Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Choose, Seek, Embrace

I've learned this year that it's all about choices.

I get to choose what I devote my time to.
I get to choose how I feel.
I get to choose what I write about.
I get to choose what I give importance to.

It's surprising how often I choose to feel panicked, when I have peace just at my fingertips.  Peace is available to all of us, all the time.

At the beginning of the year, I took a class that altered the way I wanted to view the world.  The "One Thousand Gifts" author encouraged us all to not go through life like it's an emergency, but to slow down, count each moment for what it is, and be thankful.

This year has given plenty of opportunities for grumbling and complaining, but even more for thanksgiving.

As the new year takes over, I want to step up my "Thankful Game".

To turn over a new leaf, I must train my brain and eyes to think differently.  

I will love, laugh, connect, play, and dream.

I will cry, think too hard, and give myself headaches.

But through it all, I will continue to choose energy, seek joy, and embrace the grace.

I hope you will, too.

Excited for the journey,

Monday, December 30, 2013

Why I Don't Want to Get Married

I wasn’t the little girl who grew up dreaming of her one-day wedding.  And now, I’m not the mid-20’s gal dreaming of a wedding, or beating myself up because I haven’t had one.

I grew up in Southwestern Arizona.  As far as I can recall, my high school classmates and teammates did not spend their time talking about engagements, weddings, or babies.  Maybe I just didn’t pay enough attention.

I moved to Central Kansas for college.  CULTURE SHOCK, big time.  Life suddenly revolved to a different degree around who was dating whom, who was together or not together.  Then it became, “Who was getting engaged”.

Don’t get me wrong, at some point during my sophomore year of college, I made the decision that I would get married at 22 years of age.  It seemed like what was expected and accepted, and almost demanded.  Like something was wrong with you if this wasn’t how your life unfolded.

Then the guy I pictured this wedding with went and broke my heart.  He was only the second “real” dating relationship I had been in (I “dated” three boys in high school), but I was dead-set on us getting married.  And then it didn’t happen.

Now, hold on, because I think I’m too strong to let one person make my mind up for me about love and relationships, so I don’t just blame this situation.

It was at this point that I began a new phase in my personal growth.  First came the shattering of my heart, spirit, and any and all love for life that I had.  Seriously, borderline manic-suicidal.  

Then the real growth took place.  

I’ve spent the last 5 and a half years rebuilding my broken faith and crushed dreams; mending my broken heart and nurturing my broken spirit.  I’ve forced myself to face the fact that I had the definition of “relationship” completely wrong.  I’ve done hard work of realizing that I had spent 21 years looking for validation from other people, seeking to plant roots inside someone else’s mind and heart, because I didn’t have my own solid roots to derive life from.

I didn’t have a picture of love in the family I grew up in.  My parents were not married.  Actually, they signed a piece of paper on my father’s deathbed in front of a priest.  I was seventeen, and I was asked to interpret the pathetic “ceremony”.  I was overcome by waves of nausea and thrust the little booklet back at the priest.

Over the last seven years in Kansas, I’ve spent time with different families, observing the marriage relationships of the mother and father, learning about how children (my college classmates and teammates) who grew up in a two-parent home create their ideals about life and marriage.

I wouldn’t say I blame the pain or loss of my upbringing for any anger or resentment I have towards marriage.  Rather, I think I’m too scared to mess it up.  I also think I’ve become too independent and secure in myself and happy with my own company to want to even think about sharing my every day with someone.  I’ve reached the point where I can have dreams for myself and goals for myself, and plans for my own future, without including a husband.  

I can see how having someone to share everyday moments with might be nice, but I no longer need it to complete me.  

Yes, I’m a Christian, and I can honestly say that I do not feel “God calling me to marriage” or “God telling me to be a mother” or “God having plans for me to have a common ministry with someone”.  

I just don’t feel that.

I don’t want to get married.  I don’t know when that will change.  I’m okay with it, if it never changes.  

I want to encourage others out there feeling pressure from society--to get married, to date, to have sex, to have a partner, someone by your side at all times---don’t fall for it.  Independent life is pretty awesome.

(For those wondering, I have been in a committed, heterosexual relationship for 4 and a half years--no we don't live together. We live in different towns, actually.)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Shamrock Born, Shamrock Bred


This week, I learned that I lost one of my high school teammates.  

My coach “didn’t have details”...but he hinted at the cause of death.  The teammates I talked to also “didn’t have details”...but had received hints at the cause of death.

She died suddenly on December 20th, 2013.  The day before my birthday.

Regardless of the cause or time of death, the pain came for those of us who learned of the loss.

As I allowed myself to reflect on the situation, I realized that this girl was my teammate year-round; three sports; for four years.  Cross-country, basketball, and track and field.  I tried in vain to calculate the hours I spent in training with her, the miles I ran by her side; the hours I spent in 12-passenger vans and busses with her, the post-game meals I shared with her; the tears we shed in locker rooms after heartwrenching losses, the laughs and jokes we shared on long runs.  

I replayed the silly costumes for Halloween Spirit Weeks at school, the picture-perfect moments in different states for all of our competitions--the Grand Canyon, Southern California.  I recalled our week-long cross-country camp in the summer of 2005, in the mountains of Utah, just two months after my dad died. She was one of many supportive teammates.  I replayed every lap I watched her run in the 3200m run every spring.  I re-cheered her on.  I recalled the way she carried her body while she ran, saw the twinkle in her eyes when she laughed.

I tried to count the days, the hours, the minutes I spent by her side.

And I realized I was too late.

I realized that I started counting the moments too late in the game.  I realized that I didn’t do a good enough job of keeping in touch, of asking her how her life was, of offering support, or even acknowledging and offering thanks for the four years during which she was such an integral part of my inner circle.

In high school, every team I was on was so loyal to each other.  We were the first to respond to each other’s needs, the first to notice if something had gone amiss.  We were study buddies, pushers, encouragers, and distracters when need be.  We refused to listen to each other talk badly about ourselves; we always had a positive word to cancel out any negative thoughts.

How does someone go from being an immediate part of your daily life, to being just a face you see once in a while, while mindlessly scrolling down your Facebook Newsfeed?

It doesn’t matter that 7 and a half years have gone by since high school graduation.  That’s just time.  When I spoke with some of my teammates on the phone regarding the news, we expressed our love for one another--girls I hadn’t spoken to on the phone in years. Time is just an illusion.  These girls are forever a part of my soul.

The life lessons I learned from my hours, days, weeks, and months of training and competition alongside these ladies shaped me for the rest of my life.  I didn’t have much of a traditional “social circle” in high school; my life revolved around these girls.  They colored my days and brightened the few nights we were allowed to stay out later than normal when we didn’t have to worry about an early morning practice or bus ride to a competition.  They shared in birthday parties and attended my father’s funeral.

How can I give so little attention to the girls who stood by me when the rest of the world wanted nothing to do with me?  How can I not offer thanks for the human spirits who encouraged me and looked the other way when I did make mistakes--maybe caused a turnover in our basketball game, or dropped the shot-put at a bad angle and didn’t win us as many points as I should have?

This moment in time is both an offering of thanks, and one of profound guilt and apology. It is both a goodbye and renewal of dedication.

The beautiful bonds I formed with all my high school teammates are ones I truly cannot separate myself from, ever.

Thank you, ladies, for never letting me down.  Thank you for sharing your courage with me.  Thank you for your beautiful, generous spirits. I promise to give each and every one of you more time and attention, and I vow to stand by you in times of need. I cherish each and every one of you.

To Sarah--see ya again soon, and then maybe we can make up for lost time.

Shamrock born, Shamrock bred.