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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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slowdown

The Pick-Up Artist

For years I hid and stuffed a large part of myself down deep. It wasn’t easy or ideal and it was exhausting but I didn’t know any different. It was what I grew up doing; not wanting to think or feel as some sort of self-protection mechanism. There was the me that I presented to the world; I was put together, talked and walked with poise and ease *in public* and then there was the me that hid and covered myself up *in private* because inwardly I was a gigantic mess. I was a consummate circus juggler and had too many balls in the air and was *worn thin* from trying to keep them afloat. 

Then I attended a life-changing conference in Nashville Tennessee. At the time, I was leading a local Mom’s group at my Church called MOPS (Mother’s Of Preschooler’s). Looking back now, I shouldn’t have been leading much of anything but I had a slew of preschoolers myself and was actually trying my best to be a good mother to them. Besides, God often goes hard after the lost and lonely and has been known to put those who don’t have it together in positions of leadership.

And I swear to God, the conference had me specially in mind from beginning to end when they picked the topic.

Masks: Why we put them on and how we take them off. 

It was a simple message with a profound punch. It didn’t make me feel like shit like it could have but instead, empowered me to emerge from the suffocating squalor I had been hiding in. When I returned home from Tennessee, I stood in front of my MOPS groups, in front of women whom I was convinced had it all together and whom I worked hard at convincing that I did and bared my soul. It was like I was auditioning for the movie “Bad Moms” where one of the moms stand in front of the PTA and admits to smoking the weed she finds in her sons bedroom. 

I share this moment in life with you because it was the first of many where I mustered the courage to be me *as is* I became increasingly brave and awake, even though I still morphed into some sorry rendition of who I thought I needed to be. I didn’t gravitate quickly *nor easily* to a mask. I walked the Earth uncovered and through it, the whole of my insides was unearthed. 

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

When you allow yourself to stand naked before the crowd, it invites others to do the same. Nakedness brings up all those things that you’ve tried to keep hidden. All your insecurities rise to the surface. Things like jealousy, anxiety, depression, bitterness…just to do some brain storming. They bring with them thoughts and feelings that are all out of sorts. And when they hit like tsunami waves, they make you believe that staying hidden and numb would have been best.

But it’s not. 

Thoughts and feelings are not bad things, in fact, they can be used for a lot of good when kept in check. It wasn’t long till I became aware that I had a deep understanding of what other people were going through…kind of like a sixth sense so to speak. I could “feel” what others were feeling, at least enough to bring me to the realization that I’m a highly empathic person. An empath.

The trademark of an empath is that we feel and absorb other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of our high sensitivities. We filter the world through our intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing our feelings. When overwhelmed with the impact of stressful emotions, empaths can have panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue, food, sex and drug binges, and many physical symptoms that defy traditional medical diagnosis.

Here’s some nuggets of gold I’ve learned this past year:

1. Empaths are highly sensitive
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. If you want heart, empaths have got it. Through thick and thin, we’re there for you, and are world-class nurturers. But we can easily have our feelings hurt. We are often told that we are “too sensitive” and need to toughen up.

2. Empaths absorb other people’s emotions
Empaths are highly attuned to other people’s moods, good and bad. We feel everything, sometimes to an extreme. We take on others people’s negativity such as anger or anxiety and make it our own, which is confusing and exhausting. If we are around peace and love, our bodies take these on and flourish.

3. Many empaths are introverted
Empaths become overwhelmed in crowds, which can amplify their empathy. We tend to be introverted and prefer one to one contact or small groups. Even if an empath is more extroverted they prefer limiting how much time they can be in a crowd or at a party. This was one of the most important discoveries of myself this year.

4. Empaths are highly intuitive
Empaths experience the world through our intuition. It is important for us to develop our intuition and listen to our gut feelings about people. This will help empaths find positive relationships and avoid energy vampires *which is a thing* but we have to be careful. I find that if I don’t personally partner with the Spirit of God, I get pulled to make assumptions and judgements about people instead of initially thinking the very best of them.

5. Empaths need alone time
As super-responders, being around people can drain an empath so we periodically need alone time to recharge our batteries. Even a brief escape prevents emotional overload and is a great form of self-care.

6. Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships
Too much togetherness can be difficult for an empath so we may avoid intimate relationships. Deep down we are afraid of being engulfed and losing our identity. I’m still processing this one but I do realize I often go wide but not deep, even though I believe I walk the face of the Earth masks free. It’s easier for me to intimate with large groups of people rather than not…again, it’s something I’m looking at.

7. Empaths are targets for energy vampires
An empath’s sensitivity makes us particularly easy marks for energy vampires, whose fear or rage can sap our energy and peace of mind. Vampires do more than drain an empath’s physical energy. The especially dangerous ones such as narcissists (they lack empathy and are only concerned with themselves) can make us believe we are unworthy and unlovable. Other vampires include the chronic talker, the incessant complainer and the drama queen…just to name a few.

8. Empaths become replenished in nature
The busyness of ever day life can be too much for an empath. The natural world nourishes and restores us. It helps us release our burdens and we take refuge in every-day-ordinary places like mountains, oceans and my personal favorite…on a boat at my favorite lake. 

9. Empaths have highly tuned senses
An empath’s nerves can get frayed by too much excess

Too much details. Too much talking. Too much activity in general.

10. Empaths have huge hearts but sometimes give too much
Empaths are big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others *which often leads us to “fix” or “save”* A homeless person holding a cardboard sign, “I’m hungry” at a busy intersection; a hurt animal; a distraught friend. It’s natural to want to reach out to them and ease their pain but empaths don’t stop there. Instead, we take it on. Suddenly we are the one feeling drained or upset whereas we felt fine before and often leads us to feeling take advantage of.

One of lessons I’ve learned this past year is that it is essiential to have an aresenal of tools to protect my sensitivities such as praying, fierce time management, setting limits and boundaries *NO is a complete sentence* and staying in my lane by and being mindful of the traffic in MY own thought and feeling life. Being an empath is a gift, especially when I partner with the Spirit of God, but I’m learning to take care of myself.

Self-care is NOT selfish. 

And I’m learning to not take things personally. The thought life or emotional roller coaster ride that others are on is not because of ME. I am not the axle in which the world rotates itself around.

Friends, we don’t always have to DO something with what is before us. We can actually choose what we pickup and what we put down and when things are dumped on us, we can rise up out of the heap, dust ourselves off and walk out of the crazy.

Sometimes it is one of the kindest things we can do. 

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Chasing Slow

The perfect ending to my day is a walk with the dog down a hidden path in a farmer’s field not far from my home. It is quiet and serene and leads to an open field by a brook and is as picturesque as they come and if you time it just right, you can watch the sun set behind the Allegheny Mountains.

The problem is, I don’t take that walk all that often and tonight when my feet hit the path, I wish they did.

The list of excuses is extensive; too busy, not enough time and sometimes simply lack of motivation but all in all, I find when I head towards that hidden path, something inside of me breathes easier and the space within me becomes wider which makes room for what and who is important.

And you want to know how I got to go on that walk tonight? I had to say no to something. Actually to someone. I was to have dinner with friends but the day didn’t shape up the way I had planned and consequently, my evening was freed.

But I hated to say no. I kept telling myself for hours I could make it work but honestly, in the long run, I couldn’t. Too full of a day isn’t always best and sometimes you have to be the one that makes the hard decisions for the greater good and tonight the greater good was my family.

I am finding in my fast paced world, I need a lot of slow. A lot. And the only way to slow things down to a pace that is not only manageable but enjoyable is to say no.

Friends that is hard. I hate to disappoint and let people down. I don’t like conveying, “This is not important to me. You’re not.” But people pleasing is often my demise. When you’ve battled fear of rejection most of your life, you long to be accepted and you  become a person who says “yes” like it’s an insurance policy with an affordable deductible. The payment is somewhat doable…at first. But the thing with saying yes all the time is that it has a snow ball effect…one yes turns into another and before you know it, you are giving your time and your energy to things and people you shouldn’t and you can become easily burned out.

Saying yes is like a drug, a way to stay busy and numb out and sometimes the only way to discover why you are on the hamster wheel is to detox your system and your schedule so you can understand why you have a need to be constantly on the go. What are you trying to avoid by remaining preoccupied? It’s a question I have been asking myself. For one, resting and chasing slow makes me feel unproductive and since much of our culture associates productivity next to godliness…I feel as if I “should” be involved in all things, showing up and presenting my smile and doing my part.

Truth is, the core of who I am craves slow and part of me wants to say that’s because I have secretly been an introvert made to think she was an extrovert but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I began avoiding life and used people and staying busy much like a drug….so I wouldn’t be confronted with being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Now after going through one of the hardest seasons of my life plagued by depression and faced with the harsh reality that I literally am not responsible for anything or anyone but myself, I have been forced to hit the rest button and look at my life and what is my part all over again. Looking back, it’s been a good and needed process though the realities of it all have not seemed so beneficial at the time.

Chasing a slower pace of life has challenged me to look at my time and what I can realistically handle in any one given day. I always believed that I could handle a lot of pressure and stress because I was always forced to but then I looked long and hard at my coping mechanisms and realized that I wasn’t really handling the heaviness all that well. So I am learning to say “no, not now or I have to reschedule.” I am finding that the sky does not fall on my head and that ultimately, I’m the one who has to sleep with myself at night and the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”

It’s true.

“If Mama ain’t happy with being with herself, she ain’t happy with being with anybody else.”

Is truer yet.

Friends, please make time for the walk. Your body will thank you but your soul and your spirit will thank you even more.

Make Room 

The perfect morning to me is a cup of coffee, the couch and a book and time void of hustle and rush. Slow. Slow makes it truly, truly perfect and as Chief Hopper says in the very first episode of Stranger Things

“MORNINGS ARE FOR COFFEE AND CONTEMPLATION.”

And this morning I found myself having it all. The coffee, the couch and book…with plenty of time to get lost in some thought or some conversation and they walk right past, stuck in their morning routine, just the same.

“Come sit with me for a bit,” I say and I make room on the couch. I want more than just the normal Sunday Morning. I want their presence.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about PEOPLE. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t that Christmas? I think of people in particular…their role in my life, my role in theirs and our influence on one another. I’ve been asking a lot of questions, gleaning a few answers and in between doing a lot of soul-searching.

There is more to life then living from here to there. There is a place in between.

In the past few days I’ve sat with people when it wasn’t convenient or easy and through it, I’ve realized once more how important it is to give each other our presence. We all want to be seen and heard and sometimes, most times, I liken all of humanity to the old stainless steel tea-pot that sits on my gas stove: We take time to warm up. We don’t want hurried along like we are an appointment on someone’s calendar or an errand they are running that can eventually be crossed off their list.

But sadly, most times, that is what we get.  Remnants of someone’s leftovers, their seconds, their hurry, their less than best.

Looking back now, I can see where that rush has caused more than a problem or two. Lack of presence places Constance where intact should be forged and before you know it, it’s easy to feel like distrusting strangers.

I think it’s the people in my every day crazy, when things aren’t calm and slow, that I’ve needed to pay closest attention to. The ones I’m most likely to whiz right by or take for granted have needed my solid and sturdy legs to remain strong yet bendy so I could ask simple and basic questions.

**Like**

“How are you?”

How many times do we dig our heels in and wade through the awkward silence for their answer? Their REAL answer.

Not many enough.

Conversely, last night as I was putting on my shoes, a random thought popped into my head. I thought of one person in particular, one I’ve been giving too much time and attention to though they havn’t been anywhere in my travels, no where in my circles but they indeed have been taking up space in the thoughts inside my head. As I laced up my last shoe, I didn’t think but more RESOLVED that they were a common denominator in too many of my here-and-now-life-problems. Too much of what I have rolling on the inside of me has their name attached and just like that… I made the decision to take them out of my equation.

And I realized I can do that.

Just. Like. That.

I’ve been giving them too much space through no fault of their own and in the big picture, it’s been frustrating. I’ve allowed their influence to tip some scale inside my life in a less than life-giving way and I refuse to carry them with me into the New Year.

I choose to no longer give them a seat on the couch that is housed in a room within my head. I stood tall after tying my shoes and within moments, showed them to the door. I don’t need to think about them or talk about them because to do so, places an unhealthy, unbalanced importance where it shouldn’t and afterwards, I’ve wondered WHY I’ve ever given away such a powerful choice.

And the sad but wonderful thing about this moment, in the midst of shoes and laces is this…

My resolve has nothing to do with an actual person as first assumed. Sure there’s a name but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a hundred names. They were merely just a representation of a festering wound and I think I needed someone, essentially anyone, to blame.

And since blaming does no good.

Here’s the door.

Be free.

What they represented to me has to go. I need to make room in my heart for vision and hope and joy and laughter and I don’t want to make time for the incessant chatter things past try to hold me to.

We need to free up space friends for real people. Not for the stupid things people do or our assumptions about them. Not for past hurts that keep replaying like a broken record. Not for our offenses or the sordid scenarios that we play and then rewind again and again in our head. Sometimes it IS as simple as refusing to give those thoughts an audience and if it means for a while that the name that’s attached goes unmentioned so you can quit your bad habit, then let it be so. Go cold turkey. Do whatever you can to think favorably again.

It’s not about cutting our losses. We need to look at the rooms within our homes and examine what is filling them. Sometimes it gets a little crowded with stuff and I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to have a full house, I’d rather have it packed with presence. People presence. Not poor thinking OF people presence because at the end of the day, negative attention is STILL attention and takes up space. An awful lot of it.

Friends I’m short on time and like you, I want to make my time count. I want my presence count. If I have any resolutions this year it is this:

want the person standing in front of me to walk away knowing they were heard and seen **THAT THEY WERE LOVED** and I want my thoughts to count.

I don’t have people to waste. I don’t have thoughts OF people to waste.

Neither do you.

One Thread at a Time 

Every time the world around me grows big, I go smaller. I unravel like a spool of homespun thread. 

There’s not too much us friends don’t talk about now a days thanks to social media and it’s made us all become one big dysfunctional family learning how to communicate around the dinner table. We have BIG thoughts. BIG emotions. LOUD voices. It all becomes quite complicated and fuzzy and when it does, I find the need to defray. 

One thread at a time.

❤️

I had lunch today with an old friend. We ate at a place I used to work at in college and to this day, one of my past coworkers still works there. He’s flamboyant and full of life and is your stereotypical gay man, if there is such a thing. He came to the table and said hello, discovered he knew me and we began our exchange. However, my friend just didn’t quite know what to do with a flamboyant gay man and it showed.

It all took place in a matter of a moment. 

I’m reading him, he’s reading her. She adjusts and forces a smile. He adjust and realizes her hesitancy and it hits me. She has probably forced a smile her whole life when she doesn’t know what else to and has not given herself permission to do otherwise and he’s learned overtime how to tell who’s comfortable in his presence and who isn’t and there I just sat in the middle, wanting to order a Coke. 

I tired from figuring out how to maneuver the pieces and stood up and gave him a hug.

 He didn’t let go. Nor did I. 

❤️

I drove by a graveyard later in the day and look at the tombstones jaunting out of the earth. I realize, one day, I will be there too, buried beneath the dirt with my own tombstone jaunting upward. Overtime, it will tilt and slightly crack and my engraved name will fade. It’s a quick thought, a hurried blur, but I wonder if I will have made an impact when that times comes.

I no longer want to take up space. 

I long to make room. 

❤️

There was more to my day that prompted me to pause. Pause helps me see. Pause helps me hear. It’s like hitting the rest button that drowns out the noise and it restores my heart with gratitude. The miniature horse that was led through the tractor store gave me a chuckle and reminded that laughter and nonsense are important. The sole white dove flying with a swarm of sparrows reminded me that we can all get along just fine despite our differences and the sun peeking through the rain-filled clouds reminded me that despite what I see, light is always there.

That good is.

❤️

On To The Next

The pounding of my feet can barely be heard over the continuous humming of the treadmill. I appreciate knowing that right now, the gym is an option and at the same time, loathe it. I am using it as an excuse to not run outside and I know it. I was made to run outside and I can feel myself wanting to hurry my time along to get done. The humming continues and I look down.

.67     .69     .75

3 miles is going to feel like FOREVER if I keep watching the distance tracker roll another number by.

.89

F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Give me a cloud to look at or a conversation with a running partner to occupy my mind. Anything. I liken running on the treadmill to watching the grass grow or paint dry. The more I WATCH, the more IMPATIENT I become with WAITING. I have never been much of a WAITER.

The TV above my head is on. I watch it to distract myself. It’s the news. I’d rather watch the numbers scroll by…

.95    1.4    1.7

Good God.

Perhaps what I do in my job aides in my feeling the need to hurry. We own a transportation company so it is my job to make quick decisions and respond in a way that problem solves on the spot. I easily find myself getting into the habit of “On To The Next” where I continuously move from one person to the next, one circumstance to the next since there is seldom time to waste. Perhaps that too is an excuse and rushing through is just some bad habit that I need to seriously break. Either way, I am purposefully positioning myself to practice presence so I can fully BE in the moment, even if it is on the torturous treadmill with its slow rhythmic hum.

One thing that has become glaringly obvious to me over time is that when I HURRY, most of my mistakes are made when I do so. I react instead of taking the time to rightly respond. I make decisions that necessarily didn’t have to be made quite as quickly because I want a fix like 10 minutes ago. The sad reality is that HOW I’ve responded has created most of the issues I’ve encountered in life.

But here is the thing:

Most things, if given time, will work themselves out.

Most things, if given time, reveal what is best, needed and true.

If given time.

Hands off. Eyes off. This is sometimes best.

Walking away for a bit and creating space allows things to grow and dry. Space can aide in the cultivation of a soil that can reap a richer harvest, hosting stronger roots. Time surely can be a friend if eyes are taken off of what is the perceived issue and placed on what perhaps is the REAL one.

WHAT am I responding to?

WHY am I responding?

WHEN is the best time for me to respond?

WHO am I?

In the past, I’ve thought that the person in front of me or the issue at hand has been THE issue but it seldom has been. I have been. My response always reveals MY identity, WHO I am and really has little or nothing to do with anyone or anything else. It is my desire this year to intentionally think before I respond so I reveal my identity, which at the end of the day reveals HIS. Once I remember WHO I am, I rightly know who/what I’m responding to and if it needs addressed at that particular time or even at all. I’m tired of going around and jumping in quickly to put out every fire I see. I cannot hurry to fix it all by wearing some heroic badge on the scene of every accident, even if it is my job in real life. When I slow myself down and live out Proverbs 4:23 which says, “Above ALL else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it” I rightly respond and can trust my heart without regrets. When I take the time to KNOW and BE KNOWN and not hurry life by, I live fully by Faith, in Hope and am Love. Perhaps there is more all to it but I don’t think so.

So friends, pay attention but not too close. Outsides things tend to be a distraction from rightly guarding your inside territory and your heart is too valuable not to guard. Practice going slower and allowing your heart to be searched so that you know WHAT, WHY, WHEN and WHO you are responding to. Guarding is KEY. It takes INTENTIONALITY so you will have to lose your flippant attitude if you have one. Hurrying happens when you step down from your post and make decisions outside of your identity so stand firm. The world around you needs you to remain diligent.

On to the next will come soon enough but start what you finish…

And enjoy what you started.

 

 

 

 

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