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So you’re doing a spring cleaning and you want to get really efficient. An inspired idea occurs to you: Let’s wash everything all at once! We’ll throw in the clothes, the comforters, the curtains. Even the carpets! It’ll be great. Get it all done at one time. Now we’re on a roll!

Cut to: Washer breaks down because it was overloaded. Repair work costs you an arm and a leg.

Just as you can only wash one load of laundry at a time, it’s best to focus on one problem at a time. When you start to think of one thing that’s gone haywire in your life, it can often lead to thinking of every other pesky issue that needs attention as well.

Of course, you can’t solve all your problems at once. In fact, making yourself crazy by going over all of them in your head creates a new problem: brain overload. It’s like being stuck in the agitation cycle of the washer. It’s all coming at you at once, and your head is spinning.

Why not schedule an hour to brainstorm about that one thing that’s at the top of your worrying to-do list? Write down in a sentence what’s most troubling. Look at the problem as a project. Think of all the options. Make a plan. Google it. Take the steps you can take right away. Ask for help if it’s available. Once you’ve done all you can, let it go and leave it in God’s hands.

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Image result for early sketches Michelangelo

Studies for The Libyan Sibyl, Michelangelo (from Wikipedia)

Isn’t it funny how it’s possible to give yourself a hard time over mistakes you made years ago? I wonder why the brain holds onto what hurts it in that way. Whoever made those decisions doesn’t even exist anymore. The you of today would surely choose a different path.

Rather than beating yourself up, seeing yourself as another person will make it easier to forgive yourself. That wasn’t you at all. It was the you of today in training. When you’re in training, you make mistakes. Good news: you’re not in training anymore. You’ve graduated to become the you of today. One thing is true: you won’t make those same mistakes again, having learned the hard way what doesn’t work. You get to make new mistakes! Lucky you!

But in a way, there are no mistakes if you’re sculpting a life of your own creation. You chip away until the figure forms and you’re satisfied. If you look at all the early versions of his great paintings Michelangelo threw into the scrap pile, you’ll realize those drawings weren’t mistakes. They were practice.

Think of the you of the past as a dusty still life on a shelf. And the you of today? A whole new work of art, in living color.

An online commenter called the paparazzi “sacrophytes” and I’d never heard the term, so I Googled it. It turns out that there is a similar word, “saprophyte,” which is defined as: organisms, particularly fungi, which obtain nutrients directly from dead organic matter. An example would be mold on bread.

Over-analysis kicked in. Wait a minute. Don’t we humans get our nutrients from dead organic matter? Are we saprophytes?!? Aaah! It sounds awful.

On the other hand, since it’s such a scientific-sounding name, I could put that on my resume and it would sound impressive. For many years, I was an Advanced Saprophyte, specializing in the genus, “malus” in the variety of “plantae.” That’s just apple and plant in English.

But another search result took me at my word. Even though the word I’d typed in was incorrect, it really did a deep dive into what it felt I was searching for.

Showing page 1. Found 0 sentences matching phrase “sacrophyte”. Found in 0 ms. Translation memories are created by humans, but computer aligned, which might cause mistakes. They come from many sources and are not checked. Be warned.

Translation memories. Hmm.This was obviously a computer-generated response, but such an unexpected insight into the human psyche: “Be warned.” That computer really sounded human!

Is it possible that, in looking back on painful memories, we may actually be interpreting them incorrectly? Could it be that we don’t remember what happened, but how we felt about it, and that colors our memory of it?

Let’s let bygones be bygones. That is, say “bye” to the past and let it be gone. You did your best. It’s okay to put it to rest. There’s nothing left to translate or interpret. Just you, the road ahead and Providence over your shoulder.

I’d like to nominate a horse named Jenny to run for some elective office.

Why? Here are the top five reasons.

  1. Horses run well.
  2. She’s always been a good “neigh”-bor.
  3. She won’t give you some line of BS. (Because she’s not a bull. She is, however, a horse, so there will be a different kind of “S”. Sorry. Here’s a wetnap for your shoe.)
  4. She’s out standing in the field. Most of the day, chewing on grass.
  5. The other candidates are lame. I’m not suggesting we do to them what is (sadly) done to lame horses. I’m saying, let’s get an actual horse to take the victory lap.

When you feel clenched as you think about a problem, that’s actually the time to stop thinking about that problem. Just for now. I know you’ve got to address it, but right now, you’ve reached the point where you’re not doing yourself any good.

So leave the room. Exhale. Focus on something light and pleasant. Think about Jenny, the horse who takes a walk every day by herself in Frankfurt, Germany. Her owner, now 79, is unable to ride anymore, so he attached this note to her: “My name is Jenny. I didn’t run away. I’m just walking.” Neighbors are used to seeing her and treat her like a celebrity. There’s even one picture of Jenny kissing a baby in a stroller, just like any politician would.

Take your mind off of that problem that’s got you feeling clenched like a fist.

Pivot to something pleasant. Later, or tomorrow, or maybe next week, you’ll come back to the situation, fully refreshed, and a solution will present itself like an unexpected gift.

Faithful readers of our humble bloggie know that I lost my pet partner, KitKat, recently, so forgive me as I ramble on with stories about him for the next few posts. He meant so much to me and my son, and I realized today he was not just a cat. He was a counselor.

My son has dealt with exhaustion due to a medical condition his whole life. It’s affected his quality of life immensely, and, as a mother, it’s pained me that I can’t fix it for him.

One morning, I couldn’t wake up Cole, so I cried for a moment in the kitchen. My cat came into the room. “I don’t know how to help him. He’s not sleeping well or feeling good. I don’t know how to help him live well,” I said to my cat as if he understood.

KitKat came over to me, bumped against my leg and stayed there, waiting.

Pet me, he was saying. You feel good when you pet me. So if you feel good, you’ll be in a better mood. Let go of what you can’t solve now.

Still tightly clenched, I went over to the couch in the living room and he came to sit near me. As I patted his furry head, he purred. The tension was dissipating, and even though I still didn’t have a solution to this fatigue that never went away, I felt my shoulders start to relax.

You can’t reach out and grab hold of life with your hands clenched. Even if you’ve been running in circles for the whole week, find a way to have a day of rest. Lay your burden down and be at peace. If you can’t solve the problem, resolve the energy. You’ll find that things will look brighter tomorrow.

With all the divisions in the world – in politics, between countries, even in families – it shouldn’t be surprising that there are those who believe we should eliminate the population of certain species to save other ones.

There’s author Jonathan Franzen, who believes that cats should be killed, since they kill birds. Then there are the scientists who have created a robot designed to kill the starfish that kill coral reef, so that the coral reef can provide food for other species (which, I assume, would also end up killing coral reef.) Others say that the starfish are a symptom and the real problem is port activity and pollution caused by humans. I don’t think any of us would vote for eliminating humans to save the coral reef!

On a more sinister note, there are those who truly believe whole groups are inferior to their own people. The Rohingya in Myanmar have been the focus of a genocide carried out by the country’s military. Leader Aung San Suu Kyi (a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate, yet) said recently that “the situation could have been handled better” but that “we have to be fair to all sides.” Hmm. Where have we heard that before?

We’re so used to looking through our own lens that we might not even really see each other anymore. Just a reflection filtered through our own worldview.

I can’t believe it even needs to be said, but what do you say we take “extermination of entire populations” off the table, across the board? Of cats, of starfish. Certainly of people. Of others who espouse a different political ideology or religion. Let’s all agree to this basic idea, and with any luck, eventually, we’ll work our way back to the Golden Rule.

Try as you might, you can’t be in the present and in the past at the same time. Well, not unless you dive into quantum theory. But that’s neither here nor there. Get it? It’s a pun!

Two quantum physicists won the Nobel Prize for proving “the correctness of the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics, i.e., that electrons can be two places at the same time.”

I like to read about quantum theory, although I can honestly say that I don’t quite understand it. It’s so murky that even Einstein refused to accept it, saying, “God does not play dice.” Niels Bohr responded, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”

I’m with Richard Feynmann, who said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

That being said, you’re not an electron. You may have an electric wit, even flashes of brilliance, (not to mention hot flashes😉) but you’re still only human.

You can’t hold onto the past – whether it was your heyday or a Nightmare on Elm Street – and reach forward to the future at the same time. You may be in your cubicle at work, but once your psyche time-travels back to your first heartbreak, you’re not really anywhere, anymore.

Not to worry; there’s a map to mental health in Philippians, with two keys.

“…One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.”  

Forget what lies behind.

Reach forward to what lies ahead.

Forget and reach. I think it’s interesting that “forget” is used here. It’s something separate from “forgive.” Not just forgiving a slight, but forgetting it to make way for better things. To put it more simply, let go, let God, and let new blessings in.

Has this ever happened to you? Something’s thrown you for a loop. You’ve done everything you can, prayed about it and proceeded to let go and let God… then promptly took it back. Worrying about it. Talking about it to anybody who’d listen. Refusing to let it go. 

I’ve done this so often, I can’t believe there isn’t a name for it.

Maybe we’ll call it a prayback.

You pray, give it to God, then take it back.

Listen: there are no takebacks in prayer. You don’t need to take back a problem once it’s entrusted into God’s hands. You can’t take it back anyway. It was never yours to resolve. All you can do is… all you can do.

When my son was just an infant, every so often his pacifier would fall on the floor. I’d grab it, sprint to the kitchen and run it under scalding water until I was sure it was clean. Over time, I loosened up about it, eventually just wiping it on my sleeve and saying this phrase: “Kiss it to God.” Germs build immunity!

Lately, I’ve had this phrase running through my head: “Bless it to yes.”

There are some things you can’t solve right away, but there is always something you can do to take it from an absolute no to something closer to a yes.

What part of this situation can I improve? How can I get everybody on the team (or in the family) working together on a solution? Is there anyone I can call for advice who might have something constructive to add?

If all of these boxes have been checked, keep the faith and keep on moving.

God has been so good to me.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

People always seem surprised to hear me say that. I’ve got progressive MS, walk with a cane and I’m partially blind. A surgery intended to correct a macular hole did exactly the opposite and left me without usable vision in my right eye.

Afterwards, when I asked the surgeon’s partner if I’d ever see again in that eye, he shrugged. I persisted, asking why my eye wasn’t healing. The doctor literally, actually, honest-to-God said this:

“Bad luck?”

As if it was a question. I pondered: could it be that when they were offering “bedside manner” class in medical school, he’d called in sick that day?

For years, I stewed about that surgery, imagining what it would be like to sue the pants off of the doctors in that practice. To take ownership of their Bentleys, their Labradoodles, their Rolexes.

I wished ill on them for a long time, until I realized that if the doctor had made a mistake, there’s nothing I could do to reverse it. By that point, it had been years and the statute of limitations had passed. Both legally and spiritually.

The surgery had taken its toll on my eye. The aftermath of anger took its toll on my psyche.

It wasn’t until recently that I was able to let go of my anger.

I have to re-phrase that.

Let go of my unforgiveness.

This is even more toxic than anger.

When you get angry, it’s usually a temporary state. Almost a form of insanity. You snap, you yell, you throw the remote. You get over it. You come back to your senses.

But with unforgiveness, you’ve set your anger into stone.

Wishing ill on someone who’s done you wrong is like saying, “Smite them, Lord! Break out that lightning bolt! At the same time, give me a life sentence of misery, obsessed with vengeance when I could have had joy. Kay. Thanks. Bye!”

That hole in my eye had led to a hole in my soul.

You can’t say “bless me” and “curse you” at the same time.

What’s different now? Well, I still live with physical limitations. The vision in my eye never returned. The most important thing that changed was my focus. The lens through which I see the world, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ve learned to keep my eyes on the good in life and never look back.

Photo by Florian Dornauer on Unsplash

I really wish I were one of those people who dreamed at night of traveling to Tuscany, or of dancing on Broadway. Perhaps skydiving into the Grand Canyon. When I dream, it’s fairly jejune (love that word. It’s so fancy, for meaning something so dull!) although I do often receive what I consider to be words from Providence.

Just little reminders of what I already know but haven’t really taken to heart.

Here’s what I read last night:

You don’t plant weeds in your garden on purpose.

You don’t drink poison from a glass.

If you could pour regret into a glass and see it, you’d realize it was poison. You wouldn’t voluntarily drink it if it smelled noxious and tasted worse.

As I thought of something painful from the past just this morning, I realized that my stomach was in a knot. That’s when it occurred to me. Maybe that spare tire we all carry around our midriffs is really something else: Regret Storage. Poisonous pain we were meant to let go of, but held on to, and as a result, it seeped into our souls.

When I realized that thinking of painful things from the past was causing pain in my gut as I was standing there in the kitchen, I stopped thinking about those things. The pain went away. Right away. If only it were always that easy!

But at least I can remind myself that it’s more important to feel good and live well now than to deconstruct the past. I can’t change what happened, but I can decide that I won’t give away my joy to someone or something that has already hurt me once.

That’s why they call the present a gift. You can unwrap it afresh every day.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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