The best days of my life.

I recently read what I suppose could be called a Meme and was shared on the Facebook wall of my niece. I was struck by power of this simple statement,

“It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about it at all.” – Jonathan Safran Foer

What was paradoxical about that statement was the article I had just read only moments before. It was an article about infertility and couples who must bear up under the weight of unrelenting disappointment. The bitter isolation that only the two who hope for a miracle must suffer through, together, but alone. (http://natepyle.com/the-disgrace-of-infertility/) By the way… if you haven’t read Nate Pyle’s stuff, you really should! I’m constantly blessed by him! Thanks Nate for accepting my offer of friendship and for sharing your life so openly!

While I don’t want to compare the hope for a child with the hope for a life mate, the two are similar in that they are about unmet need. There is a big difference between not getting something which we desire simply because we just fancy it, and the feeling of disappointment or longing that comes as a natural part of our humanity or how we are wired to be. An instinctive driving life force if you will. The need for a Woman to bear a child, the need of a couple to raise a family and the need of a Man to love a Woman and vice versa.

What I found interesting about the “best days of my life” statement was what it made me consider. It made me consider my reality and what is real. My reality is that I am single, but is that who I really am? Being single is merely a state in which I currently find myself. I’m not just single though. I’m also a father to two wonderful children. I’m also blessed to say I’m a friend to a significant number of good friends. There is more, but these will do for my purpose today. The difference between them is that the latter two satisfy some of my core human needs for relationship. They allow me to live my life in the way that I would hope to… but is that all that is best for me?

What I’m asking is whether I’m challenging myself enough or have I become complacent to live in an existence or state of being. There is so much more to life than wishing I had all that I wanted in the way that I want it. I’m not saying that we should forget or bury the human desires of our hearts, but rather, to consider that while those may remain unfulfilled for the moment, we must still live our lives. There are times when life is hard and challenging because we must also live with a deeply rooted human need that we may have yet to realize. While I can’t know the particular need of a single Woman who longs for a child, I can certainly identify with the suffering that that unmet need can bring. Being single in itself is similar in that we must walk that process completely alone. Sure, there are things like friendship or a pet that can bring us solace, but at the end of day, we find ourselves eating dinner and crawling into bed… alone.

It’s what we do in these moments though that define what can be an awful, lonely existence or the makings of an opportunity to meet the next part of our life. What I’m getting at is that if we allow ourselves to be sucked into and focus on our pain, we will let our lives wash by! I’ve seen so many people who’ve been trapped in the cycle of loss or unmet need because they CHOOSE to stay there. They remain focused on what they don’t have or what they’ve lost instead of what life can bring. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not for a second suggesting that we do not honour process of grief if we’ve suffered a loss. That is a natural and healthy component of moving on, but it’s definitely a part of moving on!

No matter what we do in life, we can’t hit pause! Life marches mercilessly forward and we have no choice but to go with that flow! It’s how God designed it and it’s brilliant. I could trap myself in a singular view of life by remaining focused on how my need to be with someone is not being met, or I can live my life while I’m in this single state. Sure… it can suck at times, but there’s more to my life than my singleness. The point here is understanding that I have no choice in the matter! I could manufacture a life that I want I suppose, and maybe it would work out for me, but chances are that it would not. It would likely not because it did not occur as it should have. I’ve tried to force many things in my life and every single one of them has failed! Every single one! I’m done with that and so, while it hurts sometimes to be single, I would rather suffer that feeling than suffer the pain of further rejection or loss because I’ve compromised myself or manipulated someone else. I am who I am! I am who God created me to be and so I choose to do the one thing that God gave me to do… I’m living life! I’m not focused on what I have not yet realized, I’m focused on learning what I do not yet know and I live with an optimism for what today will bring. It may bring some reminder of my singleness, but it may also bring an opportunity to learn something new or, if I’m lucky the Woman I am to share my life with. The point is… I’m not going to dwell on it and I think that’s the point of the statement above.

Ok… tough question time.

Writing a blog for the world to read, I’ve received many kind emails from lovely people who say “how can you be single” or “you won’t be available long” and yet… I remain single.  Before you jump to a conclusion, I’m not going to “boo hoo” about why I’m single; but a friend of mine wrote me to ask me how I deal with my singleness when my awareness of being single becomes acute. I think it’s a good question to consider in the face of the original statement “It was one of the best days of my life, a day during which I lived my life and didn’t think about it at all.”

I’m going to be very honest with what I’m about to share. I’m quite certain that there are some who may genuinely feel misunderstood or even a bit hurt by it as a result. If that happens, you’re just going to have to accept that what I’m offering is simply my perspective. I too have felt misunderstood or bewildered because of what I’ve seen displayed in my single and Christian walk. It’s just a part of being human! We all have our own unique perspective. Sometimes though, it’s how we offer that perspective and so, we need to be considerate in our delivery. That is my plea for grace. As you read my words, please remember this is just my perspective. I’m interested to hear (read) yours too.

I was recently asked by a trusted friend “Who do you turn to for comfort?”  The great thing about this question is that it requires me to understand my situation very comprehensively. I must consider where I am in it before I can answer this question appropriately. I also realize that when I consider my situation, “my situation” is also contextual. How I feel and see things varies as time wears on. I may be out on a hike, at work, drinking a coffee in the morning while I write. The point is… I live my life and I don’t think about it too much until I stop to think about it. When I stop to think about it, I realize that in aspects, I may not be where I hope to be in some areas. I hope to be married and share a deeply committed life with someone. I hope to be deeply in love! I hope to share the wonderful experience of life with someone and I hope to share faith with them. I hope to make memories with them. That is not my current reality however.

I was then asked… “I’m sure that though you come across as cool, calm and collected, you’ve gotta have your days when you too feel like ‘nothing’s going according to plan’ or ‘if I’m as great as everyone says I am, why am I still single?”.

My friend then asked and stated “When you have these days? Who do you turn to and what scriptures do you turn to for advice? I was reading one of your old posts about people asking you why you’re single, and you said “I think it’s a strange question considering that they’re also single” – touche! Funny, we never see it like that.”

The person who asked me these questions and made these statements has become a friend and I love her for asking me. These are probably some of the most difficult questions I’ve asked myself when I consider why I am single or not? They are fundamental to how I view myself, understand myself and more, what I base my life upon… that is to say, in the living of it!

My answer again is that I just live life. If I feel blue or frustrated, I just go with it and live through it, no differently than I do when I’m happy. When it gets tough, I turn to close and trusted friends who know who I am and who understand both my heart and my faith. My brother is one of them. He’s a believer and he lives with faith, but he’s not connected to God or Jesus in the same that I am. That’s to say… in his walk, reading the Bible or going to church is just not a part of his program. I have to say though, that he really tries to understand my way of faith and attempts to meet me in it by asking very honest and hard questions that I’m quite sure Jesus would also ask. He tries to understand me and that is comforting. He doesn’t allow me to get away with anything or rest on excuses. I’m not one to do that as a rule (live in excuses that is), but hey… I’m human, I get bummed and sometimes wallow a bit like everyone else! I have many close friends who understand me in a similar way and I find comfort in talking with them too, but in the end… when the coffee, food or wine has been consumed and the conversation is over… I’m back to living life on my own. My point is that I surround myself by people who will challenge me with kind truth and will challenge me if I’m becoming complacent or stuck in a rut! The rest is up to me to challenge myself to do something about it when that happens.

As for turning to scripture… I don’t necessarily. It’s now how my mind and heart are wired right now. I rather more turn to God in prayer and discussion actually. I feel His presence with me all of the time…even when I’m not thinking about Him being present. He permeates my life. He lets me know He’s there. That’s just how it works for me. I’m often thanked for my kind and thoughtful posts because I’ve appeared to have connected to whomever I’ve written to. That’s because I don’t offer platitudes or scripture without offering my experience too. I think the single biggest comfort we can offer to one another is that we experience life too. That we’re honestly willing to share our joy and our pain. I think that’s the point of community.  Its partly knowing that we’re not the only ones feeling or experiencing life.  We’re not alone in our experience!

Seeing someone who is in pain and suffering and then saying… “there, there… have faith and hope because of what it says in Romans 8:12 and Jeremiah 29:11”. What the heck is up with that? Where is the empathy in that kind of statement? How is that relational? I know we’re all different and citing scripture is how some people choose to share, relate or express themselves, but without offering some relational experience… how can it offer solace or consolation?

How about honestly saying to someone… “I remember when I was sitting in the middle of the floor clutching my Dog and crying out to God… “how long must this go on?”” and being willing to leave it at that because they just need to know that they are not alone and that they’ve been heard. Sometimes, just listening to someone can be the kindest thing we can do for them. It may be all we can do for them.

Holy segue Batman… sorry about the rant and rabbit trail (did you see Alice?). Now back to the original questions… How do I deal with my singleness? If I’m selfish, I’ll dwell on ME, on what I don’t have instead of what I can do to live my life and to serve others. I let my relationship with God and my friends and family speak into my life.

What are the best days of my life? There have been many, but I honestly believe that the best are yet to come because I live in the hopeful anticipation of what will come next.

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Does love feel like a Thunderbolt?

What is love supposed to look like? Should it feel like a thunderbolt, an overwhelming feeling of euphoria, or is it supposed feel like a slow cooker full of your favourite soup ingredients… A magical stew? I think love is just that… a magical stew that is comforting and exciting all at the same time. It can be like jumping out of an airplane and it can feel like a cozy pair of socks. Love grows and transforms. Love itself transforms as it does the people within its grasp.

When love is brand new, it’s an exciting, unknown, seemingly unending series of new discoveries.

What does love look like? What is love supposed to feel like? I don’t know how it’s supposed to look like to you… only to me, but I do know what I believe love should be based on. I also know what relationships should be based on and yet as I write this to you, I understand that it’s more than just a list. It’s more than a group of tick boxes that we feel must be met. I suppose, what I’ve learned is that it’s a combination of things I need to believe and trust. Things that are real and valid and which match quite well, who it is that I am as a person and as a man of God. It partly means feeling a sense of attraction (physical and otherwise). I’ve learned that while physical attraction may start the ball rolling, emotion, intellect and spiritual elements also come into the mix to become fully interdependent within the context of feeling or knowing love. The more I see someone as a match in my mind, my heart and my spirit, the more they become increasingly attractive to me, both inwardly and outwardly.

I can honestly tell you that after years of experiencing relationships and trying for love… In my mind, love is a warm blanket, a warm pool of water. It is something that surrounds you and gives you a sense of comfort and trust. The hardest part about love though is trust. Can I trust love? Can I trust those that I love not to hurt me. The simple answer to that question is… no! You can’t trust that you won’t be hurt, disappointed or let down at one time or another throughout the course of a relationship. The only exception to this rule is of course God. He is the only One who can love us unconditionally. In fact, we receive a perfect love from Him and yet, we offer back a flawed and broken love. I believe we do so in the best way that we are able, but in our broken state He still accepts us. I don’t think we can trust “love”, but instead must learn to trust the person we are in love with based on their character.

True love is patient. True love is kind. True love is about acceptance. True love seeks to empower and esteem the other without need for repayment. True love is a bond. It is not a combination of well chosen platitudes, a collection of words or physical expressions. True love is a life long commitment based on a variable mix of ingredients and which at its core, means being self sacrificing and giving.

What does choosing love look like exactly? Love is different to each person because God has created all of us to be different. I can’t tell you what love is supposed to look like to you… only you can define it what it looks like to you. I do believe though, that there are no guarantees in love. There is no way to know how love will ultimately work out. I believe love is something you must let go to… just like we do when we give our lives to Jesus. It’s an adventure, an exploration and as we submit to it, it grows, becomes stronger and we become wiser and better in the process. It’s about trust!

I also have to wonder… what about confirmation. Peace or release. What does it look like to walk confidently into love (a relationship). I know that I completely understand and relate to what people are saying when they talk about having a release from God. There are times however where that just doesn’t come or happen. We are called to step out on faith “with God” in those times. God will walk with us through those unknown pathways, but we need to be paying attention to what He has to tell us while we do. One thing we do need to be sure of though is that the path we’re about to strike out on is in keeping with His Heart, His Mind and His Character. How do I know what that looks like. Well, I have to trust that I’ve learned from God and that some of what He’s been teaching me has rubbed off on me. For me, when it comes to “knowing” or having confidence in another person, I look for agenda harmony and I also have a sense about them based on what I see and feel. I must also have faith because I feel I can trust in who they represent themselves to be. How they choose to act. How they demonstrate their character.

OK… let’s assume that you’ve met someone and they’re “all that” for you. They embody for you all of the elements that I’ve mentioned and more. You feel genuine love for them and have gotten to know them for let’s say 6 months or so. You trust them, you have seen that they are consistent in their character and they are someone you are drawn to and trust. You see the person as someone you truly believe you could spend the rest of your life with and so… you tell them exactly that! It’s a reasonable statement to make if you’ve both been clear about being interested in settling down and getting married. In my experience, there have been times where I’ve been asked, “How can you know that about me so confidently?” or “How can you be so sure about me”? I’m going to be brutally honest on this point! Dependent on your perspective, that’s an awful question to ask because it seems so self condemning and self doubting! Do you not know yourself or who you are? How do you see yourself? Do you not value yourself as highly as I obviously do if I’m telling you that I’m confident in what I see in you? Why would you find it so hard to believe that someone can be so confident about you? Speaking from my experience, if I find myself ready to offer the trust I’ve just mentioned, it’s because there’s more than just a feeling in my heart. It’s because I feel love for you, but also because you fall in line with my values and goals. You stimulate me! When I hear “How can you know that about me?” or “How can you be so sure?”, that’s an instant red flag to me and a few questions instantly leap to mind. Are you serious about being in a relationship? Can you commit or are you afraid to? Are you wondering if something better will come along? Do you have trouble with trust? Do you have value issues with me or are you concluding that I may not be the same thing for you and you’re having trouble finding the courage to tell me? I’m not talking about not being in the same place in terms of your being able to identify whether I “tick all the boxes” for you. That’s a different scenario and it’s also reasonable that you might not yet be in that place relative to the time we’ve spent together (I just hope you’d have the ability to tell me the truth as you see it). If however, you tell me that I DO represent all of the things that are important to you when it comes to knowing whether “I’m the guy” and yet you wonder HOW I could see that “YOU are the girl”, then you’ve just scared the crap out of me and I’d now probably doubt your readiness or willingness to be in a lifelong relationship! It would make me wonder if you really ARE ready or if you truly believe in what you say that you are looking for. I would wonder if you have the ability to identify what you need in a relationship. If you are expressing doubts of any kind because I may not be the right person for you and you’re just unsure, then you’d better be honest about it, because I’m a part of this situation too!

I will go back to the questions “How can you know?” or “How can you be so sure?”. Rather than further challenging you, I will just say that if you hear me tell you that I believe you’re the girl for me, it is because I’ve made the decision based on what I see in you! This is what you would know about me or have heard me say,

“I see in you a woman who has great and consistent character. I see in you someone who is selfless and giving to a fault! I see in you someone who is wise, deliberate and yet compassionate and caring. I see in you someone who is creative and highly intelligent. I see in you someone who has a wonderful sense of humour. I adore your taste in music, your political views and insight and your social conscience. I admire in you, your willingness to be open and to self-evaluate and remain open to change. I admire your willingness to be wrong and to own it. A willingness to participate in discussions and then actually reflect upon them. To then see you truly, humbly and honestly adjust your view accordingly because you trust that I will do likewise. I admire how when you’re right and I’m wrong, you do the same for me! I admire that you are committed to your beliefs but you are not head strong. Now to the spiritual side of you… I love your insight into God’s heart. I love your commitment to God. I love your declarations that you “will not be separated from the Love of God” for me or anyone! I love that you model that in your life. I love that you openly pray. I love that you are trying to be and get closer to God’s heart. I love that you are not legalistic and that you reflect upon God’s heart and character when you evaluate scripture or when you hear about how people conduct themselves. I love how you explain your faith and how you see the Heart of God. I also see you as the most beautiful woman and that you have the most lovely voice! I Love the way you smile, the way you laugh, the way you wear your hair and the way that you are just yourself. Most of all though… I love how all of those things make me see you. It’s not one thing, but all of them that make me feel about you the way that I do. It’s just you and who you are. I accept and love you for you! That’s it and that’s all.”

If after hearing that and trusting that I’m sincere in what I’m saying because you know my character, then how could you doubt how I could know that about you?

It’s completely OK and fully understandable that two people won’t necessarily arrive at the same conclusion at the same time. All of us live, learn, trust and love at different rates. Being in a relationship and falling in love however, carries with it a great deal of responsibility. Probably the greatest responsibility we have is to be honest with ourselves. There is no way we’ll ever know how we truly feel about the other person unless we’ve taken the time to get to know ourselves, our likes, dislikes, values, goals and faith. We also need to see ourselves as someone of value and who is truly ready and committed to being in an honest and open relationship!

What are we supposed to choose for our lives? This is again up to us, but we have to make a choice. It’s not easy, especially with all of the crap most of us have gone through in our lives if you’re on the more mature side (age) and been around the block a few times. We do have a choice though and that choice should be relatively easy if we’ve done our homework and really gotten to know ourselves and what we need in a relationship. It’s what separates “love feeling like a thunderbolt” or being merely a feeling and truly knowing a deep, connected and bonded love! It’s not some flight of fancy, it takes sober, considered and deliberate thought and choice. If you can’t say that you’ve entered into a relationship without having done this work… then don’t enter a relationship. It would be unfair to represent yourself as ready and unless you are very, very lucky, you are likely to merely feel love and not truly know it!

Does love feel like a thunderbolt? I think love can feel like a thunderbolt, a magical stew or whatever kind of metaphor you want to substitute!. I think that after the the thunderbolt, love definitely needs to feel like a warm blanket, to feel like home, safe and secure!

Yes, love can feel like a thunderbolt, but I think it should be about more than just feelings. I think it needs too look like one too!

Love in a time of zombies. A love letter.

What is it about love that makes us feel what we do?  Why is it that we cry?  Why is it that we get a lump in our throat?  What is it about that feeling, that sensation that makes us feel warm when we have our love in our arms and that feeling of sadness and loss that distracts us so when we do not?

You are not going to believe what triggered this in me!  Last night, while chatting (text) with a good friend on Facebook (half way around the world from me), I was watching a movie in the background.  A zombie movie!   I never watch zombie movies!  They’re ridiculous, but there I was, following the story.  I’ve nearly stopped watching TV altogether, but I’m still one to watch movies and having some background noise was better than total silence.  The movie though was as strange as how it made me feel.   These were no ordinary zombies… the focus was on one particular male zombie and a young, living woman.  The zombie (later named ‘R’) had conscious thought… see what I mean… weird!   Now movies are doing zombie reality (OK.. “I am Legend” was the contemporary start)!  To make a long story short, over time, the two fell in love!  It wasn’t your typical sappy love story… he had to earn her love and trust and that wasn’t easy… he was a zombie!  He was however a thinking zombie who was attracted to her and so he knew he had to give her time.  He had to respect her feelings and doubts to earn her trust.  Of course, as fate would have it, he had eaten her former boyfriend’s brains (fortunately, I tuned in after that part, though R admitted it to her as the story progressed).

It’s even more bizarre how this story somehow managed to dovetail into my emotions with respect to the conversation I was having with my friend.  We’re both singles and we’re both having a tough time meeting someone with which we share, physical, emotional and spiritual commonality as well as feeling the all-important “gasp” effect or just call it attraction.  We were sharing with each other how we’ve adjusted to our singleness and have learned to accept it, but that we still long for someone to share our lives with.

We’re both often told or asked “How can you be single!?  It’s nice to hear that affirmation from friends and even strangers when they get to know you a bit, but I have to tell you that it can also be hard to hear.  While I have accepted my singleness, it doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be with someone.  When I hear how “eligible, attractive, fit, communicative, emotionally available and financially secure” I am and the person opposite me is incredulous as to why I’m still single… well… please trust that it can be equally confusing on this side of the table too.

So… now that you know I’m single and that I long for a relationship, I’m going to quote Tina Turner and say “what’s love got to do with it”?  Well… I guess what I’m getting at is that I miss the feeling of being in love, but what does that look like?  I suppose that’s been a pursuit of definition since we humans started recording our thoughts and feelings in writing, music or image.  Many a creative endeavour has been made manifest in the name of love and so I suppose that’s a possible definition.  Love is what we make of it for ourselves in our own understanding.  Each person finds their own unique perspective on love.  I think we each define and walk through it differently, yet we all refer to it in a similar way.  It’s a feeling deep within us that we seemingly can’t get enough of.  At least, that’s my take on it.

Why is it that we all seem to want it so badly?  I can’t say that I’ve ever met a single person who doesn’t want love in their life.  The love of an animal, the love of a friend, a parent, a sibling or the love of a certain, special someone.  Love is easily the most written about subject I know of.  It compels us in so many ways and we sometimes engage in outrageous behaviour to express or even prove it.

Since I’m writing this little blurb, I’ll try to define it for you as I understand and feel it.  There are many types of love, but the one in particular that I’m talking about today is the love of a woman with whom I hope to share life with.  The love of a life mate.  The love of my life!  I’ve been fortunate to feel love with another on a few occasions and for that I’m grateful.  I’m grateful to those women who’ve allowed me to share time and trust with them, but I can tell you that over time, while the feeling of love for me hasn’t change, the definition has.  My definition has narrowed and become more intense!  My definition?  I’m challenging myself even now to describe how I see and understand love with that certain someone…  here goes.

Love to me means living and giving beyond myself.  Love means having a willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of the other person.  Love means being willing to walk away because you know the other person has a life too and that life must be respected.  Love is not one bit selfish.  You see, if you’re going to share a feeling of deep trust and commitment with someone, they need to know that you have their best interests at heart.  They need to know that you’re always willing to be honest with them and that you want to turn to them before you turn to anyone else (except God) in your relationship with them.  They need to know that they are your confidante and you are theirs.  They need to know that you’re always willing to share the hard truth with them and that at the same time, they know and fully believe that you completely respect them.  They also need to know that the absolute reciprocal is equally true!

It’s funny… I’m just now realizing that I spent a huge part of my life, misunderstanding the definition of love and yet, I’d heard it many, many times.  I’m not going to say what I’m about to because I’m a Christian.  I’m going to say it because it occurs to me that it’s correct and real and I fully embrace it.  “Love is patient, love is kind.  Love does not envy, it does not boast and it is not proud.  It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth.  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”  I just realized that I now have the view of Love that I should have had all along.  This definition is found in the bible within the text of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Wow… I’m feeling pretty humbled right now.  What you’re reading is a man coming to an understanding that he’s been ever so gradually changed and has come to a point in his life where he truly recognizes it.  I’m not kidding here… while I’ve understood and believed this definition for a while now, I’m just now coming to the conclusion that I share God’s view and definition of Love.  He certainly is patient!  I’m evidence of that!  I’m truly humbled, but do you know what I want even more… I don’t want someone to know this about me because I’m writing it or admitting it publicly.  I’m hoping that I one day have the opportunity to earn this kind of love in my life with another woman.  I know I already receive this kind of Love from God, but I still long for an earthly love too.  Someone with which to share this amazing state of grace, trust, humility and desire to give.  This goes so far past not wanting to feel lonely or alone.  This is about a connectedness at the core of our souls.  Yes…. you’re right… that’s pretty intense, but hey… it’s how God created me.

What is love?  Love is humility.  It’s understanding that you’re being given a one of a kind gift.  The person opposite you is completely unique and they are choosing to give you everything that’s truly important and precious to them.  There is not one thing material about what they are willing to share with you!  They are willing to share with you their trust, their time, their mind, their passion and their heart!  I know it’s easy to say now, but I have to be honest and say that among the few things that drive me in my life, the single most important thing to me (except for my relationship with God) is my dedication to never forget the simple honour that will be mine alone to share the heart of another.  I have almost always chosen selfishly where love is concerned.  I pray that I am no longer that man!  I pray that I will instead choose to always see the truth and to revere the remainder of my days, the choice of the woman who has chosen to share her life with me.  I pray that I never lose sight of that simple and beautiful choice and that I’m always a source of profound happiness, joy, affirmation and validation to my future wife.  I pray that I am always a source of honour and that I always bring a sense of warmth to her heart.  If I ever do achieve that level of intimacy with a woman again, I will have led a life well lived.

Sweetheart, I’m praying for you.

The power of me

Boy… are you in for a surprise. This article is probably not going where you think it is based on the title, but you’ll understand what I mean if you read the whole thing. I just read a quick snippet of something which triggered me to write on the topic I am about to. It’s something I’ve been learning to do over the last few years, but it’s becoming a little more and more ingrained in me. It’s probably one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. This is not going to be about “me” from a “what I can do” assertive perspective, but rather it will be more about “who am I in this” situation. It’s about less of me and more of you!

Many years ago, this all started for me when a very good friend of mine shared two little sayings that have served me well. The first one I’ve modified a little. It goes something like this “Conflict is like a bus. You can stand directly in front of it and let it run you down completely, or you step aside and feel the breeze as it blows by”. Wise words, especially when coupled with the other phrase he taught me, “it’s your problem, it’s my problem, there is no problem”.

The key element in both of those phrases is ME! I have the choice over my reaction, action and over my attitude. I liken this to another phrase I keep pretty well centered in my mind. It’s a quote from Chuck Swindoll and which goes like this “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. It’s amazing to me how I can completely change the course of my day just by considering my attitude. Notice that I didn’t say change my attitude… I said “considering”. I have come to learn that it’s more important to become aware of my attitude so that I can not only manage it, but also how I subsequently react as a result.

I think at about 9000 miles per hour and I’m often 2 or 3 sentences ahead (in my mind) of what I’m currently saying. You could say that I’m thinking before I speak, but that would not be the case. If I’m honest… I’m admitting to “professing” when that happens. I’m telling you “this” about “that”…. I’m being a windbag who is full of hot air and that serves no one! Of course “professing” has its purpose when instructing on a topic with which you have intimate familiarity and need to share fact, but it’s not so great if you need the person in front of you to understand what you’re sharing because learning is interactive! Thankfully, those are rare events for me now, but the thinking at 9000 miles an hour part isn’t.

I get really excited and motivated by creative thought and brainstorming. It’s an integral part of what I do for a living. One of my roles is as a facilitator.  I get a group of people together in a room and lite the fuse in a discussion.  My role is to give everyone a voice, but all the while I’m being an idea or process vampire. I’m listening! I have to if we as a group are going to achieve our goal (whatever that happens to be in the context). We all have something to contribute, but I can inhibit the process if I’m dominant in the brainstorming session or conversation. That’s where the power of “ME” begins. In order for me to be successful as a facilitator, I have to do my job as a facilitator. I may well have plenty to add to the conversation and I will do that, but I pick my moment to interject and then I’m careful to do that as a peer, not as a leader. I’m careful to not dominate the creative process, especially if the idea we’re working on is my brainchild. It’s important to me to get the very best out of my peers and the only way to do that is to get me out of the way! We all have something to add to a conversation, but if we’re too dominant, assertive or overpowering in our approach, all we’ll wind up with is our statements, ideas and thoughts thrown back at us.

I have a very strong personality and because of that, I’m responsible to keep it in check. I’m the only one who has the power to do that. I’m the only one who can keep my mouth closed until it’s appropriate and I’m the only one who can “listen” for the appropriate moment. I’m responsible!

In any situation, I have the opportunity to stop and ask myself the very same question I’m asking everyone else. I have the opportunity to stop and think before I speak. I have the opportunity! I am getting better at taking that opportunity, but I have to admit that it doesn’t happen all the time. I am grateful though that I’m far quicker to recognize when I’m not listening to others, or asking myself where I am in a question or context.

Stopping and not only thinking about a situation or question, but taking the time to ask ourselves how we feel about it and  where we see ourselves in it can quite revealing and more importantly, humbling!  I often see a very different reaction from myself now, because I consider the other person’s perspective first, or how they might react to what I was going to offer. I think the best way we can serve ourselves is to empower others. No… I’m not being altruistic and suggesting that you throw yourself under the bus (though owning your stuff and admitting when you’re wrong is critical). I’m suggesting that if you ask someone a question and then actually listen to their ideas and encourage them, you might get far more than if you tell them what YOU want them to think. Setting a context is obviously required, but after that, it’s time to shut up and “let the dogs out”. Collaboration is about energetic discussion, but it’s also very much about listening. I work with someone who is a total introvert and worse… they have almost no ego. You practically have to put dynamite under their chair to get them to flinch, but they do flinch! I’ve learned that this person has an amazing amount of knowledge and insight. They also have a ton of passion, but it’s locked up inside them. I’ve learned to watch their body language and listen to their little “tells” so that when I notice them, I can encourage them to offer what they’re thinking.

I’ve learned that while I have lots of ideas, I wind up with far more if I listen to others and encourage their thoughts rather than doing the talking myself. It’s exponential actually. It becomes something like an idea frenzy and it’s amazing to be a part of! I’m not saying for a moment that I sit back and don’t offer my thoughts too, but I become a peer in the process of idea sharing and I remember my role as the facilitator.

The power of me is not just about what you can do, what you can bring or you have to share. The power of me is helping people to become their potential! Do that once a day and I bet you’ll live a pretty happy and fulfilled life!

The value of wisdom, the strength of character

I’ve been writing in an online context for about 6 years now. I found my passion for writing after a break up with an incredible friend and my fiancé at the time. I decided to give online dating a try and came across a singles forum which hosted what seemed an endless array of topics on which to share your heart, mind and soul. I learned a great deal through reading the posts on that site, but I also learned a great deal about myself. I found that I had a great deal of wisdom and common sense in me that I wasn’t aware of. I suppose it was an accumulation of my life experience, but because I’d never consciously tapped into it, I just wasn’t aware of it. Responding to some of the posts I read or simply writing out my thoughts helped me to do two things: I learned that I knew more than I was aware of and it helped me to solidify my personal philosophy. I became very aware of what I believed in nearly all aspects of my life. I continue to learn each day through this same kind of interaction. I learn from being challenged by people and original thought. I’m constantly taught by others because I try to remain open, humble and I try to do reflective listening. I’m not saying that I get it right all of the time, but I am willing to take time to sit quietly and reflect upon my experience and contrast it against the experience of others through interaction with them.

I’m also an early riser and I’m one of those people who, once they wake is immediately ready to go. I don’t need a stretch, a morning coffee or whatever time it takes to wake the mind from sleep. I’m good to go when my eyes open. The thing is though, I love to lay in my bed and read. Why not… I have this little cocoon of warmth surrounding me and it feels great to just lay and read. It’s also the time when I like to write down my thoughts. I’m grateful for blogging, forums or just the ability to easily reach out to a group of friends through written word.

You might be wondering… YAWN… where the heck is he going with this? That’s a good question and maybe I should get to the point! This morning while enjoying my coffee in bed (I only said I didn’t need coffee, not that I don’t love it), I was looking at my newsfeed on Facebook. My friends usually find little pearls of wisdom and post them to their “walls”. This morning was no different, but it was the article I found that caught my attention and which inspired this response. It was an article on the paradox of life and was attributed to George Carlin. Good old George… he nearly always cracked me up and I thought a great deal of his work was brilliant. Reading through the article though, I found inconsistencies between the expressions I was reading and the man I understood George to be. It seemed out of character for him to be making some of the statements I was reading! He actually talked about God and faith in a somewhat reverent way which was not at all the irreverent George I’d come to know over the years. The prefacing article indicated that George’s words were written after the death of his wife, but prior to his own (it claimed that they both died in the same year… they did not). I thought that maybe it was possible George had found a relationship with God just prior to his death, but that also seemed in contrast to much of what I’d read about his interment. Nope… this just didn’t seem right… “Something seemed very wrong here” as he would often say.

This article was only shared or reposted on my friend’s wall and was a link to the original Facebook article. I decided to read through the comments on the original post rather than racing to Google or Snopes to see what was up. I quickly found my answer. It seemed that others felt similarly to me and after reading through all of the debate, I discovered the truth. George had not written the article at all. It was in fact, written by Dr. Bob Moorehead who is the retired pastor of a Church in Seattle, WA. While I was sad to discover that George had not found relationship with God in the few remaining days of his life, I was also disappointed in something else. Why is it that something profound and valuable is thought to be less valuable just because someone famous didn’t author it? Why is it that people feel the need to take valuable thought and attribute it to someone else?

I decided to further check the article on Snopes and found that Dr. Moorehead’s words were attributed to more than just George. The authorship of the article had also been attributed to others like the Dalai Lama and an unnamed student at Columbine High School. Why? My point is, no matter who wrote the article, I personally liked what it had to say! I felt it had value, contributed positively to our society and it was thought provoking. Why do people feel it will receive greater credibility if it is attributed to someone famous? Ever heard of viral posts? How about the little girls on Facebook who in 2013 wanted a puppy and whose Dad said “If you can get a million likes by tomorrow, we’ll get a puppy”. Well… they now have a puppy! You don’t need to be famous to have something good or valuable to say. You just have to be willing to say what you feel and believe, have integrity in your words and be willing to back them up!

I’m a man of deep Christian faith, but I loved and respected Carlin and his work! He was a man who was deeply reconciled to what he believed and he stood by it! I may not have always agreed with him, but I respected him and his choice!

Sadly, I see this kind of thing more and more frequently and I find it really disappointing… even appalling! If something is worth reading, it will be read. Simple as that. Who the author is matters little to me. I’m interested in expanding my knowledge and understanding and the only way I’m going to do that is to expose myself to different thoughts and perspectives. I don’t have to agree with Carlin to like him! I’ve never read Dr. Moorehead’s stuff until this morning but I can tell you that I now like him too! I had some questions about his thoughts, but that’s another matter. What I find paradoxical though is that an article on life and faith was attributed to an outright atheist who chose to debunk “faith” whenever the subject arose. George Carlin actually commented on the article, “A Paradox of Our Time” and called the article “a load of shit” which was definitely in keeping with his character.

Folks… wisdom is wisdom. I’ve read stuff from six year olds that I thought was profound and thought provoking! Taking an original thought and then attributing it to someone famous or outspoken does not make it any more real, correct or valid. If anything, it takes away from the power of the words because it shows that people aren’t convicted in their understanding, philosophy or faith. While he was on earth, Jesus shared a lot of knowledge and wisdom… it didn’t catch on immediately, but look where we are today! You might even draw an ironic parallel between George and Jesus. They both deeply believed in what they said and had the courage to stand behind it!