Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Page 2 of 302

For You or Against You

In the weeks preceding her surgeries, I made several visits to see Vanessa. I’ve stored up these conversations as “treasures in my heart” as Mary did with the wise words Gabriel shared. Much like Mary, I had no idea how or when I would lean into them, I only recognized them as valuable.

One time, she shared with me how she had reacted when others didn’t see (as clearly as she did) the depth and breadth of talent hidden in her daughter. There was a play, and auditions, and significant disappointment. She shared with me that she was angry, as any parent is on behalf of a beloved. Then, she told me the lesson she took away from the experience. She began to see things with a larger view. “That director didn’t wake up that morning thinking, ‘how can I make the Barrett household miserable today’ she was only doing her job to put together the best production possible.” Vanessa said.

When faced with perceived or real unfairness and injustice, we tend to live as if everything is against us. That’s our natural reaction, perhaps simply a human one. And while it’s natural, it might not be helpful. Our perception of reality begins to shape our response, which actually has more power to change any given situation than shifting the responsibility to the rest of the world.

If you believe God, the Universe, and/or the rest of Humanity is for you, rather than against you, I promise you will experience the world and interpret its events in a dramatically different way. And you will respond to such powers and events with more grace. Similarly, if you choose to believe that this is all heading toward something good, you will see the ways in which the fabric of creation is also rooting on our fellow human, which is just as noble a cause.

You are more than welcome to believe that It Is All Against You. The world is at war with you. You are constantly fighting an uphill battle. Such posture will require you take up a sword and keep swinging. Take note, however, that constant charging may keep fellow “soldiers” a good distance away, avoiding friendly fire.

I’d welcome you to try out a stance of peacemaking. That it all works together for the good.  God is For You: this is a theme amplified through the First Testament. When Jesus starts citing the Blessed Are The’s, he puts his voice behind the idea that your situation is not an indicator that God has forgotten you or left you behind. In fact, he says, in any situation there is opportunity to feel the closeness of God.

Of course, God and the Universe on your side doesn’t imply finding the 4 bedroom house on 5 acres in the country with a brand new kitchen, and in your price range. The promise was never for perfection: just goodness. Siding with the Powers that Be simply means we will get what we need, yet not necessarily what we always want. It might even be helpful to remember that what we want may not be helpful for finding what we need.

I’ve come to integrate this very concept in my parenting. When they don’t like the direction I’m taking them, I’ll ask, “do you believe that mommy is on your side? Do you believe that mommy wants good things for you?” Yes, they answer, because they know my love. What they’re experiencing might not be their preference, but they can trust that I have an end goal in mind that is headed toward goodness.

So you can respond to Life in a myriad of ways. One is to keep fighting, hell-bent. The other is to see with a view that is more heaven-ward. We tend to find what we’re looking for, so if you want evidence of goodness, then you need to first start seeking it.

Optimism and Other Lies

I recognize I can come across a bit too Pollyanna for some folk. Someone remarked recently, “I love your optimism!” and while I appreciated the sentiment, I doubted it’s truth. I can understand why people might interpret my attitude as Glass Half Full, but it’s not entirely accurate.

I completely see, feel, and understand the ways in which the world is terrible. The friends fighting brain cancer and the storms decimating innocent people’s homes. The systemic way in which all people aren’t valued in the same way. There’s no way you can put this world in a prom dress and declare it’s fine, just fine. It’s not.

The pretense of a rosy world shattered, if in no other way, than how I continue to experience October. What people might smell in my attitude isn’t optimism – that everything is good if you just look at it the right way. Some things are terrible and they suck and it’s okay to name it that way.

What I am, however, is hopeful.

I believe this whole thing is headed in a particular direction, a place with goodness as a baseline. (And actually, I believe that about our starting point as well.) What we have here, among us, is a kitchen in the middle of making the salsa. A mess. A sink full of dishes, splatters on the wall and my shirt, with scraps of vegetables attracting the fruit flies. This is the creation process. There is a deliciousness in our midst; we can smell it. We can see evidence of it around us. And it’s not yet. We’re still shuffling bowls of tomato cores and getting jalapeno seeds too close to our eyes. The scent of what is to come permeates our present atmosphere to the point we can nearly taste it. And still we wait for things to cook down and become as they should be.

That is the underlying Hebrew tone of the word hope: To wait.

Optimism brushes off the negative, the part of the glass that is empty. Hope endures it. Hope takes it all in. Half is gone, half is full, and when it’s all consumed it’s going to be very, very good.

This is our work. We’re partnered in the work of creation, bringing about the reality we believe we’re headed toward. Not a passive, “It sure would be nice if…” waiting, but an active wait. In the words of Anne Lamott, it’s “planting trees for children whose grandparents were born yesterday.” Perhaps the literal trees, and maybe we’re also planting ideas into generations that we won’t be around to hear them repeat. In any case, the value doesn’t diminish.

So friends, when you hear me cheering for the good, have confidence that I’ve not forgotten the terrible. It’s here. And, I won’t let negativity bias win. It’s not an either/or question. This life is a Beautiful Struggle.

Optimism, pessimism, or realism? This isn’t an interesting conversation for me. My questions revolve around: Is this big  ol’ human experiment going somewhere? And if so, is it worth it?

Is the salsa worth the messy kitchen?

My answer, so far in this life, is undoubtedly yes. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

Free To Do

I’ve never been a Pinterest Mom. Birthdays around here consistently include a cake in a 9×13″ pan, from a box. I have had little time or energy for anything cute, including teachers gifts, helping in school classrooms, and birthday treats. I’ve kept a swarm of children on my legs for 7 years; making cutesy butterflies out of fruit didn’t make my list of priorities.

I didn’t volunteer in the classrooms of my older kids; I always had a baby at home needing care. To put it simply: I couldn’t be a SuperMom. With some inner work, I moved to a place where I didn’t feel that I had to do these things. I knew that “enough” was enough for me. I knew my priorities – what mattered to me in my work of mothering – and stuck to them. I let grandma do the crafts.

On the first day of school this year, I sent my kids with homemade cinnamon rolls for their teachers. I even printed off a cute little card. (One of my biggest successes of the summer was getting my printer to talk to my computer. THIS, my friends, deserves a medal.) Granted, the treats weren’t wrapped in burlap because I don’t know where to buy those kinds of things, and then I would loose them in my basement. But the note, you see, was cute. “Here’s to a sweet year!” it said. I texted a friend: It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore!

But here’s a secret, one I feel will serve you well: I felt zero compulsion to do such a task. There was no little angel sitting on my shoulder saying, “a good mom would make baked goods.” I lost that little angel with the third kid, when I gave up on matching socks.

What happened on the first day of school is that I felt free to do something. Not compelled. Not guilted. Not forced. Free.

If you’ve seen the movie Bad Moms, you know that getting rid of the Mom Guilt is big time. There’s so much shaming involved with how we choose to mother, be it what we put in the bake sale or how professional our kids’ science experiments appear. Keeping up with Mrs. Jones exhausts too many moms. To those who feel imprisoned by Valentine’s Boxes, I admonish you: Break Free!

And.  Also. I think we need to notice the Mom Guilt associated with moving in the other direction. In our freedom to Not Do It All, we’ve started to eliminate the freedom To Do. My friends, we’re not just freed from, we’re freed to. We get to choose the direction of our energies. We get to do good – the good of our own essence, the good we were created to do.

Here’s what I’m discovering: Freedom is intimidating. Someone who knows how she wants to live, and moves according to her values can conjure up feelings of inadequacy in people around her. We misinterpret someone doing her thing as the standard to which we should be doing ours. But the only one holding me to that standard is me.

Teachers are not expecting you to make cinnamon rolls next year because I did it this year. And I am not interested in some sort of cinnamon roll making contest. What I am interested in, however, is what makes you come alive. What ideas spark conversation? What makes you want to clear a little time in the schedule? You should do more of that. Not because you should; because you can.

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