Getting Comfortable With Change


Sometimes I get so used to where I am that I forget the door is open.  I accept the literal and figurative bars that trap me and don’t bother to explore other options.  I get comfortable.

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For several years, I’ve dreamed of living somewhere else; leaving this miserable desert.  I’ve struggled to acknowledge the occasional beauty in the vast brown landscape.  I’ve tried to tell myself that being sandwiched in traffic on the freeway with a million other people really isn’t that bad (okay, I know that the entire population of 1.5 million isn’t on the freeway when I am, but it sure feels like it when I’m stopped and staring at their taillights through a thick cloud of exhaust).

I’ve reminded myself that living somewhere else wasn’t an option:  we had eight more years for my husband to get a full pension; my family lives here; my parents aren’t getting any younger and might need me; besides, the kids have a great school and their friends.  Oh, the list of excuses could go on.

When my husband (unfairly) lost his job last year, leaving didn’t occur to us.  We cut expenses and hunkered down in our comfortable place. He found another job fairly quickly – but it’s just a job.  There are no benefits…no vacation, no sick time, no appreciation for a job well done, and no chance for growth.

In January, I got the crazy idea of moving to northern Arizona.  The climate is more to our liking.  There are seasons- not the normal “cold”, “warmer”, “hot” and “miserably hot” that we’re used to.  Since then, we’ve bought a house, sold our house and are preparing for new life in a small town later this month.   This is the only home we’ve lived in since we were married sixteen years ago.  My parents aren’t thrilled with the idea.  It’s more what they don’t say than what they do.  Some friends express envy, while others look at us like we’ve lost our minds and ask, “why?”  We respond, “Why not?”

I’m turning forty this year.  It’s time to be free from others’ expectations.  I’m shrugging off their assumptions that I’m in a mid-life crisis.  I think it’s more of a mid-life realization:  life’s too short to live it tomorrow.  I’m claiming my life as my own.  Selfish?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

As if moving wasn’t change enough, I carried the theme a step further by ending over two years of procrastination and indecision:  I got eleven inches chopped off my hair.

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I was excited to find out that my hair was long enough to donate to Locks of Love (I’ve always wanted to do it, but never had the opportunity.)  Perhaps someone else will enjoy it more than I did.

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Now that’ll give them something to talk about 🙂

In Faith, I Trust

I’ve mentioned before that my personal commitment to writing a spiritually-related Sunday blog post is great motivation for me to stop and acknowledge spirituality as a part of my life.

Spirituality is the one thing I can let slide without immediate consequences.  If I don’t help the kids with homework, they don’t learn; if I don’t clean the floors, the playground sand takes over; if I don’t write, I go crazy…and that’s not good for anyone.  And if I don’t tap into my spiritual self?  I function just fine, until I realize I’m lost.

Lacking inspiration, I read through several entries in my Life’s Simple Guide to God book.  In the past, I have read single entries that spoke to me.  This week, several entries seemed like they were written for me.

  • I read about how our burdens become lighter when we turn them over to God.  “If you’re carrying too many burdens – even if they seem to be good and noble – lighten your load.”
  •  Another entry reminded of the importance of fully trusting God.  “When your heart is open, your life is open for a miracle.”
  • Finally, I read an inspirational piece urging the replacement of fear with faith.  I like the quote they included, by Frederick W. Cropp – “There is much in the world to make us afraid.  There is much more in our faith to make us unafraid.”

Earlier this week, I took my older son to a Cub Scout orientation meeting because he’s decided he wants to join.  As I signed him up, the den leader explained how 5 new boys were signing up and they would likely need to start a new den.  I thought, ‘Okay, fine.’ But when he didn’t break eye contact, and continued with, “We need parent volunteers,” I squirmed a bit.

“I can bake cookies or something.”  I hoped this would appease him.

Nope.  I heard the Jaws music in the back of my mind.  I felt trapped.

“We need den leaders,” he said.

“I’m not the leadership type.”

“Neither am I,” the man responded.  “At our next meeting, I’ll make a hard press for volunteers to step up.”

I thought that was a hard press.

I can’t come up with a reason why I’m not the leadership type, other than the fact I don’t like it.  I’ve managed people, but it’s easier not to.

I can, however, think of other excuses reasons not to volunteer.  (1) I don’t have time, (2) I don’t know how to interact with a group of five ten-year-olds, (3) I have zero knowledge of Cub Scout activities (4) I’m afraid.

There it is.  The thought of leading a group of kids in anything makes me break out into a cold sweat.  Quite a feat considering we’ve had record high heat for several weeks now.

So, I turn this burden over to God.  I open my heart and trust him to guide my decision of whether to lead or not to lead.  If this challenge is necessary for my growth, then I will accept it.  If my load is to be lightened by passing up this request, then that’s how should be.  As long as fear isn’t the deciding factor, then I will know faith prevailed.

Is it wrong that I secretly hope that someone else steps up first?

How do you work through dilemmas?  Do you follow your head, your heart or both?  How does faith factor in?  When do you find peace with your choices?

Setting Of A Mind

In the months leading up to my son’s ninth birthday, he chatted incessantly about the iPod Touch he wanted to buy.  I looked it up on the internet and discovered this gadget started at over $200. Yikes.  I delicately explained to him that he is not heir to a throne and our family isn’t wealthy, so if he saved birthday money and Christmas money and allowance, he might have enough to buy one – in December.

I also asked more questions – mainly, “Why?”

He rattled off names of several kids I have never met who brought iPod Touch devices to summer camp.  Great, I thought, here we go again with the explanation of why we aren’t racing the Joneses to bankruptcy.  I explained that getting something because others had it wasn’t a good enough reason.  He revealed that “even a first grader” had one.

Oh, well that changes everything.

No, not really.  Now the judgments of improper parenting swirled around in my head.  Improper, of course, because it wasn’t my way…and, I’ve deluded myself into thinking I know what I’m doing.

He backed off the iPod Touch and got excited about a Ninetendo DSi.  I did research to compare the two so he could make an informed decision.  Unexpectedly, he veered in another direction:  he wanted a touch screen digital camera that also took videos.

More research.  Together, we narrowed the list to four, based on his budget.  I liked the one that took an average of 300 pictures per battery charge. He liked the 3.5” touch screen on another.  I pointed out other features on each camera.  He still liked the 3.5” touch screen.  I wanted him to consider the other options with an open mind.  He had his mind made up – he wanted that one camera.

For weeks, he told everyone that would listen that he would buy a digital camera with his birthday money.  My mom didn’t understand why a camera.

“Are you sure he’ll take care of it?” she asked me.

I just shrugged my shoulders.  “He will learn.”

I listened as she told him she thought he would like the Nintendo DSi more.  She tried to sway the rooted, immoveable object that is my son by talking about the video games he could play on a DSi.

This exchange reminded me of a mish-mash of conversations that molded me throughout my childhood.  Sometimes, the suggestions were so subtle that they seeped into brain as if they were my own thoughts.  Other times, they were more blatant and incited self-doubt, leaving me unsure of what I really wanted.

From a young age, my parents indoctrinated me that college was my path – all other roads were closed.  Graphic design was a difficult profession.  Teaching didn’t pay enough money.  What about medicine?  My will was pliable.  I went to college because it was easier than resisting.  However, I did not go into a lucrative field.  I chose Psychology…probably the one field with less pay than teachers 🙂

I understand where these well-intentioned ideas came from. They were offered in loving attempts to avoid painful mistakes made in their own lives.  Now, I recognize that I am a person tied to practicality; dreams are a frivolity, to be fancied but not fully pursued.  I’ve still made mistakes…just different ones.  I’ve earned a living all right, but at the expense of my dreams.  It’s funny how these things seem so clear looking over my shoulder.

Despite her efforts, my son remained undeterred – he bought the camera.  In the days since his birthday, he has been honing his photography skills.  He has hardly put the camera down.  He’s framing shots and experimenting with scene settings.  He’s practicing videotaping narratives and playing with photo effects.  He’s being creative.

Food for Creativity

I admire my son’s ability to drown out the noise and stick with what he knew would make him happy.  If he can continue to look inward and resist the constant pull of the outside world, I think my boy will be just fine.

Now, if he could just take out the trash without negotiating…

I can’t have it both ways, can I?

What about you – have you reflected on your own life and gained understanding of who you are today? 

Tiny Decisions and Big Acknowledgement

For several weeks, you (my ever-patient readers) have put up with my whining about explaining some instances where indecision drove me batty.  (Well, I was already nuts, but let’s not split hairs.)

Over the last couple weeks, things have started to fall into place.  We have found a contractor to do some work on our house.  He is a friend-of-a-friend, but this still doesn’t stop me from worrying that he will run away with our down payment (after he does the demo work, of course), or that he will do the work, but not correctly. 

It also hasn’t prevented me from obsessing over finances in general because I don’t like spending large sums of money.  (In case you were wondering, “large sums of money” is anything over $50.)  I get tightness in my chest twice a month when I pay bills (especially the mortgage) and my knuckles ache as my hands clench my checkbook.  If you think that’s bad, you should have seen me when we bought our car.  I felt physically ill and didn’t know who to call first – the ambulance or my work to call in sick 🙂

Decision #1 – After combing through home improvement stores and discount stores, we managed to piece together our shower tile selection.  Can you believe it – we actually agreed on the tile color and texture?

Even though we found discount tiles, the purchase still hurt. If you think I felt empty without this decision lurking unmade in the back of my mind, let me set the record straight.  I have filled that worry space with another concern:  “Did I buy enough of the different tile sizes?”

Math is not my strong suit.  (I majored in Psychology for a reason).  I did the measurements and calculated the square footage.  I figured the tile needs based on responses on Yahoo! Answers.  Boy, I hope these people weren’t just having some fun, or playing a cruel April fool’s joke.  (Note to self:  check the date of the responses.) 

Decision #2 – We came to an agreement on our dishes.  We chose….none of our original selections.  That’s right.  We bought dishes, but it was neither of the patterns mentioned in the post I linked to in the first paragraph.

We went to a Corelle outlet store over the weekend and they had a great sale.  The 16-piece box sets were still expensive, but if you bought 20 or more individual pieces, they were 50% off.  Great; more math. 

I pulled out my cell phone and used the calculator to figure out the cost of eight plates, salad plates, and bowls (we didn’t need the mugs.)   Since we could get these pieces for less than the cost of one of the 16-piece box sets, we bought them. 

It feels good to get these major minor decisions made, but I’ve come to  realize I owe a long-overdue apology to my dad.  <sigh.>  Here goes:

“Dad, you were right.  I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when you warned me I would use math in my daily life.  I thought you were tricking me; like when you told me being an adult was hard.  Joke’s on me. Ha, ha.”

Do you make decisions easily, or do you research them to death?  As an adult, what advice from your parents have you found to be true?