{Dad} and Seasons

Fall.

It makes my insides bubble like the foamy top of a mint-hot chocolate.

Crackle like the splintering wood of a chilly day fire.

Explode like the blazing hues of changing leaves.

My heart slows to match the rhythm of the swaying wind… as it tickles the fronds clinging to their branches.

The fresh, crisp air almost stings my lungs. Almost.

This is my favorite season. And not just because it shrouds my birthday.

I love cozying up with a blanket on a cold morning. Snuggling with my besties in the name of “body heat.” A good excuse to be close to those I love.

I love the bright colors of pumpkins and gourds, trees in transformation, and the bleakness behind it all… enhancing even more the serenity of a changing season.

Confession: If I can take one moment for pause, simply to enjoy the season around me, then this I have also learned from my dad.

I have blazed through many seasons. Seasons I found bland, uncomfortable, painful, frustrating, or undesirable for one reason or another.

Only to step into the next season and find that I missed much of what was good about the former.

My single years were spent pining for my married years.

Married years spent missing the freedoms of my single years.

Years with young children pining for my own free time again.

Empty-nest years spent missing the noise of my young parenting years.

Well, at least, this is the path I am on if I don’t begin now to learn from my dad’s pleasure in each season.

I have watched him thrill in the beauty that each season brings, no matter how dark. I have seen joy in his eyes, even in the most devastating of seasons. In fact, I’ve seen this same joy lead and guide him through the darkest of hours. So that, on the other side, he does not regret the valley through which he has passed.

I have seen him live presently. Stopping to give strangers his ear. His time. Himself. People I would have brushed right by in my own self-preservation and sense of accomplishment.

But not him.

He has walked me through all of the seasons life has given me as well. Held his head high when mine was bowed low. Carried me when I had nothing left to keep me moving. Sung and danced over me when I needed his lullaby. Embraced me with my moments when I could only see unforgiving stone and failures. Then we get to the top. And he tells me to turn around.

And the view is breathtaking.

These are the things my dad has taught me:

The the most painful of seasons make the most fertile of soil for the growth and harvest in the next.

Even ashes make way for beauty to rise.

To not waste fertile soil of pain in frustration… but to love it for what it will become.

To savor every moment of the blessings given in each season.

To live now… what will living in tomorrow or yesterday give me but more regrets and missed moments?

That it’s okay to grieve the passing of one season into another… but to offer hospitality to the next season nonetheless.

With joy set before me.

With the hope that every season has it’s purpose and, when I’m willing, each purpose will be accomplished.

So I can live this life fully. Intentionally. Purpose-filled. Joy-filled.

I can be content in any and every circumstance.

Fall is here.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

I’m spending 31 days writing about my confessions and the lessons {Dad} has taught me. This is day 4 of 31 Days in 2012.

Feelings from a Thinker’s Perspective: Part 1

“Feelings are just feelings.” I’m sure you’ve heard it.

Feelings are just feelings.

Many agree with that statement. I, however, do not. Maybe it’s because I’m a Thinker 🙂 A Deep Thinker, even, according to the RightPath4 Assessment. I’m also a Thinker according to the Keirsey Temperament Assessment. Of course, I could have told them that.

Or maybe I disagree because I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart. Or maybe that’s why I’m a Behavior Analyst at heart.

See? Too much thinking.

Are feelings just feelings? It’s very cliche. Right? We’ve all heard it. We just want our feelings to be validated, even if they don’t make sense (hey, me too!).

I believe, though, that all feelings have a cause. Cause and effect. Something happens and a feeling follows. We may not undersand the feeling, be able to control the feeling, or even recognize where the feeling came from… but it came from somewhere.

Feelings can come from past experiences creating a sort of conditioned response to a trigger. For example, if every single time I went to Disneyland I smelled popcorn and that made me happy… then it would be natural for me to think of Disneyland and feel happy every time I smell popcorn. I’m trying to use a positive example with this scenario but many situations of this nature have had negative tolls as well… a smell can trigger a painful memory or poke at a deep wound. In fact, it’s often these negative emotions that seem to attach themselves to our experiences.

Feelings can also come from chemical reactions in our brain. Without enough of the happy hormones (Seratonin, Endorphins, and Dopamine) our brains can alter the function of brain behavior… leading a person to feelings of lethargy, sadness, emptiness, and so much more. Depending on the extent of the imbalance, a person can actually become unable to function in every day tasks, so overwhelmed by feelings. With medical attention, this imbalance can be treated and help restore a person to the more common of human experiences, without the additional brain-chemical challenge.

Feelings can also come from thoughts and actions. If I allow my thoughts to take their own course, I will wind up feeling something. This, fortunately, is something I can control. I can filter my thoughts. I can restrain them. I can guess where they are headed and stop them. I can even change my thoughts.

I don’t believe that feelings are just feelings. I believe that’s a fatalistic approach to handling ourselves. In that phrase I hear, “I don’t have to control my thoughts or actions… I just am what I feel- and feelings are just feelings and I can let them take their course; I’m powerless to them.” But I don’t think we are powerless to our feelings. Even a chemically imbalanced brain can receive some aid in restoring balance. I believe that our feelings need to be held accountable and tightly reigned.

For example (this is fictitious): I’m feeling really sad. I don’t understand why. I’m just down. I don’t see any perceivable cause for my feeling. Later, someone mentions my mom. That sadness pops up again. I realize that it’s the same time of year that she passed away, though it’s been a number of years now. I connect that earlier feeling of sadness with this new realization. Does it make the sadness go away? No, but now I have a source and can find some ways to help walk through my sadness with some direction. I can pull out an album and spend time remembering- grabbing hold of that sadness until it washes me clean. I can write her a letter in my journal. I can call up my sister and reminisce. I can act on my feeling, bringing it some resolution. I can channel it in a healthy way. It hasn’t just popped up for the sake of making me sad. It has a purpose- a place within me that needs some attention.

Feelings can be warning flags, like a sting on the bottom of our foot. A way of letting us know that something needs our attention. Because they are the effect, we must take a look at the cause. Knowing the cause can even help us change our feelings.

There. I said it. Feelings can be changed. I know that’s a very unconventional thought. It’s not new, though.

Feelings can be changed.

I can be angry at my husband for not doing the dishes. I can build it up in my mind too. I can decide that he’s lazy. That he must not really love me. That he’s selfish and rude. I can get become quite furious with this run-on of thoughts. But when I find out that the dishes weren’t done because he received a call from a friend who was in a crisis and rushed off to help our friend- my feeling changes. I’m not mad at his selfishness or rudeness. I don’t even question his love for me. Understanding the cause can change the effect. How often our feelings get the best of us over a misunderstood cause!

Or maybe he really was just being lazy and didn’t do them so he could watch a show. I can choose a number of ways to feel about this. Uh oh. I did it again. I said you can choose your feelings. Well, I think sometimes you can. I can choose to think he hates me because he picked a show over the dishes (which is the easiest route to take) and feel furious. Or I can consider that he works a full time job, is finishing his full-time Masters, and has four children… and just needs a break. So would I. I can feel some compassion and understanding. Very different feelings, same cause.

This, of course, is not a call to invalidate someone’s feelings. Feelings are very real and very strong. But YOU are stronger. There is a way through them that can make you a better person on the other side.

At least that’s what I think 🙂

Well, I’ve meandered quite awhile and think this has become the first of a three part series 🙂 The next part will focus on the value of pain and how we can use it to grow and better ourselves (instead of let it fester and wilt us). Stay tuned!  Oh, and please feel free to respond (nicely). 🙂 I have many thoughts, as you can see, but love to hear other opinions, consider them, and maybe even change my own accordingly! 🙂


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