Friday, January 1, 2016


I've been unable to write for a few weeks. I wish I could say that it was because I've been busy and that I have been doing so much for others and being productive, but the truth is...I've been laying kind of low because once again, depression has thrown itself over me like a wet, wool blanket. I'm thankful for a family that generally understands and allows me to figure out what it's going to take to get out from under it. It's not situational, in that I'm not sad over a particular event or loss or subject, but it is heavy just the same and though I may not feel sad, it can be exhausting just trying to corral my thoughts into something worth articulating. Though I slow down exponentially when it hits, I have to continue to slog forward as if wet cement were surrounding my moves and threatening to hold me in place for eternity. I feel like if I allow myself to be immobilized, then I risk staying stuck.

Add to this general malaise, the idea of resolutions and New Year's and instead of being inspiring, it can be daunting and overwhelming at times. I mean, if it were socially acceptable to double a batch of cookie dough just so I can eat half of it uncooked and still have an outcome of at least a dozen cookies, then I believe my issues with resolutions and goals would be solved. But alas, it's frowned upon so I have to set my ideals a little higher. Or do I?

I mean, what on earth do I have to live up to anyway? In fact, the paradox of my life is that I aspire to live down to the level of simplicity and honest generosity that the people I admire most live. I want to live in such a way that selflessness and generosity mark my life the way that it does of Sukai and James, or of Blessings and Prudence, of Elizabeth and Dorothea and Reuben and Joyce. I want to have the kind of joy in my work that I see in Priscilla who comes every day to a care point and embraces the challenges of nearly 150 children that depend on her and her team of volunteers to provide for them - a place to play, a healthy meal, a chance to learn, a chance to be cared for and parented and protected.

Last year, I picked "mindfulness" as a word to focus on for the year. It was meant to invoke focus and attention in areas that matter to me. In some areas, I admit that it worked. I was able to cut through some of the peripheral stuff in my life that draws my attention from the things that really matter to me. It wasn't perfection but it was progress of sorts. I relapsed over the year time and time again to going through the motions in lots of areas of my life, but once in a while, the reminder of "mindfulness" came to me and helped me get back on track.

I've been struggle with the idea of even a word for this coming year. Or a phrase. I guess the gist of it is that I want to keep moving forward and to keep growing, but at the same time, I want to be engaged in the day to day, not just pressing on to the next thing all the time.

So, no word. A blank space on the inspirational wall hanging this year. And yet, there's something about the blank space that says I can fill it in as I go.  Maybe I can't limit myself to one word or one phrase or one resolution at this point in my life because everything is so wide open. It's daunting but it's also exciting, when I have the mindset to be optimistic about it all. I'm watching boys grow up in front of my eyes and I know that time is fleeting. I'm feeling a pull to change some things in my life that would be really crazy, empowering and inspiring but they are tempered by the terrifying nature of change itself.

So today, January 1, 2016. A New Year but the same old me. A blank calendar in front of me but only a pencil to write on it with. There's not much that inked at this time...which I'm learning to embrace.

This afternoon, I took Charlie down to the river for a walk. It's a gorgeous, windless, blue sky prairie kind of day and it is crisp and fresh outside. We wound our way through the peeling birch and red willows of the riverbank and we listened to the sounds of birds above us and water under the ice and our feet crunching the snow beneath us. We wandered for about an hour and then cut up the hill on a deer path and emerged on the track above the river. There were plenty of people and dogs out today and we caught up to a woman who was bent over in two, catching her breath, while her dogs ran in and around with Charlie. She stood up and looked me in the eye and I asked her if she was ok. She nodded and explained that she had some back pain related to dialysis that she was undergoing. We'd never met before but the first question she asked me was "Where are you travelling to this year?" I looked at her again and asked, "Do you mean, like, as in resolutions or where I think this year is going to take me?" She shook her head and said, "No. Where are you really going to travel to this year and why?" I told her that I planned to go to Zimbabwe this year and we began to walk together, slowly, and she asked me questions about our work there and the reason I go and what I do there, etc. She told me about her dialysis and how she was unable to travel. We talked about dictators and governments and our own election results of this past year. We stopped often for her to bend over and get relief from the pain in her back. We talked about walking and dogs and fresh air and mental health. When we parted ways at the road, I walked away thinking that sometimes there are just people around us that ask the right question and are willing to really listen for the answer. I have had encounters with women that make me wonder if they are really angels or messengers or prophets of sorts; the kind of encounters that make you believe that God becomes flesh to point things out to you again for clarity. Maybe it's just me, and the fact that I'm a slow learner, but I feel like when there have been changes afoot and decisions to be made, that there are often strangers with objective opinions that seem to speak into my life in the most mundane and wonderful ways as if to point me in the right direction.

I don't know what the total message was meant for me today, but the bottom line was, she advised me to keep proceeding. Keep walking. For my mental well being and for the greater good of serving others. One foot in front of the other, even if on the way back, you're in pain and bent in two from the exertion, it's better than having missed the journey.

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