When you let tunnel vision blind you

The ocean is so vast and incredible and filled with more species of sea animals than most of us could ever imagine.

Yet, for some reason, we often only allow ourselves to focus on one.

I went whale watching over the weekend, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I moved out here about a year and a half ago. I really wanted to see some dolphins, and I guess seeing whales would be kind of cool, too. I mean, they’re rather beastly creatures, and witnessing their grandeur up close sounded like an intimidatingly fascinating idea.

They’re my kind of people.

It’s been a bit cold in Southern California lately. I realize that there are so many other parts of the country suffering much chillier temperatures, but I’m not in the business of comparison—it’s cold here for what we’re accustomed to, so I’m going to stick with my statement. I knew that it was going to be even colder out on the water, so I did my best to bundle up and prepare for whatever was in store for me for the next few hours.

I’m glad that I wore four layers—they still weren’t enough, though. The spray from the ocean water made it even worse (remember the drink Ocean Spray?? Maybe someone who went on a whale watching excursion came up with that), and I’m so grateful that my friend Jose let me borrow his gloves toward the end of our time on the water. Regardless of how cold it felt out there, it was an adventure that I’m grateful I got to take. I was able to spend an afternoon with some wonderful people I get to have as friends in my life as we took part in a quest to find and see the beautiful phenomenon of giant ocean creatures in their natural habitat.

And I was reminded that we’re so often chasing after things that may or may not be meant for us to the point that we don’t pay attention to what’s actually right in front of us.

I never actually saw Dustin, but I heard his voice quite a bit. He was our tour guide, and I think he was driving the boat. I’m not actually sure. I just trusted that someone who knew what he or she was doing was behind the wheel (or the helm, for all of you nautical type). But Dustin was the one telling us about the differences between seals and sea lions and informing us where the whales were and our strategies for making sure that we would get to see them. There was even a drone sent out from the boat to get better shots and also to help us find the path the whales were taking.

I don’t see any whales, bro.

We never saw the whales up close. We saw them blowing air from the water from a distance, but I still haven’t seen a whale in real life. On the way to try to see them, though, we saw quite a few bottlenose dolphins—and my heart soared. I honestly cared more about seeing dolphins than whales, so it was a special moment having a front row seat as they swam right in front of the boat. I really wanted to see them jump out of the water—I’m a product of romcoms and happy endings, people, so I want the fairy tale fantasy stuff—but it didn’t happen. Still, it was a breathtaking few minutes of my life.

Dustin let us see the dolphins but then kind of brushed them aside to remind us that we needed to go farther out in the water to see the whales. I understand that the thing is called a whale watching tour, so it was important to stick to the task at hand. At the same time, though, we were missing some true greatness that was right before us because we were so focused on pursuing something that we would never actually obtain.

And it was in that moment that I realized that I’ve done that far too many times—I’ve chased the things that are fleeting and missed out on some beautiful opportunities that were directly in front of me.

I think that it’s important to go wholeheartedly after your dreams and remain determined to achieve your goals. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the wonderful chances you’re given along the way. Maybe you’re meant to reach what you’re striving for so passionately—but maybe you aren’t. You might be going after a whale when you’re actually meant to encounter dolphins, instead.

There will be trials you face along the way—whether it’s the spray of the ocean, the gusts of wind that knock your breath out of your lungs, the bad breath of the sea lions that makes you want to hurl (whether you took Dramamine or not), or the loss of circulation in your extremities (thanks a lot, Raynaud’s)—and those are times when you have to remind yourself why you’re there in the first place and that you can do hard things.

And it’s also when you need to remind yourself that there is beauty and wonder outside of your tunnel vision.

I saw the same amount of whales on my hike as on the tour.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of times when I allowed tunnel vision to take over and cloud my sight of everything else around me because I was chasing whales I’d never actually reach. And don’t you know that some of those whales were guys who caused me to ignore many dolphin guys around me? I did it frequently with running, too. I would focus solely on the big accomplishments and PRs so much that I would miss the little victories that didn’t happen on race day that I was gaining along the way.

I want to make sure that I’m more aware of the dolphins all around me and that I don’t simply focus on the whales that I may or may not ever see. It’s great to have goals, and I hope that you achieve all of yours, but it’s also beneficial to notice all of the greatness that surrounds you that may not be what you initially think is best for you.

Because sometimes you’ll set out on a quest for whales and not find what you think you’re looking for—but perhaps the dolphins you encounter were what you were meant to find all along.

When you stop merely wishing

There are some really innocent things that we do in our childhoods that we don’t necessarily think can hurt us later in life.

Like making wishes.

I went to see Wicked in Hollywood with my good friend Amanda and her mom last week. It was such a great play, and the lead roles have incredible voices that I like to pretend I have when I’m singing in the car or the shower. There was a line from one of the songs that really hit me and got me thinking, though.

Wishing only wounds the heart.

As a girl so full of hopes and dreams that I actually believe are possible, this pierced my heart to hear those words. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that wishing truly can wound the heart—a reality that Disney never taught me long ago.

I think that wishing is a lot different than hoping and dreaming. When you have hope, you back it with faith and trust. There’s an anticipation, and you let your confident expectation drown out doubt. You have an optimistic outlook, and you might even put some patient endurance behind that positivity. A dream is a vision you have of something wonderful that doesn’t exist yet but will in the future. You work toward it—you strive with everything you have to make that dream come true. There’s a need for perseverance and faith as you continue through your journey to get that desired outcome.

A wish, on the other hand, is a desire that you toss out into the air (often silently), and you don’t necessarily do anything about it. Why is it that, when you make a wish on birthday candles or after you get the bigger end of the wishbone, you aren’t allowed to tell anyone what you wished if you actually want it to come true? You can tell people your dreams, and they can support you as you chase them down. You can tell people your hopes, and they can pray for you and alongside you as your hopeful expectations begin to grow.

But wishes are different.

I’ve made a lot of wishes in my life, and I frequently find myself wishing each time I witness a shooting star, see 11:11 on the clock, and get my hands on a dandelion. Maybe that’s because it’s sometimes fun to take part in childlike activities like that—the innocence of it all reminds you of how simple life was before you knew all of the things you wish you didn’t. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, a lot of the wishes I make are for realities that I don’t always believe in my heart are going to happen.

Which, like the song says, only wounds the heart.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick because you believe so positively that what you desire will happen. The actual hoping part itself doesn’t hurt—it actually fills the heart with joy and excitement. But wishing only wounds the heart because there isn’t always much confidence behind a wish.

I don’t want to be a wisher—I want to be a dreamer and a hoper. I want to go after the dreams I have and fully trust in what the future holds and Who holds it regarding the hopes in my heart. I know that’s not always easy, but there are quite a few things in this world that I’ve faced that have been more challenging, and I’ve lived through them. I just have to remind myself that I CAN DO HARD THINGS.

During the last year and a half (well, it’s almost been that long) since I’ve been in California, God’s been doing a lot of work in my heart and grown my faith in more ways that I can describe. Moving out here and knowing zero people made it much more apparent to me just how sufficient He is—how He truly is all we need in life. At the same time, though, He’s surrounded me with amazing people and more love than I ever knew possible. That’s not something I ever wished for, but it’s certainly something that I hoped for with all of my heart.

I’m going to change my wishing tactics so that the things I wish don’t just stay wishes but, instead, become hopes and dreams. I’ve spent too many years letting wishing wound my heart, and a heart wasn’t made to hurt so much. It wasn’t made to break when you’re reminded of what you don’t have. It wasn’t made to ache each time the dandelion particles flying through the air as a result of your breath scatter in every direction. It was made to love and love well.

Don’t let wishing diminish your hope—wishing may wound the heart, but hope will fill it with love.

When you worry about situations that don’t even exist

Things aren’t necessarily always as bad as you think they will be.

But that doesn’t stop us from letting our imaginations get the best of us.

I think it’s easy sometimes to create worst-case scenarios in our minds that don’t actually exist, and we end up dealing with unnecessary anxiety. There’s an episode of Modern Family that depicts this pretty perfectly when Claire freaks out about Haley’s whereabouts and what possibly could have happened within the last 24 hours. She spirals down a crazed worry path, but it turns out that Haley was upstairs in her room the entire time, and all of Claire’s panicking was for naught.

I’ve definitely been guilty of that more than once in my life, and I let those anxious thoughts get the best of me recently.

If you’re worried about being on a trip without your purse, get yourself a pink fanny pack from the nearest Walmart. It’s less than $8 and is a total game changer.

Last week was rough for a number of reasons, mainly because of the whole kidney stone thing. I’ve been feeling like a train wreck since then because something still isn’t right (don’t worry—I’m going to the urologist this week), and I didn’t do a great job of making sure that I got enough rest. I made the perhaps unwise decision to play in my flag football game on Saturday morning, and when I was getting closer to the beach, I noticed a strange sound coming from my car’s front right tire. I started worrying that my car was falling completely apart and that I was going to have to get an entirely new car ASAP if I wanted to be able to drive anywhere. But I really don’t want a car payment right now, so this wasn’t going to be good at all.

I parked on one of the streets near the beach and got out of my car to inspect the damage. All I saw was some circular silver thing stuck in my tire, and I wasn’t able to pull it out, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment because I needed to get to my game, but during my walk over to the beach field, I started thinking about how I was going to return to a flat tire, and I didn’t know how to change a flat. I didn’t want to have to call anyone to help me, so I then started worrying about trying to figure it out on my own and putting it on the wrong way.

By the time I got back to my car, the tire was still intact, and I drove to the nearest America’s Tire (I have a lifetime warranty with Discount Tire, and America’s Tire is the same thing as Discount out here), but it had closed at noon that day. I called two more America’s Tire stores, but it turns out they all closed at noon for some company event ON THE ONE DAY THAT I NEEDED THEM TO HAVE THEIR NORMAL HOURS.

As I drove to the nearest auto place that Google Maps had found for me, I started panicking about how much it was going to cost to fix it or get a brand new tire all because freaking America’s Tire had to have a company event. (I honestly hope that all of the employees had a great time—I used to love it when my company in Dallas would close early to have some fun as a company family.)

I sat inside and watched college football on my phone (don’t ask me why the store had a throwback NBA game on its TV, instead) and had a convo with God to try to get rid of my worrying. It wasn’t too long later that the guy who had been working on my tire came in with the keys and gave them to the guy behind the counter, who turned to me and said that I was all set. It was a bolt that had been in my tire, and homeboy had removed it and then patched up the hole. I braced myself as I asked him how much it was, and he said four words that made my heart soar: “Don’t worry about it.”

He didn’t realize it, but he was speaking to me about so much more than the tire.

All of that worrying and stressing ended up being a waste of energy that I really didn’t have in the first place. I feel like I should know by now that going down the worry path is a horrible idea and usually leads me in the wrong direction. What’s the point in stressing so much about situations that don’t even exist and may never be actualities?

I’m really thankful for people like Amanda who remind me what it means to be a good friend and go through tough times together. (P.S. IT’S HER WEDDING WEEK!!!!)

I have a lot of unknowns ahead in my life right now, and at least one has been causing me more anxiety than it should. Here’s the truth, though: I can handle anything that comes my way, because I know that I’m never alone, and God has never once turned away from me—and He won’t start now. No, that doesn’t mean that everything will always work out in my favor, but it does mean that I can endure the trials and trust Him through them all.

Life is going to throw challenges at us, and there will be times when it leaves us feeling anxious about what may or may not happen. There are questions constantly filling our minds: How much is this going to cost? What if I can’t afford this? What if I’m single forever? What if the dreams in my heart don’t come true? What am I going to do if this happens? What am I going to do if this doesn’t happen?

You can “what if?” until you’re blue in the face, and you can sweat over your mind’s inquiries until you wear yourself out completely. But, rather than spending all of your energy worrying about things that aren’t realities and may never be, why not use it to enjoy where you are, trust that what needs to happen will happen, and love the people in your life in this very moment?

Because one bolt in your tire can’t destroy the entire car.

Hey, keep it strong

Every once in a while, some simple words of encouragement can truly boost a person’s spirits.

Even if they come from a complete stranger.

I was running after work one day last week, and it was HOT. More than once during the run, I questioned why I thought this was a good idea, and more than once, I wanted to stop and walk (or dodge into the nearest establishment and pour water all over myself). But, for whatever reason, I kept running. I’m never going to get where I want to be and be able to start racing competitively again if I start giving up because of challenges.

It turns out that I needed that run a lot more than I thought.

I was somewhat near the end of my run, and it wasn’t getting any easier. I was on a pretty busy street at this point, and I was approaching a bus stop where a man was sitting with a bag that may or may not have contained all of his worldly possessions. As I ran by him, he startled me a bit when he spoke to me.

“Hey, keep it strong.”

I don’t know if he knew this, but in that exact moment in my life, I needed those four simple words. As I said, “Thank you so much!” and continued on my way (his inspiration even made me pick up my pace a little bit), I realized that I didn’t only need those words to help me while I was running—I needed them to help me in my life.

We tried to keep it strong when we ran up this hill. (P.S. This pic doesn’t do the steepness of the hill justice.)

It’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t going your way or when you simply feel powerless in certain situations. Giving up hope and throwing in the towel seems like the only option. I know I sometimes feel that way, and it’s been more prevalent lately in a few areas. As I ran, I let my circumstances run through my mind, and I kept replaying that man’s words in my head: Hey, keep it strong. And I prayed for him and thanked God for him—I truly believe He sends the right people to us when we need them the most.

I know that life isn’t always going to pan out the way we hoped it would, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still have hope. I know that I might not meet the guy of my dreams while walking through a park, and he accidentally hits me in the head with a frisbee and then comes over to apologize, and sparks fly—but I’m probably still going to hope that it will be something like that.

There are going to be many times when it’s easier to give up or to settle for what you know isn’t right for you. But those are the moments when it’s important to find even just an inkling of strength to help to keep you going to do what you know you need to do.

I believe in hopes. I believe in dreams. I believe in continuing to believe in those hopes and dreams, even when you have so many odds against you or people trying to tell you what would be better for you to hope and dream. We’re all so different, and we’re going to have different hopes and dreams and standards and beliefs and values and strengths and passions—and that’s not a bad thing.

There’s a line in the movie Without Limits (about the life of Steve Prefontaine) when Pre is trying to win Mary’s heart, and Mary asks Pre, “Are you always so positive about everything?” and he replies, “Consider the alternative.” I think it’s a really great mindset to have—one that tries to be hopeful for things for which others are not so hopeful. The alternative isn’t quite keeping it strong.

You never know when your words can truly encourage a person or when someone else’s can do the same for you. I’m grateful for the man at the bus stop. He didn’t have to say a word to me—he could have simply kept to himself until his bus arrived. But, instead, he gave the gift of hope to a person he doesn’t even know. He made me remember that when you know in your heart that something is right, it’s important to keep that hope alive with all of the gusto you can muster.

Because when you lose hope, you can certainly lose a lot more along with it.

Because sometimes things happen when you’re Elvis

Sometimes a crushed dream can actually lead you to something better that helps shape you into the person you’re meant to be.

Even when you’re dressed like Elvis.

When I was driving home from the gym the other day, I still had my headphones in, and a song from High School Musical 3: Senior Year came on, so I had to start belting it. Obviously. After a while, it occurred to me that my voice was the only thing resonating in my car, so I took out one earbud to hear what my singing sounded like. It wasn’t too awful, and I decided I still contend that Mariah and I are soul sistas.

Then I had a flashback to fifth grade.

I had joined choir at school that year, because I figured it would be useful to me in my pursuit of becoming a professional singer. My choir teacher, however, didn’t really seem to have the same belief in my talent as I did. Open House was fast-approaching, where the entire school would be showcasing various work from throughout the year for all of the parents. This included a performance of a television theme and commercial song medley sung by the fifth-grade choir. I was so excited to audition for a solo and really thought I nailed it. I hadn’t gotten a solo in the Christmas concert, but I knew my teacher would give me one for this performance–I just knew it.

Oh, I got a solo, indeed. It was certainly not what I desired, though, because there was truly no actual singing involved. It was more of a talking part, as my job was to provide a portion of the theme from Beverly Hillbillies: “Then one day he was shootin’ at some food, and up through the ground came a bubblin’ crude. Oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea.” This was not going to help my career.

The night of Open House, I walked the halls of my elementary school with my Elvis costume on and my head held high. You see, for my actual classroom assignment, all of the students had to dress up as famous historical figures and recite brief biographies when anyone came up to them and asked them about their characters. Somehow I had wound up with Elvis. I headed for the cafeteria–I was ready to use my best hillbilly accent and say that line as theatrically as I possibly could. I like to think the people appreciated it.

After the performance, I went to my classroom so that I could spend the rest of the night talking about what it was like to be Elvis. I was still a little disappointed about not being able to sing, and something in me snapped. I was in the middle of talking about something significant in the King’s life, when I stopped mid-sentence and just busted into “Hound Dog.” I started both dancing and singing, and a crowd started to come toward me. So, for the rest of Open House, I didn’t talk about Elvis at all. In fact, all of my research was rendered useless as I just continued to sing and dance for people. It was a lot of fun, actually.

I guess I got my solo after all.

Don’t give up

I know my music teacher wasn’t trying to ruin my life and shoot down a young girl’s hopes of surpassing Janet Jackson (she was the first concert I ever attended), but I experienced a brief period of discouragement when I didn’t get the solo I had originally sought. (I had really wanted the part singing the “Chaquita Banana” jingle.)

We are definitely all going to face moments in life where things we thought were going to happen don’t. But maybe it’s not just so you have to undergo some form of torture–maybe it’s because God actually has something bigger and so much better prepared for you. Maybe you didn’t get the job you wanted, because there’s one that pays better and is more suitable for you that just isn’t quite available yet; maybe you didn’t get accepted into that leadership organization, because you needed to have Monday nights open so that you could bump into your future husband in the library that night, instead; maybe you didn’t get invited to that party you thought you’d be going to, because you were supposed to go skating with your sister and end up having one of the most fun and memorable nights of your life.

Maybe you didn’t get the solo, because you were supposed to have some private concert that essentially made you become a more confident person who is comfortable in her own skin.

Don’t let a disappointment lead to discouragement. The moment hope gets lost, quite a bit gets lost with it. And there’s a difference between losing yourself like Eminem tells you to do and losing yourself completely because of things not going the way you pictured in your mind.

So snap back to reality, and make it a worthwhile reality.