Life takes a great deal of courage and bravery.
Take high school, for example. With my high school reunion a few weeks away (Go Sailors), I’ve been thinking a lot about my “formative years.” And by formative, of course, I mean those years I formed boobs (well, barely), formed hips, formed bad fashion habits and formed my life-long addiction to Del Taco.
What I hadn’t yet formed on that high school campus, however, was a voice, an opinion, or any direction whatsoever for my life. Had my beliefs and ideas been any smaller in my youth, my parachute pants would have swallowed my acid-washed thoughts whole.
The Icing on the Pancake
I wanted so much to be liked, that I remained untethered to opinion or choice. I truly was a crowd pleaser, which made my role as the cheer captain almost laughable. They voted me “Most Spirited,” while in actuality, “Most Indecisive” would have been more fitting.
Life doesn’t always get it right, you know? My senior year in high school, the Activities Director had a pancake breakfast to honor the “student of the quarter.” There, in a private ceremony of adoration, applause, and awards, students were praised with pancakes for a quarter well done. I wasn’t there to see it, however. The school accidentally gifted the carb-cakes to my twin sister.
By the time the administration realized the error of their ways, my life had already unraveled over their singular snafu. It was, it turned out, the icing on my pancake. It pushed me over the edge of Twindom. So tired of living in the shadow of an identical twin had I become back then, that shortly thereafter, I accepted an offer to attend the only university on the planet for which my twin sister had zero interest.
My “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe” mentality meant I knew what I didn’t want rather than what I wanted. And that, my friends, made me a rudderless trollop, uncertain of just where and when my ship might come ashore.
As I look back now, it would be VERY tempting to sit down with my younger self and provide direction and chart a specific course towards a more tidy and predictable life. (As well as to tell myself NOT to date that jackass when I was 32). But any redirection of that nature would’ve stripped my adulthood of both the disastrous expedition and glorious excursion it has most certainly become.
On my very first day of college, while I was eating a deli sandwich in the student union, I got a call. My step-sister had just died. We were teenagers together, both eighteen years of age, and now melanoma had taken her from us. I couldn’t conceive of it in my naive brain, that this blossoming young life had just been cut off its stem.
This was the day I was introduced to loss…
It was also the day I learned that life isn’t fair. Fair would mean that life would protect good people, like Elyce, and only take the bad people, like any of the Kardashians. But, life doesn’t always get it right. Not everyone gets flapjacks.
More to Lose
I have experienced many a setback and gut-wrenching loss since graduating high school. I’ve lost jobs, a home, a 401K, a boyfriend (plural), a clean bill of health, and my pride. So much loss in fact, that it will fill a book, not just a blog.
But, I’ve gained in losing, too. Hardship has taught me that no matter how much you’ve lost, there is ALWAYS something more to lose.
Just when you think that you can’t fall off the floor, life is there to remind you that there’s always a gutter you can roll into. The phone will ring, the taillights will fade in the distance, your dream will walk out the front door, or the life support machine will stop. In a matter of minutes, your entire world can change and leave you writhing in incredible and isolating pain.
And if you’re anything like me, and selfishly I pray to God that you are, you’re going to hurt hard on those days when you’ve been flatlined by life. Pain, rejection, loss, and anguish will all be yours at the most unexpected and barren times. You will marinate in sorrow and lose the ability to stand up. You’ll be buckled over in crippling sadness — naked in a closet somewhere, and shoving your face with a bean & cheese burrito. Or, a pancake.
More to Gain
Don’t dwell. Life isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean your state of mind can’t be. A loss of any kind requires that we repurpose a dream that carried joy and hope for us. What’s more, it means we are required to start over in some way. But just as there is always more to lose in this life, there is ALWAYS more to gain.
Somehow, through counseling, self-help books — preferably by gripping the hand of Jesus — you’ve got to figure out a way to soften the walls of your heart again after the loss, to let love and faith seep back in.
A Place to Rest
There is no doubt that life is a convoluted mess! The waking hours are really tough. But when your life feels groundless, just as mine has in the past, it’s faith that gives us a place to rest our heads at night.
You can have nothing else, but if you have faith, then you have a navigation tool so strong it can power you through the greatest of tragedies and redirect you towards something amazing.
To be clear, I don’t believe that “everything works out in the end.” Everything regroups and redirects.
Things don’t “work out”. Faith just works in.
Faith is a rudder for the soul that allows any of us to “grow” through life, rather than just “go” through life. Redirection is a choice. One new perception, one fresh thought, one act of surrender, one change of heart, one leap of faith — they can change your life forever.
So take a greater risk than you know you can manage. You just might find faith there to give you a place to rest your head. Or, you might find an entire plate of pancakes!