Warning: Changes Are Ahead

What is the purpose of the yellow light at a traffic signal? There are two classic schools of thought, right?

“Go real fast!”
and
“Slow down!”

Honestly, though, the yellow light is a warning that a red light is imminent? What you do with that information depends on a lot of things; your personality, where you’re headed and why, how far from the light you are, etc.

The purpose of a yellow light is to warn you that things are about to change. It’s to prevent you from being surprised by a hard stop. If you’re paying attention, you won’t have to slam on the brakes at the last moment. If you’re close to the intersection, you’ll hurry up to get through and not be in the intersection when cross traffic gets there.

I think we get a yellow light in our lives from time to time as well. If we’re paying attention, we’ll get a warning that things are about to change suddenly and, hopefully, make some decisions based on our own needs and desires.

We meet people that change our lives for worse or for better. We get test results that make us think about the future and start plans. Our bodies slow down, ache and take longer to recover, making us realize that the ultimate red light may be just around the corner, prompting us to do the things we’ve wanted to do or say the things we need to say.

Don’t let the red light take you by surprise. Pay attention to your surroundings and the road ahead. See the warnings, not as a hindrance or a burden, but a reminder that we don’t have all the time in the world. Create the thing, go see the place, repair the relationship. There’s so much to do.

Eyesight

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I didn’t know I was having vision problems until the DMV pointed it out to me. A pair of glasses fixed it.

Driving at night was becoming a problem for me. I wasn’t sure if it was the desert darkness on the highway late at night, worn out from long rehearsals, or just the fact that I was getting older, but it was becoming increasingly difficult for me to see at night. The glare of the headlights coming in my direction made it impossible for me to focus. My sons would keep an eye out on the road for people walking along the highway at night. Why people would choose to do that, I will never understand. For self-preservation alone, why do they not carry a flashlight or have something reflective on?

I continued to make the drive, carefully, only because I didn’t need to read the signs to know where to go between the theater and home, but I was starting to limit my excursions to daytime activities. Driving in unfamiliar places in the dark was becoming impossible. This must be part of getting older, I thought, although I would never have admitted it out loud.

As my 40th birthday approached, I found a driver’s license renewal from the DMV in my mailbox. Opening it, I figured I was going to have to pay the fee and be done with it. I’ve never gotten a ticket or been in an accident. To my dismay, I found I’d have to go in for a vision test. No problem, I thought, at least I don’t have to take the test again. Don’t make fun of me, but I barely passed the written and behind-the-wheel test when I was 16! I live in mortal fear of the day I have to study and take it again.

I made an appointment at the DMV and headed into the city the following month. I covered one eye and read the letters on the board ahead of me, as instructed. No problem. When I covered the other eye, the world went blurry. I could only read the first and second line! The DMV employee had me read it off the computer. “Sometimes the computer screen is easier.” She told me. I still couldn’t read it.

It was the strangest feeling. I’ve never had vision problems. My mother always wore glasses and I used to tease her when I was a teenager. Coming home in the middle of the night, knowing she couldn’t see the clock without her glasses, I’d tell her it was only 10:30 when she would groggily ask from her bed when we had woken her. My brother and I thought we were so clever.

I stood there at the DMV trying to focus on the letters to no avail. The DMV worker was so nice about it. She passed me but suggested that I get glasses right away. I made an appointment the next day. My vision was that bad. When I got my new glasses a few weeks later, I was absolutely amazed at how much better I could see. At night, the lights no longer fuzzed out and blinded me and during the day, I could see read the signs so much sooner.

Strange to think I hadn’t noticed my vision getting worse, that I believed I was seeing the world as I had always seen it. How could I have not noticed such a dramatic change?

That’s how we see life. The world around us is only our personal reality, shaped by time and experience that only we can have. No one else sees it just the way you do. It builds up slowly, day after day, experience after experience. And at any moment, something can come along to change that perception, someone can alter your perspective with a word. One experience can show you that you are missing something, and another can offer you new insight. Your whole world changes.

I could have stood there and argued with the DMV worker. There must be something wrong with your machine! Maybe there was something in my eye, I was tired, or it was allergies. I could have stood there holding tightly to my own perception of reality and never gotten any help. I could have continued to squint into the night and cause an accident or gone through life not knowing that there were trees on the top of that hill.

Hold lightly to your perceived reality, it makes it so much easier to change. There is so much we miss by holding on to the past and what we believe to be true, never changing.

Note to my 24-year-old Self

This is another post from my old blog that I’m bringing over here. I wrote it a little over a year ago. It’s amazing how things are constantly changing.

“What would I tell my 24-year-old self?” That is the question I found close to the end of my “Entrusted” online bible study with Beth Moore. She said she’d tell herself nothing, not because she wouldn’t listen anyway (which was my thought) but because the journey was worth not knowing. Does the journey make the destination that much sweeter?

Would I be the 44-year-old person I am today if I had not lived and learned through the 24-year-old self I was? I don’t think so. I think if I hadn’t lived the way I did, learned from it, changed through it, and moved on, I would be an entirely different person now. I like who I am now. The only thing I would wish for myself is that it hadn’t taken so long, that I hadn’t hurt so many people through the process.

My journals stopped in late 1992, the year I turned 20. I have pictures from that time but they start to be less and less frequent until 1998. Six years. From the year my Mom moved to another state and I was left here, living with a boyfriend until the year I met my husband, and my friends helped me move to my own place. Wow. Such a dark time. I vaguely remembered it until I paged through some pictures and wrote down the events on a time line.

I had met someone, whose name will not be mentioned. He is the only person I actually got rid of any pictures of. I have had loads of boyfriends and they are still friends. I have pictures of them in my albums. I still talk to most of them on Facebook. There is one (maybe two) that I really hurt back then and they have disappeared, but this one had such an ugly effect on my life during those years that I still don’t want to be reminded of it. He took up four years of my life. For four years I must have been one of the most miserable people on earth. I sometimes wonder if anyone around me really knew what was happening. I know a couple did and tried to help, but we were all so young and wrapped up in our own dramas, there was little anyone could do if I wasn’t willing to help myself. I can’t relive those times and write about it, even now, but I wanted to give you the feeling of it in the context of those times as I think of what I would tell my 24-year-old self.

“You are worth so much more than this. Here’s a book about Jesus, a journal, $200 to get started on a journey, and my phone number if you want to talk. You are not trapped or held by anything but your own mind.”

Two things changed my life in 1998. The first was getting the job I had dreamed of for six years. I had a decent income and new friends. The second was that I saw my future husband from the back of a pickup truck at that job. He was standing outside the lunch room, we locked eyes when we saw each other again, just like in the movies. It had been six years since we had seen each other and I had disappeared without a trace. Something began to happen at that moment. That’s when I began to have confidence in myself as a human being.

It didn’t happen all at once. It took years to recover. Only now do I see how far I’ve come. And then that question, “What would you tell your 24-year-old self?” I think I agree with Beth Moore. I wouldn’t tell her a thing. I’d just love her right where she was, knowing she would survive and what she’d become.

What Do You Fake?

I read that somewhere, in a blog post or book most likely, and it made me pause. I jotted it down in the notes on my phone, thinking that I really needed to explore that more and I was sure I’d forget all about it if I didn’t write it down. I did anyway. Scrolling through my notes, which I use often as reminders when I’m out and about, days later I saw those four words again. “What do you fake?”

It’s a hard question. To answer it honestly would mean that I would stop faking for a moment and my disguise would be lost forever. And not faking it is rarely an option that ends in warm fuzzy feelings.

Sometimes it becomes impossible to tell the difference between what you are faking and what is genuine. But, then again, what does that even mean, to be “genuine”?

I believe myself to be an open book generally. I don’t easily hide how I feel about things. I may be misunderstood at times. I may be misjudged. My actions may be read wrong. I may not explicitly state how I feel or what I think about a topic, but, if asked, I will answer honestly. I try to spare feelings where I can, but if you ask me something specific, I assume you want to know what I think and I love to share.

I don’t believe that I’m overly intelligent. I try to think things through, but I do most things by intuition and not by deep study or calculation. That can get me in trouble. From a missed shot on the pool table to hurting someone’s feelings, intuition doesn’t always get you where you want to go. But it may get you somewhere you need to be.

I’m not very patient. Things that take long stretches of time or effort tend to bore me and I get restless. I shift focus often but usually come back around to the same things in time. Anything that has stuck in my life has insisted on sticking. Plants in my yard are there because they can be neglected at times and come back to life when I have the inclination to give them attention again. That goes for my relationships and art projects as well.

I believe people think I enjoy children. I don’t. It’s not that I don’t like them really. I think they are awesome. They are filled with greatness and should be treated with respect. We should all honor the intact human they are from the moment they are conceived. But…by their parents mostly. Like I said, I have little patience. I think I used up every ounce that I could muster on raising my own kids without too much damage. I’ll leave the rest up to their parents. Babies are excluded…I love them to pieces with their little feet and faces. And toddlers are so much fun. But the rest, with their attitudes and trying people, learning to navigate this world…my patience is thin. That’s honesty. Bring them back to me when they are teens.

I think the older I get, the less I intentionally fake. I used to fake that I was a “good girl,” that I didn’t care what other people think, and that I knew what I was doing. It’s all out the window now.

What about you?