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Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

framing

I had some posters in college that I bought at hole-in-the-wall poster store on Belmont near the El stop.  We liked to go in this store to just poke around and find funny or interesting artwork or kitschy posters.  It was the kind of store where they let you sift through their posters for hours and never bothered you about it.  Just a few shops west of the poster store is the locally (perhaps nationally?) famous restaurant Ann Sathers (yuummmmy cinnamon rolls!) and across the street is Igor’s Dungeon (tawdry sex and drug paraphernalia).  While I was in school, I bought 4 posters from this poster store.  The posters were Romeo and Juliet, Jack Vettriano’s the Singing Butler, the VJ Day Kiss and another with a couple hugging at the train station.  These pictures hung frame-less on the walls of my apartments in college for several years before I moved home after graduation.

When I was moving home, Mom asked me if I had any artwork that I might want framed.  I hesitated when she asked and had to think about it before I remembered these four posters – I guess I hadn’t thought much about framing the posters.  I mean, they were the posters that I sticky-tacked up to the wall in my college apartment.  They were the posters that were part of a bigger wall-collage of sorority paddles and random pictures with friends and inspirational quotes.  I had never thought about these posters as art, but when my mom asked me if I had any artwork, I thought, “yeah, I guess I do!”

My mom does an excellent job decorating, but I was still surprised at what an awesome job she did picking out frames for the posters.  While I would have done something more ordinary (and well, lets’ be real – plain) – she picked out these gorgeous ornate frames.  The pictures that I looked at for years on my apartment wall looked COMPLETELY different in the frames she picked out.  They went from being college dorm-room blah to grown-up chic in less than five minutes.  I smile whenever I look at them because they reminded me of something very important:

How an image is framed changes how you see that image.  We talk about this concept in our culture a lot using phrases like “Perception is reality” and “Attitude is everything.”  The way the pictures were framed changed how I interacted with the pictures, where I place them in my current home and how others saw them.  Artists play with this concept by taking ordinary objects and “framing” those objects differently so that the ordinary objects are perceived as art.

I talked in my previous post about the different themes running through my life right now and that definition is one of those themes.  When I think about how I am defined, I realize that the context is just as important as the content.  I am well aware that the same word in different contexts can mean so many different things.  The question, “Why?” can be insulting, intriguing, lamenting, fatiguing and energizing, all dependent on how the question is asked.

I have a lot of different contexts that I exist in.  Sure, I am a wife and a family member and a friend and a coworker, but what kind of person do I want to be in each of these contexts?  I mean, yes, there are things that will be consistent in each area – I am a Christian in all of these areas.  But what kind of wife, family member, friend and worker do I want to be?  And how do I feel about how each of these categories is shaping up?

I like to say “yes” to everything.  It has been an epic battle for me to say “no” more often.  I think when I was younger, it was probably wise to say yes to a lot of things so that I could have a wider experience, but perhaps it is time to become more selective, picking the projects and paths that are of more interest to me.

I lamented the other day that there was nothing that I am passionate about.  I feel that have spent so much time trying lots of different things that I never really specialized in one area.  Today I was thinking on this topic a little bit more and a few patterns of behavior are emerging that give me a few clues about more dominant personality/skill areas that I could work on.

So yeah.  I know I started rambling, but I guess in a nutshell: I’ve got a lot to work on.  And I will probably write more on this because I feel like I didn’t say everything I wanted to.  But it is late and if I don’t go to sleep my context tomorrow will be viewed through sleep deprived eyes…

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I’m not a very disciplined person in a lot of respects.  I try very hard, but because it is not ingrained in my character, I often FORGET to be disciplined.

And last week was a week of discipline.

Something I’ve had drilled into me in my professional life is to nip things in the bud.  The minute something goes down a wrong path, and before it becomes a habit, you have to nip it in the bud.  Because I don’t like conflict, this was a hard one for me to learn both as a manager and as coworker.  But I have found that people respect you more for speaking up early rather than letting something carry on.  Not saying anything is often viewed as permission-granting.

I’m not perfect at this skill, but I work on it.  And because it runs counter to how I would prefer to live, it takes a certain amount of emotional energy.

The other thing I’ve had to get better at is disciplining my thoughts.  This has been on-going since I was little.  When I first started working on this, I was struggling with anxiety in school.  I would get the syllabus on the first day of school, and see that on the last day of the class there would be a… gasp… FINAL EXAM and I would start wondering how I was going to pass that test.  Seriously?  I hadn’t even been through the course yet.

As I’ve gotten older, and hormones have gotten crazier, I’ve had to work on disciplining where I let my thoughts go.  For example, my dear husband has a horrid schedule for the next 3 weeks.  I’m not going to get into the details for safety issues, but it is TERRIBLE.  Plus, he is supposed to get awarded a base closer to home, but the guy who posts the final awards WENT HOME EARLY on Friday, even though the company stated that it would post the results on Friday at 4 p.m. CST.

My natural bent is to go down the, “We will never have another holiday together.  We will never have another lazy Saturday together.  We will never …” And I definitely start down that road, but then I make myself remember that in a few years I will have mostly forgotten this time that we are going through and that it WILL get better.  Sometimes it takes a huge amount of emotional effort to turn this attitude around.

But it is always worth the effort.

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Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

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Two fudgey, chocolaty, delicious looking brownies are sitting all sultry-like in my refrigerator.  Untouched, unsniffed and uneaten.

Saddest thing you’ve ever seen. Truly.

But, this has been an exercise in resolve.  Determination. Perseverence. Discipline.

“Emmmmmily… oh, Emmmmmmmiiiiiilllyyyyy!”

Can you hear them too?  It’s the brownies! They are calling for me.

I. Must. Stay. Strong.

Ok, all kidding aside.  It has been rough giving up my refined sugar habit.  And I say habit because that is exactly what it became over the years.  If I couldn’t think of something, I’d just go get a “hit” of sugar.  If I finished lunch, but wanted to make the lunch hour more satisfying – Sugar!

Without it, I realize that I am somehow LESS anxious.  Less concerned about what I’m going to eat.  I know that if I eat a satisfying meal, I don’t have to stress because of all of the extra dessert calories.  I know that sounds strange, but I think that I would go into a nice meal that included dessert knowing that I was going to feel bad afterwards – knowing that I would regret it.  But now, I feel like I can eat a meal and be satisfied and not upset – does that make sense?

I wish I could tell you that I’ve lost a lot of weight doing this.  I’m down a total of 4 lbs.  It’s not great.  It’s the same 4 lbs that I feel like I am constantly losing and gaining and losing.  But at least I’m down and not up, right?

And really, it’s not the brownies that concern me right now anyway.  It’s the compromising situation that I found Ed in when I got home tonight.  It’s everything you’d expect to find on Entertainment Tonight: Scandalous. Scintillating. Skanky.

… more on that after the commercial break!

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So, clearly, this weekend appeared to be a weekend of excess.  And could I have eaten less pasta and bread?  Yeah, probably.  And could I have eaten less candy/chocolate/ice cream?  Probably.  But I would also say that I didn’t eat as much of the candy/chocolate/ice cream as I wanted. And that poses a problem for me.

As I learned back in January, I am hypoglycemic.  This means that carbs are a particular problem for me because my body absorbs and distributes the carbs so quickly that I CRASH after carbo-loading.  Eating carbs causes me to have a blood sugar low within an hour or so that makes me FEEL super hungry.

As a matter of fact, when I eat candy mid-afternoon, by the time I get home at 5:30, I am irrationally hungry.  I don’t even bother to stop at the store because I am SO hungry that I am not sure how I will make it through the store without A) forgetting half of my list or B) maiming the first person who tries to abscond with my cart.

And don’t get me started with the parking lot.Let’s just assume there would be much carnage.

So anyway, I do not make wise decisions when I am on a sugar low.

Plus, my body converts these carbs to fat faster than you can say “Put down the butter Paula Deen!”  And if that wasn’t enough to make me pass on the sugary delights, the fact that we would like to get pregnant again means that I am at high risk for developing gestational diabetes.  While a high birth weight for our babies has always been a real possibility (my dear husband rocked the scales at a mighty 13 1/2 lbs and 24 inches of pure baby delight), gestational diabetes ups the ante significantly.  If that was the only serious side affect of gestational diabetes, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, there are several other unfortunate potential by-products of gestational diabetes that give me pause for concern.

I realize that the idea of giving up all sweets seems … well… un-American.

I mean, who does that?

But after taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, reviewing the scale, and looking in the mirror again, I decided that I need to do just that.

Oh, not to worry, the idea of giving up all sweets did not come without serious mental protest and angst.  My poor, sugar-addicted brain said, “But dear Emily, what about BIRTHDAY cake?  What knd of person says NO to BIRTHDAY cake?? What about having something sweet to make eating healthy worth it?  Just a little bit of sweet stuff won’t hurt!”

Does a birthday cake make the birthday, I ask you?  Do I need a 3 p.m. sugar fix?  Do I need dessert after EVERY DINNER?  The fact that I tried to find reasons NOT to give it up was the biggest indicator that I SHOULD give it up.

I submit to you this: the celebration is to be augmented by the food.  The food is not to be augmented by the celebration.  This is a VERY difficult decision for me to give up sweets.  But I realized I was putting my desire to have a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ahead of being healthy.  I was putting a slice of amazing, gooey chocolate cake ahead of feeling good.

Not any more.  Starting tomorrow (I had ice cream before I made the decision today), Frank and I are quitting the sweets cold turkey.  It’s going to be difficult because I am going to have to be really honest about what is a sweet and what is not.  I thought about buying some Fiber-One bars for their fiber-related benefits and because… wait for it… they also have a chocolate product.  Houston, I have a problem.  Using a Fiber-One bar to “replace” candy is not right.

And, of course, I realize that my eating habits are causing a rift with God and in my marriage.  I know that sounds far-fetched, but bear with me.  When I eat poorly, I feel bad about myself.  Instead of focusing on becoming the person that God wants me to be, I focus on how bad I feel about myself.  And if that’s not enough, I happen to have a wonderful, sweet, adoring husband who thinks that I am beautiful, no matter what, but I turn him away so I can have a self-loathing pity party.  Now, Frank muscles through it, but I think about how much BETTER my marriage would be if we avoided these kinds of pity parties all together.

So anyway.  This is my new adventure.  Anyone else want to join me?  I plan on discussing this frequently on the blog as I am anticipating a lot of withdrawal symptoms that may include “the shakes” and inexplicable crying/anger.  But once I get through the detox portion, I expect that I will feel MUCH better.  Right?  ::scratches arms, looks for a candy bar:: Right??

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brave

I am not a brave person.

Ask Frank.

When I am walking up the stairs and he chases after me, I sit down on the stairs and curl up.

True story.  It’s like my knees stop working.

Fight or flight?

Is laying down and dying an option?

And this transcends into other areas of my life.

The amount of effort it takes for me to do things often seems monumental.

And sometimes, I wonder why things fail and I realize that my fear stopped me from taking a critical step.

I know that I am smart.  Maybe not genius IQ, but I know enough to be dangerously effective.

But fear of disappointing people stops me in my tracks.

My dear friend and fellow blogger, Heidi, found out that she is expecting.  This baby is so wanted!

But she has been hurt a lot – four years + of infertility and two miscarriages are stunningly difficult things to endure.

She vocalizes something I’ve worried about since we realized that this fertility biz was not looking awesome for us: that once we get pregnant, what if there is more pain?

And I wonder, do I have what it takes to make it through the first 9 weeks of pregnancy without wondering if every ache and pain is a sign of another loss?

Can I be brave?

And not just in pregnancy – but in all areas of life: work, family, friends, missions, finances, etc?

I think I can.  I am pretty sure I can.

And I have a God that says I can.

I think about the disciple Peter a lot.  The oldest of the disciples.  The one who Jesus regularly used as an example.

One day, the disciples were in a boat in the midst of a raging storm, and Jesus walks on water to them and quiets the storm.

Wanting to be just like his teacher – and believing bravely that he CAN be just like his teacher – Peter follows Jesus out onto the water.

And Peter walks on water.

Pastor Rob Bell points out that it is when Peter hesitates – when he lets fear creep in – when he stops believing in himself – that he starts to sink.

Pastor Bell points out that Jesus BELIEVED in Peter.

But Peter did not believe in Peter.

And I wonder, is God walking along side me telling me, “You CAN do this!”

And I am not failing at things because God didn’t answer a prayer or give me enough or teach me enough or instruct me enough: I have to own up to the fact that I might be failing because I don’t believe that I can do it.

God has already provided me with everything I could ever need.

Supplying the bravery is up to me.

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So, as you can tell from my previous post, the recovery from the D&C hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.  There are a few *minor* side affects that are still working their way out of my system.

But in an effort to return to normal, Frank and I took a few steps towards feeling more normal.

First, we left the house.  Not that I haven’t left the house, but I’ve really only left in order to go to work or the grocery store.  I haven’t gone out on social visits, really.  So, first step was to visit my parents and see my sister’s new townhouse.  It was really nice.  I think it helped that the sun was shining and it was over 40 degrees. (side note: there comes a time in every winter that I think, “it will NEVER again be above 40!” and then, miraculously, it is above 40 degrees).

Then we went to get my oil changed on my car.  I know I should be better about changing my oil. I know that.  But for some reason, I have a mental block when it comes to changing my oil.  So a few hundred miles over the limit and a few *ahem* weeks over the date limit, my oil is changed and dear George (the name for my car) is a happy camper.

After the Midas adventure, we went to check out cars.  Not because we are buying a car right now, but because I like to see new, shiny cars.  We sat in a few vehicles, looked at a few certified used ones on the lot and then did the next thing that came to mind: we took a nap!

My dear friend Allison brought over some delicious baked mostaccoli – YUM!  We also stopped by Frank’s friend Jeff’s house for a Loser Party.  Yes, that’s right, a Loser Party.  Everyone who came received a “loser” ribbon and a take home gift of Easy Mac and canned Spaghettio type food.  Yum.

Such a typical Saturday, yet I felt the best that I’ve felt in a week.  And that is awesome.  Praise God for great Saturdays!

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