Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things We Can Control

I suppose trouble has been a constant companion of the world since Eve gave birth to Cain and Abel. As I've studied ancient and medieval history along with the kids, I've certainly learned that struggle, and strife, wars, diseases, and famines go along with every civilization that ever was. I look around me, and I see that it is certainly the case with our place in time. The state of the continent of Africa in the last 15 years alone could provide enough hardship, trouble, warfare, famine, sickness, and poverty to fill volumes. The state of our own country's economic entity has everyone worried. And thanks to the media, every thing that ever existed that would cause fear is broadcasted in detail, from the number of dust mites (or whatever they are) that feed on your eyelash junk, to the state of the nations water supply, to the deadly gene you are undoubtedly carrying and you don't even know it.

Aren't you glad there are some things we can control? Here are two that I'm grateful for:

Our own homes. Ikea proclaims: "Home is the most important place in the world." I couldn't agree more. Home is the place. You control the music. You control what kind of food is prepared and served. You control the temperature. You control the emotional climate. You say when the t.v. is on and what kind of programming is being watched. You are the decorator. You establish the level of cleanliness. You decide what comes in, and what goes out.

Our tempers and reactions to others.
Determining our own answer to someone else's behavior is a blessing. And I'm glad that I have the choice. Anger that is out of control is at best unproductive, and at worst, damaging to ourselves and others. Choosing to become offended, also, is fruitless and can damage relationships. We should, if we can, choose to let people say what they need to say, and if they have some problem with us (or our kids!), well, it's their problem. That they can deal with. And we can peacefully move on with our lives. I'm pretty hard to offend. Really, you have to be trying to hurt my feelings. However, say something that is the opposite of complimentary about my kids, even if it was meant well, and you will risk bringing out the mother-monster. And I'm sure you're all familiar with her. It's something that I've actively had to work towards; letting things roll off my back that involve my children. But it's the same principle as ignoring those who have a problem with me. (It's just so much harder!) (For me.).

As the drama and toil of the world tumbles and heaves and threatens to make us feel debilitated against the tide of fear, we can take comfort in our own power. The power to create a haven and to rule and reign a home for ourselves and those we love, and the power to rise above the trivial (and even the not so trivial) irritations and clashes of human relationships. And I thank God for these gifts.

About the Artwork

William Bougeureau (1825 – 1905) created a lush fantasy realm filled with idealized mythological figures, angels, women and children. His masterful command of human form, delicate colors and enchanted light brought the souls and spirits of his subjects to life with captivating realism. A tireless worker, he created 800 life-size works whose unique style and subjects drew an enthusiastic following of students and imitators. A member of the French Academy, he singlehandedly opened it to women.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Open Heart Surgery

I'm an introvert. I have moods when I'm extroverted, but my default social self is contemplative and quiet. It takes me a good while until I feel close enough to a neighbor to just pop over and hang out without planning all out first. It takes time for me to open up to other people. It's a slow pace, and a long spell until I feel like I fit in. So moving was hard. I've felt sad about leaving the wonderful people that it has taken me so long to get to know. In the course of goodbyes, our neighbor Melanie came over for a chat. She's great. She grew up on a ranch in Wyoming, loves to have my kids over for cookies and conversation, AND, she's married to a man from Egypt. I never knew that until we were saying goodbye! Ibrahim grew up on the Nile River! The Nile River was one of my kids favorite things that we've ever studied and we were living right next door to a man who grew up in the ebb and flow of that mighty river. He remembers it before they built the dam that stopped the yearly flooding. What an opportunity lost! If I hadn't taken so long to open my heart to the people around me, we could have pumped Ibrahim for pictures, stories, and descriptions of the Nile. We could have invited him over to help us build a model of it.
I have this fear that I'm bugging people if I (or my kids) go over to other people's houses without calling first. I'm afraid of interrupting people and their daily business. I never want people to be sitting there thinking "Boy, I wish they would go home so I could finish (fill in the blank)." Also, I'm rarely the inviter, I'm mostly the invitee. I wait for people to call me to do something, instead of putting something together and inviting others. This is not because I don't want to spend time with people, it's because in the back of my mind, this little voice is ALWAYS saying things like; "maybe they don't want to be friends with you...better hang back and let them invite you, that way, you'll know that they want to hang out with you, and they're not just being nice."
But, I've decided to try to open my heart earlier in the game in this neighborhood. To try to seek out friendship, and not just let it tumble into my lap, like a wished for but unearned shooting star.
Friendships are such a gift in life. What are we all here for, if not to support each other through rough patches in our roads, to make each other laugh when we need it, and to rejoice with each other when human victories grace our lives? Life truly is too short to stand back, and hope that someone will notice us and want to be our friend. So, I'm performing my own surgery. It will probably be uncomfortable, but the reward of a richer life is the promise. I must try to BE a better friend, and then, my heart will be open, and I will be blessed.