Sep 27 2012

Insight from Pirates

“Life is pain highness. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

Can you name the movie? It’s a brilliant movie but not exactly the most uplifting quote.

Life is pain? Really? We don’t want this to be so but can we disagree? Even the most staunch optimist must admit that life is full of pain. So, if life is pain, what now?

There seem to be two sides to this coin. On the one hand, we avoid. Run. Pretend it doesn’t exist or that it’s not that bad. And on the other, we wallow. Crawl back into bed, curl up in the fetal position, and pray to be left alone until it’s over.

Life is pain.

And pain hurts. It’s uncomfortable. Can you blame me for running or wallowing? But running and avoiding pain means I’m convinced it has no value. And, if I cringe and hold my breath until it’s over, in essence, I declare the same. Pain has no value. We only embrace things that we declare beneficial or profitable.

But if I act as though pain has no value and I know that life is full of pain then I have sealed my fate. My life will have pain, the pain has no value, therefore, life has no value. The only days to be celebrated are those lived on the pinnacle of health or happiness. All other days should be endured until we crest the mountain once again.

But let’s live radically. What if we could believe something else. What if every day counted? What if we could believe that…

Pain has value.

Don’t worry. I didn’t make this up.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  ― C.S. Lewis

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”  ― Dalai Lama XIV

“Let me explain. Wait, there is no time. Let me sum up.” Life is pain. Pain is God shouting at me. But His message is hope. And if I’ve learned anything in the last few years it’s this–

The beauty of hope is seen best against the darkened back drop of pain.

We are planning to move away. My heart grieves at the inevitable good-bye that is coming. I want to hide. I want to withdrawal. I want it not to be so.

Life is pain.

May the pain of goodbye deepen my resolve to live in relationship. May the hurt of separation open my heart like the seed that waits for spring. May the breaking of our hearts, create a capacity in us to love even deeper. May we have ears to hear God’s message of hope. He is shouting after all.

But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction. – Job 36:15

 


Sep 20 2012

Stress is like Gangrene

Gangrene may be prevented if it is treated before the tissue damage is irreversible. Wounds should be treated properly and watched carefully for signs of infection.

Stress is like gangrene.

As I have mentioned, our family is familiar with PTSD. An intense stress disorder. But we are also familiar, along with probably everyone else alive, with good old fashioned, every day stress. You know. The nausea, insomnia, increased appetite, head ache, and neck ache inducing variety. Often caused by, but not limited to moving, having children, working, family members, deadlines, buying houses.

Even getting this blog out today has been a point of stress. And that is irony, my friends. But, in the course of having to climb out of the stinky pile of dung I’ve been buried under this week, I discovered something.

A quote. The philosophy of a man well acquainted with stress and suffering. He endured four different concentration camps during World War II. If anyone has the credentials of experience to talk about living in the midst of trial it would be him. And this is what he says.

“…the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.” (Viktor Fankle.) His idea is that regardless of what happens to a person, we all retain the right, and even the responsibility, to choose how we respond. One does not require suffering to find meaning, but meaning can be found in spite of suffering. Or maybe even in spite of stress.

Stress is like gangrene.

It isn’t going anywhere. It’s like a bacteria. We will be bombarded until we breath our last breath. No amount of pretending or wishing can change that. But we must learn to treat it properly. Why do I give it so much power to rule over me like an evil tyrant? Instead of making it my master, I have to learn how to make it my teacher. It is an opportunity to learn to chose differently. But left unchecked, it can cause irreversible damage.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Stress is like gangrene. 

It’s time to start addressing the stress in my life.

So tomorrow, I’m getting out of bed and going for a bit of fresh air and exercise. And, I’m going to scream at my stress. I’m going to confront the tyrant and treat it like a drill instructor. “Bring it on! Teach me something!”

May the stress in my life point to areas that need correction and may it strengthen my resolve to make the world a better place.

At least, I’m going to try. How about you? Stressed lately?


Sep 13 2012

Donuts and Darth Vader

We have found reason to celebrate a vast array of things.

The first Friday of June is National Donut Day.

May the fourth is officially Star Wars day. (If you don’t get it, say “May the fourth be with you” out loud.)

And this last Tuesday was September 11th. A National Day of Remembrance. I bet you could recall exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.

But what about September 15th? What significance does that day have you ask?

It’s National Tell a Police Officer Thank You Day!

My husband, a police officer, recently introduced our son to an old sitcom from the 60’s, “Adam-12.” As we watched an episode, LAPD officers stopped a woman for a traffic violation. As soon as the officers made contact with her, she began ranting about quotas and how the officers shouldn’t be harassing upstanding citizens. My husband looked at my son and informed him that not much has changed in 40 years. Imagine approaching a car and having no idea what awaits. A respectful young man. A snarky old lady. A wanted felon. A routine stop can go from compliant, to ranting, to shots fired in seconds.

I married into the law enforcement family and I still freak out when I see a car behind me with a light bar stretched across the top. My heart seizes and my foot floats off the gas pedal. I remind myself not to rear end the car in front of me as I wait to see if the blue lights are going to start spinning. No one wants to meet a uniform that way. We accuse them of speed traps and having to attain quotas. Maybe they are stopping us in order to take out their frustration over a fight they just had with their spouse or boss. They represent fines and increased insurance rates. An inconvenient visit to a cheesy Comedy Traffic School at best.

Did I mention September 15th is National Tell a Police Officer Thank You Day?

Thank you? Really?

But gratitude is always the fruit of correctly altered perspective.

What if you were in an accident and your car caught on fire? Who do you think would be there to pull you out? Who would risk their own safety to keep you alive? What if you were shot? Who would raise their hand to chase down the madman and submit him to justice? Who can leap a skyscraper in a single bound? Okay so maybe that’s going a bit far but you get the point right?

Maybe you haven’t needed to be pulled from a burning car or maybe you’ve never been shot or accosted by a criminal. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe if we didn’t have men and women willing to wear a uniform and risk their lives and listen to our snarky complaining, we would be the ones who would have to confront the evils of our society. They have families, dreams and goals. They are your neighbors. They simply wear a uniform and take the risk to be first on the scene.

Isn’t that reason enough to say thank you?

So how are you going to say thank you? Sept 15th is National Tell a Police Officer Thank You Day! Pass it on!

 

 


Sep 6 2012

End of Watch


17

Alexander is 17.

His father, Officer Youngstrom of the California Highway Patrol, was shot in the head on Tuesday. He made a traffic stop in Walnut Creek. Just doing his job.

Maybe that morning, Alexander’s dad drove him to school. Maybe the night before, they had talked about who gets to use the car this weekend. As of 6:05 pm last night, Alexander’s life is forever changed. He’s only seventeen and he lost his dad.

17 weeks.

The countdown has begun. At the end of seventeen weeks, I can lay that fear aside. In seventeen short weeks, my husband turns in his star and his gun. Retirement. The uniform will hang lethargic in the closet. No more traffic stops. No more wrecks. And we will step around the thin blue line. But, there have been countless days that I have embraced the chance that I could be in Alexander’s shoes. Saying goodbye to a hero.

17 weeks.

I think of Alexander and his family and I hold my breath.

But prayers aren’t prayers unless they are exhaled. Breathed out. Spoken. So I force myself to breath and I pray.

17 prayers.

God, grant your peace.

May your presence reside around the Youngstrom family.

May the tears of Alexander’s mother be counted.

May the tears of her children water their hearts and bear the fruit of wisdom.

May Alexander know that his father is a hero.

 

God, grant your provision.

May the family feel the prayers and thoughts of all who hear.

May the arms of the community embrace Alexander and his siblings.

May Officer Youngstrom’s wife know that she is our sister.

May there be strength in unity.

 

May Officer Youngstrom’s brothers in tan, be granted the gift of grieving.

May we find compassion for the perpetrator and his family.

May God give us the grace to count each day.

May we never forget those who risk so much to serve us.

May we know gratitude.

 

God, we ask you for your Grace.

May you grant us the eyes to see.

 

End of watch. 

Officer Kenyon Youngstrom, after a valiant fight, succumbed to the injuries he sustained after being shot on Tuesday morning. Officer Youngstrom was a dedicated officer and soldier who gave his life serving the people of California. He now joins a distinguished group of heroes whose names are engraved upon the CHP Memorial Fountain and who will forever be remembered for their valiant service and sacrifice.