Many of us are living lives that could be somewhat characterized as having started off in one particular direction, confident that through our efforts we would become this or end-up doing that. But, instead of locking in to that initial hand-picked path and following through till the end, we got a little distracted along the way and dove head-first into a glistening new pool, only to come up for air in some totally different place or profession which was never even on our radar at the onset.
We all just knew, with the confidence of General Patton, that our paths were certain. We were going to marry a certain someone, have X number of kids, have a well-paying job with excellent benefits, then retire with a great big house overlooking God’s glorious creation in its most subjective splendor. If you’re reading this blog through the eyes (or mind’s eye) of the fairer sex, your dreams may or may not have included a sparkly crown, glass slippers, and a blue-eyed Greek shipping magnate.
Nowadays, girls would be lucky to find a guy who regularly washes behind the ears or plucks his ear and nose hair, so if you’re still waiting on the sparkly crown, I shouldn’t have to be the one to inform you that your high expectations, not a regression of mankind, that may be to blame for perpetual loneliness.
You could be one of those people who are still thinking about all those daydreams-gone-bad, or instead, you may be living and gorging yourself on every ounce of your initial prepubescent insight. Most of us, however, are probably living somewhere in-between being pissed off at our parents for not being honest with us about our true capabilities, or, just happy to have a decent car, job, mortgage, and income/debt ratio.
To put it bluntly, where I am today and where I thought I’d have been at fifty-years-old couldn’t be much further apart. I actually thought I would grow up and become a psychiatrist.
A short stint in college majoring in Pre-Med cured me of those dreams as I quickly realized just exactly what I was a naturally gifted at and what I sucked at. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still love giving advice or tinkering in psychological subjects. It just means that I wasn’t prepared for everything else that comes with an education in science, particularly all the stupid crap I don’t like. Maturity might have played a role….?
So what happens when you suddenly realize that all of your dreams were simply well-intended hallucinations?
In many cases, our parents have pushed us toward our most outwardly apparent aptitudes or instead the things they always wished they’d have done and our teachers push us toward the trending job market. We were provided with lists of job-titles along with their equivalent salaries and were immediately driven toward the big 3 – Pilot; Doctor; Lawyer…?
Sometimes we have dreams that don’t fall into any of the above categories. Maybe you wanted to be a musician or a dancer or an artist but you were discouraged by worried parents. Aside from psychiatry, I was a very good musician and had teetered on becoming a studio musician instead.
School was very easy for me. I honestly never really took schoolwork all that serious and my grades were high enough that my parents never worried about me enough to check on what I was doing or not doing. I just sort of did what I wanted and floated through school never concerned in the least about my grades or challenging myself. My parents had much more serious challenges with another sibling so I guess it was easy for me to fall between the cracks and pretend that I was doing everything I should be doing.
That it all came to a head in college when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t really paid all that much attention in high school. A perfect example of this was in my sophomore year of high school. I was enrolled for an honors level English class but my best friend was enrolled in a resource English class.
On our first day of school I showed up to Ray’s class and took a chair beside him because I just wanted to see if I could pull it off. When the teacher, in her first roll call, failed to call my name from her list of students, she asked the class, “Is there anyone here whose name I did not call?”
I raised my hand, she wrote my name down on her list, and I ended up spending that year in a class that I could sleep in and still make straight A’s. The good thing was that I was just smart enough to fool the system; the bad thing was that I was just smart enough to fool the very system that was otherwise programmed to help me.
Maybe if I’d have paid more attention and taken school more serious, I’d have been writing professionally by now, instead of writing for fun. On another note, maybe if I hadn’t have done all of those stupid things in life, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.
Of course, I might also not have spent so much time and ingenuity overcoming adolescent ignorance with better adult decisions, to have gained the perspectives I now have, all of which led me to the wonderful life and the precious wife and son that I have today. It’s kind of like the song by Rascal Flatts called Along the Broken Road, “Every long-lost dream – led me to where you are…God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.” The lyrics are a metaphor for adolescent stupidity mixed with a little luck or a lot of grace, whichever form of mercy you subscribe to.
Broken roads and broken dreams are just part of the plan it seems. We don’t realize it when we are fifteen but most of those dreams are pretty lofty anyway. Plus, that girl you like so much turns out to be bi-polar at forty, and the football quarterback with dimples and a hairy chest is on disability, has diabetes, and plays video games well into the wee hours of the morning. Fifteen turns out to be way too young an age to determine just what is and what is not a good quality for a spouse. Boobs are a wonderful thing indeed, but if that girl doesn’t love you enough to protect you from your own ignorance then she ain’t worth having.
Resilience, the subject of this blog, is something you learn from all of the little and big faux pas we are destined to make along the bumpy, curvy, divided, and forked road of our youth. Even though you’re way smarter at fifteen then you are at fifty (Just ask Jeff Foxworthy), you don’t have enough real-life experiences with which to relate all that natural born brilliance.
You end up learning a lot more about the real world from good ole Murphy than you ever would have, had you’d actually listened to all those lectures. You must know that Murphy is a complete asshole. He helps to thicken your defenses and sharpen your offenses, yes, but he could also destroy your confidence and leave you crying in a fetal position if you’re not prepared.
Never afraid to pack up and move or to take on some exciting new adventure – my mistakes and misfortunes have spanned an immense territory and I’ve met many hundreds of people with whom I have shared some stunningly stupid experiences. Yes, I have a tendency to brag.
That kind of adventurous free-spirit comes with a price. I was talking to my wife, Emily, a few weeks ago trying to figure out just how many times I’ve moved since I first left home as a fledgling adult. The number was much more difficult to figure out than you can imagine because the number was pretty high; like 26 or something. It was this painful exercise that inspired me to write this blog.
Each one of those moves, however haphazard it may seem now, had something to do with career, emotion, opportunity, relationships or going broke. I’ve certainly never been afraid to try new things. That has probably been the defining statement of my life.
The excitement that always comes with some new discovery has driven me almost on auto-pilot. You might say I have the repertoire of an articulate hobo. I’m sure my mom must have been pretty worried about me for a long time, but all of that uncertainty and seat-of-the-pants living contributed to the broad vernacular you see in my blogs today. And don’t believe for one second that every move I made was done so by choice.
That resilient protective layer I’ve been talking about comes from standing in the batter’s box and taking a few wild pitches into the torso. Just being honest and good or generous doesn’t gain you any immunity from trouble at all. It turns out that Murphy is also an Atheist and doesn’t care that you sent $50 bucks to Joel Osteen last week.
There is a literal cornucopia of chaos that life can throw at you at a moment’s notice. Surviving these moments grows our experience-knowledge and helps us to nurture more buoyancy and assuredness so that we are able to survive and cope through the next wave of pandemonium. That level of comfort grows and grows with each struggle until we emerge with something very close to confidence. Then our confidence can yet again be shattered when we learn that Murphy also throws a great knuckle ball.
An old Chinese proverb says “Failure is the mother of success” and I believe it wholeheartedly. But sometimes people get caught up in the failure itself instead of the lesson. Failure is never a person; failure is an event.
How would anyone ever know how sweet success really tastes when they’ve never tasted the saltiness of sweat and failure? So you strike out every now and then…knuckle balls are hard to hit. The players that make it in the big leagues learn how to ignore the pain or embarrassment from occasionally striking out, and to absorb something valuable from each failed attempt in order to improve the odds of their next “at bat”.
In discussing our near future a few days ago, Emily and I were talking about what type of home we may build on the farm. She said to me that she’d come to a place in her life where she no longer cared about what people might think about how she lives or how successful others may think we are or aren’t.
The crux of her response was along the lines of building exactly what we want and need within the limits of our budget – not some sort of monument to our professional achievements. I think that moment where you live your dreams not because of what it will prove but because that is all you want to do is the definition of contentment. I’m very lucky to have her.
Being married to Emily has helped me to realize that love is not always about winning or losing. Perhaps real love is more about a few sweet moments in time, followed by an eternity of growth and discovery. The fruits of a healthy marriage can last indefinitely through our children and the people we touch.
From this perspective, I realize that we not only benefit in life from the one’s we love the most, but we also benefit from the love’s we have lost and the relationships that have failed for whatever reason. We as spouses both get to benefit from each “other’s failed endeavors and “practice marriages. There was this one bitch though…oh never mind.
That level of recognition comes from the ability to let go of baggage, hate, failures, and the heartaches in your past. Letting go of unnecessary baggage doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t care about that person or that endeavor anymore it is simply the realization that the only person you really have control over is yourself.
If the weight of certain things are dragging you down instead of lifting you up then you should move on to the next thing. Looking straight into the eyes of each person or situation; you must decide if this is going to be a part of your history or a part of your destiny.
Letting go of anger and hate is also an incredibly important concept in moving on. If you hate something or someone it/they will always be with you. You may think that you can move away from a person you hate but as long as you are feeling the emotion of hate then they are going to be with you metaphysically.
Discovering that you possess the courage to move on from destructive forces or people contributes to the cultivation of our super-powers which are Resilience, Courage, Dignity, and Peace.
- Resilience we learn from getting back up after being knocked down and discovering that no matter how hard the punch – we will always be able to find a way to get back up.
• Courage promotes discovery which contributes to wisdom. We obtain courage from ignoring our fears and just being ourselves, trusting we will be OK.
• Dignity is a personal emotion that is derived from doing the right thing even when doing wrong would better serve you. Resilience and Courage allow us to maintain our dignity even when others question our motives.
• Peace comes when you no longer even think about any of the aforesaid attributes. Peace is not caring either way. You know you’re going to do what’s right so why waste time worrying about what others think. Your resilience to criticism and your courage to stick to your guns give you a place of peace that only time and experience can buy.
The rest is all up to God, thus forget trying to know what all that means. God knows; man thinks. It is how knowing differs from knowing-about or wisdom. Man thinks he gets to know when he thinks, but he never does because he only thinks from his own singular experiences.
Each of our human perspectives about life, the world, family, sexuality, war, or whatever are molded and shaped by what we have personally observed and learned in the way a blacksmith hammers and forges iron. Our brains are like hot furnaces that shape, anneal, and organize whatever metals get thrown inside and what comes out are products of that very individualized mixture.
No matter how smart you think you are…you really don’t know much in the big scheme of things so get over yourself and be real because cousin Murphy is always watching for an opportunity to let some hot air out of you. “Chris, what’s that smell? Is that you?” “No dear, it was Murphy.”
Finally, resilience requires you to stop judging yourself unnecessarily. There is not a single, solitary, human on this earth that is not also a sinner or otherwise worthy to tell you what kind of life you should be living. Insecurity, especially religiously oriented insecurities are like Kudzu to the psyche. It climbs, coils, and latches onto every part of your life if you allow it. There are few things in life that can be as destructive to your soul as the counterfeit son of Man.
As I already stated: God knows; man thinks. If I cannot really know you as God knows you and if I cannot really know why you are the way you are or why you do the things you do then how can I judge you in a religious context?
I have no problem judging you as a singer, a cook, or a mechanic, but judgement of the soul is reserved for God only. Interpreting the word of God is not just about reading specific words; it about reading the whole book and understanding the context in which those words are describing something. Something few, if any of us are truly capable of doing.
Psalm 51:5 says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Ephesians 2:3 “…we were by nature deserving of wrath.”
What I’m trying to point out is that we all have this very modern and contemporary view of religion which always involves some particular sub-faith being taught to us by some other particular sinner, among a building full of other sinners. All of which who have an unhealthy interest in what you’re doing, such that these same people are less likely to be asked what they themselves might be doing.
Even the idea that one church has a higher favor with God over another faith is an arrogant and sinful concept. It’s exactly what we humans do. Every generation thinks it’s smarter than the generation before so we evolve our beliefs and attempt to gain followers in order to prop up our own arrogance. Your faith, or lack of it, exists inside you and is a personal relationship you have between yourself and your God. Simple as that.
Whatever your weaknesses and guilty pleasures may be – you can be forgiven by the One who really counts. It’s not up to me and not up to your neighbors. Stop allowing the judgement of others to undermine your own confidence and self-esteem.
You are always going to be whatever you are – always. If you believe that you’re sinning by being yourself then also believe in the concept of Grace. God knows that human biology creates an occasional misfire and sometimes those misfire’s can be beautiful. It’s a Grace thing. The God I know is anything but mercilessness.
There are enough land-mine’s in life and enough bully’s to fight without having to deal with them in a place of worship. Stop worrying about your failures and start looking for the hidden carrot in those failures.
We all have weaknesses; find out what you’re great at and do that instead of trying to put a square peg in a round hole. If you cannot find that special job – create it. If you can’t find that special person – be that person yourself and maybe someone a lot like him/her will find you instead. Above all, do something. Resilience is partly about fighting back. Be brave, be bold, and behold!