Day 227: The eyes will tell you

We were sitting down to hot bowls of chili tonight. It was rather late, and everyone was tired from the activities of the day. We were staring off into oblivion, and no one was talking. The itch to pull out a cellphone and go into dead brain mode was tempting. But nobody did.

We had just listened to Steven Spielberg’s commencement address at Harvard where he was talking about hate and segregation. He had said something like “we” have to come together with “them” and find “us,” and it all starts with connecting. He, too, mentioned my theme of staring into devices more than we spend time getting to know what others are all about.

So in the midst of our quiet, I went and pulled out a gift I had received at Christmas from a friend. It’a small acrylic cube filled with questions. I randomly pulled out one and asked the others around the table what they thought. It was a little awkward to get started, but by the end of the first round of answers, we were looking into each others’ eyes and finding out about thoughts and ideas, and it was deeper than a normal conversation.

After a few rounds, I started to clear dishes and I heard: “Aw, are we done?” It made my heart smile that we had truly connect for a few minutes at the dinner table. The acrylic cube? It still sits on the table, waiting for our next meal together.

DAY 227 HOMEWORK: If you need some help disconnecting from technology, bring a list of questions to the dinner table. Google “dinner conversation starters” and you’re sure to find a bunch of questions to get you started.

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Day 226: Keep on keeping’ on

Sometimes when you think you have problems, you only need to look around at what others are going through to realize that life can stink. You thought I was going to say, “you don’t really have it so bad,” didn’t you? Well, that’s probably a good answer, and true, and I’m usually the optimist who would wear the “Life is Good” shirts, but sometimes you need to recognize that things are not always going to be easy in this world. For anyone. Even for those people who seem to have golden lives. Maybe we need to start a new brand that says, “Life is Tough.”

The thing is, if we can realize that everyone is going through something, it may be easier to go through our own stuff. We are not alone, even if we are lonely. We are not singled out, even if it seems like it. The same rain that falls on me will fall on others around me. And while I would not choose the stuff others are going through, because I wouldn’t be strong enough, I know that I am strong enough to handle the things I am allowed to go through. That’s God’s promise to me. I don’t know how, but I do know it’s true.

I’ve seen friends lose their children, and just now, I learned of the death of a young guy married to a Brazilian girl I met here in Smyrna. It’s in difficult times like these that we have to rely on others to come alongside us. It’s a sweet sister who will come and sit with you. It’s a friend across the miles who makes a card for you. It’s a note on a Facebook wall that says I’m praying for you. It’s a hearty laugh amongst your family over something silly. Small gestures that mean the world, and help us to keep going, a moment at a time. And sometimes, that’s all you can do. Keep on going.

DAY 226 HOMEWORK: If you’re struggling, look around and know that we’re all struggling with something. Find joy in the small gestures, take a deep breath, and just keep going.

Day 225: Awkward!

I had an opportunity to connect tonight and did a really terrible job at it. I should have known better.

We had a picnic tonight for The Worship Society, and I really wanted to go. I had it on the calendar for weeks, and clicked the little box in the invite that said “going.” I even told someone what I was bringing. But after spending a wonderful day with my sister, shopping for ideas for her renovation, I suddenly didn’t want to go to this picnic by myself. Everyone I normally would have taken along was working, and I instinctively knew it would be awkward.

Dragging my feet, I ended up being about a half-hour late. By the time I got there, everyone was already paired off, chatting with others they knew, or playing corn hole and frisbee golf. The parents were with their kids on the playground, and so as I looked for a place to connect, I found one or two people that I knew a bit, chatted for a few minutes. Then, I sat for a little while to watch those who were playing games.

I immediately felt lonely amongst a large group of people, and I knew I was in trouble. There was not a way to gracefully exit the party, not that anyone even seemed to notice me. Still, with everyone gathered in the shelter to eat, walking away felt like a spotlight would be on me. So I stayed a bit longer. I grabbed a hot dog and some fruit, and ate an amazing bite of cheesecake.

I had two choices: to sit and be miserable, or to walk away with the risk of people wondering if I had crashed their picnic just to get a meal. My fight or flight response mechanism pushed me to leave, and as hard as that was, it would have been harder to stay.

Sometimes the frame of mind just isn’t right. Tonight was one of those times. I wish I had done better. Differently. But I didn’t. I’m not perfect and I’m going to have times like these, so I’m just accepting that it was an off night, and I’ll try again tomorrow. That’s the best I’ve got for now.

DAY 225 HOMEWORK: If you can learn from my failure, or if you tend to repeat my failure, either way, it’s ok. The only thing you can do is to keep loving yourself, and start a fresh page tomorrow.

Day 224: All the live-long day

Thank God for Chick-Fil-A and a 10 PM run through the drive-thru. Chicken never tasted so good!

I got off work at 2 today. They close the office early on holiday weekends, so I was jumping for joy to be home in the afternoon. I decided to run to Lowe’s to pick up some stuff for my yard, and after getting it loaded in my car, and then running through CVS drive-thru, I got home and realized I’d have to unload it all by myself.

So 40 pavers later (20 trips through my backyard!), plus mulch and 10 bags of river rock, and I was just about wiped out. Then, I got a second wind, and decided I wanted to get it done today. It was beautiful out…not too hot, and not the least bit chilly with a gentle breeze blowing over me.

When I was about halfway done, the kids got home from work and joined me in the project. I should have realized that it was late then, because they both got off at 7 today. My daughter-in-love started bagging up yard waste, and my son and I were laying down river rock and pavers.

It was dark when we finished, but still incredibly beautiful out. So we sat outdoors for a while just soaking up the evening. When my daughter-in-love said it was 9:30, I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, but now I realized I had been working in the yard for hours on end. No wonder the chicken tasted so good!

I love doing projects, so I’m not complaining in any way. In fact, we’re all going to sleep well tonight. Hard work and fresh air make for a great sleep elixir.

DAY 224 HOMEWORK: When’s the last time you poured yourself physically into a project that brought you joy? If it’s been a while, think about trying it again. It’s such a rush to do something yourself and, at least for me, brings a sense of pride.

Day 223: “Yes!”

At work, we had an event today that we typically have once a quarter. Those in charge of the activity pick a TED talk they like, and associates gather in our training room to watch it together. We then talk about the things we heard.

Today’s TED talk was by Shonda Rhimes, a TV writer and producer, who has produced many shows on typically on a Thursday night. She’s got 4 on right now. She’s a single mother of 3 and works on these 4 shows, each a difficult task on its own, but taken together, it’s simply astounding that this woman can make it through her days. I’m not a great fan of any of her shows she talked about, but now I’m a fan of her personally.

Her talk was about the year she said “Yes” to everything that scared her. She said as she said “Yes” that she began to overcome her fears, one of which was public speaking. Simply amazing because I didn’t hear her utter one vocal pause…not an uh, not an um, not a like. Her language was rhythmic and kept tying into her previous thoughts like a whirlpool circling and growing larger and larger.I loved her word pictures, and the alliteration she used. It was easy to see why she loves her work and writing, and creating stories. She certainly had a great way with language.

As she spoke, the story became more about finding that thing that brings you joy, much more than overcoming fears. Though she admitted to being a workaholic, her joy was in saying “Yes” to her kids any time that they asked her to play. She said they usually got bored with her after about 15 minutes, but that 15 minutes of saying “Yes” to them, every time, started to change her and it changed her kids.

It obviously doesn’t need to take long, and, it may not be kids; you may not have kids…but what is it that you need to say “Yes” too, that will give you that 15 minutes of joy, and help you take care of yourself? Let’s see if we can find it.

DAY 223 HOMEWORK: That “Yes” to 15 minutes of joy, whatever it is for you, can change you. So let’s start to find it. Write out those things that bring you joy. Then pick one, and dedicate 15 minutes to whatever “it” is. Do it today!

Day 222: Room 222

When I was little, I remember there being a show on tv called Room 222. I think I must have been pretty little (maybe early 70s?), because I don’t have too many recollections about it, but it seems to have been about a teacher and the interaction he had with his students. The lessons seemed to be about diversity and getting along with others.

Of course, in stream-of-consciousness fashion, I thought about Room 222 because it’s my 222nd day of blogging, and the idea I really want to talk about tonight relates to teaching. And understanding. Somehow, that all connects logically in my head.

I was talking today with a coworker who used to work for me, and who now works beside me. Yesterday, she taught a class on Coaching and since it was her first class in this series, she was a bit nervous. She told me that she over-prepares because one time when she was teaching, she totally crashed and got off track in the lesson, and so she’s had to work on getting outside her head when she teaches now. The way she used to think, while teaching, is that everyone in the classroom was judging her and looking at her, so she wasn’t really focused on the material but on herself. That usually made her more prone to error. Now, she said, she approaches each class with the mindset of being the facilitator of the material…not that people are even looking at her, but are trying to understand the material through her. It’s made a world of difference, she said.

I told her that her ideas went along with what I’m writing about…that need to get outside of ourselves and see our impact on others, not for our own worth but, for others’ worth. When we can do that, we become less the focus, and really can help build understanding. I told her that what she did yesterday worked. I put the practices we learned in class to use today, and had a good coaching session with someone, and it turned out better than I expected. She did well, and I learned some new tools…that’s a win-win!

DAY 222 HOMEWORK: Do you have a mindset you need to change? Do you need a new perspective? It may be as simple as thinking through what you’re processing, and learning a new way to approach it. Give it some thought.

Day 221: Talented or not…just be

I’m watching the finale of The Voice tonight. I love the premise of the show: that people aren’t judged on how they look, but by how they sound…alone.

It was a great season, with so many incredibly talented voices: one better than the next. I’m hoping that some solid musical careers are launched because of the show. There weren’t many that I would have discarded from the beginning. Even though I haven’t loved all the music, any of the four finalists deserve to win.

As I’m listening to the interviews, Hannah Huston said something that struck me, and made me think of my blog. She said that Pharrell encouraged her to be herself, her weird, crazy self; they showed her making faces & sounds, being silly and random. I loved that. It wasn’t just showing her in her great musical moments or while she’s all made up perfectly. It’s her real self (and I realize while I’m saying that, that everything is still slanted one way or another based on the editor’s choices).

My point, though, is that God made us to be who we are. We shouldn’t try to put on a facade. It doesn’t matter how someone else judges you; the only judgment that matters is God’s. I was made to be smart and silly, positive and introspective, caring and full of ideas. I might not always say everything that’s on my heart, but it doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything. You might see me silly, or spouting ideas, or introspective all in the same 15 minutes. I’ve worn a facade, and it’s not worth it. That’s why this journey is helping to break me free of that false image, to be who I was made to be. It’s not always easy, but I’m happy to be on road, heading in the right direction.

DAY 221 HOMEWORK: Are you wearing a facade? Count the ways God made you to be you, and start knocking down the facade, so you can just be.