Don’t play the victim

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Maybe you have a passion, a dream, but you haven’t achieved your goal—yet.

Whose fault is that?

How you answer the question has a lot to do with who you are.

Here’s a little scenario.

Suppose you want to be a writer, a painter, a singer, or a musician? You set forth, carrying your dream in a knapsack. Along the way, you must travel through a dark forest. The path is, like the paths of most creative people, less traveled by, and you stumble over branches and stones. Briars snag you. The journey is longer than you expected, and your supplies are limited. You run out of nourishment. To make matters worse, thieves lurk in the shadows, and they take what little you have. Others have gone before you and made it to their destination, but you are caught in a deluge without shelter from the storm.

It’s not fair. The others didn’t have the same problems you did. They had support. Some of them didn’t have to travel by foot. They had wagons. Others had scouts to light their paths, and a few even had sentries to guard them from harm.

You are hurt. You are hungry. You are tired. You are beaten. You are robbed. You are alone.

Do you consider yourself a victim?

Please, friend, though you may have suffered horrible injustices that have left you physically or emotionally scarred, even to the point of disfigurement or PTSD, don’t allow yourself to become a victim.

Fight it with everything within your soul. Why?

  • Because if you are a victim, you may be tempted to curse those who are blessed.
  • Because if you are a victim, you blame others for your defeat even if you could make a come back.
  • Because if you are a victim, you may stop trying.
  • Because if you are a victim, you may lose hope.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Regardless of your situation, refuse the label of victim. Give no one, not even yourself, the satisfaction of holding you back.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“As long as you think that the cause of your problem is “out there”—as long as you think that anyone or anything is responsible for your suffering—the situation is hopeless. It means that you are forever in the role of victim, that you’re suffering in paradise.”   ~ Byron Katie

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

MUSIC NOTES
I will stand back up / You’ll know just the moment when I’ve had enough / Sometimes I’m afraid, and I don’t feel that tough / But I’ll stand back up ~  “Stand Back Up” by Sugarland

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.livinglightnews.org/story4_05.12.htm

FINAL THOUGHT

CAPABLE

Am I a failure?

EpicFailure

Am I a failure?

Sometimes I have to ask myself that. Things never turned out the way I planned, but they didn’t turn out bad. I guess I need to keep things in perspective.

I want to write. I’m a writer. I tell other people’s stories. I don’t get paid much, but it has never been about the money. I could be a biography channel junkie, so when I am privy to a “famous” person’s life, I get giddy. That feeling is a GIFT. But the real gift is the lesson the person I interview delivers to me. I get to share it with other people who need to hear it as badly as I do. That’s not failure, is it?

I wanted to write a novel, so I wrote a novel. But it sits unpublished. I don’t even have an agent, but I never pushed to sell it. My parents died. I lost my drive. I guess I figured that in a serendipitous sort of way, an agent and I would cross paths, and everything would fall into place. It hasn’t happened. Am I not working hard enough? Will the story be continued? Or have I failed?

I never wanted to teach, not really. I feel really bad saying that because there are so many very dedicated teachers out there who take pride in what they do. Teaching was my Plan B. I was a RIM major at MTSU. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was a terrible RIM major. I had no direction, no prior knowledge. I just loved music. But I got married in college and faced the harsh reality that I would probably be living on a farm the rest of my life. Farm living was not for me. I live in a subdivision now. I guess nothing ever turns out like we plan. Now my older son is living the life I dreamed. He’s making music videos and has a writing job that PAYS WELL. I write for pennies per word now. He is worried about being a failure because he feels where he is in life is not enough.

Ah, music, my serenity. There was a time when God let me visit the music world on the weekends. I stayed pretty busy as a freelance music journalist until Michael came along. Then the writing trickled to a stop. The boy never slept. The boy never stayed still. All my focus went to him. His dad was busy coaching and being a youth minister, so I became Michael’s personal sports trainer, chauffeur, and teammate. I taught him how to catch and how to throw. I played football in the front yard. I raced him around the house. I took him on adventures in the woods. I camped out in the living room with him when his dad was on trips. I took him to every practice. I learned how to keep the books in baseball, and I worked the fair booth as a football mom. I coached his soccer teams and basketball teams and even his coach pitch teams. When he became older, I dragged him to his first drum lesson and said YOU WILL PLAY DRUMS. Why not? Every part of his body moved in a different direction, but in rhythm. I knew he’d be a natural. He says he likes it, and it’s something we do TOGETHER. His older brother got his writing love from me. Maybe Michael gets the music from me. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to live vicariously through my children. I want them to be happy. I don’t want to be a failure mom.

So I spend my day teaching, but I don’t want to teach. I don’t want to fill out lesson plans. I don’t want to grade papers. I don’t want to lurk behind the lockers to make sure couples aren’t sneaking a kiss or two. I don’t want to chaperone dances, to spend my Sundays at awards programs, to sell tickets at ballgames, or to listen to students tell me how much they hate the subject I’m teaching. Does that make me a failure? My dad never wanted to be a printer. His guidance counselors tried to match him up with a job, and that’s what was left. So for his entire working life, he was a printer. He brought home boxes and boxes of scrap papers and envelopes. I loved to write and draw, so I was never without supplies. I never thought he was a failure, but he never did what he wanted to do. But he helped me do what I wanted to do.

I teach because I have to. But I interact with students because I want to. I don’t keep them at a distance. I open my life to them. I am a firm believer God puts people in our path for a reason. People are treasures. So, okay, right now, I am not living the life I want to live, and I may never live it. I’m getting old. My time is now spent encouraging the kids I teach to find what they love to do so that they’ll never have to work a day in their lives. That’s not failure, is it? Maybe I’m not a failure because I can help others see that they’re not failures. Maybe that’s enough to be a success. Maybe all my creative dreams aren’t as important as helping others.

Today I got a hug from one of my first semester creative writing students. She came back to see when she could take guitar lessons again.

Today I got a BIG thank you from a student because I paid his field trip fee because his cash was running a little short.

Today I got a note on my board from a former student who visited me Friday, the day I had to go home because I had a fever, bronchitis, a sinus infection, and perhaps the flu. Ugg. She said she missed me.

Today I received word that my former student, J., wanted to see how I was doing. He’s working as a Walmart greeter now. I’m so proud of him. He had to overcome so many obstacles in school. He always has a smile on his face, and he always wants to tell me about the last movie he watched. I owe him a meal at the Mexican restaurant. After he graduated high school several years ago, I treated him, and I think it’s time he, his mom, and I went back for some more chips and salsa. Yum!

Today my seventh period students told me what teenagers look for when they read. They were trying to help me become a better writer.

What is failure anyway? What is success?

I haven’t gotten what I’ve always wanted, but maybe God has given me what I need.

Maybe success and failure is determined by attitude, not necessarily achievement.

Going postal

Dearest Readers,

I have another confession to make. I hate being the bad guy. I will if I have to, but it is not something I relish.

Today I was the bad guy. I didn’t choose to be, but sometimes life just puts you in unfortunate situations.

See, it all went down this way. I am on fall break, my VACATION from school. It’s been a stressful year so far. I had to take 12 graduate hours during the summer—no break. I missed the first week of school because I was still in grad school. Then I developed bronchitis, almost pneumonia. Whatever. I was really sick.

I also had a newspaper to publish, a new class to develop, a new email system to learn, a new grading program to learn. Papers to grade. MOUNDS of papers to grade from four preps. I found myself struggling to keep up.

My most stressful incident  had to do with boarding an airplane for the first time, well, a big airplane for the first time, not counting the kiddie rides at the fair or the four-seater I rode with my parents when I was a terror-stricken elementary school student. That plane ride changed my whole outlook on flying, and I found Biblical scriptures to back my belief.

Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with thee.”

That’s what God said. Low. Not way up there. Right? The Bible offers no proof we have any business soaring around the clouds on wings attached to high-powered engines that can suck up ducks and eagles and then send the craft crashing to the ground. Nope. Scripture does not back that.

Nevertheless, I flew.

All my life people have told me what to do, and I usually listen and do as told. Not this time. For years I remained adamant that I would not step onto a plan until I felt the time was right.

I had a plan. I am going to Ireland—someday. I figure the world is in great turmoil, and perhaps the rapture will happen soon. My plan was to fly to Ireland and to “live” Ireland for a short time and then to fly back. If the plane crashed, well, then, I would have crossed off my Number One item on my bucket list. I was at peace with that.

I have never felt at peace about stepping aboard a plane otherwise.

But then something very cool happened. I was named a Genesis Finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers contest in the Young Adult category. I had to attend a gala in Dallas to find out the results. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. The experience was worth it all. I am confident God has a plan for my writing. Many other cool things did happen.

Being named a finalist, however, put me in a dilemma. If I went to Dallas, I would HAVE to fly, and I would have to miss my son performing with his band at the county fair. Flying was no problem. I had a definite peace about that.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

I made up my mind long ago that the only time I would step on a plan was when I felt a peace about it. For the first time I felt peace, and I wasn’t even flying to Ireland. However, I was really sad, to the point of tears, that I had to miss Michael’s performance. I have always been there for him.

I have coached his Little League teams, his Upward basketball teams, and his soccer teams. I’ve put on catcher gear to help him when he tried to pitch. I have thrown footballs for him to catch. I have escaped with him from wild animal attacks on nature walks. We’re a team. I have always been there for him.

But this time I had to go by myself and let him go by himself.

I walked through the airport doors alone and made it all the way to security where I had to empty my pockets. I almost made it through without incident except for the can of Mink hairspray I was packin’ in my carry on. I had a choice—toss it or check it. I tossed it. Grumble. That stuff isn’t easy to find, and it was  a new can. I don’t like throwing away money.

Oh yeah, my jean pockets were too sparkly too. The scanner didn’t like that either.

Once I made it to my waiting area to board, I was scared, just a wee bit, but I was ready. But then they announced that my scheduled plane had problems. In other words, it was broken.

Broke? Broke was not what I was expecting to hear.

I had to board another plane. At this point I was in official freak-out mode. When I get nervous, I either sit in a catatonic state, or I talk nonstop. My students think something is “wrong” with me when I go into nonstop talk mode. But most journalism advisers understand—they too have experienced the “I gotta make deadline, but the computer’s crashed, the picture’s not there, we forgot to write that story, and Dear Lord, please, don’t let me get fired over something I missed” panic attacks.

So in my non-stop talkative mood, I started interviewing people waiting in line. We were in Nashville, so there were lots of people with guitars. Naturally, I sought them out. I listened in on their conversations and then inserted my comments into their conversations. I don’t usually do that, but, hey, MY AIRPLANE BROKE!

I noticed a couple of guys having a nice chat. One of them carried an acoustic case, so I turned my antenna in that direction and heard one word—Ireland. And so I interrupted.

Fortunately, these guys were nice and told me they had just returned from a gig in Ireland. And what style of music did the guitarist play? Country blues.

Ah. The anxiety levels dropped considerably. Good enough. I felt as if it were a sign. It was time to board the new plane.

I lugged my carry on, and a nice person helped me store it in the overhead. I was too short and too wimpy to load it myself. I hugged my laptop for dear life, but the flight attendant made me store in upon take off. I got it back asap.

My security blanket.

The flight itself was a breeze. I even asked to sit by the window. I looked out and saw a patchwork quilt of earth below. I saw the topside of clouds. It was all cool.

Landing was fine.

It was all fine.

Until I got back home and flipped on the TV and saw all the reports of American Airlines plans having problems with the seats coming unbolted.

Well, it just figures.

So what does all this have to do with me being the bad guy?

Not much. Not really.

I didn’t fly today, but I had a minor mishap in my doctor’s parking lot. I kind of crashed. Not bad crashed, just itsy, bitsy, “I still feel like crying” crashed.

You see, I had a check up today, and I overslept. My doctor’s office has a new rule that says we have to be there 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. Well, I got there by the appointment time, but I was not 15 minutes early.

The poor lady in front of my looked as if she should have been in the hospital, and she was three minutes late according to their clock and missed being 15 minutes early. She was going to have to reschedule. So was I.

I was ready to be the bad guy. To take my punishment. To reschedule. But I felt so bad for her. She was distraught. They finally relented and let her see the doctor after receiving permission from the office manager.

Me? No, I was sent away.

I was upset because I had failed. I had messed up. I always feel bad when I mess  up. I was distracted a wee bit. And then it went from bad to worse as I was leaving. I backed up my truck and felt a slight crash.

I took out a mail truck.

To make matters worse, by-standers jumped out of their truck. They checked to see if we were all right, but they were ready to identify me should I try to make a run for it. They told the nice mail man they would tell the police everything that happened. They liked him. They didn’t like me. I was the bad guy.

Criminal. I felt like a criminal.

To make matters even worse than that, the mail man had come into the doc’s office in such a happy mood. Leave it to me to dent his good cheer.

And then the police came. And the rescue squad. And I couldn’t find my insurance card. And I didn’t have my phone. And I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. The policeman was really nice—a former student. I pictured myself in the back of this squad car. I was hoping for dear life I was a nice teacher to him.

I was ready to pose for my mug shot. Be finger printed. Get cuffed. Get maced. Get clubbed. Wait for the noose around my neck. I was ready for whatever I had coming to me. I felt pretty bad.

All I could do was tell the mail man, “I’m sorry I ruined your day.”

So here I am—the bad guy. Not much I can do about it now.

And as I write this, I’m thinking, “What in the Sam Hill do flying and crashing have to do with each other?”  Well, obviously if it’s the airplane that’s both flying and crashing, there is a connection. But flying in plane and denting the door of a mail truck really have nothing in common, except maybe for this scripture.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

Maybe I’ve been misinterpreting that scripture. See, my nickname forever has been Tee, but when I had my short run of kick (my butt) boxing classes, my friends gave me a new nick name—Jet Lo. You know, kind of like Jet Li, the martial arts champion?

So, I can hear God saying, “[Jet] Lo, I am with thee. Up. Down. High. Low. Good days and bad. I’m right here. Always.”

I am still stubborn enough to believe I will know when God calls me to do something. I don’t have to be guilted into doing something I don’t feel a peace about. But I’m also reminded that God understands my fears, my hurts, my triumphs, my let downs, my failures. He loves me just the same.

As a writer, I hope I can convey that message to my readers. There’s only one thing I really want to get across—love, love, love. THAT’S what I feel called to do. And a little laughter doesn’t hurt either.

So, my dear friends, take it from me, the Fearless Flyer. a.k.a. the Mail Man Mauler, God has got you covered. All you have to do is believe it. Go seek the truth, the whole truth, and believe it. It doesn’t matter if you are the good guy or the bad guy. God loves you just the same. Seek him and find out for yourself.

I wouldn’t say if it weren’t so.

Sincerely yours,
Jet Lo

For those of us who have failed

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  ~  C. S. Lewis

Man, this quote gets to me. You might say it even changed me. I used to have a quick fix to any emotional let down. I shut down. And I shut out. I wouldn’t let anything (or anybody) in, and I wouldn’t let anything out—especially love.

I always thought if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable you made yourself weak. I always thought that if you never allowed yourself to be vulnerable you could never get hurt. But if you don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable, you can never love, not really—or be loved.

Love comes with a price. When you give it away, you risk opening yourself up so that others can see the real you underneath the surface. It’s impossible to love with abandon, without tearing down the walls, without making yourself vulnerable.

Loving someone or something unconditionally means you are give away your most valuable possession, your heart. You have to go into it knowing that your heart may be taken for granted. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t love behind a brick wall. You have stand in the open and risk being wounded.

I’ve always been a runner, not a fighter. In the past whenever my heart was wounded, I didn’t stick around, hoping it would be mended. I preferred a clandestine, under-the-radar rescue mission. I got in, got out, grabbing up the shattered pieces and disappearing, if not physically, emotionally.

But maybe retreat is not the best idea.

Maybe meeting and overcoming each obstacle head on by the most efficient method is the best way to approach the pain that comes with vulnerability. Maybe our scraped and bruised hearts (and egos) will eventually make us stronger so that we can be more useful to others.

It takes a strong person to love unconditionally, to love without expecting anything in return. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about the love one has for family members, for friends and even for the craft of writing or the craft of creating music.

Can a person really love writing or creating music?  Maybe. It’s a different kind of love, if you can call it love. I don’t know what else you might call it, but if it’s not love, it’s almost a supernatural state that’s as close as you can get to love.

Those of us who are passionate about creating art pursue our passion as naturally as we breathe. When we write and allow others to read it, for example, we give away part of ourselves. We take a risk. When our writing doesn’t come across as we hoped that it might or if it doesn’t get the results we envisioned, our reflex instinct may be to shut down, to retreat, to give up.

But we’ve got to remind ourselves that the risk is worth the sacrifice. Today I had to be the bearer of bad news to members of my journalism staff. My wonderful, creative, amazing students unveiled their ideas—and I had to tell them that they could do better.

I despised the words as I was speaking them. I saw the hurt in their eyes. I recognized it. I’ve been there—recently and many, many times in the past. But I know something they don’t. I can see the potential they have locked away. I know that if they could see the potential that I see within them they wouldn’t be happy with mediocre either. Tomorrow my goal is to help them find their treasures. They may have to dig for them. Writing doesn’t always come easy. You have to work for the good stuff.

I just hope they aren’t so discouraged that they lose hope. I’ve been there too. I’ve wanted to give up and lock away my desire to write because the criticism was almost too tough for me to bear. Lewis’s words inspire me to think of what might happen should we choose to keep the words locked away in our hearts.

“But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

Of course, Lewis is talking about love. But for those of us who see writing as God’s gift to us, a talent we’ve been given, surely it is a sin for us to keep our writing locked away, hiding behind our selfish and cowardly attempts at remaining invulnerable. Let us consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:24-30).

 24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

It is my prayer that if you are a beginning writer, artist, songwriter or musician who is afraid to use the talent that God has given you, especially if your first attempts have not been perfect, that you will find the courage to walk by faith, to run the race, fight the fight, so that God can use your ability for His purpose.