Do something for yourself

At some point in life, especially if you have a family, a job, and other people depending on you for a myriad of things (how did you or I get involved in so much?), you find yourself lost. The things you dreamed about doing slip away and time becomes an enemy to make anything happen, not the least of which are those things you hold deep in your heart of what you expected your life to be like. At least, this has happened to me, and I suspect to you, too, if you are honest with yourself. I know my spouse and I talk about it frequently. He reminds me he only has “XX number of years left! We have to get our life in order!” pretty frequently (this is usually followed by a flurry of cleaning and throwing things away).

It is at these points in life, you need to take a step back and really think about where you are spending your time. Time is one of the only democratic things in life. By that, I mean we all have only 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and so forth. “Hold on,” you say, “Not everyone has the same lifespan so that’s just not true!” Well, right you are. Since we don’t know how long our lives are, and in fact, they could be ended tomorrow on our way to or from work (judging by the number of catastrophic wrecks on the highway near where we live), we should treat every one of those seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks as if it were our last. Morbid, you say? No. Life giving. Why? Because when you take the time to realize you might not have tomorrow, you start to appreciate everything around you, especially the people in your life. You also start to take the time to carve out joy and resurrect those dreams you lost. Dream of travel? Go! Dream of being an artist? Pick up that pencil! Dream of being a musician? Take those piano lessons! Want to learn a new language? Check out DuoLingo and learn for free. Make time for joy.

What was my passion when I was younger? Horses and art. I have now rescued an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Lou who I don’t get to ride much, but he’s safe and that’s what matters. On the art front, I started a MOOC course from the University of Newcastle in Australia, natural history illustration. Not being an illustrator doesn’t matter, I’m having fun. Check out my first tries here.

Spring has sprung!

Ah, spring! This is my most favorite time of the year. I love spring with all the color, freshness, new grass, spring rain, and life renewing from winter’s drought. This past fall we planted tulips for the first time in a number of years. Tulips happen to also be our local squirrels most beloved snack so we weren’t sure we would even have any blooms simply from the scattering of bulb parts we found. Pennsylvania has also suffered from a very strange weather pattern and just when the tulips were starting to emerge, we had a snowstorm. Frantically rushing to the hardware store for mulch and then spreading it, we successfully saved at least a few of the blooms.

Jet, a black cat, lying on a keyboard

Busyness

Today I received an email from a very dear friend that I haven’t seen in a really long-time. She has recently retired and is trying to get a group of us together for a weekend of catching up. She offered up a number of weekends that are at least a month or more in the future.

To my utter dismay, of the weekends mentioned, only one was totally free. How in the world did that happen? Honestly, how? It made me look at my calendar and I realized just how over scheduled I am (and I’m trying hard to cut back on the “should” and “required” which really are not). That made me think about how over scheduled all my friends and colleagues are. Our lives are ruled by time slots and clocks and work requirements. Expectations of always being available in a completely networked world doesn’t help either, it only compounds the issue.

We had a great discussion last night at church around making time to feed your spirit because we need that and we need it not to be about forcing more into our schedule. We need it to be about making our spirit a priority so we aren’t ruled by expectations but have time to spend growing in enlightenment. Do you find yourself over scheduled?

The Spartans

I just finished reading The Spartans by Paul Carthage. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. For one thing, Carthage makes them approachable. He reminds me of my high school teacher, Mr. Sullivan, who wisely thought the best way to get his group of sometimes very rowdy teenagers to engage with medieval history was to have them watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s still one of my favorite movies and made the history behind it intriguing. At any rate, Carthage takes the reader through the Spartans’ rise and fall and introduces his audience to all the major players. Who knew how political they were!

What I find intriguing is that many hold the Spartans to be ideal patriots and warriors. People to emulate and hold as upright citizens. That they were, but they also ritually abused their children, engaged in state-sanctioned pederasty, and routinely hunted their Helot slaves as a rite of passage. They also weren’t above assassinating political dissidents.

While the glory of the 300 at Thermopylae with King Leonidas fighting to the death is admirable, it doesn’t offset the dysfunctional nature of the very closed society of elitism. Know the history before you glorify it.

Lent and Letting Go

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I happen to work at a religiously affiliated university. In my case, it is affiliated with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. As such, Lent is a very important time in the life of the university community. Since I am not Catholic, I am always a bit caught off-guard by the “giving up” of things (usually forbidden food) during Lent. As a Moravian, that is not really part of my religious tradition.

It has made me think, though, about sacrifice, which is the whole point of the exercise in the first place. Personally, I don’t think God cares whether or not we give anything up during Lent. I think God cares more about our relationships than about individual sacrifice for the exercise of sacrifice. That said, I did decide to give something up for Lent and it wasn’t food. It was negativity.

This year, perhaps more than any other year in recent history, has caused me to reflect on those relationships I mentioned earlier. We are deeply divided in this country. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, letting go of the negativity is soul-freeing. It allows you to listen to another’s perspective without rancor. After all, someone else’s opinion is just that; it’s their opinion and they are entitled to that as I am entitled to mine and you are entitled to yours. So, the next time you are outraged by what has been posted, stop and ask yourself if the negativity you are feeling is worth it. Maybe letting go and instead walk outside, find another path, and free yourself.