A few days ago we were talking about karma, about why it seemed that people who do bad things always seem to win. To be popular. Last night you opened up about the friendship situation. I connected the dots.
Junior high is a minefield. It is hard to judge what the next step will bring. Add the state of our society, social media, and the challenge of just being a teenager, and it feels like the world is in chaos.
There is nothing I can do or say that will change the outside world. I hope that maybe this open letter can help you navigate the next couple of years and help you discover the beautiful soul that you are.
First, friendship is one of the foundations of who we are. But it is also fickle and can actually be destructive. Our friendships make or break us. Even after all these years, and our own rough spots, my best friend is an important part of my life. But many of the other friends I’ve had over the years are not a part of my everyday life. Right now, it feels like you should have a huge group of friends. I understand the need to feel “liked” by everyone. To be honest, even adults have that desire, but real friendship is a serious relationship. And it is hard sifting through the fake and real relationships in junior high, let alone the rest of your life.
Real friendship is earned. If you find yourself asking for friendship, that person is not a friend. Let them go. Know that honest friendship builds you up, supports you. You should never have to ask to be loved. This is a hard truth, but it’s true.
Second, guard your heart, but never close it. This is hard to write as a father because I want this world to be a beautiful place for you. But there is so much pain and hurt in this world caused by people who want to do bad things. Oh how I wish this wasn’t so because there is such beauty and joy to experience in this life. We have experienced it! But our hearts are the most important aspect of who we are. Our hearts are strong, yet can be damaged with a single word or action… and that damage is hard to heal. I know, even now I deal with the pain everyday from the wounds people inflicted on me.
Guard your heart, just don’t close it.
Third, mom and I are always here. Home is our sanctuary. If you simply need a hug, find me. I love you.
Did you know that we walk in circles? Without a visual reference to follow, we will walk in circles (“We can’t help walking in circles”), research has proven it. I learned of this fallacy in boy scouts. On the first weekend camping trip our Scout leader instructed us on how to use a compass, but also informed us of the tendency to walk in circles. Especially if we got lost and panic set in.
One of the reasons we walk in a circle is because of the imperfections in our gait. I personally know that my left foot hits at an outward angle greater than my right foot. Another factor that contributes to us walking in a circle is not having a clear visual cue to follow and adjust to. This was an important factor when I was in boy scouts and we would go hiking in the woods. Hard to see the sun, and the trees started to look the same, especially when we would be in a dense part of the woods. A compass was an important tool but we also learned how to use the landscape around us to stay on track.
I’ve been thinking about this phenomenon because I’ve noticed we can walk in circles in emotional and mental ways, too. I see it in students, adults, and the culture. Walking around and around, just repeating the same thoughts and emotions. People are in motion, so they feel like they are getting somewhere, but in fact all they are doing is covering the same ground. When nothing changes, panic sets in. Anger and frustration sets in. And then things just get worse, and someone can spend years, decades, covering the same ground, over and over and over.
The most important factor needed to keep from walking in a circle is having a clear visual cue. This allows you to adjust your path. The same holds true for our mental or emotional paths. These markers can be developed in different ways. My family decides on a word each year. I have constructed a vision board before. Or simply writing down a goal on a 3 x 5 card and taping it to a mirror is a cue. It allows you to adjust your path.
The marker has to be visible, though. Too many times we simply state a change we want in our mind, or we know we need to be a better person, yet we just keep that in our hearts. And then we walk in circles because we have no visual cue to help us adjust our steps.
Without any guidance we all walk in circles. Even if we are walking with someone. Our lives are meant to be traveled across the landscape. That is the beauty of life, the places we go and the scenery of the world around us. Same holds true for our mind and soul, for our emotions and wonderment. But we need a visual cue to keep us on track, whatever that cue may be. So find it, write it down, print it out, set it and start walking toward an incredible life.
“Woman Burning Love Letters Sparks Nebraska Apartment Fire.”
The article stated that a 19 year-old woman was burning love letters from her ex with a butane torch in her bedroom. Some of the pieces that fell to the carpet started the fire.
When I read this, so many thoughts and emotions came to mind.
My first reaction, actually, was happiness. To know that people still write love letters, in this digital world, where we send emoticons as birthday wishes, that the woman’s relationship was so strong that they wrote letters to each other was cool to read. Of course, the pain of ending the relationship is tough to deal with.
Which brought up the next thought. Dealing with pain from relationships and love is a part of our lives. I couldn’t help but think about how many more times she would deal with heartbreak. And not just with relationships. Not getting a job or position, not achieving a goal, there are so many things that can bring us heartache in life. I wish I could tell her I know it hurts but that she will gain strength from this… and that love is still real. She will meet the right person in the future. Life can break our hearts, but love heals it.
Then my poetic side kicked in…
Your words no longer read true
Written in passion
Each letter started with my name in cursive
ended with a heart and your initials
Broken by actions
By trading in our future
for a set of green eyes
I only have this flame
To mirror the heat in my chest
Our future turning into ash
Black, rising in the air
As sections of words
Promises and devotions
Edged with amber flakes
Fall to the floor
My pain ignites the scraps
Flames crawling up the dresser
Consuming the picture of us
Cheek to cheek
Last winter in Colorado
I toss the shoebox holding the last few letters
Into the growing blaze
I grab my phone
and the book I’ve been reading
I close the door
On the burning of our life together
The headline read:
“Woman Burning Love Letters Sparks Nebraska Apartment Fire.”
“Fight on, my men,” says Sir Andrew Barton,
“I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed a while,
And then I’ll rise and fight again. – “Sir Andrew Barton”
As many football fans know, the Buffalo Bills would fight back to the Super Bowl the next three years (and coming up short in their goal to win it). In their third appearance they were a wild card team. What an example of strength and heart.
Sometimes it seems that life is filled with failure. It feels like a streak of bad luck hits us. Stress, unexpected situations, any number of things can be viewed as a negative in our lives. Everybody has failure. But how do we respond? That is the important key to success.
I know that I am not writing anything new, not presenting a breakthrough in life for anyone. But we sometimes need to be reminded why it is important to “rise and fight again.”
Failure can distort our view of ourselves; it can cripple our resolve and sabotage the true joy of life around us. We must feel the pain of failure, let it touch our heart and spark a tear or two. That is the bitter sweetness of truly living. Success is learning from that pain and “moving forward” toward our goals. As the New Year approaches it gives us a chance to reflect and refocus. I can promise you that failure will occur next year, and I hope you will move forward through it. In fact, I dare you to.
This morning was a reminder of one of the aspects of life I’ve learned. It started as one of those mornings. Trash and recycling need to be put out on the curb. Lunches needed to be made. Diapers to daycare. Movies to return. My oldest son overslept. My youngest daughter didn’t want to be put down. It was time for me to start my commute and I was nowhere close to pouring my coffee into my travel mug.
I multi-task, carrying the last of the recycling, diapers under on arm, movies clutched in a few fingers to put in my wife’s car. Both garage doors opening is an appropriate sound track to the morning, arrrrgrarrrarrr, clunk-clunk.
It is about 6:20 in the morning, dark, and my breath can be seen as the cold tickles my forearms. It takes three trips to get the trash and recycling to the curb. The constellation Orion is above the southern horizon. Mars is shining bright toward the east. Beautiful. I take a few minutes to star gaze (I don’t know why, but stargazing is special for me).
In those few minutes the stars reminded me that life is beautiful. No matter what is going on in life, “nothing dims these stars.” I know that life can be hard. I know even in good times there can be a grimy feeling to life. Diamonds can collect filth on them. But the shine is still there; the diamond will sparkle (like a star) with a little cleaning.
Minutes later as I was getting into my car, my sons came out to get into the minivan. “Did you guys see the stars?” I asked. We go out to the drive way and we stargaze together for a minute. For a moment life hits me, in a single moment I feel the beauty of life so true that it almost crushes my heart. There I stood with my two sons, in front of our new home, on the driveway that we play basketball. Life can be hard. I know this. There is pain and disappointment, tragedy that can also crush a heart.
It takes work, it takes time, but no matter how filthy a diamond becomes, it still has its shine. “Nothing dims these stars.”
“Dad, there is a new Clone Wars on tonight!” Both boys head to the minivan chatting excitedly about the show tonight. I smile. Everyone has their own set of stars. What allows you to know that life is beautiful?