Summer Camp

My daughter is off to summer camp today.  We are taking her right after church.  Summer camp….so nostalgic.  She is going with Girl Scouts (not the whole troop, just a few of her friends) and she will spend the week outside.  I am so excited for her.  It has all of the traditional stuff of summer camp; swimming, canoes, hiking, arts and crafts, but this one is special it is a horseback riding camp.  Everyday she will spend time taking care, learning about and riding horses.  My daughter LOVES horses.  She is excited for her.

Yesterday when we started packing it became apparent she was getting a little nervous.  She talked about missing me, and her parakeet ,and the dog, (not her brother) and everything else.  :)  We talked about it; being away, missing people and things.  She has spent time away from home but it has always been with family, a grandparent or something.  We talked about adrenaline and stress and how her thoughts can make that a good and fun experience, like a roller coaster or a bad and scary experience.  We talked about how she can decide what to think.

Then we spent time talking about when I went away to camp.  I think there were two a girl scout camp and an asthma camp.  I told her about how fun it was and what I did.  It was good conversation with a 9-year-old.

After she finally went to sleep I sat thinking about camp.  The experiences, the learning, the adventure.  I am so excited for her to be having this experience.  To step just a little further out into the world on her own.  I am glad there is a place for her that is (mostly) computer free (they do let us send email back and forth).  I’m glad she will have nights to giggle and cook over a fire.  I’m glad she will learn some skills.  I’m glad she will grow in confidence.

Summer camp can be a magical place an experience that every child should have.  I am grateful I can provide this to her.  Anyone else sending a child to camp this year?  Did you camp as a kid?

Labels And Why I Don’t Like Them

Have you ever sat and thought about the labels you use in your life?  I’ve heard it said that labels don’t matter but I have decided that is an all out lie.  Labels DO matter.  We might not want them to but they do matter.  And I hate them….I hate them all.

My life, like everyone’s is full of labels.  Some of my labels include; mother, Christian, autism, introvert, codependent, people pleaser, kind, shy, funny….etc.  My kids have labels.  Labels are how we communicate ideas to one another.  Language is essentially just a complex series of labels made out of symbols that we use every day to explain, interpret, understand and engage with each other every single day.  The problem of course is how our brain uses labels and the limits generated by that.

When I was in school and studying psychology, I had a professor that discussed how the brain organized information.  You may have heard about it; schema?  Well a scheme is basically the map we use in our brains to short cut thinking.  I think of it like little boxes; you have an experience with a person and you notice or learn things about them.  Each piece of data you learn about them is tucked safely away into a little labeled box in your mind; man, woman, mother, single, daughter, white, black, funny, arrogant, and the list goes on.  Each of those boxes has been conditioned with attachments to previous experiences and feelings, some good, some bad, some completely indifferent, and from those attachments and labels we determine quickly what we know about a person or situation.  It happens so fast we are usually not aware of it.  It is way for our brains to be efficient with the huge amounts of information it comes across every minute.  It’s a huge advantage so we can quickly make decisions about safety and other flight/fight circumstances.

Here’s the thing, we forget that people are more than labels.  Even ourselves.  We have an idea about labels; i.e. she is shy so she doesn’t like going out with people.  But that idea isn’t always right; in fact, I’m finding that it often isn’t.  Take a few minutes right now and think of one person you know kinda well…an acquaintance.  Pick one thing you know about that person, it can be anything; the kinds of clothes they wear, their race, their sex, where they grew up, whatever.  Now say a statement about that person you “know” because of that label.  For example: “She lives in a big house so she has lots of money.”  Now, is that really true about them?

Do this same exercise for someone you know really well.  A close friend, spouse or family member.  State a label, they are kind, funny.  Then create your statement.  Is that true for them?  Was it true when you first met that person?  Pick several labels; positive ones and negative ones.

Someone you don’t like?  Is it true for them?

What happens when you do that exercise for yourself?  I’m an introvert.  Introverts don’t like to go out and have a good time – that is not true for me.  I do enjoy going out and having a good time…but wait, I’m an introvert?

My son has autism.  People with autism don’t like to be touched.  But wait – my son would crawl back into me if he could?

I’m sure each person will have a different experience with this but what I found out about myself is that I try to live by my labels instead of allowing myself to just be who and/or what I want to be.  I found that I was acting in some ways because of what I thought those labels expected of me.  I found I was judging myself by those labels and they were definitive.  They were the be all end all of who I was, and in some cases, the other people (and situations) in my life.  And ironically, or unfortunately, finding out that they weren’t right or that I could change them wasn’t necessarily empowering.  It was terrifying.  Who am I if I’m not this??  Right now I’m just scared that I have to take myself out of the boxes.  Boxes are safe.  Labels are safe.  But when we look at our world and we remove labels we must be more vulnerable to learn anything of Truth.  We have to Love (capital L) enough to open ourselves to the possibility that something or someone isn’t limited to the label we have given it.

I want very much to be able to be the person that bravely meets the world that way but right now I just feel like I’m hiding in a corner.  Right now that just looks like a bunch of pain and disappointment and I’ll be honest – I don’t want to hurt anymore.  I’m closer than I have ever been to just turning myself off emotionally to the whole world because I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  I told someone once I didn’t want to live that way, then I hurt again.  I have faith that since my thoughts and prayers have brought me here I will transcend but well, I’m not over the mountain yet.

I would love to hear what those questions brought up for you if you are willing to share.  Maybe we can get rid of the labels together and it will feel less scary.

 

 

Freedom Takes Courage

My children and I spent the fourth of July holiday at the beach this year.  So very different from my Independence Day’s as a child.  What I remember about July 4th growing up are small flags hanging from light posts in a one street downtown area.  There where corn boils in the summer and parades.  I used sparklers and we could see the town fireworks show from our backyard (which by the way, backed into a huge corn field).

This year July 4th was sand and surf.  Small carnival rides like the carousel and Ferris wheel and fireworks on the beach.

We read the Declaration of Independence this year, an idea started from my good friend Andrew Odom, and talked about the meaning behind it.  Why it was important.

All the while the gears in my head are turning and then on church on Sunday our talked focused on how that document can be used as an example of how to make change.  It was very interesting and the impact on my current life was equally interesting.

I imagined what living in that time must have been like.  Not everyone living in the colonies wanted to be separated from England and even those that did, I wonder if they knew what they were in the process of creating?  So many people with different ideas on what to do and after the Declaration was written so many ways to move forward.  The challenges that must have been overcome while something so completely new was brought into manifestation.  It wasn’t just a day of independence or a day of freedom it was a day of courage.

My life is so new…and the challenges that have been overcome to create it are more than I thought myself capable of.  The challenges I still have yet to face, I’m not looking forward to facing them.  Like many colonists, a completely new way of looking at life is staring back at me and I must find the courage to take action to have that life going forward.  I still stand on the brink of something I don’t quite understand.  But I know it is different, so very different I am sometimes afraid of it.  My previous life and ideas stand over me like the King of England and at the same time secret ideas being to gather and make plans for moving forward in a new way.

I think we miss the challenges that must be overcome when change like that happens unless we are living it.  Can you imagine the courage it must have taken to take up that pen and sign your name to a document that said, I will live like this no more?

I am so grateful for that courage in others.  Not only because it brought forth the United States, but also because it inspires me to find that courage within myself.  To take up my own pen (or sword) and say, “I will live like this no more!”.

Go live courageously!

 

Vanity of vanities…

Most people are familiar with that song from The Byrds, Turn, Turn, Turn.  And many people know it is taken almost directly from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.  The lyrics for the song don’t begin until the 3rd chapter of that book.  Have you read the whole book?  It begins, (in verse 2), “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity”.  Depending on your translation it may say futility.  All is futility… not necessarily a hopeful message.  :)

The text is traditionally thought to be one of the wisdom texts of King Solomon and the entire book, including the chapter that has those popular song lyrics, talks about the futility of live.  I reread the entire book yesterday…I guess I have been feeling futile.  It can be a dry read but if you have never read it, you should.  It is very profound.  A great King who talks about how his wisdom has given him nothing more than any other man because of the futility of live.  We “chase the wind”.  In chapter 1:18 it says, “Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain”.  I think that is where the idea of ignorance is bliss came from.

I find I can relate to King Solomon.  Not that I am wise but that I search for meaning and am not always able to find it.  I ponder questions like; what am I doing, why does this matter and have a hard time finding a satisfying answer.  The reason for that is actually very simple, but no less profound.  And Solomon speaks of it in the text too.  The meaning is to spend as much time enjoying what you have been given for that is all that you have.  Rich, poor, king, slave, man, woman, wise, foolish.  We “all go to the same place.  All [come] from the dust and all return to the dust” (Ecc 3:20).  Good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people and all is futile so don’t measure your happiness against it.  Instead spend your time making each moment as beautiful as you can.  Instead make choices each day that bring you joy.  I guess the trick would is to be aware enough to know what will bring you joy in every moment.

This period of transition I find myself in right now is I suppose a blessing in that I am discovering those things that bring me joy.  It isn’t pleasant really, but I’m certain I will find myself looking back at this time in gratitude.  It’s hard to remember that as I go through my days trying to answer big questions with little answers.  Simple answers.  I suppose that is a good place to start.

 

Forever…

That word gets tossed around a lot but I’m not sure we can really wrap our brains around what it means most of the time.  I think we stop at the end of our lives but that isn’t forever.  That isn’t everlasting.  I’ve been thinking about what lasts forever recently because there has been change in my life.  I’m starting to feel like I’m getting somewhere.

We talk in terms of forever all the time which is interesting since nothing really lasts forever.  Or at least that was what had been stuck in my head for the last several months.  When you go through transition, particularly transition you didn’t want to go through and didn’t expect, you tend to view the world a little more negatively.  I mean, who feels good about losing a job, a loved one, an opportunity?  So you feel crummy and that the world is out of to get you, or at least I do.  And I somehow got into this very defeated mindset like, why bother…everything ends.

Most people want some sort of stability and just when it feels like we have it something comes along and knocks us over again.  It is possible to get caught in that and fall into a ‘what’s the point’ attitude.  Why work so hard to just get to the next problem, the next issue, the next crappy situation, the next change?  So I decided to really explore that.  I’ve been doing this very Zen thing – be with the pain, take care of the pain, explore the pain.  And I discovered something.

I read in a book (can’t remember name of it now) by Deepak Chopra that talked about seeing eternity in a grain of sand as referenced in the poem by William Blake.  That if you could imagine in your mind time stretched out on either side of that grain of sand and be aware that everything that made that sand has already been and everything it will transform into is what is to come you could look at the sand and see that time doesn’t really exist.  Everything is already in that grain of sand.  It sort of twists my head and he actually explained it very well.  :)

While pondering that life sucks because nothing lasts I remembered this explanation about time and the world in a grain of sand.  That all of time is in everything around us because nothing can be created and nothing can be destroyed.  I mean at the subatomic level everything is the same and just changes from one thing into something else.  Then I stumbled across something from Thich Naht Hanh that talked about how a cloud can never die…it can only become something else.  I wasn’t feeling like this very practical.  I mean its great in theory but I needed some help with how to deal with daily struggles quickly without needing to put my brain into quantum physics mode.  Plus I was still negative and was so not interested in eternity.  I just wanted my life to not be so crazy…my life doesn’t last forever.  Oh! what an interesting thought, my life doesn’t last forever.  And with that I started to try and figure out what would last my whole life…I came up with my body.  I mean as long as I’m alive my body needs to be working, otherwise I’m not alive.  My breath, my heart beat…

So I guess “they” (there are too many theys to mention here) are right – the breath is constant.  Always there, something to rely on.

Somehow that thought was comforting.  I felt like I had something I could really count on to always be there and in a unique turn of empowerment I realized I have some pretty serious control over that.  I can decide how to breath in each moment.  That thought got me into a better frame of mind.  A place where I could begin to think of what does last forever.

And God does…Universal Law, the Tao, Divine Spirit.  I don’t think it matters what you call it or how you label it.  But there is this something that is always happening.  Always working.  Always there.

Those two thoughts really helped me.  There really is something to rely on.  In a bad moment I can take a breath – something I have control over – and then remember that God is the constant.  All is well.

Not Yet

I feel a pull to go forward, to something I just cannot see
I stand at the edge, waiting to understand.
I don’t want to go. Not yet.

Before me is nothing but darkness, a road I’ve never been on
I’m not really walking but stumbling
And I don’t want to go.  Not yet

I weep for what I wanted that didn’t happen.
I weep for what I thought that wasn’t true.
I weep knowing I can’t stay where I am but not wanting to go.
Not yet.

I’m told that this place is better.
That it’s bright and lovely and good.
But I’m scare to leave all my old hopes and dreams.
I don’t want to go. Please, Not yet.