The Blessed Life of the Un-Damned

The photo is of my son, Collin, flying over Lake Powell, doing something he’d never done. I hope you can feel the joy and excitement and life in this shot and that those emotions never leave you.

When I was a girl I tagged behind my grandpa as he irrigated a budding grain field. To my horror, he mercilessly whacked at weeds that I thought were pretty. He flung rocks out of furrows like they were mortal enemies. I watched him in wonder as he wielded his shovel. Then he stopped and explained to me how precious irrigation water had to reach all the way to the end of every furrow in order to nourish every little spout of grain. If not, the crop would wither beneath the sun’s scorch.

He then knelt and showed me how a single weed or rock “damned” the flow of life-giving water.

That’s when I realized that damned literally means: to be stopped from progressing.

Being damned is the worst feeling in my world. It’s harsher than fear or even rejection. And here’s the kicker I’ve discovered—damnation is self-inflicted. God doesn’t damn me. Satan doesn’t damn me. You don’t damn me. I do that all by myself. I do it by accepting life’s roadblocks as something that I can’t get over or go around. I do it by embracing my doubts as truths. I do it when I let fear freeze me in my tracks. I do it by staying stuck in my own muck.

Trust me, I’m not saying life doesn’t stop us. Disappointments bludgeon us. Trials thwart us. Health problems hobble us. I’ve been showered with my share, but I’m weary from the weight of damnation. I’m tired of feeling like I’m not progressing. I want to move forward and I want that for any of you who feel like you’ve been stuck too. So, here’s what I’ve learned in this journey:

  • Give yourself credit for all you’ve accomplished. You’re still breathing. Consider all the things you’ve learned in the past year. Reflect on the relationships you’ve built and the ones you’ve repaired. Think of the service you’ve rendered. The places you’ve explored. The work you’ve accomplished. Don’t discount your desires to do better. They matter. Nothing wrong with patting yourself on the back hard enough to jolt you into giving yourself credit where credit is due. Stop demeaning your own accomplishments!
  • Quit comparing yourself to anyone else. They haven’t lived your life. They don’t dwell in your physical body. Don’t let unforgiveness, or resentment or envy corrode your own happiness when you see that your Facebook friend just danced with penguins in Antarctica. It doesn’t matter that someone else got a promotion or the graduate degree that you so desperately want. Focus first on you. Move toward your goals and don’t get distracted by someone else’s success. When we learn to celebrate the accomplishments of others (especially those we don’t believe deserve all the good things that come their way) life has a way of paving the path for our own successes. What’s the saying? Success isn’t the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success!
  • Don’t you dare give up. Excuses are like feet: we all have ‘em and they all stink! Lack of resources like time, health, money are only excuses. People get what they prioritize. Don’t worry about pace as much as progress. As long as you’re moving in the right direction, you’ll get there. Love yourself along the way and savor the experiences along the journey. Learn to look for the good in every situation. Your end goal or destination isn’t nearly as important as the person you become along the route to get there.

I ramble when I get excited. I’m excited. I’m releasing myself. Forgiving myself. Finally moving forward as a risk-taker and an opportunity-maker. There’s wonder in not knowing how my best-laid plans will either come to fruition or come apart. That’s life, but staying stuck isn’t living, is it? So let’s get out there, by small steps or giant leaps, into a world I believe we agreed to enter to experience everything we possibly can cram into a lifetime. The love. The beauty. The truth. The faith. The mysteries. The stories. Oh, the stories! And stories, dear friends, are not cobbled with words as much as they are with freedom. Freedom to choose, to move, to feel, to learn and to grow. So let’s remove the weeds and rocks and clods that clog us from receiving our allotment of life. Let’s un-damn ourselves and help each other to be about the business of fully living!

A Rainy Day, Donald Trump and Me

I was with HER. But that doesn’t change the fact that Donald Trump once showed me a generous side of humanity. So I share this story, not to offend, but because mudslinging doesn’t do anything but make a mess.

This is a photo of my two sons, brothers, playing in the mud. If you don’t know that I have white sons and black sons, and in-between children, you might interpret this photo inaccurately. Fact is, it was a rainy day and I wanted those boys to play in the mud because I wanted the image. At my encouragement, they took turns plastering each other. Splashing. Laughing. Being brothers. And making one heck of a mess.

Now I want to tell you a story of another rainy day. Early one morning ten years ago I walked outside of a NYC building owned by Donald Trump. There was a downpour and I was ill prepared. So there I stood on the curb, trying to hail a taxi when a car pulled up. A couple of men climbed out and one happened to be Mr. Trump. Now I’m nothing that would lure his attention my way. I’m middle-aged and far from a double-zero with double-D’s. But he still saw a woman caught in the rain and offered me an umbrella.

“Thank you, but I can’t accept it because I’m headed to the airport and won’t be able to return it.”

“It’s yours,” he said.

That was that.

The umbrella is in my closet. My kids know not to mess with it because it’s symbolic of unwarranted and unexpected kindness. Every time I see it I want to be a little more thoughtful and a lot more cognizant of those in need around me.

The umbrella presented a mystery during this past political campaign. Where was the kindness that had been extended to me? I hope it surfaces for the whole wide world, and I hope that I can better cultivate it in my own life.

I tell this story not so you’ll want to borrow my umbrella, but to think about something Aristotle believed, “Fear is pain rising from the anticipation of evil.”

Let’s not anticipate the worst. Let’s not live in fear and pain. We’re still Americans—free to choose. Let’s choose to not allow our differences to divide us. Because there is change around us does not have to mean there is change within us.

Aristotle also observed that: “We are what we repeatedly do.” Let’s repeatedly choose kindness, strength, love, respect, inclusion, support and unity.

How we come together and not come undone…is the history that we can still decide, it’s the history yet to be made. Yes, it’s storming and we’re all outside in a deluge. Will we share an umbrella? Oh, I sure, sure hope so.