Don’t Panic

KC Blog PicLife just really sucks sometimes.  Yes, let’s start right there.  Let’s just dive right in and get to the heart of things.  Sometimes you’re just plugging along in life, hopeful for the future, anticipating the good things to come, and then, bam! The crap hits the fan and bits of poop particles are hurtling hard and fast in multiple directions all around you.  You can’t tell left from right, up from down, and you’re just sitting there in the middle of a crap storm wondering who flipped  the “on” button.

Although I’m a pretty chill person even in instances of crisis, there are times when life throws you into a crap tornado and the ferocity of the storm causes you to think and react in ways that defy logic.   Shortly before my most recent F-5, I became irrational, overemotional, and irritable because I could feel the wind kicking up and the pressure of an oncoming storm weighed heavily on me.  When the tornado finally touched down, I was thrown violently in a million directions as emotional debris hit me on all sides and tore me apart.  I could feel the life being rapidly sucked out of me and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening.

Since I am fortunate enough to have not experienced many F-5 moments in my lifetime, I quickly needed to figure out ways to cope.  Over the next few weeks (although weeks felt like years) I did everything I could to deal with the aftermath of the tornado: I sought advice and prayer from loved ones, exercised, drank and/or ate my feelings (sometimes I couldn’t eat or drink at all), and did whatever I could to restore normalcy to my life.  But none of these coping methods seemed to do me much good until one day when I was brave enough to delve back into the world of baseball (side note: baseball is an integral part of my tornado which is why it took some courage to step back up to the plate).

My magic moment occurred when I came across an article about the Kansas City Royals .  In short, the piece talked about a recent rough patch the winners of the 2015 World Series have been experiencing in this new season.  When asked about the struggle his team was going through, General Manager Ned Yost, seemingly void of stress, replied, “I mean, it’s easy,  because we’ve gone through this before. We went through it last September, when we went like 10-18 in a very crucial part of our season. We were trying to get home field advantage, and we struggled for most of the month.”  According to the author of the article, this streak of difficulty Yost referred to happened right before the Royals went on to win the World Series.  Struggle proceeded glory.

Yost later went on to say in the article about his team, “It’s a group that doesn’t panic. They’ve stayed very calm, even through this little rough streak that we’ve gone through. And when you do that, you break out of it quicker.”

Staying calm and not panicking doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a win in life of World Series proportions (maybe it will…. hopefully it will), but it will break you out of a storm that much faster (You know, this information would’ve been quite helpful when the updraft of my F-5 was turning into a supercell.  Pretty sure I did everything but stay calm.  Geez.).

I soon learned after a storm hits and the winds begin to settle, a period of recovery and rebuilding takes place.  You’re still muddling through debris, tending to wounds, and attempting to figure out where to start the clean up process so that you can move forward.  And sometimes accomplishing small tasks such as remembering how to breathe or function like a normal human being during the search and rescue period can prove to be more difficult than being caught up in the initial storm.

Fortunately, a couple of the mighty Royals have some insight on search and recovery efforts:

Salvador Perez, catcher for the Royals and World Series MVP, was quoted in the article, “We’re not doing great right now, but that’s part of the game, ” he said. “So we just need to keep coming to the ballpark, playing hard, and it’ll take care of itself. We don’t have to feel like we don’t know how to do this. We’ll come to the park, play hard, and we’ll start to win. It’ll happen.”

Left-fielder Alex Gordon echoed this sentiment about the importance of showing up to the game day in and day out and letting the chips fall where they may.  “Whether you played good the night before or bad, you come back the next day with the same attitude,”says Gordon.

Although talking specifically about baseball, Perez and Gordon highlighted some key points about storm survival and recovery.  Perez acknowledged that “not doing great” is part of the game, you don’t have to have it all figured out, but eventually, as you keep showing up to play, you will start to win.

Gordon’s quote proved there are good and bad days when enduring a storm but to just continue to play with a calm and steady attitude.  In other words, do your best to focus, stay in the game, and give yourself grace for the bad days and praise for the good.

There have been so many times over the past month or so when I just didn’t know what to do.  The storm and its aftermath can be overwhelming and you just want to curl up in the dugout and hope that when you emerge everything will be as it was, untouched by gale force winds and perfectly in place.  Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out that way.  You are required to put on your helmet, grab a bat, and keep swinging.

The good news is that storms, though sometimes devastating, are temporary and usually survivable.  And according to the magnificent Royals, the key to breaking out of a tough streak is to stay calm, acknowledge the good days and the bad, and just do everything you know to do to keep playing the game.

“It’s experience that you fall back on.  I won’t do anything differently.  You start doing things differently, and you prolong your inability to break out of whatever streak you’re in. So you keep your same routines, you keep your same mindset, you just say steady as it goes  until they break out,” Yost said.

Storms will come in your life – it’s inevitable.  They might not all be of the F-5 persuasion, but the winds are sure to kick up and throw your world into a whirlwind.  And when the upheaval comes, remember the Royals: don’t panic, find your focus, stay steady, maintain hope, keep showing up to the game, and eventually you will win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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La Vie En Rose

ImageI realize it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted on this blog.  Part of it has to do with the fact that my well of creativity hath runneth dry, and the other part has to do with the fact that I’ve just been in a weird, dark place in my life.

The reason I’ve come out of hibernation is because I want to share with you something awesome God showed me a short while back.  But first, let me set this up for you.

When I was a tiny coffee bean of a little girl, I was very curious.  I was new to the world and had a lot of questions about how it functioned.  Much to my father’s dismay, he became my personal Google.

My poor dad had to hear this squeaky 3-year-old ask, “Why?” over and over and over again.  I asked questions ranging from “How will I know when I can read?” to “What am I going to be when I grow up?”  You know, the small questions of life (and I swear, I actually asked these questions at this age).

At some point during my seemingly endless line of questioning, I asked my dad how flowers grew.  Instead of just providing a verbal answer, he gave me a visual aid by drawing each step of the growth cycle of a flower.  He then put each picture in a plastic sleeve and bound them together in a folder.  Doing this bought him maybe one minute of relief from my rapid fire of questioning and gave me one of my most treasured possessions.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I had a similar encounter but this time with my Heavenly Father.

Like I said earlier, I had been going through quite the rough season in my life (actually, I still am).  I felt pressed in on every side with no sign of relief and God was the last person I wanted to talk to.  I doubted, I questioned, felt abandoned and forgotten, and only saw darkness surrounding me.

It’s not that everything was going wrong in my life, but I was definitely walking around with a broken heart.  It was a struggle to get up every morning and put on a brave face – some days were easier than others – but my smile was just a cover up for the brokenness I was enduring.

So one day I was just going about my business, not really thinking about much or even seeking God for answers, and I heard him speak to me about the growth of a flower, but from the perspective of a seed.  Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to realize He was talking about me.

Here’s what God spoke to me: first, the seed (you) is planted in rich soil.  It’s pressed down deep, completely surrounded in darkness.  It can’t see or feel the sun, but it’s there.  It doesn’t know how or when it will sprout, but it will.  A seed cannot see the gardener, but the gardener is there, above ground, tending to the seed, watering it, giving it air and sunshine.

Now, the job of the seed is to be still and allow change to happen in its time.  It will be dark for a while and, at times, uncomfortable as it sprouts roots and starts pushing to the top.  And one day, the seed will not only break through the surface, it will become a beautiful, fragrant flower giving great pleasure to the gardener.

Pretty cool, right?  I thought so.  I also found it terrifying and felt claustrophobic because I understood where I was in that picture.  I was the seed pressed in on every side unable to feel any sense of hope for breakthrough or the existence of an ever-present gardener.

I’ve also come to understand that this metaphor applies to many facets of life.  It’s a great picture about our lives from start to finish, but it also applies to seasons of life.  Right now, I don’t feel so pressed down (maybe I’m starting to sprout), but I still don’t see the breakthrough happening.  But there have been other times in my life when I’ve been above the surface and have felt the sun shining on me.  So even when my next breakthrough comes, I can also be sure that I will be the seed once again.  It’s a constant cycle, one that does not end until we’re plucked from the earth and enjoyed at the Creator’s table.

I hope that wherever you are at in your growth cycle that you remember that you are not gone from God’s sight.  He has planted you right where he wants you for a reason and will see you through every phase of growth.  Be still, trust in his timing for change, and when it’s right, you will bloom into the fullness of all that God has created you to be.

Look at life through rose colored glasses, even when you’re a seed covered in dirt.

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay

PamAside from the odd job here and there, I’ve basically been unemployed for nearly two years.  In fact, I haven’t had a full-time job since I was laid off in 2008.  To say it has been a “struggle” would be a gross understatement.

Mind you, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom over the past few years, but I spent a lot of time questioning life choices while making futile attempts at convincing hiring managers to choose me over the next desperately seeking Susan.

So when a friend of mine propositioned me about a solid job opening, I was compelled to consider applying for the position.  The job was completely unrelated to anything I had my professional sights set on, but I figured the responsible thing to do was apply for the job and accept my lot because maybe God’s will for my life included taking this sharp right turn in a new direction.

In the middle of the interview I was carrying on a fantastic inner monologue.  I kept asking myself, “Do you really want this job?  Why do you keep selling yourself so hard to get the position?  Stop trying to make yourself look good! This is not the time to be competitive!” and so on and so forth.

Even during the interview I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do, but I continued to tell myself, “Suck it up and be an adult.  You’ve prayed a long time for a job, so take it if it’s offered to you.”  Ten minutes after I left the interview the job was offered to me.  I accepted it and cried every day for at least a solid week.

To be fair, I had a lot of good reasons to accept the job.  The work environment and co-workers are fantastic, the idea of doing my part to help people get the care they needed sounded amazing (and it was), and praying with the staff at the start of the workday was incredible.  So for those reasons, I knew I didn’t make a bad decision but I certainly didn’t make a right one either.

However, it didn’t take long for me to reach the breaking point; shortly after taking the job I gave my two weeks notice.

This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make because: 1.) I don’t like to quit, 2.) I don’t want to be viewed as a quitter, and 3.) I was well aware that I’d be letting down a few people in the process especially since I unintentionally gave the false impression that I was happy to be employed.

Long story already long, here’s what I learned from this experience.  First of all, go with your gut.  From the get go, I felt a heavy burden of hesitation but went through with my decision because I thought taking this job was the responsible thing to do.  Turns out, it would have been more responsible to trust my instincts and pass on the job instead of dragging myself (and others) into the consequences of my wrong choices.

Secondly, don’t allow outside pressure or hype to rule your decisions.  I got so caught up in the excitement of the situation that I didn’t give myself the proper time I needed to make a good choice.  I let the positive influence of others – and the fact that I didn’t want to turn away their welcomed assistance – push me into something I didn’t really want to do.

I’m a natural people-pleaser, and unfortunately my inclinations to please the people led to making things quite unpleasant for all parties involved.  Sometimes not having other’s best interests in mind before your own is what is truly best for everybody.

Lastly, be brave. Whether you’re making decisions about a job, the possibility of a relationship, or other potentially life-altering choices, have the guts to make the RIGHT choice.  It takes just as much courage to say no as it does to say yes – even if what is offered to you is of great value.

So there you go, kids, another page ripped from my book of difficult life lessons.  Everything you do may not be right, but if you learn from it, eventually it’ll all be okay.

Not Like The Movies

It’s not often that my life imitates art, but every now and then something so epic happens that makes me think, “Wow, that was just like a movie.”  The story I’m about to tell you was one of those moments.

So far, I haven’t had any cinematic experiences such as Jake Ryan pulling up in his sports car rescuing me from a horrible birthday or Ferris Bueller taking me on the greatest ditch day of all time.  Rather, I’ve had the great misfortune of living a moment straight out of Say Anything.

I’d love to tell you someone stood outside my door with a stereo above their head blaring “In Your Eyes”.  In fact, I still dream of that happening to me.  What did happen, however, was the famous pen incident.

Let me set up the scene for you.  Teenage heartthrob Lloyd Dobler (a.k.a. John Cusack) was living the dream having nabbed Diane “brain trapped in the body of a game show hostess” Court.  Things were going great until, well, they just weren’t, and when she breaks up with him she gives him a pen asking him to continue to write to her.  I suppose that would be the modern day equivalent of telling someone, “send me a message me on Facebook.”  Ouch.

Devastated, Lloyd calls his sister and delivers the line that would one day ring true in my own life: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.”  Total rejection courtesy of office supplies.  Thank you, Staples.

So one Christmas many years ago it was my personal mission to pick out THE PERFECT gift for the guy I was convinced was the love of my life.  My poor mom had to endure the crowds at the mall while I put all my energy into finding something that would be the perfect token of my love and affection.  Unfortunately, the key to his heart was not on sale, so I just settled for a nice shirt.

Finally it came time for the big gift exchange.  I came bouncing in with a huge smile on my face thinking this would be the first gift of our many Christmases together and I could hardly wait to see his reaction.  He opened the gift and at least seemed to really like it and I was pleased by his response.

Then it was my turn to open his gift to me.  It was a long, small box and all I could think was, “Oh my gosh! Is this a bracelet or a necklace???”  It was neither.  It was in fact a fancy pen.  I gave him my heart in the form of a button-up shirt and he gave me a pen.  Insult to injury, not only was I not the only female recipient of said pen, he also gave me the SAME PEN (with socks) the following year.  I graciously accepted the gift as well as all the bonus rejection that came with it.  Yep.  Life was just like the movies.

In the years that followed, I discovered a couple of things: 1.) This guy was definitely not the love of my life, and 2.) This would not be the last time I would give away my heart and receive a pen (figuratively speaking) in exchange.

However, the pen has come to represent more than just failed romantic aspirations in my life.  For example, I’ve done everything I know to do to get a job (i.e. earn a degree or two, network, apply) and life keeps handing me the “we’re not going to even acknowledge you sent us a resume” pen.  Sadly, I know I’m not the only graduate who has been handed this load of ink.

And after having acquired quite the collection of these ballpoint rejections, it’s become easier and easier to make room on the desk expecting more to be added to the clutter.  In other words, I’ve come to anticipate disappointment rather than expecting victory in various parts of my life.

Which brings me to this morning.  While I won’t go into detail about what I’m currently dealing with, let’s just say I started making room on my desk for another pen.  And just as I was figuratively clearing some space, something strange happened: “In Your Eyes” came on the radio and the picture of Lloyd standing outside Diane’s window came to mind.

This image reminded me I don’t have to settle, I don’t have to accept another pen or believe that I’m only worthy to receive office supplies as the consolation prize for my hopes and dreams.  The movie doesn’t end with Lloyd accepting the pen or that his dream is over; Lloyd gets creative, turns up the volume on the stereo (as well as the collar on his jacket) as a demonstration to his woman and the world that he’s not giving up on her.  He doesn’t accept defeat; he uses this as an opportunity to rise to the challenge and take hold of what he believes rightfully belongs to him.

So whatever your pens are in life, it’s time to throw them away and start working on creating a new playlist in your head that drowns out the negativity.  Turn on whatever “song” you need to blare at your dream to keep you hopeful, focused, and to remind you to never settle for the consolation prize.

Several years and disappointments have passed since I first got that pen.  There are dreams still yet to be fulfilled and my Lloyd Dobler still hasn’t shown up at my doorstep, boom box in hands proclaiming his undying love for me – heck, even music blaring from an iPhone would work at this point – but I’m hopeful and am slowly but surely starting to believe I don’t have to settle for anything less than something that’s just like the movies.

So bring it on, Lloyd Dobler.  I’m ready to board that plane to England.  3… 2… 1….