The Story We Write

If you know me, you are part of my story.

Our lives are not lived independent of the world around us; rather, they are connected and strung together to weave our human story. Each word spoken, glance given, or space shared become part of the narrative. The story is being written, will you choose to direct your narrative or leave it up to chance?

We are writing this story for ourselves, our family, our friends, acquaintances, co workers, and the passers-by. Likewise, a story is being written on us. All of the people in our life are adding to who we are. So many aspects of this life are imprinting into our being; our environment, our homeland, our climate, our culture, these are all peripheral investors into our development.

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about why I am the way I am, why I believe what I believe, and why I react the way I do to certain situations. What is it that establishes the core of who I am? I’m not sure how eloquently I can dive into these in this blog, but I would like to share some of the beginnings.

Let me start by sharing the lyrics to a song I had written about four years ago:

To know a story, counting the days passed

Remember the ways and the paths tread

If you could see inside, what I hide

Darkness there, leads only to despair

But the one who brings light, brings sight to the blind

Brings life inside, opened my eyes

No longer reeling

Recounting struggles, remembering defeat

If I grow, then I find liberty

Humility, whether or not I want it

Grace came to cover me

Peace granted to steady me

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

Defined not by the failures, defined not by defeat

Every time I fall you remind me

There is more than we see

There is more that you’ve breathed

Every time I fall, you remind me

Of my name

This verse came about during a time of loss. This was not a loss in the sense of death, but rather a time of loss of self-identity; actually, this was probably the beginning of this existential line of thinking. I remember the words forming in my head as I walked the halls of my workplace. I was in my early thirties, and I was about five years into my new job, learning to raise two daughters, and reframing my understanding of my faith.

Time is a funny thing. Sometimes the days can creep along, and at the same time, the years can fly; which is why I believe that we need to make the most of the time that we do have. We were given life so that we can live. The time had flown by, and I needed to assess that I still “had the reins” so to speak on the direction and state of my life.

The verse above talks about knowing my name. This refers to how I am known. There may be many names we have, and I would like to know which are the names that are true. The story we write is being written…right…now. Today, take a moment to reflect on who you are, where you are headed, and the narrative you are writing.

 

Intentional Moments

It’s Saturday, and I all of a sudden found myself with two hours of uninterrupted free time as the entire family was out. Alone time is exactly what I have been needing, as well as lacking; but I found myself overwhelmed with the options of what to do with this time; as well as some resistance to being alone. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop and take a breath. Stop and take a breath… I need to do this more.

My mind started racing through the following options of what I could do:

  • Nothing (just sit in a chair and stare)
  • Purposeful nothingness, which sounds like something (meditation and/or prayer)
  • Tasks that need to be done
  • Tasks that could be done
  • Hobbies I enjoy (Reading, playing guitar, running, writing)
  • Friends I could call (which would no longer be alone time)
  • Zone out on tv (I managed to dodge this one)

As I felt my brain on the verge of shorting out, I decided to stop, take a breath, and knock out one task that needed to be done soon because I tend to be task driven; and I have a hard time slowing down some times. I took on the easiest smallest task on my mind, and that bought me just enough time to begin entering into this space of aloneness, or rather, potential solitude.

I finished the task, then took a breath, then stared out the window for a minute. Next I decided to do something I always enjoy, which was write. It is nice, it is calming, and I feel satisfied that I am still doing something productive; at least in my mind. That is literally happening…right now. I am writing this as it’s happening.

I’m reminded of that scene from the Mel Brook’s movie Spaceballs, when they are watching Spaceballs the movie during the movie and they stop the tape at the exact moment of the movie that they are in. Check out the link on You Tube here: Spaceballs Clip

I hope you are laughing at that clip as much as I am, and if not, I must be getting old.

These moments of aloneness can be quickly turned into moments of solitude if we are intentional. I have written about this idea of solitude before, inspired from the book Reaching Out, by Henri Nouwen. There is so much benefit to our development, creativity, minds, hearts, and lives around us if we learn to stop, breathe, and be in the moments of solitude.

The above list that my mind raced through are all beneficial depending on where you are and what you need. We are all wired different, and perhaps zoning out to The Office or staring out the window is exactly what we need sometimes. These moments of alone time are few and far between for some of us, so we must be ready for them, tuned in to what our souls need to stay on track to be our best self.

I fully intend to maintain intentionality with my next 30 minutes, and that may include some guitar and some prayer, but whatever it is; I am thankful to have it today.

To Be Yourself

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

The quote above is from Ralph Waldo Emerson; and I often turn to it when I need motivation or need to be reminded that there is a whole world taking place as I walk through my days.

What is it to be yourself? Is this a form of destiny combined with ambition? The truest form of who we are is somewhere in our soul, and that part of our soul speaks to our mind; and in those words, we hear whispers of what we need to do. In our soul, we can feel the rumblings of purpose.

Purpose. Our purpose can be found by asking what does life expect from me? This is a question that I have mentioned before as it comes from one of the most influential books I have read titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. This question was raised as he observed not only himself, but other men who had lost everything as prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust; and had been stripped of their very humanity, yet found the strength to rise again each day and believe that there was a reason to persevere in the face of their great suffering.

We can learn from their perseverance, and find strength from their strength. So I ask, what does life expect from you?

Another of my favorite quotes that I have shared before is from Howard Thurman about coming alive:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

What moments in your life did feel truly alive?

To be truly alive is akin to being yourself. When the task at hand can be done with joy amidst struggle, or the process becomes  more enjoyable than the product; perhaps you have glimpsed your purpose. This is found in the space where your skills or talents align with what you enjoy doing. This is a sacred space when you discover that your passions and talents also align with what the world needs.

I ask you these questions as I ask them myself. Perhaps together we can find our true self, our purpose, come alive, and in turn provide the world around us with what it needs.

 

Transitions, Courage, and Insight

Life is an array of transitions.

Starting from the moment we are brought into this world; we find ourselves in the momentum of life. We grow, learn, and develop. Whether we choose it or not, we are moving. Yet, we do choose what we do with the time that is given to us.

gandalf.gif (nerd alert)

When facing decision points in life, do you have a tendency towards fearful thinking or courageous thinking?

I was watching the Disney musical Newsies with my daughters the other day, and there was a line that struck me while they were deciding whether or not to go on strike against the newspaper company. David says to the other newsies:

“Courage cannot erase our fear, courage is when we face our fear.” – Newsies Broadway musical

Courage. It is found in adversity and challenge, it is uncovered only when fear enters the situation. It is in these moments that we need to state our fears clearly, and in doing so, we will find where the fear is rooted. Once we understand the root of our fear, the path to overcoming it becomes clear.

I was having a conversation the other day about my fear of change, and I was challenged to look back at my past for times that I had to rise up in the face of my fear. I began to think:  My family move from Lakewood California to Flagstaff Arizona, my first piano recital, the first time I played guitar on stage, The first time I sang on stage, Every job that I applied for, every talk I’ve given to a group, proposing to my wife, having a daughter, having another daughter! The list went on and on, and I began to feel confident in my ability to adapt and maintain a forward momentum in life.

What insights can be taken from our past?

Ask yourself this question; and find confidence, wisdom, and empowerment. We may not have always responded the right way to change, or even made the right changes; but we always…ALWAYS… have a choice. Our tomorrow is happening today, so enter each day with confidence and courage.

There is a fragility to all of us, but there is also great resilience. Where there is fear, courage lies also. May you find insight from your past, and today may you find courage to face the future.

 

Tales from the Trails: Why We Run

I like to run. Actually, I may even go so far as to say I love to run. That wasn’t always the case, and I didn’t actually start running consistently until about six years ago.

When you start to talk about running, you are met either with passion or disdain. It’s a love/hate relationship for some, a hate/hate relationship for others, and then there is the love/growth relationship for the rest of us.

We run for clarity.

We run for peace.

We run for community.

We run for pizza and beer.

While I was on a run a few weeks ago, I found myself able to be fully in the moment. 2400 feet of elevation gain in 3.8 miles, and I found myself loving every minute of it; which was new for me. Bombing down those 3.8 miles was even more fun! Typically, I would see the climb as an obstacle; but this time, it was an opportunity. I enjoyed the pain, the grit needed to keep moving, the smell of the forest, and the chill in the air. I discovered something that day.

Visualize the good and true

I usually prepare for a run the day before. I will start taking in a little more calories than usual and hydrate all day; but I also will usually start worrying about waking up early, will I get enough sleep, will I be able to keep pace with the pack, and how much water or nutrition to bring, if any. That is a lot of mind space dedicated to negative thinking. This time around I chose to visualize everything that I will love about the run:

I love being in the forest, I love being on mountains, I love a good view, I love the rain, I love the way my body feels after a run, I love eating after a run.

I also spoke basic truths into my mind:

My legs are strong, the outdoors rejuvenates me, I can run 8 miles, I have sure feet, the view from the top will be worth it!

I was not only ready to hit the trails, but excited to get out there.

Define your fears, remember the good and true

I defined what was making me anxious: elevation gain and waking up early.

Elevation gain: The fears were the pain and the ability to finish. The good and true; Pain is my friend, pain leads to growth, and I will finish, because that’s what I do. You don’t get mountain top views unless you climb mountains. Fear of elevation gain dissected and removed.

Waking up early: The fears, dragging myself out of bed to the alarm again, starting the weekend sleep deprived, being zonked the rest of the day with my family. The good and true: I get up early everyday for work, I have always been a “morning person”, I love the forest in the early morning. Also, I need some sleep.

I responded to this fear different from the elevation gain. I was particularly exhausted last week, and felt like I needed a day to wake up naturally without an alarm. It was a 5:45am meet up time, and that made me anxious. This time around, I contacted the crew that I would not be able to join. Now I love running with friends, but I felt a huge weight lifted. Apparently, the only thing that was making me anxious was not getting the sleep I needed.

I slept like a baby, and actually ended up waking up at 5:30am without an alarm and full of energy. The anxiety of waking to an alarm was removed, therefore, what remained was clarity. I ran alone, but what I found was solitude.

Clarity, peace, strength, community; the list goes on, and this is why we run.