Avoiding pain was my default mode for a decade or two. I avoided pain like it was my job. I steered clear of situations and relationships that might’ve been painful, and I tried to keep my emotional investment at a minimum. Obviously, this was a disaster.
Like most modern tragedies, this story starts with a mitten. My four-year-old daughter was playing with a random mitten in her bedroom when the mitten got stuck on a ceiling fan blade. That’s well out of the reach of a four-year-old, but my Maggie wasn’t going to let that stop her. She climbed up on […]
What’s the best gift you ever received? I’m willing to bet you didn’t get the pony or the dirt bike you begged for as a kid, but there’s probably one gift or another that sticks out in your memory. For me, two gifts come to mind: my first bicycle and my first guitar. The bike […]
It’s 2008 and my wife Annie and I were in a hotel room in Hanoi, Vietnam. Several hours earlier, we became parents when a beautiful and tiny baby girl was placed in our arms. Upon making it back to our temporary home, we were exhausted, so we fed our daughter and then Annie put her […]
When I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Somehow I got a job at a university as an academic advisor — helping students figure out their paths forward while I tried to figure out mine. Some of the students I worked with weren’t sure what they wanted […]
I’ll never forget reaching out, timid but hopeful, to take what I thought would be a significant step forward for my career. Shortly thereafter I received a crushing bit of feedback. I tried something new, and although I knew it wasn’t perfect, I was hoping for insight into how I could improve. Instead, the person […]
Perfectionism is the unattainable quest to perform without fault, error, or shortcoming, and it’s a trap. Period. But maybe perfectionism isn’t the last word on being perfect.
When it comes to traumatic experiences, it turns out we’re a lot like trees. Here’s what I mean:
Seeing those charred and twisted trunks took me back to the crisis I’d escaped. The immediate relief of putting the fire out allowed me to believe it was over, but I was really just stuck between the first and second step. I wasn’t still burning, but I was still burnt. I was out of the crisis, but the crisis wasn’t out of me.
One year at a time, one conflict at a time, one fa-la-la-la-la-la-la at a time. Eventually, anticipation gives way to dread. Excitement gives way to anxiety. Revelry gives way to humbuggery. I still don’t resonate with the tinsel and trappings and the mess we’ve made of Christmas, but I’ve begun to experience the beauty of Advent: the hope, the peace, the waiting, the longing. Advent is an invitation to celebrate the hope of the Incarnation even as we strive and struggle and wait for the world to be set right.
At Joe’s retirement partly, nobody focused on the things he accomplished in 18 years of faithful service. Do you know what they talked about? Do you know what they remembered? They remembered that he was always kind to them in a thousand small ways, hidden from the view of the crowd.
Life, if we’re honest, is a parade of mixed bags. Your friendships, your time in college, your marriage, your career — they all feature ups and downs, highlights and lowlights, wins and losses. When we think solely in terms of success or failure, we fall into the trap of a false dichotomy. Most of life isn’t success OR failure, it’s success AND failure.