My husband, Jason, and I are hobby farmers. I mean by that, that we started out planting a huge garden every year, and we’ve recently added chickens. So I feel we can upgrade our status from just gardeners, to hobby farmers. I just think it sounds cooler. Anyone can be a gardener, but it takes real skill to raise live things like chickens. Cluck if you agree.
So, some sweet, well-meaning person I used to buy farm fresh eggs from asked me if we’d like their year old flock of 21 chickens. I gave her an enthusiastic yes and Jason went and picked them up. So exciting. Of those 21, 17 are still alive. I think that’s fairly good odds … for us. Just last Saturday I stopped for chicken feed and mysteriously came home with 6 new chicks and 2 ducklings. Not sure how it happened, at least that’s what I told Jason. Of those 6 chicks, only 4 are still alive. So, see what I meant about the 21/17 odds? You have a better shot at survival at my house if you start out full grown and somewhat able to fend for yourself. Just sayin’.
I’ll come back to that later. I actually want to talk about regrets. I know, right? Makes perfect sense with the way this post started. Regrets are interesting little boogers. We all have them of course. Some people seem to handle them well, rolling with life’s punches and getting on with the good stuff. Others can literally let regrets rip them to shreds. Sometimes it’s the actual regret that is seemingly insurmountable, but a lot of times, it’s just in the handling of it. I’ve seen people bounce back from some of the most devastating life choices. People that God actually names as great leaders, prayer warriors and friends of God overcame things like murder, thievery, other things that were truly despicable and I don’t want to talk about them. So, how do some deal successfully and some fly apart? I have steps … of course. These are just my opinions, my ways of dealing, or things I was taught by people who are smarter than I.
Number One: Focus only on what you know is true. Have you ever met someone who is suspicious of everyone? They always think someone is mad at them. No one has “liked” their Facebook Statuses lately. So and so didn’t call them back when they left a message. Their friend said such and such, but they really think they meant -. You get the picture. We all do it, so don’t be high and mighty. Sometimes this is true. Someone actually is mad at you. Sometimes it’s made up in our minds, because we’re too sensitive, or because someone else isn’t sensitive enough. I’m usually the latter. Mostly we just need some chocolate.
I used to tell my college roommates the first night they moved in with me, “if I do something that makes you upset with me, please let me know. You can ignore me for a week and I will never figure out what I did, or worse yet, I won’t even notice. Also, if you think I’m mad at you, you’re wrong. I’m not two. If I’m mad about something and I know I won’t just get over it, I’ll tell you.” Most of them took this to heart, did as I asked and we all got along swimmingly. They’d tell me if I upset them, I’d apologize (not a lame, fake apology, but a real “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” apology) and we’d all live happily ever after. One girl never did say what was troubling her, but we figured out that she was most annoyed when we didn’t keep our side of the room tidy enough. We fixed that problem, and boom! she was happy again. Sometimes with quieter people, you have to do detective work. It’s a thing with them.
Here is the solution to this that will absolutely work for you, because someone else smarter than me thought it up (God). Focus your energy only on what is true. If you know you said something to that person that would have hurt their feelings, then go to them and tell them you’re sorry. If you know they are upset, but you don’t know why, go to them and ask if there’s something you can do to make right whatever has upset them. Don’t give pathetic apologies. The anger will only build from there. An, “I’m so sorry, would you please forgive me?” will go a lot farther toward healing than, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way, but-” No! Scrap the “but”. Would you like to be apologized to that way? You’re just making excuses for yourself. No healing will happen as long as we excuse our behavior. The flip side is, if you didn’t do anything and they assure you that they aren’t upset with you, act accordingly. Don’t keep going back and making sure they really aren’t upset. Life is really too short to waste in paranoia.
Number two: Get out of the brain cycle of “if only”. This takes practice. When I was in my early twenties a renown psychologist in our area taught my Sunday School class. Most of what he said was far too brilliant to penetrate my 21 year old brain, but a couple of things stuck. One was, “When a negative thought pops in your head, stop it immediately. You then have about 5 seconds to change the tape. Refocus your mind and move on.” I have practiced this since then. I’m still not great at it. But I’m trying.
Number three: Remember just how important and valuable you are. Whew! I think this is the hardest yet. The other thing that Dr. Myers (Sunday school teacher) said that stuck with me forever was that “Jesus would rather die than live without you.” I realize it’s hard to focus on your eternal value when you’re doing twelve loads of laundry, stuck in traffic, staring at a computer screen for a living, but it’s absolutely true! You are so valuable that the One who had the power to speak the world into existence would rather die a brutal death than live without you. That’s some crazy love, friend.
Number four: Because some of you just never will believe number three, here’s another starting point for getting away from the “if only” brain cycle. Do something nice for someone else. Make yourself more valuable. Stick with a strength. Our technology guy at our church, Bubba Stallcup, fixes computer problems for church members for free in his non-existent spare time. When my mom felt down she always used to make banana bread or cookies and we would all take them to a nursing home. If you can’t bake, just take them flowers. People in a nursing home just want some love and attention. Go hug them. Nothing will make you feel more valuable than spending time with someone who literally has no one that cares about them. Pay for the person behind you at the drive through. Nice people have more friends. That’s just a fact. I believe the statistic is that the most reclusive person in the world touches at least 10,000 people in their life time. Imagine if you’re actually trying!
Number five: Eat more chocolate. This requires no further explanation.
What does all this have to do with my propensity to kill chickens? Ah! You smart aleck thing you, it doesn’t really. It’s just my life. No, honestly, the unfortunate chickens triggered this thought because I used to be devastatingly scared to try something new. I was paralyzed by past failures (I have a surprising number of these for how young I am). I let regrets and fear run my life and keep me in my comfort zone all the time. If a chicken had died in my care back then I would have cried for days, given all survivors to a chicken expert with years of references and never tried anything new ever again for fear that I would stink at it. What fun is that? My lifetime friend, Sara Pullen once asked me, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” My current answer – I’d start a blog, write my books, have a bunch of kids and homeschool them, hobby farm. Accidentally kill chickens. You know, the usual stuff.
I do feel that I should add here that the chickens and chicks died of natural causes. I wasn’t negligent or anything. Just in case you were worrying about the survivors. We’re doing all we can here!