The Woman in the Summer Dress

the woman in thesummer dress-2When my eyes partially opened yesterday morning, due to the bright sunlight causing me to squint, I asked myself what would make my Father’s Day special. A woman immediately popped into my mind without any prompting or forethought.

She’s a person who I’ve shared sporadic and trivial conversation with over the past six months. Nothing notable about any dialogue would suggest an interest on her part to learn more about me, but I found a great deal of curiosity on my part.

There was one thing about her that captivated me and I wanted to find out what made her shine in the presence of those she met.

Watching her interact with others from afar fueled my curiosity. At the end of each conversation, everyone she walked away from was left with a big smile reflecting the interaction. She clearly had the ability to listen, care and inspire.

I thought Father’s Day might make her childless for the afternoon and considered that my opportunity to learn about her might be a possibility. My mind went through a dozen scenarios in what I might say to entice a meaningful conversation over lunch. But our paths didn’t cross.

My wondering mind found deep feelings of self-rejection surfacing as I got in my car and started to drive away. I had failed myself and might have to live with the painful feelings of regret for some time. I just didn’t have what it took to attract a woman of integrity long enough to learn about what made her special.

I turned and headed toward the exit of the parking lot. Glancing into each mirror to make sure everything was properly positioned, I noticed the beautiful woman in the summer dress walking toward me. Well, she was walking toward her car that was in the same direction that I was headed.

Instinctively I took my foot off of the gas and slowed the car. I could see her radiance as she walked my direction. Her dress was perfectly suited for the day, both classy and fun in its appearance. Her joyful demeanor caused me to take pause and wonder if my dream about chatting over lunch was viable.

My mind raced with ideas to pull over, park the car and walk toward her, versus appearing like a stalker spotting his prey. Argh!!! I had nothing to offer her except for time and interest, but it couldn’t be enough for someone as energizing as her.

Certainly she required time with only men that could bring great value to her life.

The value a man brings into the life of a woman varies greatly and a man’s viewpoint of it is typically short of reality. Dad used to work extra hours so he could buy the wonderful things mom dreamt about, yet when she bragged about her husband she always talked about the safety and kindness he provided our family.

There was a disconnect between the two.

Dad only needed one simple thing in his life: freedom to be creative. But mom didn’t understand what that meant or how it played out. Unknowingly she squelched all of his dreams. I watched dad deal with the agony of tearing apart the cool secret storage wall he created in the basement after mom nixed the project midstream.

I lifted my foot from the brake peddle as I took my eyes down from the rearview mirror. I had lost the battle within my soul and pain filled my gut more quickly than I could ever remember. There was something special I was leaving behind and I’d never know the answer to what raised my curiosity.

Unconsciously my foot hit the brake again. My heart was crying out for the answer. I had to know why this woman was so important to me. Was she to be a great friend? A lover? A muse?

Her stride was light as her classy dress waved in a pattern of confidence and beauty. Her countenance was alluring and her step had a subtle, yet fun bounce to it.

My heart stirred and I felt my arms turn the steering wheel to park, but my mind overrode those feelings and released the brakes. The car crawled forward to the edge of the parking lot exit. I had lost my internal battle. I accelerated into traffic and didn’t look back.

That afternoon, I sat alone on the couch eating a salad that I picked up from an organic health store, but it made me feel ill. My day of hope had turned into a nauseous feeling of hopelessness. My stomach settled a few hours later and a phone call shifted my mind to a screenplay I needed to rework.

The day became more pleasant when each of my kids called to wish me a happy Father’s Day. My perspective shifted back to a promising future with the day’s hoped for conversation dissipating from the forefront of my mind.

I would be all right without the answers to this woman in the summer dress.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

A Father’s Impact

A Fathers ImpactIt’s been a month since my mother passed away. Reflecting on her life is still a daily occurrence for me. Memories are triggered by every item of hers I’ve had to go through when determining its future. Stacks of photos slow me down the most, as I relive the moments that I participated in.

Few photos exist of her father. He died when mom was too young. One person told me she was 14 and another said 9. Both ages sadden me.

My dad died when I was 19. His death made a lasting impact on me. It forever changed the direction of my life. My mom must have had a similar experience, but with a more harsh reality being raised by a single mom in the early 1900’s. I can’t help but wonder how important a dad is to have impacted his family while present and in death.

Tim Ritchey is a father and a dear friend that I admire. During this time of reflection, he posted a note on Facebook that brought a warm smile to my face and trepidation to my soul. He posted…

Fatherhood Challenge Dare:
I was nominated to publish a pic that makes me feel happy to be a father (so I did 19) I am going to tag men that i feel are fabulous fathers. If you are one of them awesome dads, copy the text and paste this to your wall along with picture and tag other fathers. THIS SHOULD NOT TAKE ALL DAY FELLAS!!!!!!!! If I chose you, I chose an outstanding human being, and I am pleased to call u my friend.

I was honored when he called me an “outstanding human being” and “I am pleased to call u my friend.” Coming from a man that quickly earns respect from everyone he meets was a great pat on the back. I felt affirmed.

The trepidation that soon flowed through my bones was not so pleasant. Pictures popped into my head that would work well for a response, but they were all in storage. Having no pictures to express how happy I was to be a father made me question what kind of a father I had been.

I knew what kind of a son I had been because my dad spoke truthfully to mom over the years. Many hints for improvement and compliments of success made it to my ears. I was very thankful to hear my mom tell me just two weeks before my dad died how proud he was of me and how much fun he had when I was around. Dad even loved my work ethic and all the help I gave him fixing up the small cottage we enjoyed.

A few months ago I saw the impact my ex-father-in-law had on my kids. I also remembered all he meant to me, as he was in my life longer than my dad. Yet, my dad’s impact was still greater. It took me years to get past his death because of the values he instilled in me. Not to mention all those times when he was there for me.

I’ll never forget the time I was walking around in a cloud of amazement because of Kim Jones. We were in fourth grade and she was the most fun and beautiful girl in school. We played dodge ball together, built forts in the woods next to school, and played house.

One day when my dad was getting dressed for work, I came into his bedroom to chat about something very personal. I shared how there was a constant stirring inside my belly whenever I thought about Kim. He told me it was because she was a really important friend and made me happy. I agreed.

I asked, with a wide-open vulnerable heart, if I should “go steady” with her. Dad put me at ease by saying that going steady was for people in high school. But he also pointed out that since she was important to me, I could signify it by getting her a friendship ring.

With my dad’s blessings I went to the jewelers and bought a really cool friendship ring. It was really expensive (I think it cost about $8 back then), but was worth the ability to express my feelings through the gift. Kim loved it and said she’d always treasure it. Two weeks later her dad was transferred and she moved away.

I’ll never forget how my dad protected my feelings.

But what about me as a father?

I never had the opportunity to tell my dad what a great job he did in guiding me through that highly vulnerable and emotional time. Nor did I know if I had participated in such a powerful moment when I did the right thing for my kids. The only thing I had confidence in was how well my kids turned out.

My kids are godly, intelligent, self-aware, worthy of respect, leaders, great public speakers, considerate, good listeners, creative, and know how to share great stories. But does that mean the impact I made as a father was a good one?

I love my kids even on those days when they don’t like me. I’ve made lots of mistakes in parenting, but I’ve also seen great results from the qualities I’ve instilled that help them in life. But does the sum of averages adorn me with a ribbon for being a good father over all?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see what’s engraved on my tombstone. In the meantime, I’m working hard to figure out how to be an even better grandpa. After all, grandpas make a great impact in their grandkid’s lives too.

Freedom from Beating Yourself Up

Everyone has experienced the deep cutting pain after saying the wrong thing to their boss’s boss or a loved one. It is that gut wrenching experience that causes us to condemn ourselves and feel terrible for 3-5 days. It’s also that dreaded pain that seems to resurrect itself at the most inopportune time years down the road, causing us to cringe once again – Always wondering if we’ll ever be good enough to get away from that dreaded feeling.

There are days when I feel like I’m destined to relive that nightmare over and over again. Those are the days when emotional and mental freedom becomes a greater desire than anything else in my life. After all, I get tired of being the weakest link in relationships or at work.

However, my viewpoint is distorted, as would yours be if you found yourself at the other end of self-condemnation. My friends actually have a healthier view of who I am and will clearly tell you that I’m my own worst enemy. The amount of pressure I put on myself to be perfect, when perfection is unobtainable, is absolutely ridiculous. But, I was fortunate last Wednesday night to finally understand why the problem exists and how to correct it.

My friend Scott, who is the CEO/President of Heritage Counseling Center, gave a talk that I attended on “Mindfulness.” He shared the exact steps I needed to disarm those recurring nightmares and I thought it was valuable enough to share with you.

To gain the freedom from beating ourselves up, we have to address the following:

1. Understand What’s at Stake: The answer is simply our pride. While I know that sounds a little odd, especially when we find our activity of choice in certain circumstances to be that of cutting ourselves down, the principles make sense. We find it important to protect who we are, causing our natural reaction to be one of defensiveness.

2. Let Down Your Guard: When we are defensive, we are not able to receive the assistance that will make us a better person. We block the truth from entering our lives, thereby hindering our ability to get past our recurring struggles. Once we get past it, we can change the behaviors causing our problems.

3. Accept Who You Are – The Good and the Bad: Instead of holding ourselves to a high unobtainable standard, we need to accept who we are. We need to accept that God made us exactly how He wants us to be for His purposes. The good to reflect His glory and the bad to allow Him to demonstrate His love so others can understand who He is.

To accomplish these three steps, we need to understand how our mind works. To start with, when an emotional moment hits our lives, we have a visceral or knee jerk response – A strong feeling hits us. This feeling is neutral, not good or bad. Its sole purpose is to inform us that the situation has triggered something important deep inside of our hearts. It is a warning flag that we have an unresolved issue that needs our focus, in order to understand what is truly important to us. It will also help us to make the right decision in how to proceed through the circumstance.

What fascinated me, was Scott’s comment that it isn’t until we judge our feelings that we place ourselves in a tailspin leading to self-condemnation. In other words, our tendency is to judge ourselves based on the feelings we incurred. That’s right, we take the neutral feeling used to alert us that the outcome to our situation is important to us, and we judge it to be good or bad, instead of taking time for introspection and addressing the situation without condemnation.

The feeling is neutral and it’s our judgment that turns it into a good or bad scenario. Once it is a bad scenario in our minds, we suffer with it until we find a way to disarm it. But, what would happen if we didn’t judge it? If we just viewed our emotions as a flag encouraging us to reflect on our circumstance and make a decision based on who we are, we would be able to accomplish great growth with less pain.

According to Scott, by accepting our situation without judgment, allows us to face the condition in a healthy manner, which produces growth. Demonstrating a high level of acceptance toward ourselves diminishes defensiveness. Without defensiveness, we open our hearts to the truth, and emotional and mental health. In facing the truth, we are able to receive grace and accept the good and the bad choices we make.

We no longer see ourselves as something terrible to avoid, but rather as a person who has behaviors that can be improved. Self-condemnation falls to the wayside and we find ourselves living life to the fullest. We become truly whole and healthy. More importantly, we learn how to not react or judge other’s bad behaviors, allowing us to give them grace in their hour of need. We become Christ like, but still not perfect.

Accepting ourselves doesn’t suggest that we approve of the situation or behavior, nor does it mean we agree with it. Instead, acceptance means that we don’t judge ourselves, cutting us off from truth and healing. Acceptance allows us to live life with happiness, while always addressing important issues residing in our heart, empowering us to change our behaviors to match up with who God really made us to be. There is no longer any condemnation.

The next time I face a situation that generates a feeling, I will not judge the feeling, but look inside of myself and find what is truly important to me. Then I’ll bring my future behaviors into alignment. Once I’m whole, I’ll be able to show grace to those struggling with unaddressed feelings.

I will truly be free from beating myself up.

Copyright © 2011 By CJ Powers
Photo © Mat Hayward – Fotolia.com