What are you waiting for?

Someone once told me that if you can’t find joy living “in the meantime,” you won’t find joy at all.

But isn’t all of life lived “in the meantime”?

Think about something you yourself are waiting for: a vacation? a new job? to finish a project? to finally reach your ideal weight?

Or perhaps you’re waiting for pregnancy or parenthood.

For a soul mate. Or a friend.

Maybe you’re waiting on test results. Or chemo to be over. Or healing.

Or life–in one form or another–to resurrect.

Whatever you’re waiting for, I think it helps to know there’s actually a rhythm to most “meantimes.” You know this if you’ve ever experienced, say, a power outage during a storm. Like this:

Having grown up in the Midwest, I was used to tornadoes: they form quickly, move quickly, touch down, devastate, and move on. Hurricanes, however, are a different story, as I have learned after living in Virginia for a while: you know they’re coming days and days ahead of time. This gives everyone plenty of opportunity to prepare for and obsess about the impending doom.

Just as challenging—if not more so—than the actual hurricane is the aftermath.Following are the brief chronicles of one such storm at our house. Perhaps you can relate:

Thursday

–Hurricane arrives.

–Sit in house ALONE, while storm howls, since husband went far away to a FOOTBALL
GAME.

— Power goes out.

— Feel like Ma on Little House on the Prairie, when Pa has to forge ahead into the blizzard
to find food for the family (not, however, go to a FOOTBALL GAME).

Friday

–Survive.

–Begin to clean up debris in yard; dump it in driveway.

–Visit extensively with neighbors who are also cleaning up debris.

–Get sweaty.

–Want shower, but no running water.

–Need to use bathroom, but no running water.

–Go in woods.

–(Feel like Ma again.)

–Eat lunch: peanut butter and dry cereal (can’t open fridge; hope that
power will come on before everything spoils).

–Talk to Mom in Indiana; so glad land line still works.

Saturday

–Land line goes dead.

–Use cell phone.

–Clean up debris in driveway. Make 200 trips to dump.

–Get sweaty.

–Accept invitation to use the shower of kind friends whose power just
came on.

–Drive around looking for somewhere to eat that doesn’t have a two-hour wait.

–Eat at Baja Bean Company.

–Realize eating at Baja Bean Company not a good idea when you can’t flush.

–Cell phone goes dead.

–Return home to darkness, which surrounds us like a massive, claustrophobic
cloak.

Sunday

–Go to church, even without power. Great service: windows up, fresh air,
birds singing, no sound system to worry about.

–Notice how people are getting to know each other better; neighbors talk
to neighbors they haven’t spoken with in weeks.

–Adversity bringing people together in wonderful spirit of helpfulness and
camaraderie.

Monday

–Sick of comaraderie; just want to flush.

–Begin inventing fun, creative ways to go to the bathroom.

–Use Grandma Ellis’ chamber pot (get old CD’s out of it first), and dump
contents in woods.

–In afternoon, spy power trucks in neighborhood. Rejoice.

–Eat dinner with more kind friends who have electricity.

–On way home, notice that first two houses in neighborhood have lights on.

–Turn corner onto our street.

–Dark.

–Get tired of making trips to woods. Throw contents of chamber pot out
bathroom window into back yard. Whatever.

Tuesday

–Wake up at 6 a.m. to more howling winds and driving rain. Tornado
warnings.

–More power outages.

–Instead of sympathizing with additional people who have no power, whine about how much longer it will take to get our lights on.

–middle of the night: Ben tired of propriety when it comes to “no flushing”:
goes out into front yard to take care of business TOTALLY WITHOUT BENEFIT
OF CLOTHING.
–Around midnight, bored out of my mind, decide to get creative with camera, and take pictures of household objects in candlelight. Beautiful. Especially the flaming fake deer head which by day looks pretty darn tacky, but by candlelight morphs into something quite lovely.

Wednesday

–Rumor afloat: The power won’t be on for another four
weeks…maybe never, ever.

–4 p.m.: lights come on. Run around house flushing
toilets just to hear the sound.

Honestly, these rhythms of waiting for the power to return aren’t really much different for an outage than they are when we’re waiting for just about anything else.

There’s hope, then despair;

excitement, then boredom;

fear, then peace;

“Oh no!” followed by “Thank you, God!” followed by “How long, O Lord?”

And always, there’s the opportunity to stop and notice that something ordinary has become kind of lovely in a different light.

So how can we make a proactive adventure out of the meantime?

Try doing something that brings you joy–like experiencing a little camaraderie with friends.

Embrace some wonder in front of you–like a flaming fake deer head. It may look different in the darkness of waiting, but it’s still there, in all of its fairly lovely glory.

Boldly venture out of your box to find creative ways to do the mundane and necessary–like target practice in the back yard with a chamber pot.

Or even moseying out to the front yard naked and unafraid.

Whatever helps until the lights come on.

 

If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…

 

What about winter in your soul?

Freezing temperatures, black ice, dark days, cabin fever. What’s not to love about winter?

Plenty, according to some people. If you’re one of those folks (and even if you’re not), maybe you’d like to brighten your winter up with a little adventure.

I was feeling the urge when I signed up for ski lessons, where one of the first things we learned was a method of stopping called a snowplow, when you point your feet inward till your ski tips touch and form a wedge shape. “Cool,” I thought. “Sounds like an easy way to control my speed. I’ll be shushing in no time.

Of course, being a nonathlete, I took quite a few spills at first, but after a few hours, I was snowplowing my way down the bunny slopes without breaking anything. When I’d had enough for the day, I made my way over to a wide expanse of snow, where all the trails converged and led to the lodge. It was pretty high up, but I figured I could snowplow my way down and be okay.

Big mistake.

Is there a story you need to tell?

All right now, raise your hand and roll your eyes if you’ve ever heard someone at a family/friend gathering tell a story for the zillionth time.

But I beg you to show no disdain for the storyteller, because you know good and well you have a couple of these in your own back pocket. And even more important, chances are there’s a very good reason that tales like this keep resurfacing.

I say this because I myself have such a story. I’ve told it in A Hope Deferred and in The Embrace of a Father and in Born To Be Wild. My husband and daughter and many of my friends could retell it with no trouble.

And now I’m sharing it with you…for a very good reason. So put on your sweatpants, grab a hot mug of something and a leftover Christmas cookie, and gather around the fire. Aunt Jill is at it again.

Once upon a time…

Can you change your perspective?

Ever get some news at Christmas that tests your powers of positivity?

Me too.

Not so long ago, I’d been experiencing some hip pain, but I certainly didn’t expect to hear the doctor inside my phone saying, “Well, no wonder you’re in pain! You have pieces of cartilage all over the place in there, and there’s almost no cartilage in your hip joint. I recommend a total hip replacement.”

Whaaat?? Me?? Strong, healthy, invincible me??? Too-young-for-a-hip-replacement me? I was absolutely floored. Apparently I was born with dysplasia (yes, I know, dogs have it too) that, after a “number of years” (ahem) precipitated this wear and tear; finally, the cartilage made a break for it. A fast break.

We set the surgery up for January, and I spent the Christmas season on crutches. I searched hard for ways to get in the Christmas spirit; the best I could do was gimp around, brandishing a crutch and saying, “God bless us, every one!”

To tell you the truth, though, I was bummed in a big way. The nerve of God, letting this happen at the “most wonderful time of the year.”

How about a “humor adventure”?

It’s almost Christmas. Perhaps your life is not perfect.

A few Decembers ago we ourselves had a challenging Christmas season. Our daughter had some pretty serious surgery that required a lengthy recovery, so Ben and I took turns staying with her in her apartment in Boston.

We had all missed a bunch of festivities, and spent Christmas Day in her little apartment, sans friends and extended family, with a virtual yule log burning on a TV screen, and a daughter who was loopy on painkillers.

There was nothing essentially humorous about this situation; however, at one point, Ben and I decided it was time for a little adventure in levity.

What makes you uncomfortable?

Your answer to this question can tell you a lot about yourself.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about Spanx-type discomfort. (Although that kind actually does speak to me. It says, “No. Nuh-uh. Not doin’ this.”)

I’m talking about the kind that sits in your gut, saying, “Wish I would, maybe I could, I really should,” but then hesitates, because thinking about doing that thing makes those insides of yours churn a bit. And, let’s face it, we all prefer insides with a peaceful, easy feeling.

But haven’t you ever done something that made you uncomfortable, then in the end been glad you’d done it?

I’ll bet you have; and I’ll also bet there are more adventures queued up inside you, waiting for a turn.

So exactly what is making you uncomfortable?

Putting your thoughts out there in a book or a blog?

Flying?

Crying?

Asking?

Fear of lookin’ the fool? of failure?

You’re not alone. But consider this:

What can you find by getting lost?

Ever find yourself lost?

You might be a person who traditionally would prefer to cut your head off rather than ask for directions. You might also be a guy. Not that I am even hinting at a connection between gender and requesting assistance with global positioning. No. Not at all.

Siri has eased that tension a bit because, let’s face it, lots of people are quite fine with asking a fake person for directions.

The truth is, though, mostly nobody enjoys being lost.

However, my husband and I learned a while back that there’s a lot to be found when you’re ignorantly wandering around in the wilderness…so to speak..

What’s so great about today?

How’s your head lately?

Maybe your mind is a whirling dervish, bouncing around the room and off the walls, jumping in and out of windows and slamming doors. You’re thinking about–oh, you name it:

all the stuff you have to do,

all the stuff that’s on your mind,

all the stuff that isn’t right in this world,

all the stuff that isn’t right in your life,

all the stuff that should be but isn’t,

that you should have done but didn’t,

that you did but shouldn’t have,

that you want but don’t have,

and most of all ______________________. (Fill in the blank with your own current personal peace-stealer.)

I don’t claim to have the cure for the Tasmanian devil that’s running rampant all over your head. But sometimes you just want a little taste of “all’s right with the world,” just a taste of some positive in the middle of all the crazy.

Well.

This is your invitation to join me in an Advent adventure that’s practically guaranteed to bring more than a few tidings of comfort and joy.

Who cares?

So. The holidays are comin’ like a freight train.

And also like a freight train, they are loaded.

Loaded with joy. Or sorrow.

With hope. Or hopelessness.

With peace. Or stress.

Maybe you have too much to do. Or not enough to do.

Maybe you have family drama. Or not enough family to create drama.

Maybe you look forward to the next six weeks. Or maybe you just wish it were over.

Whichever side of the tracks you’re on this year, I have an invitation that will increase the joy you already feel, and also be some crazy good therapy for the blues you may be singing:

Tap into a passion of yours and use it to launch a Kindness Adventure.

Why not?

Have you ever in your life broken the law? Even a little break of a little law?

(Pause for a few great stories. I wish I could hear what’s happening in your head right now.)

Feel free to share the incriminating details below–if nothing else, to teach us all a lesson. Because that’s what I’m about to do.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, I got a ticket for making an illegal u-turn. This was because I didn’t see the sign…and that was because I was first in line at the stoplight, and the “no u-turn” sign was to my left and so high up, it wasn’t visible to the first car at the intersection. I thought I had a case, especially since my husband Ben had recently gotten out of his ticket by appearing and humble and respectful before the judge.

So I took pictures, got my little speech ready, dressed up in my most humble and respectful looking clothes, and headed off to court. When it was my turn, the judge was not interested in my story, nor was he interested in my pictures. “The sign’s there for a reason,” he said cruelly and inhumanely.

And I had a choice: pay the money or be sentenced to traffic school.