Three years to unwind

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I’ve had two big “aha” moments in the last couple of weeks — three years in the making, apparently. (Slow learner, I guess.)

Turns out, up until three years ago, I was pretty tightly wound.

Like a lot of people, I worked my butt off for a lot of years before hitting the proverbial wall. And like many people, I burned out. And then I got laid off, taking it hard and going through the requisite grieving process, making sure to excel at the anger part.

It wasn’t long before I was again in the same position … without a full-time job.

Tough times? Well, yes. Freelance work was coming in, so that was good. But it wasn’t the point. The point was, I was angry and hurt all over again. I thought I’d “done my time” first time around, only to be subjected to it a second time, in rapid succession no less.

That was then, this is now

Fast forward to two days ago.

Well. The first round wasn’t “all there was,” apparently. It wasn’t the only lesson I needed to learn – that work or career wasn’t everything there is to life. The second “break” was for deflating, for finding ways to “come down” and appreciate the life I’d been blessed with.

I wasn’t thrilled about the solitude again, even though it’s exactly what I needed. I’d been accustomed not only to being around people, but being there for people. This time, the only people around were me, myself and I.

Now, I have had time to discover new things I enjoy spending time on. In fact, I can’t imagine my life without them. And I can’t imagine not spending the quality time I’ve found with old friends, my family and especially my husband.

Three was the magic number

I couldn’t be more thankful now for a season I thought was a lost one, a wasted one. In retrospect, one year less would have made the process incomplete. And if there’s another year to go, I guess that’s what it will take.

But by God’s grace, I feel like I’m nearly back in one piece. My head is clear, my heart is pure[r] and I’m ready for service again.

I could’ve sworn there was no haystack there this morning

Field under a cloudy sky

Photo by OeilDeNuit

When it rains, it pours.

Such is the life of the freelancer. When not thinking about revenue streams several months out, they’re slamming project on top of project, usually to make up for possible gaps and often at the expense of personal margin and quality of life.

It comes with the territory.

After spending the last two-to-three years in that mode, I sense something’s about to happen that will force a significant choice – one that favors quality of life and doesn’t look anything like what I would have expected at this point.

Today, a whole lot of work-like “needles” piled up, almost in real time. Tonight, I’m sorting through the resulting haystack, in search of one or two “keepers” and some peace of mind.

I love how scary things often end up being good things. But for the moment, I’m still on the scary part.

It’s a red-flag kind of day

Today is one of those days that puts Coloradans on edge. It will be first of many this year.

It’s not our first Red Flag Warning (high fire danger) day, though I think it’s the second day with humidity <5%. One thing is for sure: the gusts have whipped up tonight. And my lips feel like paper.

While we’re adjusting quickly to the drier weather – following a wet winter, even – this early need to water everything has got us scratching our heads, licking our lips and crossing our fingers.

In fact, this fire just flared up today, one county west of here (in a rural mountain town). Thankfully, evacuations have lifted, though containment data is unknown (containment means the firefighters have been able to hold a line of the fire at least 24 hours).

I find myself praying for the right moisture at the right time and that we (residents and our many visitors) will be wise enough to:

  • Completely put out campfires in public parks and forests (if they’re even allowed);
  • Properly and responsibly dispose of cigarette butts; and
  • Refrain from burning leaves or trash on windy days, etc.

Sounds like common sense, but every year, we are amazed. We can’t be careful enough.

Most lives spared, but not their homes
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The west side of Colorado Springs. “Waldo fire approaching Mountain Shadows 2” by ttcosprings. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Thankfully, casualties were minimal in the last two Colorado fires, but nearly 1000 families were displaced for at least a year, if not longer. Some still are figuring out how to rebuild.

The Waldo Canyon Fire scar stares drivers in the face as we sit, facing west at traffic lights. The Black Forest Fire scar, across the highway to the northeast, is Waldo’s quiet counterpart.

And both are part of us now.

The obstacle is the path
I love the Zen proverb quoted by fellow #YourTurnChallenge blogger Patrick Smith, that the obstacle is the path. Challenge, adversity, any kind of obstacle, really – they not only build character in us; they build beauty and identity.

The weather the last few years has been crazy nearly everywhere. I guess it’s our turn to brace ourselves for the season ahead, pray for the best and prepare for the worst – including the resulting beauty.

My Bruce Lee fetish

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I’ve been fascinated with Bruce Lee since I was a kid. I’m a bit young to remember The Green Hornet or other early movies of his, so I must have watched his appearances on variety shows (didn’t he have one himself?) and probably some competitions.

But one biopic, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993), stays with me.

I’m not a martial artist, but as an avid tennis player, I know what games my mind can play on me in competition. In Dragon, I recall hearing a quote or view from Lee that went something like, “Every point is a new opportunity to win.”

For some reason, I can’t find anywhere that he in fact ever said that, but to me, the idea is as good as gold.

It changed my tennis game, how I think about it and myself while competing. When I think I’m out of gas or will, I remember that line and that there’s always a reason to keep pushing, fighting or pursuing.

After all, it ain’t over till it’s over.

 

Need to get something done? Visualize it that way.

The outdoor tennis season is finally upon us, and I’m anticipating my competitive season. For the record, the word “competitive” is relative. I still pay to play, unlike pros such as Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Simona Halep of Romania and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

I’ve been warming up indoors, and now outdoors, the last several weeks – drilling and just hitting with other players.

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I find myself practicing as much in my head as on the court, envisioning points in singles or doubles – mostly singles, since the match is all on me.

  • Will I be able to negotiate the court with good footwork?
  • Will my serve hold up and be a reliable tool?
  • Are my knees up to all the running, stopping and pivoting?
  • What about my down-the-line forehand – can I get it around a player who’s 6″ taller than me and has the wing span of a 747?

In my head, I can.

And that’s what really matters. Regardless what the activity is – a tennis match, presentation, project or learning a new skill: when it’s showtime, having visualized it is half the work. If I’m going to try it at all, I need to be able to see it in my mind.

By then, enough of me will be convinced that it can be done, and that I am the one who can do it.

The rest – it’s just execution.

Good neighbors are forever

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We spent most of today with some very good friends of ours, a family with whom we were neighbors for about eight years. We’ve since moved out of the neighborhood and they, to a nearby mountain town.

Their kids are nearly grown, yet it’s hard not to see the little kid in them all still.

And the memories are rich. I can’t help remembering how we shared everything from the typical neighbor stuff like sugar, eggs,  flour, fruits from our garden –  to breakfasts, dinners, furniture, cats from our litter, house-, hamster- and cat-sitting favors. That includes when they watched our passive-(weed)-smoking cat.

(Have I still not told you how we accidentally detoxed the “problem-child” cat? I’ll work on that.)

The best part, hands down: Reconnecting like no one had moved anywhere, ever.

Best kind of neighbors. Best kind of friends. I will always be so grateful to know them.

Order vs. Chaos

Which side are you on?

Several Circles, 1926. Wassily Kandinsky.

It has been one of those weeks when life often felt like the other side of this Kandinsky – the one representing chaos.

And just like that – after time with friends, family and a little physical outlet – clarity kicked in.

I believe God puts people wiser than me in my life for a reason – to help me find answers to my questions or even ask the right (read: hard) questions of me, and to remind me who I am. Realizing that is clarity in itself.

Not that I know a lot about Kandinsky, but this work has fascinated me ever since seeing this scene from Six Degrees of Separation, one of Will Smith’s first films and still one of my favorites.

So you wanna work in nonprofit?

Woman holds up handmade jewelry for display

This proud mom in Dominican Republic shows off her handmade jewelry – skills she gained through a microenterprise program for single parents implemented by one of Compassion International’s church partners. Her small business helps her sustain her family’s livelihood.

It’s become such a romantic idea to work for a good cause. So romantic, many Americans would probably rather work for a cause than for the Man.

It’s certainly noble.
It’s definitely rewarding.

But don’t be fooled. It is also hard work. And I don’t just mean long hours.

I’m convinced there is an evil in the world that doesn’t want to see good to come of anything – including whatever good things you set out to do.

Whether it’s more red tape than is necessary to get something done to logistical nightmares to communication misunderstandings, it’s good to be prepared for whatever comes your way.

As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Be alert and wary that the good work you do will meet resistance.

That’s when you pull up your big-girl/boy panties, stand up tall and fight your way through. I’m confident you will find reward on the other side. Fatigue too, but it will be the best fatigue you’ve ever felt.

Got perfection? Buh-bye

“Pretending to be perfect is the perfect way to not develop a relationship.” — Donald Miller, Scary Close

Full disclosure: I’m disinclined to short reads lately, so I haven’t yet read Scary Close, but I think I might. If nothing else, than for this quote.

I mean, with our culture’s obsession with perfection – at least, cosmetically speaking – could our world be headed in any direction other than away from building real relationships?

And who takes the time to actually stop and do that work?

The idea that the gap is widening between those who are willing to risk being honest and real and …. pure …. and those who won’t or can’t drop the act is a bit unsettling.

But it’s nothing we can’t change.