, if you think it is hard being around me – you should try experiencing this from the inside. However, the other part of this is the way I was raised. I lived in a family where shaming, teasing, and not listening were the norm. I never really developed the skills to develop a healthy attitude or to appropriately wrestle with my feelings.

This has not been an easy issue for me. I often come across as moody, grumpy, and often negative. This isn’t really how I feel inside, but I definitely have projected these attitudes. This is where being alone is helpful for me. It gives me time and space to work through my feelings and attitudes. But in real life, it’s often not easy to find the time and space to be alone and to work through my stuff.

Marriage is hard enough, without having to live with an American Neanderthal who isn’t very in touch with his feelings. At this point, you may say a prayer for my wife. Let me explain.

Several years ago I was telling someone about a significant life hurdle I was facing. She asked, “How do you feel about that?” I was speechless. It never occurred to me that I should feel anything. It was just an experience – just something I was facing. It was neither good, nor bad – it just was.

But this conversation was eye-opening to me. I realized just how out of touch I am with my feelings. In the 12-13 years since that phone call, I’ve tried to paid more attention to my feelings. I’ve found that when I correctly identify what I’m feeling, I can better own those feelings and process through them. Sometimes it will take a few days to really understand what is going on inside, sometimes it is easy, but sometimes those feelings are very deep.

A few months ago, I found myself feeling sluggish, lethargic, and very unmotivated. I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t upset – I just had no motivation. The next day I realized why. I was waiting for some news about a recent job interview. I was at peace with the process, but the lack of news left me feeling morose. Just identifying the uncertainty in my life allowed me to put a label on my experience. Within moments the lethargy lifted.

This was very educational for me. It confirmed the idea of “owning the truth.” Once I own the experience, feeling(s), and/or challenges, I (and many others) seem better equipped to move on.

Today I participated in an online video conversation that provided some valuable insight into this whole process. Here is what we came up with:

  • Own Your Feelings/Attitude

This is what I was talking about above. The first step is to always get in touch with what feelings you are experiencing.

  • Understand and Tell the Truth – Always

This is a hard one for most of us. We are afraid that if we tell the truth, people won’t like us, they’ll reject us, or worse, we’ll not like ourselves.

  • Be Clear About Your Identity

My feelings do not change my identity. Even when I feel like a failure, I am still valuable. Even when I am angry, I am still complete. Even when I am depressed, I am still a whole human being. Even when I am going through Hell, I am still worth as much as when I wasn’t going through Hell.

  • Reframe Your Story.

This one is challenging, and I won’t be able to address it very well here. The key take away that I got from the conversation, (and I’d recommend you watch it in its entirety), is that we need to remember those moments and times when we didn’t feel like we do currently. Grasp those memories and unfold those experiences, to reframe the current situation. For instance, when I went through the collapse of my first marriage, I thought my life was over. I now claim that to be one of the greatest opportunities of my life. In the midst of a current life-altering collapse, is it possible I would come to the same conclusion? Probably.

  • Experience a Near Death Experience in Order to Get Clear.

Universally, we all agreed that those life-altering, life-threatening experiences are some of the best tools God uses to get us to refocus our priorities and outlook.

Here is the video for you to view:

My problem remains – I’m a caveman when it comes to understanding my feelings. I get stressed, depressed, and distraught – but I often don’t know why. When I take the time, I can usually identify what those situations are and how I’m feeling in reaction to those situations. I am beginning to understand how important it is for me to take that time – daily – to meditate, pray, listen, and introspect. Without it, I can sometimes get twisted into a ball of ignorant feelings and attitudes.Melon Collie

My takeaway is that there are no bad attitudes, just poor reactions. Sometimes we are going through a rough spot, a life-threatening space, or a situation that seeks to destroy life as we know it. Understanding the situation, and the feelings surrounding that, will help us process our feelings and attitudes. As my friend Sovann Penn says in the above video, “A good attitude is a real attitude.”

Another way to look at this, from my friend Marc Schelske, “If you’re not growing, you’re not telling the truth.”

Or, as Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.


June 4th, 2013 § Comments § permalink

Lincoln, NEI just returned from a stroll around our new neighborhood. As I took in the sights, sounds, and sensations I felt a bit disoriented. Seriously, I’ve had over seven months to adjust to the idea that I don’t live in Portland anymore, but why do I feel like I’m living a dream – and living in SE Portland?

There is no HOA here – which has its positives and negatives. Every other house is different. Some look like they are raising livestock in the yard, others have adopted the food not lawns philosophy. There are small apartment buildings tucked into the mosaic of 100 year old estates and bungalows. Some have immaculate lawns, others have an eclectic mix of, um, stuff.

As I strolled around the neighborhood, most homes were filled with the blue flicker of their not so small TVs, doors open as they let the cool Summer breeze blow through their lives. I rounded a corner from the local C-store and heard melodious music filling the street.

It wasn’t a melody I recognized. It wasn’t rock, country, or pop – but it wasn’t ethnic music either. I’m not sure what I was listening to – but it was pleasant, clear, and it gently filled the summer night. Inside, I saw three or four people passing around a microphone as they sat on the floor making music.

Of course none of these sights and sounds would be tolerated in the suburbs. The suburbs are safe, quiet, and normal. There is nothing normal about living in the city – which is refreshing, and slightly scary. Especially with small kids.

I turned another corner, the parking strip was huge – unlike the normal three foot strip of grass between the sidewalk and street. On this street, the parking strip is 20 feet wide. Weird, I thought – there is nothing uniform here. Not even the city tries to impose uniform standards.

I looked down and noticed Nebraska plates on a car. I was jolted back to reality. I’m not in Portland? Oh yeah. I’m not in Portland.

Sure, there are farmer’s markets, food trucks, and a lot of bike riders. But this isn’t Portland – right? Trees – luscious and huge trees cover the streets and sidewalks. I haven’t seen trees like this since leaving Oregon several months ago. There are cool coffee shops, natural food co-ops, and eclectic shops selling niche items for the sake of art and not for the sake of capitalistic advancement.

Really? I’m not in Portland? Really. I’m not in Portland.

As I rounded the corner to complete my stroll, I heard the distinct hum of someone’s lawn mower. At 10pm, someone was mowing their grass – and small drops of rain began to fall out of the sky.

I’m not sure – but I feel as if I’ve traveled back in time. I don’t know if I’m eight years old living in the shadow of Mt Tabor, or if I’m 25 living near the re-emerging Hawthorne district. Just then, I see a firefly streak across a yard. Like a shooting star signaling something grand, I’m suddenly aware of my geography.

There are no fireflies in the Pacific NW – I’m clearly in Nebraska.

The past seven months have been amazing. We thought we were losing our house, so we left and have been living on the road. Now, unemployed – and homeless – we spent the next several months living with family and the generosity of friends. We sold most of our belongings – furniture, tools, and appliances. We sold our bed, our couches, our lawn mower – virtually everything. If it didn’t fit in a 14 foot box truck, we didn’t take it with us.

This journey of faith has been an amazing preparation for our arrival in Lincoln. We are living in a house half the size of our previous home. It’s not rural like we enjoyed in Rainier, our neighbors are close enough to hear and see – again, unlike our last house.

We have downsized, moved half-way across the country, and traded mountains and rivers for vast acres of cornfields and flatland. Amazingly, we are at peace. Great peace.

We feel rightsized, stress free, and home. We are home.

Where Am I?

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