Survivors

survivors

Like everyone else, I have been giving a lot of thought to November 9th. Tomorrow. This has been a campaign for the books, with new levels of hated, fear, and distrust everywhere we turn. Even those who are on the “winning side” won’t all be cheering this day. Many are voting for the lesser of two evils.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, tonight, everyone pulls up signs, rips off bumper stickers, takes off the partisan buttons. And we all display a new one with the same message: “We survived the election of 2016,” the craziest season ever.

Survivors are strong. Like women who have battled breast cancer. They fought a battle they didn’t ask for and had their lives completely disrupted. Some days, maybe they didn’t even think they would make it. But with news of remission, they moved past all that. And they came together with other survivors. All kinds of differences mark them. But something bigger has united them. They are survivors.

We have been in a raging battle this past season. Tomorrow, it will be time to think about what unites us. Maybe a new bumper sticker would help us smile and nod when driving past a battle weary neighbor. Maybe the buttons would remind us to high five someone at the grocery store just for getting through. Maybe we’d buy someone a cup of coffee because, well, it’s been a rough season. More smiles. More kindness. More compassion. Because we have all been through it, one painstaking day at a time.

Tomorrow, let’s temporarily forget about winners and losers. Let’s resist flaunting, taunting, and fear mongering on social media. Let’s focus on being kinder, more compassionate, and more concerned for others than we’ve ever been. It just might help dissipate fear, anger, and perhaps violence in the aftermath. Let’s recognize that, really, we all just survived something we don’t ever want to go through again.

Probably a little late to get all those signs made. But we can all think about something bigger than the bloodbath that just took place. Surviving something this crazy just could be the thing that unites us all. And a little unity could make a big difference right now.

Savoring the Long, Hard, and Crazy Fast

Gilbert kids 2

“It all goes by so quickly. Enjoy them while they’re young.” Having my fifth and last child recently leave the teenage years behind, I know this is all too true. They enter the teenage years slowly and exit them at the speed of sound. But, honestly, if one more person had told me that when the kids were younger, I just may have said bad things. It took everything in me just to feign a smile to the one offering kind advice.

I knew it went fast. But with five children, sometimes those days were hard. Excruciatingly hard. And some days I didn’t care if it went fast. Actually, I had hoped it would go fast some of the time. I went in and out of savoring the moments and thinking they were the longest days ever.

Now that I’m at this end of it all, I want to go back and savor a little more. In retrospect, the challenge came from so many directions. It wasn’t just parenting. It was the responsibilities that came from working, and trying to keep the house looking good for all the people we had over, and rushing to too many meetings, and keeping relationships strong, and trying so hard to do it all well.How do we find the balance in the middle of those days? We continually check our “moments.” We analyze the cost of those moments. We prioritize and try to make the best decisions we can for our family. We recognize that hard days are normal days. And they go by just as fast at the easier days. We are the only ones who can decide what is best for our families, and decisions must be made in light of the moments we are in. Because we can’t decide backwards.

Enjoy it all on the good days, and on the hard days, remember that every day includes sleep. When their busy and noisy lives have settled into slumber, seeing their sweet sleeping faces remind us again that it is all worth it.  Built into every day are sacred spaces where we can slow down and savor moments.

Saying “yes” to parenting them well is worth every “no” we may have to say in the process.  There are a lot of years to say “yes” when they are grown. And they will grow up more quickly than we can imagine. Savor the sacred, sweet space of parenting. The long and the hard go by quickly too.

Chase the Joy

Graduatiton

Sunday we had the privilege of watching our son Evan graduate from the University of Washington. We were there mostly for those five seconds his name would be called and he would walk across the stage. For the other 3+ hours, we hoped for something that would make it a little easier to sit there.

We got it in the form of a commencement address by noted author, poet, and screenwriter Sherman Alexie, a Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian. Someone should add comedian to that triad of adjectives. He brought a perfect mix of serious and funny to that hot crowded gym.

He began by noting the paradox of celebrating and being joyful in light of the mass murder of 49 young men in Orlando the day before. It really is the great paradox of life. Tragedy and joy occur simultaneously, parallel to each other in our world. Do we focus on grief or focus on joy? Many us feel like we are betraying one when choosing the other. He said it felt wrong to choose joy in the face of such tragedy.

The answer to the dilemma came from his 14-year old son. “Isn’t this a college graduation?” he asked. “Then you must choose joy, Dad. You must choose joy today.” There truly is a time for every purpose under heaven.

The lens we look through must be big enough to include both. We have to be able to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. Our time spent in grief must, at some point, match our time spent in joy or we get unbalanced. Lack of balance throws us off and makes us walk with a limp.

Sherman told a story of needing to go through brain surgery to remove a benign tumor. When he finally woke up after surgery, he saw everyone standing around him, including the head of surgery, an eastern Indian doctor. His first thought was to tell his doctor an “inappropriate joke.”

“I bet it’s the first time an Indian ever scalped an Indian.” No one even cracked a smile. He thought maybe something was seriously wrong with him. His wife came over to him and gently leaned down. He panicked over what she was going to tell him. “Sherman, you’ve told that joke 11 times,” she said. Ah, he thought, the power of a good anesthetic drug!

He said the point is that everyone needs a good editor. Go ahead and tell an inappropriate joke if that keeps your sense of humor alive. But only tell it once. Keep someone in your corner who will edit you if need be. Make sure your sense of humor equals your sense of grief. Grieve when you must, but chase the joy that’s all around you the other times. Chase the joy. Whenever possible, chase the joy.

I got some valuable instruction at a college graduation yesterday. And some much needed laughter for my saddened soul.