The Broken Window

When I got home from vacation a few days ago, I noticed that something was wrong with my car window–the one on the driver’s side.

When I was arriving at the gym, I pushed the switch to roll the window down, and the window started acting cuckoo. It was suddenly off the track and leaning to one side and although I could still move it up and down, it wouldn’t close because it wasn’t lining up correctly on its track.

So naturally, I felt like this was a big deal, you know? I mean, I just returned from Florida, where it was warm, but it’s FREEZING in Indiana, and I thought to myself, “It’s too cold to drive around with a window that won’t close.”

With a feeling of urgency, I started to push the button more and more. “Forget the gym,” I said to myself, “this window must be fixed now.” I pushed the button up and down and began to try and physically pull the window off the track in an effort to slot it back in.

Now here’s the thing: I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CARS. So I had no business thinking that I knew what I was doing. I just knew I didn’t want to drive the dang car with an open window in 40 degree temps.

Not surprisingly, my efforts were to no avail, and I ended up calling a mechanic. Upon examining the window, the first thing the mechanic told me was that it looked as if the window had simply slid off the track, which would have been an easy fix for him, but in my efforts to fix the window myself, I had actually broken the window regulator part in the process, and that would now have to be replaced.

The part was ordered, and he then put the window back on the track in its rightful position, but left me with a strict directive:

“Do not push the button up and down. The window will stay in its correct place as long as you do not press it.”

“Ok,” I said, somehow knowing this would be hard for me. 🙄 I seem to be someone who is good at doing hard things, but not easy things.

He must have read the stressed look on my face, because he then continued,

“And if you forget and press it, please do not attempt to fix it again. Just let it be until the part comes in.” 

Ok,” I said. 😳

On the drive on the way home, I said to Aliana, “Maybe I should put duct tape over the switch, so I don’t forget to not use it.”

Aliana, who is 10, reassured me that this was not necessary.

“Just remember not to touch it,” she said. I did a little internal psyching myself up. I said outloud, “Don’t roll down the window, Emily. You can remember. Don’t do it!”

I then enjoyed a very luxurious 24 hours of driving around in my warm car. I was determined to not touch the window, as I was thoroughly appreciating the warmth, dryness, and privacy of my vehicle. However, that feeling of gratefulness began to wane, (as gratefulness often does, if we don’t hold it close to our hearts) and was replaced with a sense of complacency within a few hours.

And then, as I was entering a parking facility the next night, I realized I needed to grab a ticket. Without thinking, you guessed it…I rolled down the window.

The window immediately went off the track , of course, and one side of the glass was now poking up in the air.

“Ugh,” I said to myself. I was simultaneously surprised I had forgotten while also fully expecting that this would happen.

I spent the next day driving around with the window open in rain all day. Everywhere I went, I was cold, rainy, and wet. I contemplated getting a towel to dry off the car and cold, wet steering wheel. Somehow, part of my ego argued against it.

“It’s all your fault. You forgot what you were supposed to do, and now you must pay the price,” the voice in my head said.

The next morning my mechanic texted me to tell me there was a delay in the arrival of the part. I was going to face an additional 24 hours driving around in the cold.

I began to once again think about how my annoyance with the window situation was all my fault, and it was happening as a result of two mistakes I made in my thinking: I tried to fix something I knew nothing about by myself, instead of being still and waiting. And then, after knowing I needed to practice a simple, new way of thinking, I had once again slipped back to my old ways of thinking, thereby breaking it again.

I knew that pressing the switch would result in a very unfavorable outcome. And yet, I forgot what I knew and did it anyways.

This got me thinking: how many times do we do this? How many times do we have a new, very important goal at hand, and we get complacent about it and then slip back into old habits and mindsets?

And the equally important flip side of that question is this:

How many times do we spend beating ourselves up for our mistake, instead of having compassion for ourselves and just deciding to do better and move forward?

Did I help myself when I decided I deserved to be cold and wet and rainy the next day? I was essentially deciding that I deserved to be miserable. I could have gotten a towel to dry off and put on some gloves and made myself more comfortable.

But instead, I wanted to grumble and punish myself.

Side note: I think I may be the only weirdo on the face of the earth that contemplates life like this when a window breaks.

But if I am that weirdo, I might as well share these musings.

To recap:

  • When something goes wrong, and we are not sure what to do, many times it’s in our best interest to stop DOING and just get still. In the stillness, we have the ability to think rationally, instead of simply reacting and breaking windows and crap.
  • When we are trying to think in a new way–whether it’s embracing a new lifestyle, new way of thinking, or new reality–we should realize that we may have moments where we revert to old patterns of thinking, especially in times of urgency or complacency.
  • When we make an error out of complacency or urgency, or addictive patterns, we must acknowledge the error, while having compassion with ourselves, so that we can move forward. Other people may not have compassion for us, which is why it is so important that we give that gift to ourselves.

We are all worthy of compassion and self forgiveness. And we are all worthy of having new opportunities and new results. So as we go about our day, let’s also remember this additional truth:

It is only in our brokenness, that we can actually see more beauty in the world. So maybe broken windows aren’t that bad after all.

“Well, it depends.”

One of the most bizarre things a mother can experience is that she can birth a child into the world who has a personality completely different than her own.

My mother did just that.

I came into this world, very quickly (my dad barely made it to the hospital in time) and very loudly, according to my father. I was a horrible sleeper (a trait I passed on to my own child) and sensitive and fearful. I was wired for anxiety and phobias and seemed to be driven by my emotions.

From the time I was two years old, up until adulthood, my mother spent a lot of time sagely advising me to slow down. To wait. To be patient. To think. I didn’t like that she was telling me these things, but I mostly listened because something inside of me knew she was speaking wisdom to me.

But the best piece of advice my mother ever gave me of all time was simply two words, or sometimes three, depending on how she framed it:

“It depends.”

That’s right, folks. Two words: IT DEPENDS. Sometimes she added in the extra word, “well,” at the beginning, and in that case, she said:

Well, it depends.”

If I had a dollar for every time my mother said, “It depends,” I would be rolling in the dough. To this day, she says it frequently in response to people making “should” statements that are filled with emotion. The following are a list of statements to which my mother has responded with her adage, “Well, it depends.”

  • Our culture: “Follow your heart.” Mom: “Well, it depends. Sometimes the heart is just a bunch of feelings.”
  • Our culture: “Be fearless.” Mom: “It depends; sometimes fear is there to protect you.”
  • Our culture: “Live your life with no regrets.” Mom: “Well it depends. Sometimes regret can teach us things.”
  • Our culture: “Stand up for what you know is right.” Mom: “Well, it depends. You may not be right and may just be being stubborn.”
  • Our culture: “Take the bull by the horns and act quickly and efficiently.” Mom: “Well, it depends. You can take your time and be efficient as well.”

You see??? IT JUST DEPENDS. That is what I have learned from my mother.

My whole point in sharing how my mother’s phrase has helped me, is because I realize today that it has caused me, despite the fact that I’m wired to be emotional and even anxious, to choose to be OPEN to multiple perspectives. To be OPEN to multiple ways of existing, and feeling and thinking.

And while there are definite moral truths that cannot be argued with when it comes to equality and justice for humanity–no matter who you are, where you live, or what you have done– beyond those universal truths lies the world of “It depends.”

No one has this freaking thing called life figured out. We are all going to make independent judgments based on our experiences. However, there is great comfort in knowing that feelings are just feelings and, as a wise yoga teacher once said, “I am determined to see this mountain as just a mountain. It’s not a statement on my life,” (meaning not everything we perceive as terrible that’s happening to us has anything to do with us).

Pastor Rob Bell says our culture is all treble and no bass. People get their news and develop their thoughts from what they are exposed to on social media. Through the lens of technology, we have begun to believe there are quick answers to everything. In the craziness of all of this, my mom has been my bass, my voice of reason, by asserting that we cannot depend entirely on feelings, or easily swayed by new voices simply because they sound good. It just depends.

I close with a photo of my Mom, telling everyone to chill out, because no one knows what’s going to happen. “It depends,” she probably is saying. ⬇️

Forgiveness and Stuff

Easter and I have a crappy history.  It all started back in Easter of 2006 when I woke up on Easter morning, curled up in a fetal position on my bedroom floor, after finding out my then-husband was having an affair.

There are no words to describe the feeling of a deep betrayal, but I will attempt to do so. Yes, there is shock, grief, anger, loss, etc. but there is mostly a bizarre emptiness that takes over you. It’s a realization that the water you’ve been drinking for years has been poisoning you, while you are unknowingly guzzling it, believing it to be clean. And you start to wonder why you believed and trusted the water to be clean in the first place. Could you have possibly known it was poisonous???

However, on Easter Sunday, 12 years later, I woke up feeling much differently.  I was excited to go to a kundalini yoga class that morning at a new yoga studio.  I hopped (no bunny puns intended) into my car and began to drive there.

What happened next was surreal.  As I was driving down a main road in downtown Indianapolis, I spotted a car in my periphery that was moving slowly towards a stop sign at an intersection I was crossing.  In the next second, I felt a devastating impact and held my breath as a car crashed into my back passenger side door.  I spun in my car, gripping the steering wheel, feeling the shock of what in the hell just happened and then finally screeching to a stop, with my vehicle perpendicular to the road.  I looked up, and saw the other vehicle slow down from the impact of hitting me. In fear, I felt myself wanting to make eye contact, but as I was looking at the driver, he suddenly pushed on the accelerator and kept driving.

The next moment was filled with uncontrollable crying as I dialed 911.  (Crying is my jam. It’s just what I do.) A police officer stopped and pulled over next to me.  I assumed he was the one who had been called to come to the scene, but I was wrong.  He told me he had just gotten off duty, but would stay with me until the assigned officers arrived.  He told me to call someone to come and get me, since the car was undrivable, and to begin calling my insurance company to tell them I was the victim of a hit and run.

I continued to let the tears flow, while talking to the insurance company, feeling the release of the trauma and shock as the next two police officers arrived.  I replayed everything that happened in my mind as I retold them about the vehicle crashing into me.  I found myself wanting to apply blame…to someone.  Who would do this?  Who crashes into someone, and just drives away?  Who looks at someone who is clearly in fear and/or pain and just keeps going?  Who floors their gas pedal because their fear of dealing with the hurt they have caused, outweighs the courage to face the damage they have done? 

Since I couldn’t answer those questions, I then looked at myself.  Was there anything I could have done to prevent this from happening?  Even though I had the right of way, could I have possibly anticipated that he wasn’t going to stop?  Why didn’t I get a good look at him?  Why didn’t I look at his license plate number?

And then I started to blame the city:  Why aren’t their cameras at every intersection to record this crap?  Why didn’t anyone come out of their home to help me?  Why was there only one person along the way who stopped to help?

As the tow truck came along, the driver listened in to the conversation I was having with my friend who came to pick me up.  “Who does this?”  I asked her.

“Someone high.  Someone who has a warrant out for their arrest.  Someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license.  Someone…afraid,” she insightfully said.

“Someone who drives a Buick,” the tow truck driver chimed in, as he handed me a piece of the offender’s car he found in the street.  I looked at it.  It was the Buick symbol.  A piece of the person.  A piece of the vehicle which had crashed into me, on this bright Easter morning in 2018.  I cringed, but took the piece of the car as a clue to the piece of my pain.

A week later, I am sitting in the sunroom writing this post to you. At this moment, I realize there is much to be grateful for. I am grateful I am physically okay.  I am grateful for my friend who came to help me and for the police officers and the rental car employees, and for my insurance company.

I look at my daughter, thankful she wasn’t with me, and yet, terrified of the thought that she could have easily been sitting in the backseat at the point of impact.

But overall, now that I have some perspective, what I am reminded of is this: blaming others does not solve problems. What solves problems is doing the work–turning inward and acting on what we are called to do. And what else solves problems is deciding to act with compassion that is founded in truth, justice, and community.

I recall the moment when I looked over at him, and he floored the gas and drove away. That moment, to me, symbolizes all the moments when we look at someone in pain, and choose to keep walking.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all been the guy that drove away.

When we see homeless people on the street and somehow think they are not worthy of our attention, we are the guy that drove away.

When we hear the voice of someone in pain, speaking out about the injustice he or she feels, and yet we ignore it, we are the guy that drove away.

When we choose to not see others as being as valuable as ourselves, we are the guy that drove away.

When we choose to ignore those that we perceive to be different than us, we are the guy that drove away.

And please, don’t for one second, think that I’m “a good person” or “noble” for thinking this way. I’M JUST AS JACKED UP AS EVERYONE ELSE. I’m simply calling the sentiment into the light that “I am the other.”

It’s painful. It’s hard. But it’s a truth worth examining. And it’s what I believe DOES solve problems. The faster we can accept the reality that hurt people hurt people, the faster we can do the work and start to protect those who are suffering in our community.

And the faster we can actually begin to forgive.

Grace Elaine Sommers Whitehead

This past week my mom turned 79. It’s kind of jolting, because I don’t think of her as being someone who is close to entering her octogenarian years. She’s just my mom. However, she’s MY MOM. And being that I’m a mom, this has caused me to reflect on what it must be like to be my mom.

Sometimes I look at old pictures of myself from when I was a kid, and try to remember what my personality was like. I’m guessing my mom would say I was a happy and talkative child, and I was, for the most part. I liked to play outdoors in the dirt, ride my tricycle, talk to the neighbors, and play in the sandbox. I also liked to pretend I had imaginary friends and even children. One day I told my mom that I had two daughters–one named Ruthie (after my grandma who I was obsessed with) and Crouton (after my favorite salad bar topping-BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LOVE SEASONED BREAD?!). I was creative and liked to color and draw and watch the birds at the bird feeder.

My mom would sit at the foot of my bed every night until I fell asleep. We said bedtime prayers, and she helped me to learn how to pray. She cooked healthy food for us, and we always ate at the table.

(God, I should stop reminiscing because this is actually making me think about all the ways I’ve failed as a parent.)

But before I stop, I must mention one more thing.

I remember lying in bed in my childhood bedroom. Only I wasn’t a child anymore. I was 30 years old. My mom had pulled the curtains up, in hopes that I would feel the sunshine. It was springtime and it was beautiful weather. And yet, I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I knew my parents were concerned, but every time they tried to speak to me, I either cried or shut down. And all I remember thinking was, why can’t I just enjoy the sunshine? There are actual people who are getting up with the sun and going outside and living their lives and going to the grocery store and shit. And getting up to go pee was overwhelming to me. Eating was overwhelming to me. Showering was overwhelming to me.

I felt like I was getting evicted from my own life. This was during my second separation from my husband. Things were crumbling and I did not want to surrender. What I didn’t yet understand was that, as Glennon always says, nobody gets evicted from his or her life unless she is being called to a truer, deeper life. Rock bottom is always an invitation to something else- something even more authentic and beautiful.

My mother came into my bedroom. She sat down on my bed. She told me she had baked some homemade bread and had fresh strawberry jam, made with strawberries from our garden. While my mother is an incredible cook, it was very out of character for her to make homemade bread. I looked at her, perplexed. But then I knew: she’s trying to get me to eat AND baking may be her way of coping with the fact that her child is feeling hopeless and not eating or sleeping.

She convinced me to eat a piece of bread. She brought it upstairs to me and sat on my bed. I put the bread in my mouth and could tell it was nearly a perfect tasting piece of bread, so I began to chew it, even though I wasn’t enjoying the process of eating. Every time I swallowed food, it went into the pit of my stomach and I thought would vomit. But I didn’t vomit. So I continued to slowly and thoroughly chew the bread in my mouth so that I could nourish my body at least.

“I’ve been thinking,” my mother suddenly said, “about you.”

I sat up in bed. She had my attention.

“I have this vision of you in my mind. You are an exquisite, beautiful flower. And yet, you’ve been buried for so long under the dirt. The ground above you is hard and cracked, and the soil is not good. However, you continue to grow and you will soon sprout above this ground that is holding you back–this ground that has held you down for so many years, and you will begin to bloom. And you’re just the most beautiful flower. You’re becoming yourself and you’re stunning. You are going to bloom and break free.”

I looked at her in awe, because she was envisioning things for me that I simply couldn’t see. But what she said–her words–were so intricate and fascinating, that it drew me in.

Everyone has always loved my mother. At times I resented this, because I didn’t like sharing her. I would get jealous and hide for attention or act out (when I was a child, to clarify-not last week 😜). But now I know why people are so drawn to her-it’s because she showed up for them, and never fell apart. It’s because she’s a vault when it comes to trust. My mother has exhibited grace under pressure, time and time again. When others are stressed, she remains serious. When people are crying and crushed, she responds with compassion. That’s why people love her.

So that is my mother. She is a believer in things that dwell in truth and possibility. Happy birthday, Mom.

Maybe Love Isn’t What I Thought

I bow my head in preparation for Namaste, as I hear my yoga teacher say, “As you go about your day, open your hearts to love.” I cringe. Yuck. I can’t. I don’t want to. When you love, you hurt.

************

I am four years old. I am sitting on the countertop of my parents’ kitchen in Kokomo. My mom picked me up and sat me there because she is about to give me a spoonful of cough syrup. I ask my mom, “What is love?” She looks at me strangely, and cocks her head to the side as she ponders a response.

“Love is…caring for someone. Like, me giving you medicine now. That’s love.”

************

I am 25. I sit in the women’s Bible study at the Baptist Church. I look up at the pastor leading the study. I like her because she tells me what to do and I have been searching all my life for someone to just tell me what to do.

“Love is a choice,” she says. “Pray for your husband. Show him love in your actions. You will not always feel like loving him. But you can make the choice to be loving.”

***********

I am 27. I am lying in bed in my apartment in Lexington, Kentucky. It is 1:00 am. My husband is not responding to my texts. I wonder if he is coming home. I feel crushed because I know in my soul that he simply doesn’t give a damn about how his actions affect me. The words from the Bible study echo through me, “Love is a choice. Make the choice to be loving.”

And so I do. Again and again. If this is love, I hate loving.

***********

I am 34. I look into my boyfriend’s eyes. He tells me, “I more than like you. I think I’m falling in love with you.” I repeat this back to him and believe it, because I feel it. I know it is a feeling, though, and feelings can be fleeting.

When we break up 9 months later, I channel my inner Whitney Houston and tell him, “I will always love you.”

**********

I am 35. I do not speak to my ex boyfriend anymore and barely remember loving him. He is a memory.

**********

I am 33. I see my daughter running at the pool at the YMCA. She slips, falls hard to the ground and has a concussion. I cradle her in my arms and carry her out of the building. I drive her to the doctor. She vomits and then falls asleep as I am driving. When I arrive at the doctor, I run in and tell the office staff through tears, “She has to be seen! Right now!!”

I know she is going to be fine, but I am afraid. I love this baby. She’s all I have. It doesn’t matter what she does. Love isn’t in the doing when it comes to her. It just is.

***********

I am 39. I tell a man I love him. He is not my boyfriend. It is…complicated. I tell him not to say it back because I am afraid he doesn’t love me back. But then I realize I don’t care. I realize I can love without receiving love in return. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.

It is good, because it causes me to love without expectations. It is bad, because I forget that I am worthy of being loved in the same way.

*********

I sit in hot yoga class. I am 40. My teacher repeats the same mantra at the closing of class. “Open your hearts to love.” I realize that I am not cringing this time though. Maybe that’s progress.

Perhaps love is not simple. Maybe it is layered. Maybe it is light and it is dark; sadness and laughter. Maybe it’s supposed to be scary because it requires courage. I am still terrified to love; but I begin to think that love is a lot like faith. When you have faith, it does not mean things will go as planned; it simply means you show up and are open to what may flow out of you and to receiving what comes back.

*********

Today, a week before my 41st birthday, I lie at home in bed, and take out a book I have been trying to read for some time, Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love.  “As we demonstrate love towards others, we learn that we are lovable and we learn how to love more deeply…We will always learn what we have chosen to teach.”

These words are words I can now understand, but they are still hard to swallow. I want to love but not stop loving myself. Perhaps that is the whole point: what you put out will come back to you. In some way. In some form. No love is wasted.

Resentment is a Teacher 

Here’s a quick exercise: 

*Think of someone in your life right now who is really getting on your nerves and/or irritates you. Picture that person in your brain. Got it? That was easy. Now, here’s the hard part: think about what boundary you need to set with him or her. 

The hardest part of adulting is boundaries. I hate them, in fact. I mean, it’s so much easier to just complain about people bugging us, while slowly building up resentment towards them, and maybe even gossiping about them. And gossiping is so much fun, anyways. It’s like, a way to connect with friends, right? Let’s get together and talk about all the people who irritate the heck out of us and how we can’t stand them, but then we’ll be nice to their faces and pretend everything is fine.

Only it’s not fine. Because our resentment continues to build up towards that irritating person or people we have yet to set a boundary with. And so then, we start doing things, like becoming passive aggressive towards him or her. Or snarky. Or confusing. Or we just bottle it up and then gossip about it with our friends, thinking it’s making us feel better, without realizing it’s actually MAKING US FEEL WORSE to complain about a person behind his or her back.

I have spent most of my life believing that if I set boundaries with others, then that made me a b**ch or a meanie or not Christian *** enough. When in reality, that’s all bullcrap. Complete bullcrap. What I didn’t realize is that when I was honest with people, it gave them the opportunity to change, and it also was a way of honoring my truth and integrity. 

I once had a friend who spent years asking me for advice. And I spent years offering it to her. She chose to never take it, or when she did, she ended up telling me how bad the advice was or how “that idea didn’t work for her.” At the time, I was really in the middle of my own crisis, but instead of focusing on healing from that, I was focused on trying to save/help my friend. 

And it became exhausting. And then I was like, “Oh my God, this friend of mine is irritating the crap out of me.” I kept telling others about it and asking them for advice on how to handle her. I was angry and resentful towards her for continuing to suck the energy out of me. But I was actually TURNING INTO HER because I was now doing the SAME, EXACT thing with MY friends. They all told me, “Talk to her about it. Tell her why you feel depleted. Tell her you need to take a break from offering advice. Set a boundary.” 

And I was all like, “Why in the HECK are you TALKING like a crazy person… you think I would actually say that to her face??!! As if! ” 💁🏻

But you guys, here’s the thing. A couple  of my courageous friends basically told me, “You need to either set a boundary with this person or accept her for who she is. That’s your choice. But I’m not going to keep rehashing it with you. It is what it is.”

See what they just did there? They set a boundary with me. And at first I was like, “Fine. Guess I won’t talk to you about how upset I am with this person anymore! Hmph!” But then, after a bit, my ego subsided and I somehow realized what was happening. My friends had called me out on my own bullsh*t.

So after gaining my composure, I called up this friend and told her, “I care about you and I know your situation is not easy. But I can’t give you any more advice right now. I need to get my own crap together. Our friendship is important, and I want to be honest with you. I am still here for you and will continue to hold a space for you in prayer.”

“Lord Jesus, I can’t believe I did that,” I told myself as I hung up the phone. 

And to my surprise, my friend actually understood, even though it was weird at first.  It changed the dynamic of our relationship. I was no longer her psychologist. I was simply her friend. 

And I slowly began to heal myself.  I began to give myself the gift of self care and more time alone, to fill up my own cup so that I could give in love to others. 

*exercise taken from a Brene Brown interview with Chase Jarvis. 

*** and speaking of Christians setting boundaries, did you know that Jesus set boundaries, like, ALL the time in the course of his life? And before you get excited, Mom, thinking I remembered that from Vacation Bible School, I didn’t. I just googled that shit. http://www.soulshepherding.org/1998/07/jesus-set-boundaries/

Go, Jesus! I really like him. He’s been keeping it 💯 since the year zero AD.