One of my sisters is out of state for Christmas with her husband's family and I overheard my other two sisters taunting her on the phone a few minutes ago. It was pretty funny. She has been dubbed "the traitor" which I think fits just fine. While we will miss her (or at least pretend to miss her), we will just have to get on with our day.
Uh oh, I can hear my family plotting to "wake me up." I think it's time to wrap this up. I just wanted to say "Merry Christmas" to everyone and I hope you have a really nice day!
Turkey Day is ticking away. It has been a wonderful (emphasis on the full) day. I don’t want to miss the perfect opportunity to write down (well, type up) what I’m grateful for. Here it goes:
FIRST AND FOREMOST: FRIENDS AND FAMILY
I would be nothing, nowhere, and no one without my friends and family. This wonderful group of people includes plenty of complete strangers out there who have shown me random acts of kindness. I owe everything I am to my parents, sisters, brother-in-law, best friends, close friends, distant friends, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins, coworkers and classmates who have shaped my life. While I am always sad when I grow apart from a dear friend, I am very grateful that life is continually filled with new faces. Even though I want to hold onto everyone forever I know that we have to keep trudging down diverging paths.
I am thankful for teachers who have shown me the way and helped me since my earliest memories in pre-school. They cheered me on for every small victory and helped me through anything worth mentioning in my life until I was 23. Even though that is the age I graduated college and my formal education ended, I will always look to teachers as beacons of light scattered along a sometimes dark and discouraging path.
(Disclaimer: The rest of this list is in no particular order)
SECOND: FOOD & CLEAN WATER
I am very grateful for clean water that makes modern hygiene and cooking possible. On my mission I lived in places where untreated tap water posed a potential threat to my health but by some miracle I was able to stay healthy. More than anything I am grateful for fantastic food from vibrant cultures although I will tell you I’ll never turn down a bowl of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Also, if I ever meet the person who invented Hawaiian pizza, I think I’ll kiss them right on the mouth.
THIRD: MATTRESSES, PILLOWS, BLANKETS & SLEEP (& alarm clocks, I guess)
Aaaaahhhh, sleep! Sleep wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if I weren’t surrounded by lovely layers of fluffiness entombing me in an 8-hour cocoon of hibernation heaven. Even though alarm clocks have a bad rap, I definitely rely on mine to get me up in the afternoon (wait, I mean morning). It is much better than worrying about sleeping in. (I consider “sleeping in” having to hit to Snooze button more than six times.)
FOURTH: MODERN TRANSPORTATION
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Cars? Airplanes? Ships? Trains? Come on people, we live in the best world ever! I LOVE flying and oh my gosh if I didn’t have a car I think I’d just bury my head in the sand. I know there are a ton of other awesome ways to get around (bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, boogie board) but I just don’t think I’d be that motivated to try them out on a daily basis. I’m going to tack “wheelchairs” and “prosthetic limbs” on this list too. I think it is absolutely amazing how much mobility these apparatuses provide to people who may otherwise be rendered immobile. Thank goodness for scientists who dedicate their lives to perfecting the science of all of these vehicles of transportation.
I just realized I left out a biggie: buses. While the efforts of their developers and operators are laudable, I only give buses an honorable mention. There is nothing worse than being bus sick!
FIFTH: MODERN TECHNOLOGY (including Spell Check and dishwashers)
Think of everything that is technological but doesn’t carry people to and fro and you have my fifth hero: modern technology. Thank you to all of the GENIUSES who invented and perfected printing presses, light bulbs, telephones, radios, audio recorders, cameras, computers and the most bodaciously awesome INTERNET. I love it all. Of course, my daily life wouldn’t be complete without kitchen appliances, flushing toilets, and my remote control.
SIXTH: MODERN MEDICINE
I am grateful for vaccines, antibiotics, pain killers, local anesthetic and DENTISTRY. Thank you thank you thank you dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants everywhere who have done your homework and approach potentially terrified patients with confidence and hard-earned knowledge. Same thing goes for orthodontists, oral surgeons and their patient staff. I always loved my dentist growing up and that healthy relationship helped me through five years of orthodontic work that began with an oral surgery when I was 11 and ended with my wisdom teeth extraction when I was 16.
The bulk of my medical experience lies with the “teeth” doctors but I know I will be in great hands when more complex medical issues come my way. My hometown family doctor is a wonderful example of a nurturing family practician who has seen my family through decades of check-ups, sore throats and sniffles. Thanks to him I am confident that I will be in good hands with the physicians I will encounter during the rest of my life.
Although I am often overwhelmed by the amount of things I can choose to do in my downtime, I am very grateful for all of the writers, actors, musicians and artists who come together to create uplifting, inspiring, and eye-opening media. It would be a dream come true to join their ranks. I love television, movies, theater, music, books and art. My life would be very boring without them.
EIGHTH: TRUE BEAUTY
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I guess that means each of us gets to pick how we evaluate beauty. I wish modern society didn’t constantly bludgeon us with an idealized vision of feminine and masculine beauty. We should be able to evaluate beauty on our own terms and not buy in to the lies and illusions that surround us. I am grateful for people who know they are beautiful and refuse to let anyone make them think otherwise. I am grateful for full-figured girls and women who defy society’s standard of stickliness (yes I just made up that word) and walk proud for all to see. People who are brave enough to turn a blind eye to the Barbie/Ken image are my heroes. I need to be more like them.
LAST BUT NEVER LEAST: THE GOSPEL
I will be forever grateful for the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am. Countless people have shown me Christ-like love yet it never ceases to amaze me when I see new examples of it throughout my meager existence. The world is chock full of horrible and sad things. I am so grateful for the hope that Christ brings and the mission he completed for us during his life, death, and resurrection. I know that Christ lives and He will return to this earth one day. It is our choice whether we will be grateful or fearful, thankful or dreadful. I choose to look forward to that day and although I am far from perfect I know we all have the same opportunity to make things right and be glad of heart.
Today my heart is full and I have many people to thank. There are far too many people to name and far too many names to remember. Please know that you make a difference in someone’s life on a daily basis. While a smile may soon be forgotten, harsh words are hard to erase. As we head into the Christmas season do the best you can to uplift those around you. It is better if our kind interactions lift one another up in a cloudy haze of unremarkable pleasantries than if our cutting quarrels bring each other crashing down to a cold hard earth.
Monday was what I refer to as a collapse day. I was singlehandedly trying to hold up the sky and plug every leak that each storm cloud threatened to pour out. Nothing bad happened that day, but I can’t remember much good about it either. I dismissed it as another Monday devoid of remarkable events. Then Tuesday came – more pressure, more intensity, more urgency. I will not have chaos in my life so I countered with control. However, very little was under my control. “Just keep up. You have to keep up,” echoed through my mind. At one point I froze in the middle of my tasks, in need of a deep breath, and attempted to methodically collect my thoughts which had scattered to and fro like marbles on a granite floor.
Here I was, little ole me, trying to hold the whole world together. The challenge was the same as always – keep it together. Anticipate trouble and fix it before anyone notices. Somehow, routine tasks had gotten out of hand. I thought back and wondered if this was a gradual process (like a frog slowly being boiled alive in a pot of water) or a temporary problem (like a quick rainstorm which would soon clear out until next season). For the time being I am convinced it is the former. A few years ago it felt like the pace of my life was picking up in a predictable, linear fashion. Sure, time seemed to be going faster but I was able to rely on a steady stream of past experiences to get me through new obstacles. Recently, the pace seems to have taken on an exponential growth rate. I am wondering what will happen if the line eventually shoots off the charts.
If I had spoken to you as Tuesday trounced all over me, I would have told you I was living in a Tetris game. Tetris starts off at a level we all know and love – Level One. Everything makes sense in Level One, but soon we are ready for a challenge and it’s time to advance. Early on, moving to the next level seems like a great reward. “Yeah, I’m ready for this!” As the game’s speed increases and impossible combinations of shapes are dropped into your ever more disorderly world you think to yourself, “What exactly did I sign up for?” Even more questionable is your desire to keep moving forward. Whether you like it or not you improve in the game and are pushed forward. (Forward is good, right? Well, that may be debatable.) As you reach higher levels and push yourself to keep up with the frantic pace and falling shapes, the quickened cadence becomes the new standard by which to measure your success. What once seemed chaotic now seems normal, and you brace yourself for more.
At times, failure falls upon even the most adept Tetris player. I was never a great Tetris player and if I were to pick up the game today I would probably be sent back to Level One more times that I’d prefer to admit. Even so, Level One is a great place. Unpredictable challenges can quickly be sorted into level piles of successfully completed work. However, Level One can’t last forever.
One thing Tetris doesn’t teach you is how to cope with a level that outmatches your skill set. The only way to progress in Tetris is by earning your way there. Life is constantly throwing things at me and saying, “Can you handle that? No? Deal with it anyway!” I continually ask myself, “How on earth did I get here?” and, “Am I qualified for this?” And there’s always the question, “Do I really want to progress to something harder or should I pay a nostalgic visit to Level One instead?” Since life doesn’t come equipped with a “pause” button (only a costly mimic called “denial”), I have a tendency to hold my arms up to the sky and keep anything else from dropping down on me. As the rate and pressure intensify, it doesn’t take long to realize this “break” is going to break me. Sometimes my tibia snaps, other times my fibula. My knees and ankles squeak and creak, but I still hold up the sky. Just as I think my plan is working, I reach the breaking point and everything collapses, including the crumpled bones in my legs.
What is the solution for fixing sore arms and broken legs? Run. On Wednesday night I went to the track and ran for the first time in a week and a half. I involuntarily ran much faster than normal (my body must have sensed that my poor little mind has been in control for far too long) and I couldn’t slow my pace. Nothing could have felt better. I am no expert in physiology but I know I carry stress around in my body. It is very easy to talk myself out of running, (“I’m too busy!”) but choosing to run is one of the best possible uses of my time. If you feel overwhelmed the best possible thing to do is take a break. It may seem counterintuitive to take valuable time away from your tasks, but your personal well being will always outweigh your to-do list.
Today I feel a lot better about things, but not for any reasons I trust. Could it be the allure of a restful weekend? Is it the promise of getting pizza in class tonight? Or maybe is it because I am planning to take a break in a few hours and spend perfectly valuable time watching TV? Perhaps I am gleefully anticipating a few days off next week for Thanksgiving. Regardless, I can tell you that today’s outlook is very promising. I can look back on this week and say I did everything I could. Even though I can’t count on anything that may happen in a few hours or a few days, I can tell you that someone has hit the elusive “pause” button for me. While this may just be the calm before another storm, I am glad to have time to collect my thoughts and recommit to this crazy life of mine.