Listening to the {tulips}

My tulips and I have been conversing lately…

…they’re pretty smart. And no, I haven’t become a crazy naturalist or stopped shaving my legs. Here’s the story:

Until now, there has always been a very logical, planned, and immediate next step in my life: Kindergarten? First grade is around the corner. High school is over? Pick a college. Graduation? Get married, buy a house, find a job, settle in to a new city…

But, what now? Yes, there are children, new hobbies, moves, fresh life seasons somewhere in the future. But, for the first time, the next 10 years aren’t really planned…

Instead of thinking in terms of events and decisions that impact tomorrow, The Husband and I have to think about 15 or 20 or 35 years down the road.

That span of time is scary – ANYTHING could happen. Bad stuff. Hard stuff. I’d rather think about next month. Even New Year’s Eve is always bitter-sweet for me. What will this clean-slate of a year hold? I can barely handle planning dinner a week ahead of time – you really want me to make some investment that won’t come to fruition until I’m 65?! I’ve only been self-aware for like, 15 years!

Can’t. Wrap. My. Head. Around. It.

Enter, my tulips: These bulbs, like 401(k)s, kids, and European vacations, require vision. They are ugly little things that have to be planted in the brisk, late fall to bloom in the fresh, warming spring.

Not a perfect metaphor, but you get the picture.

Every spring for the last few years, I’d pass lovely yards and think to myself, “look at that seasoned, wise woman’s garden with all of those lovely flowers. Someday, I will think ahead enough to plan for that surprising early beauty, too.”

But, I wasn’t in a planting mood in the fall. I was done with mowing and digging and weeds… I wanted new boots, a cardigan and a hot latte. Like, yesterday. So, tulips didn’t happen.

Late last year, however, things changed: I was determined – even though it meant thinking about an uncomfortable amount of time – to make tulips happen. I picked out the bulbs, and stuck them in the ground. And, at the same time, I was slowly becoming aware that life doesn’t always rush at a never-ending pace and present you with an obvious next step with relatively immediate gratification. Sometimes, it requires patience, grown-up vision, and a little faith.

Boy, did that small step pay off:

Like ruffly, fiery, jewel-toned manifestations of my personal growth, my flowers sprang to life many months later in an array of lovely colors that made me smile for weeks on end when I pulled in my driveway. (Another of those “I like what I am becoming” moments!).

In some small way, I had arrived. If I could act in advance and wait for the payoff of planting bulbs, I knew that I was ready to do the same with confidence in other areas of my life too! Discontentment about my situation at a single moment, could be traded for the knowledge that I am investing in a million little ways for a beautiful, surprising, colorful future.

I’m growing up.

I am still grasping this concept of the length of a life. I have to remind myself that I don’t have every friend I will ever have right at this moment. I don’t posses every skill I will die with today. I am not as wise now as I will ever be, and I don’t need to be anxious about my self-actualization goals and level of maturity. I don’t need to do it ALL NOW.

Life is a process. And, life is long. Don’t let people tell you any different. Most of us will have decades to ‘work on’ ourselves, learn how to knit, take up kickboxing and watercolors and make new best friends… Those are the moments that add meaning and color to our journey. Add richness to the lives we touch. Add to our legacy…

So today, put your worries in His hands. Have a little vision. Make a few plans. And watch them bloom…

Advertisements

Not your average {Joe}

Let me tell you a little about Joe.

Joe Buckley is my little brother…

…and he is truly one of the most interesting people I have the pleasure of knowing.

{And yes, that may or may not be a mullet-esque hairdo I’m sporting. Though mom claims otherwise… “Dorothy Hamill” my foot.}

{Senior Pic… Stud}

Named for two great men: Our great-grandfather who lived his days bringing life to the land on his Ohio farm, Joe Washington; and our rural Kentucky-born grandfather who ended up directing a Children’s home he ran away from as a boy, Robert Buckley. Joe was born in 1990, just shy of four years after me, and he has always loved his name.

{Buds}

Like most of us, I think, he’s made up of an interesting combination of contradictions, accomplishments, small tragedies and large joys. We fought, like brothers and sisters do, but I remember eagerly awaiting the day that he could read so we could play Monopoly… and there were bike races, 4-H meetings, barbies (he liked Ariel from the little mermaid because she also had red hair… or maybe it was the shell bra…), birthday parties and all of the normal childhood joys we raced through together.

Including dressing up in period costumes on family vacations…

Don’t let him tell you he didn’t do it of his own free will. We were the envy of all other children, and tourists stopped to take photos with us. It’s the truth.

{Gotta love us}

We’ve always had a good relationship, but in the past year or so I would say that our friendship has ‘grown up’. Joe is about to graduate from college, and enter a new, exciting, successful stage of his life, and there is something about both of us arriving at adulthood that has made each conversation a little more meaningful, and each memory a little bit sweeter.

And so, this post. Each of my family and friends have taught me important lessons, but here are a few that are “uniquely Joe”…

Lesson’s from Joe:

1. It‘s OK to suffer a little bit: Joe has the highest pain tolerance of anyone I know. Bleeding/oozing gash, no biggie. Misaligned/sprained joints, another game of ultimate Frisbee is still on the agenda. Beyond enduring weird physical pain, he’s amazing a pushing is natural limits and more healthy ways as well. Example: We are not “math people.” Growing up, we both shed tears over algebra, but when he went to college he knew that an understanding of finance could further his future career…. so he majored in it. Talk. About. Pain. He put in extra time, and suffered through classes that we not his forte to achieve a greater goal. And, it’s paying off. So, push your limits. Be ok with discomfort. Go for the big picture.

2. It’s Ok to have happy secrets: I am not a person that likes to keep things to myself. I can take a best friend’s secret to the grave, but I LIKE to talk about myself. I think I’m pretty fascinating, so why wouldn’t I share my every thought with the world? Joe, not so much. He doesn’t broadcast his feelings, but when you get to know him, it’s like opening a treasure chest. He looks smart, athletic, funny and outgoing, but you’d never guess that when he comes home he reads dusty old Zane Grey novels in his room instead of always watching a game on TV; he reaches for grapes and feta cheese for a snack instead of Doritos; and he can converse about dairy goats or dog showmanship just as easily as politics or the Cleveland Indians starting lineup. Be deep. And be okay with the entire world not knowing it.

3. It’s OK to care: Joe feels deeply. He thinks about his family, his friends and his dog, and he makes sure to let them know that they matter in his life. His birthday cards to the family usually come in the form of a sheet of plain white copy paper folded in half, and four lines of text scrawled in pen on the inside, but those words are always thoughtfully crafted and more beautiful and honest than anything Hallmark has ever produced. My mom called him a “snuggler”, and others say he’s just a good, sweet-natured friend (but with a razor-sharp wit and the fastest come-backs known to man). I say, he’s a good guy to have in your corner. Show simple kindnesses, make people feel cared for. Back them up when it counts.

He also knows how to be loyal to one of the most disappointing teams in baseball…

…but that’s a story for another day :)

These lessons might be simple, but they are often overlooked. Take the time to think about applying these concepts in your life, or think about how a brother or sister or cousin or friend has taught you something without even realizing it…. just by being a {not so average} Joe.

{Like} who you are becoming…

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than what it was before…

…you are slowly turning this central thing […] either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, with its fellow-creatures, and with itself…

Each of us at each moment is progressing to one state or the other.

I started to realize in college – in a 200 level philosophy class, actually – that I liked the person I was becoming. It wasn’t because I was having an enlightened moment brought on by my intense studies, it was because I was sitting at my desk, sipping a latte without sugar (like a real adult) and wearing a thong (without complaining about having a wedgie). True story.

It seems silly now, but, like C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out in one of my favorite books (above), Mere Christianity, each and every decision you make transforms a little part of you. It is up to you, however, if that decision is a wise one that makes you a person you are proud of, or a poor one, that makes you something you despise.

Believe it or not, at that point in my life, I had to decide to WORK to like “real” coffee, and I had to choose to WORK to get comfortable enough in that crazy underwear to have the lovely, panty-line free tush I desired.

I wanted those things because they were sophisticated, grown up and simple pleasures others enjoyed, but that I was actually intimidated by. No more! The coffee and undergarments had little to do with self-worth, but I realized that they mattered a little. And it was okay that they mattered. And that I had arrived…

Today, there are still some silly things that make me feel proud, and there are more serious things as well. There are also those other choices, the ones that drag me down and leave me at “war” with myself, that I still struggle with as well…

But, the point is, find those things – big and small – that make you feel happy, proud and at peace with yourself and those around you. And work at those choices you’ve made, or continue to make, that pull you in the opposite direction.

You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. And your worth as a person doesn’t depend on the outcome. It will take time. But go ahead and make a point of it… and you might just be surprised at where you find yourself.

My {becoming} list:

  • I love healthy, unique food, and being good to my body: (Like many women, I’ve struggled with disordered eating patterns, and with my body image. Unhealthy choices literally made me feel I was battling with my own body – like Lewis’s quote – But, things like reading healthy-living blogs, getting educated about nutrition, finding amazing new recipes and having an awesome husband and family to talk to has totally changed my thinking! I still struggle sometimes… but I have the tools to succeed.)

  • I’m an athlete- a runner, a swimmer and a cyclist: (I wasn’t always! It was hard to even don the label. But I admired those that competed… so I decided to join them.)
  • I can cook, and I love it: (I was not known for my kitchen ability until after I was married…my siblings are still afraid of my food ; )
  • My nails look nice, and I can even use my left hand to paint my right: (I used to bite my nails when I was younger… but now I love how nail color just makes an outfit!)
  • I have a blog, and a few people actually read (and enjoy) what I write: (I have admired bloggers from afar for a while, and then I decided to take the plunge. I love it. And the simple action of creating posts and taking pictures truly resonates with me.)

  • I send cards…mostly on time, and try to complement strangers: (I like thoughtful people and handwritten notes, and when someone in the grocery store says they like your shirt, it makes your day. So, I decided I could do that too.)
  • I know Family and relationships are the core of life,  and my mom really was right…like, about everything: (I always sort of knew it, but it has really started to sink in. I appreciate the loved ones around me so much, and the connection we share means the world.)

This cycle of learning, growing and changing is a never-ending process. But, I can’t wait to see what my {becoming} list looks like when I’m 75… (maybe I’ll have pie crust down by then : )

What have you worked hard at, accomplished, or started doing recently that is on your list?