It takes time

I enjoy a good movie. Actually,  I enjoy most movies I see; which makes it hard for some who know me to take my recommendations. That being said, The Greatest Showman is a movie that has struck a chord inside of me. It highlights the timeless tale of realizing that everything you could have wanted was right in front of you.

The song From Now On towards the end highlights that theme. In a movie though, we don’t get to see events play out in real time. We see PT Barnum’s singing declaration to come back home immediately followed by a reunited family and a rejuvenated circus. In real time though, the decision to come back home takes but a second; the journey to get there on the other hand takes time.

Developing character takes time, perseverance, and dedication.

That’s where I find myself today.

The change that needs to take place starts right now. This is a decision to be content and to be present. This is a decision to turn loneliness into solitude*. This is a decision to embrace the good all around me, and open my eyes to that which is right in front of me. Selfishness is more consuming than selflessness. Selfishness holds us captive to discontentment and disdain for the life we have, but selflessness frees us and allows us to see the world we live in. Selflessness leads to a true love for others, and to truly love others; we must take care of ourselves. This seems so contradictory, yet it is the way that we are designed.

We must “love our neighbors as our self” as you may have heard it said before, so there is an expectation for us to become the best versions of ourselves to be who we need to be for the world we live in.  Here is a quote that I have used before, but always rings true:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

All of what I just wrote are only words and dust in the wind unless action follows. When I find myself feeling alone, I must choose to see that as an opportunity for solitude. When  regret begins to consume me, I must forgive myself and practice self kindness. Eyes open,  aware of what is happening inside of me; but more so aware of the space around me.

Though we make this declaration, it will take time to form new habits. It will take time to learn new ideas. It will take time to build trust. This is a call to take action, because the change will not take place if we sit around and wait for it.

It is likely that we will find ourselves the morning after this declaration of change, battling with the same emotions and attitude that we swore off the night before; and this is where the work begins. We must exercise forgiveness and kindness for ourselves, and realize that all good things take time. It takes time, but it’s worth it.

It takes time, but it’s worth it.

I leave you with the chorus from the song From Now On  from the Greatest Showman:

From now on, these eyes will not be blinded by the lights

From now on, what’s waited for tomorrow starts tonight…tonight

Let this promise in me  start, like an anthem in my heart

From now on, From now on.

*From Loneliness to Solitude is the first movement from the book Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen, which I highly recommend for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of the Spiritual connections inside of us; and the impact that can have on the lives around us.

Obligation to Opportunity

I had to take a moment to step outside and take a few breaths tonight. Something about the dark sky and bright stars brings me calm, and I needed to be calmed ; though I could not quite figure out why. There has been a lot going on the past few days, but it was good; and if I desire good in my life, then I need to figure how to transition from overwhelmed to energized.

Contentment and resentment can both spring from the same circumstance depending on our mindset, and the words we use describe our current state.

I have used the “stressed” to describe how I feel lately, yet the choice to define my situation as stressful may be the very reason that I feel stressed. The words we use to describe our life hold a level of power in how we respond to and view our situation. By choosing to name my current state as “stressed”, I have now limited my possibilities because I will not want to put any thing else on my plate.

A stressed state is a survival state, a survival state is a reactionary state, and living in a  reactionary state reduces our ability to be intentional about our actions and circumstances.

I am trying to replace the word “stressed” when describing busy times to “full”, after all, who doesn’t want a full life? The subtle change from Stressed to Full changes how I view a busy life. “Stress” adds a negative connotation to our circumstances, can even turn fun times into obligations. “Full”, on the other hand, relates to a life abounding with opportunity.

In summary, transitioning from a “stressed” life to a “full” life; creates opportunities out of obligations. Likewise, embracing a full life will open our eyes to the unending opportunities we have to connect with humanity; as well as encounter our own selves on a deep level.

I was hit with this realization the other day. I had been able to spend a lot of time with one of my daughters (who is a little ball of conversation) over a few day stretch, waking up together to watch the World Cup, hiking together, playing together, hammocking together, etc. I found myself talking with my wife about how The non stop energy from this little girl was starting to get to me. After I spoke those words, I was hit hard on a very deep level, and I had a realization. That complaint was spoke out of selfishness, and a “stressed” mindset. It was at that moment that I realized how lucky I am to have a little human in this life that actually wants to spend all day with me!

This was an amazing opportunity.

Therefore, I will embrace opportunity over obligation. I will seek a full life.

In the Bible, Jesus says ” I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” These words have always inspired me, as they remind me that we each have a purpose in this world. We all are surrounded with opportunity that we need to reach out and grab.

Join me in shifting our mindsets from obligation to opportunity; or, if you are already embracing this mindset, continue to pursue your life of impact.

 

 

Wake

Death it comes and it leaves a hole, and it takes it’s toll on us. 

There are few experiences in life that hit like the death of a friend or loved one. It is finite, and that is hard to come to grips with. It is hard to see someone’s face in your mind, yet be unable to see them in person.

 

The aftermath of a death cuts deeper than the news of the loss itself. You slowly begin to realize the ripples created by the loss, and your heart breaks for those caught in the wake. It is interesting that “wake” is a funeral term used when you view the body before it is buried.

When you are rowing in a lake and a motor boat goes by, you get caught in it’s wake; it gets hard to paddle and you have to stop and catch your balance so that you don’t tip over. Death has that same effect it seems. It is expected to some extent, as we know that we are finite creatures; yet we find ourselves tossed in the waves when it happens, trying to stay afloat.

In an instance, a life is gone.

In an instance we find ourselves in deep reflection, and possibly receive epiphany or clarity. The course of our life, and our priorities are brought to the forefront of our minds. How do I respond? How will you respond?

My daughter asked me how the death of a friend compared to the death of my dad. I told her that each person is unique, and each death is different. Each life affects another. We are intertwined, woven into the same story of this world; and those connected to us are impacted by our actions…even our death.

To those who are hurting: If you find yourself feeling helpless, please cling to hopefulness. If you feel defeated, fight to endure. If you feel alone, embrace your relationships. Do not listen to the voice inside that tells you who you are not and what you can not handle; seek instead the voice that reminds you with every breath that you are valuable, and you are meant to be here.

To those who have lost: May peace find you; and may your tears be a pathway to beauty.

 

The Fortunate Ones

I love my wife.

There is no one is this world who knows me as well as she does. That is because there is no one in this world I trust more than her, for we have bared our hearts to one another.

That sounds pretty romantic right?

What that means a lot of the time though, is that she gets to hear me complain more than anyone else in my life. She gets to see me lose my temper more than anyone else in my life. She gets the tears, the fears, the rants, the stresses, the heartaches, the insecurities, and insight to the darkest parts of who I am…oh joy.

“Wow, what a lucky lady!”, you say.

The truth is, true love takes you much deeper than walks on the beach and candle light dinners. When two hearts become entangled with each other, our emotions can be experienced on an exponential level. The hurts cut much deeper, the losses rip you in two, and our words and actions are not given as much thought as when in the presence of others.

I have learned two things in life that are key to contentment and purpose: Mindfulness and selflessness. Mindfulness is the ability to be right here, right now; and experience life as it is happening without constantly setting expectations for each moment. Selflessness, is the ability to see how our decisions affect those around us, and consider the needs of others when considering our own needs. Knowing  this and putting this into action are two different things.

I know that a red light means stop, but what really matters is that I stop. Likewise, understanding mindfulness and selflessness are not as important as putting them into action.

I write this blog today because my wife got to see me lose my temper during a project yesterday, and I pretty much threw a full on fit… 36 year old man style. The impact it had on her floored me, and stopped me in my tracks. I had lost sight of the bigger picture of the present. My wife and I had a day to ourselves to work on a cool house project together. It was a gift to work hard and problem solve together, it was an opportunity to grow closer through accomplishing something together.

If I had put my mindfulness exercises into practice, I would have taken a few seconds each time a tile broke to breathe and realize that this is just part of the project. I could have decided to maximize our experience together by rolling with the imperfections, but I chose to minimize the experience because I became selfish instead of selfless. I chose to gratify my own selfish desire to get angry, clench my fists, and say some choice words. In doing this, I changed the dynamic of our day together. I introduced a darkness and a new stress into our project; and this really hurt my wife.

Love exposes the best and worst of us. Though it is a gift to be transparent with someone, we need to remain mindful and selfless of the time we have together.

I titled this blog “The Fortunate Ones” not because I like CCR (which I do), but because I considered how our friends and acquaintances in our lives usually get to see the best of us…how fortunate. We strive to motivate, inspire, and energize those we interact with to leave our mark on this world; the one’s we love most deserve the same intentionality.

Let us make the choice today to bring not only our whole selves, but the best of us, into the spaces where we love the deepest.

Healing in progress

Two weeks ago, I was about 6 miles into a 20 mile trail run; and I came across this sign: Healing in progress, stay on designated trails. Wow, did that statement ever hit home.

I had been stressed out lately trying to balance life, while pushing towards goal completion. Work demanded a lot from me, our house project demanded a lot from me, my youngest daughter was now entering dress week for her play that she had been working on for the last four months, and my other daughter is entering her pre-teen years (which is a wild ride all of it’s own as a parent). I was trying to stay mindful of my role as father and husband, and oh yeah…I signed up for a 20 mile trail race a couple of months ago.

These are all good things, but spreading yourself thin can set you up for failure if you are not intentional about your commitment to the goal.

If work is demanding a lot from me, then I must be doing something right. The house project is a gift and a privilege in and of itself, but it takes some serious mental grit to keep grinding on it after work and on the weekends.

My daughter has found a true passion for the theater which brings joy to my heart. My other daughter is still searching for something to commit to,  and I would run myself ragged for my kids if it enables them to pursue their dreams.

Being a husband and a father takes commitment and time too. I want my wife to know that she is valued, that she is important enough to me that I am willing to put in the work to develop a strong mind. She is an encourager, a hard worker, and she has mental grit.

I came across this statement from Bear Grylls in the book Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris (pg. 231)

“Hold tight, focus the effort, dig deeper, and never give up. It isn’t rocket science but it’s hard, as most people, when it gets tough start to look around for an excuse or a different tactic. often, though, when it starts to get tough, all it requires is for you to get tougher and hold on. The magic bit is that when it gets like this, it often means you are near the end goal! One big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, and you often pop out the other end. Look around you, though, and you see that most people are gone – they gave up in that final bit of hurting.”

I write this morning as I near the end goal of this Spring stretch. My daughter’s final performance was last night. We completed a major milestone at work. We are laying floors and installing cabinets in our addition; which means that the end goal is near. I finished my 20 mile race a couple of weeks ago, and left it all on the course. I have been trying to give 100% in all areas of life, and it has not been easy; but it is a challenge that is worth the effort.

Back to the beginning of this blog. Healing in progress, stay on desgnated trails.

The sign I saw on the side of the trail during that race impacted me deeply. It helped propel me to a new level of awareness during that race. I realized that the pain I was feeling, the hours ahead, the sweat on my brow; were all part of something I needed…healing. I embraced that I was doing something I truly loved. I went into that race overwhelmed,  with no real time to train for it (other than eating a lot and drinking beer); but I found myself being renewed.

As the pain in my body increased over the 3.5 hours, and my feet began to throb with each step; I knew I was being refined. I would leave this race stronger, both physically and mentally.  I would be able to go back home and work hard, and I knew that a resilience was being built in me.

 

The Struggle is a Privilege

Have you ever found yourself impacted by a quote or statement?

“I love a good quote.” – Me

I am constantly looking for tid bits of wisdom in blogs or books, or listening for them in conversations and presentations. Whether it’s inspiration or insight, I find that words can have a great impact.

I was downtown with a friend at a local coffee shop, just talking about life’s happenings; and we got on the topic of how much change takes place in middle schoolers as the journey of identity and physical change takes place. There is such an internal struggle to understand why we are the way we are, who we are supposed to be, how we want to dress, how we want to be perceived, and so on. That was a long time ago for me, but my daughter is just entering that phase of life.

As we discussed the struggle for self discovery, he said,”The struggle is a privilege.”

He went on to explain that our society and culture allow for us to have these teenage years to fumble through finding our identity. There are kids around the world who do not get the time to figure things out, because necessity draws them into work or affiliation to survive. There are many kids in America even, who do not get a chance to complete high school before duty and survival calls upon them.

“The struggle is a privilege.”

I have not been able to kick this phrase since I heard it, and I do not want to forget it. These words bring perspective. These words flip the world upside down. This phrase has been challenging me lately, because I have been struggling and stressed. I have felt like somewhat of a failure in some regards, feeling like I am mediocre at best in all parts of my life; instead of focusing in on each opportunity to the best of my ability.

Yet in the midst of the whirlwind, I remember “the struggle is a privilege.”

I can now step back for a moment as I remember this phrase, and I can see that though I feel spread thin; I am spread thin over opportunities, beauty, love, investments, and chosen commitments. Each one is something to be thankful for. So, can I put these words into action? Yes. I can, I am, and I will.

Complaining about what needs to be done, is time wasted; time that could have been used to actually accomplish something. This time could be used to establish a positive mindset about the path before me. The minutes and hours spent in downheartedness; I believe they were necessary to get me here, because it was a real feeling. It is usually when we get close to the bottom, that we finally reach out. Like in the movie  What about Bob? I am starting with baby steps towards who I need to be, and what I need to do.

So, if you find yourself weighed down with the expectations laid upon you; stay true, stay focused, and realize that “The struggle is a privilege.”

 

 

 

 

 

Morning Sky

Have you ever watched the sun rise in a mountain town?

It’s a pretty amazing sight, and somehow… it gets better each time.

The sky begins to turn from black to midnight blue. Light appears like a torch over the eastern hills. The stars fade and make their final plea to be gazed upon, though there are a few that fight through the light.

A slow rise begins, as deep orange flows into purple and blue. The silhouette of the pine trees against the morning hue is quite beautiful, as they appear black rather than green.

Oh, the beauty of a sunrise in a mountain town.

In times like these, it’s easy to be thankful…if you let yourself be in the here and now. In the crisp morning chill my fingers stiffen as I type, but the hot coffee keeps me warm on the inside. The birds sing their song, and there are few other sounds to be heard.

It’s easy to be thankful in times like these, but it is also possible to let them pass by our whole life. Ferris Bueller offers possibly some of the best advice on life you will ever receive:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller (From the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”)

I’ve come to realize that gratefulness leads to contentment, and contentment frees our minds from unnecessary clutter. In contentment we can pursue dreams, in contentment we can see purpose. In contentment we can see beyond ourselves into the world around us; the lives around us. In contentment, we find the ability to be present.

Mornings like this inspire me, and I hold them in my mind. May you find your mountain town sunrise, whatever that may be for you; and may it inspire you, and bring you hope.

Oh, the beauty of a morning sky.

 

 

Fear “Less”

Self realization can be a bittersweet experience.

On one hand, we find peace in a revelation of a purpose unveiled, or a new found perspective on life. On the other hand; we can be met with sadness or pain at the realization of a character flaw, opportunities missed, or various forms of regret. In my experience, both sides of self realization are necessary to bring a fullness of life.

I have been doing some serious soul searching this past year, and I have had to come to grips with certain aspects of who I am, and what I’ve done (or haven’t done). It takes a toll, but it’s worth it to truly live. Whether through reading, writing, meditations, conversations, running, and the like; a new way of approaching life has been revealing itself to me. 

I found a form of this self realization a couple weeks go in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Now this wasn’t my first trip south of the border, but it was only the second time we had gone since we had kids. Over this past decade, I have let the news of kidnapping, drug cartels, and human trafficking detour me from venturing into Mexico. I ascribed these isolated crimes to the whole of Mexico because I didn’t know any better; and this was a decision based  on fear of the unknown.

What I discovered on this trip, was a city welcoming us with open arms. I saw families joining together in community. I experienced great patience from our Mexican brothers  and sisters as I fumbled through broken spanglish and failed attempts at “sign language”.

I found a new perspective, and my world just got a whole lot bigger.

Each day we decide who we are going to be, and the choices we make matter.

Do our choices align with our goals?

I long for love and adventure. I long to be a strong father, spouse, and friend. I long to be a skilled musician. I want to be out on the trails. All of these are attainable if I live more fearless.

There is a line we walk between fear and trust, may we trust that the struggle is worth it. “Hedge our lives towards what could go right instead of what could go wrong.” (That was a quote from my friend Eric Hanson; and if you like that quote, check him out at erichanson.tv)

Perhaps approaching life like this will open doors to adventure, impact, and a heart full and alive.

Of Death and Life

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”Marcus Tullius Cicero

I was listening to some Harry Belafonte the other day, and this silly song came on about an ugly dad whose kids are ashamed of him because he is ugly (Mamma Look a Boo Boo);  and I started laughing, because it is a song that my dad would have loved. My dad was not ugly, but it was something that he loved to joke about as he got older and lost more teeth; and he loved it when me and my brother would razz him about it.

I had my bro listen to the song when he visited and he loved it (I’m pretty sure my mom would love it too). We started reminiscing about our dad, his life, his death, and his strength leading up to death. Since that visit, I’ve been thinking more about death and how we respond to it.

We are surrounded by people affected death, though we don’t always know it. Most, if not all, who cross our path daily are not too far removed from a loss of some sort; whether it be a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. Maybe some folks are supporting a friend who has just lost someone.

Personally, I have friends where death has hit so close to home, that it has formed who they are, as well as how they care for others who suffer a loss. There are others in my life who have had to brush up much too close with the looming fear of death, that it has also shaped their framework for life.

Having lost, as well as grieving with others who have lost; I have learned a few insights that I would love to share.

Dealing with it

There is not a specific way we are supposed to deal with death. The important thing is that we deal with it. We must face it and we must accept it…we must let it ruminate in our hearts and our minds. If we try to be overly optimistic, or minimize our lost because it is not as extreme as someone else’s loss; we miss the beauty and importance of the impact it can have in our life, and we can minimize the memory of that person.

Many problems in our life can be fixed, many of our situations can be changed; but death is finite. The defining line that death draws, draws us in to a reflection of life.

Here are some of the ways I dealt:

  • I cried. I let it happen when it needed to happen. If the tears would not come, I would make time to cry. This may sound silly, but it helps.
  • I wrote. My blogging started with my dad’s death. I had to let his passing be known to  as many people who knew him as I could, so I wrote an online eulogy that sparked something inside.
  • I got counseling. There was other stuff going on in my life that moved me in this direction as well, but it opened me up in a way that I didn’t know I needed.

The balance between acceptance and hope

Once you have lost someone to an illness such as cancer, or any rare disease, the reality of our fragility and mortality becomes more apparent. Moving forward, we are more sensitive to the possibility of the worst case scenario; though we need not succumb to it. There is a line that must be walked in face of illness, injury, and unknown; and it runs between acceptance and hope. Acceptance is our ability to see the face value of the potential reality, and hope is optimist that clings to what our hearts desire. If we can float in this space, then the lives around us benefit from it; We learn and we teach at the same time.

Hope helps us make the most of this life, and the time that we have. It allows us to persevere and endure, though all around may be crumbling.

The Response

I was looking up the origin of my last name Grayum, and it all goes back to Graham. It must be the americanized version of the name I guess. The Graham family crest has the house words on it, which are: Ne Oublie, which translated means “Do not forget.”

Therefore, I do not forget. I remember and respond; and I allow the memory of this man to feed my life moving forward.

Wherever you are in you journey, do not forget those that have gone before us. Be with those who are here now. Remember… in all things, there is always hope.

 

The Life we Live

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

I stumbled across this quote while searching for inspiration one morning.

They are simple words put into a simple phrase, yet they hold a deep wisdom. The less is more philosophy is as old as time, and it is as relevant as ever. Here are some of the areas of life we can apply these words:

Possessions. This one is obvious, but it always needs to be addressed; because it takes practice, discipline, and self-control to be content with what we have. Also, it takes a level of maturity to be able to appreciate and be happy for someone else’s purchase or creation without feeling the need to have one for yourself too.

“If we are continually embracing contentment, we will find ourselves feeling inspiration rather than envy.”

Purpose.  Purpose, meaning, dreams, goals; these words are all associated with each other. I have a tendency to have my head in the clouds at times when I think about what I want to accomplish in life; and while it’s necessary to dream big, there is a balance with the here and now. I have been wracking my brain this past year trying to figure “what is my purpose in life”, and I ask myself this question each day. Then it hit me, perhaps the reason I could not find this epiphany I was looking for was because I was looking to far away from home… from that which I already have.

I work at a place with vast opportunity for impact, growth, and development… if I bring my best. I have a wife who has dreams that I play a part in, if only I begin to entertain those dreams as my own as well. I have two amazing daughters who are some of the most creative and inspiring humans I know; and they have been given to me. I have the privilege to pour love and encouragement into their lives, and guide them towards living an impactful life in this world.

Boom! Epiphany in the face.

“Greatness and purpose does not always lie in the unknown or uncharted territory.”

Craft. We each have a skill that we bring to the table, whether you know it or not.  Life expects something from us, and it expects nothing less than our best. Inside each of us, there are seeds of aptitude; a readiness to learn, develop, and create. We are born into this world with the greatest gift anyone could ask for…our minds. We come into this world with eyes full of wonder; and if we look at what we can bring to the world instead of tasking ourselves to master someone else’s craft, you may be surprised at what you are capable of.

Though we find ourselves moved deeply by a beautiful song, that doesn’t mean we have to be a musician. Because we are moved by the beauty of a painting, the thought put into each stroke of the brush; does not mean we have to be a painter. On the other hand, if you find yourself taking the reins at work, in your home, or even in planning a group hangout; perhaps you may have a natural tendency  to be a leader. If you find yourself deeply affected by stories of oppression, or people hurting; perhaps you have been gifted with a strong sense of empathy and compassion, both of which this world needs.

May we wake each day with eyes full of wonder, and a heart full of love. May we dream big, but start by looking at the life we are already living.