Letter from Summer Living

IMG_1056Dear Friends,

How has a month passed since my last confession? I mean since my last blog post.

I guess summer has been filled with the living of life. So much so, I haven’t had time (or energy) to write about the life I’m living or write, in general, really.

Anyway, this is just a quick “HELLO” … a wave from my corner of the world … a report (positive I hope) that I am still very much inhabiting the land of the living.

And I have lots to tell you about the busyness and bustle of my summer thus far. I have much to share about what’s coming. Of course, I also want to catch up with all of you, my peeps, and find out what’s new with you.

So thank you for sticking with me and waiting and checking for new stuff.

Let’s see … you’ll soon hear about:

  • Teaching an old dog new tricks … how I learned new things watching my dudes learn new things … Okay, I’m not an old dog but still.
  • Busting baby fever … we overcame an urge … it was tough and then easy *sighs*
  • Staycationing instead of vacationing … there are lots of perks.
  • Fighting my addiction to amazon.com daily and monthly deals and emailing recommendations to the world at large. Have I mentioned that I am losing the fight? I truly need an intervention.
  • Planning for the next writers’ conference I will attend. *smiles*
  • Writing my WIP and the crazy questions and comments I receive about when I’ll be done … which, at this rate, the word NEVER comes to mind.
  • Celebrating birthdays. *smiles again*
  • Working like a dog … I know another canine reference but I have been and there’s no end in sight.

These stories and any others that strike my fancy will come in combinations in the near future. Bits and pieces. Little Gail glimpses.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my regularly scheduled living, already in progress …

Till next time, peace out,

~Gail

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Walking and Chewing Gum

My favorite but I'm giving it up.

My favorite but I’m giving it up.

My “drug” of choice is gum. My favorite is Extra Smooth Mint. I am addicted to the popping sound as I chew, chomp and munch the beautiful pale blue.

I remember when I was a little girl how jealous I was that other people could manipulate their Hubba Bubba or Bubblicious into that musical sound. So it became my mission to learn this marvelous skill. Which I did.

Then I was accused of horrible things like: looking like a cow chewing her cud. Presumably this is because my mouth never quite closed to conceal the pop-pop-pop.

You could have called me Violet Beauregarde from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story and movies. For me I think of the song the Oompa Loompa sang for Violet from the 1971 movie version; Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (see the clip here):

Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do
I have another puzzle for you
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-da-dee
If you are wise, you’ll listen to me
Gum chewing’s fine when it’s once in a while
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile
But it’s repulsive, revolting, and wrong
Chewing and chewing all day long
The way that a cow does
Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-da
Given good manners, you will go far
You will live in happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa doom-pa-dee-do”

The teasing and tormenting continued for a long time and then I got tired of it. And one day I stopped. Quit chewing gum altogether; cold turkey.

But as with other addictions, there’s the chance of relapse. I fell of my wagon and started using again. You see, there isn’t a support group for this one. And I wasn’t starting over; I picked up where I left off. Smack, munch, pop. And it’s worse.

For the past 4 years, I’ve made an art form out of making the most noise possible with a single stick of sugar free gum. I am so embarrassed to admit this, because I’ve been in denial most of this time. Blissful ignorance. I mean really, I’ve had moments where I’ve glimpsed the annoyance of others but didn’t care.

I wouldn’t admit or acknowledge that I had a problem. That this vice of mine was a habit that I again needed to shake.

The moment of clarity came two weeks ago as I watched my youngest perform in his class play: The Three Nanny Goats Gruff.

My husband couldn’t make the performance because of work so my oldest filmed it on his iPad. It was beautiful. All of the children sang, projecting their voices; said their lines; did the movements. But the piano wasn’t their only accompaniment.

When we played back the video there’s this consistent lip-smacking going on and it’s me (and my oldest but you would expect this of an 8 year old).

Oh My Goodness! 

Hello! My name is Gail, and I can’t chew gum without popping it to infuriate the general population. My behavior is reckless and disrespectful to all gum lovers.

My new vice? Sound free.

My new vice? Sound free.

There! I’ve taken the first step. I’ve admitted I have a problem. Now that I have evidence an intervention is not necessary. I will give up gum until I can better control the urge to make it come alive with unnatural sounds.

Walking and chewing gum at the same time is dangerous business. I choose safety. I will switch to mints so I can avoid stinky breath … I am a work in progress.

Some people in my life will be so grateful I’ve come to my senses.

As of the drafting of this post, I have been chewing gum free for 12 days. It’s not easy. I crave it. I miss it. This too shall pass.

What about you? Any irritating ~isms of your own? Feel free to share. 

Hello World! One Year Later …

WordPress

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

Happy Blog-o-versary to me … One year ago I started blogging after three months of prep time.

I spent almost three years debating: should I or shouldn’t I? Once I decided I should then, came the other hard part:

  • Choosing a blog name
  • Picking a theme
  • Determining a publishing schedule (ha)
  • Writing posts (just in case inspiration didn’t hit on schedule)

I remember reading all the information WordPress had for new bloggers. And there were a few suggestions or statements that stuck with me.

  1. Blog often
  2. Like and comment frequently
  3. Make it a year and you’ll have staying power

It’s been an evolution and not the revolution I expected. Some how I anticipated that I would “arrive”, but understand now, it’s a journey.

Walk on the Edge

Walk on the Edge (Photo credit: Lel4nd)

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher

And it’s on this journey that I’ve found a supportive community … I’d like to say thank you to all the writers, creators, artists, innovator, and dreamers. You’ve made this year worth every moment. Thanks for each “like” and comment and follow. Thanks for reading and sharing. Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey and engaging me in conversation.

Although it’s been everything I hoped and nothing I expected all at the same time … maybe this next year holds the best!

Happy New Year … Anniversary … Birthday …

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Oh For Crying Out Loud

A toddler girl crying

A toddler girl crying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever had the sudden urge to cry? You know, the moment when you’re on the verge of tears and you can’t explain why.

It feels like your “meditating in a mosh-pit” of emotion (I’m borrowing the phrase from a podcast I listen to)?

Life is going on around you. Things are going well. You’ve had some triumphs and successes. You and your family are healthy. You can make ends meet. There’s no eminent danger or worry. Friends are clamoring for your attention and you’re in demand. You look good and your clothes fit.

Life is GOOD.

So why aren’t you happy? Ever been here?

I have, more times than I care to admit. I’ve found myself standing at the crying crossroads; standing there shaking my head and at a loss for words. And my family tiptoes past me as they go on about their business trying to figure out what’s wrong.

My friend and I were talking about this phenomenon this week. She was fighting back emotion. She couldn’t identify what was bothering her. And immediately I was there with her; ready to sit in the uncertain place with her.

Later, it reminded me of a scene in the Matrix (which is one of my favorite movies) where Agent Smith is interrogating Morpheus. He says: 

Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from. Which is why the Matrix was redesigned to this: the peak of your civilization.

I guess in some ways it’s true that in the absence of hard times our minds make us weary. And we start looking for the “wrong” or the “bad” that’s sure to come. Utopia scares us. We don’t believe it’s real. We create some of our own trouble.

The end of 2012 found me in this very state … maybe it was the weather or maybe I was depressed. Or it could have been that I was overwhelmed at times … no matter what I couldn’t quite put my finger on the reason for my desire to cry. It was a hard thing to keep in check.

I was living with a constricted throat and watery eyes, blinking fast. Choking back what would surely overflow to drown me and anyone else close by …

And Saturday morning, to my surprise, I woke with that familiar feeling again. I thought I’d passed it.

Fortunately, this time I was able to name my waterworks rabble-rousers: anxiety … a sense of failure … a sense of letting people down.

Why?

All because Spring Break was coming to a close and I hadn’t helped my son with his homework.

Crazy? I know.

I spent the week waffling between “we’ll do it today” and “let’s wait till tomorrow”. Now vs. Later. Ultimately I procrastinated … This is not the lesson I want to teach my son.

At the heart of it, my urge to cry was because I feel like a bad mom (which I’m not).

The flip side of the story … we had a great week together as a family. My dudes were able to rest and enjoy it. And the assignment isn’t due until April 15. So there is still plenty of time.

I’m over it. The moment is gone. I no longer feel like crying.

Now if I can just be still long enough to enjoy this and not reject the idea that life can be fine and problem-free sometimes …

The best advice I can offer my friend (and myself) is this: Sometimes you just need a good cry.

Am I right?

Let it out. And then we can look at what’s causing it and decide what to do next.

If you’re facing the crying crossroads I wish you peace. Be encouraged. Know that you’re not alone and that it will pass.

Blessings and Happy Spring!

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Change

I am standing on the precipice. My hair swirls up with the rising breeze. When it settles a few strands remain askew.

Change is in the air. It’s palpable.

Maybe it’s the advent of spring?

Or it could be the fact that so many people in my life are facing significant life changes:

  • Adoption
  • Pregnancy
  • New Jobs

Usually, change lends to fear but is tempered by excitement. Not this time. This sense of coming change isn’t sitting well with me. I can’t place my finger on the reason.

Unsettling
Uneasy
Uncertain
Un-_____________ Fill in the blank with the anxiety inducing adjective.

It’s showing itself in small ways too. Like my picky eater trying new foods. And my youngest has been encouraging my oldest instead of the other way around. Signs of maturing.

These positive changes on the horizon make me happy, and they should. So what’s with this pending sense of doom?

Disquiet
Discomfort
Disconnected
Dis- “something” … I wish I could adequately explain.

Selfishly I am not prepared for how these changes will alter relationships and shift interactions. I am content with life and don’t want to have to reprioritize or be reprioritized.

Realistically, it’s one more thing in my life that I can’t control.

When I first drafted this post it felt incomplete. I was struggling with how to make it feel finished. Then, this weekend I watched the movie, The Vow.

It’s a romantic drama about finding love and the tragedy of losing that love. It’s a strange place to be; standing between the moment of joy and sadness. Bittersweet.

Throughout the movie the male lead narrates the story. He talks about “high impact moments” and how they alter the course of your life.

I am watching high impact moments all around me. And they are altering the course of my life. But I don’t know what to do about it and I definitely don’t know how to feel about it.

Oh well …I still feel like this post is incomplete … and it will stay that way, I guess, until change happens …

So, I stand on the edge waiting for what’s to come. Whether this change will push me over or lift me up remains to be seen.

Tell me your change story … What are you experiencing? How are you feeling about it?

Time to Retreat

Napoleons retreat from Moscow

Napoleons retreat from Moscow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retreat
Fall Back
Retreat

These words conjure up images of war.

You know …

Decorated gentlemen on horseback, led by an officer who is poised on his white stallion as he stares down the enemy. The color guard flying their flags so you know for whom they fight.

The officer shouts, “Charge,” and the battle begins.

Men start running toward one another, stomping out a rhythm of pending collision. Weapons ready. Their mouths open wide issuing battle cries. Gunshots ring out; contributing to an orchestra of chaos.

Wisps of smoke grasp with shady white fingers to catch hair and coattails flying past as if to draw the warriors back. Mid-cry the smoky air rises. It chokes and coughs fall from lips as it fills their lungs. It stings and tears spill down their dirty cheeks.

Battle cries turn from fierce to fearful as pain replaces courage and infantry men are injured. Rivers of red flow through the peaks and valleys of the fallen soldiers who litter the field; many lost lives and some lost limbs. This is the heavy price of war.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hope starts to wane as they watch their brothers in arms fall to the left and right. Where conviction of belief once went before them, confusion settles in. They look around, bewildered and wonder what cause they’re fighting.

At last in the distance a shout reaches them. It breaks through the noise of metal on bone and bone on bone.

The disembodied voice of the commanding officer shouts, “Retreat! Fall back! Retreat!”

He’s lost enough men today, in a matter of hours, which means he’s lost this battle. He wishes to keep the remaining soldiers safe, alive and well to fight another day and possibly win the war.

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

1.the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armedforce before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.

You’re wondering what this has to do with me? Well … this is my life: a war over time and self-care on the battlefield of busyness.

My enemies are my schedule: work, family, friends, committees, and personal goals; and my distractions: TV, movies, Facebook, twitter, podcasts, and anything else of interest. They all crash together vying for the optimal position in priority.

And I feel like I’m losing this battle. But I won’t lose the war.

So this weekend I responded to the call of my commanding officer to retreat. To take time to recharge, regroup, assess my losses, and ready myself to go back into battle.

My church hosted a women’s retreat which sold out quickly. My sisters in arms are all fighting on different fronts and needed this time …

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

5.a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

And, the busyness of life almost prevented me from going. We had scheduling conflicts with my husband who also had a retreat this weekend and his wonderful mom who came to stay with the dudes while we were away.

I missed part of the weekend retreat but am so thankful that I didn’t decide to bag the whole event. I was able to make the drive to the campgrounds in silence, watching the snowy landscape pass by. It allowed me to clear my head and my heart in preparation. (My apologies I didn’t get any pictures of the location.)

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I arrived I had the privilege of hearing three moving testimonies of women I’ve known or observed over the years. Emotional and vulnerable stories about coming to faith that they hadn’t shared before. Stories that made me cry and celebrate their triumph.

In those moments, these courageous women let down their guard. It made me grateful for the community … for the solitude … for the reminder that we all need to rally together after a long hard fought battle.

I wish I could adequately capture the feeling of peace for you. I wish that you could understand how refreshed I feel with just one day away from my normal routine.

I am incredibly thankful.

Maybe you can relate … maybe you just need a break. It doesn’t have to be faith based like mine was but maybe you are craving the quiet so you can face another day.

Tell me … what is your war? What battles have you lost and won? But most important … how do you retreat?

Definitions complements of dictionary.com

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I’m Not Your Superwoman

Lois Lane's first appearance as Superwoman. Ar...

Lois Lane’s first appearance as Superwoman. Art by John Sikela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a song I loved growing up, titled: I’m Not Your Superwoman, performed by Karen White. If you were to go check out the lyrics (video here), you’d wonder why it appealed to my teenage self. But it did non-the-less.

A few years ago I started using the catch phrase: “Well I’m off to save the world one person at a time.” It was my standard exit line instead of “bye” or “I have to go.”

People would say things like “Oh you’re a superhero?” Of course, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I would reply in the affirmative. Assuring them, “My cape is tucked into my blazer and my tights and boots were hidden in my heels.

They’d ask, “If you’re a superhero, what powers do you have?”

Thinking they’d stumped me I would smile and say, “I can read minds.”

You know what comes next …

Prove it!”

You’re thinking, she’s out of her @#$% mind,” I’d say, getting a laugh for my flippancy.

I’m not your Superwoman …

Nor do I want to be …

Boy I am only human …” is a line from the song. And that’s me. I’m only human. And most of the time the first person I’m off to save is me, from myself.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up though … my mom was Superwoman. She worked full-time outside of the home. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Even with the help of 4 able-bodied children.

Our house was always clean. She managed to make home-cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 nights were handled by the leftovers. Laundry was always done. And not just washed and dried but folded and put away. And, we didn’t have a dryer, they were hung on a clothesline outside (year round). Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scouring.

It all got done some how; without modern conveniences. We didn’t have a dishwasher (she still doesn’t). I was almost out of high-school before we got a microwave.

Yet, our home was a constant state of “guest readiness”.

Where am I going with this?

My husband and I have been talking about hiring someone to come in and help clean our house; maybe cook meals. We just can’t do it. Not with our schedules and other responsibilities. 

I have several friends who’ve referred their person or service; a maid who fills the gaps in house work and does the things that they just can’t. It seems the norm within my peer group.

And crazy as it sounds … it feels like cheating … taking an unauthorized shortcut. I actually feel guilty for needing the help (which I shouldn’t – feel guilty that is).

I mean what’s different from the generation before to my generation now? I guess each generation has its battle. For my mom, she was up against the June Cleaver model of wife and mother.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still … how’d she pull it off?

My mother was always the first one up and usually the last one down. Which is true for me too but I accomplish far less around the house than she did.

I don’t remember seeing her enjoy much of the homey home she provided. She rarely sat to read a book or watch TV. Maybe on Mothers’ Day or her birthday meals were prepared and served to her. There weren’t days of staying in her PJs to cuddle up with us.

That’s not what I want from my life.

So this is me giving myself permission: I’m NOT Your Superwoman.

I’m just a woman … a mom … a wife … an employee … a daughter … a friend … a sister … Dreaming of living a SUPER life.

Now I’m off to save my world.

To all you Superwomen out there, my cape’s off to you for all that you do!

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)

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Looking Back to Look Ahead

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t really believe in making New Year’s resolutions. In all my years I’ve never made it through March of the new year doing all that I resolved.

So … I’ve stopped making them. And this year is no exception. I won’t make resolutions but I will set some goals. Okay so I just use a name with less of a stigma …

But before I can look ahead I need to take a brief look back at 2012. I need to consider what I accomplished, failed at, and overlooked to determine what I should focus on in 2013.

Seem reasonable? It’s harder than I thought it would be to capture my year accurately.

2012 Year In Review

Writer Me

I decided or better yet declared:

I am Writer,
hear me roar.”
Or purr.
Or whimper.

It just depends on the day within my world.

In response to my declaration I started this blog as a way to write regularly; gain momentum; earn experience; and learn to deal with rejection.

And it’s served its purpose. I write every day even if the words don’t make it into a post or into my manuscript.

And I’ve learned a lot about writing. Sometimes it’s good and other times it’s not. I can easily psych myself out based on the latest advice I read. But still I committed to accountability with two partners and attended my first writers’ conference.

I haven’t forgotten that after the conference I committed to accountability to all of you … sharing more about my WIP. I am getting there. I am shy and anxious about it. Please be patient.

That's me ... the Middle Sister who's sweet and sassy. I wish I'd thought of naming a wine like that.

That’s me … the Middle Sister who’s sweet and sassy. I wish I’d thought of naming a wine like that.

Sister/Daughter Me

I reconnected with my family: brothers and sisters; niece and nephews.

Living at a distance has been a great excuse not to engage in what’s going on with them. I could keep it light and uninvolved.

Yet most of 2012 was spent wondering: How can I deepen relationships? Investing in others and being willing to take on their crap is part of it. That means family too. And distance isn’t an excuse in the technological world we live in.

No more excuses.

Parent/Wife Me

I watched myself grow up as a parent this year. Sounds strange I know.

My angry voice is lessening. I am slowly decoding my normal tendency to yell first and “use my words” second. It’s a wonderful thing to see how my mood influences my whole household. And, it’s important for me to show them how to manage their emotions rather than telling them.

It’s come in handy as we’ve traveled this first full year of my husband as pastor. With him working 3 nights a week, I am the constant for the dudes. Right now I hold us all together.

We added a Family Night to our schedule which doesn’t get touched by anything. We don’t accept appointments on those nights. It’s the one day each week we are intentionally together. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Coming into my own.

This is the sum of my 2012. The highlights reel so to speak. My life is pretty homey really. Not a lot going on.

2013 Year in Preview

Writer Me

 

Reading Like a Writer

Reading Like a Writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to read two books on writing this year. I have one picked out: Reading Like a Writer. Plus, I want to read at least one book outside of my regular reading and writing genre of YA fiction. And, I will continue my weekly and monthly accountability with my partners in crime. Love ya guys.

Also, my goal is to have a first (rough-rough-rough) draft of my novel in progress. Hovering, just shy of 40,000 words. Goal = 90,000 by August. I know … it’s been slow going up till now. But my characters haven’t been speaking as much or keeping me up at night with ideas.

Blogging will be at a slower pace. Still interesting and engaging. PROMISE.

Sister/Daughter Me

I will continue to call home (weekly) and chat with my family and live life with arms linked. Hopefully, I will have one of my nephews living with me in 2013 for college. Who knows?

Parent/Wife Me

I will continue to take deep breaths before responding to a whine or foot stomp or a flippant word. Living moment by moment here.

And Family Night will involve some fun things like dessert for dinner or movie theater popcorn. Who says balanced meals are what’s important? Isn’t it more important that we are together and talking about our lives?

I also have some craft projects planned … specifically I need to scrapbook the pictures from our 2012 Summer Vacation which my youngest dude still says he’s thankful for when we pray at night.

Maybe I’ll plan a Husband and Wife B&B retreat! 😉

Nothing grand or amazing in the year ahead. Mostly maintenance for things I’ve worked on in 2012. Or maybe there are great things lurking around the corner. And there will be ALL new adventures to share.

You know the drill … what are your resolutions or goals for 2013. Or share one of your favorite moments from 2012.

Happy New Year!

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Sleepwalking …

Insomnia

Insomnia (Photo credit: EasyPickle)

Falling into bed at 2AM and waking up at 6AM isn’t good for me; or anyone for that matter. Understatement? I know.

Why do I have insomnia?

I have too much to do and not enough hours in a day. Anyone else have that problem?

Whatever this is, it’s leaving me foggy. The only way I know how to explain the sensation of sleep deprivation is to say, “I am like the walking dead. I am in zombie mode.”

I am sleepwalking through my days and nights until nights turn back into days. Always trying to get one more thing done before turning in. It’s not working.

Between the hours of 2 and 6 in the morning, I am wakened by my six year old. He crawls into bed next to me, “I just want you mommy,” or “I had a bad dream.” Which is kind of cute but acknowledging his need rips me out of my cocoon of rest. Another 10 minutes relinquished.

Operating on 4 hours of interrupted sleep is not healthy. Again, an understatement. It’s a wonder I can function.

The sleeplessness started with back to school and has progressively worsened.

Sleeping in till noon on Saturdays and taking naps on Sunday afternoons, is no longer working to supplement my sleep life. It’s not a good long term solution to insomnia but I hadn’t considered that insomnia would be a long term problem.

Not good. NOT good. Not GOOD.

Insomnia smiley

According to my recent health assessment, just to name a few things:

  • I need more iron in my diet.
  • I need to drink more water.
  • I need to get more rest.

My energy is drained. I just want to sleep. I crave a good nights rest. Eight hours please, charge it to my account.

To make matters worse, I’ve increased my caffeine intake so I can get stuff done. Work gets done on autopilot sometimes. Home life is done with a lot of effort and mental self talk. My poor family … I am crabby and irritable which isn’t fair to them.

I find myself hitting snooze way too many times which means we have to rush every morning. My reluctant riser and the slow mover get anxious of the pace. I’m like the White Rabbit checking his watch. Screaming, “We’re late. We’re late.” Morning Madness

sleep

sleep (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Thankfully, I have the days between Christmas and New Year’s off. And I started my vacation sleeping in till noon. Maybe I can catch some extra zzzz.

Something’s gotta give. Can anyone relate? How do you combat insomnia and avoid sleepwalking through life? Oh and I’d prefer to do it without adding more caffeine or worse by adding meds. Open to suggestions.

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What’s Your Story?

Film poster for Pretty Woman - Copyright 1990,...

Film poster for Pretty Woman – Copyright 1990, Touchstone Pictures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember this line from the movie, Pretty Woman:

“Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t; but keep on dreamin’ – this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin’.”

I feel like the guy asking the question; only you could say my question is:  “What’s your story? Hey, come tell me your story.”

No matter who you are or who you’re becoming. No matter where you are, where you’ve been, or where you’re going. You have a story.

I forget that sometimes. As I wind my way through the city at the start of each day. Passing other parents with waves and nods as we drop our children off at school. Smiles and conversations of varied brightness.

I don’t remember it as I stop-go-stop-go-stop-go down the road to work. Weaving my way through traffic, we’re all trying to get somewhere. It’s part of our story.

I fail to see it when I cross paths with my coworkers in the halls and as I interact with clients of diverse backgrounds and influence.

And by this point in my day it’s only 8:30A. Imagine if I were to consider all the potential touch points of my day. How many people have I passed? Are you with me? How often do we see people without seeing them as people? As a collection of joys and sorrows; hurts and celebrations; and gifts and shortcomings. Broken, healing, and broken again.

Story matters. It’s important. But I selfishly tend to focus on the stories that directly have an impact on my life. Or stories that I am personally invested in like my husband and dudes; my friends and extended families, because to do otherwise is overwhelming.

More and more, lately, I don’t have a choice. Stories are finding me. Women are seeking me out and telling me their stories as if I’m the Happy Man standing on the street corner calling out to them.

The spectrum of women ranges from “I only know you by sight but can’t remember your name” to “Something must be wrong because I haven’t spoken to you today and we talk every day.”

Prompting isn’t required beyond a “How’s it going?” or “What’s new with you?” The levels of disclosure are vastly different; from incredibly intimate to superficial – I’m just having a bad day. Usually, they are unloading a burden or secret. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to what might seem mundane. Or, they may want to trust someone with their dream.

At work, this week I stopped in the kitchen area to get sweetener for my coffee. A coworker was frantically looking through the cabinets.

Me:  “Good morning.”
Coworker: “We’re out of creamer.”
Me:  “No we’re not. There’s some right there.”
Coworker: “Oh yeah but I like the flavored creamer.”
Me:  “Oh okay.”

She sighed and went away with black coffee. I felt bad for her. I went back to my desk and pulled out the last of my flavored creamer and took it to her. About 10 minutes later she sent me a note thanking me for taking what was an already bad morning (before the creamer issue) and helping her overcome the crabbiness about it.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me but it was a big deal to her. I received a glimpse of her story in that moment. My response changed her story for the day.

After writing my notes for this post, I met with two very busy lawyers. I just needed input on materials I was working on. I wanted to respect their time and promised to be brief. To my surprise both women engaged me in lengthy conversations about their lives. They just needed to talk.

Why me? I don’t know.

There is a burden of responsibility when carrying around someone else’s story. They have to be handled with care. I am amazed by the depths of trust freely given.

And the most surprising and rewarding outcome is that caring for a story that’s not my own and not mine to tell, alters my story. My life is enriched by it. I am forever changed with each secret shared and I am grateful.

Now I am calling out:  What’s your story? Who do you confide in? What do you do with the stories placed in your care?

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