Rhonda Cagle

Learning the Real Value of Choices

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I was raised to worry. From my earliest days, there was pressure to “get it right.” To be perfect. Never to make a mistake.

Failure wasn’t an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure meant you had made the wrong choice. You had let down those around you and disappointed God. Pretty serious stuff for a seven-year-old.

After a lot of anxiety, not to mention medication for stomach acid, I’ve come to the realization that there are very few choices in my life that are right or wrong, black or white. There is only the opportunity to do my best with what I presently know and what I have to work with.

The choices I have made in life have often resulted in detours and paths that wandered down unexpected and sometimes unwelcomed roads. They weren’t always the most direct route. They resulted in a lot of experiences and relationships that didn’t seem relevant or even helpful at the time.

Were they the wrong choices?

I’m not so sure.

Photo courtesy of tastytabletopics.com.

Photo courtesy of tastytabletopics.com.

I married, and ultimately divorced, a man who resulted in a lot of emotional damage and years of therapy. But I got the most beautiful, caring, bright daughter as a result. And entering therapy has helped me grow in ways I might never have experienced. I have become braver than I thought possible and discovered I am more competent and capable on my own than I ever imagined I could be.

The choices I make in life rarely come with a clear-cut right or wrong label. I do the best I can with what I have at the time. And I pray. And I trust that somehow, God will both guide and use my choices to help me “fail a little better” each day.

I still worry. But I worry less about making the “right” choices in life. These days, I focus more on the choices that allow me to journey, at least for a time, on roads less traveled. I want my choices to create the opportunity to explore the byways that I might have overlooked or ignored by making the “right” choice.

It’s messy. It’s unconventional. It’s a philosophy that is counter to my upbringing. But it’s how I choose to live. And it’s a choice that offers more life than I would have imagined.

Ten Gifts for Myself on My 47th Birthday

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Like death and taxes, birthdays are the only sure thing in life. And, like death and taxes, they come around whether one likes it or not.

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Photo: BirthdayPartyBabble.com

Me? I don’t mind Birthdays. And, unlike some people who try to hide their age, I have no hesitancy in disclosing that I turn 47 this week. The truth is, I am relieved to be turning 47. There is a lot of water under this bridge and it feels more congruent to have my chronological age reflecting all that life has brought, all that I have endured, and, in some part, what I have learned, lost, fought for, and sometimes won.

The truth is that I am a middle-aged woman. This is a glorious, shocking, humbling, breath-taking, and often humorous reality. But it is my truth and I choose to own and celebrate it fully, knowing there are lessons I have learned that wouldn’t have come at any other age or stage in life. These lessons are the gifts I am celebrating on this, my 47th Birthday.

  1. Begin each day with the end in mind and live each day with the purpose, clarity, and conviction of this point of view. At 47, it takes more than two hands to count the loved ones I have already lost. Life is hard and time is often shorter than I realize. Knowing what matters, what is truly important, helps me get the most out of living each day.
  2. Not everyone is going to like me. That’s okay, as long as I like myself. It is cliché, but really is true. I have to look myself in the eye as I gaze into the mirror each morning. It’s important to like the person I see staring back at me; the person I see myself becoming. At this age, the shape of who I will be at the end of life is beginning to show. It’s more important to like who I see than to worry about what others think.
  3. Kindness really does matter. So do good manners. With age comes the realization that life brings seasons of harsh bitterness that are unavoidable. A kind word can serve as a pumice stone to a calloused soul. Good manners remind me to look for civility and beauty in what is sometimes a horrifying and often uncivilized world.
  4. Good wine and dark chocolate are usually the best remedy for a bad day. Just go with it. Seriously. Deprivation and a smaller dress size won’t make up for an unhappy soul.
  5. I don’t have life all figured out. No one else does, either. Some people are just better at faking it than others. There is a relief in being with people brave enough to admit they don’t have it all figured out and yet are still trying. These are the people I want to surround myself with.
  6. It’s okay to say no. No to what is expected or obligatory. No to what I know I am fully capable of doing. Sometimes, saying no is really a way of saying yes to something else; something different, new and perhaps important, something that will take the time and energy created by first saying no.
  7. Never turn down the opportunity to take a nap. Also, eight hours of sound, uninterrupted sleep is better than the best sex or drugs. This is a truth that only a middle-aged, menopausal woman can fully appreciate.
  8. Say yes to the chance to do something unexpected. Impulsive. Adventurous. Much of my life is spent trying to be a responsible grown-up. Too often, I am so busy trying to make a living; I forget to make a life. Saying yes to the chance for unexpected exploration or an out-of-the-blue opportunity makes me – and life – more interesting.
  9. My true friends are scarce and worth their weight in gold. I can count on one hand the number of people who are close enough to tell me when I am wrong. Selfish. Too stubborn. They are also the first to run to my defense and fight for and with me. These are the people worth keeping in my life at all cost.
  10. Someone wise once said an unexamined life is not worth living. But it is equally true that an unlived life is not worth examining. Life is meant to be lived. Out loud. Arms wide open. Messy. Complicated. Pure. Unadulterated. With a passion so intense, there is nothing left unsaid or undone when it ends. In God’s hands, and with God’s grace, this kind of passionate life is one that brings pleasure to Him and is a gift to others. And to me.

Gifts of Comfort and Joy

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Recently, my husband and I found ourselves packing for business trips to the East Coast that coincided in the same city at the same time. Pulling out my wool coat, scarves and gloves, I was reminded of the business trips my father used to take; remembered watching him pack his fold over garment bag with suits and ties and stock his briefcase with pads of paper, pens, and lots of business cards.

As a teenaged girl, my father was frequently on business trips that took him to the Midwest and East Coast. He would brave the snowy cold of city streets with only his suit coat to keep him warm. Being the sole provider for our family, there were better things to do with his money than buy a coat that wouldn’t be used on a regular basis.

Still, it bothered me to think of my father trudging through ice and snow without a wool overcoat. So, one Christmas, I decided to do something about it.

I took the money I had earned from my after school job and made my way to the stores. I looked through many racks of coats at several clothing stores to try and find a wool overcoat that would keep my dad warm and look professional over his suits. After finally finding one I could afford (sort of), I took the coat home, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and placed it under the tree.

It still makes me smile, remembering the look of complete surprise and delight when my dad opened that gift. It was unexpected. Extravagant. Thoughtful. And all these years later, my heart still warms with pride remembering the next trip my dad packed for, seeing his new warm overcoat draped over his suitcase and briefcase. Knowing he would be warm was comfort to my own heart.

Photo: zimbio.com

Photo: zimbio.com

I told my husband this story as I insisted he come with me and shop for his own overcoat in preparation for our respective business trips. My husband didn’t own an overcoat. Like my dad, my husband insisted he would be fine in the freezing temperatures with his suit coats and perhaps a sweater or two. And, like my dad, he was equally appreciative of stepping out into the winter winds a few days later, wearing the warm overcoat I had found.

What is it about the gift of a coat that warms my own heart?

Each year, I make sure our family adopts at least one Angel Tree child from a local charity. We make sure to purchase the items listed for the child. But I always add a warm coat to the pile of toys and clothing we return for the child.

In my professional life, I see many children whose names are often on Angel Trees in other parts of the country. I see the coats they trudge to school in; see the stains and rips in the too small or too large hand-me-downs they shiver in. Worse, I see the children who insist they are fine in only a sweatshirt or hoodie, determined to make due with what they own because they can’t afford more.

I am thinking of these children as I select my own Angel Tree child this holiday season. Life is hard for these Angels. Winter winds blow and the snow and ice comes.

I can’t change the weather or the storms. But I can make sure they have a coat that is warm and comforting. Unexpected. Extravagant. Thoughtful. It’s the best part of this holiday season – one I hope you will join me in sharing.

Originally published in print for The Arizona Republic, December 3, 2014

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