Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Live Your Truth

This week I found myself living out the consequences of decisions I made many years ago. Instead of being authentic, I was amicable. Too fearful to create waves, I simply sailed wherever the wind blew. I essentially handed the responsibility of my well-being to others by assessing their comfort as more important than my emotional health. I entertained toxic, traumatic relationships simply because we shared a bloodline. My previous attempts to break ties were discouraged and unsuccessful. I’m certain that my refusal to continue down this senseless path will be problematic also, but the alternative has become impossible.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve been increasingly attracted to peace. However, without realizing it, I had been settling for partial peace. Not only was that absurd, but this particular area of my life was the one that demanded peace the most intensely. I will never walk in genuine peace unless I am willing to do all that it takes to be at peace. Even if it upsets those I’ve appeased for many years. Even if that means being misunderstood. Even if that creates separation. The pursuit of peace—my well-being—is worth more than the discomfort associated with upsetting others, being misunderstood, and potential separation.

Not everyone will understand all of your decisions. You are uniquely motivated by your experiences and purpose. Nothing is worth living a half-hearted, fabricated life. Not the reactions of others. Not fear. Not uncertainty. Not hard work. Nothing and no thing. Make the steps necessary to live freely and fully. Living your truth is not always easy, but living outside of it is intolerable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What Do You Believe?

Opinions constantly infiltrate our lives. They are stated, written, repeated, shared, misinterpreted, and repeated again. Opinions can be constructive, positive, and destructive. Opinions are offered on what we wear, what we buy, where we live, how we live, and even about our character. We certainly have emotional reactions upon hearing the opinions of others, especially those we have a personal relationship with, but opinions are only allowed to make an impact if we believe them.

You may have heard that you’re inadequate. Someone may have said you’re not attractive enough, not smart enough, not talented enough, etc. While hearing unkindness hurts, you are still faced with the decision to either believe the criticism or disregard it. Words don’t penetrate your soul unless you believe them to be true. What you believe about yourself is far more important and carries much greater consequences than what others say about you.

In addition to giving weight to the opinions of others, you also hold opinions of yourself based on history. Experience can speak much louder than words. Your past may have taught you to believe that you are insufficient, illegitimate, or unworthy, and caused you to trust in those falsehoods. Whether you encountered child abuse, neglect, abandonment, or abusive adult friendships/relationships, you are more than how you’ve been treated. What you believe about yourself needs to be developed internally, based on the truth.

The truth is you are more than what others have said to and about you. You are more than any err in judgment or shortcoming. You are more than how others have treated you. You are more than your past. You are more than your circumstances. You are simply more. It's time for you believe it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Space

Last year I walked away from a regimented life of work and graduate school for a trip around the world. I left routine for wonder. I knew my semester-long journey would change me, but I had no idea it would send my previous life away for good. In addition to reaching the end of a wanderlust lover’s greatest dream, I also had the agonizing task of saying goodbye to my father. None of my life resembled what I left. I had traveled to fourteen countries in four months, but nothing felt as foreign as my return home. Everything was so different that I felt lost in the change. I wondered where I was and who I was in the new space.

Who we are is not where we live, where we work, nor is it solely wrapped up in the people in our lives. Who we are is the internal voice that is present at home, at work, and in the company of loved ones—and not-so-loved ones. We often get so focused on our day-to-day activities that who we are goes unheard. We can be so preoccupied performing roles and playing into expectations that who we are is silenced. Ironically, it is in unchartered territory that we are successful in discovering our most authentic self.

My life didn’t feel familiar, but the comfort of familiarity is the enemy of growth. Wading in the contentment of routine ushers in complacency and erodes motivation. This period of uncertainty and partial seclusion has been uncomfortable, challenging, and difficult, but it has also been freeing, insightful, and inspiring. I once longed for my routine, but I now love my deeper understanding and appreciation of independence. I hoped my relationships would remain the same, yet if they had, I wouldn't have been as grateful for the unexpected sources of support that have become my daily rays of sunshine. I initially wanted to recreate the life I left, but I have grown more driven to produce a life I wouldn’t dream of leaving. My life changes demanded me to change my life. I was never lost in the new space, I simply needed to grow in order to operate in it.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let Love Lead

Someone I love sent a message that generated a response in me that was a bit smart-mouthed. Honestly, there was nothing ‘a bit’ smart-mouthed about it. The retort was intended to counter the sting that I felt. Before I replied, I took a moment to consider the purpose of sending such a response to someone I loved. Someone whose presence in my life was important to me. Someone with whom I’d shared many laughs and heart-felt discussions. Someone I learned to trust. Although a part of me was amused at the thought of that remark, I had to ask myself a serious question: Where was the love in that response?

It only takes a second for our lives to change. It only takes a single turn for us to walk down a path unintended. It only takes one hurtful comment to start to unravel what took years to build. How we speak to others is an indication of how we value relationships and ultimately, how we value ourselves.

I could have justified sending that comment. I could have used my hurt as an excuse to be careless—even for a second. However, I wanted to my response to come from a loving place, not a cruel place. Instead of sending a hasty, thoughtless message, I considered my friend’s feelings and circumstances. I considered my friend. I realized that she had no intention of offending me. She was simply being honest. More importantly, when I considered my own circumstances, I realized that I was being sensitive. Had I responded prematurely, my intent would have been hurtful and the sentiment I conveyed would have been dishonest. Reflecting rather than reacting taught me a vital lesson: It is imperative to let love lead instead of fleeting, fickle feelings.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back to Basics

At some point most of us have assumed that a simplistic life is forced on others, not chosen. I know I did. Even worse, I thought that those with a collection of things—a large house, luxury cars, name-brand suits, and matching accessories—were the ones who had what I should seek. They represented the freedom of purchasing power and I believed that equated to success. In my adolescent mind, those without had to live without. I never considered that they elected to have less in order to gain more. 

I recently spent a few hours at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, and it was an inspiring experience. The architecture and landscaping was stunning. Combined with seclusion, fresh air, and a gorgeous blue sky, it was hard not to feel at peace. It wasn’t long before I fully understood why monks opted to live a simple life. After letting go of the notion that simplicity isn’t always the equivalent of plain, backward, or ordinary, I saw their lives in their entirety. The simplistic lifestyle of a monk represented all of the ‘things’ I now strive for—purity, honesty, clarity, and peace.

Those with the wisdom to commit to a disciplined, contemplative life of community, service, and solitude gift themselves with the life that most of us reserve for special occasions. We plan elaborate vacations and sabbaticals to take a break from the trappings associated with the life that we claim to want. What if we could live in the same level of renewal and peace that we only occasionally think is important? What if we lived our lives with a constant focus on inner peace? What would we usher into our every day? Fulfillment? Freedom? Peace? While I'm not ready to become a monk I certainly understand the allure. After just a few hours observing their lifestyle and witnessing the light in their eyes, I have a deeper understanding of their motivation and a renewed desire to acquire less by becoming more.