I haven’t posted an entry since…June, of last year. It is not that I haven’t had a multitude of thoughts, I just have not made the time to write them here. I had to write this, because I know someone needs to hear it, I needed to hear it.
“Everything has a purpose, clocks tell you the time, trains take you to places. I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine… I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason, too.” —Hugo Cabret
Do not, ever, diminish who you are in order to allow someone else to be comfortable. Anyone. Not your friends, family, co-workers, spouses, acquaintances, no one. Life is short. We only get one shot at this, and the time we have is precious, far too precious to spend even one moment hiding who it is that we were created to be. More important than that: someone needs you to be exactly who you are in order to fulfill who it is that they are meant to be. We are all here for a reason.
If we spend our lives and energy worrying about what will cause someone else discomfort, what they will think of us, we do ourselves and the world a great disservice. Each time we hide, we retreat further into ourselves until eventually, we just…disappear.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992)
We must be careful who we allow to speak into our lives, who we allow to impact our spirits, because the people we surround ourselves with can be our greatest detractors or our biggest supporters. Everyone needs encouragement in order to grow. Anyone who constantly feels the need to remind you of how normal, average, and insignificant you are, is someone who does not yet love themselves enough to be loving toward anyone else…even if they want to be. The world is full of people who have been rejected and made to feel inadequate. If they have not healed, those around them become collateral damage. It is our job to love them, but not at the expense of shrinking from who we know in our hearts we are called to become.
There is far too much darkness in the world to extinguish, or even diminish the light we carry. We have to shine. We were born to shine. We were made to shine.
What I am going to say next, makes me want to cry: all of the love you have to give, will never be enough love to make someone love themselves. Let me repeat that. ALL of the love you have to give will NEVER be enough love to MAKE someone love themselves. We are not meant to fill that void, if we try, we will soon find that we are drained. Loving a person is not easy, but healthy love is reciprocal and, though hard-fought, has the effect of making you shine brighter.
I want you to do something. I want you to take a pen and paper, and write down every person that you love. Are you their biggest cheerleader? You should be able to cheer on, from your heart, everyone who you love. If you cannot do that, you are not loving them. You should ask yourself, why? If your actions cause friction, tension, silence, separation, you are diminishing the people who you say you love.
I want you to take the challenge to give the people you love license to shine. You may not yet know how to do this, but it is simple: look into their eyes, observe their body language, you will see that they are shining, it will exude from every pore. Lift them up, speak kind words, give of yourself when there is nothing that you expect in return, look for ways to lighten their burdens, hug them, personify love.
I want you to give yourself license to shine. Pursue your passions. Your dreams are not silly, stupid, crazy, or unreachable, they exist in your heart because you have the unique life experience to steward them, to shepherd them, and to carry them to completion. If you are reading this, even if I do not know you, I want to tell you that I love you.
Do not be afraid to be who you were created to be, you need to be that to fulfill your purpose, and the world needs us each to shine brightly in order to illuminate the darkness.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking in the new year. I am reading “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey and I am taking my time. I like to digest my reading and internalize it as I would a good meal. In order for you to follow me on the remainder of this blog post, I must first provide you the passage that caused me to sit back and carefully evaluate my behaviors toward those that I care for.
In his section on Principles of Personal Vision, Covey writes:
At one seminar where I was speaking on the concept of proactivity, a man came up and said, “Stephen, I like what you’re saying. But every situation is different. Look at my marriage. I’m realy worried. My wife and I just don’t have the same feelings for each other we used to have. I guess I just don’t love her anymore and she doesn’t love me. What can I do?”
“The feeling isn’t there anymore?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he reaffirmed. “And we have three children we’re really concerned about. What do you suggest?”
“Love her,” I replied.
“I told you, the feeling just isn’t there anymore.”
“You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.”
“Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.”
“But how do you love when you don’t have love?”
“My friend, love is a verb. Love –the feeling–is a fruit of love, the verb. So love her. Serve her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do that?”
Okay. Let it marinate.
Now, when I reflect on this, it says to me: If you want love, be more loving, if you want respect be more respectful…a sentiment summarized beautifully in Matthew 7:12 (do unto others…). There is nothing profound in this statement, and yet, it hit me like a ton of bricks. People are not mind readers, nor do they absorb things by osmosis. If I want someone to know that I love them, I love them. The verb. If I am thinking about someone, I tell them. When I love, I do not know how to do this any other way but to let it ooze out of every pore. I love not because people always deserve it, but because I care so much for who they are and their well being, that I want them to succeed. Because when they glow, I shine, and when they fall, I stumble, because I care.
I remember the first time I knew that I was head over heels in love. I arrived home from school on Christmas break of 1998 and walked into the house to greet my family. Sitting on the couch was my older sister, holding this tiny little person swaddled in soft pink blankets with only her cherubic brown face showing, well, that and a massive tumble of dark curls. She was so quiet and in her slumber, she appeared to me to be the closest thing to heaven on earth. The moment I saw my niece I knew I would do any and EVERYthing in my power to keep her safe and happy no matter what it cost me. I was a goner. My heart was so full of love that I thought it might burst. She could hate me, and I would love her because I had no choice. So this was love. That is when I truly understood. My parents would love me no matter how mean, disrespectful, forgetful, ungrateful, selfish, or imperfect…they would love me in SPITE of my flaws.
I was praying this morning, and I am so thankful for every single one of my friends and all of their quirks, for my family and it’s dysfunction, because they love every little piece of me, even when I do not; and so I must love them the way God loves me…flaws and all.
On this father’s day, as I sit listening to President Obama’s speech on fatherhood and having called my father to speak with him this morning a thought crossed my mind. My father has been many things to me; a provider, a coach, a disciplinarian, a friend… The memory that came to mind this morning, was the day that my grandmother died. Below is an excerpt from my journal on that day.
My grandmother died today. My Grandma Smiley. She died of cancer, in her lymph nodes. I didn’t know all day, I guess my parents didn’t want me to know because it would ruin my day. They said that she died at 9:00am. I don’t know what to think. I feel really shallow. Today was the homecoming game and our parents were supposed to escort us at halftime, for the show. Anyway, it was almost time and my mom and dad still weren’t there and I know that they are really busy, but I was still like ‘This is really important,’ and I started crying. They offered to get me another escort, but I didn’t want anyone but my parents. Our mascot, the eagle, was going to escort me, but right when we were walking over, my mom and dad came. I could tell that something was wrong, but I was too wrapped up in myself and what Eshe needed, that I didn’t even bother to ask. I was just really relieved that they came.
The reason why that incident stood out for me is because being a father is often about sacrifice. I was very excited to have been selected by my peers to sit as a princess on the homecoming court, in Belen, NM. I was the first African American to sit on the homecoming court in 20 years. For my father, allowing me to have that moment meant that he swallowed his pain, and showed up for me to walk me down that field at half time.
My father is far from perfect, but he is a good father. I love him dearly and the thing I will remember always is how he has shown up for me. From the time he had to confront my 5th grade teacher for trying to block me from going to represent my class at the Optimist’s club speeches to the basketball game where he jeered me when I shot at the wrong basket — a story he LOVES to tell, I know what it’s like to have a father present in my life. To all of the men who believe that a father’s job is to provide, I respect that, but it is so much more. My father is the man who taught me that love is displayed through action.
there are very few things in this life worth driving one-thousand miles in depends so you don’t have to stop for a bathroom break, but apparently, love is one of them. in hearing the story of lisa marie novak, i couldn’t help but to wonder just what makes us cross that delicate line from in love to crazy.
i will be the first to admit that i have done some very embarrassing things “in the name of love,” but i am going to go out on a limb and say that none of them could ever be considered de-ranged. there are countless movies made about people who have transitioned (from in love to crazy): sleeping with the enemy, the babysitter, and my all time favorite fatal attraction , to name only a few.
i have this theory about lies and expectations. we lie to ourselves about what we really want in order to lower our expectations and avoid being hurt. we think that if we tell our lie enough, that eventually, it will become the truth. we may even believe it, but usually, we are only fooling ourselves. that’s the thing about denial, everyone else can see what’s going on. i think that people snap because the lie is confronted with a truth so undeniable that all of the buried emotions surface, and they don’t know how to handle it. not everyone is crazy enough to drive cross country to kidnap someone, but we all try to regain control in some way. we go on a diet, change our clothes, cut our hair, move, get a new job…anything that gives us the power over a situation to combat the area in our lives where we feel inept and helpless.
honesty is the best policy. i think that once we have accepted the situation, and the fact that we may have no control over it, we are less likely to have an adverse reaction…well, unless you were just crazy to begin with, and then, drugs. drugs, a white coat, and very nice people will show you to your room.