“Unanimity is impossible unless you are willing to be invisible. We can be unanimous in our lack of feedback for the invisible one.” ~Seth Godin
Seth Godin wrote a post a few days ago called For the one person who didn’t get the joke. As is typical of his posts, this is a short, quick read that still makes a profound point. (Yes, that’s my encouragement to take a moment to go read it for yourself. It’s worth it!)
There will always be someone who does not appreciate each creative thing I may make. This is true of my writing, the jewelry I make, the things I crochet, the food I cook, the way I dress, my style in decorating. I can’t please everyone.
Today was one of those days that has left me really frustrated with myself. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but sometimes I have days that force me realize that I’m really not the person I want to believe myself to be.
I tend to be too judgmental, too controlling, too critical. I am often unkind, stingy, and impatient. I talk much more than I should, and I so often say things that I later regret (sometimes no sooner than the words are out of my mouth).
I make commitments time and again to listen better, to talk less, to be kinder and more generous and more tolerant. But if there is any change, it so often seems to be at a glacial pace.
Our culture tends to idolize the macho, the tough, the strong, those that never share or display their wounded hearts. We instinctively hide our vulnerable parts in order to keep those tender and wounded places safe.
This is sometimes a necessity because there are many times and places where it would not be safe to let our vulnerability show. But when we find those moments of safety where we can risk letting down our guards and letting others in, our vulnerability often becomes a magnet to others who discover in us the freedom to expose their own vulnerability. Giving each other glimpses behind the masks that we so often wear allows us to see a bit of the true beauty that each human being holds.
“Here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallways and touching the walls on both sides. I can’t tell you how good it feels.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
I’ve written several times about my struggles with hope, the way that I resist it, the way that it survives deep inside even when I think I’ve sacrificed it, the way it rises from its own ashes. For me, hope has long been both a painful struggle and a necessity, and the attempt to integrate those two aspects of it has not been a smooth road by any means.
“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” ~Natalie Goldberg
The past few years have been hard on me. They have involved an awful lot of very big changes for me and that has meant spending a lot of time putting myself out there in new ways that were risky and often did not have much support. And I’ve done a lot more failing and encountering devastating criticism* and subtle undermining doubts from others than I had expected.
I’ve been realizing lately just how much this experience is leading me to focus on safety and hiding. I increasingly measure everything I do, every decision I make, and everything I say by how likely it is to provoke criticism (direct or indirect) from others. I spend a lot of time hiding—my gifts, my knowledge, my abilities, my preferences, my self—from people around me in an attempt to stave off more criticism and thus feel safe again.
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel
One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a YouTube video of a flash mob that grew over the course of the performance into a full orchestra (including timpanis!) and choir. I love watching videos of flash mobs like this one as much to watch the reactions of the surprised audience as to hear the quality of the performance.
As with many of these that I watch, I am struck by the number of adults who exhibit little expression even though they may stay to watch and listen to the performers. I do see a few people smiling, and there is one gentleman at about the 4 minute mark whose whole face lights up with delight and clearly mouths an amazed “Wow!” as he arrives on the scene, but there is much less reaction than I would expect from suddenly finding a full orchestra and choir doing an impromptu performance in the middle of a public space.
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~e.e. cummings
I waited many years for someone to reveal that what was inside me was valuable—and I’m sure there were those along the way that tried, but there were always so many other negative voices, both within and without, that drown them out. And so I could not receive the message, even if it was there.
I am not a big fan of spiders, and I am even less a fan of their webs—especially if those webs touch my skin. The feel of them with their stickiness creeps me out. And yet, I do marvel at the beauty of the those webs, particularly when covered in early morning dew that makes them glisten in the sunlight.
The dogged persistence of these creatures in creating such beautifully fragile structures is something that I can appreciate. It amazes how quickly they are able to rebuild their webs after one is destroyed using only these small threads that come from their own body—threads that are strong enough to catch their prey and yet remain so vulnerable to larger creatures and objects that pass right through them.
It reminds me of how easily the circumstances of my own life can be shredded by things much larger than I. When those times come, I have acted as the spider and rebuilt using the resources that I find within my self when I am forced to dig deep within. I am very fortunate to face such destruction and rebuilding much less often than the spider and to have much more outside support in the rebuilding process when it is necessary, but I am still inspired by the powerful image of her patiently rebuilding her life/web over and over again every time she needs to using the resources she finds within herself.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because the world needs people who have come alive.” ~Howard Thurman
I shared recently about the struggles I’ve been having trying to determine what I’m meant to do with my life and what it is that I have to offer. I received such an outpouring of support and encouragement in response to this, both here on the blog and privately, that it really amazed me. Thank you to all of you who reached out!
I’ve often heard it said that people tend to take their best gifts for granted because those things come so naturally to them. I know this is true in my experience. People have often commented on how organized I am (particularly in a work setting—less so in my personal life), but I tend not to think of that as a strength of mine because it’s not something I work at. It’s just how my brain works.
Almost two years ago now, in the Fall of 2010, I found myself listening to Jana Stanfield’s song “If I Were Brave” over and over again. I posted a video she made of the song that included photos fans sent in of the brave things they had done in their lives along with a list of the things I would do if I were brave (this is really worth watching for some inspiration!).
A friend recently re-discovered the video and posted it to Facebook, which got me thinking about that old list and wondering how I was doing. I’ve accomplished quite a few of those things in the last (not quite) two years, decided not to pursue others because they weren’t as aligned with my direction as I’d once thought, and I still have a long way to go on some others. Here’s an update on how I’m doing.