Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sugar Coated, with Sprinkles

I've been lamenting the lack of a roadmap through the middle of life lately. You can read about it here: (Where's Your Roadmap Leading You?)

In all honesty, my original roadmap probably looked more like the journey through Candy Land, all sugar-coated with sprinkles. The pair look like Dick and Jane as they skip along the brightly colored squares and they live happily ever after in the Gumdrop Mountains subdivision.

I was an awfully long way into Candy Land, up near the Ice Cream Floats and Peppermint Stick Forest before I realized that I had taken a wrong turn somewhere because I was passing the road signs for The Big Ds  - Disappointment, Disillusionment, and Depression. I was lost.

Really? This is not my life. It's supposed to be sunshine on the Rainbow Trail.

Over time, I began to retrace my steps and in the process of doing so, I found myself again.

You see, what I've learned is that our true selves, our souls, never change, never fade. They are always within us completely whole and radiant. And while I may be feeling lost without a roadmap for midlife, the truth is, the roadmap I thought I had was a child's game. We may have plans and hopes and aspirations, but life takes us in directions we never imagined before. This week marks my eighth year in moving to Grinnell. This was most certainly not on my roadmap or radar, but often times the surprises that life presents are greater than anything we could plan.

Just last evening, a friend of mine who is also "new" to Grinnell was sharing with me how she and her husband think about all the places where they've lived and all the situations and events that brought them from one place to another. Life happens by opportunity, by chance more often than it does by design.

Coming to Grinnell and leaving my hometown, my life, my friends, was not easy for our family.  We were truly uprooted and it took a toll on us. We were in a difficult place before we moved and this was magnified when we moved. I had given up on the notion that there was a Happily Ever After. I lost and buried my radiant self so deeply, I started to sleepwalk through my life.

But over time, new friends, old friends, began to unearth my true self. They saw my radiant light that I thought had gone out. The thing about our true selves is that when we uncover a little bit of it, we want more. It feels right. Our intuition and our "gut" tell us where we should go and if we trust it, we realize that we have been following that all along, not some predetermined way. When we trust that voice, that energy, it always leads us in the right path. Our gut tells us when we've made the right choice, when we speak our truth, when we set boundaries. A roadmap through life often gives a false sense of security. But when we can rely on our true selves and our inner compass to point us in the right direction, we find that we may not end up where we thought we would, but it's the right place.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

An exercise in exorcism

Here is an exercise I have recently learned in exorcising a negative thought, belief, or emotion that has never served you well. Pick one. Fear seems to be a common thread - fear of success, fear of rejection, fear of Everything. Somewhere inside of you, there is at least one of these limiting beliefs that you need to break up with. Write it out. Recognize what is keeping you from living fully as the person you were created to be. I've noticed how friends of mine lately have been doing a pretty good job of listening to their limiting self-beliefs, standing in their own shadows, and not seeing just how truly extraordinary we all are. This feels pretty darned good, by the way... Here is the letter I wrote to one of my limiting beliefs.

Dear "I Am Not Enough,"

The time has come for us to part ways. You have been a constant companion to me for a very long time and now, I must say goodbye.

Ever since I can remember, you have been with me to ensure that I never felt like I completely measured up to a standard that was
b)completely unattainable, and
c) not designed for my unique self.

I've hung around with you for nearly all of my life, and now, I must say goodbye.

I want to thank you for motivating me to learn more about myself, to work hard on self-improvement, and to go within to help me search out ways of being my true self. I have found my true self now and no longer need your yardstick of measurement to tell me that I am not enough, because, I am most certainly more than enough.

All the best,

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Where's your roadmap leading you?

A friend of mine had coffee with me yesterday. We first met a year or so ago in the modern way - on line - and enjoyed a morning of coffee and conversation on a crisp fall day. We stayed in touch through email and Facebook and decided that online friends should see each other in person at least once a year, so we had coffee in person yesterday, nearly a year later.

It was like we just picked up where we left off and talked about big picture things, life, relationships, and how we are navigating our journeys through the middle of life.

And that is tricky way-finding, indeed.

As he reminded me, there is a cultural road map laid out for us as we make our way through the first half of life. We graduate from high school, perhaps go to college, enlist, get a job, find a girl or guy to marry, have kids, and settle down with a mortgage and car payments. It's imprinted on us from a very early age. The expectation is that we will live happily ever-after.

And blessedly, many do. Which makes it difficult for those of us who do not.

When we have done all The Right Things and think that we have followed the prescribed road map to the letter and still long-term happiness is elusive or even impossible with that individual we first made vows with, it can shake us to our core.

What's wrong with me? What if I never find another person to love? What if this is all there is? I'll die alone and they will know me at the store as the old lady with 45 cats who only buys tins of Little Friskies and half-gallon jugs of gin and Donut House coffee!

And at middle age, many of us find that our roadmap to happiness brought us to very unfamiliar territory. How ever did I manage to find myself here? (Insert your location).

At this point in life, there is no cultural road map, as my friend pointed out yesterday. Not only has there never really been one for middle age folks who find themselves single not necessarily by choice, but today, when it seems like all cultural norms for relationships are kinda up for discussion.

Last week, my dear friend who is an interim pastor at my home church put out a note on the congregation's Facebook page that a couple that he and his late partner have known for ages were coming to Iowa because after 37 years together, they were now able to marry. Would he do the service for them? And John asked the congregation gathered there on Facebook if they would approve of this ceremony during Sunday's worship service?

Within moments, the outpouring of love, joy, enthusiasm, offers of wedding cake, nuts, and mints, punch and colored napkins flooded the page. There was no question that of course, this faith community would welcome them and give these strangers in their midst the most glorious hospitality. I put myself into the couple's shoes and just wept for the joy of love. A rare and beautiful thing.

See? Not only are we redefining (finally) culturally-accepted relationships but the church is meeting on Facebook and connected spiritually despite miles of geography.  Roadmap? Uhm...GPS?

"Our roadmaps for relationships of all kinds are changing, Laura," he said. "There is no road map for the second half of life."

What makes it hard is that we have had what we thought was the roadmap to life and there isn't anything to guide us now. We are searching high and low for security when all we really have is this moment. Live for today, they say. We don't really get that until we arrive at this point in life. It's something that those of us traveling in the middle of life begin to recognize with a bit of fear and horror.

Until we realize that if we simply enjoy the journey, without trying to dictate or focus on the outcome, we will enjoy the journey so much more. If we focus on what we want the outcome to be, we close ourselves off to any other possibilities that are obviously beyond what we can imagine for ourselves.

My takeaways from this week:
  • Stop projecting. You have no idea of what's about to happen next.
  • Go within to find security. Nothing outside of you can do that. Any kind of "security" found elsewhere can be eliminated in the briefest of moments.
  • Be open always. Grow and expand. Limit nothing. Live abundantly and simply. 
  • Keurig Donut House Coffee is as addictive as any drug out there.