Perspective, Choice, and the Cycle of Life

Sunrise with storm clouds breaking up above the horizon.
Author photo, © 2015 Marty Schafer

Enjoy the Highs, Endure the Lows, and Keep Moving Forward

The last few months have been crazy, tough, and revealing, when I’ve been willing to step back and ponder.

When I started my blog, I wanted to focus on how Grace is present in our lives in so many little ways. But the last couple of months, all I’ve wanted to do is rant. There’s so much to rant about: the war in Ukraine, efforts to dehumanize people in schools and politics — I live in Texas, after all. (And that’s not exclusive to the political Right, either. But I digress.) Closer to home, there’s been my husband’s difficulty in getting a job, prices, etc.

I’ve started and stopped so many posts. Sure, the occasional rant is fine. There are plenty of readers on Medium to engage with over many of those topics, so I could still post there, even if it’s not suitable for the blog. But there’s a problem.

When I spend so much time crafting an excellent rant, I get stuck in that negative mindset. If I have plenty of good stuff happening for balance, it’s no big deal. But that’s not how this winter has been for me. I’ve been stuck in the negative so much that I’ve even avoided some of my favorite writers as they journey through Lent.

But the last month or so I’ve been digging into some recommended reading. There’s Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, and Donald Miller’s Hero on a Mission. I’m still working on that last one, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m at another one of those stages where you ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grown up?” Kind of a tough question when you’re in your mid-sixties! It’s still valid.

It’s valid if your problems are First World, Third World, War borne, or extremely personal. But answers can be determined.

I’m big on perspective. To see things with clarity, you need to step back from your immediate view and beyond emotions to see the bigger picture. Perspective allows you to consider life from another’s point of view. To realize that there is a world far beyond your own internal chatter. Perspective is a choice.

Choice is another of my big principles, and one that I’ve forgotten to consciously use this winter. Hero on a Mission has been reminding me of the importance of choice. I can choose how I act, react, or avoid reacting in any given situation. I can choose to let circumstances or other people run my life, or I can choose to make my own decisions on how I’m going to live my life.

I can say no. I can engage with someone who attacks me or ignore them and walk away if they or their attack aren’t worth the effort.

I can say yes. In Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about reigning in one’s use of time with “Hell, yes!” He explains that there are so many things — and people — that want our time, and many of them are good. But that doesn’t mean it’s the best project or use of time for me. It may not align with my priorities. (Do I know what those are?) It may interfere with doing my best elsewhere. If it’s not something I can get behind fully, I won’t do the best job. But someone else will. So, if I can’t say, “Hell, yes!” to that project, or this sparkly thing that catches my eye, or event, or whatever it might be, then that is the time to say no.

This process of re-evaluation is hard. Emotionally fraught, I find myself in tears from the deluge of feelings that fountain up. It’s easy to judge myself for past decisions (or lack thereof), but that isn’t helpful.

One of those writers I mentioned earlier that I’ve been avoiding is Jonas Ellingson. I opened his news letter this morning, and it was just what I needed to get me started today. He says, “This [Lent] is a sacred time to illumine our winter darkness. A time to name the things that ail us……to shine a light on it. To see it, NAME it, and be sung through it.”

We forget that life is cyclical. There are always valleys, but a valley doesn’t exist without mountains around it. Which means there will once again be a hilltop or mountaintop. We can’t live in those high places for long. I grew up with mountains and used to do a lot of hiking in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful, inspiring, breathtaking, mountains are still my go-to for regeneration. But they aren’t the place to grow food or live year-round unless you’re into a subsistence lifestyle.

It’s in the plains and broad valleys that we grow food, make our homes, raise our families. The in-between places are where most of life happens — not the mountain tops nor the canyons. So, we can choose to recognize that reality and enjoy the highs, endure the lows, and keep moving forward regardless of circumstances or emotions.

Waterfall rainbow in a steep, narrow canyon.
Rainbows can be found even in the deepest valleys. © 2017 Marty Schafer

There are many sayings that encompass this idea, from the ancient in Ecclesiastes 3, “For everything there is a season,” to several more modern versions of “This too shall pass” and the like. The one that usually comes to my mind first is from Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning,” (KJV).

Beyond the darkness, the crazy, the brutal, and the insanity, there is Joy. We can wallow in the ugly now, or we can choose to reach toward the joy, the love, and the grace.

Grace, Joy, and Hugs!

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