Repeating insanity

My husband loves caring for his “woodland friends” as we call it – birds, squirrels, etc. We have a few bird feeders that hang outside our kitchen window that he stocks and oversees.

Recently, those little thieves (a.k.a. squirrels) found our new bird feeder.  Bruce thought he out-smarted them when he moved the feeder directly in front of the large, glass window pane.


The squirrels simply climb the tree, anchor themselves in the Y of the branches, stare intently at the hanging feeder, then take a daring leap, hoping to land on the feeder. It’s a good number of feet away, and they are not flying squirrels.

Amazingly, they stick the landing every time.  However, they and feeder slam into the window, and I was convinced one unfortunate squirrel was going to go right through the glass, so I had my son move the feeder.  Also, I was tired of jumping every time I heard a loud bang against the window.  Problem solved, right?


For two straight days, those crazy squirrels launched off of the Y branch into the air – and the feeder was no longer hanging!  They slammed into the window over and over, falling into the stick-filled bushes below.  I was sure I’d find a poor soul impaled in the azaleas.

Over and over these squirrels climbed, launched, flew, smacked into the glass and fell.  It was pitiful, but I had not an ounce of sympathy for them.  Couldn’t they see the feeder was gone?  What possessed them to jump when there was nothing there to catch them?

And, why did it take multiple times of this nonsense before stopping?

I was at the sink one afternoon washing dishes when a loud thud hit the window and out of the corner of my eye I saw a grey mass slide down the glass.  My word.

In fact, it took putting that bird feeder on the ground to show them it wasn’t still hanging.  Finally, they stopped.

Before I made too much fun of them, or just racked it up to stupidity, I caught myself.  I’m not much different than them.

They say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results (likely first quoted from from the book Narcotics Anonymous). This word technically has legal roots describing a person’s mental capacity, but in our modern tongue the definition is also used to reflect how we feel about a situation.

People are creatures of habit.

Most people don’t like change.

That’s why we keep doing the same things hoping for a different result.  We don’t want to have to find another path to the same goal.  Familiar feels safe.  It’s comfortable.  It’s predictable – even if, in reality, we keep hitting the window.

So it’s January 7th today and we’ve ventured into the first week of the new year.  How are the 2013 resolutions coming?  I have a friend who has been a long-time member of the YMCA.  She says that every January, member visits drastically increase.  However, for her and her friends who are faithful all-year long, they call these January members “tourists.” Funny! She’s right!  Inevitably the number of member visits drop off as the year progresses.

We watched the ball drop in NYC on T.V. this year.  Did you notice that as SOON as the celebration was over, the following several television commercials were for weight loss? Coincidence?  I think not.

Whatever the things are that we want to change in our lives, are we doing anything about them?  Finding a new normal regarding health, jobs, relationships, etc. can be frustrating to say the least.  It involves being open to something new and the courage to do it – not just once or twice for a week or month.

Why is establishing a new path so hard?  Arg!

We see the end goal, but there is a part of us that throws a fit when a new idea is introduced as to how to obtain it.  Boy I wish I had the answer.

I’m struggling just like everyone else trying to put on my big girl panties, grow up and realize that my current normal is a fail in some areas.  I don’t want to change.  I want to do what I want to do and still reach the goal.

How childish, but it’s exactly why we can’t seem to make it over the finish line.

So, something must change.  There are many noble reasons for change: obedience to God, commitment to family, the reality of health risks, realizing we are worth the try and so on.  And, our pesky, lifelong dreams that inspire us simply won’t leave us alone.  (sigh)

It would behoove us to take the time to identify what truly needs to change in our lives, then form a plan to achieve it.  Like running a race without a course or driving across the country without a map or GPS, without a plan we simply run or drive in circles…driving us crazy.

Once we commit to a plan, we need to settle on the specs of that plan.

Remember the television show Friends?  I will never forget the episode where George Castanza figures out that if, going forward, he makes every decision based on the OPPOSITE of what he would normally decide, then life would go his way.  Ha!  If only it were that easy!

(Photo credit click here)

Just a week inside the new year and I’ve already been confronted with temptations to hightail it the other way regarding things that need to change in my life.  It’s so tempting to quit the race before I’ve even broken a sweat.

Some of it is control.  I don’t want to give that up.  Some of it is fear.  Do I really trust God in these areas?  Some of it is sheer laziness   I, frankly, just don’t want a new normal even if it means staying this way prolonges the end goal.  Some of it is lack of enthusiasm – especially regarding the changes that will cramp my current style.  Some of it is that I don’t know what to do about what needs to change.

Psalm 37:5-7, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him…

So in the presence of the Lord I wait, but need to be ready to move when He says move. That takes being intentional and exercising motivation whether I’m feeling it or not.

The word “tomorrow” is quick sand to the heart.  We sink deep in years-worth of tomorrows.  It’s suffocating.  Depressing.  Demotivating.

What does the book of James say about tomorrow?

James 4:13-14, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…

This passage speaks to boasting, yes, but it’s not unlike what we do when we talk a big talk about our plans that we know we procrastinate.  It’s like we somehow want credit for just saying the words of what we will do, when we haven’t done a thing toward actually doing them.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The opposite of empty boasting – worrying – can hold us back just as much.  This was true for me yesterday.  Our kitchen needs some long overdue repairs.  In fact, I’ve put this off for 15 years, and 15 years ago it already needed repairs.  There are simply too many decisions to make, too much money to spend, and it all makes my head spin.  Bruce and I had a lengthy conversation with the kitchen cabinet guy.  I told him I couldn’t find a color wood that worked for me.

He looked at me surprised and said, In all of these choices, there isn’t one color you like?

I scrunched up my face and replied, No, sorry.

Come with me, he insisted.

We walked over to the samples and he instructed, See all of these?  Pick out a maybe.  

A maybe?

Yes, a maybe.

I flipped through the same samples over and over and finally looked at him and again said, Nothing appeals to me.

No.  You must pick a maybe.

(Okay, this should be fun, right?  Waiting 15 years to fix some very real issues is not only sound wisdom to protect the investment of our house, but  it should be a happy occasion to finally consider the project.)

Begrudgingly, I flipped through them again and heard my inner child pouting.  He watched in amazement at my lack of decisiveness.

At long last, I picked a…maybe.

We sat back down at his desk as he proceeded to help me with my “color psychology” as I called it.

He said, If you could have any color cabinet in the world, what would it be?

I couldn’t answer.

You have to answer.

Ug. This guy was productively annoying.

Okay, see, what I like I cannot do because it’s too color specific and it wouldn’t be good for resale value and we may very well outgrow it in 5, 10 or 15 years.

Ah ha!  A breakthrough!  Deep down inside, I actually did have a choice hiding in the vortex of my brain.

Bruce and the guy looked at me with astonishment and asked why “years down the road” mattered to me.

I replied, Because I don’t want to have to do this all over again some day.  It’s hard to spend money on this right now with the economy, albeit quite necessary at this point in our kitchen.  I’m afraid. 

The guy looked at me and replied, You can’t think that far down the road.  Who knows what life will look like then.  Based on what you’ve told me, anything will be an improvement to what it is today.  Why worry about what you don’t even know will happen?

He is right.  It’s just kitchen cabinets, but he proves Jesus’ point on the more substantial things of life.

Uncredited boasting and worry sink our feet in tomorrow’s quicksand that inhibits us from making positive changes today.

Asking God for wisdom to see our lives through His perspective, forming a plan of change with His guidance, and exercising courage to take the first step – and keep stepping – is a plan for success.  After all, He knows us better than anyone (Psalm 139) and has a plan for a hope and future for us (Jeremiah 29:11).  And, He loves us.  He is the good Father.

Whether it be something tangible like house decisions, better health or jobs, or the intangibles like relationships or a godly perspective, change can be really good…and change is inevitable.

After all, the only thing that never changes is that everything changes. (Louis L’Amour)

Embracing the idea of change is where we start being productive toward the goal and stop hurting ourselves like those squirrels – chasing after something invisible that ended up adding nothing to their life except pain.

Let the journey begin.

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