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Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

Bates

The other day I ran into a friend who had said he was thinking of me the other day because someone had asked a question and he knew I would love it.  As I have written about before I am a bit obsessed with questions.  I think they are pretty fantastic and often open up new ways of being, thinking and seeing.

Instead of “How are you?” his friend has started to ask “Who are you becoming?”

 

It was so exciting to me on two levels, one is because he knew that I would like it, and it feels good to be known, to be thought of, to be seen.  And isn’t that what friendship is?  To take note of something that another would like, to share bits and pieces of life and to say in ways big and small… You Matter To Me.

And two because it is simply a fantastic question.  One that opens up so many possibilities for conversation and for truly engaging more deeply in one another’s lives.

 

 

And I thought about the deepening of friendships, of getting to know people on a new levels and how that happens.  As I look at many of my relationships and how they have deepened over time and I look at ways that they have gotten stuck, ways that they have gone sideways, forwards and backwards I am reminded that friendships are living breathing things that need to be tended with love and attention.  Sometimes we need to see people in new ways, to be reminded of who they are becoming, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of who we would like to become.

For today… give yourself permission, space and time to grow into who you are becoming.

 

 

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Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

—Thomas Merton, in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966 

I have a wise friend who when I was in the midst of a whirlwind of change gently asked if perhaps instead of focusing on the what of the changes, the what of what I wanted to be and accomplish I would instead focus on the who.

This one shift altered everything.

Rather than looking at my list of to do’s trying to figure out if I was “doing” enough, instead I focused on whether or not I was who I wanted to be in the mist of it all.

It forced me to discern what kind of a person do I want to be, to really chew on that, to figure out what it would truly look like.  Do I want to radiate joy, do I want to be a generous listener, do I want to live out my compassion, what does a life of intention and integrity look like… what kind of a “who” would that be.

Who would I be if I lived out my principles in a more intentional way, if I fully leaned into a wholehearted life of being generous in spirit, in love, in honesty, in joy.

So that has been my latest Erica Experiment… looking at the “Who” of me and letting go of having to know the “What”.

And what has surprised me is that the whats generally fall into place on their own, they don’t need the attention I was lavishing on them, writing and rewriting my to do lists, adding to my dreams, berating myself for having such similar lists week after week because there are only so many hours in a day.

Instead asking at the end of the day if I crossed off enough on my list I have been asking questions like: did I live out love, did I offer my gifts to another, did I connect in a meaningful way, did I share laughter with someone?

Somehow life seems more full, and with less stress I am getting more done, and with more joy, with more gratitude and more grace.


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I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin.

And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin.

I love movies about “The Big Moment” – the game or the performance or the wedding day or the record deal, the stories that split time with that key event, and everything is reframed, before it and after it, because it has changed everything. I have always wanted this movie-worthy event, something that will change everything and grab me out of this waiting game into the whirlwind in front of me. I cry and cry at these movies, because I am still waiting for my own big moment. I had visions of life as an adventure, a thing to be celebrated and experienced, but all I was doing was going to work and coming home, and that wasn’t what it looked like in the movies.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what was happening while I was busy waiting for my big moment. I was ready for it and believed that the rest of my life would fade into the background, and that my big moment would carry me through life like a lifeboat.

The Big Moment, unfortunately, is an urban myth. Some people have them, in a sense, when they win the Heisman or become the next American Idol. But even that football player or that singer is living a life made up of more than that one moment. Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearls. It takes so much time, and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies.

But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that move-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of use will ever experience.

Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

 So what are you waiting for?

What small choices are you making today that will bring you closer to stepping into the fullness of you, of your life, of the life that you are already living and is waiting for you to claim it?

We spend so much time somewhere else, in comparisons, in expectations (of ourselves and others) that sometimes we whittle away our lives not truly ever having lived.  We become to busy trying to fit someone else’s life or someone else’s expectations, listing to someone else’s voices telling us how we should live our life.

What pearls (with your name on them) are waiting to be cultivated?

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The above graphic is from Kristin Noelle.  Her site Trust Tending sends out these beautiful little Trust Notes each week and they are simply delightful.  She has all sorts of other great free and wonderful things you can sign up for as well.

About two months ago for a variety of reasons I decided to get rid of TV (note that I did wait until after football season was over).   Everyone has their vice right?  But for me it went back to looking more closely at my life and living more intentionally.  Although I didn’t watch a whole lot of tv I would find myself turning it on and watching things that after an hour I wondered… did I really need to know which flat they chose in London, or what the final outcome of the Extreme Makeover was?  And all watching the Food Network all it would do is make me hungry… and I wasn’t working on things that were truly feeding me.  Right now I am focusing on saving money, on putting my time and energy into things that deserve them and I realized TV didn’t fit for me anymore.  After getting sick and not turning it on for a few days I decide to take the plunge and I decided to make it into a fun experiment and get rid of TV, at least for the summer.

Giving up TV for the first week or so was a bit tough because it is so instinctual to come in the house and turn it on, “catch up” on the day and what I missed.  But I realize that with all of the access to news online and listening to NPR I am still up to date with current events.  I also worried about whether or not I would have something to talk about with certain people if we didn’t share our stories of the most recent episode of X show… but I am realizing that we are having better conversations about ourselves rather than some other stranger’s life.

Sometimes there is an echoey silence when there isn’t radio or TV on to fill it.  So it started me thinking about silence, and what would happen if I truly befriended silence, and thus the 40 Days of Silence  was born.

I have been reading and writing more, I have been listening to more music, I have been getting more restful sleep, I have been working out more, I have been praying and meditating more, I have been outside more, I have enjoyed my silence more, and one of the unexpected benefits is that I am more content.  When I do go online to watch my shows that I watch I do so intentionally, with the purpose of enjoying them, not as a default setting or as filler.

What has brought me the most peace is not having the constant underlying reminders of what I “need”, what I “can’t live without” and how I don’t “measure up” – the empty promises IF I got this certain product or service my life would be amazing.  The average American consumes over 3,000 ads per day, between radio, TV, billboards, newspapers, online etc. and it seeps into our subconscious coloring our opinions of ourselves and our lives.

Another unexpected benefit is that I have been having some great conversations as a result of this little experiment.  Turns out several of my friends have done this at the same time without really talking about it, and I have yet to find one that wishes they had it back.   It also has created some great conversation about what role the TV plays in our lives.  And for many it isn’t about cutting it out completely so much as it is being more mindful about it, for many it isn’t something they want to consider but the talk of an experiment to change something inspires them to think of some other experiment they have been toying with but haven’t yet done.

What experiment would push your comfort zone?  What kind of experiment could create more space for you to follow your dreams, to invite more fun and joy into your life, to create deeper relationships?  What kind of experiment could get you out of your rut and into your radiant life?

 

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Something to remember for the New Year!!

It is the New Year… time for many to take stock of where they are, where they want to be and make resolutions.  I have a love hate relationship with resolutions and so I don’t do them in the traditional way… but of course I love the opportunity to be able to think about what I want the next year to look like, how I want to shape my part of it, what I want to leave open to God/the Universe/Mystery/Chance, and what I just don’t even know is possible yet.

So instead of New Year’s Resolutions I decided to make a list of what I want more of and what I want less of:

Less:

Comparing- myself or my life (which is in process) to a static idea of what I “should” be, to my own projection or anyone else’s

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
~ Steve Jobs

Judgment

Saying yes from obligation

Saying no from fear

Guilt

Feeling responsible for others

Being anyone but me

More:

Live Music

Being around people doing what they love

Lightness of being

Reading

Grace

Relaxation

Looking through the eyes of love

Letting go

Joy

Working out

Laughing so hard my stomach and cheeks hurt the next day

Warrior Dash Days

Love

Light

Laughter

Lattes

Enjoying the moment- and being there with no guilt, simply joy and an acute awareness of the blessings that surround me

Letters- sending and receiving

Writing the Brave Letters- (more soon on that :))

Writing- books, poetry, letters, prayers, journal entries- JUST WRITE

Losing myself in beauty

Being outdoors

Remembering the truth of this statement and choosing the company of joy-

There’s only one address anyone lives at and it’s always a duplex: Joy and pain always co-habit every season of life.

Accept them both and keep company with the joy while the pain does it’s necessary renovations. 

~ Ann Voskamp

Prayer/Meditation

Making space

Radiance

Tea

Sun

Sweat- loving the feeling at the end of a workout of muscles that have been pushed to their limit

Pride in the life that I have created

Letting love in

Capturing beauty

Taking time to celebrate all that I have done

Taking time to think about all that I want to do

Investing in myself, in my dreams, in my own life

Clearing out

Asking for help when needed- giving help when the opportunity presents itself

Glowing- with health, with love, with peace and contentment

Creating- being in the flow

Feeling good in my own skin

Deepening into me

Wisdom

Continuing to be a part of something bigger

Moments where I am so entranced by what I am doing that I forget where I am, what time it is, or what I “need” to do

Creating community

Helping bring out the light in others

Letting my own light shine

Celebrating all of the gifts that surround me every day

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There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. Leonard Cohen

I was reading through something I had written a year ago and was struck by the clarity, the depth, and the authenticity of it.

At the time I didn’t feel clear at all.  The words just fell onto the page and I just left them, too tired to “fix” them so they were “pretty and sparkly” (aka- perfect).  I have been reminded recently that the more I try to control things, to rearrange them to fit what I “think” they should be- the more frustrated, overwhelmed and overstimulated I get- and the less clear things are.

It reminded me too, that if we allow ourselves the space and the safety to be brave, to be honest, to be open we often have the wisdom within us to find that next step.  Even when we are swirling in the midst of chaos, if we are able to breathe deeply and tap into the core of our being, the Divine spark within us that knows that where we are is where we need to be will guide us there, one step at a time.

I am slowly remembering (again) to release my death grip on control and perfectionism and see the beauty in the process, in the midst of the In-Between.

So to my heart I vow:

I am no longer waiting to see the beauty until it is all cleaned up and sanitized accordingly- but instead see the beauty in the midst of the pain seeking the raw power of a vulnerable heart.

I am trusting in the process to be the important part, not the moment where you survey your work at the end of your life, instead the living the depth of it in the midst of it.

I am willing to believe that we can become strong in the broken places- and that light shines through in the cracks of our foundations and THAT can be beautiful.

I can give myself the same grace and forgiveness that I offer to others, and to surround myself with people who remind me when I forget.

To let these words apply to me too, not just everyone else:

We’re all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.

Bo Lozoff

To remember even the process is beautiful.

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My writing voice has been silent.

For the past four years I wrote nearly every day, and then recently I just stopped… the words stopped, I stopped coming to the page, I stopped letting that little voice dictate my waking moments… and yet, deep down I knew that was what I needed to do.  To just live in this moment, to not have to capture all of the details, but to let the magic, the moments that have taken my breath away, the moments of pure joy and of excitement just bubble up.  To have trust that in time I would come back to the page, that the words would bubble over, that I would again have something to say, to share.  To trust that the words, the blogs and the books that I know are waiting will find their way- in time (which often isn’t the same as my time).

And it is busy, living my life, sending out books, responding to the heartfelt mail, e-mails and phone calls, building new relationships that this book is helping me to create and re-envisioning my priorities, my time, my relationships.  It is a time of transition for me, of jumping into this new piece of me, of owning my writing voice, of sharing my gifts in a new way.

When I was transitioning from high school to college my best friend gave me a card with this quote from Rilke on it, words that I have went back to time and time again:

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903
in Letters to a Young Poet

Transition is all about living your way into the answer.  For so long I had struggled with my purpose, I always knew Social Work was a piece of it, but it wasn’t everything, there was other things that were missing. And as I filled my life with other amazing pieces and experiences I would always think, yes this is a piece but it isn’t it- so I kept collecting.  Then last week I was invited by a friend (who is now a professor at our alma mater) to speak to a Social Work Policy class about my life, about my adventures in social work and the policy realm and where life has taken me since Nora and I sat in that very same class dreaming about “someday”.  “Someday” I’ll have stories like the professors have, “someday” I will have made a difference in someone’s life, “someday” I will be able to find and live out my purpose, “someday” I will move from learning about life to living it.

I was able to talk to the students about how one thing led to another, and what I had learned from the previous place I had woven into the new place, and somehow it all knit itself into this tapestry I call my life, where you can’t pull one thread without feeling the effects of all the others… the leadership I learned in Youth In Government, the respect for my body and healthy competition I learned playing high school sports, the love for learning that so many teachers instilled in me as I made my way through school, the love of friends and family that held me close in the midst of life’s twists and turns.  And it occurred to me that as a combination of decisions, of taking advantage of the opportunities that others provided me, some that I created through my own hard work and determination, and some pieces that were nothing short of Divine Intervention- I now had interesting stories, I helped create and implement policy, I have held people’s hands in the middle of the night as they face their darkest hour, I have published a book, I have a loving network of support and so many other things that I had dreamed about “someday” having and being.

And as I was talking about speaking to the class with another friend she just stopped me, sighed and said “let’s celebrate that you are living your ‘someday'”.

So today I invite you to take a moment, to sit, to celebrate your someday moments.  To be at peace that there will always be something you are living into the answers around, to enjoy the fact that as soon as you celebrate ‘someday’ it creates a place for new ‘somedays’ to be created.  So today, celebrate your ‘someday’.  And if today you are deep in the midst of muck may you “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart.”  And may you know you are well on your way to living into the answers themselves.

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