Is There Anything New Under The Sun?

Lily on her last day of being 10.

My daughter, Lily, on her last day of being 10. She says, “Yes, there is much new under the sun.”

Is there anything new under the sun?

Solomon says no.

With a little more than one day left in 2012, the speaker at our church Sunday asked the congregation what we thought.

I gave the question a solid half hour or so, I promise.

Then my 11-year-old daughter and I went about our frantic, thank-god-the-holidays-are-almost-over, suburban rainy day.

Some lowlights:

- We argued about her nail polish. (She said it was dry, I said it was wet, and when she smudged it and I said ‘I told you so’, she refused to speak to me for at least three whole Taylor Swift songs.)

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What Helps Us Hold On

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I have never been more focused on the future than when I have needed time to pass.

Ten more minutes until I’m done with this run.
Two more hours and we’ll be out of the car.
Four days and these cold sores will be gone.
Three weeks and this report will be filed.
When fall arrives, the house will have sold.
When spring is here, my heart will be healing.
Next Christmas, I will have found someone to love.

In times of pain, fatigue, anxiety, mourning and longing, a knowingness that time will pass – that circumstances will change – has buoyed me. I’m an optimistic person, though, with plenty of reasons to believe that if life isn’t so great right this second, it will be momentarily.

I have very generous and supportive parents.
I live in a place with plenty of resources and access to them.
I am healthy.
And I have thoughtful, creative and fiercely loyal friends who – for the most part – also have good families, good health, and live in strong communities.

What if I didn’t?
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Good Friday: An Optimist’s Approach

Easter Sunday, First Presbyterian Church in Dadeville, Ala. My notes scribbled on the back of the bulletin from my grandmother’s church:

“Good Friday wasn’t the worst of mankind. In fact, it was the best man had to offer at the time: a confluence of Jewish piety and Roman law. It wasn’t man’s worst day. It’s just that Easter was God’s best day.”

I meant to write about this before now, but a health scare got in the way. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled the Monday after Easter to follow up on a couple of ovarian cysts I knew from a previous ultrasound were large and complex. My doctor wanted to see if they had grown or changed in makeup. They had. She scheduled surgery to remove and biopsy them. Then, that night, one ruptured and sent me into a tailspin of serious pain.

For some stupid reason I went to work, made it a few hours, then went home and passed out. I called my doctor first thing in the morning. She phoned in a painkiller and rescheduled my surgery to the next available operating time, some 36 hours later. It has now been a week, and I am exhausted but feel better than I did before the rupture of the cyst. The cyst turned out to be a symptom of endometriosis, which she was able to remove during the surgery.

I cannot believe how wonderful my family, friends and coworkers have been throughout this ordeal. They’ve kept me fed, kept me company, kept me comfortable, and kept my daughter. When I was freaking out before having a diagnosis, they offered perspective and reason. I have felt warm, loved, deeply blessed.

What does this have to do with the Easter sermon at my grandmother’s church?

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The opportunity in loss

The people who are the best at something – the most knowledgable experts, the most passionate lovers – had to forsake other endeavors to get there.

Did you know Tony Hawk gave up the violin to ride a skateboard?

Among word people, most of us lean toward writing or editing.

The most committed and deeply talented had to turn some things down, make some choices, focus.

Or so we assume.

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What happens to cliff divers

Ok – listen – there are times to jump and times to be pushed.

You’ve gotta figure out which one is calling to you.

You’ve gotta know that regardless of how you’re falling from that cliff – because you were pushed or because you jumped – falling is what you’re doing, and it is scary and awesome. Both.

When you hit the bottom – if you hit the bottom – you might have some broken bones. You might be bleeding. You might have a piece here that oughta be there. You might not make it at all. You might get caught on a hereto unnoticed ledge between this place and that one. Or you might land in a sea of chocolate pudding. The best chocolate pudding on the planet. It could also be that you lose yourself and float off into the ether – drift forever – never hit the ground.

Doesn’t matter, not ultimately. What matters is that you were in that moment, enduring the fear of having no idea where you’d land, and feeling the rush – God, it’s a rush, isn’t it?? – of not knowing.

A total rush.

You’re not the only one falling / jumping off that cliff. People have been falling and jumping off cliffs since the dawn of cliffs. There were always cliffs. Cliffs were carved by the elements and by God. They are here for us to fall from.

Look around and you’ll see the others. Some of them look freaked out and panicked, don’t they? Grab ahold of them if you’re feeling up to it, if you are one of those who looks exhilerated and confident. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. A bubble might burst, a patch of turbulence will make you sick. You’ll look around and find someone else to grip, someone who has a grip already.

Somewhere, sometime – eventually – you will get to where you’re going.

You will tell the story of your fall like it was the best thing that ever happened to you. The first story worth telling. Maybe it’ll become the only one you ever tell.

People will listen to you.

Some will be impulsive and jump too soon. Some will tell you you’re a fool and will need a push. You won’t care.

You, like all the rest of us, will have been both those people, and you know they’ll both be you.

Eulogy for a pet fish

Mixed media of the "butterfly effect" by Kentucky artist Sharmon Davidson

Blueberry died today.

He swam around a bowl. He ate little flakes of god knows what. He was complacent when we poured him temporarily into a measuring cup so we could change the water, which – to be honest – wasn’t all that often.

He lived extraordinarily long for a betta fish – a year and a half.

One day he was very lethargic and hovered near the bottom. We thought he was a goner, but he stirred when I shook the bowl. Still, Lily would not let me make fish cakes for dinner that night as I had planned.

In poor taste, she thought.

That was a week ago. Continue reading