Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

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The Beauty of “War Room:” Don’t Believe the Bad Reviews

Last Wednesday I heard about the Kendrick Brothers’ movie “War Room,” at choir practice.

Our choir director said it was a prayerful movie and that anyone of faith should go see it. That despite the title, it had nothing do with actual, political war. That an unbeliever who saw this movie would be convinced of the power of prayer.

I was sold immediately. I’m a believer, but it sounded like just my kinda movie.

Thursday night, the next day, I was invited to my parents’ for dinner, along with a longtime family friend. She’s a mother of five, a grandmother and a devout Catholic woman– I grew up next to her family.  I had planned to invite her and my step-mother.

Once I brought it up, SHE said she had heard about the movie and planned to invite ME! We both enjoy movies and are single. My step-mother ended up canceling, but she and I kept our plans.

We decided to share a medium popcorn and she asked for butter– just like me. Apparently there wasn’t enough salt, so she poured a heaping pile of it in some napkins, then folded it up into her purse so that we could disperse it in the middle as we ate our way through it. It made me laugh.

I was so glad she went with me. Like me, she’s a movie talker!

After, she wanted to stay and watch the credits. We were the last to leave. Afterward, we went for dinner, which I hadn’t been expecting. I had the best time.

I won’t spoil it- -but I will share a few details.

It’s an ambitious movie that works because it’s focused on one small family, and the way the one family member’s decision to surrender to a disciplined prayerful life transforms the family’s circumstances in every area.

The hero is an elderly woman named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie). I think she deserves an Oscar.

She’s got the sternness of Madea, with a little more empathy. She’s a small woman of fire– but she commands just as much respect as Madea. She’s the kind of woman who commands your attention. The kind of woman who refuses to accept your facade, no matter how good you think you are at hiding the pain. The kind of woman who reminds you that you deserve love. That you are accepted and forgiven, no matter what. The woman who teaches you about God’s grace.

Miss Clara notices something amiss in her realtor, Priscilla, and buts into her business in the loving way that older people tend to do. She wants to know about her marriage, her daughter, if she has a relationship with the Lord.

It parallels “Fried Green Tomatoes,” in that a woman’s life is set right by a deep friendship with an older woman, a mentor, who helps another adult woman who feels a bit lost.  This woman could have given up on a marriage that was held together only by contempt. Their own daughter felt unloved as a result of their constant fighting– there was no affection present at all. On the brink of infidelity, both partners in this marriage might have abandoned hope and ended up divorced.

But Priscilla (Elizabeth Jordan), the wife and mother who befriends Miss Clara, is so desperate she is open to prayer,

Miss Clara challenges her to fight FOR her husband, rather than with him. To fight in Jesus’ name.

And it’s Priscilla’s devotion to changing HERSELF, accepting her husband and loving him as is, and praying unceasingly for him, her daughter, and her own change of heart– that is what inspires.

It’s about acceptance, surrender, owning responsibilities, about amends.

About passing on your faith and what you’ve learned with others.

It’s about creating a physical space in your life to be with God and his Word– to pray for those you love most.

It’s about the Bible.

It makes me want to overhaul my own space– to create my own War Room. To eliminate the clutter.

To put the focus back where it out to be: on God.

I heard a lot of “That’s right!” and “Uh-huh,” and “AMEN!” in the rows surrounding us.

I know I will see this movie again.

Please, give it a chance. Even if you’re a non-believer. Especially if you are.

Love is a Force

which cannot be quelled.

which cannot be outnumbered,

nor rationalized away.

Time does not erode its steadfast warmth, abiding affection,

or choice to forgive.

Love is implicit trust over fear,

the grace and mercy which save.

Love is there when you are open to receive it,

when you are humbled, awed, thirsty.

It may not appear as expected,

but in a guise– to test you.

Thus, look for a small spark

of something to embrace, to accept.

Dare to hope, to invite

the miracle of love within.

Even if you don’t believe,

manifest your courage now.

Show love to others,

give what you don’t have.

And when you need it most,

once you’ve forgotten about you,

love will reappear and

you will be ready.

My Favorite People

are flawed.

But own it.

It’s a rare attribute– most are so concerned about their image, they feign perfection.

That extends to their happiness, their health, their job satisfaction, socio-economic status.

I like people don’t pretend. Who just wear their feelings openly.

Be that with their facial expression, body language, and what they do (or don’t) say.

Who SHARE their struggles.

You know you can trust those people.

I’m not one to hide my feelings. I did when I was younger.

But since I stopped, my life improved exponentially.

I like myself better, I’m more tolerant of other people. More humble.

People treat me with *more* respect, actually.

You may lose people along the way– but at least you’re being your true self. Over time, the right people will be attracted to and stick by you. I’m not saying to be cruel and irresponsible just because you *feel* like it. Be prepared to accept the consequences of your actions and words.

What I’m saying is, the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Don’t compromise your values and feelings just to perpetuate a facade for everyone else.

I’d rather be rejected for being myself than accepted for putting on an act.

It’s the HIDING that gets us all in trouble. Why be so afraid? It’s not weakness.

We’re all human– we’ve got that in common. We have bad days, aches and pains.

Physical limitations. Disappointments. Abject failures.

Don’t feel you’ve gotta impress everyone.

Be yourself. And I promise, the right people will adore you for it.

Give it a try.

People I Admire the Most

are not the most successful.

The ones with the best jobs, the newest cars, the impressive homes and apartments.

But the ones who are independent– who pave their own way, even if the progress seems slow.

Who live within their means and are debt-free, or working toward it.

Who work constantly because they don’t want a hand-out, even if they barely get any sleep.

I admire those who are sober, or aspire toward it. It’s a hard road, but worth the struggle.

I admire people with the biggest hearts.

The ones who listen and remember.

Who challenge you, and inspire you to grow.

The ones who enjoy one-on-one time with you, and never care what you look like.

The ones who are kind and merciful. Who bring out the best in everyone.

What I value is peace and loyalty. A history with someone is special… it is to be cherished.

Preserve it, if possible. Growing up without siblings, I don’t take friendships for granted.

Sometimes forgiveness seems like a weak thing to do. But it can also be incredibly powerful.

Forgiveness is what sets you BOTH free.

Radical forgiveness is the epitome of unconditional friendship.

And friendship is the highest form of love.

An Unexpected Apology: The Unblock is Working Already!

So I guess unblocking my facebook is already having a positive karmic effect!

One of those on the list was an ex from 2011– and actually, one of the reasons I started this blog. He was the last person I dated before deciding, “Forget it! I have no idea what I’m doing with men. Time to take a sabbatical.” I then gave up dating and karaoke for Lent 2011, because they went together since I always met guys while I was out singing karaoke and I went all the time. I started this blog to hold myself accountable– if I couldn’t blog it, I knew i wouldn’t do it.

He had broken up with me over e-mail, shortly after we made it official. I hadn’t even had time to change my status! It was a brief relationship.

Back then I hadn’t responded to his e-mail– I just stonewalled him. That was my old defense mechanism. I always told myself that I was actually being “a good Christian woman,” since it was better not to speak anything angry or hurtful. But truly, it was the coward’s solution. I didn’t have the strength to admit my vulnerability– so I threw up a wall of anger via silence. And it only made them more hurt– and usually THAT is what ultimately severed any possibility of reconciliation or leaving things on “good terms.”  ‘

Back then, that’s what I wanted. I wanted things simple– done, with no possibility of return. No possibility of further hurt.

That was my deluded idea of being a “good Christian woman.” Except that does not work at ALL. Theoretically I was deciding to just “let it go.” Except I never DID let it go– my resentment just stewed. I felt spineless for not standing up for myself and being honest about my feelings. And when he replied this time, I impulsively let him have it. Then I blocked him, so he couldn’t respond.

But then I realized I had also withheld the possibility of a GOOD reply from him– and of forgiveness for both of us. And I knew that wasn’t right. I knew I was afraid of the possibility of forgiveness as much as I was that he would also be angry.

About five days later, I felt terrible and wrote him once more, saying that I hadn’t handled that well and I should have just admitted I was hurt rather than being so hostile. That I had liked him a lot and chosen him over someone else I also liked, because I thought he was serious about a relationship.

That’s when I wrote THIS post.

Not even 24 hours later, he actually REPLIED and gave me a very sincere apology.

It’s refreshing. I told him about the blog and he said he had found it online before and was impressed. I thanked him and invited him to follow it. I even told him that he had a role in its inception, and he wasn’t even offended! He wished me well.

I told him he ultimately made the right decision about ending the relationship, even if it stung. We just weren’t compatible. I thanked him for his honesty and told him he was forgiven. I asked him to forgive me as well. He may not reply, and maybe that’s all there is to it.

Regardless, I’m really proud of myself for breaking my cycle of intractable “all or nothing” stance on exes, and admitting my own immaturity and fault as well. I forfeited “the upper hand,” and look what happened! We both acknowledged our fault. We connected as two human beings who made mistakes and wanted to make amends. The bitterness is dissolved. The hurt is forgiven.

It feels amazing, to open myself to the possibility of forgiveness.

I’m going to challenge myself to trust myself– and others– as policy now. I’m just going to say what I feel– tactfully.

But this makes me wonder, maybe I should take the risk he did. Maybe some of my exes don’t hate me as much as I assume– time does heal.

It would at least feel good to make the effort, even if friendship isn’t possible.

If I achieved mutual forgiveness with an ex today, that makes me hopeful that my next relationship will be better.

My communication is healthier already.

Yes, People Change: On Humility and Forgiveness

I think the most important thing I’ve learned in my life is that people change– and there’s no pride is clinging to being “right.”

I used to be a very self-righteous person. I used to feel that I was better than some other people because I didn’t have certain habits, because I believed in God and they didn’t, because I was more “together.”

I was so sure of my own “instincts”– and that I would never change my mind.

I used to be one of those “all or nothing,” people, with rigid opinions that never wavered.

I was wrong. And since then, I’ve changed.

Some people may never believe that, but I know it’s true.

I believe God gave me a lesson in humility– to remind me that I am no better than anyone else just because I have a different struggle. And to remind me that I’ve been given advantages as well, which I sometimes forget to acknowledge. To show me how it feels to be judged. And it’s hard, because we still need to draw boundaries and assert ourselves if we are uncomfortable, hurt, or angry. But we can do that without being cruel or condescending.

And that’s what I’ve been working on this year– being honest while also being more rational and less impulsive. To explain to people that sometimes I need time before I can respond– out of respect for both of us.

And I’m doing much better.

It reminds me of “Beaches”– with Hilary and Cece.

Most of the time my personality is more like Cece– I’m loud, I wear ridiculous outfits, I’m a free-spirited creative person with a dream that I can’t surrender to write. Sometimes I can be selfish and at times my temper can be sharp.

But when I’m truly hurting, I’m more like Hilary. I shut down. I don’t say anything. I try to work through the pain on my own. But I’ve learned, that hurts people more than anything I might have said in anger. Silence is often the one thing people can’t forgive.

There are times when cutting off contact is merited– when they won’t accept respect your feelings or accept your boundaries, and there is no other way. When you know that no amount of talking will change things, because you’ve already tried exhaustively and you are fundamentally incompatible.

But those times are rare.  But if someone loves you, that silence on your end is excruciating.

I’m learning to say what I feel when I feel it– and to apologize when it’s merited. Everyone has a limit– some relationships need to end and can’t be reconciled. But it’s always healthier to get your feelings out than to hold them in and let them fester.

I’ve learned to never take it for granted when someone apologizes to you. Because even if you you’re hurt beyond words and not ready to forgive, there are many people who never bother to apologize.

It takes a lot of character to apologize.

Even if the relationship can’t be reconciled, you can still accept their apology and honor their effort.

And I’ve learned that it also hurts us tremendously to withhold forgiveness out of spite. If we don’t release that energy, it becomes corrosive to our own souls at some point. It eats away at us. It makes much more energy to remain angry than to let it go.

I would rather apologize and never be forgiven than remain in perfect righteousness and never be vulnerable.

If I apologize, it’s out of my hands then. If they don’t choose to forgive me or acknowledge it, that is their choice– and it may hurt.

But it will never hurt as much as not taking a chance.

We all fight to overcome a struggle– and for every person, that struggle is different. We don’t know why we have the challenges that were given to us, but we do the best we can with them.

Here’s the thing– people are human. We all struggle with something. For some, it’s addiction. For some, it’s believing in God. For some, it’s intimacy. For some, impulsivity. For some, it’s depression or anxiety. For some, it’s money.  For some, it’s loneliness due to physical illness that makes them feel isolated. For some, it’s being TOO logical.  For some, it’s not knowing what to say even if you want to be supportive.

We all have faults. But I believe that fundamentally, we’re all good. And that we respond to how others treat us. We may go through seasons of bad judgement, but I think we all have the strength to learn and emerge thriving if we are committed to change.

If you live your life by cutting out everyone who challenges you or upsets you, you realize soon that you’re not left with many people. People are in our lives for a reason– to love us, to challenge us, to inspire us to growth by their own achievements.

I no longer believe that there is such a thing as a “bad” person. When people are in pain, they act out– it’s human.

The only answer for pain is love. I pray for them, and myself. And eventually, my heart changes. If I’m lucky, theirs does too.

Because if someone hurts you, it hurts them as well.

And if you can forgive them, you’re giving yourself a gift as well as them.

The gift of peace. The gift of not harboring resentment.

The gift of unconditional love for yourself and others.

These days, I’d rather be humble than “right.”