Good dog

This is for all you brave people out there fighting an internal battle. The kind no one can see.

photo credit: Eddi van W. via photopin cc

photo credit: Eddi van W. via photopin cc

 

There’s this cool verse about not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good. Good can take on the most unlikeliest of forms. Don’t worry, not gonna get churchy on you. But, I am gonna get real.

God is the first one to know I am in battle. Usually, I’m the 3rd or 4th one to figure it out. Don’t ask me why.

I have learned, though, that when something or someone rattles me around a particular tenderness in my heart that the enemy is striking me. Trying to get me down, unfocused and off track. It’s similar to a sucker punch.

Last week I was sucker punched. Again.

The timing, of course, is quite strategic. I’ve been breaking out of bad habits and self destructive patterns. So, in the enemy’s eye, I’m becoming dangerous to him. I like that. I like that a lot.

But, I need to keep my armor on. (cue dramatic music crescendo)

I was walking Cleo when a new neighbor (male), who was sitting in his car, called out to me through the passenger side window.

Now, in this day and age, most men know you don’t approach a woman you don’t know, right?? So, I guess calling to me from the car was less intimidating. But, once I half way approached the car thinking he must be lost, I noticed he was on his cell phone. He looks over at me and he says he’s new here and hasn’t met anyone. Um, oooookkkkkk, I think as I stand there in my pink polka dot pj lounge pants and Disney hooded sweatshirt. It’s a good look.

Now, I’m sure on screen, this seems like no big deal. Maybe it isn’t. But, the way he said it and looked at me I got a cold rush through me and instantly felt sick to my stomach. Is this proof of something wicked, no, of course not. Just saying, it didn’t feel right.

I stepped back a bit even though I wasn’t even close to his car. And, I was silent, trying to assess what he wanted. And, of course, my dog who normally would be barking at someone in the car was just calmly sitting. Thanks, Cleo. Big help.

He went on to tell me where he lived (including apt number!) and asked where I lived. Huh?! Textbook creeper alert. That’s in every after school show about not talking to strangers – never tell them who you are or where you live. He must’ve missed these episodes.

I said my husband and I live nearby, wondering why I was still talking to him. It was the way he was looking at me like he was memorizing me that gave me chills. I wrapped up the odd conversation and went on my way.

I went inside and told my ever patient husband about this “feeling” I had. He’s grown accustomed to being married to a highly sensitive woman. He kindly took me seriously and closed our blinds after looking to see who this guy was. I couldn’t shake this sense of something bad. This stupid 2 second encounter stirred up a FLOOD of bad memories of my first bad neighbor I had when I was a kid (in case you need a recap: https://shefliesagain.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/when-it-is-worth-the-risk/)

I quickly pushed those thoughts away reminding myself this is not the same. Not at all. I’m an adult first of all. And, I have an attack dog.

Uh, well…I’m definitely an adult.

Unfortunately, just dismissing uneasiness doesn’t make you feel peaceful. I had nightmares. Of course. Been a while since I had these. I knew instantly the next morning the enemy was trying to recreate a bad time for me. Well, I wasn’t going to let him. Right? (cue insecure music)

Yet, the next evening of course I ran into the new neighbor again. Darn! I quickly looked down, palms sweating and heart racing muttering under my breath, something’s not right, something’s not right. Then reminded myself to say a prayer, hold my head up and shoulders back. It was a pure demonstration of trying to overcome fear.

The day after that, I step out onto my balcony for one minute and guess who pulls up? Geez!

Now, I’m just mad. Three days in a row and I’m already impatient with this man. And,  being reminded I can be shaken so quickly.

Now, I am not saying this man IS how I FEEL he is.

I AM saying the enemy is sucker punching me where it hurts.

Today is when I see God’s counter action!

To anyone else, this won’t mean what it means to me. That’s often how I find God works. It’s so unique to us, so specific to our internal noise that we alone will recognize it. I wonder what it looks like for you?

I get home from work and see my other new neighbor (a lady) outside walking her dog. I make the polite smile and hello and intend to head up to my apartment. But, I do a double take at her dog. “What kind of dog is that?” I ask.

“A Schipperke.” She replies. (insert cute picture from internet)

“Ohhhh!! That was my first dog!!!” I exclaimed and unabashedly call the dog over forgetting I’m 39, not 7!

The dog sweetly runs over and curls up to me. The nice neighbor lady comments that she really likes me. I gush over this beautiful little black dog. And, we all know I have the best dog in the world. But, seeing this dog brings back a FLOOD of wonderful memories! I am smiling so big like a little girl. And, just laughing.

I realize I’ve gotten lost in my joy and regain my adult composure and apologize for taking her dog away from her. Of course, she was just glad someone else was petting her dog besides her.

I walk to my apartment so light in my heart! I reflect on the irony that in all my life I’ve only seen one Schipperke. And, now, one moves in downstairs from me.

From what I remember, my parents gave me Sugar Boy when I was about 7 years old, after I was abused. We lived in the same house, though, where the neighbor lived next door that hurt me. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember how I felt around Sugar Boy – pure joy!

And, I loved that dog. He didn’t live very long as he got really sick before he was a year old. But, still, that time with him was so memorable for me. After so much loss of innocence, loss of my best friend, just confusion – that dog was just what I needed.

As I recall these memories I realize: this is God striking back against the fear of the first neighbor at the beginning of this very short blog post. Ahem.

I realize that not all the memories I have from that age were bad. And, He reminded me of my first love.

Don’t you see? He seems to say to me. There is a way to SEE GOOD despite the bad.

I get choked up as I see the tailor made encouragement just for me! God alone knew the struggles I was having internally. I didn’t share much about it except, shaming myself in my mind for having these feelings again.

But, God knew and wanted me to know He sees me.

I’ll end with my mom’s summary, which would’ve made a much more succinct blog: maybe this dog will bite the weird neighbor.

See? Good dog.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Cleo approves of this post (she made it through the beginning at least).

cleo sleeping

best dog ever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It happens

Having one of those days? Me, too.

I got home from work today, grabbed Cleo’s leash and promptly headed out the door for our walk. I thought to myself, “This leash is just a formality,” because Cleo is the most gentle walker in her older age. And, if it weren’t for, um, city laws, she’d walk off leash right next to me.

So, we go around the side of the building by the golf course. It’s a gorgeous afternoon. Temps are mild, sun is shining – beautiful. Cleo is sniffing like she normally does.

003

Cleo – best.dog.ever.

We make another turn around the building and I notice one of my neighbors. He’s an older man, leaning on the rail of his first floor balcony coolly smoking a cigarette and watching the golfers, like the Marlboro man come to life. He has tan, weathered skin that suit his cowboy hat and boots attire. We nod and smile at each other. I mention how nice the weather is and he gives me a funny look.

I walk comfortably, one hand on the leash, the other in my pocket deep in thoughts of the day. I wonder if he thinks it’s too cold, maybe that’s what the look was – but, then…I turn back to check on Cleo only to realize I’m walking a leash and collar ONLY. No dog.

I look up and laugh awkwardly as the man is looking at me with his head tilted to the left, his cigarette frozen in mid air and he says, “I was gonna say….” and his words trail off as I sort of sprint and sort of gorilla run (because I always run funny when I’m embarrassed) to where I was walking Cleo, hoping she’s still there. Shouting behind me what I believe to be so witty and funny he won’t really settle on the absurdity of me walking only a leash, “The leash is really just a formality!”

Then, cursing my words that her leash was just a formality. Clearly it’s NOT.

imageI find her right where I left her. She’s standing there letting the wind carry her ears back, as if she’s the Pantene hair model. My shoulders relax and I just laugh. But, inside, I know – I have to take her back by my neighbor so he doesn’t think I’m INSANE.

So, just like the perfect dog she is, she sees me, acknowledges me by walking to me. I love her. And, I proudly walk back by the gentlemen. Thinking how it’s been the weirdest day. I had already spent three hours at work on a task I do daily, only to realize I did it opposite of how I was supposed to. Well, that was enough to send me out of my cube to  talk to people. And, for an introvert, it really takes sheer task exhaustion for people time to be more appealing.

I approach the gentleman, smiling and say, “Heh, heh, found her. It’s been one of those days.” I even do the Vanna White arms gesture toward Cleo as if to say, “Tada!” She’s real I promise.

He just tilts the rim of his hat to me  with a smile and twinkle in his eye and states wisely, “It happens.”

I feel relieved and a little less embarrassed as we keep walking. And, I shake my head laughing, thinking, “It sure does.”

And, I say a silent thank you to the Marlboro man because working in a world where perfect is the goal, doing things better and faster and if you make a mistake you have to ask: what’s the impact? what was the root cause? how will we correct our process so it never happens again? It was just nice to do something by accident and not have to dive into analysis, but be content in the truth that, “It happens.”

And, leave it at that.

Friends who can touch the sore spots

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

It’s funny how we can go through life operating a certain way for so long that when someone comes along and says something about it in a way you’ve never considered – it’s like WOW. I now see it totally differently.

I called my friend (who’s really a sister I just know was separated from me at birth) the other day who lives on the West Coast. Living in Austin, it’s amazing how just a two hour time difference can make it so hard to connect. But, it does. So, we finally connected. And, it never feels like enough time. You have those friendships that seriously feel like drip with such richness it’s never enough, yet it’s so filling at the same time.

Without revealing her life details, I’ll just say that she began by jumping into how she was doing. This is what I love about this friendship. We can skip right past the, “Hey, how’s the weather?” chit chat and get right to the heart talk.

As she is sharing, I’m marveling – because I, too, have been struggling with the very same thing! And, it’s not something I would call common. You know what I mean. We all have these peculiar struggles that keep resurfacing mysteriously, or maybe not so mysteriously, but enough of a curiosity to them that we end up just reacting to the struggle because that’s all we can seem to do. Not proactively trying to solve it or prevent it because it jars us so much emotionally we want to just abandon all reason and run from it as fast as we can or put an immediate stop to what’s causing it.

So, I tell her – hey! Same here! We laugh knowingly. It’s quite often this happens to us. As if our lives and friendships are so meant to be intertwined even down to the unique challenges we are facing. As I listen to her recount her experiences of late, I get very caught up in the emotions of them.

And, I began to describe my own experiences. And, we know they relate to earlier childhood trauma, PTSD, all these buzz words, she says. Then she says something that blows my socks off.

Allow me some writing liberties as I detail this in a novel-esque manner:

“Mel, this particular thing keeps happening to me. And, I can almost audibly hear God ask me so gently, “Won’t you let me touch it?”

I tear up hearing this. She goes on to describe how God has become such a partner in her life that He wants to heal her completely of all this pain, but she has to be willing to let Him touch the sore spots.

photo credit: David Blackwell. via photopin cc

photo credit: David Blackwell. via photopin cc

That in Him touching those spots, His touch heals. It’s all over the Bible. It’s in daily life if we listen. One touch of the Master’s hand…and it frees us.

WOW. That was my paradigm shift. For me, this unique issue – which I’ll briefly explain has to do with being so easily startled by people it thrusts me immediately into a dark pit of emotions. I end up blaming the person who scared me even though they did not mean to or they meant no harm in it. Yet, all my harbored anger comes to surface and I learn that I still have a ways to go in this healing and forgiveness journey. And, I always think, “If they only knew what this does to me they would stop.”

She then teaches me something I consider pure gold (despite The Outsiders declaration that “nothing golden can stay, Pony Boy”) :

“Mel, if in that moment of fear we can look at that person and immediately forgive them because they know not what they do, we are walking in the healing of Christ.”

I still get goosebumps just recalling this conversation. I’ve often asked: what does healing look like? How will I know? Giving myself my own renditions of a yard stick to gauge my progress. Yet, continually coming up short.

But, she put it out there – straight from scripture. Forgiving as Christ forgave us. Immediate and full. In our wholeness and healing by His touch, we are free to let go of the pain others inflict on us. And, we can forgive. That is a life that is full and rich. Not having the perfect job, or family or home. But, a heart set free to love.

photo credit: Bhumika.B via photopin cc

photo credit: Bhumika.B via photopin cc

So, as I lay here in bed sick – my heart is full and getting more well by the minute. And, maybe that’s why I keep getting sick. I’ve been engaging in this life with a “I got this” attitude. And, I’ve been pummeled cause I don’t got this! And, the most beautiful form of intimacy is touch – the good kind. Pure and loving. And, for those who know my story, you know this is my heart’s cry.

And, I thank God for friends who can get in there and touch those sort spots. Even the ones that know not what they are doing.

Crossing cultural & social lines with Joy

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

I try not to blog much about work in case I say too much or say the wrong thing. It’s the same with my relationships, I try not to blog too much about them either. But, sometimes, things happen and I am so incredibly moved by them, I just have to figure out how to share them.

This is one of those stories. (cue dramatic music)

If you’re like me, or not but just enjoy a bit of quiet and peace, working in a corporate culture with low walled cubes can be draining because of the lack of privacy. Every word uttered aloud can be heard by someone else. I have learned there are some remarkably good things that come out of it, too, though.

One morning near Christmas, I just had a song in my heart. You know what I mean? And, as I passed by my co-worker’s cube, whose American name is Joy (she is from South Korea), that I’ve passed every day for the last year, without even thinking, I started singing to myself but aloud, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…” A song I learned as a kid in Sunday School. One of my favorites because it was interactive, we’d all sing and shout, “Where?!” and reply, “Down in my heart.”

As I got to the shout part, I stopped by her cube door and said, “Hey, Joy – do you know this song?” as I sang her a line in my best child like voice.

photo credit: 27147 via photopin cc

photo credit: 27147 via photopin cc

Now, I hadn’t ever talked with Joy about God or church. And, honestly, in our environment I’ve been pretty safe to do so, but I’m always aware that I work with so many people from other countries and cultures that they may not respond with open arms to a question about such things. So, I’m sensitive because some of the stories of where they’ve come from are heartbreaking. And, it’s good to present God’s love with consideration.

Her eyes lit up under her angled bangs, and she said, “Yes, I do!” in a hushed tone. She smiled so big and asked me, “Are you a Christian?” with such anticipation that I stepped closer to her to respect how quietly she was speaking.

I replied, “Yes! Are you?” She nodded enthusiastically and we both started laughing sharing such a treasured secret if you will.

And, she went on to tell me that in South Korea she learned this song as a child. And, she began to sing it in Korean while I sang it in English and we giggled like the little girls that first learned it.

I don’t know her story and she doesn’t know mine, but in that moment it didn’t matter. We were those young hearts that were learning about the love of Jesus and singing about it with hearts that believed.

As we did this, a man walked up to the cube. We both froze. He was a man known for being cynical and a bit hurtful. Because he himself is a hurting man. And, don’t we all relate? When we have a vast hurt inside of us, other people’s happiness seems to expose it, shine a bright light on it and we feel worse. Unless they reach out and share it with us. Include us in it.

She stopped smiling and just looked at him. He asked if we were singing, here at work? He said looking a bit like we were so childish. And, we were, but in a good way!

She blushed and I quickly started rattling off as I do when I’m nervous. My only encounters with him include him being bitingly sarcastic about how happy I am, yelling at me for something that’s not my fault, but also apologizing. So, I get very nervous around him.

But, that day with Joy next to me and joy in me, I replied confidently and a bit protectively because I didn’t want her to regret our moment, and she could go back into her shell so quickly. So, as if to beat him to the punch, I said, “Why yes! And, it’s just the craziest thing that I’ve worked here over 3 years and I’ve never sang aloud in a cube with a coworker before and you, of all people, walk by and hear us!”

He just looked at me like he was deciding if I was putting him down or not. He landed on not (phew!). And, said, smiling for the first time I’ve ever seen in a conversation, “Well, I like it! It made my day.” And, he walked away.

And, like two girls who’s dad was telling them to pipe down and go to sleep, we bellowed over laughing! Sighing with relief!

And, that began a new friendship. Where in this culture of perfection, and do more, do more, do more and we are defined by our performance, not our heart – we just enjoyed the warm presence of a loving God letting us know we weren’t alone. And, what a surprise it was to discover just when I least expected it.

And, in that I found Joy.

“It is finished.” She types melodramatically.

2013-Winner-Facebook-Cover

Despite the best efforts of my own self sabotage (meaning, I wanted to watch Christmas movies every day this month), or my keyboard on my laptop glitching out everytime I got to really pecking away on a chapter and I had to reboot, or just life in general – I HAVE FINISHED the NaNoWriMo contest!! (phew, wiping my brown, doing a happy dance!)

For all you people out there that others call “procrastinators,” or perhaps you call yourself that – it’s OK! Sometimes our best quality is needing a little pressure such as a 30 day deadline to write 50,000 words. Cause, seriously, no planner I know can do this. Just kidding, of course.

What I learned in the last 2 weeks:

  1. I did better if I focused on writing chapters instead of word count.
  2. Walks with my dog helped when I ever so dramatically yelled aloud, “I WILL NEVER FINISH THIS!! What else can I possible write?! Oh, this is the project that never ends!” As I fling my self on my keyboard and cry. Then, a step out the door with happy dog on my side, I’m like, “Oh! I could write about this, or this.” Yes, a little fresh air and oxygen does the mind good, but mostly I think it’s the love of my dog.
  3. Embarrassed to say I prayed more this month than I have in a long time – not really, but, um, yeah really.
  4. It dawned on me if I tell people I’m writing a book, they’ll want to read it – EGAD!
  5. I completely ignore things like um, dishes, cooking dinner, makeup when I’m in the zone. Thank goodness I have a loving husband that encouraged me not to worry about those things. Love that guy.
  6. I can do big things if I turn every piece of technology off and make myself sit still.
  7. I can’t believe what a motivation it is to be able to enter the exclusive “Winner’s Page” on the NaNoWriMo site – only when you paste in at least 50,000 words do you get to go there! TOTALLY WORTH IT!

And, the big thing I learned: I’m way more dramatic than I realized. But, it’s good for a book!

So glad I’m done. I loved, loved, loved this journey. Many more to come. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Here’s to your last Pumpkin Spice Latte and onto Peppermint Mochas!

2013-Winner-Facebook-Profile

NaNoWriMo – Week two, not throwing in the towel!

How was this week of writing for the cool NaNoWriMo contest? Let me tell you what I’ve learned about myself this week:

  • I LOVE BREAKS! No, I mean, I live for them. I will do just about as hard a work as I can produce as long as I know when the break is – otherwise, no way, man. It’s not happening. I will melt down into child tantrum fashion internally panicking if I can’t see the light at the end of my working tunnel. Mature, huh. The only reason I’m comfortable sharing this embarrassing fact is because I see mature adults do just as embarrassing things every day. So, I’m not alone – right?
  • I am my best writing self when I’m irritated with someone or upset. And, this week, a lot of people were irritating me, so I should be…thankful? Huh?
  • The more I write about what I know (which is like the Cardinal rule of writing, right?), the more intense my story is because apparently I’m full of only dramatically intense emotions and experiences, thus meaning the more drained I am at the end of each chapter. I literally will hold my breath, and at the final sentence, sit back and breathe. And, say, “Whoo!” shaking my head as the adrenaline pumps through me. And, unlike my real experiences, I can’t very well try to talk to someone about how what I’m writing is something I may need counseling on, cause they would just be like, “Don’t write that, then.” You know, the old if your leg hurts when you move it that way, stop doing that.

I had a little vision of myself as a professional writer. Clothes mismatched, and the kind of clothes you could work out or sleep in, your choice. Of course, who are we kidding, who has time to workout when you’re writing? Hair in a forever pony tail sprouting out in the back and sides cause I keep adjusting it when I’m trying to figure out what to write. An endless cup of coffee by my side, so definitely a caffeine addict. Oh, and gotta have chocolate. So you know, the usual culprits, sugar and caffeine. Taking time to get up and move around only when my back hurts or my legs fall asleep because of how I’m sitting…or to walk the dog. Thank God for the dog, or I’d never go outside when I’m in the middle of writing.

And, the ever present, don’t talk to me right now I’m trying to write attitude.

This vision was the mirror.

This very much contradicted what I’ve always THOUGHT I’d look like as a writer. Something like Nancy Drew come to life with a touch of Meg Ryan from Sleepless in Seattle. You know, professional, yet stylish, hair just so but in a smart way. With a cool laptop at a cool desk in front of a cool window over looking the ocean.  Romantic, dreamy…Yeah, not so much.

Sigh…well, it ain’t pretty, but it’s honest. And, we can’t be pretty all the time, right?

Words so far: 13, 355

NaNoWriMo Week One – oh, man

Hmmm, remember last week when I wrote this:

I’ll be posting daily updates in case any one is interested in what this experience is like.  Day 1 for me started off with me being sick – ugh. And, had to work. So, how can someone who works full time figure out how to write 1667 words a day?? I’ll find out.

Well, I’ll tell you how it went (as I shift uncomfortably in my chair): it was, um, nonexistent. For some reason, I always to use spell check on that word, always adding another “is” – my friend at work caught then on a spreadsheet I made. I died laughing. Caught.

Anyways, I’m trying to distract you with a funny story. Much like I did to myself all week. Up until today I wrote ZERO words. Ugh. This was much harder than I anticipated. I am clearly the Queen of Excuses. Kind of like when I had a test in college, that was the only time you’d find me cleaning like my life depended on it. My best friend knew, though, and she’d smirk and say to be funny: you must have a test tomorrow. Bingo.

I pulled the old procrastinate mode out this week. And, I don’t know why. Once I sat down today I got so excited about what I was writing I wanted to know how it would turn out! Like reading, I wanted to keep pecking away until I saw what happened. Because I haven’t figured out how my book ends.

What I learned this week:

Writing buddies ROCK: I had GREAT conversations with my writing buddy (yes, I’m so lucky to have a writing BUDDY!) about, you guessed it, not writing.

I learned that I will procrastinate even in things I enjoy. WHAT?! What does that even mean??? Yes, I had to work, yada yada, but come on – my job is in corporate America in a cube, while it can be emotionally stressful to be in a box, it’s not hard. I should have enough reserve left to devote to something I truly love. Yet, I didn’t.

I seemed to run from myself. It’s the darndest thing. I would describe this as the same thing I do in working out. I love love love to swim, do Body Pump, jog, do yoga. Yeeeeetttt, I’ll run from it as if it was hurting me, not helping me!! Even though I feel incredible afterwards. WHAT?! What does that even mean???

So, now I’m back at it: facing my story. It’s something like making myself look at my image in the mirror. Really taking note of how I actually am, not how I wish I was  – and accepting myself. Writing brings out who you really are – like yourself or not. It’ll call on you to be dedicated and disciplined. UGH! Not my strengths. But, if I want to be sure of who I am, I have to do what I can do. And, stop running from myself.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this! Now, I need to get back at it instead of distracting myself with my blog. Oops.

Word count so far: 5,516 (44,484 words to go)