The What If Experience

Explore a new "What If..." question about life each week with some thoughts, some answers and some action steps. Share my journey of personal growth and living in possibility.
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The What If Experience




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Now displaying: September, 2017
Sep 24, 2017

"Feeling inadequate is an occupational hazard of motherhood." says Harriet Lerner. I think she's right. Motherhood has a way of bringing inadequacy to the surface in a big way, but, I'd argue that it's really more than that, it's part of the human condition. When I started to think about the feeling of "I'm not enough," of being insufficient for a purpose, parenting is an easy place to start.

As a new first time parent, I remember feeling the weight of the responsibility for a life. I'd never done this before, it's years and years of actions with eternal consequences. It's caring for and shaping a human being. It is an incredible privilege, but it's an incredible responsibility as well. I was sleep deprived from a battle with sickness my whole pregnancy and I was dealing with the needs of a newborn that I didn't even understand. I don't remember much about my son's first year, but we obviously survived. And learned as we went along.

Unfortunately, around every turn of raising kids comes more things to learn, more mistakes we make and more fingers to point out our inadequacies. Sure, we learn as we go, but we make mistakes, too. You'd think that by child #2, we'd have it figured out. But, this second child is completely different than the first! We make some of the same mistakes, but this child is different, so we make new mistakes, too!

And we're left with feeling insufficient for the purpose of parenting. Add to that work and relationship struggles and we can feel not just insufficient for parenting. But, for all of life. Feeling insufficient for life is not a small thing. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the US in 2015, there were more than twice as many suicides as homicides that year. I'd be standing on a very shaky limb to say that those two things have a cause and effect relationship because I have no evidence to back that up, but it makes sense that a deep sense of inadequacy in life can contribute to the hopelessness that can propel someone to suicide. Or excessive alcohol or drug use. Or, workaholism. Or, your escape tactic of choice.

How Can We Fix It?

Much of the talk about reducing feelings of inadequacy begins at the place of encouraging us to believe that we are enough. When I was looking up some background on this, the idea of "Remember, you are enough!" is at the top of all the lists. And hearing can be very real refreshment for our hearts. It has brought tears to my eyes before. And I don't cry easily.

But, here's my problem. I don't believe it. And I think it's unhealthy to tell ourselves that lie. I don't think I'm enough. I don't think I'll ever be enough. And I don't think you're enough either.

I know this flies if the face of the self-help industry. And it's probably not the most encouraging thing you'll hear today. But, I'm not enough. By myself, I'm not enough

Here's the encouraging part. We don't have to be enough.

Being Not Enough...Together

We have to be willing to be imperfect and try anyway. We have to learn to live within a community that knows us and helps each other. We have to be willing to both give and receive that help.

In short, we need to expand our lives in such a way that they encompass community. If we live our lives broken, but alongside other broken people who are filling in the gaps for each other, we begin to change the story of not being enough. It begins to be instead a beautiful picture of humanity. What are are the heartwarming stories of hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastation? They're pictures of community. Of people helping people.

I'm not enough to do it all myself, but I'm enough to share these words with you while a friend helps me produce the that I can write other words to more people in a way that I'm called to do. I'm not enough to parent alone. But, my parents, family and friends help me out. I'm enough to take care of a friend's son for the weekend so that she can recover from surgery. Would she do the same for me? I have no doubt that she would. I'm enough to share with a close group of women that the last time I made a significant financial commitment to a cause I cared about, I lost my income for six months and I just realized on the verge of another commitment, the two are tied in my heart and I'm afraid. But, when they struggle with their fears? I'll be there for them too.

When we live among people--both our families and friends, but enclosed behind our own silo'd walls, we forfeit a powerful antidote to inadequacy. Yes, true community requires vulnerability. it requires knowing and being known. It requires caring enough about our soul health that we allow others to see that soul, the good and the bad in it.

We are a relational species. We are made to live in community. True community knows, loves, supports, heals, and cherishes. It also corrects and disciplines. But, we're not good at it. We tend to live in community the way we live on social media, in one of two extremes. We either vomit too much at inappropriate times and places. Or, we never go deeper than the perfectly groomed facade that's presented to Facebook or Instagram. Real community is neither of those. It's a real life, gritty, inconvenient mess. It's helpful, kind and loving in ways that move beyond words into actions. It's the hard work of accountability and forgiveness. It's offering hope in tangible ways.

Real community is sharing your life with a group of people in such a way that everyone together becomes enough.

I was at a conference this week that was a crazy amazing experience. You'll hear more about it in the coming months because I'm sure I'm going to be unpacking lessons found there for a long time. One of the things that happened in a transition between sessions was a song that the audience participated in. We linked arms and sang a refrain while she sang melody. It was a picture of us supporting her as she supported us in a community of melody.

But, before we sang, she said this, "when you have no faith of your own, you can borrow some from others." It struck me as exactly what I've been talking about today. And I was so impressed that she used the word borrow. "Borrow" faith from others. Because you need to pay it back.

May you both look to your community for faith and pay it back this week.

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Sep 17, 2017

Have you ever had the sense that you were doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing? That you're right in the sweet spot where talents, skills, opportunities and passions intersect? Or, maybe you're not in that elusive sweet spot, but at least on the path toward it. Or, you've finally reached a've lost that 50 pounds, gotten your dream job or married the man or woman of your dreams. What if that thing that was supposed to make you happy, solve your problems or make your life easier...didn't?

What it that thing happened and life was still hard?

I mentioned last week that I'm working on a new project. It's a daily writing that's being used in my community group at church and other people are following along as well since it's being put out on a public website. I feel like this group, writing, and the art associated with it is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing with my life right now. This spiritual storytelling and life-sharing is what I'm supposed to be investing my energy into.

So, life should be golden, right?

Not exactly. My sleep schedule is messed up, I'm stress eating and I can't keep up with my home or my laundry. My son was sick this week and so was I. Or, I felt like it. It may have just been eating foods that shouldn't be ever passing my lips in small amounts, much less by the truckload. It may be the barometric pressure changes as hurricane remnants come through. It's probably a combination of all of those things.

And at the same time that I'm feeling that I'm doing something I'm supposed to be doing, I feel defeated, depleted and discouraged. I can't keep up. I'm overwhelmed. I'm celebrating successful adulting if I can just get my son to school on time, dressed, and with a lunch box.

If I'm doing the right things...why am I feeling so wretched?

First, just because you have a success, a win, or are doing the right things in life does not mean your struggles will go away. We like to think those two things are related, but they're not. Do the great thing and everything gets easy. Happiness bubbles over, birds sing and flowers bloom, like walking down an enchanted path in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Have you ever wished that was you? With every step you take, the world comes to life and sings around you?

Achieving a certain thing or living your dream life doesn't change the fact that life can be hard. Hard stuff happens regardless. Your success or actions don't insulate you from struggles and a struggle-free existence isn't related to doing the right thing. My depression doesn't really care if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. It will happen anyway, mostly regardless of what I do or don't do and usually at the most inconvenient time.

Second, often, we create our own struggles. I know I shouldn't be eating the things I'm eating. I know it. It's not a shock or surprise that I'll wake up feeling bad. That my joints will be swollen and sore. That I'll feel sick and lethargic and have trouble thinking clearly. I'm creating that problem myself.

And last, if you think that a good life is built on achieving that thing you've been striving for, doing the right thing, having all the pieces fall into place or whatever you're counting on to gain in order to make you happy, I have news for you. Even if you change your life, you're still in the center of it. With all of your faults and your fears and your failures. With all of your quirks and your weaknesses.

What I'm trying to tell you is not to fall victim to the belief that being in your sweet spot or achieving that goal will make life easy, happy and painless. Easy, happy and painless are the cheap seats anyway. Set your sights instead on worthwhile, joy-filled and meaningful. These are found in the process. In the journey, not in achievement.

Expect that even on the right path, there will be sore feet, boulders to scramble over and rough weather. In fact, there may be more of those struggles on the right path than on the wrong path. In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield says, “Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul's evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

Are you sensing resistance? Then press in my friends, press in to that space.

This leads me to two other thoughts. Don't assume that because someone does have their life together, is doing what they're meant to do or had just achieved something that they aren't struggling. I'm not even talking about the majority of people posting on social media showing their sanitized life. Those people certainly are struggling. I'm talking about the ones who legitimately have good things happening. They very well may be struggling at the same time.

And lastly, don't miss the good stuff while you're running after that thing. Whatever that thing is that you're chasing right now. Remember that joy and meaning happen daily along the way. They aren't waiting for you when you reach your finish line. They were the cheers of the crowd, the sunlight on your face and well-timed food tables along the way. You will have struggles, but there is joy and meaning to be found in the journey if you look for it.

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Sep 10, 2017

Welcome back, my friends! I've been off for about six weeks and you got mini  episodes while I was gone. Sort of like the appetizers you put out at a party to keep people around until you get to the main course.

Well, we're back to the main course again and what I thought would happen over the last six weeks is not AT ALL what happened. Some people plan years in advance and then things go off without a hitch. I apparently can't even plan six weeks of my life without it becoming a complete train wreck.

My son went into middle school this year and while I knew the transition would be tough for him, the first week was a nightmare. A few days of tears on the way home, "Mom, can you homeschool me?" Well, yes, I'd love too, but not because you don't want to deal with a new experience. His issues aren't with other kids. They're organizational and apparently the newness of the whole experience was completely overwhelming. Having lockers, changing classes, dressing out for gym, getting what you need where you need it and when has been really hard for him. He's got more organizational issues than the average 6th grade boy (is that possible?) and I made an extra trip into town every day for the first week and and a half taking forgotten stuff back and forth. But apparently, the eclipse straightened him out, because he hasn't forgotten anything critical since then.

Another thing that happened in the last six weeks was that I faced some unexpected decisions about work. A combination of circumstances and financial issues combined in a way that I found myself seriously considering looking for a new job. I've worked for myself for 20 years. That idea is a huge shift for me. I realized entrepreneurship is a part of how I define myself. And interviewing. I haven't thought about interviewing in several decades!

A new publishing project came up as well, that turned from a small 30 minute weekly commitment to a daily article on a new website. So, I decided to put off any job decisions until the new project is either under control or finished.

In the last five weeks I've started my son in a new school, interviewed for a job for the first time in 20 years, built a new website, started writing for it every day, and completed a few art pieces for that project. I took on two new roles at church and expanded the reach of the one that I was already doing. I've dealt emotionally with my son miraculously having turned from a child to a pre-teen. I'm not sure exactly when that happened, but I'm apparently the mother of a middle schooler. I've dealt with the idea of no longer being an entrepreneur--when I've seen myself that way for most of my life. I've prepped for a job interview, done the interview and then dealt with the disappointment of not being chosen for the work, after deciding I really did want it. I've dug into some emotional issues of gender and race.

It has been a draining six weeks. A lot has happened. So much emotional change. I tell you this to catch you up. But, also to talk about change. This has been a crazy transitional 6 weeks. Here are a few lessons I've thought about as I've gone through it.

First, we don't always know where things are going to lead, but not knowing doesn't mean they won't be valuable experiences. I wasn't looking for a new job. But a few options came across my path. One of them I really didn't think I was supposed to get...but I thought I was supposed to apply for it anyway. I'm still not sure what that was about and I may never know. But, I do know it already led to someone recommending me for a different position.

Even if I continue to work for myself for the next 20 years, I learned an awful lot about myself going through the interview process. I'm not suggesting you go randomly interview for jobs you have no intention of taking, but I am saying that you should be aware of opportunities around you in all areas of life, even if you don't understand why or where they'll lead.

[Tweet "Don't be afraid to take a new or unexpected path because you aren't sure what the end game is."]

Second, when everything's new and confusing, like my son's experiences at his new school, remember that "new" is a short term problem. I kept telling him that in a few weeks, all the things that seemed so strange and new would turn into the norm. He'd get it figured out and then we'd just be dealing with the stuff that's truly hard for him. And that's what's happened. He now knows what to expect. He knows how to navigate the class changes and the lockers. It's still not second nature, but it's not overwhelming. When you're in a new situation, remember that "new" turns into "old hat" very quickly. Just hang on, it will get easier every day.

And lastly, if things really do change, be willing to adjust for new opportunities. Which brings me to where the podcast is headed. My new project will run through the holidays and it's going to require a good chunk of time. It came up in the last two weeks and became something much larger than I originally intended. If you're a Christian woman interested in a daily article digging into what scripture says about what it is to be a woman, I'd love for you to check it out.

Even before that came up, I was looking at making some changes to the podcast. Because of the new project, I was really thinking I was going to have to put the podcast on pause until the new year...until an angel friend of mine offered to do some of the production work for me. I'm eliminating the artwork, the coffee talk emails and the worksheets. I'll do the episode, continue to publish on Sundays and send out a Monday email with the audio link and a few application questions to consider. So, "What if's" will continue to come your way, with those adjustments.

Things have changed for me in the last six weeks. Things will continue to change. Things will change for you as well. Things always change. Even when you aren't sure where they're going, be open to new opportunities. Trust that process is as important as the end goal. Walk in confidence, trust in process. It's important know that "new" doesn't last very long, things will normalize quickly. Be willing to adjust for changes if it means a good opportunity.

So, the answer to, "What if things change?" is that you'll be fine. If things change, you'll be fine. You might be afraid. We're all afraid. I had more fear in the midst of these changes than I expected to have, more than I've had in a long time. Fear is normal. Just don't let it determine your course.

[Tweet "Fear is normal. Just don't let it determine your course."]

It's good to be back with you and I'm so grateful for the help to keep this guy rollin'! Because this decision was made at the last minute, I have no idea what topic is coming up next to give you a preview. But, I can tell you that I'll be back next week with another episode and I look forward to chatting with you again.

Have a great week!

Sep 3, 2017

When I was a toddler and would hum the tune, "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat," my parents couldn't tell what song it was. I had no sense of pitch. My grandfather could have been a concert pianist and had amazing pitch...such a dramatic fall to his granddaughter! I grew up believing I couldn't sing and still have trouble singing in front of people. What instrument did I want to play when elementary instrument sign ups came along?

The violin.

You know, an instrument that you need to be able to tell when you're out of tune in order to play! Generally speaking, when you hit the correct piano key, you get the correct note. Things are a little more nebulous on a stringed instrument. You need to be able to tell when your fingers have found the right place. Luckily, six or seven years of playing and private lessons had a big impact and my sense of pitch has been trained. It's much better than when I was a toddler.

Welcome to the 2017 quote series. This is one of a series of abbreviated episodes happening before Labor Day where we're taking a look at little bits of wisdom in the form of quotes. Today's quote is from Dr. Maya Angelou and she said,

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song"

You have a song. You have a song that is particularly yours. It is shaped by who you have been made to be. But, as my actual voice was shaped by training my ear, yours has been shaped by circumstances as well.

The world has plenty of people who are more than willing to spout answers. Many of us have a nature that wants to solve problems. Solving problems makes us feel like we're doing something. But, generally people just want our song. Or, to share their song with us.

I think I'm about to take Dr. Angelou's quote in a direction that it wasn't meant to go. But, I don't think she'd argue.

Hurting people are all around us. You don't need an answer to help them. Simply acknowledge their hurt and listen. Your attitude of caring, your listening, your willingness to hear them is your song. And that song penetrates hearts so much faster, so much deeper than answers.

You don't need to have the answer.

Instead what if you sing? And what if you really listen to the songs of those around you?