In Pastures May We Grow

I remember years ago entering my first day of kindergarten holding my father’s hand. Sitting with a puzzle of a lamb, putting the pieces together passing the time in anticipation of further instruction. Not much really has changed- well, in some ways.

I’m still putting the pieces together, a sheep roaming in familiar pastures. But the shepherd has since passed and I’ve grazed alongside different herds, foraging through life’s unchartered territory yet also circling back to what I know, returning to the land we hold most dear, the meadow we call home.

It’s easy to lose track of time as you frolic over the hills and travel forward with your friends. We get comfortable putting the pieces in their rightful place but the instruction is not always clear. Which piece goes where? Do you even have all the pieces?

It’s also not easy to know when to go, when to break from the herd. I went to see Wonder Woman with friends but the screen was dim and I assumed my eyes were at fault. It turned out the projector just needed a new lightbulb. Sometimes we’re not at fault. We just need a lens to see. A light to shine on what’s right in front of us.

In the film, Diana’s mother warns she may never return home if she leaves to help mankind. Diana responds, “Who will I be if I stay?”

Have you ever wondered what’s beyond the pasture? There’s a world you’re waiting for instruction to go see, but you fail to realize the instruction comes from within. The fields are rich with soil that you can grow.

Often, when the shepherd’s crook is stiff without its owner to yield it, we are left confused. Who do we look to for guidance? Without them, are we lost? Burdened by this inescapable emptiness fueled by what could be and where one should be, we are stagnant.

Fear rooted in the unknown and sadness of what once was can be paralyzing. But we can use these feelings to generate possibilities and discover a deeper understanding of the value of our life and the purpose we choose for it.

Life brings great joy as often as it does great pain. Loss occurs on every level, both directly and indirectly. It is in the face of destruction that we are reminded of our human fragility from which we can begin again.

Moments of pain cause the earth to shake. The familiar becomes dreaded as the land will never be the same. The fields we circle back to will never bear the fruit of past harvest and we must dig deeper to find new soil from which to grow. Or we must leave to make a new home, where we haven’t before.

Whether you physically uproot your life or make choices that alter your course where you are now, the shepherd’s staff is yours to bear. You decide your herd. You decide what you learn from each loss, each tremor in the ground beneath you. The light is there not to guide you but so you may see all there is before you.

And if you stay, who will you be? The losses aren’t supposed to fence you in. Yes, they are scary and especially when people pass, it’s frightening and you feel alone. But they have given you a chance to see their path, not necessarily to follow it, but to learn about what kind of choices you can make and the impact a life can have in influencing others.

You don’t get all the puzzle pieces at once. It’s not that simple. Some days pieces are there and other days they’re gone. I like to think you keep finding them along the way.

When you become weary from doubts and the unknown, cling to your staff and know its within your power to pick up, move and lead. You have a purpose and places to go and pieces to find. Don’t stop now. The mosaic of your life is just getting started.

Anthony Melf seeks purpose and meaning as he grapples with life’s most burning questions i.e. iced coffee or hot? He believes in the worth of each person and the power of self-belief. A proponent of honesty and self-awareness, Anthony sees change as possible wherever you are on your journey. And for your travels, he recommends humor, curiosity and a GPS because even if you feel lost along the way, there’s always time to reroute to your destination.

Wednesday Morning

The sun rises with your chest as you hear the battle cry of your alarm. It’s 6AM. Time to march. Lace your boots, check your sword at your side and lead with your shield. You’re going to fight today for honor, for truth and for who needs you.

Your armor is steel and impenetrable. It’s flattering and most importantly, it’s you.

Before you strike, you’re going to slay a few dragons. The first is your hair. You never know who’s watching. You’re fighting to be remembered. Today could be your close up. Are you ready? Look ready. Slick it back, comb it, do a double take and twirl it. You’ve got this. You’re a warrior.

Next dragon: hunger. Eat a champion’s breakfast. This may be substituted as a granola bar…or an apple…or water…okay, maybe mouthwash-don’t swallow! Battles aren’t convenient. You may need to cut corners. The shower helps, but again warriors aren’t always given notice. Do your best.

Yawn. What’s that? You’re tired. Unacceptable. Sleepy wasn’t just a dwarf. He is a dangerous dragon. If you’re tired, you will be off. Perhaps irritable. Rest when you can and as often as you can. But for now, breathe and chug a magic elixir and perfect defense: coffee. It comes in many flavors and sizes.

Alright you shining, caffeinated knight you, it’s time! Ride your horse or your four-wheel automotive that’s overdue for its oil change. Maybe it’s making noises. Turn the radio up. Sing your favorite song. Don’t crash.

What’s next? You’ve conquered the dragons and arrived on the battlefield. On time? You get a serenade. The problem is you can’t see your opponent. The enemy isn’t a mythical beast. Your enemy is not even a person. It’s words. A sound. A thought.

Yes, you’re not Ali. There is no matchmaker. Battlefields aren’t even predetermined. You could be at work, out to dinner or even at home. The truth is you may not even want to fight. But then it hurts.

You feel the sharp sting of a word.

Loser. Who said it?

Soft. Are you my friend?

Weak. Did someone imply you can’t?

Naïve. Only if they knew.

Inexperienced. Your palms perspire and your throat itches.

You want to yell, you want to run. No.

We’ve been taught to perceive an expression of anger as being tough. Raise that voice, get loud, throw things. No.

Tough is patient. Tough is kind. Tough is endurance. You are tough. You’ve been tough for a long time.

The words from others become your own. You become the enemy. Remember you are a warrior.

Your honor is in your fight. Your sword is composed of your words. Speak up, be firm. Your shield is your patience. They will you call you names. You will call yourself names. Defend.
Your truth is your happiness. What makes you happy? You don’t have to know today. You may not even know tomorrow. Carry on.

You are the Happiness Warrior. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well you do now. Does this mean you smile all the time? No, probably quite the opposite. You will endure great pain to be happy. But you will strive to be happy and part of being happy is helping others be happy. It’s symbiotic.

Being happy involves confronting the truth. There’s great honor in discovering the truth. And the truth is the person who needs you most right now is you. If you ever want to be there for someone else, truly be there then you need to take care of yourself. When feeling resistance, be kind to the enemy. Sometimes that’s you.

Your kindness is not forgotten. Those who see it love it. Those who care understand. Those who don’t are scared.

They will shout over you. You will feel less than. You will consider changing. These are your battles. Welcome to the field.

Some people will be like dragons. Some will let you fly on their backs, spread their wings beside you and others will breathe fire in your face. Scorch.

The fire breathers are not your friends. They don’t know how to be. They are full of anger. You empathize because we’ve all been angry. Their anger lingers, it seeps through their skin and into the fiber of their being. If this is the case, fly away.

Those who carry you are helpful. Sometimes you need a lift. But don’t get too comfortable. Avoid dependency. It’s about time you flew solo.

Those who fly beside you are there to stay. They’re pretty cool. Stay close.

Imagination is everything. It helps us visualize the future we want for ourselves. The future is hope. Whether or not you work in a dimly lit office or on an assembly line, imagine the life you want for yourself. Be where you want to be. Life is as exciting as you see it.

No battle ever fought is not won. You are the happiness warrior. You fight, you win. You lose, you win. The fight is what matters. Keep fighting.

-Anthony

Anthony Melf seeks purpose and meaning as he grapples with life’s most burning questions i.e. iced coffee or hot? He believes in the worth of each person and the power of self-belief. A proponent of honesty and self-awareness, Anthony sees change as possible wherever you are on your journey. And for your travels, he recommends humor, curiosity and a GPS because even if you feel lost along the way, there’s always time to reroute to your destination.