Last Words

It was a cold winter morning, and the stars were making their final plea to be seen. Dawn soon would come and the sun would chase away the brilliance of the stars. In that moment, I felt inspired. These lights will shine until the sunlight spreads the expanse of the sky, and in that, there is a beautiful lesson to be learned: We must shine as bright as we can until light begins to take over. 

In a previous post, I wrote about the first words we speak each day; and the impact those words can have on the trajectory of our thought process, as well as the thought processes of those we speak to. The comparison was made to the sun rising each day with a continual promise of hope. In this post, I would like to take that same look into the last words we speak in a day.

We can enter the day well, yet find ourselves feeling worse by the night. Likewise, we can greet the day with discontent, yet find our minds moved toward contentment by the day’s end. The same goes for the words we speak. The last words will remain after we have left or moved on. They will ruminate, be evaluated, and after they have settled in; we may not be available for a response.

I would like t share what I’ve been learning about this idea of last words from my experiences at home, in texting, and in the workplace.

At home. I think about the words I speak to my wife and kids before we go to sleep; I wish them a good night sleep or sweet dreams, and these words serve as a final send off as they drift away into dreamland. The hope is that in saying these words, they will somehow sleep easier and feel a sense of peace. Sometimes, these words are spoken to bring peace to myself, because I may have not brought my best self to my family that day, but I hope that those last words can still redeem.

I drop my daughter off at the bus stop every morning before I head to work. Sometimes there are not many words spoken because it is very early and we are still settling into the day. Most of the time, those last words before she leaves closes the door are “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, or “have a good day”. But once in a while, whether it is exhaustion or just plain old grumpiness, those last words may be less encouraging or less inspiring; and in those times, in takes only but a second for my heart to break as I watch her get on that bus. Thankfully, due to the age with live in, I can try to change the trajectory that has just been set by engaging in a text conversation with her. We can usually make things right again in just a few texts with a little bit of humbleness and forgiveness.

This brings me to my next learning.

In texting. The words we choose to type hold so much weight. When you text someone, there is not any voice inflection or body language to assist the words; the words are alone, and they can be read in many different ways. It is in these times that the words we choose must be thoughtful and intentional. In this media of communication, we must be careful to write clear and succinct; because every text is left hanging. We cannot read the other persons facial reactions, we are not even sure if the message has been read. I have had many talks with my daughter about the responsibility that comes along with texting. To utilize this tool of communication properly, you must be patient, straight forward, non-passive, and it must not replace a phone call or face to face conversations.

Because of the nature of this style of communication, I worldly strongly urge anyone to begin viewing texting as an opportunity to encourage the recipient instead of trying to make a case for ourselves. I do believe that in an existing healthy relationship where there is already an established groundwork of effective communication skills that texting can be used for deeper discussions that require a lot of back and forth.

From my experience as 1. Being someone who uses texts, 2. Experiencing people who don’t always utilize best practices when texting, and 3. Seeing the effects of passive aggressive or self-seeking texts; I believe that this is a topic that deserves an entire book. Being that this is only a blog, I would just encourage all of us to be extremely mindful and intentional of the words we choose, and realize that each text left hanging on that screen and could be the last words of that conversation.

In the workplace. I have many conversations throughout the day. Some are simple greetings and catching up on what the past days have brought us, yet most are focused on goals and tasks that need to be completed. In these conversations, it is important that the last words leave direction and gratefulness. No matter how many tangents we end up talking about, it is important to bring it back to the common goal. I feel the most confident and energized if at the end of the chat I am left with a clear expectation and an endearing statement of gratefulness. Clear goals and gratitude.

At the core of making beneficial decisions in life, it is essential that we put in the work to establish the core of who we are. It’s easy to lose our way from time to time on the path towards mindfulness and intentionality; Whether it’s stress, anxiety, fatigue, or just an off day. This will happen because being intentional and mindful takes hard work and commitment. Here are two learnings on intentionality before we wrap this up.

Meditation. I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, then you have read some of the same research or listened to some of the same Ted Talks that I have. We know what we need to do, but getting started is the hardest part. For example: we know that meditation is key to a more balanced mind and greater self-control, but the kick is that making yourself do a 5 – 10 minute meditation is harder to commit to than you’d think. There are immediate benefits once a meditation has ended, such as a sense of calm; but the sustaining benefits like self control, patience, and the like are achieved by the continual practice of meditation.

Exercise. Exercise is another arena of life that has immediate payoff mentally, as there is a surge of endorphins that we get from a workout. If we want to lose weight though, get stronger, run farther, look different; then we must stay committed to consistent exercise. Both of these are examples of ways to improve our state of mental well-being. Now, let’s see if there is a way to bring all of this back to the stars.

When it comes to starlight, did you know that the light we are seeing is from the past? Besides the sun, the closest start to us is Alpha Centauri; and the light from that star takes approximately four years to reach us. That means that the light of stars breaking through the blanket of midnight to reach us is an ancient light, and those stars will someday die; but the light will continue to reach us.

This speaks to the longer lasting impact of our actions, our words, our love, and our intentions. We are writing a story each day. The words we leave with others, and leave with ourselves, are setting the course of that story. As the light of the stars last long after they are gone, so our words will outlast us. Together, may we write stories that leave a lasting impact for goodness and inspiration.

Cover photo credit: Daniel Grayum (find him on instagram @dan_grayum)

The Road Less Traveled

It was a cool and cloudy morning as I strolled though downtown Flagstaff. It was about 40 degrees, the air smelled of rain, and the clouds were settling low in such a way that you could not see the Mountain. The traffic was minimal, and it was fairly silent; aside from the occasional train passing and the strange guy standing by the trash cans yelling.  I didn’t plan on taking this morning walk, but it formed out of mere happenstance; and it was good.

I didn’t realize it at first, but I had landed in a serendipitous moment. I had recently read an article by my friend Eric Hanson* about serendipity. Serendipity is kind of like stepping into the unknown and finding unplanned experiences or joy in that space. He shared stories of his own experiences, and challenged the readers to seek serendipitous experiences once in a while to experience the joy that it brings. What I discovered during my walk this morning is that it does not always take grand events to ignite joy.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.  – Robert Frost

The idea of adding some spontaneity to our lives is key to our personal growth. Before I go on, I would to like to give you some context of how I approach life. I am a planner. I wake up on Monday morning thinking about what I can accomplish on Saturday, I keep a detailed ever growing to-do list at work so I don’t drop the ball, I think of Spring Break plans in January, and I can tell you exactly where to find items in my closet. I tell you this to convey that I have a very strong belief in a structured foundation, and that there is great value to setting goals and staying organized.

I love this quote because it is inspires me. I also love this quote because trail running and hiking are an important part of my life, and there have been many times that something as simple as taking the rabbit trail instead of the main trail has brought me to unexpected and unplanned beauty. Not only have there been breathtaking views, but there has also been somewhat eerie places very deep in the woods where I can only assume that each sound I hear belongs to the other creatures who inhabit that area. The feeling of heading out that trail does something special inside.

Stepping into the unknown, no matter how small that step, ignites energy inside of us.

As I walked through downtown in the midst of the calmness and overcast weather, I became energized and inspired. Though my plans had fallen through, that time became sacred to me. I cannot think of a more simple and minimal step into the unknown than taking a walk, and in that simplicity, I have found a vastness of joy.

*Eric Hanson is an author, adventurer, film maker, and all around good guy. Check him out at Erichanson.tv

 

 

 

First Words

The first words we choose to speak in a day, give insight into the state of our hearts and minds.

I was watching the sun rise through the window of our living room this weekend, and it was as if something had lit the sky ablaze. The sky changed from soft gray to a blazing orange surrounded by purple, and I felt blessed and encouraged once again as I do with each sunrise. A sunrise greets the day with hope, the promise to rise again holds true each day. As I sat in the orange glow, it occurred to me that how we choose to greet each day can have an immense impact on those around us as well how we choose to view the day ahead.

Most of my days starts with silence, as I am usually the first one awake. In this silence I get a chance to choose my state of mind. Will I greet the day with a grateful heart, or will I choose a less positive path? In these times of silence, we are formulating the trajectory for our day, and choosing the lens through which we will see the day ahead. Entitlement or humility? Compassion or hate? The line that separates these dichotomies can be very thin at times depending on our filter for the day.

I want to be as committed and steadfast as the sun. It does not matter if the skies are clear or cloudy; the sun will arrive and shed light to the best of it’s ability.

When my oldest daughter wakes, she is usually greeted with kindness and calmness. We have a mellow morning before she is off to school and I am off to work; and the days with each other start pleasant. As we part ways I feel peace, because I see and feel the reciprocation of that positive attitude that I put forth. But there have been times when I had chosen to see the day through a lens of self centeredness or grumpiness, and in those times I could see and feel the reciprocation of what I put forth; and as we had parted ways, I felt restlessness rather than peace.

As the day goes on, I will continue to have first encounters with people; I have a choice as to what my first words to each person will be. Will I choose to encourage and inquire on their well-being, or will I choose to say something unimportant and somewhat negative like? There is not a need for the first words to be deep wells of wisdom or philosophy, they can be as simple as good day or how are you doing today? There is weight to those first words, because they can set the stage for the direction of our attitude; and they can set a trajectory for someone else’s day. If we put forth negativity, we will likely receive negativity; and we negate our responsibility to this life to be a source of light and hope.

As with most areas of life in which we want to succeed, there needs to be a goal or mission that you are working towards that guides our decisions. Whether we simply choose a few words (compassion, hope, inspiration, etc.), or have a declaration that states our intentions; there needs to be something in place if we wish to be intentional about our impact. I would like to end this article with some words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding this idea of a blueprint for life.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you fell that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

“And finally, and finally, in your life’s blueprint, must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice….However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle of freedom and justice.”

This is an example of intentional living. Value yourself, work hard, and be committed to beauty, love, and justice. What will our blueprint be? What words will guide our days? What story are we choosing to write? Be as committed and steadfast as the sun, and rise to greet each day, as well as the people in it, with an intentionality to make the day a little brighter.

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.