Heroes and Villains of Our Own Lives

What Ted Lasso is doing for toxic masculinity and storytelling

"I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape."

~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Story telling is a mechanism for generating empathy. By telling the stories of others we learn how to see the world in a way that is different. In childhood the stories are uncomplicated. There are heroes and villains. Good overcomes evil.

However, human beings are complicated mixtures of good and bad. Good people can make harmful choices, deliberately or in ignorance. Hurt people cause harm to others. When we are hungry, tired, stressed, overwhelmed we loose the willpower needed to make good choices. Good does overcome evil, but it may not come naturally. It takes practice, time building habits, and self awareness.

After I finished watching season 2 of Ted Lasso I was struck by the amazing nuance of the storytelling. On the surface it could be a hero, a villain, and good overcoming evil. But as season 2 unfolded we watched heroes become the villain of their own lives. This was often the result of choices that many people were given. Many of the characters worked through issues of trauma or bitterness. Some made choices that led to healing. Others didn’t. Not dealing with mental health issues can lead to complications in your life and relationships. Even though bottling things up does make good pickles, it makes terrible relationships.

The villains of season 1 slowly became the heroes of their own stories, and the underdog heroes are turning into villains. At the end of the day, the choices that each person makes will turn them the into hero or villain of their own story. It would be really easy to play the victim card for many villainous actions. Truly many people do allow hurt and trauma to ruin their lives. However, at some point, you become the person making the harmful choices. It is hard to forgive people who have hurt you. If that hurt turns into bitterness, you won’t become a wounded hero. You will become the villain in your story.

I have a lot of hope for season 3. Maybe there will be a redemption arc. But maybe the villains will keep making harmful choices. Not everybody is willing to face their inner demons and find healing. Ted Lasso really is telling the story of humans, and the way each choice affects ourselves and those around us.

Learning to be the hero of our story requires a lot of patience, towards ourselves and from others. It requires you to be self aware, to ask for forgiveness, and to grant forgiveness. As the Lords Prayer says, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”

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For the Ears

This playlist has songs that help me through depression and anxiety.

If you need to hear a new perspective on Job, this episode from The Bible Binge will give you a lot to think about.

For the Eyes

Obviously I want to you go watch Ted Lasso, and I tried really hard to keep this essay spoiler free, but the ending of season 2 left both my husband and I heartbroken and hopeful. It was wild. The show has also given my husband a lot of good language for working through some of the mental health issues he struggles with including limiting masculinity (a better phrase than toxic masculinity from Brendan Kwiatkowski at remasculate.org).

I think youtube videos are wrecking havoc with my offsprings ability to sit through a full length movie, because nobody seems interested in anything for longer than 45 minutes. Or maybe its the spotty internet. We are planning to watch the first two Harry Potter movies for Halloween, if they can stay interested that long. Maybe we will have finished reading the third book by then, and can watch that movie too.

For the Taste Buds

So it has been a long week, following a long month, and I could go on. When I lost my wallet this week I was deeply grateful for the Little Ceasars account that has my info so I could order a a stuffed crust pepperoni pizza, after being pulled over by the cops because there is a brake light out and of course I didn’t have my drivers license since it is in the aforementioned lost wallet. And it feels like the only way to tell that story is in a run-on sentence. Anyway, stuffed crust is definitely the way to go on a bad day.

May this week bring patience to your senses and your soul.

Don't Let Your Schedule Control You

the noble act of rest

'I believe, Mr. Snitchey,' said Alfred, 'there are quiet victories and struggles, great sacrifices of self, and noble acts of heroism, in it - even in many of its apparent lightnesses and contradictions - not the less difficult to achieve, because they have no earthly chronicle or audience - done every day in nooks and corners, and in little households, and in men's and women's hearts - any one of which might reconcile the sternest man to such a world, and fill him with belief and hope in it.

Charles Dickens, The Battle of Life

I am writing this with a sick baby in my arms. It has been long week and everyone in the house has had their share of being sick. We have dealt with upended schedules, and last minute changes to meetings because of being called to the school. The laundry piles up and the dishes remain undone as we let the reality of normal colds take over for a week.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the kids while they hacked in my face. They dug their pointy elbows into my middle while curling up for back rubs and cuddles. It was an unfiltering of the daily existence. Of sons in flannel pj pants watching Minecraft and playing Legos, and a daughter with tangled hair trying to convince me about the severity of her headache while doing handstands.

Next week we will try to reign in the chaos until the next bump that unsettles life. Because my schedule is used a guide to serve me, not as the idol which I need to beg forgiveness from the moment it fail to meet it. When my oldest was first born I was given information by my mother about how I needed to schedule his days in order to be the best Christian parent. She herself had used this method and after all look how all her kids had turned out. (Side note: this was before any of my sisters had left home. Now most of us have disappointed her with our lifestyle choices.)

Being the good daughter she had raised me to be led me to place of malnourishing my poor little boy. With the help of my husband, the pediatrician, and the lactation consultant, I learned to release the “godly schedule” and create a schedule that suited his needs. Since that time I have continued to learn how to let the household schedule fit the needs of our family.

Making an idol of the schedule is such an easy trap to fall into, because few people want their lives to devolve into complete chaos. (That’s what reality tv is for.) My schedule has changed as the children’s needs change, depending on what shift different parents are working, and depending on the health of all the members of the house. When I am getting angry with the chaos in the home, it could be a sign that I need to evaluate the schedule. Is it controlling or serving us?

Learning to accept that sickness brings in the family is a ongoing lesson. It’s okay to miss out on things. More opportunities will come later. I hope you choose to fit a schedule around your family and not your family around a schedule.

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For the Ears

This wonderful show has come across my radar. Ask Away features a pastor mom and her kids talking about the stories of the Bible. If your kids come up with wild theological questions you can’t seem to answer, she has tips for you, both on her podcast and on her instagram feed.

One of my favorite artists released a tender and lovely new song The Control Line. I think there needs to be more songs about the pains not just of love, break ups, and youthful angst. We need more music about the angst of life. And the grace of God found therein.

For the Eyes

Last Tuesday was a fabulous mail day as two wonderful books that I had preordered came. Twirl by Emily Lex is a charming picture book. Emily is such a talented artist, and I have been taking her water color classes this summer.

To Light Their Way is a collection of prayers and liturgies for parents and it is gorgeous and heartfelt. There are so many relevant prayers for daily life and for sorrowful, hard things. Kayla has captured the heart of prayers that parents feel and need to say in all seasons of life. I share her prayer for sick kids on this short episode.

For the Taste Buds

Chamomile and peppermint tea with honey are the favored beverages when there is coughs and sore throats around my house. I make a big teapot (of the coffee pot size, not a little china set), three or four teabags and about a 1/4 cup of honey. Then people sip on it all day.

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May this week bring peace to your senses and your soul.

The Hope for Anxiety

(Trigger warning: some discussion on suicidal thoughts)

He was consious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares, long, long, forgotten.

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

What have you have forgotten?

The stresses and exhaustion of life are known to push things out of the brain. Sometimes things get pushed out that are mundane and habitual, like remembering where we put the keys or brushing our teeth. But sometimes life stress makes us forget joy and gratitude. The projectors of doom and gloom on the nightly news, the naysayers on social media, even just walking up to a store or restaurant only to be told they are short staffed, all seem to conspire to make humans angry and miserable.

My therapist recently told me that a suicidal mindset cannot live with a gratitude mindset. She told me this after I shared my husband’s struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts. I have been seeing her for nearly 5 years, working through my own depression and anxiety. When things are dark, finding something to be grateful for often feels like searching for that needle in a haystack and the haystack is in the middle of a tornado. But if you can find the needle it may point in the direction of hope.

It’s a month until the public gratitude practices show up on social media via #thanksgiving but maybe that seems so far off or too difficult to manage. Maybe this year has made it hard to find joy and gratitude. Maybe death has come to your door via Covid or other ways. Maybe all of life was upended and has yet to become stable. Now is when you need a needle to get you through the day.

It’s okay if you forgot the things that bring you joy. It’s okay that you have been fighting an uphill battle against sorrow and suffering. Because there is a needle pointing to light joy. Maybe for you it’s the Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Or Ugg boots and vests. Maybe you just need a fleecy blanket and favorite tv show. Maybe those feel frivolous in a world that’s burning around us. But maybe those frivolous things are the needles of hope.

Joy is not really about bouncy squeals of delight. It’s learning to be grateful for hard things. Giving thanks for taste buds that work, even to tell the bitter from the sweet. Giving thanks for simple smells of dish soap and disinfectant. Being grateful for warm blankets at the end of an exhausting day. Feeling satisfaction in hearing the words, “I love you.” Gratitude in seeing a smile.

If you are looking for joy this week, I encourage you to practice giving thanks.

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For the Ears

What genre do you listen to during the month of October? Spooky music, folksy music, classic of some form? I found a delightful album after creating an IG Story the other day. Listen to Mystery and Magic

Morgan Harper Nichols had a recent episode called 50 Little Ways to find Hope. Her voice is soothing and the list is amazing.

For the Eyes

Osheta Moore shared a wonderful post on Instagram about how she lets her children have mental health days once a month. In watching my kids I have seen benefits from them being able to have space not just to be sick, but to be done for a day.

Everyday I watch my children try to process their emotions and the events of the day. The way that they cope with changes on large or small scale. The pressures of learning new things, and developing relationships with their peers and authority figures. Sometimes they do have a breakdown. Each child will give me cues about when they are overwhelmed, and each needs something different to help them rest.

The kids and I are nearly finished with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Each chapter is leaving the kids on pins and needles. They handled the giant spider bit much better than I do. Giant spiders are definitely my least favorite part of any adventure. (Even writing that sentence makes me shiver.)

We are planning to watch the movie for Halloween 🎃!

My husband and I have been watching the latest season of Ted Lasso, and wow! Mental health has been a major plot line, and it’s being handled so well. More thoughts after the season finale.

For the Taste Buds

Molasses feels like a good fall flavor. From loaves of gingerbread to Baconfat Gingersnaps I love using molasses. There is also nothing quite like a batch of Boston Baked Beans, which naturally has molasses for the sweetener.

May this week bring joy to your senses and your soul.

If you or anyone has ever dealt with suicidal ideation please find someone to talk to:

Suicide Prevention

Veterans Crisis Line

Substance Abuse and Mental Health

Postpartum Support

Don’t Let Aspirations Get The Best of You

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else.

Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend

While scrolling through Facebook I saw an expectant mom share her views on screens for her child. More or less it boiled down to ideal that most likely will go out the windows by the time she has some experience under her belt.

I laughed because like her I was definitely a “better parent” before I had kids than I am 10 years into the job. My kids would never have screens and they would always go to bed on time, whining would be nipped in the bud, and violent games would be off limits. I was an amazing mom before I had kids.

So many times we create ideal versions of our future selves, and then berate our current selves because we don’t live up to that ideal. This false ideal is then perpetuated by the self help genre and well intended, but misogynistic teachings of the evangelical church. Social media is quick to criticize the way the we eat, drink, dress, and even if we curate our feeds with encouraging folks there is still the ad algorithms to contend with.

This friend on Facebook is only human, hoping that she will be able to be a good mother, as so many of us are. And she will have ups and downs in that journey, as we all have. So if you are a parent who cares about their child having good food, and being loved well, you are doing a good job. Go forward hoping to be the best person you can be, apologize when you mess up, and keep going.

For the Ears

I enjoy liturgical music and this new album Matins and Vespers, is pleasant background music for mealtimes.

Priscilla Ahn has been a favorite artist since I got my first iPod, Rain is the perfect compliment of childhood songs for a grownup mood. Because rain is a mood.

What Should I Read Next? Just had the 300th episode, and I can say I have been a devoted listener from the beginning. Anne always shares excellent book recommendations and I have a better reading life for it.

For the Eyes

Honestly, I have been having a hard time focusing on much reading or movies the past few weeks, which is probably a sign of stress. My tendency is to go for familiarity when this happens, so I am introducing the kids to Hayley Mills movies and reading from favorite books, like The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery.

For the Taste Buds

I made my dad’s pumpernickel bread recipe this week. When I was kid he would put this recipe in the bread machine, toast some pecans on the oven. While the bread cooled he would whizz the nuts in the food processor till they were creamy butter. A slice dark pumpernickel slathered with pecan butter is one of the best memories I have of my dad.

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May this week bring love to your senses and your soul.

Sitting in Sadness

Because there is so much of it.

For the past several months I have been adjacent to a considerable amount of grief. I am learning how to grieve and support others in their sorrow. The Holy Spirit often does more work there, than any other place I have seen.

Being present with those in mourning is so hard. Joy and peace can seem completely inaccessible. Often there is anger and possibly overwhelming emotion. It requires so much gentleness and kindness to meet people on their grief. Sitting with some one going through grief makes us uncomfortable.

People don’t know what to do with grief. They bring meals or give money. Our culture want to honor it and then move on. Spending time with grief is unpleasant, and most Americans are averse to unpleasant situations. Americans like to live a work hard, play harder life.

Sadness interrupts life, and takes it over. It does not have a credit roll, cueing us to move on to the next thing.

To show love to the sad and grieving is to let it simply exist. Being patient means not projecting a timeline onto them, yet coaxing them to normal life. Self control means understanding that a grieving person can only manage limited amounts of normal.

If there is grief in your life, may you be guided by the Holy Spirit in the act of sitting with sorrow, as Jesus Christ himself did.

For the Ears

Notes of the Future is a new release by Yo-Yo Ma, cello and laments from different cultures. Hearing the languages and voices alongside the rich cello strings is a moment that we all need. We need to let grief have its moment in order to heal.

On The Next Right Thing Emily was giving words for hope.

Motherhood Named and Known was the podcast I was on recently and Leslie shared a lovely way to read the Scriptures for comfort.

For the Eyes

I recently discovered the Instagram account Scott the Painter and hav ordered a new piece from him for my office. It has taken me a long time to want art in home. I think is because I have artistic friends and family who also had so much art. Or because I didn’t have the extra funds. Or because I tend to prioritize books. 😀

Speaking of books, I have been using Grieving the Child I Never Knew as a guide for some of the ways comfort other women. If there is a woman you know who has miscarried or lost a child, this may be a good resource for her.

For the Taste Buds

I switched my coffee order to chai lattes. When I make chai at home I love the recipes from Jes Thomas. She has a delightful Instagram account as well.

May you find the fruit in the sorrow and grief that comforts your senses and your soul.

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