“Cats in the Cradle” and Other Untruths

82200214_10157070552970748_4702658291954614272_n (2)

Sandy and Harry Chapin wrote a song in the 70s called “Cats in the Cradle,” which told the story of a parent too busy to be involved in his child’s life; then, when the parent is retired and free of obligation and wants to get together with the child, who has since grown up with responsibilities of his own, the parent is filled with regret because the child gives the same excuses that he once used for not spending time. 

I remember being impacted by the weight of the message; and though it in no way was the situation in my own home, I knew it probably applied to others who were so into themselves and their careers that they did not meet their children’s need for relationship and connection. And I knew that would be a very bad thing: tut, tut. So the lesson is a good one–to make use of the time you have because soon it will be gone.

Implied, though, is that if you invest totally in child rearing that the relationship with an adult child will not be distant and will be satisfying for all. Except that is not always the case. A parent can be totally present, involved, and committed with time, energy, and money; and yet, the adult child does not take the time and effort to connect consistently and stay close.

My experience: Even after a long, hard day working the fields, milking cows, and in the winter, driving the snowplough, my dad always took the time to watch cartoons with us or play a round of softball. Mom was a stay-at-home mom and was always present–too present sometimes because being present meant if you did something wrong, you got caught immediately.  They were our biggest fans–always at our performances or games or whatever we were involved in. They drove us on long trips to church camps and gatherings when it would have been much easier (and cheaper) I’m sure to stay home and rest. They were present and involved both physically and emotionally.

So when I, who had a bad case of wanderlust, thought going to college at a school much further away than my sisters and brother was a superb idea, they supported me and all of my dreams, though looking back, some were definitely a bit squirrely. They were in my corner 100%.

When I moved to California, even though I wrote and performed songs about them and our close relationship, I seldom called because it was too expensive for me. Of course, I didn’t write either, though there was nothing wrong with my arms. It was more a case of living life with zest and knowing my folks were there somewhere in the background rooting me on–though without any updates on my exploits, they had no idea what I was doing or whom I was with. (I didn’t either all the time, which is rather terrifying to look back on.) Sometimes, I would get lonesome and call home. I would let it ring, but then I would hang up before they answered because I couldn’t afford the call. Somehow that felt like I had touched home; but obviously, it was more than lacking on both our parts and especially theirs who had no idea what I was doing. Dad told me later when I confessed to that practice that I should have called collect. And yes, I should have.

Mom and Dad visited out here in CA once, and our family drove back to Canada every so often; but now that they are gone, I regret how much time I let slip by without contact. I felt close to them, but in many ways, I was living off old memories rather than creating enough new ones. They raised us kids to be independent, but for some reason, the busyness of career and raising a family crowded out what I see now as a lack in my devotion to my parents and my obligation to give back. They were always there for me, and even though far away, I could have done much more to stay connected.

So the “Cats in the Cradle” guilt trip may apply to some who neglect their kids and are not involved and present, but there is just as much guilt to go around for some of us who got it all and still went traipsing off, living life, without looking back–at least, not often enough.

Maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. My parents would not have wanted me tied to their apron strings, and they were proud of my traveling music ministry, my family, and my accomplishments, but when I re-evaluate the “more” that I could have done to stay connected, I have regrets.  

My Book of Uncommon Prayers: Approval Pending

IMG_6327 edit - Copy
Recently, I started a couple of stock photography accounts to try and generate some passive income from the myriad photos I already have on my hard drives, as well as to be an impetus for continued creativity in my now retired life. (Notice re-tired means that you get to recycle all the “tired” you have felt for years!)

When I first started submitting images, I had more accepted than rejected; and yet, any rejection was a bit of a pinprick to my sensitive artistic self. How dare that anonymous reviewer not see the value in my work! After a while, I came to terms (kind of) with the idea that even though I might like an image enough to put it on my own wall, it was not necessarily going to conform to the criteria set forth by the agencies for products made available to their customers. Okay, got it. It’s just “business.” (Read that with a Corleone accent.)

I have submitted a lot of work over the last few weeks and have a lot of images in my portfolios. I have even sold quite a few, mostly for .25 a pop. Wow! Big stuff! But every so often, a particular reviewer rejects all or almost all of what I have submitted; and it is very deflating, making me doubt my photographic skills, my imaginative vision, my raison de vivre—okay, that minor depression is momentary, right before it turns to anger. Who are these nameless people hiding behind my computer screen anyway, who can deflate my ego with one keystroke of their preprogrammed criticisms? Dolts who fail to see the inspiration in my work! Sigh.

It takes a few moments, but I usually land back on my feet. I regroup my thoughts and fractured ego, realizing that I must try to be more detached about this process, not deriving my worth from what image gets accepted and what doesn’t. The reviewers are not uniform in their approaches to critique—it is not a totally clinical review process. They can be very subjective. At times, I will be uploading photos, and the reviewer, who is apparently on line at that moment, will be accepting everything as quickly as I post the items. I dive into a frenzy of uploads because I have a live one! One who gets me!

They like me, they really really like me!

But every so often, I will check on my uploads, and the reviewer has rejected every single image, some of which were already accepted in another agency. And I think: Okay, I will punish you. See, I am not going to upload for at least two days! That will show you!

Or not.

It doesn’t always take much, but that got me thinking. One of the agencies has pictures awaiting review in a file called “Approval Pending.” And I think for many of us, that is how we live our lives. In our work, our relationships with our family and friends, we live with approval pending. Our sense of value, our acceptance of person as well as product is fragile, contingent on the compliment, the Like on social media, the sacrifice of time spent, the nod of affirmation that contradicts our self-doubt and our feelings of a lack of significance. The Like is life! The affirmation is worthiness! And if we don’t get enough of it, if approval is forever pending, we spread the net wider and wider trying to find the thing that will for once and for all validate us. As if affirmations could erase betrayals or Likes could in any way be substance to build a life on.

As a person of faith who has placed her life in God’s hands, I must realize not only in abstract theory, but also in concrete practice, that my Approval Pending category is always filled with Yeses, always filled with acceptance. If I look to anything or anyone other than Christ from which to draw life, I will always be working on a deficit, always needy, always disappointed.

******************************************************************************

God, thank you that Your acceptance is enough. You have not rejected me, but have drawn me into Your forever family. I cannot do anything to earn Your love, nor can I miss any arbitrary standard of submission that would cause You to reject me. When I am tempted to draw essential life from any other person or thing, when I am tempted to run after the newest illusion with a promised reward, would You remind me that approval is not pending, but is already mine because of the cross. There is no need for Likes when in You I have all Yeses.

Psalm 91:1-2 (Lilly’s Amplified))

IMG_7179 - Copy
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High,

look to Him as a definitive defense, a protecting shadow, planted, rooted, and
intentionally stuck,

will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty,

find a peaceful sleep, a breathe-easy embrace in the threatening storm,
the coming chaos.

This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge,

my place to regroup, recoup, and take quiet, desperate respite,

my place of safety,

protection from threats without and disabling fears within;

He is my God,

Provider, Healer, Revealer, the One Who sees, Lover, my Abba Daddy,

and I trust Him

because in this upside-down world, who have I but You.

Psalm 91:1-2 (NLB)

IMG_7334 - Copy

Words Fall

IMG_9314 - Copy

Words, syllables, inflections,

breathed and yelled, soft and loud,

mouthed and thought, heard and not,

written and spoken,

valued and ignored, but so weighty for the one who owns them, for that one desperate to be treasured.

When we begin, words tumble out in disjointed digraphs and stutters,

cheered and encouraged by proud parents who imagine brilliance with each blurb; but

with time and teaching, the excitement diminishes, and like with any drug, the content needs to be more potent to illicit the same reaction, from spelling bees to grad speeches to wedding toasts and dissertations.

The audiences change, and the stories get retold; successful soliloquies get notched on the belt of significance as the words ebb and flow with the rhythms of life. But then

those who are really listening grow fewer, and more and more voices fill the air, diluting, refuting, and polluting

the airwaves,

the pulsing megabytes,

the pixelated opinions that fill our moments, competing with our aging soul-words.

And it is that—soul.

It is as if we start to live a little less, feel a little less, when our words fall to the ground just beyond our lips, buried in the myriad messages that surround and clutter the unnourished imagination.

And I wonder if all this noise will be forever the way of things—if loss and longing, poetry and song, description and discerning will lose their distinctiveness in the throes of hashtags, vlogs, and all the literary litter that swirls like gnats.

 

Seeing with New Eyes

IMG_1999 - Copy

I had cataract surgery done a week and a half ago. I chickened out last year–something about a knife near the eyes bit! But I was getting desperate, so I did not read any contraindications and just went for it. I had not been able to drive at night for over 2 years, and even daily activities were becoming a strain. I probably should have asked more questions, though, because rather than a piece of cake, this “routine” surgery was more like liver and onions–more uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

I am very chemically sensitive, so having gotten through the procedure with fairly minor and endurable hiccups, the worst part became the reaction to the steroid drops which are needed for speedy healing. This is a five-week process, and I have quite some time to go, but I hope the worst is over.

That was the bad and the ugly. The good part is that somebody turned on the lights! Whites are whiter and colors are brighter, not to mention that everything has distinct edges and not fuzzy, ever-changing ones. The green in the traffic light is . . . well, green green! It is almost like a different color. It is not preferred by me to undergo any surgery, but given the positive change in my sight, I think it was worth it!

My eyes are blue blue again. Haven’t been like this since forever! You don’t think about it because the discoloration and hardening happens slowly over time.  Even my own photographic work is brighter and more colorful. And I have discovered I am a much better photographer than I thought. 🙂

We don’t become aware of the hardening process that alters so much of what we see because it happens bit by bit, year by year. And only when it cannot be ignored any longer do we even recognize it is something to be dealt with. I am thinking that is kind of like what happens with our hearts. If betrayals and loss, disappointments and disillusionment build up, then over time the hardening becomes something to radically deal with. It interferes with our ability to prosper and see life and mission clearly. But it starts small, and it builds layer upon layer. I am not sure how to prevent that from destroying my joy, but my desire is that I would become aware of the hurts that bind and settle down into my spirit.

May I hold lightly to pain and hold tightly to renewal is my prayer.