There Is No Foreseeable Future

There is no foreseeable future.

Read it again: There is no foreseeable future.

Now, this isn’t a grammar rant, though that irksome phrase cries out for one.  Because, y’all, unless you believe in clairvoyance (and actually even if you do!), no one can foresee any part of the future–that time which has not yet come.

Still, the ubiquity of that utterance suggests that we think we can, and worse, that we think we should be able to.  And both beliefs are a recipe for suffering, especially in the Year of Our Lord 2020.

2020 Vision

Remember all those memes in December and January, all that clarity we were sure to experience in a year when we would all finally have 2020 vision?  Now we’ve moved on to memes about that most useless of all purchases: a 2020 planner.

If you take nothing else away from this unprecedented year, I hope this is it: there is  no 2020 vision when it comes to the future.

Planning and Control

Many years ago, I encountered a newspaper ad that triumphantly declared: “The secret to a happy life is planning!”  Y’all, I am here to tell you that planning is NOT the secret to a happy life. (Want the REAL secret? I wrote about it right here.)

An obsession with planning reflects a grasping for control.  Guess what? Not only can you not foresee the future, you also cannot control it.

Let me share a couple of examples from my own life, moving from dramatic and life-changing to small and mundane.

Nine years ago, we left town for a few days to attend a funeral.  While we were gone, our house burned to the ground.  I promise we did not see that one coming.  That unforeseeable event changed our lives–it changed our futures.  We moved to a different part of town–somewhere I never envisioned living.  There were new schools and new friends for the kids, changing job opportunities and pastimes for the adults. Even my outlook on life took on an entirely new shape because of that one event.

On a smaller scale, a couple of weeks ago, Lorelei and I were making dinner.  I had the whole evening planned out–I’ve coped with quarantine by devising and living by a regular daily schedule.  But then Lorelei sliced open a finger while opening a can of fruit.  We spent the whole evening in the emergency room–breaking our strict quarantine to hang out in the last place one would wish to go during a pandemic.  That was NOT the evening I had “foreseen.”

Given 30 seconds to think, you would come up with your own examples, of course.  But the truth is that not even our next breath is promised us.

Those who know me might think I’m attempting to justify my family’s haphazard existence–it’s true that we’ve always been a leap-of-faith kind of family.  But I promise it’s not.  I actually love planning things–more than doing them, if I’m honest.  I own a Catholic Women Shine planner and I’ve used it to accomplish quite a bit while safe at home this year.  It’s very natural to look toward the future–which we imagine we can foresee because generally it has a somewhat predictable shape–work, school, vacations.  It’s the absence of that shape right now that is so disconcerting but which also offers us a lesson and an opportunity.

Planning and Worrying

Our attempts at foreseeing the future are especially dangerous for those with a tendency toward anxiety and a predilection for worrying.  It’s called “living in the wreckage of the future” and it is a miserable way to spend your life–imagining every worst-case scenario and suffering RIGHT NOW over events that probably won’t happen.  And even if they DO happen, being miserable NOW, wasting the opportunity you have NOW for happiness, won’t change anything.

I may have mentioned a time or two that we Shollys are extremely focused Star Trek fans.  In the pilot episode of Deep Space Nine, Commander Benjamin Sisko finds himself explaining the concept of linear time to the god-like beings called the Prophets who exist outside of time.  At one point they show him a painful memory of his wife’s death, an experience which continues to cause him guilt, anger, and grief.  He says:  It’s difficult to be here, more difficult than any other memory. . .  this was the day that I lost Jennifer. I don’t want to be here.
One of the Prophets replies:  Then why do you exist here?

This encounter helps Sisko to move forward with his life.  Most of us understand that living in the past is a bad idea, but living in the future is just as bad.  As Leo Buscaglia said:  “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

So I have a proposition for you.  Rather than worrying about everything that could go wrong in the future–in fact, even rather than dreaming about all that could go right with it–what if you do your best to focus only on the day in front of you? What if you let yourself see the future as a beautiful surprise just waiting to unfold?

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

What We're Reading Wednesday . . . and Thursday


It’s been a long time since I’ve linked up to What We’re Reading Wednesday, and I’ve missed sharing books with you.  Fact is, I don’t read as much as I once did.  That’s sad but true, and it’s the computer’s fault. Because it would be more accurate to say that I still read a lot, just articles and blogs instead of books.  I read great articles and blogs, and I share them with my Facebook friends.  But it’s not quite the same. So here’s a sampling of what I’ve read (relatively) recently that I thought it would be fun to share.

I got this one via Blogging for Books, and then took forever to read it.  My fault, not the book’s, because it’s engaging, easy to read, and interesting.  And there’s probably not much I can tell you about Paleo that you haven’t already heard, because I’m way behind the times.  I will say this:  people who complain about his ideas without having read the book . . . obviously haven’t read the book. 🙂 It’s far from being the had-core-you-must-eat-this-way-or-else diatribe people make it out to be.  And a lot of it makes sense to me, even if I would never choose to eat that way full time.

I was given Teardrops That Tango to review by the author.  This is a book that will get your attention from the first page.  It tackles all kinds of rough situations: child abuse, suicide, mental illness.  I know it sounds like a downer but it has a happy ending.  It’s definitely painful to read, though, especially because you know it’s the true story of someone who has suffered a lot.  But that’s not supposed to be the message you take away from it.  Be aware that although it starts out like one it really isn’t a strict autobiography, but also combines resources for those going through rough times with inspiration and advice.  It’s ambitious for sure and that can make it a bit uneven but it’s a story you won’t easily forget.

The above constitute comfort reading for me.  Our whole family loves Star Trek.  We have many, many Star Trek novels, which are some of our few books that survived the destruction of our home by fire four years ago.  We’ve been watching one Star Trek episode each night for months now, and having made our way through TNG and TOS (yes, in that order!) we are now experiencing Deep Space Nine for the first time!  Anyway, those first two books are sequels to the second-to-last TOS episode, which put me in the mood to read them; and having read them, I was in the mood to read more, and the next ones pictured are two of my favorites.  If you like Star Trek, you will like these books.

And I just started the Grisha Trilogy this week, and I am already on the third book!  Emily (grown up daughter) has been urging me to read these for awhile.  Emily reads like I used to read.  She keeps the library busy and she buys books too. Christmas and birthday lists are and always have been full of books.  And of course it’s more fun if you can discuss what you read with someone else who’s read it too.  I don’t know why I was so reluctant to start these.  I think I was afraid they would be demanding or exhausting but they aren’t.  The author has set her world in something resembling Russia in the 1800s and the familiarity makes it easier to immediately relate to.  Obviously the story is engaging and interesting or I wouldn’t be reading it so fast.  Whether I would recommend them I cannot say until I see how they end, and how the romance plot resolves.
Emily has already informed me what series she is going to make me read next, so I’ll have something else interesting to write about next time!
What are you reading? You can tell me in the comments! And for more reading suggestions, visit the other posts in the linkup!

Let's Hear It for Skin

UPDATE: I wrote this last week, before the internet exploded with discussions of racial identity fueled by a white woman passing for black, before our hearts were broken by Charleston’s violent reminder of one real possible consequence of being born black in America.  In light of all that, my post seems both prescient and naive.  We are not as far along the road of compassion [feeling WITH] as I had hoped.
skin
 
When I posted the above on my Facebook page, it received an enormous number of likes.  I don’t know where it originated, but it’s a popular picture for sure. When I first saw it I was immediately reminded of this Sesame Street video, from back when my kids were little:

I’ve always admired the way Sesame Street “does” race.  It reminds me of Star Trek (the original series, not that preachy TNG).  Both show a positive vision–people of all colors working side by side, respecting one another, playing together.  No one talks about it much; it’s just accepted.  As in the Vulcan ideal of IDIC – infinite diversity in infinite combinations, people don’t fear differences; rather they rejoice in them.
It has to be clear to anyone with eyes that our society is still deeply divided along racial lines, that many if not most of us still harbor prejudices, sometimes even despite ourselves.  Yet the fact that so many people “Like” the sweet picture above gives me hope.  We aspire to acceptance and love of all races even if we aren’t quite there yet.  We acknowledge the beauty of our many different colors, and that’s a start.
1000Speak
I have posted this on the #1000Speak for Compassion linkup, and you can (and should) read the other posts HERE.
#1000Speak
Linking this up today with #worthrevisit, which gives Catholic bloggers a welcome chance to recycle some posts!  Check out the rest of the collection by clicking below.   Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb are hosting; take some time to check out their blogs too!
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He Was Spock

“Are you sitting down, Dad?”
We are out of town and it was our oldest son on the phone.  Those weren’t words we wanted to hear.  But Jake knows us well enough to realize that the news of Leonard Nimoy’s death would hit hard.
Ambassador Spock
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Spock and Kirk and the Starship Enterprise.  Watching Star Trek reruns with my daddy is one of my earliest memories.  I remember trying to hide my tears when we watched Spock’s death scene when The Wrath of Khan was televisedit was the very first time television made me cry.

I’ve cried many times today thinking about Leonard Nimoy and his impact on me and so many others who love the Trek Universe.  Nimoy once said: “You know, for a long time I have been of the opinion that artists don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. You don’t necessarily know what kind of universal concept you’re tapping into.”  Gene Roddenberry may have created Star Trek but it quickly took on a life of its own and for most of us the actors became inseparable from their characters.   That was something Nimoy–who famously penned a memoir entitled I Am Not Spock–didn’t always appreciate!
The Shollys aren’t just casual fans.  This is the first year since I have known John that he did not ask for a Star Trek calendar for Christmas (just because he has about every picture there is).  Before our house burned down we had an enviable collection of Trek memorabilia–decorative plates, action figures, a replica of the Enterprise, a tricorder–and over a hundred books (we still have these, although they are soot-stained).  John has met most of the actors from the original series at conventions, and we are currently watching The Next Generation episodes from beginning to end each night with the kids (and plan to rewatch the original series next–it will be a poignant exercise now).
This, by the way, is my favorite Spock moment ever:

Leonard Nimoy was gracious enough to reprise the role of Spock in The Next Generation and in the reboot movies.  Eventually he was able to say: “Spock is definitely one of my best friends. When I put on those ears, it’s not like just another day. When I become Spock, that day becomes something special.”  And it was special for all of us.  Ambassador Spock is legendary even in his own universe, and his appearance on the screen never fails to thrill.  Even just mentioning his name in an episode confers a certain gravitas.  It hurts to think there will be no new appearances to look forward to.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Chips off the Old Block

More on the topic of when your kids are like you . . .
I really should have taken a picture, even though all you would have seen was the backs of their heads. The other night ALL FIVE of our kids (Emily being home from college for the summer already!) were lounging around the family room watching Star Trek (yes, of course it was the original series. And they were watching “Amok Time,” one of my favorite episodes ever.)
I cannot remember a time I didn’t know about Star Trek. I watched reruns with my father on Sunday afternoons. My cousin chased me around from time to time pretending to be Sulu (don’t know why!). I cried when Spock died (one of the first times I can remember crying over a movie).
So I liked the show, but then I met John and he was a FAN. He had Star Trek novels and technical manuals. He got a calendar every year. He had DOLLS, for heaven’s sake! He’d been to conventions! Yes, he was a Trekker (NOT Trekkie. That’s insulting.).
After we got married, we used to go to Blockbuster every few days and check out two episodes. We watched them all in chronological order. We started collecting them. I gave John some awesome Star Trek gifts from the Franklin Mint–a 3-dimensional chess set, a model of the Enterprise, a phaser. He acquired a tricorder that actually made noises! We collected tons of memoirs and novels and novelizations. We bought more dolls on eBay. We had a vision of the room where one day we would display this magnificent collection.
Well.
We still have the books.
Anyway, let’s cheer up, shall we? On a recent trip to McKay’s (our used book and movie and CD and album store that we LOVE) John acquired the entire original series on DVD. Jake has started watching them almost every night. A few evenings ago William and Lorelei got into the act. John had very definite ideas of what he wanted to watch on t.v. before bed but the little people had waited ALL DAY to watch Star Trek with Daddy and they weren’t taking no for an answer. “If you won’t watch it,” proclaimed William darkly, “There will be CONSEQUENCES.” Guess who won that argument?
All of which led to that golden moment the other night in which without argument all five kids sat entranced in front of the t.v. watching Spock throw plomeek soup at Nurse Chapel while John and I worked in the office and listened, able to visualize the whole thing without even looking at the screen.
(I did go out to watch Spock smile at the end, though. That’s my very favorite Star Trek moment.)