Thursday, October 28, 2010

Russian Lessons, Part 1






I gathered from the kind comments left on Weakness that ya'll are not big Tolstoy fans. We’ll have to remedy that, as William Wallace said in Braveheart. (Back in the days before Mel lost his marbles.)

I’ve told the story of how I stumbled upon Anna Karenina* in the Junior High library when I was 12 or 13, and fell in love with Tolstoy. I mean, who doesn’t like to think about the meaning of life at that age? It goes with the hormones. I saw Dr. Zhivago around the same time, and promptly sobbed my way into a fatal fascination with Russia. I devoured everything I could get my hands on concerning the Romanovs; prayed that Anastasia had somehow miraculously escaped the execution of the royal family. Obsession.


 The interest persisted beyond early adolescence. At Emory, I lapped up every Russian literature and history course that was offered. I found the  history rich and fascinating; the literature, sublime. I loved it all, from Pushkin to Lermontov, Turgenev, Gorky...all the way to Bulgakov, Ahkmatova, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn. Even the ex-pats like Nabokov.  Finally, my senior year, the head of the Russian department said to me, “Keeem-bear-lee. You have read it all in English. Now you must read it in Russian.” The only problem was that it was my next-to-the-last-quarter in college. This dear old man was so committed to the project that he convinced me to let him tutor me in Russian 101 while I was enrolled in 102. I finished my college career off with 103, which basically meant that I finally mastered the alphabet.

Later, when my sister was at Vanderbilt, she called to taunt me, ”Guess where I’m going?” I said it wasn’t fair that she got to go on a Study Abroad program to Russia without me, because she’d copied me by getting interested in Russia in the first place. So we doctored up my transcript quite a bit, and I went along for the ride.

This was still in the days of the Cold War. I will not digress much further except to tell you that one of my cousins claimed that our antics almost kept her from getting a security clearance to join our country’s most prestigious national security organization. We never could tell if she was kidding or not.

The main things I learned on that 6-week trip were how to sing “Kalinka” in Russian, and how to drink straight vodka. It was considered a terrible breach of etiquette not to return a toast. Being Southern, I felt I had to do my part to be gracious and support Glasnost.

(Actually, I may have to tell you more about that trip one of these days when we don’t have anything else to talk about. I did learn more than I’m admitting here.)

That trip could not possibly have been any more different from the second trip I took to Russia. Back in the days of American Prosperity, my husband’s company sent us on a “Recognition Trip,” which was a cruise of the Baltic Sea countries. The Iron Curtain had crumbled. Russia was for sale. Russia was on sale. When I’d gone the first time, we weren’t allowed into many of the palaces and historic sites we desperately wanted to see. We’d taken boats from St. Petersburg out to Peterhof, Peter the Great’s summer palace, only to be told that we couldn’t go inside. We got a tour of the grounds. On this second trip, our group had the place all to ourselves. The almost-bankrupt Russian government rented out the whole palace to my husband’s company. We were served champagne and caviar on the patio overlooking the Gulf of Finland, followed by a 5-course-meal in Peter’s the Great’s throne room. Capitalism’s final triumph over Communism.



Flash forward. Days of champagne and caviar: So Over. 

Life had gotten increasingly harder and more complicated with the years. My father retired from practicing medicine, only to face a nightmare series of major surgeries and violent chronic pain. His spine was crumbling. We went back and forth to Emory six or seven times for surgeries that were as long as 15 hours each. I was trying to help my mother care for him without going insane. He was constantly having TIA's, falls, compression fractures, the whole gamut of a very painful deterioration. It was emotionally devastating.

During this time, I had one child in college, one in High School, and one in Middle School. At least one of the three was extremely high maintenance that year. (You know who you are. :) ) All three were involved in too many activities, and needed my support and participation in them. My own health had been deteriorating for several years prior to that, and I was going from doctor to doctor trying to find some answers. I was barely able to keep my head above the water. Treading hard.

In spite of all of this Because of all of this, I made the time to participate in a Bible Study at a friend’s church. I was drawn to the passionate involvement of the people there. The unconditional love. The humility. One Sunday, I attended a service with her. An announcement was made: They were sending a group to work in Russian orphanages. To send supplies and hope where they were desperately needed. Following the fall of communism, the former state-run agencies were in dire straits. Under-staffed and out of funds. Kids facing neglect. Babies not being held.

As I listened to the call for volunteers, an electrically-charged chill surged through my body. At the same moment, my friend looked at me and said, “Kim, you should go! You love Russia."

My pulse started racing. Then reality raced back. “Oh, sure. I wish,” I answered, a bit sarcastically. “I'd like to think that one day of these days I might be able to do something like that. Obviously, now’s not the time.”

She just smiled at me.

“Why don’t you pray about it?”

“Okay. I can do that. Maybe God will give me a sign or something. Maybe if He gave me, oh, like three signs, I might have to consider it…” 


(To be continued.)

*****************

*Fun Trivia Fact for lit-chicks (and guys):

Faulkner once spoke at a writer's conference. He was asked something like, "What is the most important thing that an aspiring writer can do to become the best he can be?" Faulkner's response: "Read Anna Karenina."  "And after that?" the query came. "What's the next step?" 

Without missing a beat, Faulkner replied, "Read it again."

I've read it seven or eight times. You'd think I'd be a better writer by now.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010




This is the way many blog posts happen:

A random thought flits through the fragmented mind.

Later, someone says something that makes me think of it again. Then I see an image that reminds me of it. The next day, another aspect of the random thought comes to mind. I run into a person that is associated with the thought.

The idea gets hammered to the forefront in countless tiny ways.

Often, I have absolutely no idea why.

I am being hammered with thoughts about a mission trip I took to Russia.

It was eight years ago… another life entirely.

I don’t exactly know why I’m supposed to talk about it now, but I think I am. (Even though there are a gazillion other things I want to talk about instead.)

So, I’ll start at the beginning.

Maybe tomorrow…

***************

(If I hit "publish" then I'll be obligated to follow through. Even though I am in the throes of preparing for another coast change. Here goes...)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Pursuit of Peace







 We talk a lot about the pursuit of happiness in this country, which strikes me as somewhat antithetical. Happiness is rarely found by seeking it. Its pursuit actually chases it further away.

Peace, on the other hand, is a commodity whose pursuit is sometimes necessary. It is not a state that comes naturally or easily for many of us. 

I believe that peace is worth pursuing. It may take some effort. One’s natural inclination might be towards agitation, worry, stress, drama, or over-activity. If that’s the case, peace must be actively sought.

Although, like happiness, peace may sometimes sneak up as a nice surprise, more often its attainment requires the employment of some spiritual discipline.

Sweet peace should be sought like a lover. Pursued. Practiced.

The first step is just to stop.

Stop whatever it is you’re doing, thinking, manipulating.

It takes a real effort to stop, but that is the active pursuing.

Then pray. Read. Wait. Meditate. Recite. Breathe. Believe. Empty yourself. Go outside. Whatever works for you.

And wait some more, trusting that it will come. That different way of looking at things. That slower way of breathing. That resting.

I had a unique experience of peace this weekend.

My husband and I had gone up to check on our lake cabin, which we thought surely must be falling in from neglect and nonuse. The creatures whose habitat had been invaded by its presence were working on reclaiming the territory.

We got there close to dusk, and I set about puttering and straightening. My husband grabbed a beer and told me to come out on the dock with him. I was more in a Martha than a Mary mood. Reluctantly, I grabbed one myself and followed him down the treacherous steep path to the water.

He told me to just sit down and be still for a minute.

This is what we saw:

video

...the moon was wagging its tail at us.

Just as Katie Scarlett never had a hankie when she needed one, I never have a camera handy. So I whipped out my Iphone and tried to capture a moment of Deep Peace. Listen to the waves lapping at the end. (I wish I hadn't cut it off so soon...but I'm impatient!)

Within a matter of minutes, it went from:


to


to


to



We sat on the dock and listened to the stillness.

The words from a calligraphy of a Gaelic blessing I'd bought at a junk shop came to mind.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the gentle night to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the light of the world to you.

As I type these words, I hear the rumblings of thunder and the splatter of rain outside my window.

I am reminded that no matter what roiling storms surround us, there is a deep peace at the center of all things.


Lord, help me remember to actively pursue the peace you have already given me.

***************

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)

"For this is what the LORD says:
       "I will extend peace to her like a river..."" (Isaiah 66:12)

***************

How do you actively pursue peace? 


Friday, October 22, 2010

Honestly.



What a safe, lovely place this has become.

A community.

I cried when I read all your comments. I’m tearing up again now just thinking about them. Thank you so much for taking the time to encourage me. Thank you for allowing me the freedom to be real.

There have been times when I’ve felt like a “second class citizen” in the community of faith. When I was younger, it was hard for me to stop comparing myself to others who seemed to have it all together spiritually. Those who didn’t seem to struggle with doubt and despair and vacillation and inconsistency as I did. Those who were always “Great!!!” no matter what was going on.

I grew up in an era and place where there was a lot of pretending. I’ve never been good at that. I’ve never seen the point.

Nobody’s really “Great!!!” all the time. We all have faults and fears and trials and tears. I think we owe it to each other to be honest. I think we owe it to God. He can handle it. The one thing that really annoys Him is hypocrisy. But He forgives even that the second we acknowledge it.

I promise I didn’t write the last post just so you would send some encouragement my way. Although I’ll freely admit to being an affirmation junky, I wrote it because I couldn’t write anything else. It’s what came out on the page. But your encouraging words were a sweet gift. They reminded me to share some of my own with people who need to hear them. Thank you.

The reality is that, for many of us, faith is a daily battle. It is not static; it is a vibrant, living, growing thing. We might have the faith to move mountains one day, and be hiding in a cave nursing our wounds the next. We make it harder than it has to be. But we do grow up eventually, in spite of all the ups and downs and backwards/forwards.

I guess the point of the last post is actually the whole point of Margery.

It’s the most important thing I’ve learned in my life.

In my weakness, is His strength.
In my incompleteness, is His fullness.
In my vacillation, is His faithfulness.
In my insecurity, is His security.
In my failure, is His grace.
In my sin, is His mercy.

I will keep on keeping on.

Thanks for coming with me.

I love you,
Kim

p.s. I'm in a praying kind of mood, if anyone has a need. (Don't forget to visit the prayer lady on the right side of the page.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weakness


I’m going to be honest with you.

I’ve been feeling frustrated lately.

With myself, with circumstances, with the blog.

But mostly with myself. I feel inadequate and insufficient.

Scattered, unorganized. Tired. Weak. Inept.

Carrying around a perpetual headache.

There are about 9 recent unfinished blog posts in my Documents. I feel compelled to write about many things that are pressing on my heart. I frantically try to get the words down before time runs out. Time runs out. After I’ve dealt with a day’s worth of distractions, I return and stare at the half-finished page, but the words won’t come. Half-finished conversations wait for me, but the fire is gone. Or other words beg to interrupt. So I start a new topic, only to quit midstream again.

Great posts are written in my head on the highway. They never make it out of the car. Please don’t tell me to dictate them into my Iphone or something. I’m already quite a menace on the roads. I have to concentrate or I’ll forget where I’m going.

I’m disappointed. I had such great expectations of the new blog, but it’s not how I envisioned it. I promised you that there would be both more substance and more trivia… more range… but it just seems like the same old stuff. Me, holding on by the seat of my pants. Telling you stories from my everyday life. Stuck in a holding pattern. Just keeping on keeping on.

I’d planned on learning more skills. How to make it slicker, more professional, polished. But it still looks like the Amateur Hour. Technology Instruction just isn’t high on the list of priorities right now.

The feeling of inadequacy is not limited to my blog writing. It spills over into most areas of my life.

I start listening (a little) to those negative interior voices. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you get it together?

Last week, I had a lot of intense interaction with friends in the middle of major traumas. The issues included a life-destroying chemical addiction, job loss, an incurable debilitating disease, marital meltdown, severe depression, and complete financial collapse. (As in no money for groceries.) Other friends confided stories of children in deep trouble and parents in major crisis… some at the same time. (I laughed with one old friend that if we’re the Sandwich Generation, I feel like a piece of bologna right now. With no mayonnaise, she added.)

I’ve found myself in a rather strange position. Being an earthquake survivor evidently gives one the appearance of authority. It seems that people look upon me now as some kind of survival expert. Someone who can provide answers to unanswerable questions.

But I’m still the same old me. Weak and wavering. Fighting my way to faith one day at a time. Climbing up the mountaintop, only to slip on some rocks and slide back down a little each time I’ve made headway.

It makes me feel self-conscious. Almost like a fraud.

I tried my best to transmit hope into the situations that were laid before me last week. But the words tasted stale in my mouth, and sounded hollow coming out. The needs are overwhelming. The issues huge. Too big for me.

That old desire to fix things came briefly back to the surface.

But I felt helpless to help.

Inadequate. Weak. Discouraged. Drained.

I told them I would pray.


Finally, I high-tailed it to church to get some prayer myself.

And I remembered something:

God has always used my inadequacies more than my strengths.


It’s funny.  Some of my closest friends don’t (can’t/won’t) read these weird ramblings of mine. A couple are even mad about it. But others, people I never would have imagined reading, do. And some of those people have encouraged me this week.

The blog isn’t what I want it to be. I’m not writing about the things I most want to write about. Instead of quoting Tolstoy, I’m talking about potty training. Rather than discussing C. S. Lewis’s use of allegory, I’m telling you about how I barely restrained myself from road-rage retaliation. There is no rhyme or reason. No thematic consistency. I still haven’t even managed to get a good Books List up yet.

But.

In spite of the way I feel about it, something is happening. Posts I’ve felt were the least inspired have evidently spoken to some people where they are.

I thank you for telling me that. For reminding me that it’s not about me. That God uses His servants any way He sees fit. In spite of ourselves. Often times, when we’re not even aware we are being used.

I felt that I had nothing to give those friends in need. Except for prayer.

Thank God I had nothing else to give them. What paltry offering of my own wisdom or compassion could compare with the powerful riches that come from the prayers of an empty vessel?

Thank God that I have felt inadequate, insufficient, scattered, and frustrated. Thank God that I felt as if I had nothing left to offer. Nothing left to say.

For I have been reminded that

when I am weak, I am strong.

when I am depleted, I am rich.

when I have nothing, I have everything.


I already have everything I need.


***************


“But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12: 9-10)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Totally Random...

I said I'd ask. So...


Did anyone reading this happen to lose a flash drive in Clayton Georgia?


Someone found one, and the only identifying clue was a link to Katherine's Mom's Blog.


The person has contacted us, and wants to return it to the rightful owner if possible. If he can't find the owner, he said he would shred the contents and use it himself.


I'm not really sure what a flash drive is.


But if you're missing one, please email Katherine and Jay at jayandkatherinewolf@gmail.com, and they will get you in touch with the Good Samaritan.


You never know. Sometimes strange things happen.


Thanks!
Kim

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not An Option







An old conversation has come back to mind, lurking around the edges of my consciousness. Intruding itself into the present.

It was long ago, in the early stages of my faith. I was walking with a friend, using her as a platform upon which to vent my feelings. Hoping for some validation.

I had allowed another friend to hurt me. The wounds were deep and multiple. I had let them accumulate over time, stuffing the pain. The relationship was a complicated one, both a blessing and a curse. But bitterness had built up from unresolved issues and unhealed hurts.

I released it all in a torrent. Poured out all of that pent-up frustration and resentment.

Of course, it was under the disguise of seeking “spiritual counsel.”

But I really just wanted the venting-victim to agree with me. I wanted her to tell me that my resentment was justified. I wanted empathetic acknowledgement that I had been unfairly injured.

So on and on I went, listing offense after offense.

My friend listened and nodded sympathetically. She let me know that our mutual friend had hurt her as well. So it wasn’t just me.

I kept on, the articulation of what previously had been suppressed adding fuel to the emotional fire.

As I was in mid-sentence, she abruptly stopped walking. She turned to look me square in the eyes. And she said something I’ve never forgotten.

Kim, love is not optional.

That took a little wind out of the billowing sails of self-pity.

I looked at her.

“I know, but you don’t understand, she…”

“Love is not optional.”

“But she…”

“Love is not optional.”

I finally shut up. What else could I say?

She was right. She is right.

For anyone claiming the name of Christ, love is not optional. It is a basic requirement of the designation.

An order. A command.

Really, the main one.  All the others are just facets of that mirror.

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:9)

I think most of us would admit that there are people in our lives we don’t even like, much less love.

Mean people. Selfish people. Cruel people. Annoying people. Self-righteous people. Angry people. Know-It-All people. Manipulative people. Ignorant people. Hypocritical people. Controlling people. Outright crazy people.

People we dislike for no good reason. (Just not my cup of tea. Rubs me the wrong way. Gets under my skin. Not a fan.)

Imperfect people.

They’re difficult to avoid.

(We’re difficult to avoid.)

But real love is not an emotion.

Love is a motion.

I realize that no matter how I feel about a given person at a given moment, I have a choice to make in my intention and interaction.

Is it loving?

Is this proceeding from the Source of all love? Not from my fickle inclinations, but from the fountain of unconditional acceptance which has poured out over me… just as I am? The source that has taught me to love me in such a way that, in loving others as I do myself, I am giving them something worth having?

Sometimes I do better when there are fewer choices. Or when there is no choice at all.

It makes things simpler.


Love is not just an option.

It is the only way.

***************

 “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love… No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”(I John 4:7, 12)

 ***************

How do you show love to people you don’t happen to like? Those who’ve hurt you? People who seem impossible to love?

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Dying






I think about dying pretty much every day.

I realize that there are some who may think that’s unnecessarily morbid.

But it’s not to me.

I’m at the age now where change is accelerated. The closer you get to the end, the faster it gets. Past fifty, it’s like somebody pushed Fast Forward.

And now it’s autumn again. The changing of summer into fall always brings with it a bittersweet nostalgia. Happy memories of the past collide with a heightened awareness that all things change and die. Even us. But there is a brilliant beauty as the leaves blaze their brightest just before falling.

In the days I have left on this whirling planet, I want to blaze more brightly. I want to reflect more Light.

So I think about the end. I remind myself that my days are numbered. I ponder how to make the best use of the ones I have left here.

Actually, I’m starting to get ready for The Trip. Even if I live to be 90, that won’t be long enough for me to get rid of all the junk I’ve accumulated and organize all of my messes. Last night, I threw out about 50 magazines I’d saved for one reason or another. Ideas I wanted to copy, trips I wanted to take “one day,” recipes I wanted to try. “I won’t need them in Heaven,” I reminded myself as I flipped through them one last time before hurling them into the recycling pile. It felt good. I am beginning to prepare for departure.

Still, it is ineffably painful that nothing here lasts. Sitting alone in my sunroom on a Sunday afternoon, I feel a sense of profound loss. I am grieving the presence of the quiet for which I once pleaded. I am missing the sounds of living that used to make me long for solitude.

I have a fantasy: For just a week… maybe even just a day… how I’d love to have all three of my girls back in this big house that seems so empty without them. How I’d love to time-travel back for a visit, knowing what I know now. How precious it was.

How passing.

Every day, there are poignant reminders of this inherent transience. It seems as if once a week, I have a friend who loses a parent. My mother-in-law is battling a life-threatening cancer; my mother is facing potentially serious health problems. As of last week, she can no longer drive. Her friends are leaving, one by one. There are constant goodbyes.

When I get together with friends I haven’t seen in a while, it’s slightly shocking to realize how much we’ve all aged. When did we get to be old? It almost seems like a joke. Inside, we’re the same in so many ways. But every time I look in the mirror, the footprints of time are more evident.

Everybody changes. Every body changes.

It’s hard.

Fortunately, I find that this heightened perception of mortality gives me a greater sense of compassion for all of us… even people that are difficult to love. I think, “One day, you won’t be here anymore. Let’s just spit it out: One day, you’ll be dead.” One day, each of us must pass alone through the doorway out of this life. For many of us… most of us… the path to that doorway will be littered with pain and suffering.

If I believed that this is all there is, it would be tragic beyond words.

But I don’t.

I long for the day when all change and loss and decay are past. When separation can no longer slit your heart open like a sharp knife. When there are no more goodbyes to be said.

I don’t want to artificially hasten that day. Although there have been times in my life when I thought it might be nice not to have to wake up again, they are long past. Now, I try to savor each day as a short-lived gift. Even if it is a completely unproductive day, full of frustration and irritation. Still, I try to find some tiny point of joy and gratitude, embracing the beauty of small, insignificant things. And I look ahead.

With numbered days, my internal priorities shift. I am learning to let go of things that will not matter in the end. Learning.

I ask myself, What is of eternal value? What can I carry with me when I go? What do I need to do before I leave?


These are the things I ponder in the fall of the fall of my life.


Winter surely comes.


***************


“What I mean, brother and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on… those who mourn, (should live) as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (I Corinthians 7:29-30)


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Continental Divide



I live a double life.

More than once a month, I zip across three time zones and transmute into an alter ego.

My East Coast life and my West Coast life are about as opposite as two lives can be.  Sometimes I feel slightly schizophrenic.

Here’s an illustration: I’m East Coast now. It’s after 9:00 a.m., and I am lying in bed sipping my second cup of freshly ground coffee. (Thank you, Husband.) I slept in until almost 8:30, then had my Quiet Time and checked emails and schedules. Watched a little Today Show. (Hey, we’re empty nesters. Give me a break.)

If I were West Coast, it would have gone more like this: 6:45 a.m.: Wake up and stumble to kitchen (area) to make some instant coffee. Get back in bed, pick up my Bible and try to see the words through bleary eyes. Read three sentences. Phone buzzes with a text: “Mom, James is crying to come over. Ok?”  Thirty seconds later, my little buddy arrives at my back door, a whirlwind of activity and love and disruption and messes and total adorableness. I’m worn out by 9:00.

The circumstances of my double entities (identities) are different in almost every way.

East Coast, I drive down a long, winding road past other people’s Dream Houses to reach our own. It is on a wooded cul-de-sac. A couple of acres with a pretty pond in the back yard. Each house in the neighborhood occupies its own “space,” both positionally and existentially. We exist together in a state of perfect climate-controlled privacy. Several of my close friends live just down the street, but we don’t run into each other by accident. No one hears anyone else’s business. 

West Coast, we live very close together, in houses that are wide open to the (generally) perfect weather. No central heat or air needed there. (At least, not in 1925, when my little cottage was constructed. No prob until the heat records exceeded 105 a few days ago. Global warming.) Backyards adjoin so closely that every private conversation is heard by one and all. Every fight. Every intimate conversation.

Privacy is pretty much an unknown entity in an urban setting. If I try to take a nap in the afternoon when James does, I am invariably awakened after 10 minutes by screaming sirens or loud teenagers on the sidewalk a couple of feet from my open window. I feel exposed, vulnerable. A couple of times, the whole street's been cordoned off by a battalion of police accompanied by the Canine Unit. I see people looking in the windows as they walk by my tiny abode on the way to a concert or theatre performance. It’s life in a miniature fishbowl.

My West Coast bedroom is smaller than my East Coast closet, if that helps you get the picture.

East Coast, I have Help. (Thank you.)

West Coast, I (mostly) am The Help. Bumbling my way through a newly-necessitated domesticity that does not come easily or naturally. But one that is strangely fulfilling and satisfying nonetheless. As I’ve said, there’s nothing quite like the smell of little boy clothes drying in the sun on a line in the postage-stamp back yard.

West Coast Backyard
East Coast Backyard


East Coast, I jump in my car for each and every errand, mindless of issues like fuel consumption or traffic.

West Coast, I walk to the grocery store. To Starbucks. To the Farmer’s Market. To every restaurant at which I choose to eat.

Not only are the living conditions disparate, the alter egos don't even look alike. Different clothes for different coasts. In LA, anything goes. I walk around on the sidewalk in my pajamas most mornings, without getting a single funny look. East Coast, I have to tone the wardrobe down. In Los Angeles, it is not uncommon to see a 75-year-old woman in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s sporting leggings with a leopard-skin top that doesn’t cover her fanny. (With heels or boots.) I kid you not. I’ve tried to sneak a few pix because I knew that no one back home would believe it. In Georgia, I’m always asking myself, “Will this outfit embarrass my mother? Will she tell me I’m not dressing my age?” 

I’m even going to Talbot’s with her this week.

West Coast, I’m usually too tired to take care of myself. East Coast is all about self-maintenance. At home, I won’t go to the grocery store without at least a smidgen of makeup on. West Coast, there are days when I’m bold enough to let all the world gaze upon my unmasked beauty. (I do try to keep sunglasses on.) Unwashed hair in a clip, the same dirty t-shirt 3 days in a row… but who really cares? I don’t know any of these people. In Athens, I run into 4 or 5 acquaintances every time I try to dash in and grab a loaf of bread.

West Coast, I don’t have a social life.  East Coast, there are more people I want to get together with than there are days in which to do it. I feel lonely one place; stretched thin the other.

It’s funny.

The two lives appear on the surface to be as different as night and day. Looking only at external circumstances, people might be envious of one and pity the other. 

One life is definitely more physically demanding. There are fewer creature comforts. I have less time “for myself.” I don’t get to do what I want to do very often.

But.

I have discovered that life circumstances have absolutely nothing to do with my happiness quotient.

Nothing at all.

Zero.

Actually, I didn’t just discover this. I’ve known it for some time. But to live it out so vividly and experientially has provided a unique opportunity for spiritual growth.

Please listen, people.

This is important.

It really, really, really doesn’t matter where you live or what you do.

…What you have or don’t have.

…Whom you’re with or not with.

Living a contented… joyful… life is completely independent of all of these external matters.

Because I take myself with me wherever I go.

As you take yourself with you.

Although I would not have chosen this lifestyle, our family's circumstances have given me the gift of living extremely disparate lives in two very different places. Neither one is perfect. Fortunately, there are many things I love about both places and lives. I am blessed to be able to savor the richness to be found in each experience.

But I know, in ways I’ve never known before, that while happiness is not to be found on either coast…in one lifestyle or the other…

it may be achieved in either or both.

As long as I remember that my true home is neither.

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I can retreat to that secret sweet spot of the spirit.


Christ in me.


That’s the only place I really fit in.



***************



“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)
East Coast Across-the-Street Neighbor's Fall Porch Decor
West Coast Across-the-Street Neighbor's Fall Porch Decor


Vive la difference!