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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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vulnerability

Listen

I don’t always do it, but when I’m intentionally listening, my body tells me what it needs and my inner compass tells me which way to go. I’d say it’s usually spot on, but I’ll leave room for error because sometimes *read MOST times* I have my own agenda.

For example, the other morning I wanted nothing but coffee and something quick and sweet, but my body told me I needed water and chicken. Yes, chicken. So there I was at 7:30 AM, sitting on my couch with a plate of grilled chicken and a large glass of water. It wasn’t what I pictured, but my body was right. I’m stressed out and substance is something I am craving.

Nothing quick. No empty calories.
No shallow relationships.

I read an article this past year about the top five most stressful life events and it made me feel somewhat better in regards to my current state of inner chaos. They are:

  • Death of a loved one.
  • Divorce.
  • Moving.
  • Major illness or injury.
  • Job loss.

After reading the complete article, I felt like an over-achiever. 3/5 in one year. I can do hard things.

Truth is, we all have particularly great seasons of life and conversely, particularly not great seasons. When it’s your turn to get chewed up and spit out, you’re left feeling understandably disheveled and out of sorts (and for someone who struggles with control, it’s even more of blow when you feel you have none).

Resetting your life is both physically and mentally taxing and I’m not sharing my journey looking for sympathy because you and I both know how quickly the tables can turn. I share because there’s a difference between living “in theory” vs living “in reality”. We THINK things are going to go one way. We THINK we’ll handle things differently when they don’t. As much as I’d like to show up all pretty and pressed, real life is kind of rumply and it shows. No one is exempt. Life doesn’t have any qualms with randomly placing a bitter cocktail in front of us and telling us to drink up.

And to that, I say, “Hell to the no.”

We do not need to drink up, but we do need to listen. Just like how our bodies can’t function well for too long on only caffeine and cookies, our hearts can’t heal if we are out looking for the next quick fix. Listening to what we really need is important. I realize only now how much I filled my life with a lot of empty moments because I did not want to stay uncomfortable. My longing for ease created a bunch of short cuts that only delayed an inevitable process IN me. And all processes have their day. And their way.

Friends…please sit quietly in your heartbreak and listen. Sit quietly in your anger. In your longing. In your confusion. In it all. Listen.

Listen to what YOU need. There’s a time and a space for other people’s good opinions of what you should or shouldn’t do, but only you can choose how and when you get up and shake the dust off your feet.

Learn to trust the voice that is whispering inside of you. Learn to trust yourself.

Own It

A couple of weeks ago, I showed up at the vet for an appointment with two dogs only to be told, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.” But it was on my calendar. I vividly remember booking the appointment the week before and going over the date. Could I be wrong? Perhaps. Do I think I was? I truly don’t.

And tomorrow didn’t suit.

I have had happier moments. And apparently kinder ones.

And this week, another vet appointment. I walked into the reception area and was greeted with a smile from the vet tech, the same vet tech whom said several weeks ago, “I’m sorry. Your appointment isn’t until tomorrow.”

As soon as I saw her, I remembered that I wasn’t quite the kindest as I walked out the door with two dogs wrapped around my feet who were most likely wondering why the heck they were walking in and then quickly walking back out.

Silence and *possible* stomping speaks rather loudly.

Truth was, I was mad. Was it because I cleared my morning and loaded two excitable dogs into my Jeep and drove across town which is never easy or convenient during a work day? Was it because I didn’t want to be wrong and admit I may have made a mistake with the date? Was I expecting whomever made my appointment to be held to a higher standard, one of perfection, than I myself would be willing to held to?

Grace indeed is a crooked road.

But is a doable one.

As soon as I sat down, I apologized. I told the vet tech I was sorry for not being the kindest the last time I was there and I left it at that and made no excuses.

She accepted my apology and told me that my silence *and my stomping* didn’t quite seem like me and maybe I was just having a bad day. Perhaps other things were going on.

Boy were they ever.

I wish I could say that I *never* behave badly and that I am the poster child for good behavior but I obviously have my moments and some of those moments are rather large. I take my frustration out on innocent people after I allow it to build its home in me deep and wide. Through a series of unfortunate events, I’m learning that it’s important to recognize the WHY and then make amends with the HOW.

It’s important when you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself to allow your heart to be searched so you can figure out what is REALLY going on in it. I wish I could say that I could do the figuring out all on my own but I can’t. I get snippets here and snippets there but if I really want to be the person I say I want to be, to be the person that God says I already am, then I need His help. And He gives it.

And when He gives it, there is always a small charge, a price to pay on my end. Recognizing my error or places of potential growth usually cost me the things that I often try to hold dear and close like pride, the very presentation of myself. It’s humbling to make the journey to the offering slab and lay my heart in front of another person and ask for forgiveness and admit I made a mistake.

It’s called vulnerability.

You cannot change without searching your heart and taking responsibility for your behavior. You are kidding yourself if you think you can maneuver around this process and negate this step. And if you are in a relationship with another person who refuses to take ownership of their actions and would rather place blame then take ownership, you are in a relationship with a stubborn-hearted person and the same pattern will most likely cycle back around again and repeat themselves. It’s the very definition of insanity.

If your heart gets checked and you realize that you’ve stepped outside yourself an inch or two…own it. Say you are sorry. Be sincere. Don’t make excuses. And if your heart is rarely checked…you are the author and perfector of your own faith and I wish you well.

It is very hard to be in a relationship with someone who is never wrong.

The Cost of Vulnerability

I recently bought a book at an airport bookstore and read half of it on a plane from San Francisco to Detroit. It was about relationships as well as other fun, real-life topics and in the first chapter, the author used lobsters to set the stage for the his message.

It was a good point but I heard an entirely different message.

I’m sure what he wrote was great and good but what I got out of it was this: Female lobsters will shed their shell when it’s time to mate, exposing herself to not only other predators but jealous and often aggressive female competitors in the process.

Not very many of them make it home thanks to this vulnerable practice but this tid-but of knowledge showed me how important it is, when it comes to relationships, that we let down our guard and take off our hard exteriors that often keep us safe.

Because if we don’t, we can’t create new life. I mean, we can stay safe but that’s about it.

Right?

Yes I just went there.

So of course I read the naked lobster analogy and instantly applied it to my own life.

Because that’s what I do.

So life’s little lesson in the airplane gave me the balls to go home and practice vulnerability.

It didn’t really go the greatest.

What I learned from the rejection was that vulnerability can be humiliating. I felt naked and exposed, my guard was down and everything in me hurt.

I was indeed a female lobster laying her shell down and I got eaten by a predator.

But.

Because there is always a but…

But, I am glad I did it. I realize that vulnerability is not about getting an idealized outcome to take place. Vulnerability is about being your truest self, even if you feel all open and exposed and raw and of you have any open wound…good luck. IT WILL HURT.

However the pain reveals to you what you are willing to settle for and what you are willing to go after…

WHO YOU ARE.

So dearest friend, if you are looking for new life in a relationship, in YOU…shed your shell and get naked like a lobster.

An Audience of One and the Cost of Vulnerability

I have been told over the years that I wear my heart on my sleeve and every time I hear those words, I’m not quite sure how to respond. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I guess that depends on one’s perspective. To me, it really means NO thing because I’m tired of trying to determine what is good and what is bad just like I am tired of determining what is the right way and what is the wrong way. Most times when I make a determination, it feels like I am putting myself (or my actions and my words) on some scale to be weighed when in my heart I just KNOW, I am trying my best. Am I using the “right” words most of the time? Am I making the best decisions? No. If I weighed myself and my life to the ounce, I’d stop all together trying to get it all together and that’s not my goal. 

My “goal” or my purpose in life is to keep living my life by remaining in pursuit of my most authentic self, revealing the person of the Lord as I do so. I do not believe in CREATING myself but rather than, simply BEING myself and that right there ladies and gentlemen has been both a beautiful and a distarous journey in itself. It’s an un-doing of sorts (loads un unlearning) which has revealed an incredibly open and vulnerable heart. A heart that is soft and tender, strong and spongy, broken at times but willing. If it looks like I “wear my heart on my sleeves” as a result, so be it.

If those are the words that some can identify with, so be it. I call it being honest. Being real. Being authentic and true. Being ME. I call it keeping my heart open to being transformed and allowing the Spirit of God to search me and I know I am only scratching the surface. And sometimes, sometimes I INVITE Y-O-U into that space with me as a way to connect and build perhaps a relationship of sorts. Perhaps it’s my way of ensuring I am not alone in my stepping. Perhaps if you see and hear where I am at in MINE, you’d invite me into where you are at in YOURS and we can all find encouragement to continue. Perhaps I just haven’t found distinct starting and ending points yet, like obvious lines drawn in the sand where time with the Lord begins/ends and time with you begins/ends and I keep treating the two as if they were one. Perhaps I just don’t know the difference because there is none…

So why am I often left feeling regretful for sharing?

That I SHOULDN’T have just shared THAT!

Him and I, good. Yeah maybe…

You and I, not so much.

Why?

There has been a cost to wearing my heart on my sleeve or being open and intentionally vulnerable. Though it is an invitation to a relationship and a great deal of encouragement, it also has opened me up to other’s opinions and experiences and a lot of them are helpful and good but I have found, as a recovering people pleaser, at times it can FEEL like being held up to a measuring stick or corrected. The combination of the two often wreak havoc with my thought life (this is where good/bad right/wrong enter the picture). It can FEEL like someone is trying to FIX me or proceed with their own agenda at my cost. It can make me FEEL that I should shut up and sit down and re-erect the walls I lived behind for so long.

And “Feelings make terrible leaders.” – Mark Durniak

I realized I am not soliciting a response that has anything to DO with my words though my words are what you see and hear. What they are really saying is this: “Have you SEEN my heart? Have you HEARD it? For surely if you had, you would see and hear…me.”

And so, when I place myself in a position to be vulnerable and I open my heart and invite you inside, realize that it is not about YOU at all. It is not about whether or not you accept the invitation or that you meet and exceed the idea I have in my head of how you will respond. It is none of my business what you think about my heart but if I TRUST the Father and you with it. I share because it’s WHO I am. I share a conversation that’s already been taking place and since I can’t distinguish non-existent lines, I invite you into an already existent dialogue. Wether it’s me in Him or you in Him, at the end of the day…an audience with the Father is never wrong or bad. His searching always turns up something and is always an invitation to another un-doing or unlearning. Despite how I FEEL about the process, something more is always discovered.

 Yes, vulnerability comes with a cost. It is not free, but if my focus is to remain in pursuit of my most authentic self, it is worth it. No matter the price.

Much Love,

August

 

Round Table Discussion:

Do you find it easy or difficult to open up share yourself with others? Why or why not?

Do you have any fears tied to being real, authentic or honest? If so, what are they? Why do you think they are there?

How do you respond when someone opens up their heart and shares with you? Are you prone to listen, to fix, to share your own experiences?

Is it hard for you TO respond? Why or why not?

 

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