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Monday, August 26, 2013

What I Learned the First Day of School

Some rights reserved by Paradox 56
Today was the first day of public school where I live. It was also the first day that our university students had class. My Twitter feed and Facebook newsfeed were all abuzz this morning about the first day of classes ... pics of back-to-school outfits ... and tales from several friends recounting the first day of kindergarten for their young'uns. And it hit me that despite the fact that in a week my youngest will start his junior year of college, my back-to-school days are pretty much over. It has taken me most of the day to get over that fact and I'm not quite sure I'm there yet.

For the better part of my adult life, my identity has been so wound up with being someone's mom that I have struggled with who I am now that my kids are adults. Yes, of course, I am still their mom ... but gone are the days when my calendar is crowded with who has to be where when. My August was not consumed with finding the right size glue sticks, 15 different spiral notebooks, or khakis with the dress-code-approved pockets. And, however grateful I am not to be dealing with such minutiae, I'm still trying to figure out what sort of minutiae should occupy my time now.

My vocational life as a pastor, a teacher, and a youth minister was consumed, in part, with helping others to realize that they were more than their vocational choices, more than the familial ties that they'd been born with, and even more than the relationship choices they made beyond their immediate families. But, I think that while I was trying to ensure that others were able to find and maintain there own unique identities, I might have forgotten to listen to myself, or, at least to really absorb that those same things were true of me as well. This was brought home to me about a week ago at an adult gathering. When I was asked to introduce myself, the "hi, my name is Pam," was quickly followed by what I figured everyone would consider more important: "I'm <insert kid's name here>'s mom."

It is true, I am their mom ... and nothing has made me happier or more proud in my life. But, it could be that it's time for me to grow up too. Maybe it's time to realize that I am me separate from my kids ... just as they have an identity that is very separate from mine.

Hi, my name is Pam ... 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Taking the Bad with the Good and Loving through It All

Some rights reserved by Avital Pinnick
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." So begins Charles Dickens' classic The Tale of Two Cities. It could also have been the tagline for this week. It was a week in which a flare spontaneously ignited in the trunk of my son's car causing a small fire ... but, it was also the week in which I got cast for a role in The Laramie Project, a play that I desperately wanted to be in. It was a week in which we got some very disappointing news regarding a work situation ... but, it was also the week when both my husband and I had some very enlightening self-discoveries. In other words, like many weeks that all of us have ... it was filled with the good and the bad.

I think that somewhere along the line, many of us learn to think
 of the good stuff as somehow earned or merited. Conversely, the negative stuff is seen as some sort of punishment or deserved suffering. But that's kind of silly when you think about it because sometimes the bad stuff is what leads the good stuff or makes it possible, at least. And, in other cases, something that seemed like "the good stuff" several weeks ago, turns out to be not so good at all once we've lived into it.

More and more, I think that I am beginning to figure out that our lives are full of "stuff" and whether it is perceived as being "good" or "bad, the "best of times" or "the worst" depends upon context, the people involved, our own feelings and/or disposition at the time, and a host of other variables over which we have little to no control. The one thing I can control, however, is my reaction ... my response to the stuff.

Over the past several weeks, I have tried to be much more intentional about taking time during my day to mentally step back and just breathe (both physically and mentally). Whether it's in 5, 10, or 20 minute snippets ... just taking a break to reflect upon who I am and where I am in my life has helped me to put both the stuff that I perceive as great, the stuff that I perceive as horrid, and all the stuff in between into perspective.

So ... those are my words of wisdom for today: Remember to breathe. It's helpful in the best of times. It's helpful in the worst of times.