Death, Disease, and Trials – Endure Them Well

I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens. ~ Woody Allen

WinterSpring_Copyright Pete Ferguson 2010

by Pete Ferguson

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly – so why such a seemingly dark subject within a dozen days of the Celebration of Light and of Christ?

Yesterday afternoon my wife and her friends went to lunch at the local Del Taco where  our children play together and the moms get to unwind and revel in friendship. They were not prepared for what they encountered, however. A young family – just returned from the hospital – were now deprived of their mother after what was supposed to be a routine surgery.

Four young children never to see the face of their mother in physical form within mortality again. A grieving father. Distraught grandparents who felt to approach my wife and give her a heads up that the children within the play area would be talking of the death of their mother amongst our children.

As I contemplate, I internalize the situation. I put on the shoes of the husband. I apply the consequences of this news to my children. I feel the pain and loss of my hero, my strength, my confidant. My Stephanie.

The act of dying is one of the acts of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

But birth and death are the only 100% guarantee in life (and taxes of course).

Fame, fortune, success, peace – all are conditional and seemingly spread out to strange people. We may experience any of these fleeting emotional states. The media seems to unjustly don these appellations upon the unworthy.

But death we will share with trillions of the earths inhabitants. And we will all equally be emotionally and physically connected with a physical body in one moment – only to be disconnected with it the next.

So why is there so much sting and pain associated with the concept? Perhaps it is the seeming theft of opportunity in this case. A mother robbed of seeing her children grow, experience new things, get married and have children of their own. We infer that she has been taken in her prime and robbed of its potential?

Or is it the seemingly hopelessness of a father which I can attach to and thankfully only imagine the grief, loneliness, and abandonment he must feel?

I have really only lost two grandfathers as a reference.

Others I’ve known have died, but they did not have an ongoing involvement in my life. I grieved for their families. I miss seeing them at certain times.

But my grandfathers were both influential in my life and an example to me of how to live life and both taken before my 20th birthday. And I did feel robbed – yet I’ve been paid back in spades as I look to their examples in difficult moments of my life and have felt strengthened by the legacy they left behind.

Three years ago my wife lost her father. He was not in a good mental or physical state. It was odd because there was a sense of relief, while at the same time a mourning that he never really lived up to what we supposed was his potential. That winter felt as though it would never end. Yet Spring came and then Summer.

And once the “firsts” (first Christmas, first birthday parties, first Father’s Day) turned into seconds, the sadness and loss faded away and what remained were the lessons to be learned of his life.

The submissive soul will be led aright, enduring some things well while being anxiously engaged in setting other things right—all the time discerning the difference. ~ Neal A. Maxwell

When examining life and death, I can only lean on my beliefs. The big lie of life is that we are all supposed to be in bliss, living the “American Dream.” Equal in all things. And never oppressed.

And what a lie this is! It robs us of all growth and ability to learn to endure it well as we subjugate our desires to a greater good and power. To become more than just self-centered and focused on immediate gratification.

Enduring well is not to brush over trials and tribulations as though they are just words. Quite the contrary – it is to lean into them, accept them. Play them out and realize we have the power to get through the darkest night, especially when we reach out and above to Him whose birth should be celebrated and relished more than a new television, x-box, or other fleeting and soon to be obsolete items on a gift list.

Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow. ~ Lily Pincus

This Christmas will be a very lonely and sad time for many families. Unfortunately this is the second death of parent taken before their time in our little community. Last week, however, quite the juxtaposition, a father and police officer took his own life within his home, leaving behind a family now with more questions than answers.

And so I am even more grateful for the blessings in my life. Five healthy and talented, well-adjusted children with a sixth on her way (or his). A good job and a home we love to be in. And a desire to help others also achieve happiness.

I have my own trials and tribulations to own up to and to lean in to. And in so doing, the pain is not welcomed, but when reflecting back, I am grateful for the pain because it stimulates growth, wisdom, and experience. It provides me with a greater abundance of empathy towards others and allows me to focus on the success of others rather than be discontent with a perceived lack of success of my own. And I see all of this as a great investment which will pay dividends when I will need it the most as I experience heartache of my own or am called to be in support of those close to me seeking comfort.

Perhaps the realization of being in God’s hands comes fully only as we ponder the significance of the prints in the hands of our submissive Savior. ~ Maxwell

As we ponder the meaning of this time of year, we must accept that He who is greatest of all suffered greatest of all, and in so doing, is able to understand any pain or affliction through which we must endure. And in so doing, He is able to lift the seemingly impossible burdens which we may feel trapped beneath and help us see the sunset after living through the darkest night.

As we endure our trials and tribulations well, we receive the ultimate gift. The gift of additional strength, wisdom and knowledge. And with that I wish you an early very, Merry Christmas.


Boot Camp

One more lap. One more rep. One more breath. I think I can make it.

by Pete Ferguson

I’ve been battling with age for the last few years. Call it 40’s survival.

Almost by accident my wife signed us up for boot camp in exchange for teaching the instructor’s daughter in preschool.

I remember the first few classes well. I was sure death was just around the corner. Then I learned that my body was capable of much more than sitting on a couch.

Knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain. But I pushed on. I pushed through. I had a small-in-stature but huge-in-heart Latina kicking my butt the whole way. And the pounds began to drop. I began to have more energy. I began to live again. The pain began to subside.

We took a break from boot camp for almost a year and hit the gym. We hooked up with a good friend who exercises more than anyone I know. And I was able to lift more than I ever lifted. I’m continually amazed at what the physical body can accomplish when the mental abilities kick in. But the lack of cardio sent my weight back up to where I began before boot camp. So about a month back we started up again with Marianne and she is kicking our butts back into shape.

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 8.26.19 AM

Today we did about two miles back in boot camp with weights. Stopping every 100 yards to drop and do pushups, squats, arm exercises. The fresh air from the mountains washed over me, letting me know I could hold on a bit longer, try a bit harder. The “girl weights” I started off with felt like 100 lbs each by the time we made the two miles.

Drenched in sweat, mind clear, it all came together.

It feels good to be alive.

Why it is Time to Lean into the Pain!

[The trick is] to realize that the pain isn’t something awful to be postponed and avoided, but a signal that you’re getting stronger — something to savor and enjoy. It’s what makes you better. ~ Aaron Swartz

by Pete Ferguson

I’ve been fighting a cold all week. It is kicking my butt and drains me of all energy by around 4 pm each day.

But last week our family started doing Tae Bo together to get us moving at night instead of sitting in front of the TV or snacking.

To be honest, when I get home, I have completely dreaded the thought of having to exert that much energy, but I’ve made a commitment – and I need to be in much better physical shape – so I do it.

Rather than resisting the pain, lean into the pain.  Resistance is what causes greater pain. ~ Rebecca Miller

And an amazing thing happens, as I start, it is a real drag, but about 10 minutes into the exercise, the endorphins kick in, my lungs open up, and the sweat begins to pour and I start to feel alive again.

Psychologically, I have had to lean into the pain many times. There have been issues at work I’d much rather “ostrich” and burry my head into the sand as the storm blows over. But then I realize I will not learn or grow if I passively “sit one out.” So I dig in, and lean into the “pain.” Sometimes the pain actually comes – of course often it is all just imagination and I get by just fine.

As a kid, I was absolutely terrified of calling someone on the phone I didn’t know. It was sheer torture. In college, I took an “F” on an assignment in a communications statistics class when we were supposed to work in a call center for four hours. I showed up, made two cold calls, and was physically ill. So I checked out.

I’m not sure when or where it happened, but I learned that I could turn on a part of my personality and not internalize the situation and now I have little to no problem picking up a phone and making a call if it is something I understand well. It didn’t all happen at once, but over time the imaginary pain felt subsided. Now I feel it for a second, push it aside and make the call.

After the death of a loved one, leaning into the pain is a daily event. Each new day brings with it new challenges. But we get out of bed, we move forward with the day, and the pain eventually subsides and the heart heals.

When it comes to exercise, it took several good coaches to push me through the pain to where I now can lean into it on my own – but still always appreciate the extra support as I climb faster and stronger.

Oh yeah, Steph was the one who pushed me through the other night and has kept me going each night since. Thanks babe.

Comfortable Misery – The “Me Too!” Mentality

In society there is an inclination to drag everyone down to a common level of comfortable misery. Cut loose the cords that bind you down and encourage a rising tide to lift all ships!

by Pete Ferguson

In Dan Miller’s 48 Days Online Radio Show this week, he used the phrase “comfortable misery” in describing those who are not happy – but are not yet disgusted enough to want to make a change.

When it comes to weight loss, overcoming addictions, looking for a new job, fixing a relationship, etc. we have to come to a point where the misery of continuing to do what we’ve always done is greater than the potential pain of change.

And sometimes change is painful. And sometimes we make it out to be much more than it is! And in making change, it is easy to compare ourselves against others who are doing something better than we are and to make excuses as to why it is so easy for them, or why we cannot make the change.

As you look at others who are more successful, more accomplished, more talented than you are at a particular skill, are you excited for them? Or are you envious?

There is a big difference between being self-assured and selfish.

To be self-assured is to wish the same success you have on others, to appreciate other’s successes, and to want to see them be more successful. It is an attitude of abundance.

To be selfish is to be self-centered, only concentrating on your feelings. You can also go a step further into envy and wish others less success.

Envy seeks to take away what another has out of spite and hatred, and is driven by the desire to destroy.  It is an extremely destructive emotion, one that cannot bring personal happiness and is sure to bring social harm. ~ Ron Paul, Liberty Defined

We have good friends who moved about a year ago to a monster of a house. Rather than congratulate them, most of my neighbors made discouraging remarks about how hard it would be to clean, how “things aren’t important” etc. I didn’t hear anyone excited for them.

Unfortunately, recently we found out that the foundation of their new home is cracked and their home is sliding off the hill where it was built and our friends have had to move again into a smaller home. I haven’t let anyone in our current neighborhood know because I suspect there would be a bit of gloating and “I told you so” or even worse, false predictions that our friends are being cursed for greed or something silly.

I’ve been working for the past few years on comfortable success. Thanking God daily for everything I enjoy. Health, strength, sound finances, living within our means, working hard to live a good moral life and see our children be successful.

What I’ve found is that I’m thrilled for others success. It is their success. I do not want it. I have my own successes. When I hear of another’s failures, I am sad for them. No one “deserves” pain and anguish.

Learn: What is your self-talk when you hear about another’s success? In the current politically charged atmosphere, are you keeping it human? Can you accept that this is a race between two good men who value their families, or are you overcome by the vast availability of negativity about how the world is going to end if candidate A or B wins?

Act: Start each day in gratitude. It makes a HUGE difference. A difference people have noticed in me and I have noticed in myself. It takes work, and every day is not perfect, but when I start with gratitude I find any trials in the day to be easily overcome or put into proper perspective.

Share: Share your time. Share your talents. Share in other people’s time and talents.