Talking the Walk

We can all relate to having a hard day. There are things either swirling around or laying heavy somewhere deep inside. Sometimes we can’t even identify what is going on, but even if we know, we don’t always know what to do about it all.

Sometimes it helps to talk about it all. I think we can also relate to sitting with someone and sharing all the feelings. In that sharing, we usually don’t want solutions or advice. We certainly do not want to be fixed. We just want to be heard. Maybe we want a hug.

I was in counseling for a season to work through some trauma that I had been through. My therapist was my safe space to process all the emotions I had been going through. One day she commented that I didn’t seem to be embracing anything she was offering.

It confused me as well until I realized it wasn’t advice I wanted. What I really needed was space to process my thoughts and feelings out loud, without any fear of pushback for having those feelings. Maybe like many others, I had never really been able to do that. 

When we’re younger and face problems raising kids, or working through marriage difficulties, or career challenges, there are zillion books waiting to offer advice. When we’re older, the books are fewer. And we’re not always looking for advice because we understand that some things don’t have answers. They have pathways of acceptance. 

So we need an ear. It’s hard to process out loud when we’re alone. But a friend, or counselor, who will be an ear for our processing is invaluable. When we talk things out, we are sometimes surprised by what we say. Oh, I guess I’m feeling insecure, or fearful, or envious, or manipulated. Maybe we’re just sad and not in control of anything. Whatever the feeling, it might take a minute to figure out.

Knowing that we can all benefit from people who will do that for us, it would be good to remember we can do it for others as well. We can be the kind of friend (partner, co-worker, parent, child) who will just offer space for someone to process. Can we practice all the self control we can muster to not offer advice, or opinions, or fixes?

Unless someone begins the conversation with “I need some advice,” we should assume that we are simply a a safe space. We should stop and recognize the honor that comes with someone trusting us. And we should never violate that trust by coming in hard with opinions or advice. 

I don’t know if there’s a greater gift we can give to another than space for processing. When we don’t listen with the intent to reply, we can truly hear, helping the other push forward with their own thoughts. Gaps of silence don’t get filled with our own ideas because we are waiting for them to figure out theirs. It helps them feel loved, cared for, and worthy of our attention. 

Listening is the loud silence which communicates we are present, soft, and open. It helps the other step into feeling valued, heard, and seen. Mostly it helps them figure out what they are really going through. Talking helps with walking. A little steadier, a little more confident, and a little more loved. 

Just One Yes

I was watching The Voice one night, and a contestant was asked what he would like to say to those watching his journey. He said, “Remember, no matter how many times you hear the word no, it just takes one yes.”

Great advice, I thought, to those waiting for their “turn” at something in life. But then I began thinking about my own life. Are there any yeses left for me? Not in a hopeless way, but in a realistic way.

I am not waiting for that perfect job, or opportunity, or relationship. I’m not waiting for my chance to do something big. I have been thinking about his words for a while because I always want there to be hope for more. It’s just that more looks different at this stage.

I began to realize that, at this point in life, there is plenty of more to be had. It’s just that it cannot come from others.

I want more peace, more kindness, more compassion. I want more stillness, more pauses, more wisdom. I want to give more, whether a hug to someone at work having a hard day, an ear to someone who needs to process thoughts, a meal to someone who needs some help, an actual handwritten card to to someone on our mind, a kind word to anyone because there’s no one who doesn’t need that.

So it still takes just one yes. The only difference is that at this season, it comes from within. It comes from giving ourselves permission to be completely authentic to the person we are becoming—kinder, wiser, more compassionate, less judgmental, more at peace with our circumstances and the world around us. 

It is basically saying yes to hope. We have a future that depends on saying yes to every possibility for more of what’s real, true, and beautiful. Because without that, we are living a life that focuses more on aging than thriving.

We can all hear a YES if we stop looking around us and listen to what’s already inside us. At the end of the day, let’s take note of the yeses we have heard. We may find we hold the secret to surprising ourselves with hope every single day.

Attitudes of Aging

This has been a rough year for my aging attitude. I will be turning 70 this year and I have been trying to embrace it in a way that isn’t simply acquiescing to a number. Because I know all the “right” ways to think.

I should be grateful to have made it this far, because not everyone has gotten that privilege. And I am beyond grateful. But simply telling someone to be grateful doesn’t take into account the multi-faceted nature of aging. We can be grateful and still be unsettled. This isn’t an either/or scenario.

I should look at all the good in my life. And oh, how often I do this! I have five amazing children, a husband I have been with for 35 years, great friends, a beautiful home, a part-time job I really enjoy. I take none of that for granted. But life weaves its own web, and there are hard, sad, and challenging times that get incorporated into that picture, even on the good days. 

The list could go on. I have looked at it from many angles. We have made great strides in our culture regarding aging. We have begun to change the language associated with it. Some brands have stopped using the words “anti-aging” because really, if we are against aging, what are we in favor of? Aging is the only way to move forward in life. So we are pro-aging, just more about aging well.

I decided one day to search for fun ways to celebrate turning 70. It was the most depressing search I think I’ve ever done.There were articles on how to “celebrate the elderly” and fun ideas for a great party. These included renting a “banquet hall,” having a nice brunch, printing off old  pictures so “they can see themselves in their prime.” 

So, in the words of the great philosopher Frank Sinatra, I guess I will have to do it my way. I follow older women on Instagram who are forging the way on a frontier that has little in the way of vision. They have started weight training at 75, they are denouncing certain ways we should look and dress, they are demonstrating courage and adventure and joy.

I follow younger women who review and promote clean beauty lines. Their advice on products is helpful, but when they post pictures of their face after using a particular product, I often think: You are 30 something. My face looked great with no product at all when I was 30 something. I still will buy a product knowing it will most likely only make me feel better. But hey, feeling better helps.

Anyway, the only way I have found to embrace this proceess is to go with the adage #greaterlater. I’m trying to stay away from ideas that involve preset notions of numbers. These things help me:

*Staying active
*Reading, listening, learning, keeping my mind open
*Getting together with friends for connection and laughter 
*Picking up weights to keep those muscles working
*Enjoying quiet mornings, and sometimes loud evenings
*Showing up to work knowing a smile and kind word helps everyone
*Encouraging my kids because life can be hard, even when it’s good
*And except for acknowledging qualities that time has hopefully made better–like wisdom and love and compassion–never ever “acting my age”

So, I am choosing to believe that #greaterlater is possible. I may spend money on a product that will do nothing to take a line off my face, but I will go down fighting.  It’s a balance between acceptance and denial. When asked the secret to serenity, Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello said: “The secret is wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable.” 

I’m going to wholeheartedly cooperate with that. At least sometimes.

Rising Tides and Holy Moments

John F. Kennedy once quoted: “…every American is made better off whenever any one of us is made better off. A rising tide raises all boats.” It is the opposite of the cultural attitude that suggests that if one is lifted up, it must be at the expense of another.

So much of life seems to be about lowering the tide. The 24 hour news machine needs negative and divisive stories to drive clicks. Social media provides platforms for critics, naysayers, and trash talkers. If we’re not simply wasting precious time, we are likely left feeling frustrated or even empty.

We can be left feeling like there isn’t anything we can do about anything. But what if, after catching up on big picture issues, we take inventory of what we can affect. At some point we must turn to the life we have in front of us. What DO we have control over and how can we help someone be better off today? What if we just went about our day raising the tide?

When I went back to work at a home and garden store in our town, I had already done the career thing. At this season, I just wanted to be with people and make a difference in whatever small way I could. 

One day a woman, who I would guess to be around 80, approached the registers and told the two of us standing there to “break it up and get to work.” She said it with a smile and I loved her immediately. As I was finishing up, I told her that I was sure she made people happy just being with her. Tears began trickling down her face.

We have no idea how much we can affect change in our everyday lives. A simple “You OK?” to a coworker, or “I love the colors you put together” to a customer can lift a mood. I am always surprised at how easy it really is and how it always lifts us along with the other. 

And while there is obviously a time and place for arguing issues, mostly it is not the time nor the place. A question maybe we can each ourselves is this: Are my words raising the tide or draining the water? Those words falling out of our mouths matter.

I read the following quote the other day and it impacted me deeply. We have strayed far from the notion of “holy” because organized religion has distorted it and made it offensive. It can also feel, at times, that the ugly has overtaken the holy. No matter, it is still a beautiful truth.

“We have so little of each other, now. So far from tribe and fire.
Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, 
these fleeting temples we make together when we say,
‘Here, have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead–you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’
Danusha Lameris

Before and Afters

I love a good story, and some of the best stories are told by before and after pictures. We love them because they tell the story of transformation. Two snapshots, two remarkable changes. Living rooms, front porches, bodies. The way it used to be (maybe not the way we want) and the way it is now (so much better). You expect the difference to be obvious.

But most of life presents us with situations not easily captured with before and afters. I sometimes want to say, I’ve been remodeling too. See how my heart is a little more whole than it was five years ago? But a picture would simply show that I look five years older.

Struggling with RA, I sometimes want to say, See how much better my joints are than they were a couple years ago? But a picture would simply show the older thing.

This is especially true with grief and loss and change. See how my heart is recovering from the loss of my dad, my church community, even my faith? Others have their own stories about moving forward after the loss of a spouse, a career, a relationship. But again, pictures can’t really capture all that.

I have learned that even though before and after pictures are motivating and can encourage us to pursue goals that may be challenging, life is mostly the picture that isn’t easily captured. There are so many “afters” that go unnoticed, especially as we grow older. 

Very few people post pictures after a kitchen has had one cabinet replaced, or after a small weight loss when there is more to lose. We patiently wait for the progress to be visible. The work was likely harder for the beginning changes because they required a huge overhaul: of habits and routines and structures in place for a long time. But what we really want is the picture that demonstrates transformation.

For all of us who are rebuilding, remodeling, and remaking a life affected by loss and change and challenge: please remember that the story of transformation you are carrying in your heart is beautiful and true. Pictures are one way to tell a story. But when pictures are not possible, words can step in and do the work. Words build stories, and stories build steps that we might see a new perspective. 

In the quiet spaces of our hearts, we craft a narrative of strength, courage, and love that keeps us moving forward. Because it’s really not what others think that matters, anyway. It’s what we believe about ourselves and how we take our small (and not so small) victories with us wherever we go. And hopefully use them to encourage and inspire others to do the same.

The two transformation pictures on here are for a project that didn’t take all that long to accomplish. I snapped a picture before we started. It’s not a good picture, but you can never retake the before picture so it’s gotta work. We changed a plain wall into one that pops a little. 

But what I really wish I could post are the pictures of all the changes in my heart. Life has made my heart softer, kinder, more open to the pain and struggle of others. It has been healing from trauma so deep I didn’t think I would recover, but I am. I want to post the picture. But I’m gonna have to settle for words.

“If it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen?” Even if it can never be posted on that platform, the befores and afters that no one can see may be the most real of all.

Everything Changes

This isn’t a shocking thought anymore, is it? As we grow older, we become increasingly aware of how much change takes place over the years. Some are those we choose; some choose us. But all we know is there’s a boatload of change swirling around us. 

Maybe we’ve accepted that as best we can. But what about the changes that swirl inside us? We can act as if we’re the North Star, the constant in the midst of tectonic shifting. And while it’s true that sometimes we no recognize our lives, what about when we no longer recognize our selves?

I was talking with a friend about this recently. She was sharing about the insecurity she was feeling because of how much life has shifted. When we are no longer actively involved in careers, in parenting, in the relationships that were developed through each of those, who are we?

“Well, I thought I was…” There’s many ways to fill in the blank here. 

“I thought I was a people person.” But now I find my circle of friends to be on the smaller side. And while it’s still fun to gather a number of friends for drinks and discussions, mostly I want to sit with one or two and dive deep into some of the strange thoughts and processes associated with this stage of life. 

“I thought I was a positive person.” But now there are times I find myself dealing with sadness that I can’t shoo away. Sometimes I don’t really know the reason. And I want to know the reasons so I can replace those with reasons to be happy. None of that is wrong, and we have mostly been trained to do that along the way. “Control your thoughts, control your life.”

But what if some of those thoughts need space to stretch out and breathe? What if the sadness needs to rest for a while so it can get processed and moved through? Where do we get our daily dose of sadness training?

In her latest book, Bittersweet,  Susan Cain points out that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. I think it gets more obvious as we get older because we have experienced more dark, more loss, and more death with the passing of time. It is not an anomaly. It is part of our humanity.

It is important to remember though, when wrestling with sadness, that it is not a perpetual state of being. When we allow ourselves to sit with it and recognize that the pain and sorrow we are experiencing is somewhat sacred, our ability to appreciate the beautiful and the sweet parts of life becomes even greater. 

Personally, I like being happy. It’s not my favorite to sit with sadness.  But it is through the bittersweet moments of life that we learn most about who we are. We become more grateful for the times of joy, more patient with others experiencing challenges, more compassionate for those walking through life transitions. 

Who are we at this stage of life and who are we becoming? This is a question I think many of us are sitting with. We live inside the paradox of living in the moment while also realizing that moments are racing by and this moment isn’t the end of our story. 

There is beauty and light and joy all around us, and we now have the time to notice it and stop for it and even run into it. So as we are confronting the changes both inside and out, let’s make space for who we are becoming. 

Even if we have no idea who that is. 


I’m going to venture into waters that could get a person censored these days. And no, it has nothing to do with v*xinations or C*v19. That’s all back burner now. 

The topic that could get me censored is one that goes against every narrative out there. And isn’t that the real reason for censorship these days? The subject I’m talking about is: Logic.

You see, I taught Logic for many years. To eighth graders of all people. Let me tell something about eighth graders: they love to argue. And they are extraordinarily good at catching fallacies.  Especially if they are detailing arguments involving them and their parents. Spoiler: the fallacies were never on their end.

But really, they were really good at this class. For half the year, we dove into deductive arguments in the form of syllogisms. They learned what constituted a valid argument.  They looked at inductive arguments and what constituted a sound argument. The point was to look at how the premises were logically connected to the conclusions.

Wait, what?  Premises are supposed to be supported and lead to conclusions? It’s really stupid to argue a conclusion. A more important strategy is to either 1) show that the form of the argument cannot be valid, as in a deductive argument, or 2) show that the premises lack backing, grounds or support, as in an inductive argument.

Does that sound confusing? These were eighth graders, and they got this quickly.  They loved the section on fallacies and easily picked these out of examples given them from the news at that time. 

Obviously, there is not enough space for in-depth discussion of logic.  But perhaps we can all be aware how we analyze information and reach conclusions. One of the most important steps we can take is not accepting information at face value. Every day there are charts, graphs, and memes which support our opinions and demonize people who oppose our beliefs. 

Maybe we don’t just repost, retweet, or repeat opinions that support our own. Maybe we challenge the sources. At the very least, let’s identify the sources. Is there a vested interest in that opinion? Is the opinion thoughtful and respectfully presented? Are any of the premises supported in significant ways? 

If all we are doing is “supporting” our own opinions, we are not moving towards understanding. The nature and scale of our problems today require that things change. Tech platforms have become entrenched with narratives that just keep adding chapters to existing stories. If we can respectfully say, let’s look at the “argument” in the narrative, perhaps we can get to the heart of the issues. 

I am certain that teaching geometry helps develop reasoning. But with all that we face today, maybe we need a more direct approach. Maybe we should be focusing on logic and rhetoric: how to think critically and present ideas that are well thought out.  We teach the art of the persuasive essay and how to build an argument.

Anyway, I am hoping that every 8th grader that took Logic (and every 12th grader that took Rhetoric) remembers some of what they learned.  And that they are willing to challenge narratives and stories that lack any semblance of logic. It matters what we think and how we reach our conclusions.

We can all learn basic logic. At the very least, we can agree to not post one thing that is not well documented. We actually read the studies, the bills, and the essays from real journalists. They are out there,  just not on CNN, FOX, MSNBC or any of the larger media organizations .  

I fully agree with another brilliant Lewis Carroll quote,  “People who don’t think shouldn’t talk.” 

The Final Bloom: Or Is It?

So I bought my Christmas amaryllis early November. You heard the story. It didn’t bloom by that holiday, but it had a message for me. Bloom whenever the hell you want. No timetables, baby.

I had written that there is usually activity beneath the surface, but the eye just isn’t picking up on it. Suddenly the thing blooms and we are taken by surprise. It eventually dies back and we are grateful for the beautiful flower it brought forth.

But then, when we expect nothing at all, it blooms again. Well, I didn’t think you had another bloom in you, little guy. And there you go, showing us all that blooms happen even when we think there’s nothing left. This is the third time I’ve been surprised by him.

How many life lessons did that little bulb teach me? 

  1. We need to be patient and trust the process. Time is not our enemy.
  2. Just because the eye doesn’t pick up on activity doesn’t mean that none is taking place.
  3. There is a time for every purpose under heavens but usually we don’t get to choose that time;  that time chooses us.
  4. Maybe the one bloom isn’t the end of the story. Maybe it’s a series of blooms that pop over time when they’re ready. Just because we bloomed once doesn’t mean we’re done.

What we need is the hope that everything resting inside of us will pop when the time is right. We were designed in love to hold so much beauty deep within. I thought that little flower was done, but then I noticed  a little green sprout at the base. I kept it in the light to see if it had anything left. Once again, the amaryllis bloomed.  

I feel a connection with this little flower. We talk and laugh and tell each other we are awesome. I got a lot of bloom left in me. Maybe we’ll both be a little beautiful, loud, and out of place. A perfect, if not at all predictable, time for every purpose under heaven.

The Miracle of an Anniversary

It’s a miracle really.  Staying married. Two people come together at one point in time, each who they are at that moment. Times change and people follow suit.

There is no magic lens to see what we will both be like in 5 years, 10, or 50. Nope, we have the present day love and the desire to unite that love through marriage. 

We gladly say richer or poorer, better or worse, sickness or health with no idea how that will play out. It doesn’t take long to settle into everyday life, however. Kids are born, roles morph, careers take sharp turns. In the midst of it all, we are slowly changing. We probably no longer love all the items that were on our registries. 

The life we experience comes at us from all directions, and the relationship that once took front and center slowly ambles to the edges. There is little time to process all that life together. Sometimes it can leave us feeling lonely, mad, sad, even hopeless. But there are also times we experience great joy, peace, unity, and hope. 

At the end of the day, marriage is a decision to stay. I recognize that there are times where that’s not the outcome. And for everyone who has gone through that or is in the process of ending a marriage, my heart can only imagine the pain associated with it all. 

But today, a day which marks 35 years, I am celebrating the miracle of staying together. It has been filled with every emotion known to man.  From “I wouldn’t change a thing” to “Everything’s a disaster.” From sheer happiness to unrelenting tears. From richer and poorer, better and worse, health and sickness. I have a good idea how that plays out now.  It looked better 35 years ago, as a figment of my imagination.

This much I know: Marriage is hard, like the hardest thing ever. A lot of days it wasn’t fun, not all laughs and giggles. Heck, some days there wasn’t even talking. But somehow we chose to stay. We chose to believe that it was better together.

Anniversaries are celebrations of the love that’s still in there, however deep it may get buried over time. There’s a much better understanding of what love means. Because at the end of the day, marriage is the result of commitment, hard work, a ton of amazing grace.

And a little bit miracle.

Better Than Patience?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word patience. It seems such an old word; we’ve heard it all our lives. Parents, teachers, grandparents alike encouraged us with, “You must be patient, honey.” It always felt heavy, like there’s a ton of bricks we needed to carry.

Patience is “a willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.” I can definitely relate to the word annoyance. When things don’t happen as quickly as we  would like, that is often our first response. It always involves waiting, for something or someone. It most always includes our agenda.

When we confront our annoyance, it helps us be more even tempered and non-reactive. It helps us when dealing with other people. It’s only been relatively recently that patience has been directed towards ourselves. We are told to be patient with the things we are waiting on and the people we are waiting for.

But although patience is an admirable quality, I’ve been thinking that maybe acceptance might be even better. It gets at the heart of our agenda. Acceptance is about not allowing annoyance to emerge in the first place. And although I could be  splitting hairs here (truly patient people have likely already conquered this), I think it’s always helpful to reframe things to get a new look. Maybe it’s more a reminder than a revelation. 

Some of my greatest growth has occurred from just accepting situations and people as they are. Most of us want to fix things, mostly to address our own fears and insecurity. Acceptance doesn’t mean never trying to change a situation, but at this stage of life, most of us have recognized we are not really able to control much.

The best part of acceptance is that it helps us enjoy the moment we are in. Patience can  still focus on the thing we are waiting for, so there is often a hook. “I will patiently wait for that thing to happen, that person to change, that healing to come.” But acceptance says that all I have for today is enough. Today, this moment, this situation holds its arms out to us. It doesn’t mean we have to like it; it just means that we accept if for today. We let go of what we want to happen. We breathe deeply and release our expectations and demands. 

This is easy to write, easy to agree with. But dang, it is not easy to live. A benefit of growing older is we can see farther back. We can see that all the things we tantrumed about eventually did what they did. And whether we liked it all or not, we are still living and still get to choose how we tell that story. 

So I am working on not just telling myself to be more patient. I’m asking myself to accept what is. This day, this situation, this precious moment. It helps if I get alone and still my ever-racing mind with the following thoughts:

This day is enough.

This situation is enough.

This moment is enough.

And because of that, I am at peace.