balance

Somedays You Just Show Up: Or Why I Haven’t Been Writing

On October 1 I started a 31 day writing challenge. It was exhilarating. I had my most popular post ever. I was participating in a great blogging community, and learning new things about blogging and writing every day. I knew that I had some busy days coming up – traveling, going out of town, and I had already granted myself grace that I would not be able to write every day. Things got busy, and I was able to write one post in the middle of things. And then I hit a wall. I wasn’t only finding myself too busy to write, I was AVOIDING writing.

Today, I told my husband that I’ve been rebelling against myself. I know I need to start writing again, and the best way I know to sort through all of the thoughts swirling in my head is to write about it. My heart is in turmoil, life continues to happen, and rather than dealing with things, I am just letting them swirl in my head and heart, which does nothing to help. So here, in no particular order, are the things that are on my heart.

I’m showing up, and that is about the best I can do today.

1. I loved the writing challenge, but it was a lot of pressure. Especially because as I was writing about finding balance, challenging myself to write every day was actually pushing things out of balance because:

a) time on Facebook takes away from my quiet and contemplative time, and one of the things I had been looking forward to was getting off of Facebook for a while. However, one of the best parts of the challenge was connecting with others on the FB site, and publicizing my blog on FB

b) I started a series and didn’t want to finish it. I have one more part to the series, and then I can move on to what is really on my heart. My last part of “Finding Community” was about the importance of fun in friendship, and I was finding the whole thing boring, and not fun at all to write about.

b) I had my most viewed post ever. Going from about 20-50 views a day to over 600 in one day was encouraging, but then I started watching stats – which is something I did NOT want to do. I don’t want to have to analyze and over-edit every post. I don’t want to care about word counts. I don’t want to watch new views and visitors. I just want to write to myself and anyone who happens to decide to walk with me. (Like I said, I have an issue with balance – I’m a recovering all-or-nothing type of person.)

2. I was out of town having fun with friends at Disneyland, and then at a hospice and palliative care conference. Not excuses, just my truth. I did not want to take time out of having fun with my friends, or take time away from learning OR from the beautiful solitude and relaxation of Lake Chelan, where the conference was held.

Campbell Resort at Lake Chelan, Washington by Kristin Meador

Campbell Resort at Lake Chelan, Washington by Kristin Meador

3. I really wanted to watch Doctor Who and the season premiere of the Walking Dead. No apologies. So there.

4. There are some possible changes coming up in my life – and the changes could be major. (Jobs, homes, kids, finances – a lot of possibilities brewing)

5. I miss my kids. My oldest moved into his own home this fall, my youngest is 3,000 miles away, and my middle son is home but never here. It’s all good – they’re supposed to fly, right? But my nest is feeling big and empty. And my sweet young friend who lives with us is getting married in less than a month, and I am going to miss her desperately.

6. I spent this afternoon watching a funeral on live stream. A friend of the family died this week. She was 37 years old.  She had fought this amazing fight against a brain tumor for ten years. TEN YEARS. This was the kind of story I used to encourage others who were fighting cancer, and the kind of story that encouraged me as a hospice nurse. She had a positive attitude, researched alternative treatments, and loved and trusted Jesus all throughout this journey. This week her story changed, and she finished her race valiantly.

I think that the grief for her loss, for her husband and two young sons who are left behind, and for her brother and mama and papa who walked this path with her has hit me more than I anticipated. My heart is broken for all of them.

And I am reminded (which I know as a hospice nurse) that grief is cumulative. I wrote about this on my hospice blog, The H Word, in an essay called “Vicarious Trauma: When Your Heart Can’t Hold Any More Stories“.

I think about my own sister, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 19 almost 27 years ago. I think about the babies I lost years ago through miscarriage. I think about all of the patients I have lost over the past ten years. I have had three close friends diagnosed with cancer in three years. Grief upon grief, story upon story, they never leave you.

And sometimes the grief leaks out and takes me by surprise.

Photo credit: sethoscope creative commons

Photo credit: sethoscope creative commons

7. Another thing I am grieving is a broken relationship that needs mending. My heart is struggling between being healthy and forgiving and loving and setting boundaries versus feeling unsafe or allowing myself to continue to be victimized. What is the most loving thing? As I listened to the funeral today, one of the young woman’s friends spoke about the importance, even during the worst of times, of remaining “soft and obedient”. I don’t remember the exact words, but my prayer today is this:

How can I be a loving, soft, brave, and obedient warrior?

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The Importance of Stories: Part 3 of Finding Community

October 8, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 8: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

 Being in community with others helps bring balance to our lives. Sharing our stories helps us develop community.

I was just looking over my notes from the Storyline Conference I attended in San Diego last February. Donald Miller has been one of my favorite authors since I first read Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality. But it was his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that really made an impact on my life. In the book he compares the making of a movie about his life to the story that we are writing in our own lives.

Are you living the story you want to live?

Is your story purposeful?

If not, what needs to change in your life to write a better story?

Here are some quotes that I wrote down (I think it was during Donald Miller’s opening talk).

Jesus is calling us into meaning. God didn’t create us to live in reaction (to the things happening around us) but to be co-creators of a meaningful life (with Him). God gave you a blank book. Together, are you writing a meaningful story?

And my favorite

What will the world miss if you don’t tell your beautiful story? 

As a hospice nurse, I see the value of stories every day. The stories I carry of the patients that I have cared for make me a better nurse. The story I lived with one ALS patient and his family will make me an even better nurse when caring for my next ALS patient. When I meet with a family whose loved one has just been told they have weeks to live, they have a need to share their story. When I meet with dying patients, life review and sharing their stories is some of the important work that people do at the end of life.

Sharing our stories as we build friendships is also important, but it should be a give and take. You share part of yours, I will share part of mine. And piece by piece, the picture on the puzzle becomes clear.

And believe me, EVERYONE has a story.

Why it’s important to share your story:

Sharing your heart with someone, telling them your story, is how we get to know one another. Beyond just the “How are you doing today?” “Oh, fine, how are you?” To be brave enough to tell your story is to take off the mask and show where you came from, how you have grown, who you are now, and who you hope to be. That is the beginning of a reciprocal, heart-to-heart friendship.

Why it’s important to listen to another person’s story:

Of course there is the obvious, because that is how you get to know them. But it goes much deeper than that. When someone shares part of their story, they are giving you a little piece of themselves. If you are flippant or callous, or even if you just aren’t fully present, they may not share again with you. If we treat the gift of their story with an open heart, a present being, and hands of gentle grace no matter what they tell us, we build trust, which paves the way for friendship and deeper community.

Why EVERYONE’S story is important:

I have learned in the past few years that if I have an instant dislike for someone, or if they rub me the wrong way, one of the most important (and difficult) things to do is to take time to learn their story. In the past I would be more likely to just avoid difficult people, especially people who seem purposely cruel or who treat others poorly. But I found that as I took time to listen to them, to ask questions, to spend time with them, little by little, puzzle piece by puzzle piece, they would give me bits of their story. (Trust is very hard for difficult people). And as I started putting the puzzle of their story together, it helped me to love them more. As they shared ever so cautiously about the pain in their lives, it helped me to understand their anger, or their refusal to help others, or their habit of lashing out. From there, even if I don’t like their behavior or the way they treat others, I can try to understand where they are coming from.

Hearing the stories of difficult people helps me to give them the gift of grace.

So, what kind of story are you writing?

What do you need to change to write a better story?

With whom will you share a piece of your story this week?

Who’s story will you listen to this week?

Tell me your beautiful story

Part 2 – Testing the Waters and Vulnerability

October 7, 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 7: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 
 

So yesterday I wrote about our desire for community, the lesson I learned about making my life count, and the clues I look for when searching for someone with whom I might share my heart. You can read part 1 here. So how do you test the waters when searching for community, for someone with whom to share your heart?

3. Testing the Waters.

In my search for balance, I have learned that while it’s important to share your story, not everyone is worthy of hearing it.

So when you think, “Hmmmm. This is someone I could possibly share my heart with.” The next thing I usually do is to test the waters. I used to just blurt out my story to anyone and everyone, but I learned that not everyone is worthy of my story.

“Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding . . .”  Stephen Russel

Being vulnerable and sharing your story can be scary. It is scary.

(I want to talk with you who are so afraid, or who have been so wounded that you have decided to build a wall and never share. Maybe those you trust have let you down, and you have decided. “That will never happen again.” I know that place – you feel safe, and if you never share, no one can hurt you. I want you to know this, if you build a wall, not only are you keeping out the possiblity of pain, you wall yourself off from you, and  the possiblity of connection.)

So I test the waters by sharing a piece of my story. Which piece depends on with whom I am sharing. I try to listen to my heart, and

the heart often whispers, so you need to listen carefully.

When I get the courage to share my story, I see the following reactions:

  1. “Oh” or a blank look, and then they make a joke or change the subject. This is not a person who is ready to hear any more of my story.
  2. “I know just what you mean” and then they proceed to tell me how that have been through the very same thing, only much worse, trying to one-up my story. I don’t have the energy to mess with that.
  3. Some people are so shocked, they don’t know how to respond. If someone has a need to hold me in a certain light and doesn’t want to hear about my mistakes or my flaws, well, they are living in dream land, because I am all about revealing my flaws. I find that this makes many people uncomfortable, not because they want me to be perfect, but because they have a deep fear of admitting (or sometimes even looking at) their own perfections.
  4. The person who hears part of my story, especially when I talk about my marriage or parenting mistake, and feels shame for me, then sits there awkwardly, not knowing what to say. Then I have to make them feel better. No, that is not someone with whom I will share my heart. I am learning to become friends with my shame, and that is excrutiating for many people, because shame begats shame, and when our shame is reflected back to us, it can be unbearable.
  5. The person who tries to fix it, make it better, or make a cliche’ out of my story.

So what do I look for?

I look for someone who can connect with my story. Someone who is brave enough to sit with the shame, or the pain, and just let it be. Someone who doesn’t run from it, or try to cover it or fix it.

Someone who says, “I see you, you didn’t scare me off. I may not understand where you’ve been, but I’m just going to walk alongside you.”

I have to be honest, those people are few and far between. But when you find them, they are pricelss gems, and worth hanging on to.

So  what does this look like?

Say I meet someone, and they have some of the clues I mentioned in my last post, and we decide to get together for coffee. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m so glad you joined me for coffee. How about this weather? Hey I just wanted you to know that I was abused as a child, I am a Christian but I havent attended church regularly in years, sometimes I feel like my life motto is “I hate people”, I have been through the 12-steps as a recovering bulemic and survivor of sexual abuse, I betrayed my husband and almost killed my marriage, my son moved away once to become a drug dealer, and I sometimes feel like lying to make myself look better in they eyes of others. And you?”

Embarrassingly enough, there was a time when I was so raw that I would berbally throw up on almost everyone I met. But I have learned that not everyone is worthy of my story, and that some pieces are meant to be shared with only the most precious. In conversation, I will just put out a little bread crumb, “Such and such happened when our marriage was going through a really tough time.” “We had a tough time when my son was using drugs.” “Sometimes I just don’t feel like God is listening.” And then I see if they follow the trail. If they do, then I put out another crumb. If they don’t, then I listen to their story, and go from there.

Brene Brown has done some amazing work around the concept of vulnerability. I love her words:

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community – part 1

October 6 2014 by Kristin Meador
 
Day 6: For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

If there is one thing that I know we all have in common, it is the desire for connection. Building and growing your community are essential for finding balance. We cannot be a community of one.

Whether you’re an extrovert and are energized by being with people, or an introvert and are drained by being with people and need alone time to refresh, we are made for connection. It looks different for each individual, but we are wired for community. Deep in our heart of hearts, we long for it.

Many years ago we had moved to a new town and were getting settled with our two young boys, then ages 2 and 6 months, and I was lonesome. I was a young mom and we had finally found a home church, but I was so unsure of myself. I was 26 year old stay at home mom, and I had no idea who I was or who I was supposed to be. It seemed that all the other moms had it all together – always dressed to the nines, hair perfectly in place, kids sitting quietly at the pew. In the meantime, I had one kid is screaming in the nursery, and the other one yelling “My penis itches!” in the middle of prayer. So much for having it together.

To be truthful, I really didn’t want to be friends with the women who had it all together (at least I thought they had it all together). People who smile too much make me suspicious (you know, those people who smile even when they’re angry? I don’t trust them). I knew I could never measure up, and it would be too much pressure. But my heart longed for a friend, for grown-up conversation, for someone to share my heart with in these early days of mommyhood.

So how do we find real, genuine people with whom we can share our hearts?

Here are the lessons I have learned on my journey:

1. Lessons from a funeral: Make it count.

During those early days, I attended a funeral for a woman from church. I didn’t know her, but I was helping serve the meal afterwards, so I came early and attended the funeral. As I listened to family and friends review her life, I was struck not by what she had done or even who she was, but how she loved. I heard story after story about how she had loved her friends, shown up in times of need, and given of herself for others. Not for a salary, not for recognition, but just because of who she was. I thought long and hard after that funeral – what kind of friend am I? What will people say about me after I’m gone? Am I making an impact on the lives I touch, or am I just existing and surviving? I knew that I was just surviving. That I was waiting for life to come to me, I was waiting for people to invite me into their lives, but I wasn’t making an effort to love others. I wasn’t reaching out. And that day, I determined that

I wanted my life to count for more. I wanted deeper relationships. I wanted to touch the hearts of others.

This was the beginning of being purposeful with my friendships.

 2. Looking for Clues:

I think I have refined this process as I’ve gotten older. When I’m looking for a kindred spirit, I look for clues, or ways that we are similar and might connect. My clues can be kind of eclectic, which I think sometimes makes it difficult for me to find a sister spirit to connect with. I look for commonalities that form a bond, and then I proceed from there.

You’re probably going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I feel compelled to share.

Some possible bonding points that I look for are (not necessarily in order – and remember, this is my list. Yours will look different): nursing, particularly hospice care; Disneyland; Doctor Who; people who love the book “Blue Like Jazz” ; people who have attended the Storyline conference; church people who aren’t afraid to swear sometimes; LOST fans (the ABC show); people involved in social justice and serving those in need; people who are working the 12-steps; ADD/ADHD (either in them or their children); women who read the Momastery blog; people who binge watch too much tv (and aren’t apologetic); moms who are not afraid to talk about their imperfect children, particularly the ones that are not on the path they had hoped for them; allies for the LGBT community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) you remember the command – Love one another? Not ‘beat them over the head with your bible’; people who aren’t afraid to admit their flaws; people who can laugh at themselves but don’t mock others; people who like road trips and happy hour. (This list is just a start, but is not all inclusive).

I also have some clues that tell me that a person may not be a good choice to share my heart with (remember – this list is individual to me. You might have your own list: people who don’t own a tv and mention it often; people whose children are not perfect but they will never admit it, or worse yet, lie about it; people who mock others (especially publicly, like on Facebook); Christians who post bigoted or hateful posts on social media; people who smile all the time (as already mentioned); people who gossip (because they’re going to be talking about you next); people who can only speak in Christianese; married people who say they never fight; married people who constantly put each other down in public; people who Jesus-juke you on social media (for instance, if I post something from Disneyland like “Having fun at the Happiest Place on Earth” and they comment “Yes, that is the happiest place . . .  until we get to heaven!”)

Now I’m not saying that any of these things are deal-breakers. I’m just saying that I see those clues, I may be more likely to share or not share my heart with you. And sharing our hearts is the beginning of community.

 

So this post is getting too long, I’m going to have to continue tomorrow – in which I will write about testing the waters, the importance of our stories, purposeful friendships and building a chosen family, and my FAVORITE part, the importance of fun!

I’m sure that this post is going to alienate some of the lovely individuals who visited my page yesterday, In thinking about it, that’s kind of how I roll. I find that being a truth-teller and living life intensely, people will either love you, hate you, or tolerate you.

So this is my truth. I hope you will stick with me for the rest of Of Funerals, Friends, Fun, and Finding Community.

 

31 Days in My Search for Balance: body, mind, and soul

For the month of October, I’ve joined over 1600 other writers in a 31 Day writing challenge. You can read more about it and see the participating blogs at write31days.com  Here is the starting page for 31 Days of My Search for Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. From there you can find all of my October posts. 

 I’m calling this series 31 Days of My Search For Balance: Body, Mind, and Soul. I have accepted this writing challenge as a step out of my comfort zone, so put on your seat belt, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . . .

So I’m showing up. It’s scary, and I feel nervous and vulnerable, a little naked. But I’m here.

As a woman of fifty (how the hell did that happen?) who has only recently returned to writing, accepting a 31 day writing challenge is terrifying. I just spent two hours trying to figure out what a ‘linky’ is and how to get it right. I may or may not have figured it out. I changed the theme of my blog because I wasn’t happy with the previous one, or the one before that, or the one before that, and I thought that if there is even a remote chance that more people will be reading this it should at least be pleasing to the eye. At least more pleasing than it was 10 minutes ago.

I loved to write when I was a child and a teenager. English was the only subject I LOVED in high school. The one time I tried pot  to English out behind the backstop in between 2nd and 3rd period, I returned to class to write a paper. At the end of class, I went to proofread my paper and realized I had forgotten to write about half of the sentences, so I never tried pot again. Because I loved writing that much. (And it made me cough more than cigarettes, which I started in the fourth grade but quit the summer of sixth grade after I smoked so many that I vomited in the middle of a movie theater. Yep, I’ve always been classy.)

I stopped writing creatively as I got older. In the past 15 years I’ve only written journals, nursing care plans, and APA style research papers. About 8 months ago I attended the Storyline conference, where I learned about living a better story. Learning about living a better story led to dreaming, and somehow dreaming led to writing. It was an unexpected joy, and it feels really good. I am ever so rusty, but I’m working out the kinks, blowing off the dust, and whatever other mixed metaphor you can think of.

I feel like I’ve found my heart again.

I accepted this writing challenge to step out of my comfort zone, and well, challenge myself a bit. While others have been preparing for this challenge for months, I just found out about this challenge on Day 1, so I am playing catch up (this is acutally Day 2). I have been writing about my search for balance, so this is a continuation of that journey, but now with a daily deadline.  Pppppffffttttt. It makes me anxious to think about, but I hope you (and by you, I mean my husband and my two best friends who read this and encourage me consistently, and anyone else who happens along) will find this a time to think about your life and heart as I search through the chaos that is life, trying to find balance.

Hello friends (and Craig), and thanks for joining me! And if we haven’t met, you can read more about me here.

And did I say thanks for joining me? I really mean that, so it’s worth saying twice.