Tuesday, March 25, 2014


There are circumstances where defense should be expected. Providing defense is normal and necessary to advance and win in higher education, sports, and a court room. Yet what's normal in those circumstances doesn't translate to a requirement elsewhere.

For reasons stemming from religious beliefs to social media protocol, we have been trained to defend everything and require others to provide a defense to us. We've bought into the idea so heavily that we assume those without a defense, those who lack a proper one—according to an arbitrary standard, or those who flat out refuse to provide a defense are out of line. After all, those who cannot or will not defend their choices are making choices that are invalid or wrong, right?

I have made many unconventional choices. I've lived on a ship for 100 days on two occasions. I've relocated several times and didn't always have a job lined up. I haven't pursued marriage or motherhood which to some makes me less feminine, less fulfilled, or simply, less than. However, my choices have brought much more to my life than I ever anticipated. As interesting, outlandish, and unusual as they may seem, my choices were right for me then and continue to sustain me now. I'd much rather spend my time and energy planning my next adventure than defending my adventure.

Those who require a well-versed, eloquent explanation will not hear your heart. Those who demand traditional, scripture-laden reasoning cannot feel your spirit. Those who need to be convinced of your relevance do not completely see you. This is your life. It is not a dissertation. It is not a game. It is not a trial. If you are confident in your choices, live in that confidence. Trust yourself and know that you are not required to justify, explain, nor defend. You have value. You have worth. Your life matters simply because you exist and there is no defense needed for that.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Home Court

Over the weekend I attended the NCAA men's basketball Big Ten Tournament semifinals. From college basketball fanatics like me to March Madness rookies, the energy in Bankers Life Fieldhouse was equally felt. Cheering was expected, but in this intentionally neutral location, not affiliated with any collegiate team, the level of school spirit was exhilarating and inspiring.

Most of us will never know what it's like to step out on a basketball court and perform in front of thousands, but every single day all of us are challenged to live our best lives. At times, we will live in front of a home court—in situations and with people whom we are most at ease and comfortable. In those conditions we feel supported, prepared, and confident in our ability to perform well. In those circumstances, we can sense and hear the cheers of those who love us propelling us forward. What happens, though, when we are out of our comfort zone? What happens when we lose home court advantage?

As with sports, we can go through life performing where we're most comfortable. We can practice drills and plays that show off our skills. We can face opponents with which we're familiar. We can perform solely in arenas where we have home court advantage. However, if we want to develop, get stronger, and walk in our purpose, we have to become more. We have to push pass the skills we're already performing well, stretch ourselves further than familiarity, and walk in places beyond the comforts of our home court.

Life will force us to perform in situations that are not ideal nor desirable. We have to trust after being betrayed. We need to forgive even when holding a grudge feels safer. We must take a risk even while we're terrified. We are required to open up when we'd rather shut down. We have to exercise strength when we feel our weakest. The moments when we feel the most vulnerable, afraid, and insignificant offer the opportunity for us to discover our power, boldness, and relevance. It is in situations when we are separated from what's comfortable that we learn what's possible. It is only when we are removed from our familiar home court and are separated from our idea of normal that we can see with clarity and live with the intention of being exceptional.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Last Gift

After my father died my family was left with the emotionally trying and seemingly insensitive task of clearing out his house. Weeks after my last trip my uncle called to tell me that he located a bicycle. It made me smile because I couldn't imagine my dad riding a bike. I told my uncle that during one of my last conversations with my dad I mentioned wanting to get a bike. My uncle responded, "I think you have one. This is a woman's bike and it's brand new."

My dad's last gift was a bit too much for me to handle. I hesitated taking it with me and when I did, it reminded me of all that wouldn't be. That bike was stolen moments. He would never give it to me. He would never ask repeatedly if I'd ridden it yet. He would never ask if I liked it. I stalled as long as I could. I eventually took that bike, dragged it up to the third floor, and put it in a room. That bike, like my emotions, belonged behind a closed door, out of my way so I wouldn't have to see nor deal with it.

Life is difficult and uncomfortable and inconvenient. Circumstances and relationships change. Feelings get hurt. We face lack, betrayal, disappointment, distance, pain, illness, and death. While we get to choose how we deal with life's lessons and who will walk with us, in order to grow, we all have to open the door and face our truths.

I could keep that door closed, but I—nor anyone else who visited—would never fully enjoy where I live. I could be saddened by the idea of moments that never were or be encouraged by the many moments that we shared. I could look at that bike as a symbol of loss and sadness or as a representation of my father's thoughtfulness and love. I could think of that bike as the last gift my father would ever give me or I could think of how wonderful it is that I had a father who listened, gave from his heart, and thought of me more than I imagined. That bike may be the last gift he purchased, but it is not the last gift he gave.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Risky Behavior

Engaging in risky behavior to avoid reality and numb pain is common. The usual suspects are violence, promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. However, there are other risky behaviors that are easier to disguise, but just as detrimental.

As a teenager, I wasn't interested in violence, sex, drugs, or alcohol. I was interested in escaping so I focused my attention on an exit plan. On the surface, I was simply driven. However, my desire to flee was an indicator of my blatant refusal to deal with my reality and pain. I detested violence, but was unkind to myself. I didn't give in to sexual pressures, but I caved under the pressure of family expectation. I didn't take drugs, but my mind was clouded with a distorted sense of religious forgiveness. I didn't drink alcohol, but I devoured lies.

As I grew older, my risky behaviors grew also. I forced myself to be silent. I was promiscuous with my time and energy by maintaining unhealthy relationships in order to keep an illusion of peace. My drug of choice was negative self talk and thoughts of unworthiness. I binged on guilt and shame and punished myself for it. I did it all while still achieving and with a smile on my face, even as I was being consumed by untruths. Just like a functional addict.

Risky behavior includes the usual suspects, but many more of our actions—and at times, non-actions—lead us in the opposite direction of our purpose. At best, it's counterproductive. At its worst, it's unhealthy and dangerous. Do you silence your voice? Do you keep relationships that don't provide growth or support? Do you consume lies from others? Are you being honest with yourself? Take the time to discover your risky behaviors. It's only when you view your life through the lens of truth that you can evaluate, reconcile, and correct.