Friends… who needs em?

imagesAre relationships really necessary?  And what defines a relationship anyway? I mean, I’m married, I have three kids and I go to work every day. I am surrounded by people I am in “relationship” with constantly. My husband is my best friend. My kids are great conversationalists. My team at work is entertaining and engaging and frankly when I’m alone, most of the time I enjoy hanging out with myself. What more do I need?

That is the million dollar question. If my time is so full of people I enjoy, why do I feel like I am missing something? Is that “something” the reason I catch myself fantasizing about having lunch with people I haven’t had a conversation with in years? Is it that “something” that triggers euphoric happiness when I daydream about a yet to happen get together at my home with long-lost, what do you call them again… oh yea, friends?

I guess it’s not as bad as it could be.  I met for a visit with a friend (two different ones mind you) twice last year. So I have those memories to go on. I figure I’m at least on a par with prison inmates, registered sex offenders and people on house arrest. I’ve got to be one up Amanda Bynes. She can’t have more than a couple of outings with friends a year what with her unfortunate expressions of multiple personalities and all. But wait! What about her multiple personalities?? If I count her daily interactions with her “inside friends”… she DEFINITELY has me on this! And I just have this nagging feeling that even registered sex offenders rub shoulders and hang out with people they meet in their mandatory meetings. Don’t prisoners get at least a weekly visit from a friend? What if you include their gang allies and visits in the yard every day? Ok, deduct time if they are in solitary and lose their yard privileges. So let me add this up: seven days a week in the yard with buddies, plus a possible weekly visit from an outside friend, minus a spotty week here and there for bad behavior with lost visitations privileges and I come out with… MORE TIME WITH FRIENDS THAN ME!! Shut ins?? What about shut ins?? This is pointless.  Instantly I can think of several opportunities they probably take advantage of that I don’t i.e. visits from church volunteers who bring them meals and offer pity conversations and probably concerned neighbors who really want to know if they are still feeding themselves and their several cats,  but masquerade as friendly house-guests and to the shut in, you guessed it… it’s all friend time.

So there you have it. The most isolated of society enjoy more time with friends than I do. So back to my husband and my kids. Aren’t they my “friends”? I think if I’m honest, I have to say that those relationships, even though I enjoy them tremendously, are attached for life in my mind. Obligated by nature of either origin, or legal covenant. I won’t let them fade into memories of happy times past and just let them try to stop hanging out with me. S to the T to the AULKER. Yea, they aren’t going anywhere. My co-workers? Since my company is reluctant to pay me if I don’t go there and hang out with those people every day, I guess even though I like them,  those connections are  on lock down too.

That leaves me forced to admit that a kind of relationship; the kind with people who get to go home anytime they want and whose underwear I don’t have to wash, is missing.

I know what happened. My life got complicated and as a once leader in my circle of friends, I became ashamed that some things were falling apart for me.  I let time pass while I hashed out the hard parts alone.  Now that I finally feel like I have something to offer friends again, it’s hard to pick up where I left off.  I sit here stunned that I have spent the past ten years– TEN years working through rebuilding my life without my friends.  It wasn’t until my husband got a job out-of-town that I realized what I’ve let happen. Suddenly he wasn’t there to talk to at all times and sadly, no one else was either.  Except my three teenage boys and as smart as they are, I have a limit of how many farts I can hear in a discussion, before I tune out.

For my own good and to drive home my commitment to living out my word for the year (others) I’ve done some research about why we need  true friends and here is what I discovered:

  • The more friends a person has, the less likely they are to become debilitated as they grow older
  • More quality social ties increases longevity– some studies say 15% or more
  • Companionship releases oxytocin, a calming hormone that creates a sense of well-being. Several studies show highly connected people have healthier hearts– probably because oxytocin is cardio-protective. It also combats depression and lowers cortisol levels, the damaging stress hormone
  • In studies related to surviving disease, ongoing interaction with good friends made recovery four times more likely (family/spouses were not an influencing factor but greater numbers of friends were)
  • People with strong friendships are less likely to get colds and recover from viruses more quickly (likely due to less cortisol and more oxytocin)
  • Worldwide studies show that the larger a persons friend network, the higher they rate their overall happiness with life
  • People with more friendships are likelier to make and keep good habits and more likely to follow through with personal goals

It appears we were simply designed to thrive in community with others, above and beyond our biological family. It’s obvious that interacting with people who enjoy us and aren’t obligated to us, imparts wholeness to our entire being. It is literally a medicine to our soul. Is it because the necessary feedback loop of valuing and being valued by friends is hard-coded into our DNA? I think so.

I’m convinced it is a vital key in reaching our full potential.  We. Need. Friends. More inspiring is the fact that they need us. We each have a deep well of wonderfulness and it seems it was meant to quench the thirst of our friends. Perhaps we are much more designed for others than we realize. Great news for me! Now I don’t have to feel guilty when I look for lunch with a pal, instead of enduring yet another fartathon at home.  Sorry kids.

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Turn Around

scales-of-justice-ladyHave you ever been in an argument with someone who is a master turn around artist? You know what I mean; you start to share your grievance or “concern” and as if by some dark miracle of master trickery, by the end of the conversation, they have woven a web of conversation trails that all lead back to what YOU have done wrong?  As frustrating as that is, it’s not the turn around  I want to talk about. However, the idea of turning our own pointing finger around, is.

When I told my husband my “word” for the year (others), he gave me a little feedback and then shared his word with me. His word was “me”. Simple. Putting the focus on himself to be the best “he” that he can be.

Not that his word is for me to judge, but that is a concept I can buy into. On that note, I dedicate this blog to him.

What if more often, when we feel the need to point out how someone else is falling short, we develop the discipline of turning the pointing finger around at ourselves… at least before, we broach the subject of their “need to change” list. I’m not claiming this is a particularly original idea, I have to give credit where credit is due. “Hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eye, then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brothers.” sound familiar? Jesus said it. Moreover, if He took the time to shape the concept into a lesson, I think it makes sense to embrace it as a practice central in relationship dynamics.

I know if I’m honest, I typically speak first, reflect later, especially when I recognize a supreme breach in someone else’s character… uh hem, they did something I didn’t like. It bugged me. It made me mad. It was wrong. It was stupid. It was selfish. It shouldn’t have happened. That gives me the right to avail them to all my corrective knowledge, right?  Perhaps if I found out that I too had actually been the product of a mysterious virgin birth and in a pinch, could turn my Ozarka bottles contents into a crowd pleasing vintage vino, THEN I could get away with that. Probably not so much if I’m just pretty irritated. The funny thing is that the more I jump other people’s case for doing dumb things, the more irritated I become. It’s like a cosmic , “ I’m annoyed at everyone feedback loop” and I become the authoritative corrector of all.

Here is what I want to work on and maybe,  it would be beneficial for us all to try more often; making my annoyance with others, become my cue to self reflect. We are all afraid of losing, all the time. It’s human nature and it causes us to make fear based decisions and to forcefully attempt to change other people, more aggressively than we want to change ourselves. It makes us controlling, reactionary and much less self-reflective. Yuck.

I wrote this “look at myself first” creed to help this practice to sink in more deeply:

“I will live by the law of grace. I do not behave perfectly. I will not expect from others, what I cannot give in return. When I feel angry, I will not speak. When I feel wronged, I will not assume. I will examine myself first. I will not be a hypocrite. I will not judge others for things I know I myself have done. I will not condemn or punish others for mistakes I know I have made as well. I will believe the best of others. I will openly admit my shortcomings  and be humble. I will pay much more attention to what I can change within than what others could do differently, to make me happier. I will love others, encourage others and pray for others even when my instinct is to simply protect myself.”

I find it very compelling that Jesus called our faults, planks and everyone elses, specks. Fascinating. It’s as if the more we get honest and reflect on what we need to change, the less marred we view others and perhaps the less we feel they need to change and who knows??… It may just make us better at loving people and happier all around.  I wonder how many marriages would be saved, friendships reconciled, family problems resolved and general forgiveness and healing would happen, if we were all more focused on fixing “me”.

I’m going to try to find out…

A Health Creed

I won’t be sick. I won’t  feel bad. I won’t ache. I won’t be lethargic. I won’t be moody. I won’t have cancer. I won’t have headaches.  I won’t have diabetes. I won’t have high blood pressure. I won’t have a stroke. I won’t have thyroid problems. I won’t have constant symptoms that drain me.  I will not be another disease statistic. I won’t be a prisoner in my own body.

I want energy.  I want to be alert. I want to be happy. I want great sleep. I want to feel attractive in my clothes and out of them. I want to have great skin. I want to feel connected to life. I want to be up for anything. I want to feel young. I want to bounce out of bed to face the day. I want to attract healthy people.  I want to feel so good that I can take on any project or adventure I choose.  I want to experience life to the fullest and I will. Because my body is healthy and fit for all the purposes God has for me.

I am not a victim to circumstances, or weak will. I have the power of choice. I have a strong mind, a powerful spirit and a loving heart and I act as such by making choices that reflect the highest purpose for my body, temporary though it may be; I respect the fact that God gave it to me as a tool to accomplish my greatest dreams and His highest calling.

I eat food full of the best nutrition I have access to, in order to fuel my body to its fullest potential and seeing as how I was made in the image of God, that’s a lot of potential. Moderation means something different to me than it does to others. I don’t moderately poison myself with processed or fatty foods and sugar on a daily basis; simply because it tastes good- I’m smarter than that. I take full responsibility for my health, because it’s my happiness and my future.

I am powerful and full of promise. I owe it to myself to see what I am truly capable of, when I give myself the kind of nurturing I deserve.  I don’t make excuses for making bad decisions. I head them off at the pass, by being prepared and having a plan for every situation, every day. I continually educate myself about health and wellness, so that my self care can evolve daily and I can defy age expectations and thwart illness and disease, forever.

I do not eat for comfort, because I am comforted by a loving God and the knowledge that I am in control of this body. I do not eat from boredom, because I am excited by the prospects of the future I have planned. I do not eat poorly for fun, because I am entertained by feeling good and enjoying the people around me. When I have time to myself, I plan for a successful tomorrow or I enjoy pampering myself with things that are good for me and will make me better.

I am not tempted by others poor choices. They are not my example; I am theirs, because I am a leader and a strong one. This life was made for me and I was made to conquer this life, in this healthy body, with this strong mind, this heart and this spirit. No one will keep from me what is rightfully mine.

Victory is mine.

Three steps to change the world

I regularly have moments of discontent when I reflect on what I want my life’s legacy to be once I relocate to heaven and my life on earth is complete. It’s a burden that grows the older I get, because I feel a sense of personal earthly purpose that has an expiration date. I have had a purpose filled life but I never want yesterdays meal to be what fills me today. It’s been my experience that most other people also have a sense of yearning for more. “More” can be more influence, more creativity, more discoveries, more meaningful relationships, more impact or simply a vague craving for more fulfillment. I believe that yearning is intentionally placed and meant to keep us awake to our destiny and alert to our Creator, who paved a personal path for us. Our yearnings are as diverse as our fingerprints and telling of the individual impact we were designed to make in this world.

The most unsatisfying station in life and I speak from experience, is to lack direction and flounder without true knowledge of how to create the impact on your world that you believe you were born to have. While there are seasons we all brave that can muddy our vision of ourselves; divorce, troubled teens, job loss, death of a loved one, illness, failure etc., there comes a time that we must all wake up to the deep callings that life circumstances shouldn’t smother, so that our life isn’t living us. Here are a few guideposts  that can help anyone recalibrate their inner compass and aid in decisions that can lead  to the world changing lives we all long for.

1. Drill down to what drives you. Forget what your life has been defined by thus far, whether that is soaring success, miserable failure or the dreaded in-between. Lose any labels you’ve been given,  forget former accomplishments and failures and what you’ve been “doing” for a paycheck.  Think only of the things you’ve done, read, seen or heard of that have made your heart throb and left you hungry for more of it’s kind. When I see a powerful movie, listen to a moving speaker or read a book that changes me, I tear up and say to myself and to God, I want to inspire others. That’s what moves me. Reduce down the memories you have of your life, including your childhood to what deeply satisfied your soul and made you feel powerful. Write those memories down and expose the “theme” of what moves you. This could be defined as the essence of your drive.

2. Find a Hero in the realm of your passion. We could consider it the blueprint God gave us to reach our potential. Teacher and student, Master and disciple are ancient but relevant concepts. Only pride drives us to do it alone, or have to invent “the way”. Past or present, living or dead, find one or several heroes who’s lives you envy for all the right reasons and become their student. As lofty as it sounds, if their life inspires you so deeply, embrace the possibility that it is because you were designed with a similar purpose as them.  Study all there methods, read their books, watch their videos, speeches, biographies or build a relationship with them if you can. Imagine the entire human experience as a relay race of legacies and you need to find the person/people who’s baton’s are passing to you.

3. Make a brave, decisive move. We are all dreamers. Many are called, few are chosen. The few, I believe are the ones who choose to run when the “call” gun goes off. If the gun for your passion has fired and you’re still looking around for permission to take off, someone else could claim your impact. I heard a quote today “Everyone shows up to the battlefield with fear, but can you overcome that fear to go on to victory, that’s the question”. Fear often accompanies our most important battles. Ask yourself, what would my hero do next? What does my heart tell me, but I fear is too hard? That still small voice is quite possibly the voice of your Creator, quietly nudging you on to the next step of your intention filled life. BANG. Take the next step, pray for guidance, thank God for the outcome and realize you were born with every ounce of equipping to complete your biggest dream or you wouldn’t have been given that dream. Do you need to submit something to a publisher, apply for a different job, start or join a non-profit, submit an invention, jump off a new business, donate to a charity, apply to adopt a child, start a publication or any other world changing step to get going? The world needs you to be brave and decisive. Today.

I would love to hear people share the bold, world impacting  decisions they are making. Please feel free to post responses to my Facebook or twitter that may inspire someone else to take a deeper look and do something brave, purpose filled and fulfilling.

Happy world changing!

Inspiration Culmination

How many inspired people does it take to change a light bulb? About a thousand…nine hundred ninety nine to think about it and one more that finally makes it happen.

I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed for more inspiration. This typically happens once I’m bored attempting to complete the last thing I was inspired to do. It’s interesting how freely ideas flow when we aren’t bogged down with the chore of following through with them.

I stumbled upon a TV special about the survivors of the plane crash of Air force flight 571, full of Rugby players and their friends and family in the Andes Mountains. There was so much to celebrate concerning their character and choices to stay alive. However, the final decision of two leaders in the group to trek out over 40 miles on foot for everyone’s salvation, struck me. I thought it intriguing that not until the 60th day, did the most ambitious of the group decide he must go. He had lost over 35lbs, but not his will to live. I wondered how many nights he lay in the hull of the crashed plane, freezing, praying for rescue… praying for the opportunity to live the rest of his life and fulfill his dreams. I pondered at what moment he became inspired to take control of his escape from the wreckage.

Knowing human nature, it seems likely he had recited the last words of the now dead pilot in his head, dozens, maybe hundreds of times before linking them to action. “Chile is to the west”, he had broadcast to the passengers. He had only that one word of direction to guide him and an endless panorama of snow capped mountains to overcome. Days turned to weeks and week’s months. In the process of pondering what he was inspired to do, fragile lives were lost. One morning, he woke up and decided, today is the day. I think of that moment as “inspiration culmination” and at that, he moved. In so doing, he faced 11 days of hellish cold, dashed hopes and what seemed the knowledge of certain death. He said the only thing that kept him moving forward was the fact that he could not go back and live. Nando and his brave friend Roberto plodded on, day after hungry, frightening, miserable day. There came a moment, when the faithful placing of one foot in front of another, a grassy line was crossed and on that day they advanced into the land of the living.

Yesterday, I was stopped in my tracks with an unexpected Face book surprise. As I was scrolling through pictures of friends I haven’t spoken to in a while, I saw a beautiful “grand opening” invitation to an old friends new chiropractic practice. I almost cried. She was quite successful in another career for more than 10 years. I remember her growing frustration with some of the details of that job and how diligently she began to search out another path that inspired her, where she could fully express her gifts and her heart. It seems like yesterday I ran into her husband at our local Whole Foods. He told me she had taken the plunge to start commuting three hours away during the weeks to go to Chiropractic College. My heart leapt with enthusiasm over her allegiance to the goal of living without fear. That was 4 years ago.

As I stared at her gleaming smile on this 3 x 5 inch invitation, I stirred within as I had while listening to the escapees of the Andes plane crash. Their life threatening escape into the unforgiving mountains to find rescue seemed to share many parallels with my friends journey. There was a pivotal moment in time when my friend and Nando Parada alike, allowed the seed of inspiration to move them to action. A seed no doubt that began as a mere thought or perhaps a simple conversation. Nonetheless, the idea was allowed to germinate through faith in something greater…a life beyond the ordinary. Many times the pioneering must have the revelation that they are more unnerved by what is behind, than what is ahead. No one climbs 40 miles through the Andes Mountains with little food and no gear and survives. No one leaves behind a safe and excellent income, in an uncertain economy to embark on an unpredictable journey, with no guarantee of what lies ahead.

No one ordinary, no one bent on doing what is safe and certainly no one comfortable in their present circumstances. Inspiration is only a beginning. Inspiration culmination is when desperate desire for change, for more and for better…becomes need. The need to materialize what resides in our dreams can and should thrust us into strategic action. That action must be begun with the kind of commitment that demands completion. When Nando Perado reached the top of what he thought would be the final mountain peak leading to green pastures and emancipation and instead saw an endless horizon of snowy mountains, he made a choice. “I will walk forward to safety, unless I die.” Funny how what is “safe” to some, feels like a death sentence to another.

I haven’t spoken with my old friend but knowing her zeal for a life lived in total authenticity and influence, it must have seemed like a death sentence to live the rest of her days on the safe side of her mountain… so she braved the cold summit of the unknown and is crossing into the green terrain of life fulfillment that only the “uncomfortable” will ever see. Surely there were times when she waved goodbye to her friends, family and paycheck that she struggled to muster the foresight to energize another step uphill.

Martin Luther King said “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

It is this and only this kind of commitment to complete what we feel truly inspired to do, that allows the seeds of inspiration to mature into the fruit of a life lived extra-ordinarily. This life is like a relay race, except every runner is you. Every new stretch is another inspired path that you must start, run well and finish, so that the handoff for the next stretch can set you up for “the big win”. In the end it is said, we can receive a “crown” which will not fade away.

God is not greedy with inspiration. He is not selfish with creativity. The Lord pours out ideas from an endless source of illumination. I believe he searches constantly for those obedient, finishers who can not only hear a “God idea”, but also complete it, in order to better this world. Perhaps what we should covet even more is the self command required to bring every worthy idea to pass. “He that began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it, even to the day Christ comes”. I’d say it’s obvious what His opinion is about being a finisher.

For all those idea hoarders out there, all those inspiration junkies, who start a venture, only to be diverted by the next promising pursuit, take heed. The Thomas Edison’s, Michelangelo’s, Winston Churchill’s and Abraham Lincolns who have changed this world, who have left an impression we cannot forget, were not only thinkers, but doers… not only doers, but finishers.

Thank you Nando Perado. Congratulations to my beautiful friend. Everyone gets inspired; you made a choice to follow through. What wonderful examples you are.

The other side of inspiration