Have you ever walked away, or distanced yourself, from a situation you thought was detrimental to your joy only to find that wasn't the entire solution? When I'm in this position, it's usually because there are emotions associated with the situation that I haven't dealt with. So I do my level best to muster the strength and courage to walk out of the situation but step in to any corresponding pain, sadness, anger, etc., and deal with it head-on for however long it takes. Now I know there are plenty of folks who do whatever is possible to avoid dealing with their emotions. If that works for them, fine. But in my life, I've found that trying to avoid my emotions results in carrying baggage. And that baggage gets heavy and begins to weigh me down. Without attention and resolution, the weight of that baggage may then begin to weigh on other aspects of my life. There's certainly no joy in that.

I once had a professor who said to students unprepared for class, "[y]ou can pay me now, or you can pay me later." He made it clear that, as with most other debt, paying later meant paying with interest. For me, this concept likewise applies to emotional debt. Sometimes it's not possible to handle debt (of any kind) on our own. It may require assistance--for example, debt counseling, debt forgiveness, etc. Whatever it takes, I want to pay those debts as soon as possible. The only time I want to carry baggage is on a trip. My goal is: no trip, no baggage.




Living My Joy
Bridges are pathways that make connections. They may connect the old to the new, the rich to the poor, the known to the unknown. Some bridges are solid, sturdy. Some are in disrepair and should not be traversed before the infrastructure is restored. Some bridges are beautiful and greatly admired. Others, not so much. Sometimes we cross bridges because we're curious about what's on the other side. Other times we do so out of necessity. Sometimes we decide not to cross bridges because we are fearful. But one thing is fairly certain: if we never cross a bridge, we'll live a life of confinement, limitation.

People . . . we, too, are bridges. Pathways that make connections. It's up to us to bridge divides, stand in the gaps, reach across lines, explore the unknown, and  face and overcome our fears in order to make the infrastructure of our connections the best and strongest it can be. And while we may not always be successful, there's victory in the attempt(s).
According to the dictionary, "masquerade" means "an action or appearance that is mere disguise or show", or "to assume the appearance of something one is not". Masquerading is nothing new. Older folks say it's been happening "since the beginning of time." You know, folks putting on airs; fronting, if you will.

Why do some folks masquerade, so much so that their lives often appear to be a masquerade ball? Who knows, maybe they're trying to keep up with the Joneses. And just who are the Joneses, and don't they know the Joneses have problems, too?! Some may masquerade because they envy their peers. Some may masquerade because they want their peers to envy them. But some may masquerade to hide pain--for example, the pain of brokenness, shame--broken lives, broken hearts, broken finances, loneliness (even those in a relationship), abusive relationships, depression, etc. For those of us who aren't masqueraders--at least not now--it's often easy to judge the "facades". But would we do so if we could see the pain and tears behind the masks?

One of the inherent dangers of masquerading is that we get so good at wearing our mask(s) that no one--not even those we want to know us--can see what we want them to see, including that we may need help. Masks can create distance and prevent us from truly connecting with others. So, before we ask others to see us, it's important that we see ourselves. Some of us are wearing so many masks that we don't even know ourselves. And sometimes we get our masks confused--wearing the wrong mask for the wrong occasion.

How exhausting, masking ourselves from ourselves and everyone else. But we can only hide out for so long. Because life has a way of making us drop our masks--at least temporarily. I don't know why this image came to mind, but have you ever seen someone snatch off their wig because it was too hot under there? Sometimes, life brings the kind of heat that causes us to snatch off our masks, or they inadvertently slip. In those instances, it's important that we've taken care to ensure that what's underneath the mask--our true identity--is a work in progress, no less worthy of being seen. And don't worry so much about what others may think . . . they have their issues, too.

What a moment in time for Diana Nyad. Yesterday, the 64 year old realized her lifelong dream--initiated 35 years ago--of swimming from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. After swimming approximately 110 miles for nearly 53 hours, she did it! It wasn't her first attempt, though. Actually, it was her fifth.* Clearly, she believes in the adage, "[i]f at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Some may take exception to the extreme nature of Ms. Nyad's pursuit, and/or her reason for pressing on, but she was determined to follow her dream. She handled her naysayers by accomplishing her goal.

Ms. Nyad offered three messages once she arrived on shore: 1) never give up; 2) you're never too old to follow your dream(s); and 3) while it may look like a solitary effort, she had a team.

So, if you're wavering, feeling discouraged, or just getting started on following your dream(s), take heart. It's worth the effort, no matter how long it takes. You can go the distance. And, if at first you don't succeed, . . . .

*You can read about her journey here.
We often see things in others they don't see in themselves--both positive and negative. It's often easy to nurture and encourage the positive. Depending on the relationship (for example, with a child, spouse, friend, mentee, employee), we may also attempt to help them address the negative--i.e., things that are hurtful and detrimental to them and/or others--by offering advice, guidance, support, and encouragement. But, as difficult as it may be to believe or accept, some people don't want our help. And sometimes they don't realize they need help. Other times, they're not ready for help. And, quite frankly, sometimes we want more for others than they want for themselves. So when we don't see positive results or a change in their actions, attitudes, or situation as a result of our "help", we may become tired, frustrated and/or discouraged. Have you ever given up when you feel you've done all you can, and your time would be better spent trying to help folks who are trying to help themselves? I've certainly been there.

But I also know/remember that there were times in my life when people tried to help me. They tried to plant seeds of faith, love, hope, support, and encouragement, among other things, in my life. But I couldn't see it, hear it, believe it, or receive it. Sometimes, it was because I chose not to. Sometimes, it was because the advice came from someone with whom I had baggage. But, most importantly, I wasn't ready. I needed more life experience(s). Unfortunately, I needed to learn some things the hard way. I had to be pruned before I was ready/able to understand both the help I needed and the help that was being offered. The seeds that had been planted had to be nurtured; the soil had to be prepared--I had to get rid of some weeds in my life. But when I was ready--which in some cases took years--those seeds grew and I was able to reflect upon, and appreciate, those who planted them--even though they were not always around to witness the growth.

What my own experiences taught me is that we may not always see the fruits of our labor when trying to help others. And even if we do, it may take longer than we expect. People are not always interested or ready when we want them/need them to be. Sometimes, we might have to be patient, get a little distance from the situation, let go, or move on. It may be that our role is to just plant the seeds. If it's meant to be, in due season, they will grow.

Do you ever view life through the lens of bowling? Sometimes (ok, maybe just today) I do.

Strikes and spares. (Living my dreams) It's awesome when I roll a strike--meaning things turn out the way I planned. What a euphoric feeling and tremendous confidence booster. But there are times I roll the ball and it looks like I'm headed for a strike, and at the last minute the ball curves to the left or the right. What?! Desperate for a shift, I lean in the opposite direction of the ball (sometimes with the other foot lifted) and wave my hands in the direction of my lean, thinking that somehow the ball can detect my energy and miraculously turn in time for me to get the strike. (Those of you who bowl are familiar with this maneuver.) While things like this happen from time to time (i.e., just when I think I've lost out, something shifts in my favor), many times I have to be content with trying to pick up the spare--Plan B. If successful, at least I'll get something for my effort. Later on, with some distance, I find that Plan B was just fine.

Splits. (In the midst) There are other times in my life when it looks like I'm about to throw a strike, and lo and behold it's a split--right down the middle. In those cases, I have to decide whether it's worth trying to throw a curve ball to pick up the spare (outside my comfort zone), or just concentrate on getting whatever I can. It's a difficult decision, and sometimes I don't know what to do. But whatever decision I make I've got to be willing to live with it. So I reach into my arsenal of experience and step outside my comfort zone knowing it's a growth opportunity. And even if I get nothing in addition, I'll be grateful for what I have.

Gutter balls. (Baggage) Finally, there are those dreadful times in my life when I throw gutter balls--sometimes in succession. I don't mean to, but some things just don't work out at all. I go in to each situation believing (at a minimum, hoping) I'm going to roll a strike--especially when I know I'm giving it my best. But sometimes there are lessons I need to learn, which may only be presented through the gutter balls. And after throwing gutter balls, I may be so disappointed, frustrated, or devastated that I fall on my knees--especially depending upon what is at stake. In those instances, I have to examine and address the issues that caused the problem to avoid the same result in the future.

Lesson learned. Don't get too comfortable with the wins, or discouraged after the losses. Whether I throw a strike, spare, split, or gutter ball, it's important to remember that until the game is over there's always another frame.

Negativity is a "gift" that keeps on giving. If, upon receipt, we don't immediately discard it as ugly and unappreciated, we may end up sharing or re-gifting it. I can think of better gifts to give and receive. How about you?
My vision has been blurry for a few months.  One day it was clear and, seemingly overnight, it became less clear.  The change was discernible only when I attempted to read.  I found that the closer I was to what I was attempting to read, the more cloudy my vision.  The more distance I put between my eyes and what I was reading, the clearer the words became.  Once I came out of denial and paid attention to what the need for distance was telling me, I went to my eye doctor and got a stronger lens.  And voila!  Now I'm seeing clearly again.

Throughout my life, I've needed the clarity that sometimes only distance can provide.  Whether it was a work situation where someone was plucking my nerves, a harrowing health challenge, or a difficult relationship, getting some distance before acting would have helped me to see more clearly.  But without that distance, being too close--that is, caught up in the emotion of the situation--only made things look cloudy.  I have now learned the value of getting some distance in difficult situations.  Whether it's taking some long, deep breaths before speaking, taking time to pray before reacting, or not making a decision before I've had a chance to calm down and think, I'm getting better at viewing life through a stronger lens.  Because the perspective that comes with the stronger lens can change a forecast from cloudy to cloudy with a chance of sunshine.