Posts tagged ‘Change’

I grew up going to church.  I still go to church.  As a matter of fact, in my lifetime, I have attended many churches of varying denominations, and the messages were always the same – Love thy neighbor as thyself, Do unto others, and For God so loved the world, etc..   The problem is that much of the time, very nice, well-meaning people go to the church of their choice, listen to the sermon, recite the prayers, sing the songs, sit, stand or kneel when appropriate, and then go home, feeling that they have met their religious “obligation” for the week.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that I have, on occasion, fallen into this categorization myself.)  It is one thing to say, “I believe,” and quite another to put that belief into behavior.

My husband is a Netflix junkie.  He regularly scours the Netflix site looking for interesting things to add to our instant queue.  Recently, he pulled up Netflix and told me, “You need to watch this movie.  I watched it last night, and it was certainly not what I expected, but it was really good.  You need to watch this.”  And with that he started Lord, Save Us From Your Followers.  If you have not heard of this movie, I highly encourage you to seek it out.  It is available for instant streaming on Netflix, and has also been released on DVD.  There is also a companion book (which I have not read, but would like to).  The simple premise of this book/movie is “Why is the Gospel of Love dividing America?”  Dan Merchant set out to discover why “Christians” have gotten such a bad rap over the years and why, if we all agree that Jesus calls his followers to “Love One Another,” we don’t seem to be doing that in our daily practice.  It is a provocative look at faith and how that faith translates into daily behavior.  Several years ago, a minister I knew told me that he believed that Religion had given Faith a bad name, and this movie really seems to drive that point home.

Now don’t get me wrong, this film is not Christian-bashing or Religion-bashing.  It asks the question “What would Jesus do?’ and then sets out to try and answer it.  Would Jesus have a political party affiliation?  Would he be hanging out with the movers and shakers or would he be found with the homeless under the bridge?  And if we are really striving to live “Christ-like” lives, what should we be doing?  Ironically, several of the most “Christ-like” insights come from none other than Al Franken, a life-long Jew.  Franken is not the only notable name that shows up in this film, either.  Tony Campolo, Rick Santorum, Lars Larson, and Tom Krattenmaker also contribute their insights on the subject.  Archival footage including the likes of Bono, President Bush, Bill Maher, Pope John Paul II, and Jon Stewart is also used.  Many times when someone used archival footage under Fair Use, the user will “selectively edit” the footage to help support the point that they are trying to make (see “Michael Moore”), but I don’t get that here.  Merchant uses footage to help tell the story, but his point is made without the footage by virtue of the first-hand experiences shown throughout the film.  Merchant filmed a group going under the bridge for a once-a-week service to provide the homeless food, clothing, and personal hygiene. Watching that segment really made me stop and question what I had done recently to help those less fortunate.

Now, all the way through the movie, Dan Merchant stresses repeatedly that he is not trying to rate anyone, judge anyone, or belittle anyone for things that they may or may not have done in their lives.  He is also not taking sides, by any stretch of the imagination.  What he IS trying to do is “start the conversation” – get people talking about what they really believe, why they believe it, how strongly they believe it, and how that belief can be translated into action.  What results is one of those films that seems to continue beyond the ending credits.  It causes you to stop and think, and then want to talk about what you just experienced and how, if at all, it affected you.

Ironically, as we head, full-throttle, into the Christmas season, we see a lot more people doing those things that this movie encourages us to do year-round – giving to the less fortunate, taking time out of our busy lives to help another, and showing compassion and caring to everyone we encounter.  When I was in my early teens, someone gave my mother a poster at Christmastime that said, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”  She hung this poster up in our big eat-in kitchen, where we could see it every day, at every meal.  I teased her in January when she did not take it down with the other Christmas decorations, but she told me she liked being reminded of that “Christmas feeling” even beyond Christmas.  I didn’t understand then.  I do now.  So does Dan Merchant.  I think Dan Merchant is a hero.  Not the kind that rushes forward to face the danger, but the kind that is slowly, methodically, one person at a time, trying to change the world.  And I like the direction he thinks we should take.

Some people buy cars.  Others have affairs, get tattoos, or color their hair.  Whatever it is, at some point everyone goes through their own “mid-life crisis”.  The good news is all in the word “through”.  Just like a tunnel, sooner or later you will come out on the other side.  The issue is whether it will fundamentally change you, and if so, how.

My own mid-life crisis was not so much of a crisis as it was a circumstance.  I didn’t do anything crazy, like a tattoo, or destructive, like an affair.  I did color my hair, but that had more to do with strangers calling me “Grandma” when I was at the store with the toddler than with wanting to “spice up my life”.  No, I made a leap of faith that I am hoping will pay off in the long run.  I started my own business.  Now I know what you are thinking.  This is not the economy to be starting a new business in.  I had taken that into consideration when I made my decision, but I went ahead and took the plunge.  I had my initial start-up costs covered and I have an investor who has a vested interest in helping my business succeed.  And now that I am up and running, I am being fairly conservative in my approach to my business so that I don’t get all wacky.

Ironically, while all of this was going on, my husband and I had some long talks and came to an understanding regarding our relationship.  While I know that he is unable to participate in some of the activities that I enjoy, I had been holding myself back for a while, not participating myself, out of deference to him.  When we talked about it, he agreed that I should not stop what I wanted to do just because of him, and whenever possible he would join me in what I was doing.  Feeling more secure than ever in my home life helped spur my decision regarding the business, but meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . my mother-in-law called, out of the blue, to ask my husband if our marriage was on the rocks!  She had been seeing me go and do without my hubby, and to her mind that spells DOOM. It took me some time to stop laughing when my husband told me about the phone call.  Even now I am smiling thinking about the whole thing.  So, in a way, my mother-in-law is having my mid-life crisis for me.  After all, if she didn’t have anything to worry about, she would worry, so this is perfect for her.  Now all I have to do is put a little effort into my business, sit back, and soon I will buy that new car . . . .

I am home from my mini-vacation.  I didn’t think it was possible, but I now understand how some of these “Reality TV” shows do what they do.  I am talking about the ones where the celebrity/host shows up at the target’s home and gives them a week to change their life.  Whether it is how much stuff they have, their diet and exercise program, the spending/hoarding issues, or the horrible decorating, these professionals can create change in one week.  In my naiveté, I assumed that the unseen production crew and army of assistants did most of the heavy lifting in these situations, and the hapless family just stood by and watched their lives being completely rearranged to the extent that, when they are finally returned to their homes, they have no option but to accept the changes that have been wrought on their behalf.  I know now that the changes are not that drastic – it just takes the proper approach and presentation.

Specifically, I am talking about my own personal diet, and the eating habits of my family.  For too long, we have been in a rut of greasy burgers and fries and pizza and fat and calories.  While I know I may not be able to change my family overnight, or even in a week, I am slowly going to shift their consciousness toward eating a healthier diet.  I came to this place after spending only a few days away from home, but the important part was where I spent it.  I was in  a place where no less that three organic grocery stores were competing with no less than three traditional grocery stores for the healthy food dollar of the local consumer.  And all of this was in a town of only 55,000 people.  Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were literally one block apart, and yet both stores were doing brisk business while I was there.  Fruits and vegetables were plentiful and tasty.  My diet for the weekend included almost no beef or pork, just a little chicken, and the rest was a composite of grains and produce, with some pasta for variety.  Lots of water (love the water!) and juice and tea.  When I had dessert, it seemed almost too much, rather than the satisfaction of the chocolate cravings I have been so familiar with in the past.  In short, spending just a few days in a “healthy-eating” environment changed how I think about my own eating habits.
Now that I am home, I am determined to keep up with these changes.  I have been paying more attention to what I am putting into my mouth and what I am serving my family.  The boys were resistant, but my husband willingly tried the rice-quinoa pilaf I served with dinner the other night.  Big salads are becoming common, whether they are fruit or vegetable.  Yogurt is a must.  And I am finding that the better I am eating, the less I am craving those desserts.  The other night, I had a slice of triple chocolate cheesecake after dinner, and just felt terrible afterward.  Talk about a sign of the times!  One co-worker told me she was giving me a week before I revert to my old habits.  My husband said two.  But I am going to prove them wrong.  And if I happen to loose a few pounds along the way, I will accept that as one of those happy fringe benefits.  Look out summer, here I come!

This whole change of seasons thing is really screwing me up.  I keep forgetting that, the closer we get to the end of June, the longer the days are getting, and as a result, I keep thinking it is earlier in the day than it really is.  Case in point, I did not even begin to think about fixing dinner last night until it started getting dark outside.  6:30, right?  Yeah, maybe four months ago . . .

I keep going back to Ironman.  It is times like these that I really do believe that life would be so much easier if I had a Jarvis.  I would have “someone” who could look things up on the internet for me while I am driving down the road and then report back.  I would never have to worry about texing while driving or any of that because I could do it all through voice commands.  Jarvis could read my texts to me and I could dictate to him.  He could also make my calls for me and remind me of appointments – like the haircut I missed this afternoon.

My point is, while I am expected to keep everyone else on track, I need an assistant to keep me on track.  A housekeeper to do the laundry and a cook would be nice, as well, but I don’t want to push it.  And if I am going to round out my list of household dream staff, it would have to include a gardener, a chauffeur, and a personal trainer and fitness coach to get me working out on a regular basis.  If I just didn’t have to worry about going to work, I would have loads more free time to get everything done.  I would finally get all the stuff that needs to go to charity out of the house.  Of course, my house would be empty then, and I would need to go shopping to get more stuff to fill it back up, but the point is I WOULD HAVE THE TIME.

At some point, my husband will be reading this, and I will know from the thunderous, echoing laughter coming from the vicinity of his workstation.  He looks at me, when I make these complaints in person, and just rolls his eyes and shakes his head.  The idea of me having an assistant (let alone a sentient computer designed to be able to anticipate all my needs and fulfill them) will be enough to make him fall off his chair laughing.  Of course, then I will be blamed for his sore ribs (from laughing) and his sore bottom (from falling).

But back to me and my (non-existent) free time.  It seems like there are more and more things in the world creating distractions for me.  And unfortunately, when it comes to distractions, I am weak.  I have no spine.  After all, it is way more fun to sit and watch TV or play a video game than it is to do housework, like the aforementioned laundry.  I am getting ready for a trip next week, and I am still trying to get all the laundry done and put away so that I can pack.  I also know that, no matter how much laundry I get done, someone is going to want something out of the one load I didn’t get done.  It just sort of works that way around here!

Someday, I know I will get caught up.  The laundry will all be done.  The dishes will all be washed and put away.  The living room will be dusted and vacuumed.  There will not be toys strewn all over the floor.  The boxes in the garage that haven’t been unpacked since our last move will be emptied and gone.  And all of these things will happen after the last child leaves home, and I have nothing else to do.  And that will be a sad day, indeed.  And it is coming way too soon.

What are the magic beans you need in order to grow your ideal life?

I am finding that rather than driving my own life, it seems like I have more recently been a passenger along for the ride.  Yesterday my husband was ruminating on the recent past and marveling that the school year will be over in less than 3 weeks.  “Where did this year go?”, he asked.  I keep talking about things I would like to do, places I would like to go, things I would like to see, but what have I actually done to make those things happen?  Where does all the time go?  What beans should I be planting?

I have no clue about the answers to those questions.  I mean, I’m sure I have some sort of vague, generalized idea, but I haven’t really sat down and thought about it for quite some time.  Ironically, we are encouraging our oldest child to do exactly that.  He has a trip he would like to take, but at the place he is in life right now, taking this trip is going to be sort of a rite of passage.  He is just starting to figure out what beans he is going to need to make his trip happen, and seeing him realize the obstacles he must overcome in order to get what he wants is making me take a closer look at my own obstacles.  I very much want him to be able to take his trip, but at the same time, I know that, in order for him to be able to grow as a result of this experience, I cannot help him.  I can encourage and support his decisions, but I cannot make them for him and I cannot facilitate his preparation or travel.  This is one of those things he is just going to have to do by himself and figure out how to make it work.

I also have a trip I want to take, but in order to make it work, I am going to have to do some fancy footwork.  I would be gone from my family for longer than I ever have.  I would be with a group of other people, and because of that, I will not be fully in control of my expenses, which is worrisome in this economy.  I have to find the money for the trip.  I have to arrange for time off from work.  I have to make sure that I have enough vacation hours stockpiled so that my family will not suffer a loss of income because of the trip.  And despite all of the obstacles I have named here (and others I have not mentioned), I feel a calling to make this trip.  Don’t get me wrong.  It may sound selfish to want to go off for a week without anyone else, but I guarantee this trip would be anything but a vacation.  The purpose of the trip is to assist in housing construction for Hurricane Katrina victims in southern Louisiana.  Nothing like working in the sun, doing construction, for free, for a week, to put a damper on the concept of “Holiday”.

But that is just a drop in the bucket.  When I was in my 20’s, I had all kinds of grand dreams about the kind of life I was going to live and how that was going to happen.  Of course, I did not grow up to be stunningly beautiful, married to an independently wealthy man who dabbles in investment banking, not because he has to, but because he just wants to have something to do when we are not traveling.  I don’t have the excessive house on the estate.  I don’t get a new car every year because last year’s color is “out”.  My children are not extremely polite all the time, and they most certainly have never shown up for dinner wearing a suit just because they thought it would be appropriate.  OK, so I am not living the dream.  I don’t even know that dream anymore.  Nowadays, I dream of having a day without, “Mommy, come in here, I need to poop!”  But I still believe it is not too late.

I might not be able to have the estate, but by taking baby steps, I know that I can make changes to my home to improve it.  I also might not have the car, but by being prudent and patient, I know that I can be in a “new-to-me” vehicle before Christmas.  And I know that I will never be married to anyone other than my husband (and he will never be an investment banker or independently wealthy), but that doesn’t mean we can’t figure out a way to travel.  Maybe not a huge vacation every year, but a little jaunt here and there, and then maybe bigger trips every few years.  And, after all, he does have a steady income, which is more than a lot of others can say right now.

So, the bottom line is this: I need to go seed shopping.  I will be spending some time looking at all the seed catalogs, browsing the farm supply stores, and checking out the farmer’s markets, but I am going to plant some beans!