Some life lessons linger like a foul odor in the air, a constant reminder of one wrong decision. On Saturday, my kids and I had the pleasure of selecting pigs for their 4-H program.
I am a city girl. Not really a city girl, so much as a town girl, but suffice it to say that the closest I have ever come to an actual, live pig is the cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web. I read that book as a youngster, and when I had young kids, I read it to them and we watched the movie. Pigs are cute, pink and cuddly. At least that was my impression until last Saturday.
I have heard that pigs are smarter than dogs. I don’t want to debate the relative intelligence of my dogs, but I don’t think they are the smartest pets I’ve ever owned. So I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the pigs turn out to be smarter than the dogs. But I digress.
Saturday morning, the kids and I arrived early, along with nearly 90 other eager 4-H participants. Some of the pigs lay in a heap, trying to keep warm after their long journey from Texas. Others rooted around in the hay, and some played. I thought they were playing, until someone pointed out that one little piggy was an aggressive jerk who was attacking the others.
My good friend told me to dress “appropriately”. Whatever that is supposed to mean. I had on cute Capri pants, sandals and a Uinta County sweatshirt. It was my pig-picking outfit. She looked at me with a snicker. “That’s what you wore?” She had on boots, long pants and several thick shirts. When the pig picking began, I understood that I was not dressed appropriately.
First, the kids climbed into the pen when their name was selected. Yuck. Muddy. If I climbed in there, my sandals would definitely get ruined. Then, once the child picked out his project pig, a parent would scoop the pig up and haul it away. I nearly jumped out of my skin, when the first pig was selected. The dad strode to the animal and lifted it from behind, carrying it firmly in front of him.
The pig did not let out a gentle oink, as I was expecting. It screamed. I am not exaggerating. The pig was screaming all the way to the trailer. I stood astonished, wondering if he had accidentally pinched it or something. Nope. The next pig, and the next one, and every one after that screamed. It was actually bloodcurdling. I have never heard a bloodcurdling scream until Saturday. And then I got to hear it 90 times.
One of my kids selected a pig that turned out not to be properly castrated.
“That boar will be mounting those other pigs soon,” a wise friend informed me (we were buying nine pigs as a group). “If it were younger, I could castrate it now, but you can’t show a boar at fair, so you’ll either need to call a vet or put the pig back and pick another one.”
Of course, my child had picked out the one pig that had escaped castration. Unfortunately, she had to wait until the very end, to select from the remaining pigs. The other eight in our group decided to take the trailer and head to the farm, while Lexi and I waited for the end of the sale. My friend offered to head back with the trailer, once the other pigs had been unloaded.
I told her I’d call if we needed her to come back. We waited around as every pig was selected except “Mr. Boar” and two other pigs. One was the largest pig in the arena. The other was a tiny pig with a sway back. Lexi hemmed and hawed, and finally decided on the larger one. My son hefted it up, and it let out the customary scream. My son stood holding the pig, looking at me quizzically.
“What am I supposed to do with this thing?” Oh. Right. I had forgotten to call my friend back.
Sudden inspiration struck. “Put it in the back of the Subaru,” I suggested. After all, it’s only a short drive from the fairgrounds to the farm. Less than five minutes. How much trouble can a pig be in five minutes?
I was about to find out. The pig did not like the car ride. One hundred and fifteen pounds of pig snorted in the back of the car. Fortunately, once my son released him, Spidey (as we affectionately named him) stopped squealing. He started grunting and rooting. And peeing and pooing. The kids in the back seat were screaming. “The pig is peeing. Oh gross. Now he’s pooping. Oh gross. Now he’s eating my braid.”
Chaos ensued as Spider Pig tried to climb over the seat, his hooves now covered in fresh pig poo. He nosed the girls on the back of the neck, trying to eat their hair. The kids screamed. The pig squealed. I drove like a maniac to minimize the damage.
Five minutes can seem like a very long time when you are hauling a leaking pig. It leaked everywhere.
Pigs can’t jump. Once we reached the farm, I backed up through the gate, into the pig pen and lifted the hatch. “Okay, Spider Pig, jump out.”
The pig just stood there. He did not jump out. I waited. Spider Pig waited. We had a stare down, while I tried to coax him out of the car. He stood there and relieved himself one more time, before I finally got my son to lift him out.
As I pulled out of the pigpen and into the driveway, I wondered if the smell would follow me home.
Driving a pig around in my car was not the best idea I ever had. What I now have is a giant pig named Spider Pig and a peculiar odor whenever I get in the car. When asked why I would drive a pig in my car, I can only tell you that it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I can assure you, I have learned my lesson: I will never drive another pig home.
Life is short. And then you die. Many of us fear death, but there is something much greater we should fear every day of our lives.
Fearing death is futile. It creeps upon you, unawares, snatching life when least expected. And even when you are expecting it, or wanting it, or longing for it, death still shocks those left behind.
We fear the unknown. We fear what we cannot control. We fear being all alone. Yet the specter of death comes for each of us, ready or not.
My job requires me to type up obituaries for the newspaper. Sometimes this job is rewarding, as in the case of Thelma Davis, who passed away after living 105 years. She touched countless lives, and leaves a legacy that will continue for generations.
At the other end of the spectrum, I was grieved to write the obituary for the niece of a friend. She lived only hours. Her tiny life was cut short, for reasons we will never know.
And between the two, the death of a young man in the prime of his life saddened and dismayed me. The sudden and abrupt snatching away of these three left me wondering, what could be worse than death?
What greater fear ought we face?
Whether your life lasts only hours, or stretches beyond a century, living a life without meaning is the most tragic thing of all. Wasting this precious gift ought to be our greatest fear.
Each one of us has only a short time here. The time may be really short, or it may be relatively short, but we have just a blip to make our mark. Whether we are given hours, decades or longer, when posted against the vastness of eternity, time is fleeting.
You are here for a purpose. You will not always be here. At some point in the future, your friends, family and acquaintances will be mourning the loss of your life. Between the time you are born and the time you pass on, you have a chance to make a difference. You can choose to impact other people in a positive manner, and leave a lasting impact, or you can choose to live in isolation, squandering your gifts until the end.
No matter how long your life, you can discover your purpose and live with intent. Creating a life of meaning, purpose and beauty starts first with your intent. Decide how you want to live, who you want to be and what you want to create.
Every moment you are here, let your life be an expression of your greatest desire. Don’t wait to make a difference. Today is the day. Now is the time. Seize the moment and let your life be a great expression of who you really are.
Every thought, every word, every deed can make a positive impact. You have such a short time to be who you were created to be. It is so easy to say, “When my kids grow up, then I will…”, or “When I lose weight, then I will…”, or “When I retire, then I will…”
There is no time to waste. Someday will always be out there. Today is here now. Take one step in the direction of your dreams, even if it is only a tiny step.
The hour is at hand. Once the moment has passed, there can be no recovering what was lost. Now is the time to live the life you are here for.
Once you are dead, it will be too late to make a lasting impact. Begin creating that life today. You never know when it will end.
It’s easy to be optimistic when life runs smoothly. When things flow, everything seems to work together. Stressors come along, but you handle them calmly. Problems arise, but you work through them. Conflicts seem to dissipate fairly, when life is in the flow.
But what about when everything falls apart? How do you handle your life then? The philosophical answer is that you remain in the moment, unperturbed. You remember to breathe deeply and calmly. You focus on only the things you can change in the moment. The spiritual answer: you ask God for strength. You focus on God as the source of your comfort, and of all things in your life. On a physical level, when things around you fall apart, you maintain your disciplined schedule of rising early, studying and meditating, exercising, strict eating. You avoid those foods that are known to increase your anxiety, and you eschew alcohol.
All of those answers exist in an ideal world. But what about in real life, when things fall apart? What about when you can’t make it through the day without a glass of wine or two, and before bedtime you realize the bottle is empty again? What about when you lose your job? Even though it was a stressful job that didn’t pay nearly enough, and you never felt acknowledged for your work, it was still a job. It still gave some purpose to your day. What about when someone you love leaves you? Although you fought a lot, and were getting tired of them anyway, you still miss the idea of being in a relationship.
When things fall apart in real life, what does a normal person do? We aren’t all spiritual gurus or disciplined yogis, or fit athletes, able to roll with the punches, no matter the circumstance. In real life, real people handle stress in a myriad of ways. When life caves in all around you, there are some things you can do, that don’t require you to be enormously disciplined, that will help shore up the walls of your sanity.
When things fall apart, the first step is to ask for help. You don’t have to ask anyone specifically. The Universe will hear your request, whether it is out loud or just in your heart. Ask for help and believe that it is on its way. When you ask the universe for help, remember to release the form it takes. When help comes your way, be sure to take advantage of it, rather than reject it based on looks alone. Just because your help doesn’t come packaged the way you’d expected, don’t dismiss it out of hand.
After asking for help, it is important to remember to breath. Often when you are in the midst of mind numbing crisis, one of the things you forget to do is breathe. Of course, you are breathing. It’s an automatic function. But during crisis or panic mode, the breathing often becomes rapid and shallow. You forget to breathe deeply, and you neglect a full exhale. Breathing properly is an extremely important part of healing. Breathe in deeply, fully oxygenating your blood, filling your lungs to capacity. Hold it for a moment, and then breathe out fully, cleansing your lungs and your body of stale air. A few deep breaths will help clear and calm your mind, and will release some of the stress you’ve been carrying.
The main thing to keep in mind when things fall apart is this: everything always changes. Regardless of the situation you are in now, this too shall pass. Everything is in a constant state of change. The good times will pass into hard times. The hard times will flow into good times. The cycle will continue throughout your life. So even when things fall apart, the best thing you can do for yourself is to realize that things will come together, and they will fall apart again.
We all have fears. Some of them are huge fears. Cancer. Death. Divorce. Some of them are smaller, but no less terrifying: public speaking, flying, spiders. Fear prevents us from living the full and abundant life the universe has in store for us. Fear paralyzes us and prevents us from taking forward motion.
If we wanted to, we could live our lives focused on our fears: What if no one likes me? What if I fail? What if they laugh at me? What if he leaves me? What if I'm not good enough?
Life is full of fear. The good news is, we can live a life free of our fears. We can overcome those fears and live a life of victory, of encouragement and of fulfillment. But first, we have to learn to release the grip of fear in our lives.
During his first inaugural speech, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Our fears paralyze us, and prevent us from moving forward. As FDR said, they are nameless, unreasoning, and unjustified. Once we learn how to release our fear, and embrace our lives, then we will be on the path to victory.
It can be hard to know how to let go of fear. The bible has some great things to say about overcoming fear, about casting your cares upon God. He promises to sustain us, regardless of what we fear, and regardless of what we face.
The first step in overcoming your fears is to become aware of them. Don't beat yourself up, just be specific with yourself about what you really fear. Once you identify your fears, look at them in the here and now. In this moment, realize that you are safe, and that there is nothing to fear, right now. For just this moment, you can let go of that fear.
There are some things in life we can change. Other things, we have no control over. As you begin to identify your own fears, ask yourself if this is something you can affect. Are you afraid of a loved one dying? There isn't much to do about that, so release that fear into the universe. Fearing cancer is useless. You can be aware of your risks of cancer, and mitigate your own health issues, but there isn't much change you can effect against that ugly disease. You could fear having a heart attack, but then you could change your diet, get some exercise, and take control of your own life. When you take control of the things you can change, then you can manage your fears.
The acronym for fear is: False Expectations Appearing Real. Most of the things we fear never come to pass. We waste a lot of time, energy and money worrying about and fearing things that never come to pass.
Focus today on the things you can do to improve your life, and let the rest of it go. It sounds easy, and really, it is. Be realistic. Focus on now. Change what you can, and move forward, free from fear.
Deborah Demander: Writer,