Word games, Pride and a little help along the way

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I have one game on my phone, Find Words. I am a word junkie. I imagine, whether in error or not, that all writers are word junkies. So I hope some who are reading this will understand my fascination with games like this one. In it, I’m given a mashup of  letters to rearrange into various words. Simple, right?

Right. It is. But simple does not mean easy. I have often been left flustered, unable to ferret out the final few combinations of letters and thereby finish the puzzle. Strangely, this challenge has left me with a few life lessons I am grateful for.

  1. Failure is part of the process. I admit that perfection is extremely satisfying. Every word seen in an instant and entered correctly with absolute accuracy. It’s also very rare, at least for me. Sometimes I don’t see the words I’m looking for until I’m busy making absurd combinations in hopes of jogging something loose. Funny thing, it works. Go ahead and make a mess.
  2. Stepping away from the problem is sometimes the fastest way to the solution. When frustration with my ineptitude peaked, I closed the app. Later I returned to it and, as if by magic, new words manifested to fill the gaps. Often simple words I can’t believe I didn’t see before. Words that had been buried somewhere in the mental clutter sprang to life. So, put it down. Take a break and come back later. It might surprise you what’s happened while you were gone.
  3. It’s okay to get a little help. I abhor hints. At first, I refused to use them which earned me an achievement for the vast quantity of in game currency I’d accrued. Figuring it out on my own was a matter of pride. But the higher level the puzzles, the more breaks I started taking. So one day I clicked the button to find that last word. A single letter jumped to life and a word soon followed. Like a road sign at a busy crossroad, help can show you which path to take. Even if you didn’t need it in the end, it speeds the process.

 

Writing in dark places

Today my mind took me on a road trip to some dark places. A daydream took an unexpected turn and set my wheels to turning. That in itself didn’t bother me. The idea fascinated me. It stroked my speculative “what if?”. And the storyteller in me lifted up that idea and examined it, played with it, and expanded it.

Who would do this? Why? How?

And suddenly I had the makings of a serial killer. I began to see the shadow of the person behind the art that set my mind in motion, and I began to understand what might make them tick.

And that, though I chose not to take it too deep, didn’t bother me.

A nagging doubt only set in as I considered writing the story. God forbid someone take those ideas and act on them. And as I wondered if anyone else had conjured up this particular horror I’d just engineered in my head, I questioned myself. Why didn’t it bother me more?

Of all the words to come to mind, I remembered Seinfeld talking about comedy. In particular, how to a comedian what mattered most is that it’s funny. Doesn’t matter if it’s true. Is it funny? It’s a particular view of the world.

I suppose storytellers are the same way. I look at things and wonder if their interesting. I want to tell a great story, and a great story is both dark and light. My mind needs to be able to make it’s way around in the shadows as readily as the light. Darkness is a truth of our present existence. That is honest. And I believe the best stories are honest ones.

That said, I think I plan to keep this monster to myself. At least right now, I don’t tell the kind of stories they’d be most comfortable in.

 

Nostalgia

Yesterday nostalgia led me to lament a haven long gone. For a moment I could feel the place – its warmth, its colour, its calm. Clad in varied hues, in stained wood and shadows. Bookshelves littered with paperbacks, knick knacks and bric-a-brac. I suppose to me it seemed more a personal study than store. Any evening I could escape for a beer and pulling up a stool at the bar, sit and sip in quiet repose.

The bookstore no longer exists as it once did. Closed and reopened, it has become more modern. The personal warmth is gone, giving way to the cool, disinterest of plain shelves and stark white walls, one of which lights up with an alternating projection of up and coming events. The restaurant too has changed. To my mind, it has an aire of self importance. A pretentious posturing that rejects those like me. Those who would sit for a gourmet burger (and I do mean gourmet) and a beer. Not only have I lost my one and only place to enjoy a Honker’s Ale, but they will not stoop so low as to carry beer at all. It saddens me. I mourn the loss of a home away from home.

And time marches ever onward.

I cannot return to the past, but I hope that one day in the future I might find something akin to it once again. I know it will not be the same. It cannot be. This place is forever lost to me. I only hope to find a place that evokes the same feelings. A place of safety, of comfort, of peace, and of home.

A Brief Exchange

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The Lady in Black
peers out at me
as I peer in at her.
But does one see the other?

Is she watching me
as I watch her?
A mirror of herself
hanging in a silent world?

Two framed captives held
by space and time.
We meet between our worlds.
A silent moment exchanged.

Invited to tea
‘midst frozen chords.
Piano’s serenade –
sounds imagined but unheard.

Time has stopped.

Eternal moment,
a brief exchange
beyond the reach of time?
But future to present must turn.
I rise.

To Stay Together

If someone said when I was young how much it cost to be in love, I would’ve run.

– Johnnyswim, Back to You

Honest lyrics can be a glimpse of truth. Life lived gives them depth. Love is hard. A few days ago, I learned of another divorce. I’d known them for years. It took me completely by surprise. Sadly, it’s not the first time, and I know it won’t be the last.

I usually ask the same questions. What happened? Why? When did it start? All useful questions, but only if they can be answered. That said, this happened in the midst of a week surrounded by little drops of wisdom. So I’d like to share those in hopes that they may touch you and encourage you as they have me.

Earlier this week I listened to a podcast featuring Drew and Ellie Holcomb. As they talked openly about counseling, they said something powerful. Drew’s parents, from the get go, encouraged not only premarital counseling, but ongoing counseling. So, for them, counseling was not stigmatized. Put these two together, and maybe we have something to ebb the flow of broken homes.

It’s hard. It’s going to be hard. Find people to help you work your way through it!

On that same podcast, this time featuring Johnnyswim, Abner said something that struck me. He started by saying he felt we didn’t emphasize “til death to us part” enough. He’d just been in a couple weddings. He’d ended one with, “to toe tags and body bags”. Maybe a little morbid, but a strong statement. It’s the commitment he and his wife made to one another. A commitment they fight for. They’ll be together until one is sitting beside the other and they breathe their last.

I believe in the value of commitment. Ultimately, we do some of our best work when we don’t give ourselves an out. It’s a cheesy example, but it’s a pretty strong statement in the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Their relationship went deep enough to matter because they couldn’t easily back out.

The last instance came following a lecture at Christ City on the heart of contemplation. In sharing her history, the speaker expressed thankfulness that her awakening had not ended her marriage. Though she didn’t go into detail, the process of her becoming, her changing, her growing put a serious strain on their relationship. It reminded me of another story. One I shared with the pastor afterward and he confirmed as possibly being the most important part of getting through. It came from an old man who, when asked how his marriage had lasted so long said, “I never tried to control her. I was married to eight different women.” She changed. Pretty significantly. He didn’t stop her. He didn’t fight her. He didn’t fear who she would become. Instead, he accepted her and continued to love her.

In light of that, I’ll close with these lyrics from Penny and Sparrow’s “Duet” which I believe capture much of what I’ve expressed here.

Because I’ve seen you and I know you, and I’m not going anywhere.

The Value of Commitment

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Commitment is powerful. This coming from someone who struggles with commitment. Nearly a year ago, I dove into a body building and strengthening program. I was all in. I committed. And that commitment taught me several valuable lessons.

  1. Commitment simplifies things. I remember my first trip to the grocery store after I had established my diet. In and out in fifteen minutes with a week’s worth of groceries.
  2. Commitment makes it easier to say ‘no’. We all struggle to say no. Usually because our priorities are not clear. Commitment aligns us with our priorities.
  3. Commitment goes deeper. I think we all intuitively know that committing to one thing means saying no to another, even when we’re trying to do everything. It is true. My understanding of diet, nutrition and the body has grown to a level I never anticipated. A necessary outworking of dedicated work toward a goal.
  4. Commitment frees you. Odd, right? That something that sets a restriction would bring freedom, but it does. I no longer have to waste time wondering what I should do, or worrying whether it’s going to work out or not. I just have to do.
  5. Commitment leads to results. Stick to anything long enough an we’ll see the benefits. For me, my commitment led to me gaining a healthy new equilibrium at 185, and a stronger, leaner body I’m proud of. My journey is not over, though I’m focusing on conditioning right now before I bulk again. I know that holding to my commitment will bring the results I’m looking for.

So, tell me, what is it you want to accomplish? Are you committed? I guarantee it will make a difference.

Unexpected Gift

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A short few months ago I met a girl. From the moment she entered my life I experienced an awakening. Now if you’re expecting a tale of romance, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.  But it is the beginning of a happy story and one I am thankful for.

That said, let me begin with a bit of someone else’s story.

 

I recently watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty again. He and I share more in common than I would like to admit. I zone out less, but we both have vivid imaginations and neither of us are living the life we imagine. At one point in the film, he turns down a free ride that will further the quest. Not that I blame him, riding a helicopter into a storm with a drunk pilot is not generally a recipe for wisdom. It is then that an imagined Cheryl Melhoff, his love interest, takes the stage singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. A song she herself said is about bravery and going into the unknown. It moves him to action and moments later he leaps into a rising helicopter, a look of shock on his face at what he’s just done.

That’s a bit how I feel.

There are things I deeply admire about this woman. Some of them are hopes I have for my own life that I see her living as a world traveler and an artist. Others are the simple joy of easy conversation and good company. Not to mention she’s also a fighter. She’s the kind of woman  you’d want at your side for a grand adventure.

Her life became a catalyst for me, accelerating the changes already in progress in my life and, in some places, inspiring new ones. At first, I questioned the motivation. After all, shouldn’t these things be motivated by God. In the midst of that line of questioning, I chose to accept a word of advice from Darren Hardy. Whatever motivates you, use it. In so doing, I came to recognize that her presence in my life was a gift from God. A gift that, among other things, has drawn me closer to Him. She happens to be what I needed at the moment I needed it.

So where does that leave me now? I suppose it leaves me still staring down the corridor of the unknown. A future I prefer to call a mystery. It’s undiscovered territory. There is no telling where it will lead, who it will lead to or what it holds for my future. And thanks to her presence, God’s gift of this friend I deeply value, I am further on down the line than I was before. And I’m thankful, because the simple fact that someone like her exists has given me hope for the future.

I’ll close with a quote from The Four Loves. It touched me the moment I read it, and it captures how I feel.

“Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.”  – C.S. Lewis