If you want to find out where everything went wrong
If you want to figure out how all the chaos got started
If you want to discover when the loving stopped
Or the joy vanished
And the easy became hard
If you want to track down the villain in the story
And punish him
Then do it quickly
Track down the fear in your own heart and disown it now
Because it is faster than cancer
And more destructive than the impact and shrapnel from a thousand bombs
It has tutored your ego into malice
And baited your intellect into stupidity
It has sucked your blood until you were the real vampire, the real boogie, the scariest zombie
From the most gruesome nightmare ever dreamed
And it was you all along
You! who gave fear the key
Nothing shakes me out of my self-centeredness, ethnocentrism, and poor-me problems more than reading biographies and fiction about the struggles of passionate men and women in other times and places. The first book that called me out on my bull#h*t was Les Miserables. When I read it many years ago, the plights of Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette, representing the real problems of the time period, shook me hardily out of the illusion of my “difficult life.” Other books followed suit: Roots, Tale of Two Cities, A Good Earth, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Man’s Search for Meaning, The Hiding Place, etc. And, more currently, Jungle of Stone, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Endurance, Pillars of the Earth, Outlander, The Glass Castle, Same Kind of Different as Me, and countless others.
I hope you don’t have the same tendency that I have to become a small-minded cry-baby. But if you ever do, I hope you will let a book rescue you.
I may not be happy with numerous things in the world…but, I am happy with a gazillion other things (like clean water and internet access).
I may have aged a lot in the last few years…but, my face has fewer bumps (because I have a dermatologist who took them off).
I may have a larger waist…but, I have a larger purpose too (because being attractive was never a sustainable project).
I may have fewer admirers…but, I have learned to do the admiring (because, after all these years, I have finally accepted myself, which, by the way, gives me more time to admire others).
Because, it is so important to give myself a broader perspective (on issues both large and small), I have made a pact with myself to always balance the info I allow in my head. If I am fed bad news, I feed myself good news. It’s that simple. It’s not being Pollyanna positive, it’s being productively practical; just opening my eyes a little wider.
I am in charge of the feed.
Thank you Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield for your example: http://www.interestingshit.com/nature/good-news-stories/
Some leaders define Vision simply as imagination plus courage. This definition reminds me that any remarkable accomplishment happens because someone had the courage to stand for what could be. And that…
- My imagination has a purpose.
- I have ideas that can make a difference.
- Many brave people before me have tenaciously fought against unbelievable odds for ideas that mattered.
- Their imagination and courage made a difference for me.
If I have imagined anything that can benefit others and if my dream makes me feel alive, chances are…this is what I was born to do.
And, if I want to accomplish anything, I must remember this on the days my efforts appear useless.
In Kate Braestrup’s book Here If You Need Me she tells the story of coping with her husband’s premature death through the lens of her work as a Maine Game Warden Chaplain.
I resonated with her description of the “parallel worlds” of light and darkness and the “hinge” of death or tragedy that can swing us suddenly from one into the other.
We can live casually, surrounded by the comfort of things and people we love, but, we must always remember the temporal nature of this state. Things will change; our whole life will swing into uncharted territory. And, I am convinced, along with Kate, that if we want to know where God is in all of the upheaval, we must look for love…
…in whatever world we find ourselves.
“We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
When I reached No. 3: Give up Playing Small, in Zdravko Cvijetic’s “13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful,” it reminded me of two things:
- The fears (that kept me small) I have already challenged and banished
- The fears I am still hanging on to
Conclusion: My progress may not be impressive, but at least I am very slowly…letting go.
As I review two thousand and sixteen
I celebrate the fears I no longer claim
And, trembling, plan an attack
On the terrifying ones that remain
Here’s to hoping (for everyone’s sake)
That you will resolutely do the same
Many of us think that our grief and anger are private issues, that we, alone, must bear them and we, alone, have the right to decide how long we will grieve or be angry.
It is critical not to “stuff ” our grief and anger, yet, when we prolong our grief or anger, what we often fail to consider are those who will suffer in the wake of that choice: those who will be forced to shoulder our burden, because we are not ourselves, we are unavailable, or we are so occupied with our own pain that we cannot function as a true friend or partner.
Along with our faces, sadness and anger will also mar our relationships.
Often when the weight of tomorrow is too heavy
When I cannot find justification for my efforts
Because the trouble ahead appears to far exceed my strength
Multiplying instead of dividing
Challenge upon challenge
Task upon task
And fear upon fear
The problem is that I am expecting
Tomorrow’s solutions to be drawn from resources I possess today
What I haven’t calculated within this equation
Are the new mercies of friends and fate
Or tricks of destiny that will appear on a single date
Somehow equaling the demand of this day’s needs
With just enough carry over for slipping soundly to sleep
Into a better tomorrow
One day at a time.
How can I make the best of it?
Wherever I find myself
In whatever circumstances
It is this question
That makes me a hero and a joy
One who thrives
And one who makes it better for the rest
When I have decided not to say, “There’s no way.”
Or ask, “Why me?”
Or “What if?”
But, “How can I make the best of it?” instead
That is when pain and sorrow have a fighting chance
To become more than a burden
That is when I give life permission
To make sense
In her book, Thick Face, Black Heart, Asian-American best-selling author Chin-Ning Chu was painfully honest about her life:
“One morning, years ago, I woke up with an overwhelming feeling of aloneness overtaking my soul. I felt as if my spirit were covered by layers of dark clouds. I lived but made no difference to the world… I stood alone in the pit of my soul. I felt the world could do very well without me. I didn’t see any hope, only despair. Then I picked up a book my parents had given me long ago: one I had never read…“
In Soaring, Chu heard the message that saved her life.
The author said, “if one is destined for great accomplishments, the preparation for the journey will be extensive.” She embraced the message, deciding that her pain had not been wasted. I’m glad she did, because I would need her book many years later.