Right on Red

It’s 6:42 on a Monday morning and the New Hampshire roads here are coated with black ice as rain sleet crashes against my windshield.  I’m already late for work because it took 15 minutes to defrost the car but I’m taking it slow because I’d rather get their late and alive than dead and on the side of the street.

Only half a mile away from the office now and I’m sitting at a red light trying to turn right while straining to make out headlights through the precipitation.  My caution and respect for my life and the other drivers on the road is rewarded by a long honk and rude gesture from the driver behind me.

This happens to me a lot, actually.  When there’s terrible weather or I’m at a new intersection, I’m hesitant to turn right on red.  I know it drives people behind me crazy but I’m not legally obligated to turn right on red (in fact, I’m obligated not to if it’s not safe).

While the blaring honking is unnerving what really drives me crazy is the arrogance that these rushed drivers demonstrate.  Even though they do not have the same line of sight that I have, they assume that their desire to get where they are going supersedes my safety and discernment.  From their vantage point a car or two behind me, there’s no way they can tell whether it’s safe for me to turn right on a red or not. But they think they know best, despite their lack of complete information and the fact that they don’t have the same safety values that I have.

Everytime this happens, I feel a wave of frustration and then a sharp pain of guilt.  How often do I do this to people off the road? I think I know best for my friends, family, and the general populace.  I want to honk my horn at their hesistency, their inability to make the decision I think they should make. Even though I don’t see the full picture.  I can’t assume that we share the same values or decision-making matrices. Instead, I have to assume that they are making the best the decision they can, given where they are positioned in life and what their vantage point shows them.

Others’ decisions may impact my life but that doesn’t mean I get to make those decisions for them or honk at them when they don’t do what I would behind their steering wheel.

More Than Enough

Last weekend was the $10 bag book sale at our local library and we made out like bandits.  In the mad rush of fellow bibliophiles grabbing titles off the shelves and shoving them into bulging bags, I snagged a copy of Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.  I started the book Saturday afternoon and finished it Sunday evening.  Needless To Say, I’d highly recommend it.

In the same vein as some of my other favorite books, Necessary Endings and Essentialism, Shauna provides a raw view of her journey from busyness addiction to whole self healing.  There were plenty of chuckles along the way and I interrupted my husband’s reading at least a half dozen times to share a particularly poignant passage.

What really struck me about this book; however, wasn’t the funny anecdotes or deep wisdom.  As I read Shauna’s story of hustling to the point of exhaustion, I saw myself–but not my current self.  I saw my high school self and my college self before senior year. After three years of literally running from classes to meetings to events, I knew exactly how far I could push myself and what I was able to accomplish.  In my last year of college, I wanted to find out how little I could do and still be a productive, well-rounded, grounded, contributing, and happy soul. I hunkered down in my underground single dorm room, went to bed at 10 pm and exercised as much as I wanted to.  I still do that and it’s wonderful.

Not to say that there aren’t days when I let the lust of others’ affirmation and the pride of being a do-it-all direct my steps and steal my joy.  But those days are few and far between nowadays. Just the other day, Luke and I looked at each other and realized: we have more than enough time. How crazy is that?  Each day feels sufficient for the work, play, walks, reading, and reflection that we desire and there’s often time left over to let the mind wander.

After watching this Ted Talk with Laura Vanderkam about time management, I made a personal vow to never say “I don’t have time for X” when I really mean “I am not prioritizing X right now.”  It’s forced me to be more truthful with myself and others. We always have time for what we prioritize, irregardless of whether our priorities are aligned with our long-term goals and happiness.

Millennials

I enjoy reading articles and infographics about millenials just like we all enjoy taking personality tests.  It’s fun to read about yourself.  It makes you feel important that somewhere out there, some junior copywriter did all this Googling and researching about millennial trends and handed it in to a senior copywriter and that senior copywriter scribbled all over it with a red pen and  then turned it into this pretty little image with bar graphs and clip art because it doesn’t matter what age you are anymore, none of us can read.

My hat’s off to that junior copywriter because they probably know more about millennials than I do, considering I barely know myself comprehensively. I do know my husband fairly well, so I’m up to a data sample of two out of 80 million which is statistically irrelevant.  

The best thing about millennials is that they are perfect fodder for today’s currency: content creation.  This is only my first taste of that addicting elixir of millennial-focused pieces which thousands of copywriters, marketers, speakers, YouTubers, politicians, brands, writers, singers and everyone else have already drunk deep and are now enjoying the instant attention any content receives with the keyword “millennial” sprinkled in liberally.

Sprinkles.  I think that’s something we are supposed to love.  Along with the color pink, delaying life decisions, racking up student debt, giving to charity, Instagram stories, avocado toast, and socialism.  

My boss once asked me if I met my husband online because I’m A Millennial.  I told him that my husband didn’t have a cell phone until we had been dating for two years and we communicated mainly via intracampus snail mail.  That was the end of that conversation because when we talk about millennials or any conglomerate “group” we really are just looking for things that verify what we already think.  The reality is, millennials don’t exist.  We can create pretty graphs when we group cohorts of a certain age group together, but as a collective, we don’t exist.  

This year (is it too late for New Year resolutions?), I want to focus on getting to know people better as individuals instead of aggregates.

#Selfie

I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror this morning and it caught me by surprise.  I hadn’t seen my face in a while.  Since I don’t wear makeup and my hair doesn’t listen to me anyways, my morning routine doesn’t have me looking in the mirror very often.

My strategy for staying body-positive in our social media world has been to ignore how I look.I work out because I want to be strong and my capsule closet is an insurance plan to cover clashing so there’s no reason for me to spend much time examining my features.

Here’s what I discovered:

  • Looking at my face isn’t as scary as I thought
  • My eyes really are more green than brown
  • My hair really is out of control

I’ve found myself with more time for reflection (both literal and figurative) during this time in Russia.  I don’t plan on becoming a millennial selfie queen but I am very grateful to be forced to take life a little more slowly.

In high school, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my college applications.

In college, I studied and volunteered and worked to fill out my resume.

In California, I studied and worked to fulfill my duties as an employee and make a living.

Here, I’m finally free to take a deep look in the mirror and learn more about what I actually enjoy doing.  There are no more applications to live for, no more resumes that cry out to be updated.

For the last 10 years I’ve been running away from not being enough, not doing enough to get where I thought I needed to go.  And now I’m finally able to look forward and whisper “Onward and upward!” and mean it.  I walk slowly and cautiously as I explore what the future could look like.

In A World of Pure Imagination

Faith, hope, & love.  These three easily recognizable Christian virtues from 1 Corinthians 13:13 are also widely valued as human characteristics that benefit ourselves and our society.   All 3 require an element of imaginative thinking.  To have faith, we must believe in a God bigger than ourselves and our own limited conceptions.  We hope in a future and eternity that we do not physically see, but must imagine.  We love others best when we imagine them as God sees them–immeasurably valued and worthy of glorification through Christ.

Imagination enriches our lives in many other ways too.  Getting lost in a book, dreaming up new businesses, playing make believe with a child.  But when imagination gets misplaced into the hands of an idealist, things get messy.

Idealism sounds nice but has some fairly nasty side effects.  At it’s essence, idealism is the practice of forming expectations about the way the world should operate, especially unrealistically (the dictionary’s words, not mine).  When we start projecting our idealism on a very real world, we set ourselves up for disappointment at best and destruction at worst.

My imaginative ideas about what makes the world better might not actually be good or wise.  Or even if I do happen to strike on a good vision of what the world ought to look like, the way I go about forcing my will on reality will probably hurt others in the process.

But what happened to our hope, our faith, and our love?  Don’t those require some idealism?

Not necessarily.  We need our imaginations to develop our virtues and we need optimism to live out those virtues in this often confusing and hard life.  But idealism and optimism are not the same thing.

The optimist is full of hope for the future whereas the idealist insists that the future fit their vision.  The optimist seeks ways to make the world a kinder place while the idealist works to make the world their kind of place.

Well-intentioned optimists can easily become dangerous idealists when imagination is misplaced.  Living in a country where I don’t speak the language has taught me that the hard way.  Things never go as planned and insisting on forcing my vision inevitably leads to frustration.  I’m slowly learning to redirect my imagination and view this world with optimism instead of idealism.  It’s a process for us perfectionists but I believe it’s worth it.


The last installment of my Misplaced series will hit the blog next week!  It’s about one of my favorite topics–budgeting and personal finance.  Thanks for following along so far!

Dinosaur Dreams

When I was a child I believed that I could be everything I wanted to be, in fact I told my kindergarten teacher I would become a dinosaur when I grew up.  In college, I exchanged that lie for another: “You can do anything, but not everything.”

That’s not true either.

Four years of studying entrepreneurship and economics taught me that we can expand the pie instead of fighting over the last piece.  Our Creator made us creative beings who construct buildings and businesses, families and food, and that’s a beautiful thing.

ECON 101 also taught me that our basic economic resources (land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship) are limited.  We live in a world of scarcity.  There are only so many hours in a day and acres on the earth.

I will never be an Olympic gymnast or piano aficionado, because I’m already too old for those things and I’m not gifted in those areas.  I can’t do everything.  I’m not a photographer or a coffee connoisseur or an amateur guitarist.  I can’t be anything I want.  As I get older, instead of happening upon my “true calling”  I’m mostly just getting good at crossing dreams off my list.

The pessimist in me says I’m giving up on my dreams but really, I’m just finally acknowledging that not only can I not do everything, I can’t even do anything.  Instead of chasing a vague notion of our “vocation”, Luke and I are spending time taking a hard look at the resources we’ve been given.  We still love to dream and scheme about the future but rather than hyping up false hopes, we’re thinking about what God has already provided us and how we can humbly position ourselves to receive the gifts He may have for us in the future.

There isn’t a limited quantity of happiness, wisdom, or fulfillment in the world that only the lucky few get to experience.  It just may not come in the forms we expected when we were 8 or 18. Recognizing that our time and abilities are necessarily limited allows us to more freely explore the possibilities for creation.  It’s okay when the dinosaur dreams go extinct.

Do Not Feed the Wildlife

“Please do not misplace your kindness,” read the sign at the state park asking it’s visitors to not feed the wildlife.  How many times in life do we have to hear that?  Do not tap on the glass.  Do not feed the wild animals.  What you think is kind is actually self-serving at best or destructive at worst.

I’ve misplaced my kindness almost as many times as I’ve misplaced my keys–which is at least once a day.  I’ve left bits of poisoned good will on short term mission trips. Scattered pieces of benevolence on grieving friends when I should have responded with shared sadness.  I enable my own sin by showing much too much kindness to myself and not enough to others.

When I misplace my kindness, I trick myself into thinking that I am acting out of goodwill when there might be some ulterior motives in play.   It’s one of the first steps to getting lost in the Bermuda triangle of unhealthy relationships–also known as the Karpman Triangle.

There’s a lot of interesting thoughts on this theory and I’ll list some additional resources at the bottom if you want to learn more.  What I’ve found most valuable about this diagram is that it demonstrates how easy it is to slide from role to role, usually as a result of misplaced kindness.

Misplaced Kindness (1)

 

The Rescuer sees a Persecutor hurting the Victim.  In an effort to help the Victim, the Rescuer misplaces their kindness and starts attacking the Persecutor, thus becoming a Persecutor themselves. Now the original Persecutor is the Victim. That is just one scenario of thousands but the basic gist is that once you are in the triangle it’s very easy to just change dysfunctional roles instead of breaking out and working towards healthy relationships.  In healthy relationships, no one is a Victim, Rescuer, or Persecutor.

We respond to triggers from others and end up taking the bait, even though it’s poisonous.  Just like the wildlife at the park, we grow dependent on emotional food that is completely devoid of nutrition and even go out of our way to access this psychological Wonder Bread.

I’m committed to breaking out of the cycle in my head and in my relationships by placing my kindness in such a way that is truly loving to others and honoring to God.  This takes a lot of wisdom, which I don’t always have, but fortunately I serve a God who delights in giving us His wisdom (James 1:5).  So much so that He dedicated several books in His Word to finding and attaining wisdom!  Not a bad place to start.

This post is the first in the Misplaced series–a series inspired by a summer of leaving a life behind in California and starting a new one in Russia.  I’ll be talking about the infamous Quiet Time and much-debated Minimalism next!  Follow along by entering your email address for blog updates.

 

 

Karpman Drama Triangle Resources

General Overview: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karpman_drama_triangle

Official Site: https://www.karpmandramatriangle.com/

Focus on Victimhood: https://www.lynneforrest.com/articles/2008/06/the-faces-of-victim/

Breaking the Triangle: http://www.johngouletmft.com/Breaking_The_Drama_Triangle_Newest.pdf

Not A Travel Blog

When asked what I write about on my blog, I always respond with a tentative “lifestyle things?” although I don’t really know what that means.  I started writing here 8 years ago and since I’m free from all pressures of monetizing the site, I’ve never defined my genre. Content marketing has a powerful gravitational pull and I’d like to keep this corner of the Internet free of all gimmicks, content gating, and gotchas.

What I do know is that this is not a travel blog.  My husband and I currently call Saint Petersburg home and we hope to travel more than we normally would over the next few years, but this will still be my place to share my musings on the world around me, which just happens to be in Russia right now.

Moving to Saint Petersburg has felt like becoming a child again.  I’m slowly sounding out words on buildings as we walk by them, am fascinated by the bright colors of the buildings and parks, and it takes so much longer to do simple tasks than it feels like it ought to.  Just charging my phone is a 3 apparatus ordeal.  And there is the child-like wonder to it as well.  New sights and sounds amaze me and each day is a new adventure as we explore the town, transportation system, and shops.

Daily life here so far is very similar to life in the States on a large scale, and very different in many minuscule ways throughout the day.  The downsized toilet paper and circle electrical plugs, for example. Differences that are neither bad nor good, just different.  These small changes were threatening to throw me off-kilter (is this what they call culture shock?) until I read this passage from C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet:

It was only days later that Ransom discovered how to deal with these sudden losses of confidence.  They arose when the rationality of the hross [a being from a different planet] tempted you to think of it as a man.  Then it became abominable–a man seven feet high, with a snaky body, covered, face and all, with thick black animal hair, and whiskered like a cat.  But starting from the other end you had an animal with everything an animal ought to have–glossy coat, liquid eye, sweet breath and whitest teeth–and added to all these, as though Paradise had never been lost and earliest dreams were true, the charm of speech and reason.  Nothing could be more disgusting than the one impression; nothing more delightful than the other.  It all depended on the point of view.

By no means am I suggesting that Russians are extraterrestrials, rather, I’m realizing more and more how similar we all are.  But moving to a foreign country can feel like an other-worldy experience and I’ll drive myself crazy if I’m finding the small differences “disgusting” instead of appreciating things for how they actually are and finding the similarities delightful.  As Lewis put it best: It all depends on the point of view.

I’m a big believer in dreaming and doing but reality is a  strong force to be reckoned with. Our expectations about what reality should look like often cause us to be disappointed when life doesn’t deliver.   I’d rather rejoice in the ways it gives me joy instead of constantly comparing reality to what I think it ought to look like and ending up feeling like everything is just a little bit (or a lot a bit) off.

мы идем в Санкт-Петербург

The bags are packed (almost), our visas are in hand, and we’re cleared for take off.

It’s been a while since I posted on here–the last month has been dizzily and beautifully full of family and friends as we completed our coast to coast journey.  In between visits and festivities, Luke and I have been doing our best to learn the language via online tutoring and hours of flashcards.

I’ve been working on a series about Misplacement during this season of transition and displacement from our California home as we wait to find our Russian one.  The last tweaks are almost done (yes, sometimes I actually edit things before I post them) and I’m excited to share these summer musings with you all!

In the meantime, I plan on sharing travel updates and discoveries on this blog.  I don’t want to spam everyone’s Facebook timeline with travel posts so if you’re interested in:

Joining our journey through the written word (and some pictures): follow this blog

Tracking our trek via image: follow me on Instagram

Contacting Luke or I in real time: message me on WhatsApp.

Luke won’t have a smartphone or possibly his current phone number, so your best bet is WhatsApp using my phone number.  I’m assuming you already have it if you’re interested in talking, but if not, put your e-mail in the box below and I’ll send it your way!  This will be the best way to get a hold of us directly, as opposed to messaging on Facebook or Instagram.

And so..The Adventure Begins

6 years ago this month, I was driving my trice-recycled ‘94 teal Chevy Malibu with the windows rolled down from my high school to the Senior Picnic–just days before graduation.  “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer came through the radio waves and it just seemed right.  I was full of optimism and excitement for a fresh chapter.  And what better way to kick off the next adventure than a class-wide picnic with my 700 other classmates?

If I remember correctly, the picnic was lame and I didn’t know where to put myself, like the rest of my high school experience, because some things never change.

I was driving to my last day of work this morning, in my ‘10 Ford Focus that mercifully doesn’t spray water in my face every time it rains like the Malibu did so I’m clearly moving up in the world.  Andy Grammer’s familiar tune came warbling through the FM again and I felt the echoes of that same optimism bubble up.  And then a new Maroon 5 song came on with the same tune they were using 6 years ago. Some things really never do change.

But some things do. I’m more cautious now than I was back then.  I’m not as willing to chase every idea but have learned to patiently wait for my dreams to surface.  I’ve stopped caring about eating lunch at the cool table and although I’m slower to act on new ideas, I’m braver in carrying them out.  During the last 6 years, I pushed to find the limits of how many things I was capable of doing simultaneously and now I’m content to find the few things in life that are worth pursuing deeply.

I’m thankful for nostalgic songs that inspire reflection–even if that includes some awkward high school memories–before starting this next adventure.  Besides learning the Russian language and acquiring a fur hat, one of my biggest goals for our time abroad is to grow in wisdom, character, and flexibility.  Hopefully by the next time I hear Andy Grammer on the radio in June, I can see those fruits in my life.

Until then, just gotta keep my head up.