Carrying Life’s Baggage

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People tend to make a big deal out of decisions. Is it the decisions themselves that are difficult, or rather consequences of those decisions that are hard to live with? Decisions are like the baggage of life that we carry around, while consequences are the contents inside those bags. We tend to spend more time worrying about what our bags look like on the outside. Meanwhile, inside those bags are things we wish we never brought along on this journey of life.

It is easy to make decisions when we do not understand the consequences that follow. Ignorance is blind, and often leads to foolish outcomes. Some psychologists have said that reasoning is established over time, still being formed in young people well into their twenties. Without this reasoning, young adults fall prey to poor decisions because they do not know the outcomes, some of which may last an entire lifetime.

At first, it does not seem fair that a person would have to pay for an unwise decision for the rest of their lives. The lack of fairness does not change the fact that decisions will always carry consequences, good or bad. The interesting part is that when we do not have the foresight to know what our consequences will be, we can always ask someone who might know. The trick is the handoff between those who have the knowledge and wisdom, and those who do not.

It is a humbling experience to admit when we do not know. But when we can ask for help, it can steer us clear of many poor decisions in life. It is not the decisions we should be mindful of as much as it is the consequences. Working to understand the consequences makes it easier upfront to decide, especially when we cannot live with certain outcomes. It is when we can avoid those outcomes and make the best decisions for our lives today that we will enjoy carrying life’s baggage.

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The Curse of Won’t

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I cannot imagine that anyone wants to be a flop in life. Instead, most of us would like to achieve some level of success. Maybe not climbing the highest peaks, but it is definitely not falling into the lowest depths. Yet the moment we set out to do something big with our lives, we are met face to face with challenges. These obstacles are often due to external forces that are at work against us. We must then figure out a way to get around or over them.

How much resistance comes from within though? If you are anything like me, you have lived with the curse of won’t. The smallest things can prevent us from accomplishing worthy endeavors, not because we cannot, but because we will not. Circumstances may work tirelessly to derail us, but that is no guarantee that they actually will stop us. Most of what happens next depends on us.

I remember playing flag football in grade school. As small of a memory as it is, it has remained all these years later because of its powerful message. A guy in my gym class was a force to be reckoned with. Although shorter than others on the field, he did not let that affect his performance in the game. He was the only one on the field who ran straight toward his opponents. Even when he had the ball, rather than maneuver around people, he simply charged straight at them. It did not take long to realize, that guy took the game to a whole other level.

Fortunately, there are a select few people who are the trailblazers of life. They do things most others will not do. They will not be stopped by circumstances, nor the enemy of self. They demonstrate the possibility of what we could achieve if only we stepped out in faith. However, it cannot be an occasional event. We must be consistent in our daily routine, fighting the curse of won’t. That is the only way we can ever overcome it.

When we choose to act, it breaks loose the chains of this curse. There are many things that we could do today, if only we stopped right now and did them. If we made the choice each day to continue, remarkable things could happen. Instead of shrugging our shoulders, passively dismissing any form of action, we could awaken from our slumber and declare something new for a change. I will!

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What’s Pulling at you?

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When I was growing up, there was a game we used to have so much fun playing called tug of war, where two teams pulled on the same rope but in opposite directions. To make it challenging, we tried to even up each side with similar capabilities. That is when the tug of war started. Both sides pulled with all their might, trying to pull the other team forward, across the middle.

On occasion, there would be a bystander who watched. I remember whenever it was someone stronger who came along and saw the struggle to win. Everyone desperately wanted that person on their team and the pleading began. We knew if they suddenly joined our side, it would be over in seconds, and we would be victorious. Sure enough, the additional pull from the team who got them was the game changer that finished the battle. Those on the opposing side tasted defeat.

The struggle between such opposing forces reminds me of the cartoons I watched as a child. Sometimes they showed an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Both sides had arguments that were equally appealing to the character stuck in the middle between them. Whichever side pulls hardest wins; that is the nature of this game. It does not matter if one side is strong if the other side is stronger. When the forces are similar in strength, the battle lasts until one side grows weary and decides to let go of the rope. Sometimes the battle is short lived, while in others it can last longer than we ever thought possible.

In many cases, the outcome may have a lot to do with how long we entertain the thoughts from these opposing forces. Generally speaking, we know right from wrong. However, it is in the questioning of things that we create a gray area that blurs our focus. We start reasoning in our minds, sifting through our thoughts of right and wrong. Although sometimes unaware, we drift into the gray area, leaving black and white areas far behind.

It is here that we dream up a multitude of excuses, pushing the human mind to the furthest extents of its imagination until we reach conclusions we never dreamed of. Our minds work to convince our consciences that we are justified in our action or behavior, particularly when someone wronged us first.

Like it or not, we will always face struggles. When both sides of the tug of war are at a standstill, the side that wins will always be the one that gets the extra pull. If you are struggling today, on which side will you allow that extra force to join?

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Capture the Memory

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Before smart phones, hardly anyone lugged around a camera. The only ones who seemingly did were the tourist type who stood out to the locals like a sore thumb. Since phones with cameras became popular, everywhere you look is a person taking pictures or recording videos now. Some capture and share, while others like me store them away for another day.

There are some people on social media who are irritated with the sight of your posted pics. Many will not care what you ate, especially if they are eating a plain bologna and cheese sandwich while you chomp down on delicious cuisine. If you are on vacation, doing something amazing while the rest of us work, what do you think runs through our heads? If you are a cubicle warrior like me, you undoubtedly wish you could escape the mouse life, with cheese in hand, and run off into the sunset to enjoy your reward.

In spite of your children meaning the world to you, others may not see them the way you do. But who cares? Capture memories when they happen and safely share them with whomever you choose. Regardless which choice you make, one important thing to remember is to not just spend all the precious moments behind a camera. Once in a while, put the camera away and live in the moment. Most scenes are not nearly as breathtaking on photo as they are when viewed in person.

First, take some pictures and videos, and then fully experience that once in a lifetime moment. Memories are meant to be enjoyed now and forever, so go experience them!

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Provoked to Awaken

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Our enemies provoke us. Something in them calls out to something in us. We may not even realize it, but at the moment of trial, something inside awakens. There is only so much we tolerate. At first it is just uncomfortable but quickly moves to fearful. We want to flee the moment, but our adversary will not remove their foot. We start to squirm, trying to free ourselves but they press down harder. How long does an enemy’s foot have to stay on our neck before we decide enough is enough?

Something happens when the pain inside turns to anger at the injustice. Everything inside of us suddenly gets stirred up. Our anger pushes through some barrier, beyond fear and pain. We decide to give them a strong reason why they never should have put it there in the first place! Where did that come from, we suddenly wonder afterward.

Whatever rattled your cage now has a reason to be intimidated. Before, they were messing with the little you, the one that ignores the threats and confrontations. Now they are face to face with a giant that dwells inside you, one who will not stand for the injustice. They take a few steps back and now shy away from you. After all, nobody wants to mess with crazy. This may sound a lot like a physical encounter here, like in the case of a bully, but that is not what is being referred to here.

Life throws many punches and hits us in unexpected ways. While some can be avoided, no one can escape them all. Adversity has many faces. There have been so many challenges in my life when I thought I could not go on and simply could not see my way through something. Looking back, the road to where I am now was filled with numerous, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. However, in hindsight, they no longer look as big as they once did.

When something new and intimating comes knocking on your door, of course use good judgment, but also know there is something inside that will answer the call and declare when enough is enough.

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Trapped by a Memory

When I hear the word memory, I often jump quickly to a good memory. Of course, I have my share of bad ones too, but I choose not to dwell on them. Some memories were created or heavily influenced by others while the rest were born out of my decisions. We seldom think about it but when it comes to the latter, it’s important to remember that today’s decisions become tomorrow’s memories. A good question to ask ourselves before deciding is whether we will enjoy it later as a memory.

I consider myself better than most at making bad decisions. It comes totally natural for me, like a gift! We were given two things that tend to fight with each other, our head, and our heart. The clash takes place when our head knows better, but our decisions follow our heart. It’s commonly said to follow your heart, which might be good, unless of course your heart has been corrupted. There are times when our head can rescue our heart and also our heart can influence our head.

The heart is deeply affected by our feelings. When experiencing negative emotions, it is easy to become engulfed to the point that we ignore all rational thought. This is bad! Mainly because what follows afterward is a poor decision. Tragically this leads to even further despair. Sometimes we even get stuck in cycles, repeatedly making one wrong decision after another. It gets to the point that it can be hard to break free. It is not impossible though; it just takes a change of both mind and heart.

Before acting on a negative emotion, ask whether you will enjoy the memory of what could take place next. If you are not sure what could go wrong, tread carefully. This is where experience is the best teacher, although we suffer due to the painful consequences it brings.

Decide wisely. It is easy to become trapped by a memory.

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Opportunities for Patience

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I once boasted of being a man of patience. All that was fine and well until I was put into a situation that required a lot more patience. Then suddenly, I found myself searching frantically for the patience that I so quickly lost. Being from a small town, things were quite different when I moved to a larger city. Sure, it was not actually a big city, but it was certainly big to me. I had been used to one lane in each direction for the majority of non-highway roads. Every once in a while, the smaller roads opened up to two lanes each way for a brief time to pass but they quickly recognized what town they were in and returned to single lanes.

Even after having lived here in the new place for a couple years now, I still find my patience tested regularly on the road. When driving within the city limits, it is all about timing. Each light seems to have a pattern. The slightest delay of only a few seconds ushers in the dreadful yellow light and soon brings the car to a halt. At a red light, my car eagerly waits for that glimpse of freedom on the horizon. Meanwhile, there I am, trying not to be upset at the driver that was in front of me who made it through the light. If I had a wig, there would be a strong temptation to send it flying to the floorboard while I nearly spit and convulse about the driver who screwed me over.

Recently, I had another similar incident. There my car waited to turn right onto a three-lane road (each side). To my right, a short distance away, was a red light. In my natural human mind I reasoned, red means stop, so these people should be able to look ahead, see the red and prepare to apply the brakes. The only problem was these drivers did not see my logic. When I saw openings, I started to inch out a little, only to be flabbergasted when they sped up. I returned my eyes to the right only to witness the stack of cars growing longer in each lane at the red light. Car by car passed by until the last one stopped directly in front of me, blocking me from making the simple right turn. It was at this point dreams of a battering ram filled the imagination. The nerve some people have baffles me. The third lane is where I wanted to go, and it suddenly had a green arrow, perfect for drivers like me who needed to go that way. Impatiently, I waited a little longer until I finally inched my way around the shameless person blocking my freedom.

The most ridiculous part of it all, was that I was listening to a sermon. In a few moments of frustration over the indecency of other drivers, my patience was nearly lost completely. I drove by every one of the drivers who refused to let me out. I wanted desperately to wave at them all with the familiar wave drivers often signal out to each other with. Not a good look for the fellow listening to a sermon! However, I saw the whole situation for what it was, a test of my patience. But I found what little patience I had left and waited at the same red light for a second time.

It is easy to talk the talk, but can you live it out? Patience is a tricky thing. When you have no need for it, it comes by the truck load. However, when you need it, see if you can find it! As for me, I’m still working it out, one lesson at a time!

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Passed Over

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Have you ever been passed over for something you wanted very much? If so, then you know the hurt that comes afterwards. The pain goes so deep it feels as though all the positive thinking in the world will not pull you out from the depths you are in. Perhaps you have dedicated effort to your job, giving it your best with the hopes of a promotion. Later, that crushing moment comes when you find out they gave it to someone else. If you’re are not athletic, it is like that feeling back in grade school when you were last to get picked for a team. Whenever you are not selected for something you really wanted, it leaves you questioning your worth.

Don’t despair. If you had done everything in your power to prepare yourself and it still wasn’t enough, then let go of these feelings that are making you feel down in the dumps. Learn from the experience. Honestly, did you do things that made you stand out different from everyone else? Was there something you could’ve done that would have made you a better pick than the other person?

Either way, I am sorry to be blunt here, but it is the same thing I told myself… get over it. Opportunities arise every day. Prepare yourself for the next one to come so you will be ready by the time it gets here. Once you’ve learned from your experience, move on, and leave the rest of that garbage behind. In order to move on, you cannot allow this setback to be an anchor in life that holds you back. Cut it loose and move on.

It’s a simple fact that you cannot control the decisions of others. At times, you will be passed over and it will hurt. But these events do not have to define you. Be what defines you; not someone else, not some event. Others will tend to sell you short, but never sell yourself short. See the value within you!

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Don’t Lose Your Whistle

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I hope you realize that if comfort is your joy, the moment comfort leaves, you will no longer have joy. It doesn’t take much to become uncomfortable; it often happens in a moment’s notice. In a world that has news broadcasted 24/7, we have the luxury of repeatedly hearing how bad everything is. There were times when I did not realize I was supposed to be upset. But thankfully the news was there to remind me why I should be. I grew tired of the emotional roller and decided to take a break from the ride.

Reasons to become upset will certainly come. If you were invested in the stock market, today your lip may have quivered, followed by a twisted-up face. People are worried about all kinds of things; the list would be too long to name all the reasons. My take on it this year is to not give in to the pressure when unwelcome news comes. I know it will be difficult but at the same time, it will be worth it. I am not an old dog that must sit on a rusty nail. Like you, I am a remarkable human being with the intelligence to change what I can and accept what I cannot.

Complaining is the quickest way to give up your joy in times of discomfort. It weakens the mental state and robs us of joy that gives us strength. In dark times, it is tempting to give in to doubt. If you need a little help with it, look around. I remember once I was feeling the doom and gloom. It was a rainy day, the sky darkened with gray. The wind was blowing hard and lots of rain pouring down. I was walking in the yard and I saw a bird nest, lying on the ground. I felt bad for the bird that lived in it, having lost its home.

I wondered if there were more that had lost their homes too. I was already sad as it was, but it furthered saddened me to see their dismal situation. But eventually the rain stopped, the gray sky gave way to a slighter brighter tone. Soon, whistles filled the air, and the birds came back out. I wondered why they whistled so heartily. Had they so quickly forgotten what happened? Hadn’t one of them lost their nest, if not more? Yet the whistling continued.

Who would have thought cheerful little birds would remind me not to lose my whistle?

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Good Riddance!

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Yesterday I reflected over the year 2020. It’s amazing how the year started off so well. I made many goals and for the first few months, I was able to achieve them daily. I was crushing it and it felt awesome. But then an unwelcome guest came onto the world stage and life as we knew it completely changed. It is a broken record that everyone is tired of hearing about. We just want our life back.

For me, the second half of the year had something great that happened, for which I am grateful to say the least. However, as the year went on, with the amount of bad news I felt incredibly weighed down. On top of that, disappointment in the remaining months of the year continued to pile on. Some people I thought I could be counted on, could not. Some things did not go my way. The list goes on.

In my time of reflection, I wondered what I was thinking the year before around the same time. I pulled up the draft of a post I wrote December 30, 2019 and published on my blog a week later. I read through it and thought about how much it pertained to me, as if it were specifically written just for me at this stage of my life. If you would like to read it, here is a link, Without realizing it, I lost sight of my strategy last year. When that happened, other things crept in, one specifically.

There is something that I’ve wanted for a long time now. The more that time passes without it, I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable with not getting it. I felt like I could not be genuinely happy unless I got it, abandoning thought of everything else that I had. It was the one area I struggled with in my walk of faith. I’ve been able to believe God for nearly everything, all but this one thing. I thought I had it but, in the end, it was lost. My faith in this area felt like the stack of wooden blocks, with each one being removed by a bad experience as I waited for it all to come crashing down.

So, what happened? I finally realized that this one area had a major impact on me emotionally. As with so many things, I found myself being troubled by it on a regular basis, which affected every area of my life. Why would I allow such a thing to control me so? Great question. It took over without me even realizing it. Fortunately, I got a glimpse of it for what it is and now I have a chance to do something about it. The year ended last night, and now the new year brought a chance to say goodbye. That’s the amazing thing about a fresh start. It gives us a chance to take what is good with us into the new year. At the same time, it gives us a chance to get rid of that which we choose to leave behind. As for me, I am tired of living the way I was in the latter part of 2020. I am tired of being afraid, worried, sad, and at times broken. It’s time to say good riddance to that garbage and welcome something far better in its place. I hope you will join in. I pray the best for you all in 2021. Let’s do our part to make it happen!

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