fractured, inspiration

There is always light

Over the past few days, I have read article after article, trying to figure out how we can go back to normal. I read about different possibilities of what might happen and I want to know how this end. But we don’t go back to normal–we find a a new normal instead, something that we can’t wrap our minds around right now.

If we are always thinking about and looking to the the future, we can miss the good that is happening now. Yesterday, I did a video chat with all of my family members. I watched my kids as they played outside for ages. I watched a video of quarantined people in Italy making music on balconies. 

I realized that I don’t have to hope for a better future.

I can have hope for now.

If worst-case-scenario happens and it’s awful, you can tell your children you love them. You can serve in small ways. Worst-case-scenario will never be without hope and happiness somewhere.

There is no hole so deep and there is so circumstance that is too bleak that light cannot enter in some way.

No matter how hard life is, there is still good. Good is infinite and it never ends. Right in each moment, there is something good you can do. In despair, you can do something.

You don’t need to pause your life and wait for things to work out. You can live for now.

As long as you keep creating and loving, you can keep living.

No matter what is happening in life, you have the ability to create something. You have the ability to connect. You have the ability to help.

Music and art and words and laughter and growth and friendship are always there. That is where hope is.

The essence of our lives is not the convenience, but the innovation and the creativity.

If you want joy, create. Draw. Sing. Write. Make something. And then share it. Connect. And that creating and connecting can never go away.

The world won’t end. Because the best parts of life, family and people and learning and growing and being, those best parts can never, ever be taken away from us.

Take hope not in the end of trial, but in that fact that no matter the difficult circumstances, you can wake up, greet the sunrise, and live beautifully right in that moment.

inspiration

Hope

Things are rough right now. Pandemics and earthquakes and economic uncertainty. We are looking at a recession and a health crisis and we are all stuck at home, isolated from normal life. I’ve been checking the news constantly, though I’m not sure what I am looking for–some way to understand this? Some morsel of hope that this will end and life can go back to normal?

But it will end. We will recover. That’s what people do. We pick themselves up and we keep going.

There is hope. So much hope. I have been reading some books about when times were harder than they are now–times in war and famine; times where disease was rampant and healthcare was almost nonexistent and children and parents died. We have learned so much since then–we have learned how to treat and prevent disease, how to stabilize an economy, and how to build better infrastructure.

Let’s not feel entitled to our comforts and our easy way of living. We are accustomed to good health and to readily available care. Our large, warm homes protect us with readily available food and supplies in abundance. We are used to continual growth and innovation and prosperity. And those things haven’t gone away.

We are resilient. The hard things in life do not derail us from the love and hope and charity that abound in the world. The hard things are a catalyst to strengthen all that is good. We can remember everything that we have and to be extraordinarily grateful.

While so many things are shut down, we have the internet that allows us to continue on in remarkable ways. We can still see each other and talk to each other. Our schools and work can transition to our computers and phones. With our technology, we can order basically anything we want to buy and stay updated with the latest news and find stories of people helping and serving others. And we can listen to messages of hope.

It’s a time for a different type of growth. We can learn humility, preparedness, self-reliance, unity, and connection with our families. And we can feel hope and peace that the Lord’s hand is in our life in the small details.

My Grandma Walker passed away two days ago. But she saw the good things in the world. I remember her smiling often. She was so grateful for other people. She trusted in God’s love for her. When she was young, her family would be running out of food and she would go down to the cellar and always find something more. As a teacher throughout her life, she shared her faith in others. Miracles were not the exception; miracles were how the Lord worked and she saw them often in her life.

Grandma Walker

I have hope this morning, even though it is Wednesday and I usually hate Wednesdays. It can be a good Wednesday because I am grateful for my family, for this world, for the chance to write this, and for happiness and joy that will always return and persist through any difficult time.

essay

Solutions and Decisions

Everyone faces difficult questions. Moms ask: Should I stay at home with my kids? Should I go to work? What is best for my kids? What is best for me? How do I take care of my children and my finances and my mental health? Is it selfish to have ambitions? Is it okay to focus on myself? Is it better to focus on other people?  Are public schools right for my kids? What about charter schools? What about online classes? What about private school? Should I homeschool? Should I move? Should we change jobs? Should we change careers? Should we go to school or not?

If you are in a different situation, you are asking different questions, but they have the same weight. Everyone is asking those sorts of questions all the time.

Sometimes we need to answer the questions and figure something out. But sometimes we are asking the wrong question. 

Sometimes I feel like I need to answer a question right away and figure it out. But then I just feel frustrated. I think that if I come up with an answer and I solve it, that everything will be right. And then when there isn’t a solution, I keep trying and trying to make something work. 

But often, I don’t need to ask those questions in the first place. A solution can come slowly, if I am patient. Or there may not be a solution. 

Sometimes life is not an equation with a variable that you can figure out. Life is a lot more messy than that, with approximations and confusion and imperfection. 

We often try to fix things, but in our effort to fix it, we lose the nuance and imperfection and chaos and beauty. 

We can throw away the needless guilt. We can throw away the thought that if we somehow tried a lot harder, everything would fall into place. We can stop pretending that we are able to take care of everything and everyone all at once. Because that isn’t going to happen. There are tradeoffs.

So instead of trying to solve life like a math equation, just do the best you can in the messy chaos. 

This applies to everything in life. We want solutions. We want to fix things. But politics and housing prices and healthcare and viruses don’t have one easy solution. Things are complicated. There is usually not one solution that works great for everyone.

Except loving other people. And prayer. And gratitude. 

Come to think of it, being grateful for what we have is a good way to start solving things in the right way.

do something, essay, meditations

Friendship

Option 1: Abigail is living her life. She has her routine: wake up, get ready, work, spend time with her family, read a book, go to bed. She has the occasional events with church and work and community and life. She lives in her own little sphere, and it’s pretty happy there. A bit lonely, but she has her routine that she keeps doing over and over again, so it’s okay. Social media and videos help with the loneliness. And if she gets feeling down, she does something special like taking herself out to dinner and travelling to see something new.

And then one day, Barbara knocks on her door at 7:00 in the morning. She brings Abigail breakfast with orange juice. It’s weird, but Abigail likes orange juice. Abigail isn’t sure what to say. And Barbara isn’t sure what to say either, but they exist there together eating toast, until they both resume their routine and go to work. Abigail is late, but she finds that she is happier than normal.

In the evening, Abigail texts Barbara and tells her thank you and that they should get together sometime. Abigail doesn’t expect a response, but Barbara says, “How about we go to lunch on Saturday?”

And so Abigail ends up having sushi with Barbara, and while she is there, Barbara offers to babysit her kids so that Abigail can have a date night with her husband next Friday night at 6:30.

But Abigail feels confused. She had been living happily in her sphere and no one bothered her, but here is Barbara, inserting herself into Abigail’s life and she feels like she finally has a friend.

Barbara comes and babysits on Friday. And then Abigail decides she is going to text Barbara something a few days later, though this feels a little awkward and weird. “Hey–do you want to go have lunch again tomorrow?” And she nervously clicks send.

“Sure! That’s sounds awesome!”

And so it continues. Abigail finds out that Barbara has lots of other friends, and then Abigail get lots of other friends, and then she don’t exist in her own little sphere at all. She doesn’t feel lonely very much anymore.

Option 2: Barbara thinks it is too awkward to bring someone over breakfast first thing in the morning, and so she stays home and sends the occasional text message but never feels like she has any friends.

Friendship is not about giving people space. It’s not about waiting for convenient times and it does not take place on the internet. Being a friend is when you insert yourself into someone’s life and you both end up happier because of it. It can be awkward. There are missteps and confusion. You do things wrong a lot, but that’s okay. You can’t keep waiting for an invitation. Friendship doesn’t wait for an invitation. Friendship is the invitation, and it comes from you.

 

fractured, meditations

Thoughts

  • I’ve always thought I had a problem spending too much time on the computer and that if I could just get better, I would overcome the problem and it would be gone. It was my problem, and I had to come up with a solution. But that’s not really how things work: computers and the internet and all of that can be distracting and addicting for everyone. It’s not my problem. It’s a problem that exists, and no matter I do, the problem will still exist. It’s not really a matter of overcoming it. I don’t need to feel guilty because computers are distracting. That’s not my fault. But I can do the best I can with what I have to work with.
  • Being really intelligent is when you can strip away the posturing and just have good and simple ideas without complicated phrasing and appeals to authority. Smart people don’t feel the need to sound smart, and often the simplest way to say something is the best.
  • Money is very tempting to use to quantify basically everything, but the numbers usually don’t tell us much. What is more important is service and caring for other people in small and significant ways, and that can’t be quantified.
  • The most important relationships are with our family.

 

 

fractured, meditations

Rejecting Productivity

I’m not great at this. I love being productive. I love getting so many things done in a day. And it sounds like a really good thing: learn and create and do and earn and work and work and work.

I love hard work. But productivity is this whole other thing. It’s the rate of output per unit. It’s being able to do so many things with the hours you have in your day. We celebrate it a lot. More is better (which is usually true in the study of economics, but they have it wrong because it’s not accurate for life).

I find myself basing my self-worth on my productivity levels. Which makes me sound like I’m sort of machine, some sort of statistic as I try to increase my output. But I’m not working for anyone, except for my family, and they really don’t care much about my output at all.

I have these ridiculous to-do lists and goals, and a lot of times, I do a lot. Right now, I’m homeschooling my kids, remodeling a house, and taking two college classes. And I do more too, because that’s life: I blog and I write and I read books and I cook and I clean and I drive a lot. I learn extra things, like R and data science. I’ve been scanning and sorting photographs from my grandparents. I visit friends. I redecorated some rooms a few weeks ago. I play the piano. I exercise. And there is so much that I put on my lists: transcribe, start a business, write a book, etc. etc. etc. Some people are impressed with how much I do, and that feels nice–but I don’t know if it’s the best direction to go in.

I often think about my life in terms of how much I’ve accomplished. I look back at certain times and think that I really didn’t do much because I wasn’t involved in a whole lot of major projects. But I am not necessarily a better person because of my goals and accomplishments. Some things that I really would like to do (go outside more) just don’t happen. I find myself overwhelmed and I shut down.

I have searched and watched and read about how to do more with the time that I have. But doing more just to do more really isn’t helpful. Being productive is not always the right thing to do.

There are meaningful things in my life, things that I love, that I don’t always have time for. And I want to change that.

I’m not sure how. This is more of a question, a beginning, and that’s okay. I hate giving up projects. There are so many things that are undone and so many things I want to do.

A part of me wants to really likes to define my life by how much I accomplished. But so many little things don’t matter very much at all. I need increased focus. I need to learn how to say no. And I need to not do things just to say that I did it, just to increase my output without any reason.

What do you think?

essay

It’s okay to not be okay

When I was younger, I remember hearing from people who were so happy and optimistic. They seemed to deal with difficult things with grace and gratitude. And I wanted to be like them.

I thought that if I was good enough, I would be able to go through life without deep pain and struggle. When hard times came, if I had enough faith and trust in God, then it wouldn’t hurt. I could meet it with optimism and faith and joy.

That was a lie I told myself. I didn’t want to feel pain. I was running away from pain, thinking that I wanted a perfect and happy life where I had this amazing attitude all the time. I thought religion meant that I wouldn’t have to feel pain. I thought being good enough meant that I had a good attitude at all times.

And now I have felt deep pain that has teared me apart and put me back together. I have not had any deep tragedy in my life. But I have had struggles that have driven me to despair. I have faced my own imperfections and saw that I would never be the ideal I had set for myself.

I sat with my pain today. I didn’t feel guilty. I didn’t try to make it go away. I didn’t feel a need to be productive and happy. I just let myself cry. It was a small thing: I missed my home that I can’t live in.

And I didn’t tell myself I needed to have this amazing attitude. I didn’t need to feel happy and put this pressure on myself to be and do everything right. I didn’t need to fix the problem either.

I have had a hard time sharing pain with others because I’ve always ran away from it in my own life. But when I prayed today, it wasn’t with this hope that things would work out. Because that isn’t true when you are in pain: things won’t work out because they hurt right then and that pain is real. And it’s okay to not feel hopeful and optimistic. It’s okay to cry.

I know the moment will pass and I do know that hope is around the corner, but I am also finally okay with the fact that life will hurt. My hope is no longer in the deliverance from pain. I prayed that I could continue in the life I have, knowing that it will continue to hurt for a while. I’m not desperately looking for the way out.

The biggest comfort comes in knowing I can move forward with the pain, knowing that my heart is big enough to contain it.

Because in the pain, there is also joy. Almost all of our pain comes because we had happiness. We felt loved. We loved others. Joy and sorrow often come together: we love knowing that we will someday say goodbye. We work knowing that it will someday be torn down and forgotten. We live knowing we will die. We build a home knowing we will leave.

There is sorrow because there is joy and joy because there is sorrow. And I want the joy. Which means that I must accept the sorrow that goes with it.

If hard things happen to me, I don’t have to tell myself that things will work out. I don’t need to skip over the pain and fight it with optimism and hope. I don’t need to say everything is fine and put a brave face on.

I will let myself cry. I will let myself be imperfect. I will let myself sorrow and know that things can be hard and overwhelming without recompense. And I will not apologize to others for being sad, excusing myself as if sadness was some sort of flaw that should be hidden away. I will have the integrity to not be ashamed of my struggle.

(Or I will feel guilty and hide and make mistakes and that’s okay too because I’m still learning.)

I am finally not hiding from what life is, though the process has been slow and continues.

But in the end, I am more grateful for the hard times than the easy times. I have found myself more in failure than in success. I feel so much less ashamed of myself in realizing my imperfections.

Life is messy and chaotic and beautiful because of it.

essay, home

Things I Learned From Getting a Building Permit

Recently, I obtained a building permit for a remodel. The reputation of this building department was quite negative, and I had heard stories of people taking years to get permits to build their houses. I was doing a remodel, not a new building, but I wondered if I could even get a building permit by myself.

We decided to try it anyway. I had contacted architects and builders and no one got back with me, and I don’t think they wanted to work on this project. I love the house because my grandpa built it, but it is unique.

So for months, I researched and worked and I came up with my own building plans.

We submitted the plans and I did not expect them to be approved. There were a few different departments who had to review plans. I got one rejection for my site plan, and I immediately called the department and talked to him about a few things and get on the same page.

A while later, I got another rejection. I again picked up my phone and called the health department about my septic system. I gathered up some information and emailed that out.

Then one morning, I got an email. Everything else was approved. I literally did not believe it when I saw that email. I was sure that they would be rejected. I had worked on it for so long, but there things that I was guessing at. And they just approved it.

I resubmitted a site plan. I wasn’t sure they were going to approve the new one, but then they did. The person reviewing the plan called to make sure that I was planning on working on this for 18 months. Yes, the July 2021 date was correct.

After paying my fees, I have a building permit. I am grateful for my sister, Liz, who did a grading plan for us. Besides that, I did it all.

And now, things I’ve learned:

  • Be honest. I tried to be as honest and open about everything about my house. It was tempting at times to try to hide something or stretch the truth, but it was so much easier to be honest. And it worked.
  • Follow the rules. I could have tried to remodel without a building permit, but that wouldn’t have been legal. I tried to do what the county wanted me to do and follow the rules they had to the best of my ability. I looked up building codes and laws and tried my best to follow it all.
  • Being honest and following the rules brings inner peace. I feel at peace with myself and the plans and the project. I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Stick yourself out there. I wanted to hide because I didn’t always know what I’m doing, but I didn’t hide. I submitted things. It was scary, but it was okay.
  • Work with people and they will work with you. I think because I called and talked to people on the phone, they actually helped me out and approved things when it wasn’t technically perfect. I would explain my project honestly and what we were planning and doing and then it felt like we were on the same team instead of working against each other.
  • Ask questions when you need to and admit when you don’t know something.
  • You can do more than you think you can. I didn’t think I could do this in the beginning. I did it because I didn’t really have a choice–I wanted to remodel this house and no one would work for me so I had to come up with plans by myself. And I did it.
  • Building isn’t very complicated. Building basic buildings and remodeling does not require you to be an architect or an engineer or have twenty years of experience.
  • You can learn to do just about anything on the internet.

meditations

Gifts

We don’t want toys. We want to play. 

We don’t want books. We want to read. 

We don’t want games. We want to spend time with each other.

The best gifts are a promise of a happy life–together–with love.

essay

Confidence

The other day, I was making some phone calls. I have told myself that I don’t like talking on the phone and I thought that I wasn’t very good at it. But during this phone call, I paid attention for a minute and I realized that I am good at it. I was probably better at it than the person I was talking to, and she was getting paid.

For a lot of my life, I have dreaded making phone calls because I was afraid that I was going to say the wrong thing and have awkward moments. I had this in my head that I my brain would turn off when I was on the phone. But it doesn’t. I am perfectly capable of thinking during a phone call.

But because I haven’t had any confidence, that means my fear has caused the awkward moments I was afraid of. When you don’t have confidence, it’s really hard to do your best. You become a self-fulfilling prophecy and doom yourself to failure.

You interact with people better if you are confident in your own skills and happy with who you are. You exercise better when you view yourself as a strong person who enjoys exercising. You perform better if you know that you can perform well.

Confidence can be a really helpful thing to overcome fears and get things done. Just tell yourself that you are good at something. Even if you aren’t quite sure. Just pretend. And you usually will surprise yourself of your own capabilities.