I’m Taking Off My Rose-Colored Glasses.

roses

CC MO Apr. 2013 Portland, OR

I’m taking off my rose-colored glasses.

They never fit quite right.
Things begin to look a little blurry when you put them on, a little naive, over and under inflating the challenges and joys of life.

Sometimes, when I look out, I see nothing but beauty, ecstasy, the thrill of future dreams coming into life, one soft rose petal at a time.
And that’s great for a little while,
But then I’ll miss all the beauty straight in front of me. Too farsighted. Drats.

Other times, I put them on, consumed by the thrill of the moment right here, the dance, the romance, the pleasure in the here and now, that I forget about long term consequences of decisions and how to create a future of hope of joy. Nearsighted. Drats.

But I don’t want to live that way anymore.

I want to see in plain vision, in living colour. 

To see things as they are, not as I idealize them to be.

To stare down the hard, cold realities of life, like death, and aging, and growing up, and leaving friends, or having friends leave you, as you move on and move forward. To meet with courage each of these realities in a way that melts away fear, turning it instead into a soft-glowing candle of acceptance.
Accepting that my twenties will come to end, and my 30s and 40s too, for that matter, and I will not live in a pseudo-forever young state that’s stuck in the past and evades responsibility for the future.

I want to accept that my parents will die one day, and find abundant ways to thank them for specific fond memories I have of them. Perhaps they won’t understand, and consider me an a maudlin sentimentalist. But when they die, and die they will, I know they will have heard every bit of my appreciation, words having been spoken, words having been heard and digested into the heart.

I want to accept that much of life is finding joy in the daily-s, not mountain highs of bucklist completions, but that doesn’t make life itself any less exciting or beautiful. After all, there is much opportunity to be had in menial tasks, like grocery shopping, for example. When we were kids, my dad used to run down the aisle, cart in tote, and then hop on the cart about halfway down the aisle. “Weeeeeeee!” This only worked when the nursing home bus filled with seasoned seniors had left the store, and the clueless four year trying to help Mom has gone to bed… he’d usually do this with, say, the 8 PM grocery shopping crowd. I still catch myself hopping on the grocery cart for a ride, too, sometimes. What can I say, it is fun.

Creating joy like that in the daily-s allows me to see the reality that life can still be beautiful even in despair. Because perhaps the worst thing about white-knuckling life in rose-colored glasses is robbing ourselves of the opportunity to feel the most raw and real parts of life. It makes way for someone to hold your hand when you’re truly at your lowest, proving that you will not be left alone in your sorrow, sweet child. It enables you to fully enjoy life’s most pleasurable experiences without the background of worry, nothing robbing you of intense joy, nothing tainting something so beautiful with cobwebs of anxiety. Instead of seeing life skewed the way I want it, I’ll look up when I can’t get out of my head. The cathartic stars will remind me to see the night sky daily, not just walk around aimlessly underneath it, but instead, to really soak it in, each sparkle singing of illimitable mysteries that cannot be easily solved. Hindsight may be 20/20, but there’s clarity to be found when we decide not to sugar coat our lenses of the world.

Un-squint your eyes.

Un-scrunch your face.

Open up your hands.

Look toward the sun.

Let the light in.

It’s time to be brave.

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Hurry Up and Don’t Die (Re-learning lessons from life/death experiences)

I fell asleep at the wheel when I was 18 years old, summer after graduating high school. I woke up at 12:15 AM with the caustic blast of an airbag flying into my face,2005 corolla crash phone pole quickly discovering that my car was halfway on the sidewalk, the other half still on the road. I ran into a telephone pole, splitting it in half, the upper portion now dangling from the telephone wire. I immediately called 911. Police came and asked if I had been drinking. “No. You can breathalyze me!” I called out, “I fell asleep!” 2005 corolla crash“It’s just that this is a lot of damage for just having fallen asleep,” the officer retorted. The arrival of the ambulance ended our back and forth. I was brought to our nearest hospital with tears in my eyes, shocked but relieved that I felt ok, and quite scared of what my parents would say. Someone had already notified them and my dad met me bedside in an exam room. “I am soo. soooo. sorry,” I tell him, leaning in for a hug. He reached back immediately. “I’m just glad you’re ok; I’m glad you’re ok.” After the x-rays came back showing no broken bones, I was handed some gauze and a prescription for pain and then sent on my way. “I’m sorry to wake you up, Dad. I’m really sorry for doing something so stupid.” “It’s ok; I’m glad you’re ok,” he persisted. I fell asleep (in my bed this time) and woke up to a raw, scraped chin, fresh tender skin scattered amongst hardened scab. In the days to follow, I had loving support from friends and family. Two ten-year old girls that I coached came to my house with handmade, colorful cards. I remember telling them that I was afraid parents wouldn’t trust me driving their kids anymore as a babysitter. “Don’t worry, they’ll still trust you,” their little selves promised me. They gave me some hugs and went back to play at the pool for the rest of the day. One of the moms on the swim team I coached gave me a hat. “You’ve got to keep that chin exposed to as little sunlight as possible,” she said, patting my shoulder. A few days later, I found my name in the police report section of our local newspaper, ashamed and embarrassed that the whole community could see my recklessness. All of that was countered, though, by the love I received. Family emailed me and gingerly encouraged me to slow down. To stop doing so much and to try just being me, doing what I’m doing, confident that it’s more than enough. I listened. For a little while at least. But I often think of that memory now and feel an impulse to “hurry up” and “do more” because I learned that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, tonight, or the next hour. And I’ve been driving myself crazy ever since.

I’ve cut corners trying to breeze through seasons of pain, doubt, confusion, and suffering because hey, we could all die tomorrow, right? And if I might die tomorrow, I certainly don’t want to waste today in pain and sadness. So rather than allowing myself to fully experience pain or difficult “wilderness” seasons, I’ve tried to skip that step altogether. But that’s not how growth works, turns out, and no one is exempt from sadness, anger, and pain just because they might die tomorrow. I wish I would let myself go through painful processes without white-knuckling my way through, trying to control my emotions, my circumstances, rather than let God do God’s thing God’s way. In the process, I end up seeing my dirty fingerprints all over my life when I could have seen even more of God’s tender fingerprints implanted on every scrapbook story page day of life.

I’ve rushed through conversations so that I can go talk to that person, only to rush through that conversation to talk to this person, in hopes of developing rich, meaningful relationships as quickly as possible, forgetting that people aren’t penciled in items on a to-do list; we’re chock full of emotions, stories, things to learn from others, things to teach others, and these deep connections, the ones that mean the most and are savored the deepest, take time. And time never seems to be on your side when you’re living like you might die tomorrow. Life never seems long enough when you act like it stops the same minute as your heart, forgetting about all I’ve been taught about life after death, the hope of Heaven, etc. I guess I’m a little scared of it turning out to be fallacy, but I know in my darkest moments that I need this hope of heaven; my soul would die without it. I can live as if life ends at the grave or I can dare to dream that there is something bigger, something larger, something longer, something that will never, truly ever end.

The “do more, quicker” mentality has caused me to be erratic rather than learning something about patience, about seasons, about the beauty that comes from living with the questions, the uncertainties. It’s caused me to search for the answers now, which has some perks to it, but often has downfalls of arriving at wrong conclusions in a harried attempt to maximize time. We can’t know how things will turn out. We don’t need to, either. As Rainer Maria Rilke once said,

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I guess that’s it- that’s where I want to be right now. I want to live the questions, live the uncertainties, live the risks and searchings and yearnings. Live that now. The answers will come in their own timing. We have 24 hours a day and I can loathe that they aren’t enough or I can assert the fact that this is all we have, so enjoy them and be present for them.

And I’m also learning that although we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, there is such a thing as adulthood, and older adulthood, and retirement… so if my things aren’t crossed off my bucketlist by the time on 30, that’s ok, in fact that’s great-each of us just might have a lifetime of adventures to look forward to, maybe, just maybe…

So may we live today like it could be our last and may we remember that we have a God who has a home for us even when that last day comes.

May we savor sweet conversation, taking our time through each word, hug, tender kiss.

May we realize that we will always want more time in the day, but even on our death bed, our time really hasn’t run out.

“I’ve told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to  celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation.” -Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross

One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident.

One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident. July 2005

Just a few thoughts before race day about not being silent and changing the world…

Opportunities in life don’t always come for the swift, the fastest. Sometimes opportunities come for those who are willing, who are looking, who are ready. And so, sitting here in this plane listening to the songs that guided me through … Continue reading