I viewed a clip that talked about the biggest regret people have as they near the end of life. The biggest regret was things not done. Chances not taken. Opportunities passed over.
When I think about the weeks, months and years that we sometimes lose due to work, worry or unthinkable trauma, I keep circling back to the idea that we have that one gift that is uniquely ours. That skill or ability that makes us different and fulfilled. And yet we pause in taking that idea, skill or talent to the world. The reason why we don’t isn’t the point.
It’s the reason we do. Live your life.
I am feeling a little sad today. It usually happens at this time of year, just before autumn. I have noticed the light, shadows and length. The leaves are turning that deep green shade before erupting into colors. And, the vegetable garden is desperately pushing product despite much cooler temps this August. It’s a last hurrah before the transition into dormancy.
It also is the time of year that my best friend revealed to me that her cancer had returned. We sat on her couch holding hands and crying. It was the unspoken moment of knowing that her life on this planet was short.
I remember the afternoon light was less vivid for a summer’s day. The lace curtains, almost still, betrayed a periodic breeze. And, a dragonfly hovered close to the window screen. It is a moment that is firmly etched in my mind. We sat together like that for a long time. Words just failed us.
It has been ten years yet my sadness occurs with the persistence of the seasons. And, I still miss her.
We grew up together and she had the status of soul sister. We had families and lived close enough to share our lives. I always felt as if she would be there to listen, to care and to laugh. We joked about retiring together to a nursing home because our husbands would statistically predeceased us. We planned on sitting in rocking chairs, cats draped on our laps, we wearing shiny earrings and ill applied lipstick. It was supposed to be a long time away.
But, like most things in life, stuff happens but not as we have planned.
I recently visited with one of her daughters. She bears a remarkable resemblance to her mother. It was as if I was there with my dear friend, chatting and laughing.
It was bittersweet.
Venn Diagram Truth Table
In the past, I would do almost anything to save a relationship … even one that wasn’t in my best interest. Until, I realized how much that “bad” relationship cost me personally. How many tears, disappointments, rejections and dismissals. It all adds up to character development and a greater experience of life lessons.
That’s a nice way of saying that you learn about life from stuff that was painful.
Relationships work best when similar needs and wants intersect. Pairing a pirate with a nun is probably not going to produce a harmonious arrangement of intersecting points.
And over the last decade, I have learned that salvaging is intense. Building is easy.
What’s the Difference?
Salvaging is picking up the pieces, the dregs of what once was. Building creates form and function from anew.
Back Story: A long time ago, I bought a house built from salvaged materials. The original house was almost done with construction when a fire broke out. The builder, not having enough cash to rebuild from scratch (the house wasn’t insured because it wasn’t completed), salvaged and scrimped to get the house rebuilt. He did some interesting things that would never work in today’s building code but we are talking about sixty years ago.
The house wasn’t plumb. No corner was square. The load bearing beam had lally columns (I could go on). You get the picture? The house was pieced together with parts that didn’t fit.
The original construction did fit.
Trying to salvage a relationship based on broken pieces or parts that don’t mesh is doomed. Like the pirate and nun example, there are probably no intersecting parts. Why waste time salvaging when building new is more satisfying and will lead to better relationships?
The Big Question
You always have a choice. The question is “Can you walk away?” Will salvaging get you want you want? Or will building something new work for you? There is a price difference. How much are you willing to pay?
I have failed. I bought a paper planner calendar.
A few years ago, I jumped on the electronic bandwagon and ditched my Franklin Planner vowing to go paperless for my appointments. I got a sense of freedom knowing that my trusty smart phone would tell me where I need to be and when. It does that. I can write notes and keep my life organized in the cloud.
But I can’t plan there. I need a pen and paper. I need to draw. Make squiggly lines. Create lists.
Maybe there is something hard-coded in my brain about the tactile feeling of a writing instrument in my hand and thought generation. I always feel more creative with a pen or pencil in my hand. Even rolling a pen in the palm of my hand helps me problem solve.
I am not a Luddite. I have used project planning tools, idea generating software and mind mapping. I am a big Evernote fan. I have nested in the Google family of integrated products. So, why can’t I think there?
What is it about paper and a pen? Is my tactile need so embedded in my brain that I cannot lure my thoughts out unless my hand is firmly gripping a pen? Am I squeezing mental material from the pencil’s lead?
What I do know is that I haven’t enabled creative neural connections with digital planning. My (mental) connections to pen and paper are burned into my grey matter spanning a fifty plus year time frame. And, with that I am willing to concede defeat and stop forcing a unrewarding pattern on my creative juices.
I will embrace my pen. Pat my paper. And create.
“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” Fr. Alfred D’Souza
Is there something that you are putting off indefinitely? Or are you really being patient?
I have discovered that patience as a virtue is over rated when life begins to resemble a huge waiting line. For example, waiting for someone else to act, to finish school, get that divorce or finish a project before you can move forward. While you wait for that time in the future, your life gets stuck in the present… real hard.
Waiting for something to happen is difficult especially if it is a long cherished dream. “Good things come to those who wait” but for how long? Months, days, maybe years. Do good things really come? Or is it default living by existing in the meantime? How much time are you willing to pass before you transition from “waiting” to “doing”?
If something is churning inside you by reading this, ask yourself “What am I waiting for?” If the answer is anything other than yourself take a closer look at your reason. If you are not the gatekeeper of your time, then it’s not patience; it’s procrastination. You are making up some well intended reason not to act. Not to move forward. Not to do.
Someone else is driving your life and its timeline.
Is it worth it? Time keeps moving on with or without you.
With all the positive mantras, posts on Facebook and Instagram, and personal self talk, how do you reconcile disappointment in a world slanted toward the positive interpretation of life’s events? We say “It was for the better” when offering up condolences. We write “For every door that closes, another one opens”. We think “Everything has a reason”.
Aren’t we denying that sometimes life just sucks? That what happened just now in your life is a source of bitter tears. That the loss of someone so dear has no words of comfort. That a crushed hope staggers the soul.
I want to feel anger, sadness, and fear because it is part of our nature. To avoid these feelings robs us of the full range of life events. Think about it. If I didn’t sense fear, then I would not recognize challenges and opportunities to excel, to be vulnerable, to risk for success or failure.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote this:
” … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Living on the edge is uncomfortable. It requires full participation. It is total vulnerability. It is outside the comfort zone of most people. Why do it? You may be disappointed. You may fail. You may lose. Or maybe experience life in its true fullness.
What are you doing in your life now that causes you to feel the full impact of living? Are you cold and timid or hot and bold?
Failure and success are a part of life. Experience both to its fullest and you have built a rich life.
According to my Google search, the definition of leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization”. Very simple and direct. The important concept is the verb in that definition – action. Leadership is not passive.
Qualities of Leadership
If leadership is the action of leading then decisive action must take place. Direction is given and modeled. It is the display of behavior wanted in others. You have heard it before “Lead by Example.” Whatever you want from people … good employees, parishioners, or team members, the leader’s DNA has all the desired behavior. The behavior is visible, consistent, and communicated.
Not easy if one takes shortcuts. Shortcuts get around the learning experience of desired behavior. If you are running a marathon, you need to run 26.2 miles. Not one step less. Otherwise, you haven’t run a marathon.
In the Absence of Leadership
When there isn’t a leader, a team or organization flounders because people coming together for a common purpose can function in a self-directed way but when the going gets tough or if there is doubt, the group looks for direction. The group craves direction. The leader reaffirms purpose and provides that support toward the goal.
Are You A Leader
What makes a good leader? Special training? Advanced education?
I think the best question is do you have internal gift of purpose? Are you someone who can visualize your outcome? Are you comfortable with claiming your role and having difficult conversations with people who are straying from the goal? Can you instill in others your belief for a positive change by your actions? Can you rise above chaos and create a place of peace for yourself and others?
The important piece of leadership is that leadership is not only for the benefit of self but rather for the greater good of all. Are you that generous?
My daughter recently sent me a link to a post about Eileen Fisher designs and how that relationship of style (or no style for some critics) and a series of life long impressions connect together for something larger than fashion. It’s here for you to read and enjoy.
My daughter wrote, “It reminds me of you.”
I am delighted in a misty kind of emotional way. Somehow in all those days when my daughter was a little girl, her impression of me revolved around my personal taste and style. My deep attention to black, shades of grey and off white accents somehow touched a familiar place for her growing up with my wardrobe choices. I sense there was comfort in those remembrances.
I suspect I have influenced her greatly in many other ways … more important ways like living with integrity, cultivating personal satisfaction, and exhibiting empathy for others. But what keeps returning to me in conversations with my daughter is how I presented myself to the world.
A capable woman.
A woman dressed in Eileen Fisher.
Woke up this morning to a day scheduled as a blizzard aftermath. School cancelled last night. Predictions of snow accumulations greater than a foot. All creation coming to a full stop.
But, surprise … only a few inches of powdery fluff. How does that happen?
With all the weather models and historic data, can’t weather forecasting be more accurate?
Not really. Because you don’t know all the variables that can and may happen. A storm moves in a direction miles from the anticipated route and freezing rain is on the menu and not snow. It just happens. We have to deal with the different consequences.
We can grouse about plans gone askew. Another snow day this early in the season and we think when will the kids get out of school this year? It is easy to change the outcome of our day by the vagaries of nature. But what about other aspects in life … all the plans we made or maybe didn’t do?
Dwight D. Eisenhower summed it up brilliantly when he said “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Prepare for the worst but accept the moment’s reality. Anticipate but act on the present condition.
You cannot do anything more. And, the “dealing” begins.
How ready are you when the plans are scrapped? A change in direction required? How do you deal?
Usually, when someone says “Who do you think you are” it isn’t an inquiry into your identity. It’s demeaning. A cut down. A sarcastic “put you in your place” kind of statement.
You have said or done something that requires an individual (of perceived greater standing) to remind you of your smallness. Your tiny value on the planet.
That’s an easy breakdown of a complex behavior. A cause and effect condition.
I feel pretty powerless when someone says that to me. I try to explain and prove my words or actions. I am on the defense.
But what if I really answered the question “Who do you think you are?”
“I am a competent woman with years of business experience adding value by sharing my wealth of knowledge.” Or ” I am a student learning the business aspects of the retail industry.” Or ” I am an artist expressing my vision of the political landscape.”
It feels better when we answer the question instead of experiencing the effect of the sarcastic statement. But you have to know who you are.
Take an hour and write who do you think you are. Consider who you are. It’s the start of discovering your mission or purpose. When you are aware of your mission then no amount of detracting statements will sway you in pursuit of your purpose.
When you know who you are and your purpose, you live in a place of confidence.
So, the next time someone decides that you are behaving above your station in life and they ask “Who do you think you are” … tell them.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt