Doing Hard Things

What was I thinking ?!?!?

My friend Mary had talked me into going on this trip.  She had talked me into d-tasseling corn too.  I should have known.

Mary was out-doorsey.  I was not.  This was to be a camping, whitewater rafting, climb out of the Grand Canyon adventure.

I didn’t do adventures.  I read adventures.  I was a bona fide, certified, hardcore bookworm.

Mary was my best friend. She was silly, goofy, fun to be around and persuasive.

It was the 1970’s.  I look back on this experience as one of the most thrilling and hardest things I’ve  ever done in my life.  Whitewater rafting was thrilling.

The ascent out of the Grand Canyon was just plain hard.

Up until that trip, my one experience camping was an overnight, under the stars with Mary, in her front yard, camp out.

At this point I must insert a tidbit of personal info.  My DNA shows I am 56% Irish.  Dark Irish. Dark auburn hair,  blue eyes, fair skin with freckles Irish.  I was/am white white, pale white, pure white. As one of my classmates put it, blinding white.

I do not do well in heat.

There was a reason I stayed indoors and read.

When it came time to climb out of the Grand Canyon, Mary set a goal to be one of the first of our group to make it to the top.  She said goodby to me when I started to slow down.  As the temperature rose, I emotionally spiraled.  Looking ahead, there were miles of switchback trail ahead of me.  I hoped just to make it to the top by sundown!  Other than the occasional passerby, some on mules, I was alone.  I honestly didn’t know if and how I was going to make it.

I was athletic, playing several different sports – but this, this was different. This was grueling, testing me to my limits.  I was in a hard place.  In the end it came down to focusing on one thing… one step at a time.

I learned something that day.  Face the hard thing head on, and take one step at a time.  Then take the next step.  I saw what I was capable of.  I do possess determination,  fortitude, tenacity, and courage.

hikersonbrightangeltrail

Google Image  Grand Canyon switchbacks 


I took another journey recently … life changing.  Every bit as hard as climbing out of the Grand Canyon.

I signed up for a class called The Ultimate Journey.

I heard  many positive things about it.  One lady said she had been in counseling for years and this class helped her more than all the years of counseling combined.  Hmm

Was I afraid to face the past? Yes!

Hard Thing- step one.  sign-up for class.

Hard Thing – step two- Go to first class.

Hard Thing-  step three – Go to second class.

Next thing I know, I’m looking forward to class and I was sad when it ended.

I made friends.  I’m more peaceful. There is freedom.  I am more compassionate with myself and others.

 

I wrote this quote on our blackboard as a reminder:

“When it is all said and done, we’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass.

 

grand-canyon-backpacking-rim-to-rim

Google image

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This was another in a series of guest posts…this one written by my wife.  DM

From The World Of Bees…

My wife and I have been getting together for coffee at our local coffee-house with a small handful of people since 1999.  It is an open group.

Anyone is welcome.

What I have appreciated about this group (and why I think we have continued to get together  this many years) is because of what happens when we are together.

I come away feeling heard.

There has evolved a mutual give and take when it comes to our interactions.

The topics of conversation are rich and varied.

There is a lot of laughter.

It is hands down,  the high light of my week.

You’ll have to trust me on this next stuff, and believe me when I say, I am not embellishing anything.

Last week we were joined by Tim,  (who is a talker, and tends toward the negative).

The last time Tim joined  us,  was early last Fall, leading up to the election.  After a 3 minute angst and fear-mongering speech that felt like it was literally sucking the air out of the room, I couldn’t take it any more and asked him to stop.

Told him, that wasn’t the time or place.

I took everyone by surprise, including myself 🙂

He had (and has) no idea, how his presence completely changes the dynamic of our time together.

Instead of a mutual, give and take, he (literally) has to say something

every

single

time

someone else has spoken.

(Have you ever known someone like that?)

I’ve known Tim for 30 years, this is how he rolls.  I’ve heard his wife call him out on his talkativeness.

Pause.

To give you another word picture  from the world of bees….

A bee hive  is a cohesive,  collaborative group, where everyone works together for the common good.  Their goal is to put up enough honey so everyone will have enough to eat through the winter...everyone.

Once in a while, bumble bees, or yellow jackets  will show up with the intention of stealing the honey.

There is not a sense of give and take.

It is all about them.

Pause.

The “honey” in this case  (I think) Tim is attracted to, is having the undivided attention 5 or 6 people who are all good listeners.

I decided to keep quiet last Saturday and watch as Tim dominated the interaction.  We hadn’t seen Tim since I’d laid into him last fall and it just didn’t seem appropriate that I say something again.

If I knew Tim was thinking about coming on a regular basis, I would find a time to visit  outside of Saturday morning and  as nicely and diplomatically as possible ask him to just come and listen for a few weeks.

Because this group is such an important and long standing part of my life, I refuse to just roll over and do nothing.

If Tim is not at coffee, this coming Saturday, I definitely plan to bring up his most recent visit, …

and if he is there,  we will just have to see.

yellow-jacket-stealing-honey

Yellow jackets stealing honey.

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letters

 

Letters

bundle letters

Google image

I came across some letters between 40 yr old Anita and her 60-year-old friend, mentor, and former college professor Ruth.

The letters are deeply personal and without a hint of pretension…refreshingly so.

Stuff you would never tell another person, unless you trusted them explicitly….

They cover many of the same issues  I wrestle with as a man, and we have as couple.

The letters that I have read so far have covered things like the inner angst Anita was having at  turning 40, such as:

” I looked in the mirror today.  I didn’t just glance to fluff my hair.  I gave myself a good, long look.  First, I cocked my head for a general assessment.  Then I leaned in for the scarier, unforgiving version of my own reflection.

     For the first time, it was a forty-year-old face staring back at me.  A smidgen of cheek sag…a bit of something turkey-like beginning on my neck…and some forehead frown lines all staking their claim on this once-unmarred facial frontier…”

Anita’s inner struggles to find a balance between career, motherhood, marriage, and her personal needs.

She had questions about sexuality in their marriage of 18 years.

She wrote about the struggles with an ongoing pattern of anger in her life….

There are a dozen additional letters that I have yet to read, all on topics of substance.

If you’d like a copy of these letters  you can get your own copy of them here. 😉

Pause.

CS Lewis wrote:  “We read to know we are not alone.”

Do you have a person or three with whom you have this kind of relationship?

I hope so.

Someone(s) with whom you can unpack the nitty-gritty of your inner world?   Someone you trust explicitly..someone who won’t judge you. Someone with whom you can be completely honest and share the most, off the wall, bizarre thoughts that occasionally (or regularly)  flitter through your brain?😉

Not to worry, we all do it.

I have several such relationships, and that is not by accident.  Back in 1995 for reasons that are not relevant here, we left a local church group I had sunk my emotional roots into…deeply. Unfortunately, 95% of my closest relationships were people in that group, and by and large,  the intimate conversations with those people came to a screeching halt when we left.

Swore I would never, ever again, keep all  of my relationship eggs in one basket, in one spot.  One of the spin-off results of that decision was to start keeping in  better touch with a handful of people via e-mail, interacting on things of substance in my life. That impulse eventually morphed into me starting  my first blog.

Same dynamic, just on a larger scale.

Spent some time with a young couple last night that are struggling. Towards the end of the evening, that came up (their struggling).

I was  glad they felt safe opening up to us.

Nothing harder for me than “festering” relationship stuff where I feel stuck.

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Those of you that occasionally or regularly interact here on this blog.  I appreciate it.

DM

 

Re-calibration

surise-12-30-16

View from our porch

Sunrise December 30th 2016

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Spent this past Friday and Saturday crunching numbers.

The following thoughts are a continuation of this post.

I am self-employed carpenter/ remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/ concrete pour-er/ whatever pay the bills, kind of guy.

Because have chosen to be a self-employed carpenter/remodel-er/landscaper/ table maker/concrete pour-er/ whatever pays the bills kind of guy in small town Iowa, I did not know  my net income for 2016  until all of the bills were paid and all of the checks came in….

Most of you reading this are no strangers to financial pressure.

It is  part of life.

I also think it’s fair to say, most of us are uncomfortable telling someone else what our income is. It  feels like letting someone see us in our underwear, (vulnerable)

I have no qualms talking to someone about these things in private..for me it’s like, what’s the big deal..this stuff is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the first place.

I had a friend who was an accountant for two trucking companies…Both had dozens of semi’s  on the road.  Company A owned everything on paper.  Owner was making his monthly truck payments to the bank and everything worked.  Company  B owner did not believe in debt.  All of his trucks were paid for.  This was about the time diesel prices spiked. Friend told me, he would be very surprised if company A would be able to stay in business… Company B, he felt, on the other hand should be able to weather the storm.

I am a Company B kind of guy…I hate debt, (although we do have a little again)

The model I use for coming up with how much money we have to work with is by coming up with a 3 year average.  Take the net income from 2014, 15, and 16, add them all together and divide by 3.  I totaled up the numbers Sunday morning and it looks like we may need to figure out a way to chop $400 a month out of our already lean, (we’re talking lean)  lifestyle.

ie.  our food budget for the two of us is currently $225 a month…and that includes toiletries.

The next few months may require some major life choices (again).

Christmas Eve, Slivers, and PTSD

Marie came up to us after church that year and asked if we’d like to join their family for Christmas eve.  Sure we said, it beat sitting in our little rental house 1000 miles from home, missing family.

As it turned out, Marie had also invited Nancy, Karen, and Scott,  all singles, also away from home over the holidays. Marie had the gift of hospitality.  Those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories…

I remember coming into Marie’s kitchen, the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, dimly lit Christmas lights,  scented candles..

It felt like I’d just stepped into a Hallmark card movie…and we were part of the story.

Pause.

As I sat in a big stuffed chair after dinner, visiting with Sid, (Marie’s husband)  I absent-mindedly picked a callous on the tip of my pointer finger.   It had been  numb for months.

All of a sudden,  out popped an inch long wood sliver.

I thought back to early September when I had helped Joe V install a new set of pine steps.   I’d gotten a nasty sliver, and assumed I’d gotten the whole thing out.. guess not. 🙂

Pause.

The same thing happened again yesterday.  I came into the house for lunch and I noticed a  small piece of wood protruding out of the middle finger on my right hand.  Last month, I was moving some old lumber in my way on a project, and I got “stuck.”  At first, I thought I’d gotten another nasty sliver but when I got home that night and dug around, I couldn’t find anything.  (I wasn’t sure then whether I’d gotten a puncture wound or another sliver. Figured if something was in there, it would eventually work itself out.)

I know how these things work now 🙂

Pause.

Buried slivers are a great word picture for PTSD.  Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes…it could be sexual abuse. Could be trauma from combat.  Could be trauma from a surgery as a small child….  Sometimes after a traumatic event, in order for our brains to cope, a part of our heart goes numb.  It’s one of God’s coping mechanisms (I believe). The numbness initially allows me to continue to function…all the while the memory  foreign object stays buried in there somewhere, festering..and at the right time,  it will come to a head.  I don’t think you have to go looking for it.

I’ve seen this played out three times, in the lives of people close to me.   15 to 30 years after the initial trauma, weird things started to happen…unexplained panic attacks, the desire to cut, being in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, etc.

A marriage counselor told us  about the waves of terror that would overtake him when he started to deal with the abuse  he’d experienced as a child. Things didn’t come to a head until after he’d gotten married. Something would trigger the PTSD and it would incapacitate him.  One day, a friend of his stopped by unannounced, while he was in the middle of an episode. He told his wife to let his friend come up and see him…. The friend, a former marine,  had no idea that this guy was going through ptsd.  When he saw him, curled in a ball, covered with tears and snot, he crawled into the closet with him and just held him.

It was a turning point on his road to recovery.

If there is an emotional wound in your life that is giving you fits, don’t suffer in silence.  It means you are human.

Open up and let someone in.

DM

Ordering Your Private World

“Throughout the film he contrasts the frantic pace of modern life with a thoughtful interior life….”

French film director Eugene Green in a recent interview

Those words…“the frantic pace of modern life with the thoughtful interior life” jumped off the page to me last night as I was winding down.

I forget  what it feels like to live  life at a  “frantic pace.”

My life has not felt that way ever since I began to intentionally weave “margin” into my life.  I am loath to get myself suckered into the rat race again.

It did  happen briefly last fall.   I had two major construction projects needing to start at the same time, due to weather and customer delays, but that is no longer the norm.

Don’t get me wrong…I have not “arrived” in terms of anything…BUT, I am convinced the frantic/ manic pace of life will suck the life out of me unless I am very careful.

I am a first-born type A personality.  I grew up on a dairy farm which compounded my need to stay busy, so I know what I’m talking about.

There are two young families that I know, (sort of) where the financial and job pressures are sucking the life out of their marriages. (Like  fire sucking the oxygen out of a room)  There is the illusion they have made it.  Super nice homes.  Nice cars.  Both spouses making multiple times more per year than I.

We could live off the income of any one of those four people and  have money set aside.

If that is the lifestyle both of you  love and enjoy…then there is not a problem.

Just different priorities.

If however, one of the people in either one of those situations feels trapped….then it is (a problem.)

How sad to live your life, day in, day out, commuting to a full-time job you hate,  never feeling like there is enough money, not enough hours in the day.  Being married to someone, who (initially) you thought you wanted to spend the rest of your life with, but now..not so much.

That is what I am talking about.

I’m a visual person, so it helped me to have something I could look at to get my bearings.

In my mind’s eye, I felt like I was the captain of a large ocean-going vessel, headed the wrong way….  So  I literally, drew a diagram with a large ship on a piece of white poster board/ taped it to the wall in front of my desk, with different positions on the chart showing the boat changing directions.

I needed to turn my ship around and set a new course….Well, you can’t turn a ship that size around on a dime…but once you move the rudder hard  you do change directions.

Moving the rudder meant setting some new financial, time management, and relational goals and then acting on them.

Just drawing that chart gave me hope.  I knew where we were headed,  even if the circumstances had not changed in the short-term.

There was a new sense of hope and purpose in our home, in our relationship, in my heart.

It all starts in the mind.

There were a couple of books that also helped me re-plot my course. One of them was called “Ordering Your Private World.”

I’ve written on this topic  before…As I find the older posts in  my archives, I will put the link to them here..

Here’s one of those earlier posts.

My encounter with the Flimflam man

Flimflam Man:   A person who  tricks or deceives, especially a swindle or confidence game involving skillful persuasion or clever manipulation of the victim.

Have you ever  been played by  the flimflam man?

I have.

Twice.

Completely different circumstances, one was more relational, but both left me feeling used, deceived, and angry.

Until just very recently, I would still find myself getting angry whenever I thought about either of them,  and this would happen at the most random times, at least once a week.

This fall we were watching a mini series called Larkrise to Candleford.  During an episode where a con artist by the name of Pegleg comes to town, Laura’s mother realizes,  she and the whole town have been scammed by Pegleg…..and she is livid!!!~

I looked over at my wife and said…”That is exactly how I feel when I think about the flimflam man!

peg-leg

Pegleg (aka the flimflam man)

Google image

Suddenly my random bouts of low grade anger did not feel quite so random, low-grade or irrational.

I felt validated.

Only thing is, I didn’t want to stay trapped in my anger for the rest of my life.

Ten years should have been enough time to process and move on…

Only it hasn’t.

I decided to take another run at it recently,  (forgiveness) and finally, was able to  disentangle myself from the anger….

I am thankful.

I am thankful for my encounters with the Flimflam man.

Not for what he did or did not do, but thankful for the personal growth that came out of it.

Thankful, because I am just a little wiser.

Thankful because I am better able to have hard conversations.

Thankful because it made us stronger as a couple.

Thankful for the four people in my life, who unbeknownst to each other, each came up at different times and expressed concern we might be getting used.

Thankful, my dealings with the flimflam man,  did not leave me permanently poisoned in my willingness to trust.

Some of this relational/ people skills  stuff can’t be learned from a book.

It has to be experienced.

The end.