You don’t know what you don’t know

Although I live in the landlocked State of Oklahoma, I would to like offer up the following ocean analogy as my metaphor of life. I benefited from writing this blog as it forced me to organize my thoughts. I hope those of you on a journey towards your own enlightenment will find a useful takeaway from its text. Here it goes…

Imagine, if you will, a vertical cross section of the ocean (top to bottom) divided into three parts. The top part is the surface of the water. When you’re there, you’re bobbing along on the waves. Most of the time it is hurricane season and those waves toss you to and fro in gale force winds. The people and debris floating on the surface collide because it is unavoidable. Further down that vertical column of water is the second part. It’s a little calmer. The water is still being pulled back and forth but it’s calm enough to push against the current and move in the direction one desires to go. It’s manageable. The bottom of the vertical water column is the third part, the ocean floor. It’s perfectly calm with no indication of the storm raging overhead. One can walk along the bottom of the ocean as easily if you were on dry land. It is tranquil, peaceful and you’re not constantly responding to bombardment like on the surface.

Admittedly, I’ve spent a lot of time on those surface waves. We’ve all been provided with a flotation device that is comprised of our genes, life experience and cultural expectations. We’re floating in our own boat, some a little more seaworthy than others. It’s tempting to stay in that boat because, after all, it works! We may be living in choppy and tumultuous waters but we’re afloat. It’s all we know. Being controlled by external circumstances requires no effort on our part. We can stay there, on the ocean’s surface, but we’re not in control of our own direction and we’re always responding and colliding with the things around us. At some point, we need to modify the homemade boat (genetics, experiences and culture) we’ve constructed and delve deeper in search of calmer waters.

For a long time, I only knew about the surface waters. I didn’t know there was an alternative or that the boat I’d constructed was incapable of going deeper. I don’t remember how I discovered the layer just below the water’s surface? I’m not sure if I was thrown overboard and discovered it by chance or if I was exasperated living on the surface and went deeper in search of more calm water? The point is, I found another option but it required change if I wanted to remain there. While I couldn’t change my genetics, I sought to understand them. I embraced the tools I’d been given and relinquished those I did not possess. I realized my life experiences were unique and mine alone, not necessarily the same as that of others. This introspection served me pretty well although I’d accidentally float back to the surface occasionally, I knew I didn’t want (or have) to stay there. I’d readjust my course and settle back down to the more calm waters below. Then, the epiphany happened once again. By chance or by design, I discovered an even deeper realm than the surface or the second tier I was in.

I thought I had gone as deep as I could go but no, if I redesigned my boat (genetics, experiences and culture) I could go even deeper all the way to the ocean floor. At this point, the boat morphs into a submarine. I previously discussed tweaking the perception of my own genetics and life experiences so now I studied my cultural expectations. It required me to examine the extent to which culture defines my identity. I accepted the fact my reality is shaped by the latitude and longitude of my birth but questioned how deeply am I influenced by the culture I am in?

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Cultural influences are not limited to the things we can observe but it includes the subtle nuances we cannot easily detect. Like the phrase, “You don’t know… the things you don’t know”, there are elements we are unwittingly influenced by. Societal forces influence us on a subconscious level for good and bad. The search to ferret out clandestine cultural influences that negatively shape my perception of the world is an ongoing challenge for me.

Unfortunately, awareness takes both time and energy and those are found far below that allegorical ocean’s surface. It’d be great if I could spend all my time down on that tranquil, peaceful ocean floor but I perpetually keep floating back up to the top! Maybe that’s just how it is and we’re destined to resurface to those tumultuous surface waves every now and then? If for no other reason than to appreciate the stillness of the depths below? I’m going to do my best to remain anchored so that when I do float back to the surface, I can immediately return to deep calm waters. And who knows, maybe I haven’t really discovered the ocean floor? Just like before, as I spend more time there I may be fortunate enough to discover an even deeper, more enlightened level lies just below?

Where Do I Go From Here?

Recently, I was asked to speak to the Norman Art Guild about the creative process for writing my book, “Quackers: A Duck’s Tale”. The book has been in print for four months now so they asked what’s next? Where do I want to take it moving forward?

I’ve asked myself that same question many times! The exercise of writing Quackers was in response to something I felt led to do. I needed to accomplish it without having to know the outcome or reason why. My personality type is compelled to plan, prepare, weigh outcomes… Writing the book was my first attempt at purposefully relinquishing that control. I embraced relying on the unknown and unseen, acting upon faith.

Four months after launching the book, I’m still open to having its purpose revealed along the way. I’m finally understanding the adage, “It’s about the journey, not the destination”. However, that hasn’t been easy for me.

A couple of weeks ago, I was restless and felt I should be doing something to promote the book. I should be moving forward and causing things to happen. Being self-published, copies of the book aren’t going to sell unless I do the marketing myself.  I’d anxiously searched the Internet for literary agents and publishing houses that would market Quackers for me to no avail. As if God had assigned me some complex mathematical problem to be solved, I asked for an answer, insight… heck, give me a clue! “What should I do?”

I remembered watching a video clip of Oprah where she answered a viewers’ question about, “How do you find the balance between making things happen and letting things happen?” Oprah replied that you do all you can do, you do the work, you prepare, you get ready for the opportunity to step in, then you let go. When you’ve done everything you possibly can, that’s the moment of surrender and release.

https://www.facebook.com/SuperSoulSunday/videos/1422998184414364/

I suddenly had a sense of calm, a sense of peace. I HAD done everything I could do. I had done the work by exhausting leads and tying up my loose ends. I felt God reminding me that being still and patiently waiting is part of the deal. This whole process started with me accepting that and here I’d already forgotten it in a matter of months, ha!

Therefore, my answer to the Art Guild was, “We’ll see”. I don’t know where this is going and I’m okay with that. I don’t know what the future holds for the book but I feel I’ve done my part and am waiting on the right people and circumstances to align. God’s timing is not my timing. Like Oprah says, “If it’s supposed to be yours, it will come to you”. I’m surprised by how empowering it is to just let go…

 

 

Things I’ve Learned From My Chickens

We added an adult hen to our flock this week. She was the lone survivor of a predator attack which killed all of her friends. We acclimated her to our flock by placing her in a cage (in the same coop) with our ladies. They could look but not touch.

After what we thought was sufficient time, we integrated her into our flock. Immediately, our Barred Plymouth Rock made a beeline to her and demonstrated aggressive behavior. The Rock is the lowest chicken in the pecking order, matter of fact she is dead last. She saw this as an opportunity to move herself up the chicken ladder and was determined to make this new hen low woman on the totem pole.

My first thought was, “Really? She knows what it’s like to be disrespected and bullied and here she is doing it to someone else!” Then, I remembered they’re just chickens. In the animal world, the Rock is ensuring her survival. She will no longer be the last to eat, have the worst position on the roost or the likelihood of being the first killed by a predator.

I’ve always told our kids the only thing that separates humans from animals is our ability to override instinctive behaviors. Just because you “feel” a certain way, humans have the free will or choice not to act upon it. (This talk was designed for the hormone filled teenage years but still rings true.) The Rock was simply acting on her instinctive animal behaviors, thank heavens we humans can rise above that.

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” Audrey Hepburn

Unlike our chicken, I would never seize upon someone else’s misery to feel better about myself or use it for personal gain. I thought of the times I’ve been humiliated, embarrassed or made to feel inferior. Did those lessons teach me to be more compassionate? Did I internalize those instances so they would heighten my awareness of similar suffering around me? Or, as a coping mechanism did I bury those unpleasant feelings so deeply that I’d forgotten them?

I decided those lessons/emotions are still there, no matter how deeply they are buried. This was confirmed today when a stranger stopped by our office, asking to detail our cars. His entire detail shop was contained in the shopping cart he was pushing. He earned $50 at our establishment then asked to borrow our phone so he could call and tell his wife. I imagined her elation at being able to purchase groceries that night. It triggered a memory of when Garry and I were attending college, married with two small kids. We were so broke all we had to eat for an entire week was eggs and oatmeal. At least the kids got some variety with their school lunch, ha-ha. I remember the excitement of seeing Garry arrive home unexpectedly, carrying grocery sacks of food! My joy soon turned to concern as I wondered whether Garry had resorted to criminal activity to acquire such a bounty? No, he sold his blood at the blood bank to earn extra money. Those feelings came rushing back like a flood and for a brief moment I stood in that car detailer (and his wife’s) shoes.

The lesson I learned from watching our chickens is you don’t have to exploit others to harm them. They can be unintentionally hurt by neglect. When we’re too busy or self-absorbed to notice the plight of those around us, we miss opportunities to walk in their shoes. We miss opportunities to elevate their position through our shared experiences. Empathy enriches our lives. Reflecting on our own hardships (eggs & oatmeal), not only keeps one humble but reminds us of things we’ve overcome. We’ve all prevailed and conquered some form of adversity in our lives. Enjoy your victory and take time to share it with others. It’ll make both of you feel good!

 

 

…and we’re off!

You’re invited to join us at the launch party for “Quackers: A Duck’s Tale”! The event is this Friday, October 6th, at Scissortail Gifts located at the Crystal Bridge in the Myriad Gardens. The address is 301 W Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It is come-and-go from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

https://calendar.oklahomacitybotanicalgardens.com/event/book-signing-launch-party-quackers-ducks-tale/?instance_id=6368

We’ll also be at Scissortail’s pop-up shop at the Myriad Gardens inside Pumpkinville. Quackers and Liberty, the ducks, will be joined by Deanna for book signings every Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

We appreciate your support and are grateful to everyone that has followed our journey, purchased a book or shared in our love of animals.

Celebrate Your Victories

I’ve heard it said that our brains “latch on to negativity like Velcro.”  I guess that’s why sayings like “misery loves company” rings true. For whatever reason, it’s easy to go negative and focus on what we perceive as wrong, lacking or inadequate in our lives. It requires effort to focus on our blessings, victories and to have a spirit of thankfulness.

concrete duck

I’m guilty of suffering from amnesia. I forget all the times that God has moved in my life. I become anxious and worry about the future and what’s to come. Recently, I was reading about David (2 Samuel 5:20). David won a victory at the Valley of Rephaim. He experienced God’s presence in such a way that he renamed it Baal-perazim, so he’d never forget.

 “The LORD has broken through my enemies before me like the breakthrough of waters.” Therefore he named that place Baal-perazim.

I decided I needed some Baal-perazims in my life so I made a list of times when I really felt God’s presence. A couple of things immediately stood out; 1) In hindsight, I could see the connectedness of events. Individually they didn’t make much sense but stringed together I saw purpose and direction. 2) I was surprised by the number/volume of events. How had the miracles I’d prayed so earnestly for (husband, kids, job) become so ordinary and now taken for granted? 3) God was (is) always there so why am I anxious about the future?

One day at the store, I saw this little concrete duck (above). I purchased it and placed it in our garden to commemorate writing “Quackers: A Duck’s Tale”. This is my “Baal-perazim”. Every time I see it, I remember the personal experience I had with God during that period of my life. I think we’d all be less anxious if we celebrated our victories with visual reminders, lest we forget. Mine is a concrete duck, what’s yours?