Reality Reflection: Questions and Faith

One of the secrets of success is asking questions. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, either in trying to work with clients or in having a healthy relationship with my significant other, but going the extra mile in some cases to ask a question (or three) is usually worth it because it means I’m not repeating anything or having to redo something. But lately we’ve been dealing with a question that doesn’t have an answer, or at least not a good one: this virus that’s sweeping the globe. It has given me a new appreciation for families who are dealing with cancer and other currently unfixable or not easily fixed disabilities or illnesses, including Alzheimers which we’ve dealt with in my family. It’s tough to face a question that you can’t answer or get answers to and there are so many unknowns at this point, and so many people affected or potentially going to be affected.

Everyone faces some challenges in their life, some of us seem to be gifted more challenges than others. We all have to decide how we’re going to face those challenges and how we’re going to deal with questions that we just can’t answer at this time. We shouldn’t handle each challenge with the same action steps or plan of attack, because each challenge is different. This virus has taught us though that it’s important to have some items in stock with at least a month’s supply and to have a bigger plan about work and school and other things that could be impacted by a challenge.

We have to decide if the questions that we raise are really that important to answer, and if so how can we individually and collectively make steps, baby or big, in the direction of finding out what is or isn’t true and what the answer is to the question. As part of that investigation, we have to consider whether we’re even asking the right question(s) or if there are other questions that better address what we’re dealing with or questions that have to be answered before we can get to the question that’s really on our minds.

Some questions we may struggle with for our entire lives and never really come up with any good answers, and I think that’s part of life. We’re not all knowing (that’s God’s job), and some things are beyond our ability to understand. One thing I’ve been blessed to not question seriously throughout my life is my faith. Sure, I have moments that I don’t know where things are going or I can’t see how they’re really going to resolve themselves or I’ve dealt with depression, but time and again God has sent me a little reminder, reassured me or been the one constant that’s been there through anything.

As we head into Holy Week on Sunday with Palm Sunday, all the questions and uncertainty we’re dealing with right now and how very different this Easter will be from past Easters, I’ve decided to share a post a day for the week, starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Saturday before Easter (with an Easter post on Monday since many churches and faith leaders will be sharing special messages around the internet on Sunday). We’ll take a look at some of Jesus’ story, the Holy Week events, and discuss some of the topics that we’re dealing with as a world right now in this unique situation.

It’s important right now to keep the faith and believe in our ability to get through this together, even as physically separated as we are.  With the free time and different situations we’re facing, it’s a good time to be asking questions and really working through the answers so that you’re prepared for what may happen in the future.  And if I’m asking one question right now more than any other, it would be for God to send an Easter miracle to our world.

Victories for Today

I’ve been working on some different victories in my life while much of my regular life is on hold like yours may be as well, and in reading back through some emails from the beginning of March I’m reminded of the tornado in Nashville again that happened in the beginning of the month. No one was predicting our lives would look like they do today when that tornado happened, and now that we’re immersed in this virus challenge people around the US are dealing with things that occur on a semi-yearly basis: other tornadoes and an earthquake. I pray that we’ll have this under much better control by the time hurricane season shows up or the unfortunately seemingly annual fire season begins.

All of these thoughts got me thinking about (and feeling) sayings like “when it rains it pours” and being “beaten while you’re down.” While there may be some value behind the idea of just getting everything out of the way all at once, it’s definitely a hard choice to make, and a lot harder to deal with when resources are stretched as far as they are right now, and no one really chooses to face as many serious challenges as they possibly can.

What does it mean? Well, maybe we need to hit bottom, or close to bottom, to get a reality check on how we’re living or how we’re treating each other or the effort we’re giving to living lives that fulfill us and prepare us for situations like this. Maybe we need this reality check to do something about how people around the globe live in poverty and can’t avoid situations like this, thus causing (potentially) high casualties. Maybe we need this reality check to help us advance to a better level of work, both to improve our companies and help us be more consistently able to support ourselves. Maybe it’s a reminder to update all your important information so that the right people know your wishes and you don’t leave a mess for anyone to deal with after you’re gone.

Or maybe this is just a reminder that we need to take time outs from time to time, whether they’re mental health days, vacations, or a day dedicated each week to keeping our to do lists short, or even just time each day to process what’s going on in our lives. Maybe it’s just a reminder to take advantage of what you’re given and not worry about stuff you can’t control. Maybe it’s an opportunity to be light and love in a world that desperately needs it.

It may rain and pour for a little while yet, the questions are what we’re going to do while that happens and what we’re going to after it’s stopped raining (how are we going to pick up and move on from here)? I hope you’re working to achieve at least one victory each day right now, whether that’s to eat something tasty, enjoy watching a dog video, read a whole book, get out for a walk, or take a step closer to completing an item on your to-do list (or even complete a whole item!). After the rain is done, we’ll need to take stock and evaluate what went well, what needs to change for the future, and then take steps to make our future better. Some of the action and planning you can do while it rains, but much of it we have to see how things go before you can truly establish a plan for a better future. So focus on accepting and being at peace with your current situation and making whatever victories you can make for now, and worry about the future when it arrives.  What victory or victories will you achieve today?

Reality Reflection: Looking at Limits

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big news person. I do believe it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, so I check in on a news website once or twice a day typically and have one or two email newsletters that give me a brief overview of what happened the day prior. Of course, like many others, when there’s something really serious going on in the world like a missing airplane, in-progress natural disaster or health crisis I tend to check in on the news a little more. But I know, like many others, I can’t leave it on or it will depress me or so distract me with what-if scenarios to an unhealthy point. It’s necessary to know what’s going on in our world, but we don’t need to dwell on worst case scenarios when we could instead be doing our best to keep things moving in our own lives as best we can given whatever the circumstances.

What we’re really talking about here, especially with regard to something as widespread and still developing as this virus is the topic of limits and knowing what yours are. Some limits are to keep you from doing dangerous things or being with dangerous or less-than-healthy people, while others are really opportunities to spur growth. In some ways it’s sobering to talk about limits, because right now the world is dealing with a limit it doesn’t like to deal with: not having a cure for this virus. It’s tough to deal with limits like this one, because we don’t like being told that we can’t easily resolve a situation or don’t know the path through it or can’t help everyone as we would like to.

Families are also struggling with the current limits because they are now in completely new situations with their family members, they have to all of a sudden be teachers and master chefs and share tables at home as never before. While there are things that hopefully will change as a result of the virus like more people being able to work from home more often and people being more active and proactive with healthy practices, there are things that we’ve been made aware exactly how far we can go and why there are limits in place, such as that we’re not all teachers or knowledgeable on all subjects, and that it is important to be out and be physically present with others.

Sometimes limits have to be accepted in the short term to come up with better long term support and solutions, and that’s where we find ourselves right now. This has been a learning experience few will want to repeat, and all should learn from and plan accordingly for the future. When we are able to cross over the limits that hold us back in our lives or in our world, it give us a great victory to celebrate.

Whether you’re facing virus-related limits, or focusing more on other limits in your life right now, I encourage you to keep looking at them and working them from different angles until you decide if they’re limits you’re going to keep in your life, or limits that you’re going to work through. If they’re limits you’re going to keep in yoru life or aren’t bad for you, accept them as what they are and move on. If they’re limits you’re going to work through, with all the extra hours many of us find ourselves having right now, I encourage you to work daily on those limits.

We Are United

Unity. It’s an interesting word, one that we’re seeing a completely different side of with the virus and connected health issues that’s sweeping the globe. Unity is often something that’s celebrated, and appreciated, but this is a unity we haven’t seen since 2001 when the 9/11 attacks happened, although we have seen it throughout the intervening years with various mass casualties and natural disasters less significant levels. What this has really reminded me is that we’re a lot more alike than some of us may want to admit.

This virus hasn’t respected a country or a nationality or a culture or a job description, it’s around the world in people of all ages, all job statuses, all backgrounds, and all levels of celebrity. It has united all of us with a common thread that can’t be denied, and yet instead of being able to celebrate that we are more similar than we may have thought or been willing to admit, it’s forcing us to keep our distance to stop/slow the spread. The only way we can beat this is if we work together as a world to find answers, direction, and support for moving forward.

There’s no clear cut answer to where we go from here, but my hope is that first and foremost, we remember how this virus united us and showed us how similar we are, and not how it destroyed our lives for however long it sticks around. Second, I do think it’s smart to take a cautionary take from this virus, since we’ve learned how similar we are, that we should be more sensitive toward and considerate of each other, both with how we live our lives and the general health practices we should do more regularly.

While it’s not appropriate at this time to gather together to encourage each other, we can use the internet and social media to share words of encouragement, strength and hope. Whatever the future holds, it’s up to us to use whatever tools we have to make a difference, show others that we care, and help each other through this time.

Reality Reflection: The Weight of the World

Lately I’ve been getting more headaches than I think I should, so it might be time for a hair cut. For those who haven’t ever had long (or longer) hair, it’s not something you’ve probably thought about, but hair does have weight to it. Similarly, if you think about how heavy your winter jacket feels when you pick it up or a heavy bed blanket/quilt versus a small couch-snuggling blanket, you get the idea that some things will weigh you down to differing degrees. But all that got me thinking about the sensation that I think some of us have gotten too used to feeling, and that’s the weight of the world on our shoulders.

Obviously I haven’t lived through the different centuries and times that have passed, but for some reason it seems like we have more responsibilities and pressures than I think people used to have. Maybe it’s true and we do because of the global nature of our lives and increased communication, or maybe we don’t because we are less dependent on ourselves as families/individuals for even basic survival. Maybe the fact is that everyone has always felt a weight on their shoulders to live, let alone thrive.

Is there a spiritual answer to this feeling and struggle? Partly, yes. There definitely is a difference that can be made, a lightness to be had, if you are able to trust God to have good things planned, a plan for your life, and to always be there to help you through anything.

I also think you personally should be responsible for lifting some of the weight off of you, or getting the help and support you need to get it off you. Doing things that will (hopefully) help you get through the current challenges should give you a sense of reassurance that you’re doing something that could help you get beyond this point.

But I also have to say that if we didn’t feel that sense of weight, didn’t have concerns about our daily lives, would we do anything to make our communities and world a better, safer, and/or healthier place? I think the issue is when it goes beyond what we can reasonably do ourselves, it extends into what seems like forever, and none of the efforts we’re making seem to be having any type of effect.

With spring just around the corner, and today having been a little bonus gift of a day that we get every 4 years, I would encourage you to block off some time in your calendar to either speak with someone (or several someones) about getting some help in whatever way you need it, and/or conquering some of the stuff that’s been holding you back or keeping you stuck. I don’t think we should all have the weight of the world on our shoulders, we’re not all president/king/queen, CEO’s of multi-billion dollar companies, or responsible for the safety of millions each and every day. So maybe it’s time we stand up and do something about that weight.

Reality Reflection: I Dare You

I read a lot, both fiction and non fiction, so when I see the same topic or phrase several times in a short amount of time, I pay attention. The phrase I saw this week? “I dare you.” Hearing that phrase may have brought you back to your childhood and having your buddies dare you, or playing ‘truth or dare’ with friends. Even as adults we sometimes say it in a playful context (often when drinking) with friends. But the context I read it in this week was all about being dared to play a bigger game; being dared to live bigger; and being dared to love, care and trust more.

When you’re challenged to take a dare, that’s exactly what it is: a challenge. It’s giving you the opportunity to do something bigger, different, unique, fun, strange, and out of the ordinary for you. Most of the time it’s silly and probably won’t have a lot of consequences or any impact on your future, because dares are usually about having a little ‘outside the box’ fun.

But what if we turned this childhood idea into something that could be beneficial for adults? Just like we find benefit in asking questions and having a strong imagination as adults and kids? What if a little (or big) dare could help us become the people we dreamed we would be as kids? No, it’s not likely you’ll be able to realize your childhood dream of being the next Superman or Superwoman, but you can definitely become a better significant other, have a job that excites you at least on some level, be generally happy with life, and make a difference with your life.

If you’ve got some not great memories of dares from your younger days, you do need to conquer that fear first, so start with something small and not super threatening to see that dares can be healthy and beneficial, just like you start small with learning a new skill or losing weight or working out. Once you’ve got a few victories under your belt, then you can dare yourself bigger and bolder things. What will you dare to dream or do?

Reality Reflection: The Myth of Catching Up?

Lately it seems like all I’ve been doing is trying to catch up. It’s not always my fault either, like when the weather is bad and adjusts my plans for me, or when ants decide my house looks great to live in and stops the work I was doing, or other people change their plans and delay mine. I don’t cause any of those things, but as a result things I’m trying to get done or places I’m trying to go become exponentially more challenging, and things get pushed off because other things are of higher priority. While I have some more to manage in my life than others, I do know that others have even more they’re trying to manage than I am, and it got me wondering if anyone ever truly catches up on their whole to do list.

I think it is a good lesson in learning to prioritize, making sure that we are doing what’s important and letting go of what’s not really important. It’s also a good teacher of patience, that we learn to be patient with ourselves and others. Finally, it’s also a good lesson in alternatives and being able to restructure, reconsider, redo or find options that work.

As I was thinking about catching up, I got to thinking about change and how some say that change isn’t good or they don’t like it. I don’t know about you, but I like to change my clothes each day and I like when the weather changes to be warm again, and people like to change to a partner that’s more loving and caring. Often change can be good., and we experience many of the same emotions when it comes to change as we do catching up. We feel feelings of frustration and fear when we’re behind or not on board with the change, and we experience happiness and excitement when we experience good changes and catch up on things.

So I don’t believe that ‘change is good’ is a myth, I think it’s definitely possible for change to be good, depending on the situation. I don’t know if it’s truly possible to ever be all caught up though, because with each new day we’re given new things that have to be tackled, even if they’re the same things we did the day before like eating or getting the kids to school. Maybe the point isn’t about getting caught up, but being productive and slowly but steadily getting things done.