Seeing Beauty

My wife and I recently made a visit to Crater Lake National Park.  Although we had been there several times before, (we’re fortunate to live relatively close to this gem) I was once again captivated by the overwhelming beauty of this natural treasure.

Crater Lake

A video playing at the park’s Visitor Center described how the natural beauty of Crater Lake that we see today is the result of a very violent volcanic past.  A severe eruption of Mt. Mazama left the area looking like a “moonscape”, as described by the park video.  However, years of wind and weather have transformed the once barren site to the beautiful lake we see today.

The beauty of the lake is unmistakable.  It got me thinking that there are people who are a lot like Crater Lake.  Not that they have “off-the-charts” physical beauty, but rather they have beauty that comes from a decision to choose a positive response to a significant “eruption” in their own life experience.  For example, they choose to:

  • Be victorious versus defeated.
  • Focus on what they are grateful for versus what they’ve lost.
  • Encourage others facing the same or similar experience.
  • Live their life with purpose regardless of past circumstances.

These, and similar choices, to past “eruptions” in life make for a beautiful person.

Seeing physical beauty in nature, like Crater Lake, is easy.  However, seeing beauty as a result of people’s difficult life experience is not always as obvious.

As we’re interacting with others, let’s remember that we’re often not aware of what they have experienced in life.  And, if you’re ever blessed to have someone share their past “eruption” with you and how they have chosen a positive path forward… stand in awe at the beauty before you.

A Grieving Friend

I have a friend that lost his wife to cancer this summer.  It was very quick from the diagnosis until it was over.  The loss left my friend stunned, scared, and hurting.  He is still struggling with the grief.

As we were texting earlier this week, he was sharing with me how some people were telling him he should be better by now and others are telling him he should be back to normal.  My heart ached for my friend when I read his text that said, “I don’t know.  It just hurts.”

I’m sure these people meant well, but I couldn’t help wonder how many of them have ever experienced the loss of a spouse, and how many of them would be going home to their spouse or loved one after talking with my friend.

It’s so easy to give advice about an experience we’ve never had based on how we think we’d handle the situation if it happened to us.  The truth is we have no idea what someone is dealing with, unless we’ve gone through it ourselves.  Even then, how each person handles a situation can be quite different.

I’ve never lost a spouse, and I’m not a grief counselor, so I don’t know the perfect way to respond to someone who’s grieving like my friend is.  For me, I’m trying to show compassion by doing the following:

  1. Check in regularly via text, email, phone, or whatever the grieving person’s preferred method of communication is. Be sure to do continue doing this after it has become “old news” to everyone else.  Chances are it still hurts for the grieving person.
  2. Acknowledge that the situation sucks, because it does. I’m not saying to wallow there and make it worse.  Just let the grieving person know you’re aware of that fact.
  3. Just be quiet and listen.  Let the conversation go where the other person takes it.  Don’t worry about needing to say something to fill the silent pauses.  Just be there with your ears and heart engaged.

Ultimately, I want to be a blessing to my grieving friend, because I know that’s what I’d want from my friends if I were the one grieving.

The New Normal

I like change.  Change can bring opportunity, new experiences, and adventures that shake up our daily routine.  Although, I think my thoughts on change are probably like that of most people, as expressed in the following quote:

“We all like change, to the extent that it makes what we’re already doing even better.”

I certainly like change when it benefits me, or improves what I’m already doing.  However, sometimes events occur that change our lives in a way that we do not desire or that we would not have chosen for ourselves.  These could be things like a severed relationship, the loss of a loved one, an unexpected illness, or a host of other events.  As a result, our lives can be changed forever.  The way we once knew things, will never be again, and the future implications are yet to be determined.  One thing we do know is that the future will look very different from our recent past.  This difference is what will become our “new normal”.

Here’s the good news about the new normal:  we have the opportunity to largely determine what that new normal will look like.  We can shape it by deciding what we want it to consist of, and taking steps to bring about that future we envision, thus creating our new normal.

Sure, the situation that caused this change is still present, but that doesn’t mean it has to be what defines our future.  We can spend all of our energy bemoaning our misfortune and focusing on the event that caused this new normal.  We can also squander our ability to define what normal will be and leave it up to others or circumstance to define for us.  But I don’t believe any of those options will yield the results we’re looking for.

If you find yourself facing an event that includes the promise of a new normal, and after you’ve had sufficient time to grieve, get angry, mourn, etc, begin to envision what you want your new normal to look like.  Think about all the things you’d like it to consist of.  Then, when you’re ready, cause something to happen by taking action to turn your vision into the reality of your new normal.

Your future-self will thank you.