Where everybody knows your name

Not actually us.

The other night I spent a wonderful evening sharing dinner with a group of friends. I don’t even know how long we’ve known each other. Years ago we started as a group¬†for women clergy in town. As we discussed what the group might be, we considered being a book group or a sermon preparation group.. and then we decided that we mainly wanted just to talk with each other.

And so we did. Every month we gathered at someone’s house – or later, my office. We had tea and coffee and talked about our work. And our lives. We met together for years until finally people started moving away… Texas. New Mexico. Winston-Salem. (okay, which one of those does not fit with the other?) Occasionally now one of our southwestern sisters comes through town and we get together.

The other night as the day grew short and our time together grew long, I watched this group. I appreciated the ease with which we are together with each other. We shared from our hearts, the good, bad and indifferent places. People offered encouragement and support. People offered new possibilities. We experienced community.

I’ve thought about that night a lot this week. So many of the people whom I see are hungry for that kind of community. “Cheers” was based on a place “where everybody knows your name” and I think there is within us a longing for those kinds of places. Places where they know our name. Where they know our heart.

But such community doesn’t just walk up to our door. It doesn’t happen without investment. And that’s where a lot of us flounder.

We create time for everything else in our schedules except each other. Or with the first sign of a disagreement, we’re done. We walk away. We never risk allowing ourselves to take the risk of deepening relationships. We forget how important friendships can be.

Community is messy. Community is demanding. Community is risky. But when it happens, it is priceless.

This week, pick up the phone, open up your e-mail, log onto Facebook… and reach out to someone. Someone from whom you’ve drifted away. Someone with whom you’d like to have a closer friendship.

It can’t start without opening the door.



Running with Eeyore

ImageI think I’m running alone. But as I start my run, I realize that he’s there again. Eeyore.

“You can never do this,” he mournfully observes as my legs struggle through a warm-up. “This isn’t working out.”

By now I’ve learned that it takes me a good two miles to get warmed up. Still, he doesn’t stop. “You just don’t have it today. You should stop.” It’s hard enough to get warmed up without having to haul a stubborn, sad donkey along behind me. But he’s still there.

“You don’t even look like a runner. Just a few blocks and you’re struggling. You’ll never run all that way. Might as well give up now.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned though my time of running, it’s to ignore Eeyore. His voice will eventually fade. And on those days when it doesn’t I run anyway, taking comfort that even today I’ve lapped everyone who is still on the couch. I’ve learned not to give Eeyore a vote on my run.

Maybe your voice isn’t Eeyore. And maybe it isn’t about running. Maybe your voice is Mom or Dad or your third grade teacher telling you that you’re always a screw-up. Or you’ll never do anything right. Or be as smart or as successful as your brother. Maybe it’s the voice of a wounded part of you that never got past that wounded experience and now warns you that things will never work out, that the other shoe will always drop.

We all have voices in our head. We all have different tapes of messages we’ve absorbed. While we don’t always have a choice about when those tapes start playing, we do have a choice as to how much we listen to them and how much weight we give to them.

One of the first tasks is to identify whose voice it is. Where did that message come from? If you don’t know, that’s okay. But it can be powerful to correctly name the source. Sometimes I’ll ask clients to make the voice into a cartoon character, like I did with Eeyore. When we do that, the voice loses some of its power.

We can also make a choice as to which voices we listen to in our heads. We can choose to allow empowering voices drown out the voices of fear or self-doubt. For example, lately I’ve been thinking about a man named Lewis Ludlum. Lewis was in our church and was himself a minister. (Lewis was such ¬†passionate believer in equality for women he asked that I be one of his pallbearers, and I was.) As I grew up and began writing, Lewis began coming up with projects I could do. I remember a note he sent to me outlining one of those projects. “You can do it,” he said. “We need what you have to offer.”

You can do it. We need what you have to offer. Now that’s a powerful and empowering tape.

Occasionally those negative voices are so powerful they screen out or dismiss the positive ones and so we genuinely don’t remember receiving them. In those cases, we can become our own best advocates. What are the messages that can empower you today?

I’m not a track star and in races I’m generally aiming to finish the race before they start taking down the finish line. If I try to tell myself that I’m going to run like the wind, I’m not going to be able to get anywhere because Eeyore will be laughing too hard. But if I tell myself, “I can do this… all I have to do is take the next step…” That’s a tape that I can play louder than Eeyore can complain.

What about you? Who are you listening to?