Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Perspective

I am undeniably a runner. I have left conversations, relationships, and even states when I felt they were unhealthy and detrimental to my growth. A recent situation had me dusting off my running shoes yet again. I fluctuated between wanting to wait out the uncomfortable unknown and wanting to jump ship. From one day to the next, I was encouraged or disgusted and it wore me out. In addition to being exhausting, the emotional swinging prevented me from focusing on progression. I wasn't ready to commit to running or staying, but needed to accept that even though I couldn't change my circumstances, I could change my perspective.

Getting stuck in the middle of valid, but unproductive emotional space pushed me further from my purpose. All of my energy was spent either building myself back up on a low day or managing my expectations on an encouraging one. There was nothing, no positive words nor resistance left. I could not operate in an uncertain space and be depleted of energy. I needed to focus my attention on the larger picture in the meantime. I needed to change my perspective.

My mood stabilized and became more recognizable when I made a conscious decision to stop willingly riding an emotional roller coaster. Rather than expending all of my mental energy on circumstances that I couldn't change, I shifted my attention to creating the lifestyle that would fulfill me. I stopped handing over control and took responsibility.

There will be situations and people in your life that you cannot change. The good news is you can change. There will be circumstances and relationships that may take more time than you desire to change. You can develop patience. There will be times when clarity is not immediate. In the meantime, you can alter your perspective. This is your life. Why not do all that you can to live the most fulfilling, peaceful, joyful, and love-filled way possible? Is it difficult? Yes, but no more difficult than giving up. Does it come with painful lessons? Yes, but not more painful than willingly relinquishing your power. Does it get uncomfortable? Yes, but not nearly as uncomfortable as living a life less than you were purposed and promised. When in the middle of difficulty or contemplating a major life change, sometimes all you need before you receive clarity is a change in your perspective.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Your Story

Storytelling is a timeless art. A well told story can make us laugh, cry, empathize, remember, and imagine. It can move us to feeling sorrow, anger, regret, comfort, joy, courageous, and inspired. Whether reading, listening, or watching, stories evoke emotion and we love experiencing life through the stories of others.

While there are great lessons and confirmation of our humanity in stories, we have to be careful not to minimize ourselves because of what we witness in others. We have been conditioned to expect and even prefer a formulaic narrative—a character is living a "normal" life, something tragic happens, the character deals with the tragedy, and boom, happily ever after. In addition to this being simplistic and unrealistic, the biggest problem is that we seek relativity in stories so if our lives don't fit that narrative then we conclude that we're a failure or we're tremendously and permanently defective.

Each of us has a story, one that is ongoing and cannot be neatly wrapped up in a 250-page novel or 90-minute film. If we had the ability to stitch together all of our personal tragedies it would exceed the time it takes to read a novel. Likewise, our greatest moments can't be limited to 90 minutes. If just one aspect of our lives cannot be contained in the time it takes to read a novel or watch a movie how can we expect our entire existence, with all of its challenges, complications, and peak moments to be resolved and fit into a storybook, Hollywood formula? It can't and we wouldn't want it to.

You will experience many threads of stories in your lifetime. Some will be resolved quickly, others could evolve into your life's mission. In the same chapter you could experience high highs and heartbreaking lows. The good news is that you have the power and responsibility to create your own narrative, one that isn't based on a formula or expectation. Actively live the storyline that will bring you the most joy, peace, truth, and love. You will live out much more life than the time it takes to read or watch the stories of others so don't compare the entirety of your story to a snippet of someone else's. The only true tragedy would be for you not to recognize the beauty and power that you and your story contain.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Not That Special

One of the hardest lessons we learn comes at the hands of others, but we serve as accomplices. It doesn't matter how young we are when that lesson first arrives or how many times it repeats, we are still surprised and hurt when it comes around again, as if history hadn't already whispered, tapped us, then shouted, shoved, and finally thrown a brick at us prior. We promise we will never allow it again...until someone else comes along and we consider ourselves much more special (and less rational) than we should.

Maya Angelou said, "When people show you who they are, believe them." That phrase is both simple and profound. I've used it to validate my choices, evaluate relationships, and protect myself. Yet my validating, evaluating, and protecting self still wanted to be more—more unique, more deserving, and quite frankly, more special than the truth. I believed that someone wouldn't treat me the same way that s/he treats everyone else because our relationship, i.e., me, was special. I thought I was special enough to have a more genuine and loving version of someone who may not have even cared to be more genuine or more loving.

If someone is unkind to others, the day will come when she is unkind to you. If someone is careless with other people's feelings, he will have moments when he is careless with yours. The person who gossips, exaggerates, is inconsiderate, disappoints, lies on, ignores, or is selfish with others doesn't do so because everyone, except you, deserves it. When you hear that first whisper, listen. When you feel that gentle tap, take heed. Don't wait for the shout or the shove—and certainly not the brick—to believe people when they show you who they are.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Examined Life

I believe in the transformative power of education. There are benefits to learning formulas, systems, history, literary devices, and methodology. It is amazing to analyze, experiment, and stretch intellectually. Yet the most influential aspect of my educational career had little to do with the classroom. My education evolved the moment I realized that I could examine every area of my life with even more focus than I ever did for any grade or course. From that point on I committed to living an examined life.

My maternal great-grandfather was the pastor of a church. I spent many Sunday mornings and afternoons in that red brick building with the squeaky, wooden pews. In addition to my mother's side of the family being active, my father's side were members of the same church so the ritual of service was as much religious practice as familial obligation. I learned lessons of love, forgiveness, and faith all while spending time with my family. So much of what I heard Sunday after Sunday was ritualized to the point that as children we recited it for laughs. I memorized as many scriptures as my time tables and trusted everything I heard without question, even when it was harmful to my well-being.

There was something nagging in my gut that would not allow me to simply accept everything I heard, read, and experienced. My journey toward authenticity demanded more of me. I stepped outside of the shadow of obligation and blind belief and stepped into the freedom of exploration. It wasn't until I gave myself permission to inquire that my true education and road to spirituality opened up. I had to first release the notion that questions were symptoms of unbelief and betrayal. It wasn't until I asked questions and sought answers that I truly learned.

If you've been taught to accept the least of what you've been offered, teach yourself new lessons. If you've been presented with a path that doesn't resonate with your soul, pursue a new path. If your notions of forgiveness, progression, or health conflict with what you need to forgive, progress, and heal, explore new notions. If you have been afraid to question faith, investigate the source of that fear. Position yourself to learn the most influential lessons by examining every area of your life without being fearful of what you may discover. Challenge yourself to live an examined life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lens of Truth

I am a reformed liar and there was a time when I wouldn't have even been honest about that. I portrayed more than I lived because pretending seemed less complicated, less painful, and less frightening. When flashes of reality snuck past the surface I ran back to the perceived safety of the closet containing all of my secrets and slammed the door. I told myself that the lying I did was acceptable—yet another lie—because I wasn't hurting anyone. Yet that was the most detrimental untruth because I was hurting myself.

There is something extremely terrifying about honesty. It's the reason so many clich├ęs, expressions, songs, poems, books, shows, and films are centered around the truth—hiding it or finding out about it. Most of us have convinced ourselves or have been persuaded by others that certain areas of our lives are better concealed or easier to deal with if we don't actually deal. The problem is that we can never grow into our fullest selves without first being aware of who we are. We can never reach where we're going if we aren't first honest about where we've been. We can never heal if we don't acknowledge that we hurt.

The closet containing my secrets, where I perceived safety because it didn't require me to expose my hurt, was harmful. It felt comfortable, but it was stifling and suffocating. It was only through the lens of truth that I could acknowledge the negative impact of hiding my pain and open the door. It was only through the lens of truth that I could see the dark cloud of dishonesty choking the life out of me. It was only through the lens of truth that I could bear to be brave enough to fully live. It was only through the lens of truth that I could tell my story and trust that I would survive telling it as I continue to survive living with it.