Everybody’s looking for a magic pill–thinner waist, bigger boobs or booty– “What’s the secret?” They ask. Then their expectant look turns sad when they discover there’s “no secret.” They already know. But, do you know?… More
Acceptance. It’s what we crave.
If you’re a writer you may be familiar with that feeling you get in the pit of our stomach as the blinking cursor arrow hovers momentarily over the “submit” button just before you send off a manuscript or query. It’s called fear of rejection. Even emailing a draft of something we’ve written to a friend is like sending a piece of ourselves into the world to be judged, we may as well be offering our head to the guillotine!
Our “selves” may take many forms. Whether we’re writers or professionals, parents or students, we’re all striving for success–and how do we define success? By the extent to which others accept our performance or appearance–or both. It’s easy to become consumed with our efforts to achieve success–and acceptance–but, how many of us are chasing after something that’s already ours?
How different would our striving be if we recognized that regardless of what’s out there, what’s in here is already great. “But, where’s ‘here’?” You may ask? Look around. The answer might be right under your nose! Thanks, Tanzy!
I was just few months into my fitness journey. You know, the honeymoon phase. The phase when you feel like you can conquer the world. The phase when you consider taking up a modeling career after you lose all the weight and become irresistibly sexy. That phase where you can look all your food vices straight in the eye with the confidence of a Spartan army, knowing you are stronger than your cravings! I was “feeling myself,” as they say and I was patting myself on the back for a job well done. I was in the gym daily for 3 months straight. I was drinking 80 oz of water regularly and I had even gone down 2 dress sizes! I was on cloud nine! Shopping had become my new favorite activity–I loathed it before my transformation.
Looking through some pics I decided to assemble a before and after picture so that I could bask in my amazing transformation. At this time I was homeschooling my kids and spent endless hours surrounded by little humans under the age of 5, but I was desperate to share this visual display of my success with someone who could celebrate with me. No grown ups to be found, I turned to the next oldest in the room–my 5 year-old-daughter. I pulled up the picture collage on the computer and, beaming with pride, plopped it in front of my kid asking a very baited question: “What do you think of mommy’s picture? Do you notice anything different?”
Her little face beamed at the challenge. She leaned in toward the picture and studied it like a “Where’s Waldo game.” After some time she was finally ready to give her answer:
“In this picture you have a red shirt. In that picture you have a blue shirt. In this picture you have ponytail. In that picture you have straight hair. In this picture you’re smiling and in that picture you’re not. In this picture you have grey shoes and in that picture you have black!”
“Wait what?! That’s it?! You don’t see my slimming waist line, my sleeker arms, my shrunken belly or my thinner thighs?” I thought.
Next enters my 1-year-old staggering towards us, dying to see what we are studying. He let’s out one word as he looked at the screen. “MAMA!”
The reality is that the people that love us most never see our flaws. My kids never knew I was overweight. They never saw my stretch marks, or my cellulite. They never saw me as a number on a scale. They only saw me as their nurturer, their caregiver, their protector and their friend. No matter what pic I showed them, they only saw one person, “MAMA.”
Have you ever asked yourself why?
Why am I here…?
In this town…
At this job…
At this point in my life…
Or, ever wondered when…?
When will I move forward?
Be more, do more, see more?
When will things change?
Then one day–consumed by papers, deadlines, schedules and plans, the clock is frowning down on me as I lean into the computer screen and try to decipher my own thinking about this afternoon’s class, I hear a knock on my door.
“Come in!” I yell without looking up and a timid girl slips in without a sound.
I glance up, “Yes?” I notice she has a strange look on her face so I stop what I’m doing and wait.
“Ms.–” there’s a distinct lilt in her voice. It’s musical even though her face is drawn and sad. “I haven’t heard from my family since yesterday and I just don’t know what to do.” She swings herself into the chair next to my desk the way I swing my tote bag down at the end of a long day, exhausted.
Whatever was planned for class that day will have to wait. I turn to face her, wondering what I should say. News reports of historic Category 5 hurricanes hitting defenseless Caribbean islands is all we’ve been hearing about lately. None of the news is good. All of the predictions are “devastating losses” of life and property. The fact that this girl has not heard from her family is a sign that, as expected, the storms have hit her home and knocked out power. There is no way to know if they are dead or alive. And here she is thousands of miles away trying to “do school” and go on, be positive and pray, but it has become more than she can bear. So she’s come here—to her English teacher’s office—a few minutes before class—and let the floodgates open.
I whisper a prayer to myself, but I realize I don’t need to say much. It is better for me to listen and be a sympathetic ear, to tell her it’s okay to cry and that I, indeed, understand how she feels. I, too, have family in the islands. This is a scary time. I also tell her not to feel guilty for being here “safe and sound” while they are down there in harm’s way. As a mother, I tell her, it would give me great comfort to know that at least one of my children is not in the midst of this storm and I’m sure her mother feels the same way.
Then she asks me to pray for her, and because we’re here, at a Christian school, it’s actually okay for us to do that! So we do, and I ask God to open our eyes the way he did Elisha’s servant when the enemies were surrounding them and it seemed their defeat was certain, so that we could see his army that surrounded the enemy, outnumbering them! In that moment we needed to be reminded and encouraged that He who is for us is greater than all that is against us.
She thanked me and left.
And wouldn’t you know it? After class she told me she received a call from home! There was some damage to her house, but her family was safe. I later heard from my family members as well. So, our story had a happy ending! But that’s actually not the end of the story…
I began by saying that I often ask myself “why am I here?” And I sometimes even sink into a pit of despair as I think about where I would like to be, but then I have experiences like this and I feel like Elisha’s servant looking out over the hills of Dothan–first feeling overwhelmed and defeated by the enemy of doubt and low self-esteem–and then dumbstruck by the reality that I am, after all, not left alone to face that enemy when he opens my eyes and allows me to see the vast host of God’s army standing behind them with chariots of fire. (2 Kings 6:17)
So, a few weeks later, I’m having another paper-filled, lesson-plan, meeting and worry-whirlwind kind of morning when there’s another knock on my door.
It’s the sweet Caribbean girl again! “Oh, I’m glad you’re here” she says. “I’ll be right back,” and a few minutes later she reappears carrying these…
“I just wanted to thank you for praying with me,” she says, and this time it was my turn to let the floodgates open.
I was the teacher, but that day my student taught me a lesson. So often my time and attention is spent looking elsewhere, but is my purpose right in front of me? How often am I distracted by what’s not while I continually ignore what is? Like Elisha’s servant, my eyes needed opening and the gorgeous blooms gave me an appropriate jolt.
Why am I here?
For moments like this.
What about you?
Daily Post: #enlighten
Why are Mondays so hard? Is it because of Newton’s law—“a body in motion, stays in motion,” so a body that’s motionless remains so? I suppose, then, if you’ve spent the weekend mentally and/or physically in “chill mode” it will take an act of God to move you from chill to work mode, then, huh?
Today is a Monday, for sure.
Literally, every class I walked into the faces staring back at me looked like this:
So, it’s on me to bring the energy–no pressure–yeah, right! As if I haven’t been laid up all weekend too. I have problems of my own! No matter. When all eyes are on you, you have to step to the plate. Mondays come whether we like it or not—whether we’re ready or not. We just have to zip up our big girl or big boy pants and decide:
what is the next right thing?
I thought about this when staring back at those less-than-enthusiastic faces and when I watched Mel Robbins talking about the 5 second rule that propelled her out of a rut and into her successful career. Lynn Cowell, too, echoes this sentiment in her latest book Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You, because this difficulty with figuring out what to do next starts when we’re young. But, really, it’s an age-old concept. Leo Tolstoy’s parable “Three Questions” lays out clearly how to handle hard tasks: one at a time.
You see, the secret to pushing past the Monday blues and don’t wanna-get-out-of-bed days that keep us stuck in dead-end jobs, in crazy-cycle relationships, in counterproductive mindsets is answering one simple question: what is the next right thing?
Not, “what is the answer to all my problems?” Not, “how am I going to solve all these issues?” Not, “how do I climb Mount Everest!” But just what is the next step? How do I make it through this next challenge—even if that challenge is getting out of bed!
The reality is, we will never know all of the answers or have everything figured out anyway. So, waiting for the full picture to be clear will only frustrate us. The only thing that’s certain and completely in our control is right now and although taking control of each moment seems so simple it can also be so empowering! If I take control of this moment and do the right thing right now—even the smallest right thing–then perhaps the next right step will be revealed by that action and I will know what needs to be done next! And after that? Well, I’ll wait for that moment to come.
Yes. Mondays are hard. But they don’t have to be. All you have to do is tackle them like every other day–one moment at a time.
So, do the right thing…have a Happy Monday!