Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bad Timing

Timing is everything. Life requires good timing. I have realized over and over again that I have depressingly bad timing. Maybe this is what made me a such a lousy athlete. I jump before the ball arrives, I kick after the ball is gone, I slide into home after the catcher steps on the plate. Can't quite connect at the right time.

There's also the awkwardness that comes from saying something at the wrong time, or walking into the room at the wrong time... you just wish with all you are that you could take it back, try again later... or, if it was bad enough... never again.

Sometimes I find myself wishing that I could be one of those people with everything together. You know what I mean, the person who is always on time, always looks great, always says the right thing and always in a mutually adoring relationship. Why do things always work out SO perfectly for this person? Why am I a step behind... or two or three?

Bad timing seems to be my life story with relationships in particular. I'm interested, he's not. He's pursuing, I'm running away. I've fallen hard, he's changed his mind. Never on the same page. Always bad timing.

But wait... could it be possible that my "bad timing" was actually the perfect timing? That it only appeared like bad timing because I couldn't see around the corner? Because I wasn't aware of the bigger picture, of the master plan?

The more I think about it, I am so thankful that my timing has consistently been a little bit off. It has saved me from lots of things that I thought were perfect... but in recollection, I can see would have been nothing short of disastrous. If that relationship I was so sad to see disappear would have worked out, I don't doubt I would be currently dealing with a lot more heartache than I dealt with at that time. If my timing would have went the way I wanted... my life would look very different. I can see now that the "bad timing" in my life was really an answer to prayer. My prayer that nothing happen in my life contrary to God's perfect plan... God's perfect timing.

So maybe... maybe my timing isn't really off at all. Maybe when it feels wrong... it is just the nudge I need to remind me that this is exactly how things are to be in this time. The right time that I seem to be waiting for may take a few more ticks of the clock... a few more turns of the calendar... a few more steps down the road.

It's not fun to go through life feeling off beat or behind. Choose to celebrate the unique timeline of your life. Don't try to fit into the stereotypical mold that people set before you. Next time you think you are a victim of more bad timing... throw out the negative feelings and be thankful. Say, "Thank you. Thank you for overruling my messed up plan and replacing it with something greater than I could ever ask for or imagine."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Done Directing

"Cut!" I demand in frustration. "No, no, no! How could you miss your line!?"

I'm the director of my life story. I select the characters, write the script and develop the plot. I know exactly who should enter the scene at a particular time and what they should do and say. It is perfect. Sure to be a box office sell out.

With this in mind, I often get frustrated when my characters miss their cues... when someone adds a twist to my story... when life doesn't listen to my directions. I'm the director, right? I know best, right? Maybe not.

I can't help it that I'm a dreamer and a writer (a dangerous combination I might add). I read a lot, write quite often and dream constantly. This lifestyle sets me up for frustration after frustration if I'm not careful. I know what a perfect conversation looks like. I thrive on finding the perfect words. Timing of events is crucial. Characters and settings, opportunities and drama... I know exactly how they should unfold. I want to write it out and simply watch it play out. Flawlessly.

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only one following the script. I know my lines as well as the lines of everybody else. Why can't the other actors take the time to learn their lines? I say my line and wait eagerly for the clever response that I have written... and to my disappointment... it never comes. The cue was there, the timing perfect, the line was missed. As the director I can't believe how this can happen over and over. With this kind of performance, I might as well call off the show. The plot is confusing, the characters boring, and the timing completely off.

It is then that I realize that it is not just my show. What is obvious and scripted to me may be missing from the script of another. We all have our own scripts, our own dreams, our own expectations. The trick is to take our differing stories and combine them into one big, elaborate, confusing and constantly changing show. I need to step down from my job as director and live within the collective story, as an actress in a greater story.

Directing is a huge responsibility with too much stress for one person to handle. So, I'm throwing out my script with my perfect dialogues, romantic twists and exhilarating opportunities. I'm going to live a little impromptu. I just may find that the unexpected reality is more vibrant than my dreams, more humorous than my writings and more perfect than my hopes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Um... I'm not quite sure...

"Elizabeth!" They screech, "It's SO good to see you! Let me look at you!"

Oh yes... there is something about going home for the weekend. I think the healthiest way to deal with the guaranteed interrogation is to simply expect it. When you go away to college or spend time away for anther reason, upon returning "home" chances are you will become quite the attraction. Everyone will want to look you over, give you a hug and drill you with the same questions. Just be ready for it.

Everyone seems to want to know how you are managing life away from your small town or close knit community. Have you put on the freshman fifteen? Did you get any new piercings, tattoos or a crazy hair cut? Are you walking in with a guy on your arm? Do you appear confident, happy, healthy, and successful or drained, flustered, messy and depressed? Some of these things can be determined by the dreaded once over... you can tell that your English teacher disapproves of your nose ring without her saying a single word.

Yet... some people dig deeper. They begin the horribly predictable sequence of questions. "What year are you now?" "And you're studying...." "What will you do with that, dear?" "So you'll need to attend grad school?" "Where will you go for that?" "When do start your application process?" "How nice." "So, are you dating anyone these days?" "No? Just thought I'd ask. Maybe next year, honey." The questions go on and on.

If you have answers, it isn't so bad. The question comes and boom you knock it down with your well rehearsed and impressive answer. Take that! But... when things in life aren't quite so obvious... and such is life... it can be kinda awkward and uncomfortable. "What are you going to do with that?"
"Um... I'm not exactly sure..."
"Not sure!? Shouldn't you have that figured out about now?"
"Yes... maybe... but I don't." Nobody wants to appear confused or undirected or out of control. Nobody likes the feeling of uncertainty, and that feeling gets escalated when forced to communicate it to probing others.

I was there. I am there. I will be there. I've come to realize that my life is full of questions that I don't have the answers to. There is so much I don't know about today, let alone tomorrow or 3 years from now. The truth is, even the answers I think I have... are probably wrong. And do you know what? That is the beauty of life. The unpredictability. The uncertainty. The bend in the road.

Next time you find yourself in line for an unwanted interrogation... recognize the unanswered questions as gifts to be opened. Surprises to come. Uncertainty does not have to be a weakness, it can be an anticipated revelation. So, smile and look your great aunt Judy in the eye, let her make the assessments she would like, but be confident in your unknown plans. In the paths yet to be revealed. Be excited and believe that the best is yet to come!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Car Trouble

My philosophy on cars is that they should be a convenience, not a nuisance. I have my car to make my life simpler and easier. To get me from one place to the next in a faster, more comfortable manner. All is well and little is thought about until... there's a problem. Until... that little light comes on, or you see smoke, or you hear something that even I would notice as very very wrong, or... it simply refuses to start. Car trouble is a pain.

The extent of my motor vehicle expertise ends with filling it up with gas and pretty accurately checking the oil. Oh yeah, and I can pop the hood with very few problems. I've had my fair share of car trouble. Thankfully, through my issues, I've always had people in my life to help me out. Someone I can rely on to open her up and make a diagnosis.

This past week, a friend of mine couldn't get her car to start. So... she called me. I'm not sure I was her most valuable life-line in her moment of need... but I offered what I could. I put together a team of myself, my brother, his two roommates, two cars, and a set of borrowed jumper cables. Together we ventured out in the pouring rain to her sad and sickly car.

To my amazement and satisfaction, we got her car to run.

Unfortunately, getting her car started that night did not guarantee it would agree to run the next day. The complication proved to be more complicated than our efforts could handle. We did what we could in that moment, but ultimately, something more thorough and complex needed to be done. She needed a mechanic, or someone even better for the job... her dad.

Yes, her dad made the five hour drive to revive her car. Now, she can start her car up with confidence and thankfulness.

As usual, situations like this make me think deeper about life. Aren't there times in your life when things just aren't quite right? When you are stuck out in the parking lot of life and can't seem to get anywhere? When you just want to get to the next place, but you simply can't?

This is when we often rely on those around us. We lean heavily on our friends, roommates, neighbors, anyone who will stand with us in the rain, in the struggle. Often this is very helpful. They give us the right words, the right shock of motivation. Things seem to start up, to light up, to get going again.

Yet sometimes this is not enough. Sometimes the efforts of others fall a bit short. Sometimes we have a more complicated problem. Sometimes we need someone else. Sometimes we need our dad.

We need the One in our lives who will provide a more thorough fix. The One who cares enough to make all things right. To give us a new and lasting confidence and momentum.

So I urge you, next time you are struggling. Next time you are stuck. Don't settle for the temporary start-up that can come from those around you. Call on your Father. Your Heavenly father. The One who knows, who loves, who satisfies. He will come. He will heal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dealing with Disappointment

I have an intense and out of control fear of disappointment. I hate the thought of disappointing myself and or others. I know this about myself and I still can't seem to find a healthy way to handle it.

My method to avoid disappointment is to simply prepare for it. I think the worst, I plan for failure, I refuse to wish too strongly, hope too deeply or feel too much. In doing this, I can never be disappointed, right? If I tell myself that things are not going to turn out, then I won't be crushed when things fall apart, right?

This character flaw extends to nearly every aspect of life. School, relationships, activities, ambitions, etc. If I expect to do poorly on every paper I write, I can only feel better about myself when I don't fail, but get a B. If I tell myself that this relationship will never really work out, I won't be devastated when things in fact do turn sour. If I tell those around me that I'm a horrible dodgeball player, then I won't be disappointing them when I get out right away. If I convince myself that I most likely won't be accepted into this or that program or receive certain praise, then I won't have to experience a sense of let down or disappointment when it doesn't come to be.

I guess the question I'm asking myself is this: does this preparedness for failure and disappointment really work? Does it hurt any less? Is this a good idea?

Part of me wants to say, "no." No, this doesn't work. I still hurt when things don't work out for the best. I still experience disappointment to its fullest and cruelest extent. I receive my paper on the verge of tears and walk away from a relationship with my pride no where in sight. It's miserable, it's messy and it's not working. Yet, this is all I know. I'm not brave enough to allow myself to think differently, positively. So, I lie to myself, convincing myself that this does work. That this is the best way. The only way.

Now that I'm trying to think realistically and honestly, what am I supposed to do?

Am I supposed to do a "perspective 180" and believe in all I do and in all that could be in the light that no wrong could ever come? That there is no chance of failure, let down or disappointment? This doesn't seem completely appropriate either.

So maybe... maybe I need to stop predicting. Stop assessing what my chances for success or failure are. Maybe I just need to be me, give my all, do my best and take the outcome for what it is. Maybe I should stop pre-judging my situations. No more 0% chance of success or 100% chance of success. How about I just live and take the results for what they are.

This will also involve a reevaluation of what it means to fail. Parker Palmer writes, "Embrace it all - and find in all of it opportunities for growth" (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, 96). Instead of seeing things as black or white, disappointment or satisfaction... maybe I just need to see it as life. Take what I'm given, embrace it, and grow. Find in it opportunities. Opportunities to learn, live deeper and see clearer. Be confident. Not simply confident that you will "succeed," but confident that you are enough. That no matter what the result... things are okay! Throw away the scale of disappointment and learn to accept what you are given with grace, peace, contentment and joy.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Yesterday I had the opportunity to cheer on my dear friend and roommate in the Chicago Marathon! 26.2 miles. Despite my initial perspective that this is pure ridiculousness and torture... there was something completely inspiring and exhilarating about the whole ordeal.

I'm told that 45,000 people signed themselves up for this madness. I joined the 1.5 million spectators that lined the course. I knew I was approaching the right street from quite a distance. All you could hear were the roars of cheering fans. There was never a lull in the enthusiasm. Young, old, athletes, parents, friends, coworkers, children, you name it... everyone was there to throw in their encouragement and support.

Signs and balloons brought a rainbow of color and glitter to the already cluttered streets. Words like, "You can do it!" or "Run, mommy, run!" appeared everywhere along the 26.2 mile route. Whether you were running or not, seeing the words on these signs gave you an extra dose of push and passion.

When a family or support group spotted their runner amidst the masses there was no stopping the flood of cheering, shouting, waving and clapping. Their purpose was escalated and it was their job to bring renewed energy and vigor. They did all they could to show love, support and encouragement. And often, it seemed that these particular runners could feel it. When finally they would spot a familiar face and hear the applause and cheer from their people, it seemed to me their step was momentarily lightened. They were able to push on a little stronger, a little faster.

Some runners sported clothing with their names written on it. At first I wondered the purpose of this, but it didn't take long to understand the brilliance. Though most runners were only known by a few people within the 1.5 million... their name could be known by all. Hearing your name shouted and cheered on is sometimes all you need. "Come on, Kate! Keep going, Kate! You can do it!" And in that moment, she believed she could.

Now, I'm not a runner, but I witnessed something beautiful yesterday that I believe in completely. I believe in the necessity to encourage each other in this race we call life. I know the "life is a race" analogy is overdone already, but it works so well. Here we are, making our way down the streets, through the crowds. Sometimes feeling alone. Sometimes feeling exhausted. Don't we need to see a sign that reminds us that we, in fact, can do it? Don't we need to see a crowd of familiar faces shouting and cheering and loving us? Don't we need someone to call out our name?

I need that. Don't you?

Life is hard sometimes. But I promise you, it is harder lived alone. We are called to live in community with each other. To live crowded along the streets together. To hold signs and shout and encourage.

It was beyond exhilarating to be a part of the group of spectators. Showed me the wealth of people who had the same goal. To encourage those they knew, and those they will never know on to the finish. Finish strong! You CAN do it!

So, just as it is natural to spend a cold, October Sunday morning along the streets in the windy city. It should be natural to recognize the marathons going on all around us. Is your sister rounding the corner of mile 12 wondering how she will ever make it? Is your neighbor in pain and in need of a little extra cheer? Is the checker at the grocery store trying to make his way up the hill at mile 25? Are you going to stand there silently? No! Get out your signs! Clap your hands! Shout their names!

Be an active participant in the marathons of others... and you just may find that they will be there for yours. "Almost there! Finish strong!"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cold Hands

Walking around the busy streets of New York City on my Senior trip, I came to a realization. My hands were cold. It was early May, and the nights got a little brisk. Not the appropriate season to carry around mittens or gloves, my hands were sentenced to endure the cold alone. The part of this observation that stuck with me was that not everybody's hands had to feel this way. I watched with an unwanted jealousy as the hands of my friends and classmates found their way into the clasp of another. There was nobody to hold my hand. My hands would stay cold.

There is just something so desirable about holding hands. It is a promise that where you walk, I'll walk. When you stop, I'll stop. When you're cold, I'll keep you warm. I'll be there. With you, for you.

It is so easy to lose myself in this tragic realization. There is nobody to hold my hand. My hands will stay cold. And when I think about this, it is all I can think about. My hands are cold and there is nobody to make them warm. Why me? Poor me.

My hands have been cold for 20 years. Makes me wonder sometimes if this is a permanent condition. Maybe I have one of those circulation diseases that won't allow your hands to be warm. Or maybe... maybe it is to make me stronger. To show myself that I am enough and able on my own. Teaches me how to walk around this cold and lonely world with two hands free. Free to explore, to reach, to climb, to live. I have learned to buy a delicious "caramel high rise" from Caribou - the perfect amount of heat to my fingers. I have learned to throw an adorable pair of mittens in my purse -- even in May. I have learned to throw my hands in the air and dance with the breeze.

Someday, (oh that word "someday") someone may want to hold my hand. The thought of it makes me feel giggly and girly. But, all I have to say is that he better be prepared to let me go every now and then... I have learned to love having two hands a little bit cold.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Own Story

I side with the abundance of people who list reading as one of their favorite hobbies. Is it to escape the monotony of our own lives? Is it to be inspired, to cry, to laugh, to be someone else? I love it while I'm reading... but as soon as I turn the last page... I am overwhelmed with a terrible sense of disappointment and let down. Life as I have been experiencing it... through someone else's words... is over. How do I pick myself up and start again? I guess I better quick find another book to fill that void. So the process continues. Living through the story of another.

Lately, I've been asking myself something new. Why not live and love my own story? Why not savor every word of the story of self? This type of thinking takes work. You have to look past the perspective that there is nothing noteworthy about your "average day." We need to stop thinking that way. We have been given TODAY. Search it, live it, find in it the story that is waiting to be told and appreciated.

Don't let your own story rest abandoned on the shelf. Take it out, skim through the pages already written. Let yourself laugh, cry, cringe, blush. Find the inspiration in your own story. Embellish it by living to the fullest. If you don't like the way the chapter is unfolding, direct it elsewhere. Take a turn. Or, if you can't... hold yourself strong and wait for the next chapter that is guaranteed to come.

Your life is beautiful and your story is worthy of being told. Give it a chance. And though there are disappointments, they are yours to overcome... and there will always be another word, another chapter, another day.