Sunday, May 19th, 2013 at
Source: fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net via Vera V. on Pinterest
There’s something therapeutic in ridding ourselves of things we no longer need. Never is this more obvious than as you pack up your belongings in preparation of a move. If you have had a moving experience anything like ours, you most likely found yourself standing in the middle of a room of “must-haves” of years past asking yourself, “Where did all this junk come from, and why in the world do I still have it?!”
It is incredible just how much we can accumulate. Nine years ago I arrived in America with a single suitcase and a box of bedroom essentials. I was beginning a new life and I didn’t need much other than hopeful ambition. Boy, what an eye-opening experience to be hit with the realization that I have since then somehow acquired a 3 bedroom house filled to the brim! (The word “pack rat” was uttered more than just a few times by my sweet, frustrated husband as we tried in vain to pack it all in a 8x8x16 foot POD.)
Yesterday as I was visiting with a friend, her adorable 3 year-old son caught my eye. I watched him as he walked around the yard picking up seemingly meaningless things, carefully placing them in his pocket while exclaiming his delight. “I found a treasure!” he would squeel in the most adorable way. As his pockets got heavier and heavier, his smile grew bigger and bigger. He was such a happy little collector, proud of his belongings.
I couldn’t help but look at the many “treasures” in front of me and realize that I had done the same thing over the past 9 years. Unfortunately, my pockets had reached their limits and the writing was on the wall: it was time to clean house.
Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, May 5th, 2013 at
There’s little in this world more powerful than friendship, isn’t there? Elbert Hubbard believed that “a friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” Though it is incredibly liberating to lay your soul bare to someone and to find that they love you anyway, I have learned that friendship doesn’t require such depth to still have profound impact. I’m sure you’ve experienced, as I have, that the kindness of new acquaintances can warm the heart equally.
Just as I started to write this post, my phone rang – a thoughtful coworker inviting me to have dinner with her family this evening. Though we’ve only known each other for about a month, she knew that being without my partner at the moment meant that weekends tend to get very long. But did she have to open her home to me? Absolutely not. So in this and other selfless invitations, she has shown herself to be the kind of friend that I aspire to be.
I’ve been lucky to know many friends whose selflessness and generosity have simply blown me away – mostly because if I’m honest with myself, I’m not certain that I have done the same for them as I should have. I admit ashamedly that once I met my partner, David, it became much more comfortable for me to stay at home with him instead of making time to visit with friends or do things for others. Never was this more obvious to me than during our recent move. I had several friends who went out of their way to help me pack boxes and visit before our departure.
Who in the world wants to pack boxes when they don’t have to? No-one, that’s who. But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it? REAL friends do the things that they really don’t have to or want to do. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, April 21st, 2013 at
One beautiful spring morning, a farmer and his wife strolled leisurely through their land admiring the colorful buds that brought the promise of new beginnings. The wife noticed a small cocoon hidden on a shaded leaf, with a tiny little caterpillar working tirelessly to break through its confines. Together, the farmer and his wife watched the caterpillar for some time, witnessing him wiggle and push through an impossibly small hole, only to have to retreat back into the cocoon when his attempts failed.
The farmer’s wife started growing anxious that the poor little caterpillar would not be able to break free of the cocoon and that he would eventually die there. “Let’s help him, honey” she urged her husband. “That poor little thing must be exhausted from the struggle!” Eager to please his wife, the farmer responded, “We could very easily help him. We could make the hole bigger so he could wiggle his way free without any trouble.” “Yes! Let’s do that!” the wife responded enthusiastically, nudging to the knife in the farmer’s pocket.
“We could do that,” the farmer said gently, “but that might hurt more than help, my love.” His wife looked up at him with a confused expression. Guided by his deep understanding of nature, the farmer responded, “Do you think it is possible that the caterpillar is not yet able to break free of his shell because it isn’t time yet? We could very easily come to his rescue, my love, but perhaps he still has some growing to do in there. If we let him free of his struggle, his wings might not have developed in full yet, and he might not ever be able to fly like he was intended to.”
Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, April 14th, 2013 at
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” Isn’t that the truth! It really is amazing what can happen when you are surrounded by just the right people at just the right time. And conversely, it is unfortunate how uninspired life can be when you don’t have the right people in our corner. Relationships are incredibly powerful.
My close friends have heard me say that although I have met some truly wonderful people during my 8 years of living in Mississippi, I didn’t ever feel like I had found “my people.” By this I didn’t mean people who were just like me, nor did I mean people from a specific race, culture, or religion. (Though arguably, commonalities do help in establishing meaningful relationships). Beyond the satisfying relationships I had formed with friends and loved ones, perhaps not much different to you, I longed to be surrounded by people who would make my soul come alive and those who would inspire and challenge me to push towards greatness – particularly with regards to my career.
Please know I’m not saying those kinds of people don’t exist in Mississippi. History is full of stories about those who have been inspired there to do hugely important things. I guess I just didn’t find those who seemed to speak my language until I moved to my new home – a tiny college town in upstate New York. The many conversations I have been involved in here have been nothing short of invigorating and inspiring. Though I’ve worked to push myself to bigger things throughout my life, there is something priceless about being surrounded by living examples of people chasing their fire. I have left such conversations feeling as if I could do absolutely anything.
Finding Your “People”
Knowing how powerful such relationships can be, I want to encourage you to also seek out your own “people.” You will know them by the electricity that they bring to your every day and the way that they excite you about your future. Seek out the people:
Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at
If you’ve been following my recent posts, you will recall that I started a new job this past week in upstate New York after relocating from Mississippi, where I have lived for the past 8 years. You can imagine that taking the leap of faith involved in moving 20+ hours North from our friends and loved ones was rather nerve wracking. But I vowed to follow the advise I’ve been offering on Chasing Your Fire about pursuing your passion and doing the brave thing, so I closed my eyes and prayed for a soft landing on the other side.
Reflecting on this past week, I am thrilled to report that embarking on this adventure is undoubtedly one of the best decisions that I have made in a really, really long time. Again life proved to me how important it is to move beyond your comfort zone. Despite my Southern friends’ warnings about the coldness of “Northern folk,” I have only met absolutely wonderful, genuine people who have welcomed me sincerely and warmly at every opportunity. As I write this, I feel more at home, invigorated, and happy than I have in a long time.
This experience has reminded me how beautiful and wonderfully unpredictable life is. As we close one chapter of our lives (whatever that might look like), a next chapter is always waiting, ready to be discovered. Like a gripping novel, if we keep flipping the pages, we’ll find that so many exciting, wonderful details of our stories are yet to unfold.
So this week I want to pose you with a challenge. There is an activity often used in counseling, called, “My Life As A Book,” that encourages reflection on the past, present and future chapters of our lives. I have included it below because it is so important to allow ourselves time to think about the tough stuff. Happy soul searching, friends!
Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, March 31st, 2013 at
Last week I started a 2-part post to share with you the 10 most important lessons that I have learned the hard way. Many of these I’ve shared with you over the past year, though some are new.
To not bog you down with too much reading at one time, I shared the first 4 lessons in the previous post, and this week I’ll share the final 6. Though your experiences might be much different from mine, I believe these to be universal truths to be applied to many different circumstances. I hope you will find them useful.
5. When the going gets tough, get some perspective.
Sometimes when we are in the thick of a struggle it can be all-consuming. Like a horse wearing blinders, we develop tunnel vision, and as we focus on the darkness, we shut out the light. We forget the big picture, along with the many things in our lives that are still going right. So instead, always expand your field of vision beyond the problems that you are facing. Take a step back, and ask yourself: “is it really as bad as I think? Is it possible that I’m focusing in too deep and getting overwhelmed by my emotions?” Remember, your problems are almost always smaller than they seem.
6. Invest in others.
The desire to be happy and feel loved unites us all, so do what you can to bring joy to the lives of those around you. Spend time in your community to help others meet their needs and fulfill their potential. There is incredible reward in knowing that you have done something meaningful for another person, however small. It can also make you forget about the realities of your own circumstance for a few minutes and give you additional, often much-needed, perspective.
Read the rest of this entry
Monday, March 25th, 2013 at
After a fun night of celebration and farewells surrounded by our closest friends, I woke up this morning (my last week in Oxford before our departure to New York) with an incredible sense of gratitude for the many experiences (both good and bad) that we’ve been blessed with in this small little town. Eight years ago I arrived in Oxford carrying a single suitcase, armed with hopeful ambition and a strong South African accent. I was looking forward to making new friends, excited to expand both my knowledge and horizons, and eager to impress those I met.
Unfortunately, this chapter of my life didn’t always read as easily as I had hoped. Though making friends had come pretty naturally to me throughout my life in various contexts, this small Southern town didn’t quite know what to do with me at first. I soon learned that when there is a nail sticking out like a sore thumb, someone is bound to grab a hammer and try to put it in its place. There were definitely a few tough years at the beginning (and even tougher relationships) that I’ve had to work hard to forgive and forget, but as I was enveloped by the friendship and care in the room last night I knew with certainty that it was all worth it.
I thought I’d share with you the 10 most important lessons that I am taking away from this chapter of my life. Many I’ve shared with you over the past year, though some are new. In the interest of space, I’ll share the first 4 lessons this week and the last 6 next Monday. Though your experiences might be much different than mine, I believe these to be universal truths to be applied to many different circumstances. I hope you will find them useful. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, March 17th, 2013 at
I’ve always been a firm believer that comfort is overrated. I blame my parents for that, because they showed me at an early age that so much good can come from doing the hard thing. You see, as a child, our family moved around a lot for my dad’s work. I went to several different schools, each time getting uprooted and transplanted somewhere new. Though there were times that I cried for old friends and dreaded that first day of being the new kid on the block, it was mostly overshadowed by a sense of excitement in not knowing what would come next.
I am so thankful to my parents for teaching me to embrace the unpredictable. It was those experiences that eventually led my fearless 20-something self to leave South Africa in pursuit of an education in America. Sometimes I still can’t believe that I chose (seemingly without hesitation) to literally leave everything and every single person that I knew behind in search of adventure.
I often say that I was a lot braver when I was younger. Now, just about a decade later, I’ve become a bit more cautious in the face of adventure. I’ve asked myself whether it is because I am now grown up with more responsibilities, or whether I am just too darn comfortable where I am. It might be a little bit of both. Let’s be honest, it sure does feel all warm and fuzzy when you know what to expect from each day. And it sure is nice not to have to worry about too much, and to just keep trucking along the same road, doing the same thing.
It’s a common desire to create for ourselves a cocoon of comfort. Outside of that warm, protective casing, it can seem like a big and scary world. As we consider taking a peak outside we tell ourselves stories of what dangers might be lurking there, and so we retreat back to the familiar once more. The result is that many of us choose never to break free of our little nests. For my husband and I, that has been a little college town called Oxford, Mississippi – a place we’ve called home for 8 years. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, March 10th, 2013 at
This week I had to take a long hard look in the mirror. Without realizing it, I had grown so resentful of someone whom I once called a friend, that I couldn’t be in this person’s company or see pictures of them on my newsfeed without the bitter ooze of hatred burning in the depths of my soul. Somehow, in the midst of the harsh realities of a relationship gone bad, I had grown so angry that I couldn’t bear to see the happiness of a person who had caused me such relentless, seemingly unnecessary pain.
It had happened so slowly over time that I found myself suddenly surprised by what my feelings for this person had become. I was also taken aback by what I had become in the process – someone I didn’t know or like very much to be honest. Suddenly I understood the truth in Shannon Adler’s statement, “Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others-- it only changes yours.”
It became clear to me that I had to do something about the bitterness in my heart because I couldn’t allow it to keep growing. And as this is a place where I share the lessons I have often learned the hard way, I thought my (very humbling) epiphany worth sharing with those of you who also find yourself living through the aftermath of a hurtful relationship.
Here are five things to remember when trying to overcome resentment: Read the rest of this entry
Sunday, March 3rd, 2013 at
Let’s be honest, there have been times when we’ve all just wanted to fall down into a puddle on the floor over something awful that happened. I remember, for instance, with painstaking clarity the first time (and each thereafter) that my heart was broken into a million pieces by a careless boy, the time that I first learned that my Mother has cancer, and the time that I was told that my Mother-in-Law had passed away in her sleep. My knees literally gave out under the heaviness of my heart, and somewhere deep inside of me I just knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
Life has a way of doing that. You know, not quite working out as we had planned. Sometimes we look at the broken pieces of ourselves and wonder how we will ever get put back together again. Life just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense most of the time, because despite our best efforts at controlling everything around us, life is frustratingly unpredictable. It happens, with or without our permission.
One thing I’ve learned, as I’m sure you have, is that pain does pass in time. Though we might not have ever thought it possible, out of the brokenness of life’s biggest disasters come an undeniable sense of renewal and strength. Think back for a moment on the last thing that happened that completely shattered your world. Now consider where you are today. Not only are you still kicking, but you have proven yourself to be stronger than you could have ever imagined, haven’t you? Read the rest of this entry