Saturday, October 15, 2011

May your dreams come true

Pouvoir vos rêves se réalisent.  Or in English, may your dreams come true.  Funny, how we grow up believing that phrase.  As Americans we are told we can do whatever we want to do, be whatever we want to be, that is why so many want to come here.  We watch Disney films that tell us to wish upon a star, but don’t tell us where that star to wish on is or how to find the end of the rainbow.  We go to school with the purpose of getting a good job, settling down, and changing the world.  But no one tells us how do it. 

What about those who have no specific dream?  What about those who want to make an impact but don’t know how?  How do their dreams come true?  How do you help them find a purpose?  How do you tell someone to have faith that it will come to them, to take action towards their dreams when they do not know what they are?  What if their dreams change or no longer exist?  Why can’t the dream be to have a dream?  

Americans are great at telling people what they want to hear.  We don’t like causing a fuss because it could stop us on our road of self preservation and selfish desire.  But the reality is, especially in an economy like this one, dreaming is for the fortunate.  By fortunate I mean more than economically.  I mean you are fortunate if you know your purpose in life, if you have a reason to get up every morning.  You are fortunate if you are loved.  Can love. Fortunate is knowing your dreams and way to start towards the amazing path that is you.  

So how do we help those people who are lost?  Who woke up today without a job?  Those who feel alone surrounded by many who love them?  How do we encourage others to dream big and reach for the stars?  Why can’t the stars reach for them?  How do we fix those who feel broken?  

I heard the other day poverty is more than lack of finance, it is lack of dignity.  I have been thinking about what that means.  Can you be a Bill Gates and still be in poverty?  We know money can’t buy you love and at the end of it all, isn’t that what it is all about?  Having loved and being loved in return?  How does one live a full life if they don’t know their dreams and purpose?  At the end of it all, what can we do for them?  

I guess it all comes down to purpose.  What is your purpose?  Family, a job, to make a difference?  How do you find it?  I was thinking today how easy it is for some people to know their passion, purpose.  How easy it is for them to know their skills and desires in life from the beginning. But what about those who go through life never knowing?  God gives us the desires of our hearts, but our heart is deceitful above all things.  So, how do you reconcile that?  Why doesn’t anyone ever ask these questions? 

People always ask me what I am thinking.  Apparently I think more than your average person. I seldom answer because I haven’t figured it out.  Often I think in questions.  Today, that is all I have.  Questions.  Simple, and yet, so complex.  People say I am wise, not sure why.  Wise seems more to be answers, and all I ever seem to come up with are more questions.  I don’t have answers for you or anyone else or me.  I only know one source with answers.  So, I guess what this all boils down to is not Pouvoir vos rêves se réalisent. I pray for you that Dieu révèle vos rêves à vous or in English, God reveals your dreams to you.  

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Place Uncrowded

I have been thinking lately, and forgive me if this comes across too harsh, but I feel like America needs a wake up call.  This country was founded on principles of hard work, moral values, and responsibility.  I am not saying it always ran well, but the mere idea that doing the right thing and accepting responsibility have been corner keystones in this democracy where WE THE PEOPLE assume responsibility for our actions. 

This thought brought me to the pondering why, then, do we allow mediocrity to thrive?  Why have we said it is ok to push the blame?  You may ask what brought this to my attention.  Knowing my academic background you may think it is the state of the economy or the fact that there are problems in Iran or even the uprisings in Libya and Serbia.  Alas, although those things trouble me, that have not been what has awakened me. 

I was talking with a co-worker earlier this week who informed me her son’s English teacher has come to the conclusion it is ok for students to write essays in text logo as long as they make sense.  Due to the idea that the Obama administration has been pushing math and science as the fields to enter, the English teacher feels writing is a dying practice.  I don’t work in a field where I write a lot, but I work in a field where I correspond with legal officials on a daily basis; moreover, I must write coherently and cohesively when billing to support the bill that is going out.  I have friends who work in law enforcement and others as engineers and they, too, must write to support their ideas.  Which brings me to the question, why text writing, if not ok in a professional field, is alright in an educational one, where we prepare our students for the professional field?  My only conclusion is we have given up and believe that mediocrity is the new star in which to reach.

Further, when talking with an acquaintance who will be attending a Halloween party this year in which the theme is stories, I suggested she read the story from which her character originated.  Most fairy tales as scary (just pick up a Brothers Grimm if you do not believe me), so it is kind of fun to read them again this time of year.  She informed it was too much work because she doesn’t read.  When someone else suggested she start reading more to improve her vocabulary, she simply looked as if that was too much work.  Why have we said it is ok to not challenge ourselves to be better? I believe the answer is because we do not want to take on the responsibility of following through with our actions.

This leads me to my next point. We have gotten so use to mediocrity that when held to the standard of responsibility we shift the blame to others or pretend as though we did not know something.  I think Reliant K said it best when they sang, “The truth is excuses are lame.  Accept the consequence, accept the blame.”  We are not perfect and mistakes happen, but we can not allow ourselves to learn if we shift responsibility, if we say mediocrity is ok. 

America is declining in power because we have changed our moral outlook.  Instead of hard work and responsibility we have allowed ourselves to take the easy road, the path that every one treads, because it is just that…easy.  We cannot expect to pull ourselves out of this mess if we do not first step away from the politics and start being the change in our own lives and circle of friends.  If we do not begin to understand there is more to life this meager road, we doom ourselves to always being second or third best.  We are called to be great.  So let us start living as such.  After all, being great is one of the few places left uncrowded in this world. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Failure...or is it?

I love autumn.  There is something about the leaves turning varieties of orange, red, and yellow with the crisp sent of fresh air that makes my heart light.  The winds of change come through and quite our hearts and remind us of things like the family, rest, and, who can forget the amazing food! 

But something new has been in the air this year.  Aside from the shorter days and cool nights, this year the winds have brought a new sense of life.  Questions of dreams, legacy, and prospects of who and what we are broadcast throughout the nations and the quite restlessness of my heart.  

From Egypt riots to Palestine’s questions of statehood, to the economic crisis that has left even the most stable running for the bank, the world is full of change.  This has called into question ideas of who we are as a nation and for what we stand.  People are quick to pass judgment on how decisions are being made in the political and diplomatic world without seriously considering the processes and consequences of each decision that is made.  Failure seems to be a popular word these days in many circles.  Yet, those same people are much less quick to judge their own decisions and life.  Why?  Because it is scary.

This idea came to me as I was listening to another person complain about the state of the nation.  I thought how easy it is for us to look at the bad and fail to see the good.  But, more so, I thought how easy we switch focus from ourselves to things beyond our own control.  So, I thought I would evaluate my own life and dreams.  

When I was in high school, contrary to what most people believe, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.  I thought, much like most people I went to school with, that I would be married by the time I was twenty-five.  I thought I would have seen the world, and with good measure I would have a great job.  If I judged my life by those goals today, I would be a failure (and I will be honest, sometimes it feels that way).  However, I have discovered I have new goals and dreams, many have been informed by the former and I have succeeded at accomplishing those goals.

For me, marriage is not the goal for a couple reasons.  Half of all marriages end in divorce and of the remaining 50% I would say half are unhappy marriages.  Not great prospects.  The reason they end is because they are set upon the societal expectation of marrying.  This is a false hood.  We are not called to get married (not that I have anything against it).  The greatest commandment is not to marry God and the marry others.  Nay, it is to love God and then love others.  So my new goal is simply to love…and hopefully be loved in return.  I believe I have succeeded in that goal ten fold.  

Secondly, though I have traveled and do wish to see all seven continents before I die, I do believe that traveling in and of itself is not worth it.  Just seeing the tourist sites offers much to be desired in the purpose of travel.  One must learn about the culture they visit.  Not only does it help encourage friendship and understanding, but it opens our eyes to a world of difference.  How can we expect to love and be loved if we isolate our understanding of others?  So, my new goal is to travel with purpose.  When I visit a new place I have learned to learn about the culture I visit whether that be domestic travel or international.  Through this process the travel experience has been heightened and my love for others has increased (back to goal one).  

Lastly, every one wants a good job…I think it is innate.  We all desire to work well at something we love.  Though I have yet to find that, I have not given up hope that I will one day.  So, until that particular goal has been fulfilled I have modified it, to be a help not a harm to those I work with and to do so with a joyful heart and gratitude attitude.  After all, I am one of the fortunates who have a job and an income.  Additionally I have the bonus of working by the beach so I get a walk on the beach every day at lunch.  The perk is enough sometimes. 

When you look at these goals (and they are not all my goals), it would be easy to say, “She is a failure.”  After all, I am a single twenty something in a crappy job stuck in California.  And I suppose, with those glasses, I am a failure.  But I see myself as just getting started.  The processes have changed a little and the reality is that my goals have too.  So, am I failure?  Nay!  I am an adapter and fighter.  

I challenge you this week, amidst all the doom and gloom coming from the newspapers and the challenges of making the bills and dealing with that one person at work you would rather shove the pencil through than talk to, that you re-evaluate your own life.  Remember that by the same measure you judge others, so shall you be judged.  And then, when that fails, remind yourself that you are amazing and worth the adaptation of noticing the small gifts of success you truly have achieved.  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fates Determination

I stand before a granite door with hinges rusted through
Dwarfed in size, the patterns swore into skies of blue
Hands tremble as I contemplate the choice I have to make
Turn away and life is gay or knock and see my fate

The road behind I know too well is full of broken hearts
The sins of past and heartless acts echo tearing me apart
The dark behind has left me blind to all I can become
The shadows cast eerie apparitions I cannot break away from

Before me stands a fate unknown which stupefies my soul
To walk right through could bring me to a grand celestial pole
Or cast me back into the fulminating adumbrates
Harm intent they hold in hand perfect little bait

My heart cries out for what it knows, my mind is overcome.
Hand reaches high and knows not how, yet sounds upon the drum
Breath does catch as the unknown has now come to unfold
Change is neigh and conscience wry I stand alone and cold

What once was so enveloping has now lost all its pertinence
As shadows slurk and stalk away in irascible discontent
I, paralyzed am struck by Olympian silhouettes
As compelled I am to step forward to possible new threats

What is to be is not yet known, nor can I expect it so
The path is laid before now I just have to go
To take the steps demanded of is only half the battle
Learning from what’s left behind will prove I am no chattel

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Blusterous Hurricane of Life

Sometimes life gets the better of us…or so we think.  As the hurricane of change sweeps across our lives and brings the destruction across our glassy seas of perpetual peace, we find ourselves clinging to the reality that we all live in glass houses and in our obliteration comes a phoenix on the rise. 

Anyone who sees my calendar these days or knows about the perpetual state of change I have found myself in, knows that a hurricane is still blowing here in Southern California.  I have found myself sick in bed these past week as my body rebels against all I have put it through these past few weeks.  From changing roles in relationships as people move away (will miss my long lost brother and sister-in-law…be safe in the rampaged disaster that is the East Coast), friends get married, jobs change and friends battle health problems, we learn who we are and who our real friends are. 

In this tumultuous time I found myself reminded of a long lost friend, Miss Jane Eyre.  Anyone who has known me for any real length of times knows I met Miss Eyre at age ten.  A friend from high school inquired if I had had the privilege of reading this brilliant book, and I fondly remembered my long forgotten amiee. 

As I have been sick in bed, once the book I had been reading was completed I picked up my old friend and began rekindling the fire between us. Within the first few pages I came across a poem about a poor orphan girl and it spoke to me in a new way.  I felt I should share the brilliant words of Miss Bronte with you:

My feet they are sore, and my limbs they are weary;
Long is the way, and the mountains are wild;
Soon will the twilight close moonless and dreary
Over the path of the poor orphan child.

Why did they send me so far and so lonely,
Up where the moors spread and grey rocks are piled?
Men are hard-hearted, and kind angels only
Watch o’re the steps of a poor orphan child.

Yet distant and soft the night-breeze is blowing,
Clouds there are none, and clear stars beam mild,
God, in His mercy, protection is showing,
Comfort and hope to the poor orphan child.

Ev’n should I fall o’er the broken bridge passing,
Or stray in the marshes, by false lights beguiled,
Still will my Father, with promise and blessing,
Take to his bosom the poor orphan child.

There is a thought that for strength should avail me,
I hough both of shelter and kindred despoiled;
Heaven is home, and a rest will not fail me;
God is a friend to the poor orphan child.

Never have I felt so weary and sore (both figuratively and literally).  Sometimes we find weariness in change and continuity alike, and right now, I feel this weariness creep into the depths of my bones, giving a chill of exhaustion.  I see the journey to purpose and completion long and tiresome.  And yet, God has brought me comfort and protection through friends and family, through small poems, and grand tableau vivant. 

Looking at the obliteration of Irene and the paralleling swirling sea that has captured my life, I see how true this poem is to even those of us with parents.  For are we not all strangers in this land?  Are we not all in a land lonely and far from our true home?  I am reminded once again, as oft I am, that my Friend and Father will show protection to me in this frenzied and chaotic time, guiding me on the path to Home where rest will encircle and caress these weary eyes. 

I pray those caught in the damage of Irene see the beauty that is around them, the hand of God in the helpful neighbor who helps remove a tree from the road, in the city worker who is helping to clean the streets instead of his home so that the people can begin getting about, in the sheer beauty of the transition of change that may open doors to incredible opportunities never before seen. 

Hurricanes, proverbial or otherwise, teach us of the mighty power of Him who created us; but also of the gentle heart that leads us home.  I pray now that though we sometimes are ungrateful and angry, that our Father will still, with promise and blessing, take to his bosom his ungrateful child.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Richness of Life or Lessons in Sailing

The last year of grad school I learned how to sail a Capri.  For those land lubbers out there, a Capri is a small boat that can seat up to three (very uncomfortably) with two sails.  My instructor always laughed at me because I was so ridged on the boat, I hated when there were strong winds, and I seldom liked the obstacle courses we had to pursue.  She thought it was particularly interesting that my classes were afternoon (in Southern California that is when the wind is usually at its peak).

I had enrolled in the class in hopes of learning a new hobby, and believed it would be more along the lines of the larger sail boats I had been on and worked in the past.  I found out I was wrong.  But, certified sailor that I am now, I learned a lot about life on that small boat.  I learned the basic understanding of how you need to trust your shipmates (both in putting a boat together and once you are on the high seas), the simple courtesy of others in the water, rules of the water ways, etc.  But I also learned something about life.  Life is not the harbor, life is the boat, and in that boat you learn about yourself and others.  You live. You are. You become. 

The first time I had to jibe on a boat it was horrendously blustery outside.  I am an excellent skipper, but captaining had always been a difficult task for me.  I had not been very good at other maneuvers as a captain and by this time in the class (a few months in) had lost faith in my ability. By this point I had actually crashed a Capri into another Capri and, well, let’s just say I had not gotten back on the bike yet mentally speaking. 

I bring this up because this week reminded me of those fateful spring days on the boat.  Work, as usual, was filled with surprising twists and turns that made me feel…well, under appreciated and stuck.  I received the small envelope in regards to a job that I am not only well qualified for, but also really wanted.  I had a friend of mine continue to give the cold shoulder while an old friend tried to reconnect with me (which I am SO excited about).  And my car decided to have a problem with its engine, what is probably oil in the coolant (let’s hope it won’t cost and arm and a leg).  All this happened while I am helping one of my greatest friends prepare for her marriage next week (wedding coordinator to best friend…priceless!)

This week was more than a roller coaster ride for me.  I felt like I had capsized my boat in the middle of the freezing Pacific (which was my final test to be certified), but then my asthma started and I was unable to breath.   My brother asked how I was doing and I told him and his response was, “Things could always be worse.”  What a cliché I thought, until he said, “Did you hear about Somalia?  The Sahara?”  Leave it to big brother to put things in perspective. 

All this, plus one simple statement from an old friend told me something I don’t think I have come to grips with yet, but believe to be true.  I have lost faith in me.  She reminded me, unbeknownst to her, of something Helen Keller once said:

“The richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome.” 

What this translated to for me, all these seemingly unconnected antidotes, is that sometimes we can be our own limitations.  When I look back at the past ten years I know for certain two things.  First, I know that they have been difficult for many reasons; and second, that I have overcome a lot of which I am proud.  But, I also know that much like capsizing a boat, all you see is the mass before you sometimes. 

Lately, I have found myself in the water, asthma started, looking at a large mass of wood praying the only hope for safety does not turtle on me (when the boat goes completely upside down and the mast gets caught in the surface below).  But I have forgotten that on the other side of the wooden mass is someone who can help.  With simple communication, tapping on that wood, I can get the help I need to climb back on the life boat.  This week, my friend in New York, my “bestie” getting married, and my brother have all been that ship mate. 

So, the challenge this week:

Step out of yourself.  You heard right, get out of your own way.  Thank God for the blessings of limitations…even if those limitations are you.  Thank Him that your life is rich because you have limitations to overcome, hurdles to jump, or boat to put right.  Give thanks to those He has given to help you through those limitations, be it with tough or soft love.  I challenge you to renew your strength and rise up on wings like eagles to peruse the purpose and plan that is designed solely for you.  And lastly, I urge you to hold yourself and those in your circle of friends, family, and acquaintances to do the same. 

Salut and Cheers!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Life I Lead

As the old song goes: “I was dreaming when I wrote this, so sue me if it goes astray.”  I went to see the musical Mary Poppins this past week with my little niece and sister-in-law.  It was a welcome distraction in my crazy life, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I got to spend with them.  It has become harder and harder to see them as my life gets busier and busier.  I was surprised by some of the show (definitely not like the movie, just a heads up for those of you considering seeing it…the second half is much better than the first).  But I found, as I often do when I watch the movie, I was more entertained by the somber parts of the show. 

Those who know me the closest tend to think I am drawn to the somber, and perhaps part of that is true.  However, in this particular case, I believe the somber in Mary Poppins actually is where the heart of the show is located.  Sure, a spoonful of sugar is fun and tasty, and I love to laugh just as much as the next person, but something about giving topins to an old bird lady or discovering the true meaning behind the life I lead just seems to be a bit more…well, compelling to this chaotically contemplating heart. 

I noticed something in the reprise of Mr. Bank’s Life I Lead piece that I have never noticed before (or perhaps, more accurately, never really had the opportunity to connect to before).  He finds himself summoned to the bank to discover if he is fired or not just as a bunch of strange chimneysweep men dance out of his house.  He opens his contemplations stating:

“A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time
Before the mortar of his zeal
Has a chance to congeal
The cup is dashed from his lips
The flame is snuffed aborning
He's brought to rack and ruin in his prime”

I heard this and for the first time connected to it.  I understood the desire to make an impact in the world and feel like the chances you had to do so have been snatched from your hands, now like a broken dream.  I thought of all those unemployed people, all those graduates looking to start a new adventure in the “real world” and finding themselves stuck on a path they neither sought nor wish to remain upon. 

As the actor sang and the orchestra swelled with emotion, I empathized with Mr. Banks.  I couldn’t help but feel that I, too, had my fire snuffed out by the frivolities and trivialities of this world, only to be brought to rack and ruin in my prime.  I thought on this as I drove home, with countless evidence as to why it was an accurate depiction of my life.  Truly, I am Mr. Banks. 

Until a very old and dear friend commented to me in a conversation after the show that I really did make a difference in his life.  He had no idea what I had been contemplating, but what he said struck home.  He had, unwittingly, become my Burt:

“You've got to grind, grind, grind
At that grindstone
Though child'ood slips like sand through a sieve
And all too soon they've up grown
And then they've flown
And it's too late for you to give
Just that spoonful of sugar
To 'elp the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down.”

Wasn’t only a few weeks ago I spoke about not living in vain?  That all it takes is to keep one person from pain?  How quickly I forget my own words.  I have been so focused on grinding at that grindstone I had forgotten how quickly children grow up while we are not looking, how much a person’s “hello” or “glad to see you today” can really make more of an impression in the rocks of someone’s heart, can be more of that slow melting a river can make on the most stubborn of granite. 

Why is it so hard for us to keep focused on the bigger picture?  Why is it so easy for us to focus on our own problems and desires?  I had the most amazing night with my niece (one I will treasure until the day I die), and yet I allowed some thought to damper a part of the night.  For that I am truly sorry.  I wish with every fiber of my being I could turn off my brain sometimes and stop contemplating, just enjoy the moment.  For that I ask for your encouragement and accountability.  But I am thoroughly grateful that I have small reminders and a lot of Burt’s in my life to keep me focused on what matters. 

This week I challenge you to stop worrying about the grindstone and start enjoying the moment.  Seize the day! Seize whatever you can!