Archive for the ‘Living with intention’ Category

Better Together

1186784_10152163258173685_948272930_nI felt utterly ridiculous when I found myself captivated by a young man on American Idol several years ago.  It wasn’t so much his talent as it was the way he talked about his friends with so much love, enthusiasm and gratitude.  He credited them with nurturing his creativity and inspiring him as an artist.  The young man was Blake Lewis, the beatboxer, and his friends included stand-up comedians and an aspiring actress, creative souls all.

I watched as they joyously posted videos of Blake’s journey; the drives from Bothell, Washington to Hollywood, videoed and set to music.  The playful rambles around Hollywood.  All of it.  They were riding Blake’s 15-minutes of fame, together and all out.  I was charmed by way they celebrated their successes together.  It seemed obvious to me that they were better together and it was a beautiful example of community within pop-culture.

Again, it wasn’t the music that inspired me.  It was the friendships, the community of artistic souls working together and making each other better.

Their example propelled me into a new phase of life.  I went online, originally to follow their journey, and found myself encountering artists of every ilk: writers, musicians and comedians; and I was hugely inspired as an artist.  I began to write better than I had before.  I became inspired by the community I developed online.  We made each other better.

My life was changed by the example of Blake Lewis and friends.  I have no idea where they are now.  My interest waned and disappeared as I joyfully began my own journey into artistry and community.

That was six years ago or so and I have since surrounded myself with people who encourage and inspire me and are likewise encouraged and inspired by me.  It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s important that we surround ourselves with people who make us better.  If you don’t have that in your life, I encourage you to seek it.  Find people who are passionate about the things you care about, people who encourage and inspire you.  It will change your life for the better.

Beyond Fear

I was raised to be tough and courageous.  I don’t recommend parenting in the style of my father but in some ways it was effective.  For example, my first time driving at the age of 15 was on a five hour trip, South to North across the state of Oregon.  No around the block for this kid.  My dad gave me the assignment and off we went.  I white knuckled it, more afraid of my dad than I was of traffic.  I didn’t even consider failure.  I had to do it and I knew I would.
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When we were cliff diving and bridge diving in the heat of a Southern Oregon summer, I balked at jumping off the highest bridge into the lake below.  Immediately, my dad started a count down and I knew that when he reached zero I would have jump or he would push me.  It never occurred to me to resist.  I was going in.  I sucked up my fear and did it.
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As a parent, I didn’t want to treat my children that way.  I wanted them to learn to honor their feelings and not let anyone pressure them into doing anything.   Still, I can see why my father raised me the way he did.  He knew life would present many challenges and he wanted me to meet them with courage.  He wanted me to face those challenges undaunted.
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It took me a long time to understand this.  He never explained but I was an observant student of life and I paid close to attention.  Once I got past my anger and resentment , I could see goodness in his intention.
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It’s only recently that I’ve come to realize just how courageous I am.  It’s not that I’m unafraid, not at all.  It’s that I have acquired the ability to move beyond my fear and I can see how that has given me an advantage in life.  I’ve done some pretty cool things from cyclone disaster relief on the island of Guadalcanal to building homes in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
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I hope life affords you the opportunity to acquire courage in gentler ways and while you’re still young.  If it hasn’t yet, go out and be courageous.  You can do it!  Apply for the job of your dreams, travel, ask her out…  whatever it is that you’re afraid of, just step past it.  No matter the outcome, you’ll be glad you did.

The Living Years

Warm water, the sky an endless expanse of blue, palm trees swaying in the island breeze, and I have no clue what’s happening half a world away, back in the USA, as I blissfully float in the swimming pool.  To be fair, nobody knows that my father’s heart is on the verge of failure.  That he has less than a day left to live.

I get the call the next day – or my husband does – while I am back out at the hotel pool, enjoying a few days respite from our work with Habitat for Humanity in Papua New Guinea.  My husband appears at the side of the pool.  I flip in the water, push off from the opposite side, and swim over to see him, pushing water from my eyes as I surface.  He bends down and pauses a beat.  I don’t expect to hear anything awful so his words catch me off guard and I don’t believe them.  My father can’t be dead but somehow, impossibly he is.

It’s been 17 years and I haven’t stopped missing him.  I feel compelled to write of him at some point each year, to remind myself that time is short and tomorrow is a mystery.  That I love you and I’m sorry are urgent words that should not be put off for another day.

My parents are both gone now.  I visit the cemetery often and talk to them.  I tell my dad things I wish I’d said in the living years. I’m not sure that it would have gone well had I found the courage;  I just wish I hadn’t let fear of his reaction stop me from saying what was in my heart while he was still alive to hear me.

I’m grateful that I recently took the time to call my dad’s baby brother because he died unexpectedly yesterday, apparently in the middle of getting dressed that morning.  My aunt found his body later that evening when he was long past saving.  My uncle, like my father, was a relatively young man and it seems far too early but I find solace in knowing that the last thing I ever said to him was, “I love you, Uncle Don.”

I didn’t say those words lightly or easily.  My dad’s side of the family isn’t big on affirmation, hugs and I love yous.  I’m glad I’ve learned to have the courage to speak from my heart even when it isn’t easy.

Is there someone in your life that needs to hear from you?  Please, stop whatever you’re doing and just do it.  Right now.  Tomorrow may be too late.

The Dream

If only ____(insert something)____ everything would be better, come together; then I could pursue my dream.

I have a dream and you do too.  We all do.  And we all have if onlys.  You know, if only I could lose x-number of pounds.  If only I could find the love of my life.  If only I had more money.

I watched The Count of Monte Christo last night.  There are many lessons inside that story but the one that resonated inside of me was the one about a man with a dream that was impossibly out of reach.  Still, he reached for it.

He reached for it against all odds,  past prison and near death, beyond betrayal, and the loss of everything he held dear, including his awareness of God, and then he became RICH beyond his wildest imagining and that got in the way of his dream, too.  Finally, having got past every conceivable distraction, he realizes his dream in a fairy tale ending, but the point of it, for me, was that anything and everything can get in the way of the dream.

Personally, I would pursue my dream if only I could get away, throw off responsibility and head for sunshine, beaches of sparkling white sand, or maybe the mountains, redolent of pine…  Then, I would write.  Then, I…

Well, likely, I would be distracted by Pina Coladas, sunshine, surf, or forest trails that beg to be wandered.  My point is that I would be distracted by something.  A change of location and lessening of responsibility would not necessarily facilitate the pursuit of my dream, as much as I like to think it would.  The only way for me to finish my novel – listen carefully, ’cause this is complex – is for me to start writing again.

In moments of discontent, my life feels too small. I used to travel the world, live out of a suitcase. No money? No worries. Somehow something would come up. I remember jumping up with a WHOOP and pumping my fist because I found 29 cents under the couch cushions when I lived in the Manoa Valley in Hawaii and I could go to McDonalds and get a hamburger because they were having a big hamburger sale and I WAS RICH!

I remember – score! – catching a ride with my thumb in the back of a limo to a private beach only locals knew about and I was – score again! – a brown, barefoot girl.  A Kama’aina (a child of the land).   God, I loved those days.  I sang at night, prowled the island by day.  Worry was something nearly foreign to me.  I shared a tiny room – 12′x12′, MAYBE, with five other girls in triple bunk beds and it was just about perfect.

I should mention that I had the same dream then.  I would write a book.  I would write it when I was done wandering.  I had to live a bit more before I settled down to write but one day I would do it.

Well, I’m done wandering.  Now, I have all this responsibility and I would write if only I wasn’t so damn stressed out.  Really.  If only I didn’t have so much responsibility.   If only I could just pack a bag and go live off the money mined from couch cushions in the Manoa Valley.  If only…

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How about you? Do you have a dream that wants pursuing?  What are your if onlys?

To Kate with Love

It was day two of our freshman year in college when I complimented my shy Japanese-American roommate on the lovely, hand-woven necklace she was wearing.  In response, she immediately unfastened the necklace and  handed it to me with a smile.  I admired it then tried to give it back but every time I reached out my hand she took a step back.  “It’s yours,” she said. “Please keep it.”

Thus began the catastrophe of gift-giving that marked my freshman year in college.  I reciprocated by giving her one of my favorite necklaces.  Her next gift came head-spinningly fast.  It was an all expenses paid weekend in Vegas.

I suggested perhaps we shouldn’t give gifts.  She agreed, even as she was handing me another gift.

I learned not to compliment her on anything she owned, because whenever I did, she would immediately gift the item to me.  It was painfully uncomfortable.  I swear, if I’d complimented the color or style of her toothbrush, as she was brushing her teeth, she would have bowed, removed it from her mouth, and given it to me!

A year or so later, living in Japan, I learned that the gift giving “thing” is cultural.  During my freshman year in college, however, I hadn’t a clue.

Flash forward.

I recently put a great deal of thought into buying a book for a friend, one I thought she would love.  She gave it a cursory glance, showing little interest (how rude!), then less than a month later gifted the same book back  to me for my birthday.   She said, utterly straight faced, that she’d heard it was an excellent book, albeit she hadn’t actually read it yet herself.  A half smile played around the corners of my mouth as she said it.  I mean, the book still had my inscription on it, which kinda worked since her name is Kate and so’s mine.  You know, “To Kate, with love.  Kate.” I laughed out loud, thinking it was a joke.  It wasn’t.

I had no idea what to say, so I said, “Uh, thanks Kate.  I love this book.  In fact, it’s one I could easily see myself giving you.” She frowned slightly and said, “You’ve already read it?”  I smiled, yes.  She offered to take it back.  I flipped it open to the inscription and showed her with a wry smile.  She scratched her head in puzzlement and said, “I don’t remember inscribing it…”  There had to be a bit of willful ignorance at play by then because it was clearly my handwriting, not hers.  But that’s Kate, God bless her.  :)

Anyway, this holiday season our hands are tied.  We’ve already decided we won’t be buying gifts, not even within the confines of our immediate family, not even for our kids.  We simply cannot afford to this year.  I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of coming up with something I have on hand or can make for my children.  Holidays like Christmas have nearly lost their meaning in the midst of rampant materialism, at least in my opinion.  It will be nice to take another step back from that.

What about you?  Have you ever given or received an obvious re-gift?  Ever experienced an awkward gift exchange?  What are your plans for the holidays and how do you handle the giving and receiving of gifts?

Living with Intention

If I asked you to tell me what matters most to you in life, what brings you the most joy, what moves you to tears, what do you believe with all your heart and soul to be true, would your answers line up with the life that you live?

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living and that resonates as truth in me; I’m constantly questioning my heart and actions.  I live with intention.  That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally veer off course.  I do.  It’s easy to get distracted, to fill one’s life with so many things that there’s no time to THINK.  We careen through the days without time to reflect or listen to the inner voice that speaks to all of us, if we have ears to hear it.

When I find that I’ve veered off course, I make a correction.  Sometimes I’m able to do it quickly and sometimes it happens in stages; I have to fight my way back to the things I hold dear.

It helps to have people we love and trust to speak truth to us.  If we don’t invite people to hold us accountable to live true to the things we profess to believe in, then we’re more likely to drift off course, and life is too precious to be spent too much adrift.

Sometimes we need to step back and just be quiet, stop talking, let go of all the distractions, and just BE for a bit.