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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why It's Okay To Say "No"

This morning as I ran around completing errands while listening to satellite radio, one of my favorite songs by Reliant K played. Although I've heard the song hundreds of times and know the words by heart, one of the lyrics struck me today: "I am a hostage to my own humanity." Yes, yes I am.

I've always been a dreamer. An idealist. Wanting to believe the best in this world and in every single person who inhabits it. Wanting to fill every need I encountered. Wanting to soothe every hurt endured by not only those I love, but by those exposed to me with obvious hurts. I say this not to tout my empathy as some type of badge of honor. I say it with a tone of frustration because this song--this lyric--reminded me that I'm limited by my own humanity. The limits of time, energy, resources, and strength erected by the fact that I'm human.

I can't help every person who asks. I can't give to every cause (my husband won't let me answer the phone between 5 and 8 pm!). I can't say "yes" to every request made of me. Even though I want to.

I grew up in a home in which my parents had limited means. There wasn't money for dance class, the latest technology, or the hippest clothes. But despite my not having the ridiculous creature comforts my kids enjoy, I felt minimal loss. Sure, when I was in middle school and my friends were wearing name-brand jeans and could participate in extra-curricular activities that I couldn't because my brothers and I were latch-key kids, I nursed the narcissistic attitude of some teenagers that I was being robbed of something. Kids are kids and can have a tunnel vision that requires a re-indexing.

My sweet Daddy provided that re-indexing. He didn't do this through words; he did it through his example. He went on mission trips to help build things. He volunteered his time. He provided a vision of service that truly embodies the idea of giving yourself to those who need it. His life inspired in me a servant's heart. This can sometimes lead to an overextension of self. We get pulled in lots of directions. We get asked more often than most because those asking know we'll say "yes."

One of the most important lessons I've learned in my forty-something years is to navigate my life so that I willing offer my time, focus, and love to those things that matter most to me. So when the asks come that I need to say "no" to but would otherwise feel obligated to say "yes" to are a no-brainer. I simply don't have the time to dedicate because I've resourced it already.

As you examine your life and where your energies go, please give yourself the permission to prioritize according to what's important to you. Because if you give your energies in places your heart doesn't sit, you do both yourself and those you've committed those energies to an injustice. If we all simply focused our time and energy on those things that inspire us, all the parts would be covered.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Thought Required When We're Forced To Measure Our Words

Back in the day, before computers, typewriters, and even ball-point pens, people used pen and ink to capture their thoughts. Ideas. Creations. Sitting here, I can fly across my keyboard and type out dozens of words a minute, whereas in the past, each word required dipping metal into a pot of ink. Each stroke required deliberate thought because the task of putting it onto parchment didn't allow for superfluous ponderings (like using the word superfluous). It required precision and intent and careful consideration. Ink and parchment were precious and didn't allow the vomiting of opinions and ideas to which our present conveniences and media open the gateway.

I see this as both a negative and a positive. Anyone (like me!) can sit down at their computer and blog into the world wide web without pause, reconsideration, or even a grammatical or moral filter. The news media, which used to be limited to thirty minutes in the evening hour, is now a twenty-four hour talking head, love fest where whatever your political view is can be validated and explored ad nauseam no matter what the hour. Yes, we have access to information and opinions that we've never had before. And this is a good thing in that we can listen to and contemplate ideologies that we otherwise wouldn't. But this non-stop feed heightens our responsibility to consume this vast medium with a much stronger filter. We can't simply listen to pundits and adopt their opinions. Because there are SO MANY. We must think about our own values, priorities, and thoughts before we simply push a like button, a hashtag, or nod our heads.

I embrace the ease of my laptop. The internet. The vast landscape of ideas that open with a few mouse clicks. But I also miss the deliberation of a world where each word required a dip into a valued vat of ink. The work required in each stroke. The literal and metaphorical worth of each letter. Each thought. Because forcing such reflection in presenting opinion doesn't allow for empty words or thoughtless rhetoric.

So let us each pause and consider what is truly important to us. Then, having done so, use our powerful words and precious time to express that which is most important.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How Our Words Have Power Beyond What We Presume

When I began blogging a few years ago, I didn't really understand what I was doing. If you read my first few posts (please don't!), they sound more like a diary entry than what I've tried to do with my blog over the past three years. I initially assumed that blogs were meant to be online journals that you shared with whomever cared to read about whatever pursuit you were undertaking. I've tried to evolve mine into a philosophical reflection of not only my journey in trying to get my novel, "The Beauty of Grace," out there, but also in navigating daily life. I knew that my friends and family would read my pontifications out of a sense of loyalty and support, but I believed it ended there.

Then, today, I received a message from someone that surprised and humbled me. When we first moved to Pennsylvania eight years ago, I went to a jewelry show at the home of Renie. I loved her work and spoke with her briefly, but our paths haven't crossed in the past several years. Through Facebook's "friend recommendations," we touched base, but only virtually by following one another's posts. We've never met for coffee or chatted on the phone or spent time together. So when I received a direct message from her on Facebook today, it halted me.

In June, I went home to Alabama. The purpose of my trip was heartbreaking--my cousin and his eighteen-year-old daughter's funeral. And while I was there, my aunt delivered volumes of photo albums that belonged to my grandparents. These pictures and being surrounded by family and the heightened sense of mortality caused me to reflect on my family's story. So I blogged about it.

This afternoon, I opened a message from Renie telling me that she'd read the post about my grandfather and hadn't stopped thinking about it. In spending time with her parents recently because of emergent illness, she'd been asking questions, trying to archive experiences, and thinking of their stories. She articulated that she'd been thinking of the words in my post and trying to capture her family's experience. Wow. I responded to her that she humbled me with her words. How blogging often feels like an exercise in hubris. Why write something and put it out there for people to read? Assuming your words are worthy of time and reflection. Her honesty caused me to pause. I encouraged her to write her father's experiences. To write with honesty and emotion and without filter because her father's story as a World War II vet deserved to be told. That the tugging she feels to tell it is an instinctual validation of this.

We all have a story. It can be complicated. Messy. Painful. Funny. Or presumptively boring. But it is our story. And it should be told because when we share our stories, it brings us that much closer together as we realize that we aren't as different as we'd presumed.