Is Life Passing You By?

Nothing shakes you more and reminds you of the brevity of life when you visit the hospital. A month ago I sat in my friend’s hospital room while she recovered from a complicated surgery. It started out as a simple female procedure but somehow turned into a week-long stay from unexpected complications. I took turns with friends visiting  her to make sure she wasn’t feeling too down or frustrated about losing the freedom to move around too much. She rarely is sad and it shocked me to see her struggling to keep up her joy. It was at this moment I realized we learn our greatest lessons when we realize what we’ve taken for granted.

It got me to thinking about if I was really living the life I say I am when I ended up chatting with a mutual friend at the hospital.  It was a Saturday but she was diligently typing away on her laptop when I walked in my friend’s room.  I brought my Kindle Fire along but only had it for fun and not work. So, I asked her how she’d been and said, “Are you working on a project?” She quickly responded “Oh no, I’m just completing work. That’s all I do.” I said “Really?” Her head was buried in the laptop when she said….”Yea.”  I remembered she was in a sorority and mentioned seeing some of her soror sisters involved in a community service project over the weekend. I asked if she was active or ever worked with any of them. Again, she said, “I don’t even know when they meet. I should get more involved.”

I’m stunned because this woman was beautiful, smart, successful, but largely isolated from anything but her job. Here I was telling her more about organizations she’s affiliated with  just because I was paying more attention. She admitted she didn’t get out much unless it was related to work. We talked a bit more and she shared that even though she had her own moment with a life changing and personal illness, she hadn’t taken hold of truly living instead of focusing her energy on work.   Somehow, she’s  still clinging to work as her life’s purpose.  Here’s the deal. We all have the tendency to cling to what we know and what’s comfortable  out of fear. More than likely, we don’t   realize that we shortchange ourselves by doing so. Unfortunately, I saw alot of myself in her. Of course I can cushion the blow by saying I’m not that bad, but alot of my life is patterned around work and finding more opportunities to work. That’s where alot of my value comes from (which I constantly battle). I volunteer here and there, but I’ve gotten comfortable being by myself and fail at going out alone or if I’m not with a friend.  While I love what I do both as a counselor and as a singer, it won’t always be there.  And since it won’t, it’s time to start focusing more on creating relationships that last and not based simply on what I do for a living. I certainly don’t want to wake up one day and realize I’m all I got.

It was ironic that as I listened to this woman maybe five years older than me, I learned that while I am chasing my career goals, other more personal ones are getting slighted.  It reminded me that if I’m not careful, I’ll end up the same way dragging my laptop around as my friend. I’m so careful with my life choices sometimes to the point that I’m almost afraid to make a move, but my conversation with the laptop lady  reminded me that it’s important to create a sense of  balance. I’ve made more of an effort to spend time with family and friends and even seek them out to nurture our relationships. In the next months, I’ll be sharing my experiences and difficulties of  trying to even out the time I spend in my personal life and my career. I don’t want to look back and see missed opportunities because I was afraid of failure or too focused on moving up in the world. My friend is out of the hospital now and recovering like a champ. So, I’m challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone even more so that I don’t only have certificates of attendance and job promotions as my only proof I was here.


Can You Really Forgive? #30in30


forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

My dad got the phone call that my uncle passed away.  In true fashion, he didn’t give much detail on what happened. He just said, “your uncle died today.”   I didn’t care.  No reaction, no sympathy, no feelings one way or another. Surprised, I thought “Wow, you don’t feel ANYTHING.” I guess the fact he molested  me when I was five yrs old took something out of me. I  didn’t have any emotion to send his way.

I realized what happened to me when I was saw a reporter on tv discussing sexual abuse and the signs to look for in children. My eyes got big, and I looked at my mom who was cooking dinner  but didn’t say anything. That’s when I realized what happened was wrong. I wondered would she care if I told her. Wondered if she would believe me or somehow blame me for letting it happen. I decided to keep it to myself but was glad I could put words to the experience.

I read a couple of books on sexual abuse in college and tried counseling after graduation. I wondered if  I should share what happened  when I was a little girl with my parents. It was the only time they ever left me alone with him. It was the only time I ever saw him. My counselor prepped me that the reaction from my parents may differ from what I expected. I told my story. My mother confused and angry. She immediately became mother hen, asking if I was okay, wanting to know was it something she’d done. She kept asking me, “how do you feel?” Like it just happened but it was so long ago. My dad had nothing to say. To be exact, his words were “it happened and you just need to let it go.” Amazing. It wasn’t the supportive reaction I needed but then this was my dad. He’s never shared too much emotion with me. Or anyone for the matter. I was hurt.   That all you could give to your baby girl was “you need to get over that. ” In addition to working on me, and forgiving my uncle, now I had the lack of concern from my father who I thought should have been in rescue mode,  irate and on the phone to his brother about it. I worked through as much as I could with my counselor and assumed I had forgiven him.

The thing is,  I prayed to forgive him but it wasn’t really tested because I never saw him again. I don’t know if it was by God’s grace that he spared me that type of pain but I sure do appreciate it. And I knew being hateful towards a man who didn’t know the impact of his behavior simply wasn’t going to do anything for me. I just didn’t like it. How could he get away with it even after all these years?

Truth is, it’s hard.  I hate him for what he did.  I forgive him in my mind, but I’ll always remember him doing things to  my body when I was too young to  understand. My parents trusted him to care for me while they went out that night. He broke that trust and somehow got away with it. My questions will  never be answered. I’m not sure if I really need them to be. So, I keep trying to forgive.  And  asking God for grace. It doesn’t happen often but when I remember the pain, I  go back to God. I admit the hurt he caused and then ask God again  for the grace to grow to  forgive this man. I like the fact that each time I ask, God doesn’t get upset. I really think he knows some things in life are harder than others to deal with. But  each time I do, I gain more strength and more resolve that my uncle  has no control of any part of my life anymore. It’s  a struggle, but I deal with it.

Can you really forgive? Yea, you can. Will it happen overnight? No. Will it eventually sting less? Yes. Will you discover power in yourself once you let go of the pain? Yes. Will it sometimes pop up to remind you of scars? Yes. But I won’t allow my uncle to have that kind of power over me. Even though he controlled me for a night when I was younger,  I’m more than that awful experience.  I’m still numb to the thought because that was the totality of my relationship with my uncle. Never saw him again. Picked up the phone and heard his voice 10 yrs later. Passed the phone to my dad and kept living. I’m not responsible for what he did nor responsible how my parents reacted. What I am responsible for is how I respond.  My choice is to move forward. Not forgetting, but forgiving by letting go of another piece of the anger each time it comes back up.