If only…

I sometimes think that two of the saddest words are “If only…” They are full of such regret!

They are words of hindsight and, depending on how often we use them, they can keep us stuck in the past or in the throes of pain and regrets.

I’ve been thinking about that recently as we’ve begun to deal with the grandchild I mentioned in my last post–the one who has finally been able to articulate issues dealing with sexuality. It’s easy to find myself thinking–or even saying–“If only we’d recognized the signs years ago, how much pain might have been avoided….” “If only we’d started this process before puberty, how much easier it would have been…” “If only…”

But that serves no purpose.

We are dealing with the here and now, and “what if” or “if only” can’t change what is.

Mind you, I’m not saying that hindsight is a problem to be avoided. Far from it! Hindsight can help us see where we’ve made mistakes that we can avoid in the future. In that way it can be a gift.

However, if we spend significant amounts of time wallowing in regret for the things we’ve left undone, then we may very well find ourselves destroying the gifts of the present and the future. “If we spend our time with regrets over yesterday, and worries over what might happen tomorrow, we have no today in which to live.”

Let us use life wisely.

 

 

 

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Painting with a broad brush

I’ve been watching and listening to some of the reactions to the tragic situation in Ferguson, Missouri–the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African-American male. Unfortunately, many of those reactions have painted people on both sides of the issue with a broad brush.

For many, the initial reaction was to cry “police brutality.” For others, the initial reaction was to say that the police officer was justified in his reaction.

Reactions became even more polarized when the surveillance video was released (against Justice Department recommendations), seeming to show Michael Brown involved in a robbery shortly before he was killed–even though the police officer apparently did not know the young man was a suspect.

And those who are protesting…again, many are painted with a broad brush as law-breaking, violent individuals who are only interested in creand I dontating chaos and looting.

The truth of the matter is this: It’s not a simple situation.

Yes. there are pictures and stories that can prove each of these points–and those are the things that seem to get the most coverage. But that’s not the whole truth.

Police put their lives on the line every time they go to work. I can’t imagine what it would be like to wonder if my husband was going to come home safely every time he goes to work. Yes, there are some who make unwise decisions in their interactions with folks on the street. But there are many, many others who try to find ways to keep everyone safe…but who so often get tarred with the cry of “police brutality” when something goes wrong.

Michael Brown was not a perfect human being. He was a teenager–and teenagers often make stupid decisions. That should not result in their deaths, however.

And the protestors…many of them have valid concerns and are trying to find ways for those concerns to be heard. There have been pictures of some of them picking up trash, cleaning the streets, standing guard to protect some of the stores… They don’t deserve to be painted with the broad brush of law-breaking, violent individuals.

It’s a tragic situation.

Yet I’m also aware that there are aspects of this situation that I can’t understand because I’m a recipient of what is often called white privilege. What does that mean for me? It means that when my child was Michael Brown’s age, I didn’t have to worry about him being killed as a result of a stupid action. It means that I see police in a positive light, knowing that they are generally going to be there to help me…not that I need to worry about being stopped because of the color of my skin.

We don’t know how this situation is going to play out. But all of us can help by refusing to take the easy way out and tarring groups with a broad brush that doesn’t take into account factors we aren’t part of.

 

Roller coaster ride

Let me say right up front…I don’t like roller coasters! There has only been one I ever liked–the Zambezi Zinger that used to be at Worlds of Fun. It was a more gentle coaster–without so many of the harsh jerks and turning one upside down that seem to be common in so many.

However…life has become quite a roller coaster ride over the last several years! Sometimes it has been more gentle like the Zambezi Zinger, but more often than not, it has startled me with the wild jerks and the turning of life and expectations upside down.

It began with a phone call from my youngest brother. As soon as I answered the phone, I knew that something was wrong–and I was not terribly surprised to hear him tell me that he and his wife were getting a divorce. But there was more. He also was calling to let me know that he had finally decided he could no longer live the lie he had tried so hard to live for so many years–that he was finally acknowledging that he was gay. Okay…I was sorry about the divorce…not totally surprised about his coming out…and he was still my little brother who I loved…the little brother who had been the bane of my life when we were younger because of the way he and our other brother had ganged up on me to tease me. None of that had changed.

Because of his news, my husband and I began to get involved with an organization called GALA, a somewhat church-related organization of folks from the LGBT community. We made friends…learned more about the issues and challenges that so many faced–and came to realize the fear that my brother had had that we would turn away from him because of his news.

We came to know the man who is now his husband–a perfect fit for our family! He has the same wacky sense of humor, and it’s clear that the two of them are very much in love.

Fine! I had survived that roller coaster ride.

But life wasn’t through with me.

A few years after my brother came out, my husband told me (on our 40th anniversary) that he wanted to watch a movie again that we had watched when we were first learning about issues of sexuality. After it ended, he sat quietly for a few minutes and then turned my life upside down with two words: “I’m bisexual.” Wow! Talk about a roller coaster! We talked briefly and after he assured me that he wanted our marriage to last, the conversation ended, and I tried to come to grips with the way my life had totally changed.

Because of support from family and friends, I was able to learn more about this aspect of sexuality, and our marriage has not only survived but we have become more able to share with each other. Again, we have learned more about issues of sexuality that I didn’t dream about when I was younger.

Fine! I survived that roller coaster ride.

But life wasn’t through with me yet.

The past few years, we have been concerned for one of our grandchildren who has really been struggling. There have been a variety of reasons for those struggles, but the way in which they were being acted out raised some fears and concerns about this one’s future–and whether we would make it through the mental health/potential suicide issues that we dealt with in middle school.

Then one night in the car, coming back from a family visit, this child started me on another roller coaster ride–the most challenging one yet. The words were simple: “Grandma and Grandpa, I’m transgender lesbian.” But they’ve started us on yet another learning journey–this time finding out all we can about what it means to be transgender. We’re just beginning–right now, we’re probably more aware that there is so much we have yet to learn! We know that the next few years are going to be challenging for everyone–this loved grandchild, the families, our church community, the social community… We also know, though, that since finding a way to articulate this awareness, this child has become calmer and more at peace.

So…roller coasters? I still don’t like them…but I’m learning to accept them…learning how to ride them. Life has a way of doing that to you!