Shaken

As far as car accidents go, mine really wasn’t that bad.

img_1823It was a straight collision with no spin, ricochet, or ancillary damage. Because the airbag deployed, even though I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and the accident was at highway speeds, I remained in the vehicle, sustaining only minor injuries.

While both cars ended up being towed, both drivers were able to walk away from the accident.

The crash was also a financial inconvenience, not a catastrophe. The timing worked out such that I was able to borrow my brother’s car while he was on a job in Canada, meaning I had no expenses for a rental. My full-coverage insurance meant my medical bills are being paid by USAA.

img_1826I purchased a newer version of the same car (with some newer security features, such as emergency braking) and, when the insurance payment arrived, was able to pay off the car the following month.

Physically and financially, I couldn’t have planned this accident better if I had been allowed to write the story. What left me so shaken was the emotional aftermath of the accident.

Two weeks, to the day, before the anniversary of dad’s wreck, I am sitting in shock smelling the airbag’s residue fill my car, slowly realizing what just happened. Flashes of the moments before would play though my mind on loop over the next several days, leaking into my nightmares. Each time, I’d will myself to stop but there’d still be the crash, like the unavoidable ending to a horror movie, unchanged through many viewings.

Questions flood my mind but they all come back to the same though: Why am I alive?

Dad wore his seatbelt; I didn’t.
Dad was actively serving others; I sulking and thinking about myself.
Dad was struck by another vehicle; I struck someone else.
Dad was focused and attentive, doing everything he could to prevent the accident; I was distracted and numb, driving through life in the cloud that has grown thicker and thicker since his crash.

Dad was dead; I was alive.

How is that fair?

Undeniably, God has carried me through the accident and the traumatic weeks that followed. He provided friends to come and care for me, a ride to work, my brother’s car, money that seemed to come from nowhere…

While I was intellectually honest enough to know that these gifts came from God, I was done with Him. Trusting God hurt, and I didn’t want to be part of His story anymore.

Fighting to maintain a positive and together appearance, I did everything in my power to keep people from even knowing the accident occurred. Unfortunately, the more I fought to appear fine, the more my pain continued to grow worse instead of better. I started having insufferable migraines and moments of diziness so intense I thought I’d vomit.

Four weeks after the accident, I told my community group about the pain I was in; most of them did not even know I’d been in a crash. Still the pain continued till it seemed I couldn’t endure any longer. Breaking through another wall of pride, I went forward for payer on a Sunday morning.

In that act of surrender, God moved. Immediately, as Tony prayed, I could feel most of the pain leave my body and in the weeks that followed my recovery has continued (today was my 5th day without painkillers). This healing should be cause for joy but instead made me more bitter; why couldn’t God just heal me sooner instead of allowing me to suffer?

I can see now that both the wreck and the weeks that followed, God was fighting for my attention; He wanted to wake me up to the pain that I have continued to endure in silence. He had to crack my meticulously polished armor to reveal that I wasn’t ok and my heart was still bleeding.

Today Chris was preaching from Acts about how the early church shared what they had and met each other’s needs. He made a sidebar comment about having to drop your pride enough to admit you have needs before anyone can meet them. That thought lingered with me as I wandered about after the service; wanting to talk but not knowing what to say.

How do I articulate my need? What can anyone do to help? Financially, I am fine. There is nothing I need that God hasn’t provided. My physical needs are as met as well, especially since my finances allow me to pay for the services I don’t have time or desire to do myself (e.g. cooking).

Nothing anyone could say or do would soothe the true pain I feel and it hurts too much to face that head on by talking. I’d rather stay busy; lost in my work and anything else I can do to keep from facing the reality of what’s happened. Even just a long weekend is enough space to allow the emotions I am running from to close in on me, threatening to pull me under.

Not only am I at a loss for how to reach out to others; I don’t know what to ask of God, or even if I want His input.  I don’t want a God that carries me through trials; I want a God who protects me from them. Unfortunately, I don’t get my own personal Jesus; none of us do.

The God of the Bible walked with Noah saving animals during a flood, Moses rescuing Israelites through a desert, Paul shepherding a budding church while in a prison, and Jesus saving the world hanging on a cross. He’s a God of sustaining (and using) His people though pain, not letting them avoid it altogether.

God is asking me to trust Him, to be venerable and share my pain with Him and others. But I don’t know what to ask and, when I am honest, I don’t really know if I want Him to be the one to answer anyway. I doubt His love and I wonder why I continue to have so much faith in a God who seemed more interested in the story He was telling with my life than me, the main character of that story.

I cannot deny He is real and powerful nor can I deny He loves me personally. Every day this week has been a new reminder that He is personal and intentional with me. I want to ignore each miracle and yet they are so pervasive that they cannot be denied.

God is romancing me, wanting me to dance with Him again. I don’t know if I’m ready to step on the dance floor but I am starting to be ready to show up to the ball.

Advertisements

Turn Left

It all started with a conversation with my boss a few weeks ago and him adjusting my work schedule by 30 minutes.  The new schedule (8:30-5:30) is a minor change but has made a massive difference in my attitude and lifestyle.

It’s not because I can sleep 30 more minutes; I actually get up early more consistently than before.  The change has allowed three important tweaks to my day.

I hate traffic.  I hate driving while there are other people on the road.  Shifting 30 minutes out of rush hour has drastically changed the traffic that I drive in every day. It’s glorious and means I get to work in a better mood.

Second, this has allowed me to complete my daily disciplines before work.  Every day I read, write, spend time with God, listen to a motivational audio, and communicate with my mentor. (I used to call them daily goals but I now call them disciplines; they are disciplines I commit to, not goals that I strive to accomplish.)

By going in to work 30 minutes later, I am able to complete all of these (except the end-of-day message to my mentor) before I go to work.  This starts my day on the right beat and has led to more good days.

But the reason I changed my work schedule is not about traffic or disciplines; those were unexpected (awesome) side effects.  The reason for the change is simply that I wanted to be able to work out with Donovan every day. Donovan has three 6am classes and three 7am classes.

Having to be at work by 8, there was no way to attend Wednesday and Friday morning classes. Now, with the move to 8:30, I am able to pack a bag, change at the gym, and then go straight to work after his 7am class.

But going straight to work means turning left. And I never turn left.

I have been working out with Donovan since June of last year and I have never missed a workout I was scheduled to attend (except one day when I had food poisoning). These workouts, with very rare exception, have been followed by the drive back to my house, turning right out of the parking lot.

I started this new schedule on the 25th and have attended 7 of Donovan’s 7am classes.  Only one of those 7 classes have I turned left.

One.

I’ve walked out to my car saying, “turn left” and still made a perfect right turn.

Turning right can still get me to work… it just adds a few minutes. It’s not enough of a difference to turn around when I go the wrong way. But it turning right isn’t the efficient choice and I am all about efficiency!

So what’s wrong with me?

I am not afraid of turning left nor do I lack the knowledge of HOW. Turning left is simple and I do it every day … the first turn after my right turn out of the parking lot is a left.

I don’t lack understanding of WHY turning left is the better choice.  I have checked on Google Maps a few times to confirm that it is 2 minutes faster going left than right.

The problem is simply my brain is wired to turn right.

If I averaged 3 workouts a week for the 60 weeks between when I started with Donovan and when I started the new schedule, then that means I left that parking lot 180 times, almost always turning right. In order to turn left, I need to rewire that decision.

To make matters worse, I am not consistently turning left… 2-3 workouts a week are still 6am (Monday is a tossup) and turning right to go home before work. Rewiring the decision so that I turn left after 7am classes is a battle.

While this is comical, there are other ruts in my mind that are much more dangerous.

There’s a rut in my mind that says “one more won’t hurt” coupled with “you’ve already messed up anyway.” This rut is the cause of last night’s failure as I watched one YouTube video and then another and then another until 3:30am, ruining a streak of several weeks without YouTube.

There is a rut in my mind that says “you deserve this” that causes me to take personal responsibility for everything that goes wrong in my life, even when it’s not my fault. This rut has crippled my ability to fail forward because I interpret the failure as an indictment against me as a person.

There is a rut in my mind that says “you will be abandoned” that has me constantly trying to prove I am worth keeping around. This rut makes me smothering and difficult to be with; becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy as it drives people away from me.

There is a rut in my mind that says “God is displeased” that comes from a father who loved me but always wanted a little bit more. This rut causes me to project that expectation on my heavenly Father and constantly seek to prove I’m good enough.

There is a rut in my mind that says “emotions are bad” that causes me to stifle anger and tears until it erupts in ways that hurt myself and others. This rut has been the project this week as I have been having to re-learn it’s ok to cry about my parent’s death.

I could literally do this all day. These ruts are formed over time and they become what my counselor calls “autothoughts.” I can give you all the logical reasons these thoughts are errant and what the truth should be… but the gut beliefs that drive my responses are still there.

Autothoughts are based on beliefs developed by experiences that may be true or false; often it’s a bit of both. A cat that sits on a hot stove will never do so again … neither will it sit on a cold stove.

Some autothoughts are helpful. I honestly didn’t have to think about forgiving Jack; it was automatic.

Some autothoughts are benign. I can get to work from the gym even if I always turn right.

But some autothoughts cause me to act in ways that are illogical and often damaging. They are literally driving my life in the opposite direction of my goals and dreams.

But how do I change my autothoughts? How do I learn to turn left?

The answer is Disruption… but this blog is already too long so I will save that for my next post. (Sorry for the cliffhanger, I got complaints about the length of my last blog.)

Until then, take some time to think about the autothoughts in your own life. Are they serving you?

Surprise: I’m not Perfect.

So it’s been a while since I wrote and I’ve been asked why so I figured it was time you all knew the truth.

I haven’t been busy working on the estate; what I was able to do is done and so now that is all paperwork on Matt’s shoulders.

Nor have I been away because I am emotionally distraught and unable to form sentences. I’ve actually been writing more than ever before… it’s just not making it online. (Before you get excited, I am not working on a book.)

Honestly, it’s more embarrassing than that.  I have been writing in my journals every day but absolutely terrified to post anything to my blog.

See, what is probably the most common remark I receive about my writing is that it’s so “authentic” and I’m so “honest.” Guess what? It’s easy to be those things when no one is reading what you are writing. There is some freedom in the anonymity that the internet gives you; that’s why cyberbullying is a thing.

Before March 29th changed my life forever, only three of my blogs ever reached 100 views, and probably 5 of those were me trying to get the blog posted and looking right. Over half of my blogs had less than 50.

Since the bus crash, one blog had 700 views … and that is the only blog I’ve posted under 1100. Confused but Confident, my most viewed post, has over 18,000 views! Over 100 countries have read my blog since March. That’s scary.

I’m not just talking to myself anymore.

To further complicate all of this, y’all aren’t random, anonymous viewers who don’t really know who I am either. Y’all know my parents, know me, or at least know about us… like in real life. If you tried, you could find my house.

I know this because you tell me. You write to me on Facebook about how my blogs have impacted you or how you heard about me on the news. It’s come across in text messages and even in some of the hand written cards from the funerals.

But here’s the crazy thing… that’s always been my goal.  I want to write and inspire people to believe that they don’t have to be perfect to go do something and make progress. That’s why the blog is called “Imperfect Progress” for crying out loud!

Somewhere along the way I started believing I must have something perfect to say to be able to write. And that same thought processes started leaking into every area of my life:

I felt the need to have perfect food, or else I might as well eat whatever I want.
I need to have a perfect call plan, or else I won’t do any prospecting at work.
I must have the perfect talk, or just let someone else speak for bible study.
I require the perfect response, or someone else can answer the question.

And this mindset is a dangerous place to be.

I am very blessed to have several men and women I consider mentors who have earned the right to speak truth when I need to hear it. Wednesday night I was sitting across the table from Tony, who has been a mentor to me for over 7 years, and he called me out.

In our conversation, I explained that I didn’t expect so many people to read what I write and that it’s made me afraid. He looked right at me and said that I’ve forgotten who I am. My dream has always been to write books that are read by the world. Here I’ve been given a small taste of what that looks like and I hide under a table?

“But now whatever I write will reflect on my parents,” I refuted.

“And you not writing is reflecting better?” He let me think a minute and then said, “Jenn, you’re better than this.”

That’s when I remembered.

In the pursuit of perfection, there is no room for the errors that create growth. The result is fear of taking action and, thus, no forward motion. Since what isn’t growing is dying, this means that it’s causing me to go backwards.

I will get real numbers Friday, but I know for sure I have gained weight and inches since my parent’s death. That is what happens when eating one bite of a sandwich justifies me to eat whatever I want today because “I already messed up anyway.”

I’ve hired someone to cook for me, because of how crazy life has been, and I have still eaten off plan 2 or so days every week.

And my imperfections don’t end there.

When I am getting stressed out by life and people, I waste hours at a time on YouTube, usually watching something related to Star Wars, Science, or the Science of Star Wars.

My intolerance for imperfections also nearly caused me to sabotage a few very key relationships in my life. When comments or actions were not what I expected/desired, I took those as personal attacks and nearly let it destroy the friendship.

Oh, and I almost changed jobs. Not because I dislike my job or my clients… I actually love both. But because I let myself get fixated on the 5% of my job that is annoying and tiresome. What you focus on grows and I soon began to feel that my work was an unending pile of drudgery and paperwork.

Good thing I have an awesome boss and great mentors who helped me adjust my perspective and realize that my perspective, not my job, was the real issue.

So this isn’t my best article ever. And I am not going to edit it to death to make sure it’s flawless. There are probably several sentences with the wrong structure. It’s totally imperfect… and that’s the reality of who I am.

I’m imperfect and I am striving every day to make progress. I keep trusting God. I keep taking action. And I keep hoping that tomorrow I will be a better person than I am today.

You’re welcome to tag along.