Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trying to get off the island

“No man is an island, no man stands alone
Each man’s joy is joy to me; each man’s grief my own
We need one another, so I will defend.
Each man as my brother, each man as my friend.”

As a freshman in high school, I learned that no man is an island. Literally. As an assignment for English, we had to find a quote that we would apply to our lives and memorize it.

Ironically enough, I had lived most of my life as an island. Believe it or not, I was a loner. And I enjoyed it.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a few good friends. Some of them I even opted to stay overnight at their homes. There was Michelle whose mama would always fix us scrambled eggs and brains for breakfast. That was a good meal for two girls who had stayed up in the wee hours of the morning swooning over Donny Osmond and singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” over and over. There
was also my friend, Lisa. She was also distantly related to me so visiting her house was being with family which was a plus. Although she was my closest friend growing up, Lisa also had a big material plus for me. Her family owned an entire set of World Book encyclopedias and current
Childcraft books to go along with them. We would spend hours learning about exotic destinations we wanted to visit, people from history we had never heard of or explanations of words we were also learning how to pronounce. I can’t recall every actually making anything from any of the
Childcraft books, but the possibilities were limitless and oh, so exciting to me.

Although I don’t really think they did it intentionally, my parents were the root cause of my almost hermit-like life. As best they could and with the limited resources we had, Mama and Daddy made our home a castle. I had my own TV in my room from almost birth, hooked up with what we considered cable at that time (which was probably 13 or so channels). I always had
some sort of snacks available – Hostess cakes and Moon pies were constants – which I blame for my problems with blood sugar as an adult. Mama loved to play board games and cards with me. I was probably one of the only kids at East Corinth Elementary School who could play a mean game of canasta.

Almost every Friday afternoon after school, Mama would take me to the Corinth Library and allow me to bring home every book I could carry. With her, no subject was taboo. I would often read all day long on Saturday and after both Sunday church services as well as when homework was done during the week.

Although they would allow me to stay at Michelle’s house or Lisa’s house overnight, they really preferred when I would opt to spend most of my time at home in my room. They really didn’t mind me having friends over, either, but would like it better if I would choose to spend the weekends with them. We weren’t a mushy family who said “I love you” very often, but
I honestly grew up knowing they cared very much for me and were concerned about my whereabouts. I guess it was their way of keeping a slight control on what entered – or didn’t enter – my environment.

There are times in my life now when I could still become a hermit. Given the fact that those I feel closest to (and care most about) and I are somewhat geographically challenged, it often makes spending quality time on the Internet and cell phone my reality. I know that I need personal contact from time to time and try to make sure I get it. But it’s still difficult.

I guess that’s why the sermon during Sunday Night Live at my church this week spoke so much to me. Dr. Andrew J. Willis from Houston, Texas, talked about the power of U2. Not the rock band, mind you, but U-squared! (I didn’t take time to search through my keystrokes to find the shortcut for that mathematical item!). Here are the highlights I wrote down from his sermon – some things, I thought, went hand-in-hand with the last blog item I had posted. Ironically I’d written it that very afternoon.

· Some add to and take away. Others come into your life and multiply their positive affects on your life.

· As a believer, you need a Paul pouring into your life and a Timothy into which you are pouring. (I’m almost certain who my Timothy is. I’m just a bit hazy on the Paul. I have an idea; I’m just waiting to see if they figure it out!).

· You are called to be the salt of the Earth, to sprinkle all you touch. If you’re too full of the thing you’re supposed to be releasing, it’s backfiring on you.

· You were made to be connected to the God who created you and you will never be complete until you make that connection. (I made the connection a long time ago and keep attempting to make it stronger and stronger).

· It’s not nearly as transformative to connect with people who understand you as it is with people who challenge you. Nothing will work like being accessible to your peers. Anyone can understand you, but not anyone can withstand you. (I have recently reconnected with a few folks who I truly believe, in time, are going to challenge me for the good. Not to mention the folks who have been around and are going to step up into this role eventually I just hope they can stand it – and withstand me!!)

· Accountability doesn’t work vertically. It only works horizontally. You have to find someone you can be honest with because if you’re not, you’re not honest with yourself. But don’t be transparent with everybody. You have to find someone you can be honest with without fear of being judged. Find someone who will demand accountability from you and demand you keep your integrity. (My best friend, Mandi, does a great job of keeping me accountable. But it’s a huge task and she probably needs some help from time to time. I can think of a couple of other people in my life who I think will someday soon fill that role as well. A couple of them, I have no doubt, won’t harshly judge me either. I do have the problem, though, of being way too transparent! I’m trying to learn that even though there are folks in my life who need to know I care about them, not everyone needs to know my personal business. And if I keep freely giving away so much of my heart, I’m not gonna have much left).

· Resistance is what makes you stronger. Don’t keep praying hell out of your life – stand up and take it! (This one kind of scares me. Having a little hell in my life scares me. But I do need to learn to be stronger and not back down or give into pressure so easily. Seven of Nine on Star Trek Voyager – yep, I’m a slight geek at times – said resistance was futile. I guess it’s all in what you’re resisting, though!).

· Who do you answer to? Accountability is the good kind of resistance that makes you stronger. (Being more accountable for my words and actions are two things I intend to work on for now. Those folks who are supposed to step up can start working any time!).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Listen to me

It took me years to find my voice. Literally.

Growing up, my parents used to tell me stories about how they were concerned about my development because I never talked. According to them, I didn’t say much if anything at all. I didn’t do the usual cooing or chattering that only babies can understand. And I didn’t utter the early words of “mama,” “daddy,” “uh-oh” and the like.

After awhile, my parents became more worried about me and had decided that I had some developmental problem. They guessed it stemmed from the fact that I was a premature baby. So they decided to make an appointment to take me to a specialist.

A few nights before taking me to the doctor, my daddy came home telling some sort of community gossip he had picked up outside his office at school that day. After repeating it, he cautioned my mother and older sister not to repeat it. Jokingly, he pointed his finger at me - while I was contentedly sitting in my high chair – and said, “You don’t repeat it either” to which I quickly replied, “Me t’aint talk!”

From then on my communications skills improved greatly. But even though I had seemingly found my ability to talk, it took me many years to learn the skill to share the words (feelings) I had tucked deep within the folds of my heart. Actually, sometimes I wonder if I ever learned that skill since I struggle with it so much. I often could find the words from my heart in my mind, but when I would try to speak them, my voice couldn’t – or maybe wouldn’t – work. So I learned to use the written word to try to explain myself. Many people accepted this; others railed against it and would often scream at me to just talk to them.

Little did they know, I felt I really couldn’t do it. Hearing the words with my voice seemed to strip the feelings away. And I never truly felt I was saying what my heart really felt in a way they could understand. Even now I’m having a difficult time putting those feelings into writing.

I was 18 years old before I finally grasped the concept that I mattered to someone outside my immediate family – that I had value and importance, significance. To this person, my existence on this planet at that moment in time was of utmost importance.

Over the years, I have learned that you have lifetime friendships and you have seasonal friendships. Unfortunately for me, I’m afraid, the most significant friendship in my young life ended up being the latter type. After time, it seemed, life took us on two different paths and we went our separate ways. My distance – both emotional and geographic for a time - didn’t mean that I cared any less for her, but my lack of communication led her to believe differently.

Sadly, I still know that person today. Although I’ve tried hard to make amends and include her in my life today, she has pretty much made it clear that I no longer have a place in her life – pretty much that she could care less now whether or not I exist. That’s a difficult thing to accept when you don’t feel the same

But I still remember that for that person, for that time in my life, I was important. Ironically, that still makes a difference today.

For the past few years, I have been diligently seeking God’s divine destiny for my life. Some may not totally understand that, wondering why I’ve been seeking God’s perfect plan for my life for years and still haven’t figured it out. First of all, I believe God has been revealing it to me in tiny glimpses – almost like jigsaw puzzle pieces. In an effort to put together the jigsaw puzzle called my life, I’ve not been able to look at the box top to see the big picture. Instead, it’s as if God allows me to put together a portion of it before that proverbial “a-ha” moment comes.

Unlike a traditional jigsaw puzzle where you have one completed product, it seems my big picture keeps changing with time. It’s not that God is trying to keep me confused by my destiny. Instead, He seems to be increasing the breadth of my big picture as the depth of my obedience to Him increases.

Recently, God has been dealing with me about being bolder with communication. Quite frankly, God has been revealing to me a list of people who I need to share some very personal information with.

That’s a difficult task for most of us. We can talk about politics, the weather and what happened on “As the World Turns,” for hours. But when it comes to matters of the heart, well, we act as if it doesn’t matter or we act as if we are afraid to face it.

It’s a risky thing to reveal to folks how we really feel. It’s almost like going to war with a Red Rider BB gun. You’re not protected after opening your heart up to others, but it’s a difficult and sometimes necessary act.

While mulling over this revelation recently, I realized that there probably are people who were like me at 18 – who desperately need to know they matter, that they have significance to someone else. And that really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As much as I would like to feel like someone needs me, though, I also realize that I just need to reconfirm within my own self how much I truly need many of the folks who I have to open my heart up to in time.

I know it’s a task I need to get to work on and an effort I need to complete. Even as I write this, I’m not totally certain who I need to talk to about their roles in my life. I have a few names in mind, but I don’t have a complete list. I’m hoping those who I approach will be patient and understanding with me and realize that I am truly on a mission. Likewise, I hope those I don’t approach already know their importance in my life and don’t need to be told.

Once my mission is complete, if it ever is, I may get to finally see the big picture. Or I may simply move into another mission. I don’t know which direction it will lead. I just know I intend to follow.

And the person I feel who doesn’t care if I exist or not? I pray for her on a daily basis. It’s the only way, for now, that I know to keep her active in my life. All these years later, she is still important to me. She remains significant.

Even if she won’t listen to me tell her.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Taking that second chance

Life is funny. I don’t mean funny - ha ha - but more funny as in bizarre at times.

Even with the most routine lives, you don’t sometimes know what twists and turns you will be offered from time to time. Or second chances.

Throughout my relatively short life thus far, I have had some times that I would considered very successful. And, like Ol’ Blue Eyes crooned, I’ve had a few regrets, too. Most of my regrets seem
to fall into two categories: things I failed to do or simply just missed out on and people I failed to get to know.

Sue falls into that latter category. We met on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. I was a junior transfer student, she was a sophomore I met at one of those early social club rush parties that I attended for the sole purpose of getting the chance to meet a good portion
of the MUW enrollment. Of course, I ended up pledging a social club but I guess that’s a story for another blog. Or not.

Anyway, I liked Sue instantly. She had this warmth and depth to her that you rarely found in college coeds. She simply oozed of self-confidence, too. Something I desperately was seeking at that time in my life. Despite the fact that Sue had most all the qualities I was seeking for my new circle of friends at my new university, I never allowed Sue into the circle.

In retrospect, I’m not certain that she tried that hard to get in, but I’m not equally certain I tried too hard to let her in either. So I spent two years at The W, graduated with big dreams to make a huge mark on the world of journalism and life, well, proverbially went on.

From time to time I often find myself reminiscing about those two years I spent at The W. Although I still keep in contact with a handful of folks I met there, and I’m grateful for their constant and supportive friendship, I sometimes find myself wondering what happened to several of the people I
genuinely believed would be lifelong friends, too. On several occasions I have tried to get in contact with some of them. Many I’ve located and have attempted to get them more active in my life today; others I think are just content to not have me in their lives now. And I’m learning to deal with both scenarios.
Even believing that, though, doesn’t keep me from the desire to simply reconnect with some of those special folks from that very significant time of my life and have them become a significant part of my little corner of the world today.

Recently, I’ve reconnected with two people thanks to the magic of the “social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.”

One of these people now lives in North Georgia. Hilary entered The W shortly after I had graduated from there and became a member of my social club, the Dixie Belles. I’d be lying if I said I totally remembered her when I first received her friend request on Facebook. There had been a lot of that proverbial water travel under that proverbial bridge and, well, my memory sometime isn’t what it used to be. I knew I was supposed to know her, really I did. I was just having a bit of trouble placing her. After a couple of messages between me and my little sister, Dawn, I totally remembered Hilary and was even more glad she had contacted me.

For the past few weeks we have been able to catch up on our lives now and get to know one another even better. It truly feels like a blessing to be given this opportunity and it’s one I am truly thankful for receiving.

The other person I’ve reconnected with during the last few weeks? You guessed it, Sue. A couple of days ago, I was checking my Facebook account and noticed I had a new friend request. Clicking on that link, I was ecstatic to see it was from Sue. For an entire day, I attempted to find the time and the words to send her an email and let her know how much reconnecting with her means to me.

Later that afternoon, I got the opportunity to just tell her in person. Well, as much “in person” as you can be using the chat module on Facebook (yet another thing that makes reconnecting with folks via the Internet a unique and special thing). The more I began trying to tell her what was in my heart, the more I seemed to stumble over my words. Eventually, though, I was able to share with her some things that I’d waited more than several decades to let her know.

And I have to believe some of what I said meant as much to her to hear as it did to me to be able to let her know.

I’ve been given a special gift via what some folks consider an unorthodoxed manner – a second chance to get to know someone. This time I don’t intend to blow the opportunity.