Know thyself.. if you have time

Recently I was picking out a birthday present for my just-turned four year-old great-niece. It was a pretty easy task, and not just because she already has a deep attachment to bling, pretty dresses and Dora. (Thank God for Dora, the one non-princess in her life.)

No, it was easy because we just spent a week at the beach together. I saw her when she first got up and I saw her going off to bed and I saw her for most of the hours in-between. We played together and ate together and went to the movies together. Having watched her play, I knew she loved to color. So when I found the coloring books filled with pictures of Dora and various Disney princesses, I knew I had a winner.

I knew her because I spend time with her. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. It seems that I keep seeing people (including, at times, the one in the mirror) who feel like strangers to themselves (myself). It’s not hard to figure out why. They(we) haven’t spent much time with themselves (ourselves).

I can hear you sputtering in protest from here. You already have so much to do and now I’m going to make you feel guilty for not adding one more thing onto your plate. Well gosh, I hope not.

It’s not about adding one more thing onto our schedules, except those times when it is. Sometimes we have to say no to somethings in order to carve out a little time just to be with ourselves. More and more I find myself turning off the TV at night (or never turning it on) so that I can have some time. Just time to read a book that makes me think or to play with my dogs, which both reminds me of how much I’m loved and how much I need not to take myself too seriously.

But we can also clear out the time as we go about our day. Brother Lawrence found in the humble, repetitive act of washing dishes a time for prayer and devotion and growing in faith.  As I walk my dog I can spend the time rehashing (and beating myself up for) a mistake I made or I think I made. Or I can reflect on my life, where the itch of neglected dreams or unacknowledged pain is making me uncomfortable. I can look at what I didn’t handle so well and think about ways to do it better next time (which is completely different for beating myself over the head for being stupid, not that YOU’VE ever done that).

Even if our lives are challenging, when we are living in concert with our own best selves there is a flow that feels right and good. But first we have to take some time to be with those best selves. How are you intentional with your day? How do you find time to get to know yourself?

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Do you have your copy yet? Strugglers, Stragglers and Seekers: daily devotions for the rest of us is  in print. you can get your copy here and here. Local folks stay tuned for book signing announcements.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

from amazon review…

“As an admitted straggler, my Bible has more than a layer of dust on it. Peggy’s book is more than enough of a reason to dust yours off (come on, I know I am not the only one, here, right?). In this work, she takes Bible passages and brings them to the present day complete with our modern struggles, humor, and hope. I only received this book 5 days ago and already I feel more connected to my faith. I am reminded that living with mindful intention is at the heart of moving from being a faithful person in word to becoming a faithful person in action.”

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My Best Workout Ever

It’s early yet, but it may well turn out to be the best possible training session for my upcoming triathlon. It wasn’t a series of laps and drills in the pool, as important as those are. It wasn’t a run or a bike ride or even a brick workout (biking followed immediately by running), as necessary as all of those are. 

My pivotal workout was this: I played. In the pool. With a six year old. 

We raced. We jumped in the pool about a thousand times, mostly jumping together to create the biggest splash. I hurled his sixty-pound self in the air and into the water. I spent a lot of time treading water while waiting for him to jump or to swim to me or for my turn up the ladder. We had splash fights.

I didn’t count laps or do warm-ups or concentrate on form. I played. In the water. With a six year old.

Later that day when I went to the lap pool for an official practice, something was different. Something big. A week ago I felt awkward but now I moved through the water as if I belonged there. I felt more confident.

I’d reconnected with my inner fish. I’d reconnected with the girl who used to spend hours in the pool. Not racing. Playing. My body remembered what it was like to swim for the sake of swimming, swimming to get from the Marco Polo game to the slide, swimming just because I could.

As adults, we spend lots of time working. We work at our jobs. We work on our golf games or running times or tennis strokes. We work on the house or the yard. We work on ourselves. I’ve done all those things and even enjoyed most of the doing of them.

But sometimes when we are so strongly focused on work we forget the magic of play. I will sometimes give a client an assignment to try something new. Maybe it’s a new way of thinking or of reacting or a new tool for channeling emotions or dealing with stress. “I don’t want you to work on it,” I tell them, sometimes to their surprise. “Play around with it.”

When we play, we’re more relaxed. We’re focused on the moment of the thing, not some goal we have to accomplish. We play at this thing until we’re ready to play at something else. In the pool with my six year old buddy, I didn’t have a quota of jumps that had to be made before I could call it a day. We just jumped until we grew tired of it then moved on to something else. It didn’t mean that we had failed or done the jumps wrong or not lived up to our potential.

Allow yourself some time this weekend to play. If you run, for once leave the watch at home and just enjoy being outside and seeing the things you see. If you’re trying to make changes in your life, play around with what it feels like to go a day or an afternoon as the person you want to be. You don’t have to make a lifetime commitment. Just play with it.

There are time for goals and to-do lists. But there is also a time for play.

Who knows? That time may wind up being the time that makes all the difference.

Opportunities missed

Recently I manned (or is it personed?) the West Summit Publishing booth at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathering. People came by to buy books, sample candy (we had the best in the exhibit hall) or try to figure out what we were about. (My favorite comment: A man walks up and reads the “West Summit Publishing” banner over our booth. He scans the table full of books and enlarged pictures of book covers. Then he asks, “What do you do?” I wanted to answer “conga dancing” but refrained.)

I had several people, maybe as many as four or five, stop to tell me they had a book or were writing a book. I talked with them about their project. For most of them I had to tell them that because we are a small company with a well-defined niche, their project wasn’t an appropriate project for us.

I offered them something else. “If you email me,” I said, handing them  a rack card with my email address on it, “I will send you an email with everything I know and have learned about publishing options and how to pursue them.”

pathwayYou have to understand, this is no small thing. Stepping out into the world of publishing, whether you are looking for someone to publish your work or publishing it yourself, can be a confusing and overwhelming place. I was offering to cut through some of the clutter for them, to share what I’ve learned after investing a lot of hours in research.

It’s been a couple of weeks. I know it’s summer and people are busy with vacations and the like. Maybe people will eventually get around to sorting through the stuff they picked up in the exhibit area and will email me. But to date, not a single person has taken me up on my offer.

Maybe they didn’t think I would do it. Maybe it seemed too intimidating for them even to consider – all they want to do is write books and not have to bother with the rest of it. I don’t know. All I know is that if someone had offered such thing to me I would have sent the email that night.

The experience has made me wonder about the humber of opportunities that we neglect, the gifts that people are waiting to give us but we cannot allow ourselves to receive. Sometimes it’s the gift of a friendship, or a helping hand. Or the gift of an opportunity to do something or go somewhere that we never dreamed we’d get. even so, we talk ourselves out of it. We  can’t take the time. We’d have to get shots. We’d have to find something to do with the dog. In our anxiety and fear, we take small speed bumps and turn them into the Alps.

Or maybe we just figure that it’s too good to be true. Even when it isn’t.

I think that it was Julia Cameron who said that sometimes we not only look a gift horse in the mouth, we swat them on the rump to get them out of our lives.

So what opportunities are you ignoring?

 

Stray dogs and Strange People

Stray dogs and Strange People

Maybe you’ve seen the video. A shelter dog is scheduled to be put down. Absolutely terrified of people, he’s not exactly a great candidate for a family who wants a cuddly pet. But then something extraordinary happens.

The dog who was scared of people

As  I watched the video I thought of my own Ralphie. We don’t know exactly what he’s lived through, only that he showed up in a rescuer’s yard wearing a choke collar with a clothesline tied to it. He’d chewed through that line to get away.

Now a happy dog
Now a happy dog

He still has the occasional moments of fear and even terror but mostly he’s happy dog who’s at home in this world. In fact, he’s even gotten a little full of himself at times. It makes me smile to see him happy and relaxed and  to see his utter and overwhelming delight in visiting the dog park.

But I also thought of people whom I’ve known. Some of them I’ve worked with in various capacities and some have just crossed my path. In my younger years, before I’d spent untold hours listening to people and their stories, I would have judged these people harshly. I’m not proud to admit it but I would have been put off by whatever made them different. I’d wonder what in the world was wrong with them that made them unable to look me in the eye. Or why they didn’t take care of themselves better. Or for heaven’s sake, why were they so angry all of the time?

And then I began listening. The more I listened the more I realized that we’re all just trying to get through this life the best way we know how. Sometimes our path has been made easier by a kind family or great opportunities. Sometimes we have fallen into functional and socially acceptable ways of surviving.

And then there are those other folks. If we knew the whole story we’d realize how wrong we were in thinking they weren’t doing very well. Indeed, they have been walking a hero’s journey. Sometimes the fact that they’ve gotten out of bed and been willing to try for one more day is as great of an accomplishment as anyone could be expected to achieve in one single day. Sometimes they are angry or scared or standoff-ish because life has taught them to be that way. Sometimes they think so little of themselves because everyone else in their lives has had the same opinion.

We cannot always create the kind of swift transformation seen in this video. We cannot always rescue, or even help other people rescue themselves. But at the very least we can, as best we can, walk through this world with kindness.  For all that we see there is much we will not know.

And sometimes, just sometimes, a little patience and a little kindness makes all the difference.

 

It’s Always Something

A friend commented today that she wasn’t getting my blog anymore. I had to come clean and admit that she wasn’t getting one because I hadn’t written anything in a few days. Well, almost a month if you’re going to be picky about it.

This is the cover.
This is the cover.

A large portion of my time was spent getting my latest book finished and ready to be launched last week. I’m glad to announce that the book is finished, printed and sent out into the world.

People have asked me how long it took to write. Here’s the thing: when you write a year’s worth of daily devotions you’re pretty much setting yourself up for writing about 366 devotions. (My former 6th grade teacher checked to make sure I’d remembered leap year provisions. I did.)

I started writing a lifetime ago; really, several lifetimes. Life kept interrupting me and throwing me off course. Accident and injury. Healing and physical therapy. Illness and death of people close to me. Sorting through a lifetime of memories in the form of a house and its contents. Caring for people who had cared for me.

My first year as an Associate Minister I kept waiting for the “slow time of the year.” About the time I celebrated my first anniversary there  I realized there was no such thing. With this book, I kept waiting for the “slow time,” the time when things would settle down. Still waiting.

Because, as Rosanne Rosannadanna reminded us, it’s always something. (Here’s a link in case you missed the comedy treasure that was Gilda Radner.) If you wait for the perfect time to write a book, to write a letter, to right a wrong you’ll never do it. Because there is no perfect time. There are only times that are marginally more manageable than others.

What are you waiting for? what are you waiting to do? Who are you waiting to be?

Now’s as good a time as any other to start.