Friday, February 28, 2014

Right Where I am



I remember once reading an article about a man who said that even if you lived 100 years, you'd only get to see 100 Autumns. At the time, I remember being in awe of such a drastic statement. Can you imagine, thinking each season of your life that you only had a limited number left? It seemed to me like such a profound thing to even consider.

Now, it's probably been at least 10 years since I've read that article, but I still remember the sentiment that the man portrayed. And the more I think about it, the more I wonder...

Have I experienced all my Autumns? 

It's kind of funny how much of life we take for granted. We spend a lot of time lamenting that one day, it will be gone from us, that it can be taken so easily. We wonder if we will have the lives we think we are supposed to have- the right job, the house, the kids, the vacation. We toil and trouble and work hard for things that we think we are supposed to want, and sometimes, we get so caught up in those ideas, that we miss what is going on around us.

Where I live, the summers and winters tend to be the dramatic seasons, while spring and fall just sort of breeze in and out with no second thought. Sometimes I've barely put away my winter coat at the end of March before it's May and the weather has gotten too warm for my sweaters. It's like I've jumped the whole month between work and obligations and worry and suddenly, even if I live until 100, I'm coming up short.

The more time passes, the more I realize how much I am content to enjoy the moment. I don't mean that I don't want to plan ahead or think about the future. But my generation is, as were those before us, obsessed with getting to where we need to be as quickly as possible without enjoying the ride. We'd rather time travel then take the train, enjoying what's passing by as we ride to our destinations. As a result, there are millions of amazing things we will never experience, and maybe never even know we missed.

It's sobering to think about, if you ask me. I have goals and ideas that I look toward with hope. But I wonder if they consume my life. I wonder if those things will still hold their appeal once I arrive. Surely if these things were meant to be formulated, they would have. God would have put them into a specified plan. We'd all be married at the same age, with a baby on the way, and live in our happy little homes with no thought for the outside world.

My point is that our time here on earth is limited, and I fear that I limit it more and more by rushing it. Some days it's all I can do to get through the work day so I can get to whatever excitement lays before me. But my attitude dose not speed up time any. It just leaves me with one less day to reflect on later in life.

My life needs more sunsets- more moments of stopping to stare in awe into the sky and just enjoy the moment, live for the second. I explained it a few weeks back to a group of friends this way: A sunset is not tangible. You can't touch it. You can't reach out and change the way it's happening. And it's not the same to hear about it from someone else or see it secondhand in a picture. You just have to be there.

I don't know if I'll make it to a hundred. I don't know if I'll accomplish all that I've set out for myself to dream of. But I have the chance, right here and now, to enjoy the journey. I don't want to miss another second of this life I've been given by jumping ahead. I am happy to be right here, right now- right where I am.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Headlines

"I am not the kind that will hide beneath the lights and lyrical one liners,
I can't stand the hype."
-We The Kings, "Headlines Read Out"

The headline is sometimes the hardest part for me to write.

I spend a lot of time thinking about things that make me want to blog. Sometimes I come up with ideas in bed while I'm supposed to be sleeping. Sometimes they come to me when I daydream while staring out the bus window on my way to work. Sometimes they come to me while someone is talking (and then I start blank staring, and people get offended, and there are all kinds of ridiculous repercussions). Ideas are the easy part. They come when they are ready to surface.

And then I sit down and drop some words on the web browser with some biblical context or a quote from someone or some song and the post is almost complete. Except for that pesky last part- the headline.

I think the headline is so hard for me because it's the title- the main thought that is going to draw people in and decide if they want to read what I have to say today. I try to pack my personality into as few words as humanly possible. Often times I think I'm being clever, and then other people come back to me and say, "I didn't get it." And then I'm left wondering what I was thinking in the first place. Other times, I get one that really hits the nail on the head. And I pat myself on the back a bit.

Because headlines are hard to write.

Sometimes I wonder what the headlines of our lives are. What do we walk around with that make people decide whether or not we are worth reading? Is it our clothes? Our hair style? The expression on our face? Is there a formula for who we are that can give us a more accurate initial reaction? I think we, as humans, spend a lot of time pondering this very question. We want to know how to be approachable, how to be likable, and how to attract others. And we spend a lot of time trying to make ourselves into what we think other people want us to be.

The real part to consider, I would wager, should actually be less self absorbed. We need to start with a much simpler question:

Whose attention do we want to catch?

See, by taking the attention off "me, me, me," and placing it on "the others", I suddenly step outside of myself and try to see from another's perspective. I am left with a much tighter image of what might bring someone in when I consider what they want or are going to be drawn to. I am not suggesting we should change to fit the expectations of other people, but instead suggesting that we need to emphasize the pieces of ourselves that are going to draw in the people who we most want to reach.

And it's important to know who exactly it is that we want to reach- because otherwise when we are unsuccessful in impressing people, we lose sight of what is really happening.

I'll give you an example: I used to be upset about people who would exclude me from events they were having. It made me feel bad to not be included in things that were happening around me. I would dread hearing about it after the fact, because I knew that it would give me a harsh dose of reality- there were people doing things without me.

It wasn't until I started to really listen to some of the stories of what people were doing that I realized the truth- the kind of things I wasn't being invited to were all the same... and they were things that I would not have wanted to go to. See, my headline read correctly for the personality that I have, and people noticed. I was given the opportunity to be part of many things that fit my ideals and were really fun for me. The rest of it was not for me. Being excluded become an opportunity to be thankful- I hurt no feelings when I didn't have to turn people down.

It was only when I started analyzing who was responding to who I was that I started to see what headline I needed.

I admit that sometimes I still struggle with what my life says. But these days, I am much more conscious of my audience- I know what I want to be and who I want to bring in. And if other people find my life offensive, or too different from theirs, or even just boring, that's okay too.

But the reader in me has to extend just one last challenge- sometimes you need to look past the headline to see the story it's holding. Sometimes people have a lot to offer or could be a good fit, but they just haven't figured out their title yet. So while I will work to make my own lines read properly, I also want to strive to read the stories that are the other people around me- even if the first impression isn't great.

Because finding the right headline for who we are can take a long time. After all, headlines really are the hardest part to write.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving my snobby friends

Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.
-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

All my friends are snobs... or at least perceived that way.

I used to think that this was the downside to having artistic friends, until I realized that the intellectual friends that I have are just as bad. We all seem to have these things that we are very picky about. For some of my friends, it's music- the soundtrack that they approve is so small that it's often hard to find a radio station that satisfies their listening needs for more than a few tunes. Some of them are fashionistas- worried about not only what they wear, but offended by the decisions other's make. Some of them do food. Some do numbers. Some are scientists who look down on other scientists. They all come across as stuck up in their area of expertise.

But I love these people.  So I don't really think that they are snobs. I think that they are just passionate.

The problem with passion is that we don't perceive it properly when we discuss it in small groups. We talk about being passionate about something. But I have come to find that a drive for passion is more a personality trait than it is a state of mind about specifics. Passionate people are passionate first- the subject comes later, when they settle on their topic. They spend hours studying, learning, expressing, and creating their hobbies or skills. 

Consistencies in their personalities, however, lead me to develop the idea of passion being a trait. They all seem to exemplify the same things, and often receive the same mocking comments from others who don't have the passion trait. They often come across as snide or haughty, but I think that this is a misdiagnoses of what's really going on. They feel so strongly about whatever it is they have concerned their lives with, that they have the need to correct others who are sullying the good name of whatever it may be. 

Today is Valentine's day, when romance is alive in the air. The whole country becomes dazzled with the idea of love. Valentine's day seems to bring out the passion in many and directs it towards romantic relationships. 

But I too am a passionate person, and I have set my sights on this concept of love. 

Romantic love is a good thing. But it stems from this greater idea of being selfless. We know love to be many things- love is supposed to allow people to make the same mistakes over and over again without being condescending or harsh while still believing in change- it never makes little of other's accomplishments or highlights it's own- it's not self serving or even focused on the person giving it, and it doesn't stay mad. Love does not wish poor things on others, but instead celebrates when amazing things happen. It protects. It trusts. It hopes. And it does all this again and again and again. 

Today, I celebrate love. Not romance, not the idea of the partner I hope to one day have, but the idea that love can be transformative. The idea that love exceeds the moment and lives on. I celebrate because the world gets a window into this thing that I feel so strongly about. They get to see this wonderful concept that I dedicate my energy to researching and knowing because I can see how it can make life great. So I get a whole day to celebrate the wonderful love that I have for my family, for my neighbors, and for my friends. 

Even if sometimes, they come across as snobs.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Birthday considerations

"There is still no cure for the common birthday."
John Glenn 

It's crazy how our birthdays can make us feel a little contemplative. 

Thursday is my birthday. This time last February I listened to the words of John Mayer in "Why Georgia" as he reflected the worries and thoughts I was experiencing as my day approached: 

"I rent a room and fill the spaces with wooden faces to make it feel like home... but all I feel's alone. 
It might be a quarter life crisis, just stirring in my soul. 
I wonder sometimes about the outcome, of a still verdictless life."

I was right there with him, wondering if I'd ever find an outcome, and how in all my life, I'd managed to feel no closer. I worried that I really wasn't going to have anything to show for the first big chunk of my life.

But then it arrived, and I felt my burden lighten. I remember actually thinking to myself, "wait... what was all the fuss about?" It didn't feel empty at all. In fact, it felt like the start of something new.

This last year has been possibly the best of my life. I have rediscovered my writing voice and re-established this blog. I have spent the months finding my style leading worship music, and have developed the underused vocal chords I so often have ignored in the past. I discovered Natural Life and Sevenly- brands that reflect some of my values and hopes and print them on t-shirts, wallets, and cell phone cases. I have lost weight, both physically in my new found love for the gym, and emotionally as I have given away bags and bags of the cumulative stuff that holds me down.

But most importantly, this year, I feel like I finally met with God and learned to walk with Him side by side. 

The more I give my life over to my Creator, the more wonderful it becomes. Without the burden of continuous worries, I sleep easier at night, and handle each day with the freedom of newness. Panic attacks are (mostly) a thing of the past for me now, even in situations that are out of my control. The concern of what the world thinks of me is slowly dissolving, and with it, the disillusion that I am all alone. Even when no one stands with me here, I know that I am not alone. But to be honest, God has given me such amazing friends, that even in my darkest moments, He can remind me how special and wonderfully made I am through them. 

During this time I have reconnected with my bible with a joy I haven't had in a long time. I have invented my own methods of dialoguing with God. I have seen Him in more then just the occasional sunset- indeed, I see Him everywhere, in everything, carefully conducting the orchestra that is my life. He is teaching me about mercy, about hope, about love. He is stirring up my heart to make changes for Him and for myself with His guidance. 

It's been an incredible age. Part of me stares 26 in the face and knows that if the last 365 days were good, there could be amazing things coming. 

But part of me wonders how it can get any better. 

I think it is part of human nature to have something good and fear it will go away. Sometimes I wonder if this has all just been one big moment of greatness... if after this, my life will return to the "normal" I once knew. It is a fear that I surpass with the truths that I have come to know- I have been changed by time. There is a joy in knowing that we have a purpose, that we are loved and valued and used for all we have. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but there are so many desires in my heart that have not yet been realized. And I know that God, who gives His children good things, knows those hopes that I have not even vocalized yet, never mind the ones I have actively sought after.

My point in all this is that sometimes we look back and all we see is the regrets that we have trailed behind us. But some times in life leave feelings of happiness and appreciation. I'm sorry to close the door on them, to leave 25 to memory. But maybe, in a few months, I will look back again and wonder what the fuss was about yet again. Maybe the epiphanies and beginnings will continue, and newness that I cannot yet imagine will occur. Maybe there will be more renewal, more raising of the things that I have thought have been put away in myself for good... of the dead in me that needs to be raised. 

And even now, in my trepidation for this next chapter, I can feel an anticipation whispering inside me, waiting for something wonderful to happen. I guess I can't know what is coming in this next year... I will just trust, pray, wait, and see. Maybe this is what growing up looks like- seeing not just what we are leaving behind, but instead, what we might be headed towards.

I'm still a little contemplative, but I look forward to this new beginning, this celebration of my day of birth. If nothing else, it's going to be quite an adventure.

I look forward to seeing what is in store.