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!

Necessary Endings: 5 Ways to Clean Up Your Life

As I eagerly await the beginning of a new semester and school year (t-minus 1.5 hours!), I am thankful for the quiet time to metabolize the experiences of my summer with the intent of building upon those bits of life learning gained throughout this next year.

In June, I read a book called Necessary Endings. The book lays out and expounds on some basic principles:

1) Things end.

“…endings are a part of life. they are woven into the fabric of life itself, both when it goes well and also when it doesn’t.” pg. 6
2) Endings are natural and needed and should be made normalized.

“Just time and activity alone brings more relationships and activities than you have time to service.” pg. 47

3) It’s easy to get stuck BUT pruning leads to thriving.

“But sometimes people get stuck in a type of misery in which they are prone more to inaction than action.” pg. 58

4) A lack of action is a decision.

“Time is working either for your or against you in terms of your needed ending. If you are stalling or waiting, then you are tacitly agreeing to more of what you already have or worse.” pg. 150

5) You attract what you are.

“The clearer and kinder you are in your communication of endings and bad news to people, the better the people you will find yourself surrounded by in life and work.” pg. 209

BONUS: Metabolize experiences and create closure for what you leave behind.

“Keep what is usable to you, and eliminate what is not…The pain, the bitterness, the feelings of failure, the loss and grief, and the resentment all need to be eliminated and left behind. But left behind consciously as opposed to just denied and forgotten.” pg. 217

If my rough summary and out-of-context quotes left you wanting more, I highly suggest you find a copy of the book and read it. It has revolutionized my perspective on senior year, my e-mail inbox, my schedule, and my closet.

Relating Relationships and Realities to a River

You’re going to need more than a grain of salt to season this one properly.  Try a handful.  Or a whole shaker-full for that matter.

Some people dream of living on a lake or ocean.  I’d rather not.  I enjoy the waves and water despite having failed at least 5 different sessions of swimming lessons.  I’m more of a stream kind of person.  I think that’s why I picked Grove City.  It had a river and a clock tower.  Those were my two main requirements.

So, I was watching the river the other day.  I started wondering if my presence mattered at all.  I could see that if I jumped into the river and started splashing around, it would change the river.  Suddenly, it would become a river with a person in it.  However, if I just sat there watching the currents, I could change it in a different way.

It no longer was just a river.  It was a river being observed by a person.  Somehow, it was changed by no merit of its own.  Just by observing something, I could change how it was defined.  At the time, this discovery of definition by proxy seemed very profound.  I wasn’t even intoxicated with wallpaper dissolvant then.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized maybe this idea could be applied to something other than running water.  The idea that I changed based on where I was and who I was with deeply disturbed me.  It made me feel false and inconsistent even though nothing (significant) changed about me.  So, using my incredibly sharp powers of deduction, I scanned my circumstances to see what changed.

Turns out, almost everything.  I was around different people, in a different room, a different state ( of America and of mind), a different routine, and trying to fulfill different expectations.  Let’s just focus on the first one though.  Just as I turned a simple river into a bubbling brook being studied by a girl sitting on its banks, the people around me define me on some level just by being there and interacting with me.

I will never simply be Chloe.  Instead, I am a daughter, a student, a church member, a child of God, a granddaughter, a cousin, and a friend.  Even if we are only focusing on the friend aspect of me, that looks so incredibly different for each person.  Chloe as the friend of Sally might be very distinct from Chloe as the friend of Diane*.  It doesn’t mean that I changed.  The river never changed because I observed it.  It just means that if I am defined in some way by my relationships with others, it only makes sense that this is a relative reality based on location.

This comforted me in part, but what truly helped dissolve my fear that I hadn’t a shred of consistent character was that one relationship never changed: the one with my Creator and Savior.  Considering this is the only one that really matters in the long run, I could rest at ease and return to over-analayzing landscapes and scraping wallpaper.

The End.

*I don’t actually know any Diane’s or Sally’s.  Except for the one from the Peanuts but that doesn’t count because she isn’t real.

The Right Now

Right now, its so quiet. The house is still and dark because no one else is stupid enough to be up right now. But I love the right now.  Its so peaceful. The lists and lists of things that must be done have been set aside because, really, 1:48 is not a time of night to be doing anything productive effectively. What I can do right now is write. Freed from pesty to-dos, freed from the pleasantries and the pains of the day, this is my time.

Sometimes I have something I want to say but not enough courage to make it known. This particular post was originally titled “Vulnerable” and it was started on March 9th but never continued. There are some things which I write about with ease. This is not one of them.

I read somewhere that great epic poems do not start at the beginning or the end, but in the middle. So in the style of the classics, here we go.

I developed a very odd habit around the age of 8. Whenever there was a prevailing emotion, mood, or aura around me, I would immediately assume the opposite. If there was great pessimism, I would see the sun shining through. If there was great impatience and anxiety, all the peace and tranquility in the world would flow through me. If there was anger and hatred and misunderstanding, I would suddenly be filled with empathy and love. See, this only applied to the negative emotions around me. Thankfully, if there was happiness and kindness and puppies and rainbows, I wouldn’t automatically turn into a rain cloud.

This habit is both helpful and destructive. It allows me to stay calm when others are panicking and it allows me to think rationally when logic is nowhere to be found. What it keeps me from doing is being vulnerable. There are those moments when everyone else is falling apart and yet I can’t help but be stoic and strong. In those moments, there is nothing I want more than to join in and cry and show that I can fall apart too, but I can’t. My eyes remain dry while my heart breaks on the inside.

So its not that I can’t be vulnerable because I am bent on maintaining an image of strength and resilience but that I’ve trained myself to balance out the sentiments in a given area. This also can make me infuriating to some when in argument and my calmness is be mistaken for arrogance.  I can drive people crazy when positivity is the last thing someone wants to hear. So I’m learning there are times to look on the bright side and to remain logical but there are also times when I need to simply agree with the person that yes, sometimes life sucks and when I need to skip the rationality and just admit I was wrong.

What I haven’t yet mastered is how to be vulnerable, let go, and be human. It’s a work in progress, just like this post, just like my life, and just like you.