Monday, 28 December 2015

2015: What perspective taught me

At the tail end of 2014, I gave myself the gift of the word "perspective" for 2015. I needed to live in the knowledge that my reality at the time was a small part of a big picture, my personal world of uncertainty and unemployment was not forever.

I kept that word close to me for 12 months and looking back, I see that I did learn something:

I learned something important about isolating myself.

I am your classic "Type A" personality. Extroverted and drawn to large groups and big experiences. I like to be in charge of those big experiences. I have been called bossy in the past, but I prefer "well-organized leadership".

In 2015 my world became very small. Instead of rubbing shoulders with a few hundred people each week, I interacted with a few dozen. I do see value in pulling back and regrouping for a season, although for me it's not something I could do long-term. There was good that came out of the isolation, but I noticed a trend in my behavior which I didn't like.

The smaller my world became, the more easily offended I was.

I remember growing up as a pastor's kid and going with my dad to visit the elderly and shut-in. The steady stream of complaints coming from some of their mouths surprised me. It was like nothing could be good enough. The world was against them. I didn't understand.

I understand now.

The smaller my world became, the more time I had to focus on the perceived "injustices" the world had thrown at me. I liked people less. I became paranoid. My spirit looked uglier. 

If for no other reason, that is why I need to re-enter the land of the living. I don't like the person I become when my time is primarily spent navel-gazing.

Perspective shows me that this season of my life is part of a bigger picture, but my activities and energy are part of a BIGGER bigger picture.

I want to learn to constructively respond when I need to. 

Sometimes a nose is just a nose and there is nothing you can do about it. There is nothing you need to do about it.  Other times, I need to open my mouth and not just stew with offense.

I have no desire to be a woman who rhymes with ditch, nor do I want to spend hours of negative energy replaying scenarios in my mind.

What I want is not to be taken advantage of.

A large organization appointed me to a position in April. The interview process was long and I poured a lot of time and heart and soul into it. A week after my public introduction, I was told the organization had changed their mind, no other explanation.

Good bye Beckie.

I felt that my reputation and credibility was damaged. What did I do about it? Nothing.

Perspective tells me to love myself well, I need to speak up. Constructively. Not with malice. But with respect for myself and my journey.   

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One more thing - this is something my oldest daughter mentioned at her baptism in June:

Just because it's different, that doesn't mean it can't be good.

I fear change at the best of times, I like my safety and security. It's totally a losing battle. My life is chock full of new. New marriage. New step-son. New career. New house. New financial challenges. New choices. The list goes on and on.

Hope and perspective tell me to look for the good in the different. Look for the good in the change. 

My gift to myself for 2016? Balance.

I want to balance my personal needs with my families needs with my career needs with my villages needs.....something I've never been good at. Yikes.

It's going to be a bumpy ride.


Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Ragout de la Vie (for those who have lost)

A man I went through high school with passed away on Monday. He was my age: mid-forties. He was the first from my grad class to go. We didn’t really know each other any more.  In fact, I hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years.

Still, I am affected. I’m surprised at the level of emotion I feel.

I asked God about it yesterday, I asked Him to show me a picture of what my heart was feeling.

He showed me a picture of my crock-pot.

Hmm, that was unexpected.

As I peered into the slow cooker in my mind’s eye, I saw what appeared to be my mom’s fruit stew. My friends and I called it her “ragout de fruit”. Things always sound fancier in French. We loved the stuff. She made it one month out of the year, in August, when fruit was plentiful. As I held my heart’s gaze into that concoction, something dawned on me.

I saw that life isn’t just one ingredient. It’s not even two ingredients. Life is so much. It’s family and friends and relationships and school and work and fun and horrible stuff and things we can control and things we can’t control. It’s God and nature and beauty and reality and ugliness and simplicity and surprise and the expected. It’s mountain top experiences and the valley of the shadow of death. It’s the overture of birth and the finale of our last breath.

It takes time. A good stew of life (“ragout de la vie” for those of us that like to pretend we live in Europe) doesn’t happen in three to four minutes in the microwave. 

It needs to simmer.

It’s taking all the good and all the not so good and then let it bubble. Bitter fruit. Sweet fruit. Tough fruit. Ripe fruit. They need to sit with each other for a while.

And then flavors start to emerge.

Where there was a single taste, now there is bounty. Where one texture was once on the surface, there is now a greater consistency. The quality of one has become the class of many.

Where there was singularity there is now something that no one has ever created before.

There is life.

God assured me that although my former classmate’s stew had not had his threescore and ten to cook away, his life was full of first-rate ingredients. He had had just enough time so his own ragout de la vie tasted exactly how it was supposed to taste.

And I could smile, put the lid back on the slow cooker in my mind’s eye and exhale.

Bonne manger mon ami. (Good eating, my friend)