How to be: learning to love your Nineveh, wherever it may be

f455e13b0dc25a5583c1f8a5b58cb0a1Sunday at church our Pastor began a sermon series on the book of Jonah. Often deemed a children’s tale, most people are of course familiar with Jonah and the whale. Regardless if you’re religious, the overall tale is quite applicable to most everyone I know. Short story even shorter, God orders Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah has absolutely no intention of going to Nineveh and runs in the complete opposite direction to Tarshish. Clearly God – because, well, he’s GOD – is not too thrilled with this idea. A massive storm overtakes the boat in which Jonah travels and the sailors figure out he’s the one to blame…so into the raging ocean he goes. Whoopsies.

Basically, he should have gone to Nineveh. And once he finally does (post that whole whale situation), he still acts like a punk.

We ALL have Ninevehs. As my Pastor explained, it could be our marriages, our jobs, where we live…any situation we’re in that isn’t the way we want it to be. And as we all know, just as with Jonah and Tarshish, the grass is always greener on the other side. If you read this post, you know I certainly thought I had all of my acres upon acres of green grass planned out. When I worked at the theater, the corporate office was greener. When I made it to the corporate office, Los Angeles was greener. Although I appreciate all the experiences, both professional and personal, I had while in LA, it didn’t turn out the way I initially hoped. So three years in, I looked east and thought, huh, Dallas is a lot greener than I remember it being. And well, we all know how that turned out. All grass is greener when you’re unemployed and get your heart broken (especially when both happen at the same time!)

As the church’s Facebook post introducing the sermon asks, “what if the place you don’t want is the place you need?”

Again, if you read this post, you know I’ve worked hard on not planning my every move since June. I no longer think about how “much better” things will be when/if I’m married and/or have kids. Though I won’t lie, I still have a secret Pinterest board for a wedding. Cause if you know anything about my first, you know I get a major re-do on the next. Anyhow…what I realized as I was driving home from church Sunday is that I’ve not been practicing focusing on the present as much as I should when it comes to day-to-day or even week-to-week matters.

Example one: for a couple of weeks now I’ve known I am getting closer to full-time employment (hold the applause till it’s official). I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve said or thought “well when I have a job…” Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain level of necessary planning that can go on. Such as, when I have a job I must go to an allergist and get new tires. Kids, we know those things aren’t greener AT ALL. Those are just things that have to be done. But I know I’m guilty of thinking ridiculous things about “when I have a job”. Like what I am going to buy (not talking tires here), how people won’t think I’m a loser anymore (though I know no one does, but if I hear “I just can’t believe you don’t have a job yet” one more time…) or how I won’t have to worry…

Stop. Please. Have you met me? I will still have to worry. Not sure about what, but about something.

Example two: this past weekend all I could think about was next weekend. I’m going out of town (for fun) so a level of forethought is to be expected, but in the meantime, I almost glazed over a fabulous three days. A wonderful dinner and wine at The Porch Friday. A lovely day Saturday with my mom, sister and niece for my niece’s fourth birthday. A birthday she’ll only have once. Followed by a visit to my paternal grandparent’s graves for my grandmother’s birthday to bring flowers and have a great chat. Topped off that evening by a phenomenal Wade Bowen show at The Granada with one of my best friends. Sunday morning a wonderful sermon at church (obviously) and a day of getting organized at home. This all happened in one weekend. And all I could focus on was the next. I almost missed the chance to truly enjoy the awesomeness that was already happening.

Example three: it is cold. It has been cold for awhile now. It’s winter, so it shouldn’t be too shocking that it’s cold. This goes for all of you. No one likes the bitter cold (that I’m aware of). Just like no one likes 105 degrees with humidity. When it’s cold we wish for it to be warmer, when it’s hot we wish for it to be cooler. What we forget is the weather and seasons also mean time. Time we won’t get back. There will never be another February of 2014. I’m not trying to be all fairy dust and homemade granola here. I am just taking the bigger picture involved and lesson to be learned in Jonah and Pastor Forrest’s words and breaking it down into a daily practice and applying it to things of which you might not otherwise think. I’ve finally learned that breaking down most anything, from daily chores to accepting your current lot in life, into smaller bits and pieces is much easier to manage. It apparently doesn’t ALL have to be done at once. Who knew? So, as much as it pains us, maybe dealing with the bitter cold of February is exactly where you (or I) need to be right now.

Xo, Nikki

PS I am by no means a biblical scholar and never will be. If anything in the beginning is wrong, my apologies…and if that’s what you focus on, you’re missing the point!

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How to be: don’t plan the off-ramp

crm-successJane Pauley and Alex Dunphy completely hijacked my original post for today. Sorry readers, you’ll just have to wait till tomorrow to read about my love for World Market. Or homemade body scrub.

Two things to preface about this post. One, the overall theme (if you will) is nothing you’ve not heard 1,297 times before. I just know from personal experience it’s not something we always take to heart. Two, this is a rather personal entry; it’s not about lip gloss or watching a movie. So here it goes…

My name is Nikki. And I’m an obsessive compulsive planner.

Almost every step of my life up until June 4, 2013 was more or less strategically planned and entirely over-thought. I knew very early on where my bread was buttered. I was never going to be a beauty queen or a star athlete (really, an athlete at all). I always had self-image and weight issues, for which I was of course made fun of by both kids at school and even family. I knew the only way I was ever going to stand out and be recognized was academically and eventually what I achieved professionally. So I might have overdid it. My parents were called into see the teachers because they thought I was under too much pressure at home…in elementary school. My mom had to explain it wasn’t them, it was all me. All of the stress and scrutiny of performing well I placed on myself. My therapists over the years have mixed opinions as to why this was, but I’m way too sober to go into that.

If you saw last night’s Modern Family, you know I was Alex Dunphy growing up. I wasn’t quite as smart as that character is, but the same obsessive drive and sense of over-achievement was always there. Where I ended up graduating from college (not where I started, but from where I graduated), where I worked after college, the job I accepted in LA, how I got married, how I got divorced, how I moved back to Dallas…it was all extremely methodical. Whether or not it seems like it reading this, please believe me when I say it was all VERY much planned. I always knew what my next step was and a general idea of how long it would take me. Uncertainty was not in my vocab. Yet neither was the expression “stop and smell the roses”.

I’ve always used the show How I Met Your Mother as the perfect example of focusing on the journey and not the destination. Yet it’s also always annoyed the hell out of me, because it took so long to meet the freaking mother. See where I’m going with this? I never knew how or wanted to focus on the journey. The JOURNEY doesn’t necessarily put food in your mouth or a roof over your head. If you focused on the journey you weren’t guaranteed to make the intended destination and not making the intended destination meant you were a failure.

And there have been many minutes, hours and days since June 4 of last year that I’ve felt like a failure. Not to my parents, not to my friends, but to the worst possible person…myself. That was the day I was officially laid off. You don’t work your ass off since you were 16 years old, become the only one in the family to graduate from college, strategically plan your career, only to end up unemployed. It doesn’t matter the circumstance under which I was laid off had nothing to do with me or my abilities and could happen to anyone. If you had told me at the end of 2009, as I was blissfully preparing to move back to Dallas, that at the beginning of 2014 I would be out of work for over seven months and still single, I would have needed a straightjacket and the largest bottle of vodka you could find. This was not the way things were supposed to be. This is not what I had planned.

As Jane Pauley described it on KERA (our local NPR affiliate) today, I had planned all my off-ramps. I knew exactly what highways to take and where to get off. No stopping for pee breaks, folks. But then the bloody freeway went and ended last summer. I was forced off, then utterly lost without a map and Siri, that heifer, she wouldn’t help me. Thus began what I (now) call the scenic route…I still have no earthly idea where it’s taking me. After pulling over for a lot of begging and praying, hours on a yoga mat, miles walking the M Streets, gallons upon gallons of red wine, an unexpected major friendship and more crying than you ever thought humanly possible, I’m finally okay with that. I’m not just saying that, y’all…I MEAN IT. I’m okay. It’s going to be OKAY. So if you, too, are going through anything similar, I promise you, it’s going to be OKAY. And do you like a good road trip? Bring chips and M&M peanuts. Please and thanks.

I know what this time wandering back roads and getting stuck in ditches has been about (let’s see how far I can take this metaphor…). When I saw Alex Dunphy and who I was then and heard Jane Pauley and realized where I am now, I was so very grateful for it all. There was no way I could have actually planned for this to happen.

Now if I could just not plan my way into a husband, I’ll be good…

We both know you’re not going to be here forever, this is just a weigh station on a road to bigger and better things – Ron Swanson, Parks and Rec

Xo, Nikki