September 10, 2010

Ploughing Forward

This spring and summer I have traveled a number of roads, both literally and figuratively. More than a few times on my literal travels I have encountered traffic that is slow-moving, or worse, stopped dead cold. Road work, trains crossing, bottle-necked traffic, accidents and rubber-neckers clogging things up -- and no way to pass.

It's reality, I know. There's a lot going on in the world. There are a lot of other people out there doing their thing, and sometimes they get in the way of my progress. Still, it's frustrating. Sometimes it makes me want to shout "Excuse me!!! Coming through!!! Se puede passar?!!! Can one pass?!!!"

These images of bottle-necked frustration, and the unspoken phrases that go with the frustration, are also playing out this year in my figurative travels on the road of life. My life, and the lives of my two daughters, as well as those of many of our friends and family, were stopped dead cold earlier this year by the untimely death of my wife (their mother/daughter/friend etc.) Sue.

In regard to those literal road blocks, I don't know why, but some people have an inexplicable need to slow down and look at the road work, or the carnage, as the case may be, while blocking the way for others who are ready to move on. The same appears to be true for the figurative road blocks of life. Some are ready to move on, and others want to linger. Some are sure you are less than human if you don't also want to linger and look, and damn you anyway if you don't.

Yesterday evening, at a gathering to watch the Saints vs. Vikings pro football season kick-off game, I had a moment of insight about this dilemma. I passed around a picture of my new girlfriend, Cheri, and then I sat next to Christa Wiens, who observed that she missed Sue, and asked if I still experience sadness about the loss of Sue. I didn't know if her question had anything to do with the picture of Cheri I had just passed around, but I responded that, yes, I do still experience feelings of sadness about Sue. Christa then shared that she also still experiences feelings of sadness about the loss of her baby, Caleb, who died just over five years ago, but not to the degree she once did. She told me she vividly remembers the first day after Caleb's death that she didn't cry, and that she cried later that day because she felt guilty that she hadn't cried over Caleb. I could relate. We both agreed you move past that, but to a lesser and lesser degree over time it is still there.

Later, sitting alone at home and reflecting it occurred to me that Christa and her husband, Aaron, have moved forward from their life-stopping grief. They now have two lovely kids and they love them dearly. Everybody loves those precocious kids. They bring a lot of joy to that family, and to the world. And it occurred to me that one can move forward, and live somewhere between the sadness of loss and the gladness of gain. But on these figurative roads of life, when slow-downs and stoppages occur, ultimately one must choose to move forward toward gladness, and toward life, or to be indefinitely stuck in the bottle-necked quagmire that holds them back. The sadness of loss may be looked on directly -- should be looked on directly -- but ultimately, in my opinion, it must be observed only through the rear-view mirror; and ultimatley, as one moves forward, it must become a more-and-more-distant image.

In a recent discussion with my younger daughter regarding my moving forward in my relationship with Cheri, she observed that I am the kind of guy who will "plough forward without apologies." Ploughing and digging have something in common. However, I must acknowledge that she is partly right (well, mostly right). Going with the ploughing analogy, what other way can one plough than forward? But to the extent that "excuse me, can I pass through?" is a form of apology, I am not completely without apology for ploughing forward. "Se puede passar?" "Can one pass?"


  1. Yes, ploughing (or "plowing", as an American farmer would spell it) is a forward movement. But one CAN go forward WITHOUT ploughing. ;) If one goes forward a little more slowly/cautiously, maybe there isn't so much need for apology?

  2. Good afternoon, Grandma G, and welcome back to our ongoing discussion. And so now we "speak" openly of this elephant in our "room." We will speak in love, as those in community do, because we are in community though we've never met. And we will speak frankly, and "listen" intently, as we discuss that which is on our minds and which is on the minds of others.

    You "speak" of plowing as if it is a bad thing. But plowing prepares the soil for new growth. What could be wrong with that? By the way, the name "George" translates as "farmer."

    You speak of moving slowly so that there is no "need" -- or not so much need -- for apology. Yet why should one need to apologize for living their own life? Whether it is lived cautiously or not, slowly or break-neck, it is theirs to live. Yes, we do live in community. Yes, we should consider the feelings of others. But really, who has the "one fit" formula for all?

    And who, among us, should script my life for me?

  3. My grief for my dear friend, Sue, is profoundly different than that of my grief for my first grandchild, Caleb. And while the subject matter, grief, is the same, the process I believe is different, at least for me. I have found this article to express my feelings for him so well:

    As with Caleb, the goal in my grief process with Sue is not to get over it, but to get on with it, to get comfortable with my new "normal," because as much as I wish things were different, she is gone, not coming back.

    And, like you, no one can script my life for me in that regard except

  4. Maybe plowing forward sometimes is a good thing. But if you're plowing forward for new healthy growth, you might want to make sure you sow your seeds carefully and tend to your garden (all that dirt you pushed aside while plowing) tentatively.

    "If theres one thing I know telling a guy he shouldnt do something a certain way only gives him more incentive to do it his way." -Luke

  5. Why am I involved in this, anyway?!?! I'm blaming Cindy and Mark. ;) They've somehow adopted me into their "family", and here I am. Well, on we go....

    Sooo, "we" have an elephant in "our" room??? :)

    Guess what? I LOVE facing elephants. I've learned that it's so much more rewarding and much less exhausting than trying to step around them.

    "Road work, trains crossing, bottle-necked traffic, accidents and rubber-neckers clogging things up -- and no way to pass."

    Are these such bad things? Road work is necessary to make the trip better in the future. Trains crossing are simply something necessary for commerce. Accidents need to be travelled around respectively slowly. So what did you do when you came upon them in your travels... plow right through so you could go YOUR way at YOUR desired speed?

    On the other hand, if "excuse me, can I pass through?" is a form of apology, did you do this with your daughters? Did you give them the respect of asking their opinions (ahead of time) about getting rid of all that 'stuff' from your house? Have you really given them an opportunity to honestly express their feelings about your "shopping" for another wife so soon? And I mean sincerely asking, with concern, and letting them speak frankly and "listening" intently to what they have to say? With acceptance and not arguing?

    Do you have any idea of the pain your plowing has caused them?

    And did you know that farmers (around here, at least) don't even plow anymore? It's because it exposes too much of the good soil and doesn't leave enough crop residue on top to protect the soil from eroding. So they use "rippers" that are a little more gentle. And even plowed soil has to be gone over again and smoothed out to prepare for planting.

    No one's trying to "script your life", silly.

  6. In the midst of trying new things will come failures, falterings, and wonderful discoveries from both the "failures" & "successes".

    I've seen those who, for whatever reason, get stuck in grief - cannot move beyond the grave or risk letting the grief settle. Perhaps they continue to plow that soil, keeping it turned, never letting any seed that might fall there take root.

    Interestingly enough, "ploughing through" makes me think of football, or (given the spelling) rugby. It's a way of getting unstuck.

    Perhaps what I'm saying is simply this - vaya con dios, whatever way you go.

    That, and, from what I know of you I trust you.
    Blessings for you on your way, "Cousin" (if I may be so bold)


  7. Grandma G, I am delighted that you are up to the task of facing this elephant with me. And yes, we should blame Mark and Cindy for whatever travails befall us.

    Regarding road work, trains crossing roads, accidents etc., these are written of as things that impede progress and frustrate. These types of frustrations are nearly universal, even for the most patient among us. Particularly when one is wanting to get somewhere. Do I plow through them? No, but I will avoid them and circumvent them when I can.

    The road-blocks I described paint a somewhat allegorical picture for those who would be the road block. Are all road blocks bad per se? No. Do all roadblocks frustrate those who want to progress? Yes. Do all creators of road blocks have good intentions? No. Could some creators of road blocks get out of the way and still accomplish their objectives? Yes. Do they all? No. Why? Because some people are oblivious, some don't care about anything except what they are doing, and some really like controlling others.

    In regard to my daughters expressing their opinions, they were raised, intentionally, to be able and willing to do so. This much you have to give me. Remember, the "plowing forward without apology" line came from the younger one while we were discussing this very topic. The older one has a comment lodged above.

    Now really, let's not change the subject, or cast aspersions. This elephant is not about the "stuff" in the garage -- the accumulations of 30 years that may dog all but the most diligent among us. That is a separate matter. Let us stay focused here.

    Pain, and causing pain to others. Now we are down to the nuts and bolts of this subject. Suddenly you have sharpened my awareness, and I can see that, notwithstanding the language that many use with me -- i.e. "it's too soon for you (me) to consider doing this," what may really be meant is that it is too soon for them. It is too painful for them.

    Now, then, if I told you I was in love, you would not be in a position to judge whether I am or am not, really in love. Further, what is there to criticize about being in love, or loving another?

    But it now appears to me, and I know you will correct me if you think I am wrong, that this whole discussion is not really about me at all.

  8. Granted, roadblocks can be frustrating. And I'm not saying I like them, either. But one can learn patience from roadblocks. And there might be scenery we'd miss along the way if we were going at the speed we wanted, whereas the slowing down because of the roadblocks might give us a chance to appreciate something new. It's not always necessary (or wise) to be in such a hurry. And sometimes roadblocks protect us from dangers ahead. God can use roadblocks for our good. Whether or not we like it or can see any point in it at the time.

    Now, wait! (Okay, I know that's not a favorite word of yours.) You missed one word I said... a very important one. You said your daughters express their 'opinions'. That's not what I'm talking about. The word I used was 'feelings'. A major difference there! Feelings come from the heart, not the head.

    If your daughters are saying to you "it's too soon" (opinion), I agree with you that they probably mean it's too soon... too painful... for 'them'. I can imagine a whole bucketful of feelings they may have. And they may not even be aware of them themselves, other than pain and anger. Maybe they've not been raised to think about or express feelings. I know I wasn't, but I've since learned.

    Here's something to try: Ask each of them to write you a letter (which gives them a chance to be totally honest and also more time to think about what they're saying) and tell you how they FEEL about you and Cheri, or whatever is bothering them. Feeling statements start with "I feel". If you can replace the word 'feel' with 'think', it's probably not a feeling statement. There should be no accusations, no saying "you did this" or "you hurt me", but just "I feel...." or "I feel.... when...."

    (I suspect fear and betrayal as possible feelings they may have, among many others.)

    So you're in love, huh? Ain't nuthin' wrong with that. Also ain't nuthin' wrong with taking things slow. Well, except for the fact that you ARE getting old (but not as old as I am - haha!), so you probably want to move things along as fast as possible. ;) But you CAN enjoy being in love and getting to know each other better and better without jumping into marriage.

    This discussion might not be 'about' you, but it sure does 'involve' you.

    Oh, yeah... and about this line "some people are oblivious, some don't care about anything except what they are doing"... ummm... that's certainly true, George!!! Ahem. Just remember that when you point a finger at someone, there are three other fingers pointing back at yourself. ;)

  9. P.S. George, in all fairness, you should write a letter to your daughters, too, expressing your 'feelings'. Same rules apply.

    Then read each other's letters and get together and discuss them. Same rules apply.

    Jess is coming home this month, right? Maybe make that time your goal, to discuss things then.

    And you must report back to Grandma G as to how it went. Nah, just kidding. Only if you want to. :)

  10. Hahaha ooooh the things that happen when we get blogging pot stirrers in one commenting space. Especially when you throw witty pot stirrers into the mix. It makes me think of dinnertime "conversations" when I'm listening to two of my family members (Usually Val and Dad) and you start out thinking one thing, they get you to change your mind and then they totally switch sides. Its like they just like messing with your head. It was about then that I decided I liked listening to the banter more than having a role in it. Though I'm not opposed to throwing in a new element every once in a while!

  11. Somebody switched sides? Not me!!

    You've got a letter to write, young lady... now go get started!!

  12. Grandma G et al. - Your input is appreciated inasmuch as you are "the voice of many" speaking out in the wilderness of cyberspace, as it were. I have to check out of this conversation for a couple of days. I'm headed up to Lake Tahoe to visit my girlfriend and bring her into the loop of these "discussions." We shall resume this on Tuesday, or so, when I am able to get back on the grid.

  13. (Sure, the goin' gets tough, and he takes off!)

    Have fun, George, but be careful... you don't want the "loop" to scare her away! ;)

    (Pssst... et al.... shall we talk about him while he's gone???)

  14. Romans 7
    1Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as his wife lives?
    2For example, by law a married man is bound to his wife as long as she is alive, but if his wife dies, he is released from the law of marriage.
    3So then, if he marries another woman while his wife is still alive, he is called an adulterer. But if his wife dies, he is released from that law and is not an adulterer, even though he marries another woman.

    Since a man is no longer bound to his former wife after she dies, how long then, does he wait until it is a proper amount of time to court another? A week? One month? A year? Ten years?

    Therein lie’s the problem. The words of Paul say that he is “released from the law of marriage.” There is no time line.

    So it seems that we have to consider “the law of common sense”, if there is such an item. Jerry Brown would probably counsel you to “just go for it” while Grandma Moses would surely say, “you must wait at least a year or more”.

    What then, is a reasonable time to wait?

    If you are a man of god, and I know that you are from personal experience, then you will let the Christ that is in you, living His life through you and guide you in this time of contemplation.

    My advices to you is to “be still and know that I am God”, then look around and in wonderment, follow His leading. Finally, experience God’s peace in your decisions.

    The Green Chair Guy

  15. Since when does road work block progress? And here we are again with that word progress... It's a catchy thing to hide behind, like the first ammendment, but maybt it too is a little played out and less than it's cracked up to be.

  16. Are you a CalTrans guy, or what? And who, between us, is hiding?

  17. A quote from the "queen of analogies"-"Stop with the analogies!" Since I have been in Kansas I have been sooo lonely. I have looked to many things to fill the loneliness. I had to recognize that I was lonely and ask God to fill the deep need. He has, and he has also blessed me with special extras! I have prayed for you and your loneliness even when Sue was sick. Whoever the Green Chair guy is i like him. "Be still" first and then look for the extras. (Oh no! Was that an analogy!) Prayers to you-Janice