I took a little birthday detour there for a few days, you’ll have to excuse me.
But when we were last being practical rather than poetic, we were talking about how we wanted the people in our lives to remember us when we were gone, and we were going to start figuring out how to live that way.
We took several days to look at a (very long) list of virtues and their definitions (here, here and here), from which we were going to try to find words that spoke to us–virtues that perhaps we already possess in some measure–and that we wanted to be words that our loved ones would use to describe us. We were picking those out as the “edge pieces” of the puzzle of our lives.
We took a day to examine our mistrust of the idea of happiness, and how when what we think will make us happy breaks us, it sometimes takes a village to put us back together again. Also, that how the things that we used to love can be like mortar, or like glue to reassemble the pieces of our lives.
Then, we started thinking about those things that we used to love, the things that make us unique, or, in the words of Patrick Rothfuss, “the things that geek us out,” to see how maybe we could bring them back into our lives.
This week, we are going to start sifting through the middle pieces of the puzzle of our lives. We are going to start to find pieces that go together broadly in the same part of the puzzle.
I am neither a counselor nor a therapist, neither theologian nor pastor. The process I am going to describe is not a new-age self-help prescription, nor a substitute for therapy when therapy is what you need.
What I am going to describe is the process of putting my life back together after my own personal tragedies and disappointments. It consists of some uncomfortable things, like setting my alarm for very very very early in the morning, and some uncomfortable soul-searching.
It also consists of something perhaps I have been a bit cagey about discussing, out of fear of being pigeon-holed as one of those “weirdos”. I know I am a weirdo. That has never been in question. I just don’t want to be one of those weirdos.
But if I am going to be classified as one of those weirdos, I just really really really don’t want to be pigeon-holed as one of those hypocrite weirdos.
I’m talking about “evangelicals.” I get the creeps when I hear about evangelicals. I want to be very clear: I am in love with Jesus, I am saved by grace.
But I am also someone who loves people who are very, very different than I am, people who believe things that are very, very different than I do. I refuse to accept that powerful white men have the duty to legislate what happens with any woman’s bodies, because I believe that what happens with a woman’s body is her own, sacred duty to make decisions about. That’s a conversation a woman should have with God, her doctor and herself.
I have a lot of doubts about a lot of things that “evangelicals” preach, not necessarily on a spiritual level, but on a social level.
Also, let it be said that I am an awful human being, a fact which I own completely. I am far too often victim of temptation. I have messed up in so many ways that they cannot be counted, and even now, I mess up in ways that confuse me.
I will never try to pretend that I am perfect, and I hope if you ever catch me judging someone’s life choices, you will very quickly give me a dope slap.
Revenons à nos moutons
(Let’s get back to business, but literally, let’s return to our sheep. Gotta love French.)
So what is it that I have been cagey about talking about? Prayer.
I have been nervous, afraid of being pigeon-holed because I hold prayer as the singlemost important part of this step-by-step process of defining, pursuing and living my Ideal Life.
Prayer isn’t repeating words, some magic formula. Prayer is a conversation.
You might have noticed that I am a chatty type. Well, I have found one partner who never gets tired of hearing from me, and that partner is the one who created me, who wrote the story of my life before I ever existed, who knew the twists and turns it would take and how something awful could turn into something wonderful.
That conversation partner also happens to have all the power and all the resources of the universe at his disposal, and can, when he wants to, deploy them for my benefit.
All this for so little in return: the one thing my conversation partner wants more than anything is for me to just sit quietly and be with him. He likes it when I marvel at how powerful he is, he likes it when I do exactly what he tells me to, even though sometimes it doesn’t make sense. It’s in those moments that I can sometimes catch him smiling at me. Those moments are pretty awesome.
He is why I get up at 4:00AM. My husband knows about this other man, and he isn’t worried in the slightest. I have my husband’s blessing for this intense relationship.
Without prayer, without this intensely intimate relationship with my creator & headwriter, my efforts to live my Ideal Life would just be lofty goals. With prayer, my heart is, daily, tuned a little more to what my purpose is and what the contours of my life–the Ideal Life, the one that was written for me before I ever existed–should be.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…
This all being context for what’s coming next, the statement, “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…” is one that might start with those things that annoy you about your life. I know that for me it has happened a million times, like when I lose my keys or the bathroom mirror is a mess. In my Ideal Life, I am a person who knows where her keys are and has a clean bathroom mirror.
But when you start answering them as part of a conversation with God, they become more about your character. More about your heart. More about your purpose.
While the first several pages of your exercise might be practical, personal annoyance-solving statements, the next few pages can get very, very tough. Once we have scratched the surface of what we think our Ideal Life should look like, and we open up the floor to God’s thoughts, he directs us to address parts of our character and our heart that are top-of-mind annoyances to him.
In my Ideal Life, I have a faithful heart. In my Ideal Life, I am at peace and not anxious. In my Ideal Life I am caring and not self-centered.
This is why the Ideal Life exercise can take weeks to do. Because, let me guarantee you, this dredged up a lot of junk between my conversation partner and myself. This was why getting up at 4:00AM was necessary for me: because I did a lot of crying in those first weeks, and I didn’t want to have to explain myself to anyone I lived with.
It’s your turn
In your Ideal Life, you are a person….who what?
Start with the things about your life that annoy you. But do not stop there. Keep digging. Start listening for what your creator and headwriter has to say about the life he’s got planned for you.
Be careful of phrases that are in the negative: In my Ideal life I am not anxious is fine, but what are you instead of anxious? This is actually an amazing prayer right there: In my Ideal Life, I am not anxious. But what would I be if I weren’t anxious? Then, you shut your mouth and you listen. If you listen, you will get an answer.
Tomorrow I will share some examples from some ladies who have been working on their Ideal Life statements and I promise they won’t disappoint.