You know, I really wish I had everything figured out, I knew the answers to all my problems, the direct path to fulfill my dreams, the key to finding and keeping love, and which door truly leads to peace and happiness. Come on now, I can hear many of those automatic responses popping into your head as you read this blog post, because you do the same thing. But, every day I’m learning more and more I don’t even know the questions, much less the answers. I convince myself, almost on a daily basis, of what is the right thing for me to do. But at the end of each day, I feel like I’m keeping a journal of all the wrong things to avoid, having experienced them first hand. So, here I am once again soul-searching on a Tuesday morning. Once again, I’m totally lost.
Knowing I can’t trust my emotions and decision-making process, I turn to a few varied sources; people I trust and admire and books that stretch my understanding and test my faith. I’ve chosen four inspirations this morning. Let’s just hope I can make some kind of sense out of all this turmoil. I’m so tired of being lost and afraid. I’m exhausted, frustrated, and just spent. Please let me find an answer, or at least something to hold onto with a tendril of assurance.
I’m a woman of faith. You can’t tell it by most of the decisions I’ve made in my life recently, not if you’re looking on the outside. But it’s by my faith, and through my love and relationship with my God that I first learned to love myself. In loving me, I’ve made some bold moves to find me. Unless you’re on the same journey as me, my actions seem detriment to most faiths. Everyone has an idea of what a faithful servant looks like, but I’m finding most people don’t look past an image, behind a mask, beneath the flesh, and right into the heart. We lie to ourselves, expecting our blind obedience to bring a life of prosperity and easiness, yet that’s never been the promise. I find myself constantly saying, “I’ll be happy when…” NO! I must be happy right in the middle of my chaos. If I let hardship, fear, loneliness or anxiety steal my joy, take away my faith, I’ve already lost. If I can’t smile, even as these tears streak down my face and I shake with fear, then what’s the point?
Ecclesiastes 12:1 – “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’; while the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain…” We’re not taught in Sunday school such days lay ahead for us, not for the faithful and the obedient. No, for us awaits rainbows and sunshine. I have come to know these dark times intimately, I’ve known them most of my life, yet I still hope and believe. Keep in mind, I did tell you at the beginning of this post I don't know the answers.
My next source of soul-searching comes from a book that was given to me on my birthday by a dear friend called, “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. I’ve been studying the chapter titled The Disconnected Self. Ms. Beck explains there are two halves to each of us (our essential self and our social self), and having balance of these two halves is detriment to us discovering our own North Star, our true purpose in life, our life design, our fulfilling existence. I immediately recognized my own imbalance, well really I’ve been aware of it long before being given this book, but Ms. Beck helps me identify just how and why I’m unbalanced. I’m a results-driven person.
My value has always been wrapped up in my performance and productivity. It’s been rewarded and punished, given and taken based on my achievements and accomplishments. I could always answer… “I’m loved, appreciated and wanted because …”, and then fill in the blank. Not loved, appreciated and wanted just as I am; strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures, etc. There’s always an excuse why - “I’m just not attracted, it’s just not the right time, if things were different, if I wasn’t, if you weren’t …” My father used to tell me, “There’s something about you that brings out the best and worst in me. I hate how you make me feel. If you do this to everyone else, no one will ever love you all the way, because you make them see themselves for who they are, and nobody likes who they really are.” His words have always haunted me, made me feel responsible for being a disappointment to everyone, always setting impossible standards no one can fulfill, not even myself.
“Today, the Melvins (results-driven) of the world are being downsized out of the very careers for which they sacrificed their essential selves.” ~Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star. I remember the years of busting tables, wiping asses, living paycheck to paycheck, and climbing the ladder with doing whatever it took to succeed - late nights, overtime, two jobs, and endless sacrifices for family and friends, fighting for the days when all the struggle would pay off - …after the degree …after the first paycheck …after the next raise …after the mortgage is paid off …after the kids are grown. Guess, what? After never came. I sacrificed so many moments in pursuit of achievements I thought I had to have to be loved, wanted, needed and desired. Here I am now with nothing and alone, all those things I sacrificed for, all those people I tried to please… where are they? The true treasure I lost was me. I chose me, and all those things (money, career, prestige, success, relationships) disappeared. I have to start over, but this time will be different. This time is for me.
My last two inspirations come from two very special men who have come into my life this past year. The admiration and respect I have for them is so abundant it’s overwhelming really. Because the things I truly admire about them aren't anything tangible, but in how they show the world to me through their words, their writing, their friendships, and their gifts. It’s like our souls connected on a higher plane. Well, their souls connected. I still feel sometimes like an observer, not really worthy to be in their company.
I read an article this morning titled “Bruce Lee’s Grave” by Jeff Suwak. The story is about a man who wanted to visit the grave site of his hero, Bruce Lee, and give him a quick prayer of thanks for being an inspiration in his life. Instead of finding what he expected, his journey through a graveyard brought him face to face with a fundamental truth about himself and the reason for his visit. The way this writer sees the world blows me away on many levels. He’s not without flawed views, as the rest of us, but he’s one of the most honest I’ve ever met. It’s such a breath of fresh air to see that in this day and age. With the advances in our technology and communication devices, we as a people learn to hide behind more clever and permanent masks. We used to only wear temporary ones when forced to be in public. Now that the world has been brought into our homes and every aspect of our lives, we wear continual masks that become so comfortable we forget about them. Here’s a writer who refuses to wear a mask.
The other inspiration comes from a brilliant man, Christian Fennell, who questions the system, fights against the social norms and dares to dance outside the lines of conformity. I admire him on so many levels. He’s a devoted and loving husband and father to his family and a mighty warrior in the literary world for his passion. He refuses to be put in a box. He has a set of short stories that he collects under the heading “On My Way to Sunday”. I asked him this morning what that byline meant to him and he answered, “I love Sundays. They will always be associated with fishing and hanging out with family, big dinners, etc. I write every morning, but Sunday, ‘cause I’m fishing. So it means I write all those damned stories On My Way to Sunday.” It seems Mr. Fennell has learned to balance his essential and social self. He has not forgotten the world is in chaos, but has apparently found his peace in the middle of it. He doesn’t wear the masks of conformity, but keeps an eye on what’s truly important. I have no doubt he will one day make it to his ultimate Sunday. Through these four inspirations, I hope I can do the same.
Till next time,