Month: February 2015

Peace at What Cost?

She sat across from me at the table. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to have lunch. For the past couple years she’d been asking that we be friends. She said she envied mine.american-cut-table

But it’s hard. There are just too many unanswered calls. Too many texts that get no response. Too many canceled lunch dates.

As a single mom, I know she’s got her hands full with two of her four children still at home. And she does understand the challenges she handed them with her three divorces. But she’s trying to overcompensate by being super mom.

And I do think, considering her past, she’s wise to not date. But I question her insistence that she values the peace she’s found in being alone. Especially since she repeatedly laments how she’s not close to her family, and she has no friends.

So, I came to lunch. But until I saw her in the restaurant, I wondered if she’d show up. But she did.

I try to make her feel comfortable by sharing some of the struggles Tim and I had in our marriage. I don’t want her to feel badly that she’s divorced. I want to love her right where she is.DSC00410

“Sounds like he was really selfish,” she says.

I back pedal. My intent wasn’t to degrade the guy.

“We were both selfish.” I responded. “Truthfully, I was as horrible and wonderful to him, as he was to me. In our forty years together, it was a draw.”

She sat up straight, drew in a long breath that puffed up her chest. “I used to be selfish,” she said.

I sit back kind of stunned. Because with no one in her life except her kids, who pushes her buttons? And since she stays at their every beck and call, they’re not pulling her trigger. So I wondered, what are her indicators to say she’s not selfish?

Because I just don’t think we’re to wipe out our struggles by isolating ourselves from difficult people. And if that’s the only way we can find peace, I think we might be doing it all wrong.

The bible tells us in Ephesians we’re to be completely humble and gentle. To be patient, bearing with one another in love.  To make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Looking back at the difficult people who have crossed my path, I see how those relationships changed me the most. And the ones I wanted to walk away from were the ones that caused me the most growth.

Because we can’t win the fight over our sinful nature, if we don’t get back in the ring. And those difficult relationships help to identify the areas where we need to change the most.

Selflessness never comes easy. And sacrificing our lives for others exacts a high price. But consciously bearing with one another, in love, changes us at our core. And if we don’t spend our lives incrementally laying them down, at the end, the only way we will have peace, will be to live alone.

My Valentine Do Over

Valentines Day was Tim’s favorite holiday. I never understood it. But, on this day, it wasn’t uncommon for me to get fine jewelry, flowers delivered to my work, and a romantic dinner at a fine restaurant. Not once in our 38 years, do I think he missed celebrating this most romantic day.

Then a few months later, he’d completely forget my birthday. Leaving me sobbing for hours.

His response, “I’m sorry honey, I forgot. I thought about it last week, then I just forgot.”

I used to think he remembered Valentine’s because the holiday is so heavily advertised. But then, he seldom gave Christmas or Easter the same respect as this day set-aside for lovers.

casablancaIn retrospect, I have to admit, the man was a hopeless romantic. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home and find him glued to a Turner Classic movie. (Really – how many guys count Casablanca as their favorite?) When I’d ask what he was watching, he’d shush me and say, “I don’t know the name, but she’s in love with that guy, but he doesn’t love her…” A clear sign he’d seen the film before.

When it came to romance, the tomboy in me came out. Not that I didn’t believe in love, I just didn’t believe in fairy tales. Or happily ever afters. Love to me has always been hard work.

But…if I could have a do over, I’d change a few things.

  • I’d watch those movies with him. Then I’d ask him what it was he liked so much about them. Something about them resonated with him, and I never found out what.
  • I’d put more emphasis on what he did on February 14th, and less on what he failed to do on my birthday, or Christmas, or any other holiday.
  • I would make February 14th the biggest day of our year. In other words, I’d join him in making it a banner celebration of us.
  • A week before my birthday, I’d give him a list of things I’d like him to buy for me. On top, in huge letters, I’d write: “MY BIRTHDAY’S NEXT WEEK!” And I’d accept it graciously if the reminder only generated a card and some cash.Tim and Ellen

Too often, our expectations set us up for failure. And even if what we get is good, it seems small compared to what we had in mind.

So, if your Valentines Day fell short, I encourage you to reevaluate your mate within the scope of his or her entire life. Make a pro and con list if you must. Just don’t hold them to a standard you set that only fits into a small slice, of one day, of this big time frame we call life.

If I had it to do over again, that’s exactly what I would do.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Do You Bootcamp?

Not fully understanding what I’d gotten myself into, I took a baby step and signed up for six weeks of the Lake Nona Bootcamp. A few days later I stood in line with a slew of slim and trim young people to get weighed and measured. Lauren, our fearless leader was upbeat and encouraging. But I already felt I was in over my head.IMG_2997

On the first day, a handsome young man took me aside for an “assessment.” He was kind as I struggled to hold my overweight body in a plank. I felt my shoulders would explode as I attempted to pump out a few push-ups. As his stopwatch ticked off a minute, I attempted to do as many squats as possible. Sweat dripped down my forehead as he wrote my measly accomplishments on a sheet of paper.

Finally, I joined the rest of the group for the remainder of the work out. All the while thinking, I might as well just give up. At 58 years old, my life is over. The best I can do is park myself in a chair and wait to die.

At the end of the workout, the instructor congratulated us on our performance. All the way home, I swallowed hard to keep the vomit for entering my mouth. My face burned.

As soon as I opened my door, I ran for the bathroom and emptied my stomach. As I washed my hands, I stared at my flaming red face and stringy, soaking wet hair.

Then I sat in a chair and cried.

After a few minutes, I dried my tears and filled a couple ziplock bags with ice. Balancing them on my aching knees, I thought, what could it hurt? It’s only an hour twice a week for six weeks. I’ll just do what I can.

Two days later, I unrolled my mat and took my place with the other campers. A young girl, a third my age, turned and said, “We all took bets you wouldn’t come back.”

“Oh honey,” I responded. “I can do anything for an hour.”

But I seriously had my doubts.

Then, I did it all over again. Even the throwing up, crying, and icing part.

IMG_3911For the next year, a lot of ice melted over my knees as I gained strength. Then one day, I ran a whole mile. And when I came across that finish line, it felt like I’d just won the Boston Marathon.

Sometimes, victories are bigger than they appear.

Now when the instructor assigns us 100 squats, I think – piece of cake. And to that first mile run, I’ve added two 5K’s and I’m signed up for two more.

But the biggest win is inside of me. It’s knowing I can still face new challenges that not only test the boundaries of my body, but my soul as well.

Because all determination starts between our ears. Before our feet ever hit the pavement, our minds must decide to go.

So what are your challenges today? What’s the baby step you need to take?