Several months ago I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by some work related responsibilities and deadlines. The to-do list kept growing and growing and my energy reserves kept shrinking and shrinking. One day I thought, “It would just be easier not to.”
Isn’t that so true?
It’s easier not to.
It’s easier not to try. It’s easier not to change. It’s easier not to put yourself out there, not to speak up. It’s easier not to be vulnerable, not to take the risk of uncertainty and exposure. It’s easier not to unpack the baggage that keeps tripping you up. It’s easier to quit when it gets hard. It’s easier to believe you can’t. It’s easier to keep doing the things you’ve always done even though you know they are bad for you. It’s easier not to choose health.
Or is it?
I’ve thought about this phrase a lot since that day. I’ve thought about how true it feels, yet how dangerous this belief is. Yes, it is easier… in the short term.
In the short term.
That’s the key.
It’s easier not to in the short term. But in the long term, that easy path turns into a pothole filled road. Choosing not to rarely leads us to where we want to be or who we were created to be. Choosing not to leaves us outside the arena looking in. And when we are on the outside looking in that is when we are most likely to be judgmental and critical of those who are on the inside.
Isn’t that the kicker? We choose not to, but then we resent those who choose YES over NO. When we choose not to, we end up staring through the window and watching as people pursue new adventures and opportunities, as they unload their cumbersome past, as they make healthy changes that bear sweet fruit. We end up staring through that window as we wrestle with the most uncomfortable of emotions- resentment, regret, fear, and frustration.
No, it’s not easier not to. It feels like it in the short term. It feels like it, but although our feelings are valid, they are not always true.
Everybody has those days when it feels easier not to. That’s normal. The challenge is how do you keep picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. How do you keep going?
We keep going by learning when we need to sit and be still and when we need to move. Sometimes the very thing we need is rest. Stepping away from the problem and doing something totally unrelated might be the very thing that gives you the perspective you need. Giving yourself compassion and validation that this is a tough mountain to climb is often just what the doctor ordered. More often than not, sharing your frustration, concern, and anxiety with a trusted loved one gives you the ounce of energy you need to keep moving forward. We keep going by refocusing on why is this so important to us anyway. Why does this matter to us? What do we feel called to do? When you push through the temptation to choose not to over I’m going to, you move closer to your unique purpose and farther away from your fears. Yeah it may feel easier not to. But when you choose not to, you miss the blessing.
I hope this week you give yourself the rest or compassion or time with loved ones you need to continue in your journey. Choose long term over short term. Choose purpose over fear. Choose the blessing.
Do you ever have those days when you think, “It would just be easier not to”? How are you learning to choose “I’m going to” over “not to”? Which path are you choosing today?
I turned the page of my calendar earlier this week and noticed that Spring officially starts on Thursday. The back and forth of our weather lately certainly has most of us anxious for consistently warmer temps and sunnier days. I love Spring, and I love Spring in Atlanta. It is really quite breathtaking. One of the reasons I love Spring is because with this changing of the seasonal guard, we literally witness in nature one of life’s most important lessons.
Just when we think there is no way life and beauty could emerge out of the cold, dreariness of our lives, Spring always comes.
After witnessing the magnificent reds, yellows, and oranges of Fall, Winter begins to set in. The lingering signs of Fall’s grandeur appear on trees here and there, and sometimes those leaves trick you into believing that maybe winter will not come this year. Like those leaves hanging despite being whipped around by wind and rain, you hang onto the remnants of your Summer dreams and Fall glory days. You hang onto the relationship hoping the other person will change. You hang onto the hope that your job won’t be cut. You hang onto the hope that this time, this time, things will be different.
But Winter does come. One day you get the call or the text or the email, and you realize it’s done. You’ve been given your answer, and it is not the one you wanted. There’s nothing left to hang onto. The relationship, the dream, the plan is gone… dead. You’re not sure what to do next or where to turn .
And you start to wonder where is this road going and when will it end. All you know is that your winter of discontent feels extremely isolating. The loneliness of this journey simultaneously fills you and drains you.
But one day, you lift your head and you see it… you see signs of life.
You sees signs of life, signs of hope. You discover buds of new found hope, of new found energy. You start thinking of a new plan. You start putting yourself out there again. You come out of hibernation and you start slowly living again.
With each step forward, that cold, dark endless road turns into a beautiful, lush path.
With each step forward, you feel more alive and more like yourself… except not your old self, but a new, reborn self. Your reborn self is stronger, livelier, and bolder. You learn your Winter was not the end; it was just the end of that season. Your Spring means another chance to fulfill that dream and a new opportunity to reach that goal.
No matter how cold or dark or lonely your winter was, Spring always comes. Light always follows darkness. Each year, Spring teaches us that gardens do emerge out of deserts, life does emerge out of loss, and sometimes letting something die is the only way that it can be reborn into a beautiful, vibrant, life-giving creation.
Are you ready for Spring? What is being reborn in your life right now?
I was raised Southern Baptist. This means a few things: I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night, I have been to a tent revival (white tent, funeral home fan, folding chairs… the whole nine yards), and I really only celebrated two religious holidays, Christmas and Easter.
It was only when I started teaching at a Catholic high school and attending a Presbyterian church that I discovered anything about an Ash Wednesday service or the season of Lent. My first Ash Wednesday teaching school I walked in and saw one of my co-workers with ash on his forehead. I leaned in, so as not to embarrass him, to tell him that he had something on his forehead. He smiled and said, “Dear, it’s Ash Wednesday.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about and went about my merry way.
I quickly learned about the traditions of an Ash Wednesday service, and it is now my favorite church service of the year. There is something so moving about the service- the idea of preparing your spirit for the gift of Easter, the hope in surrendering your “ashes” for healing, and the beauty in the gentle touch of someone drawing the cross on your forehead.
Ash Wednesday marks the 40 days prior to Easter and is the official start of the season of Lent. As tradition goes, individuals either give up something that is deemed bad or a hindrance in their life or they start doing something that is beneficial. I always find it interesting to hear what people give up or what they add. You often hear of people giving up sweets or alcohol or something like that. The latest trend seems to be giving up Facebook. (I thought about giving up Facebook, but who am I kidding? I’m an avid Facebooker- they’ll have to pry Facebook out of my cold, dead hands. J) The idea behind giving up something is meant to be an act of purging and cleansing so as to refocus your spirit. Letting go helps us open our hearts and minds. Surrendering something, even if it is only for 40 days, helps clarify what has power in our lives.
I like the idea of Lent. I think it is good for us to practice intentional surrender. Surrendering and letting go are really quite the opposite of what we naturally want to do as humans. We naturally want to control. We naturally want to be in charge of our own fate. So often, we want to hold on rather than let go. We want to hold on even if we know the holding on is killing us.
What do you need to surrender? Whether you observe Lent or not, where in your life do you need to let go? What are you holding onto that is holding you back? What do you need to give up?
What if you gave up shame? What if you gave up fear or anger or caring about the number on the scale? What if you let go of second-guessing your decisions? What if you let go of the grudge and the resentment?
This Lenten season I want to give up fear and control. There are some things in my life that I want to control because I am afraid. I am afraid of losing them, of these things being taken from me. I realized recently that when we start holding on so tightly because we are afraid of something being taken from us, then we are in danger of that thing, even if it is a good thing, becoming an idol in our lives. We’re in danger of sacrificing our peace of mind and values on the altar of that idol.
When we start making those sacrifices, what we don’t realize is that we’re really not in control because that thing or that person is now controlling us. We like to think we are in control and that this decision or that decision will bring the outcome we want, but that isn’t the case at all. The relationship we love, yet we fear losing, ends up controlling the peace in our hearts. The dream job we worked so hard to achieve, yet feel there’s no rest in because we’re compelled to continue climbing the ladder, ends up controlling our schedule. The lifestyle choices we put into place to make us feel better, yet we still don’t think we’re pretty or thin enough, end up controlling our confidence and sense of worth. We end up controlled by the thing we are trying to control.
I want to give up fear, and I want to give up control. I want to hold loosely the things that could so easily become idols in my life. I want my hands to be open to receive, rather than closed in white-knuckled fear. I want to really embrace the posture of surrender because this is what I know about surrender…
Surrender is not weakness. Surrender is not defeat; it’s not quitting. Surrender is acknowledging where you end and the Power greater than you begins. It is letting go of the idol. Surrender is freedom.
What do you need to give up? Where do you need to let go in your life? Where would you like to experience the freedom of surrender?
Years ago, I noticed people started using the phrase “loving well/love well” to describe how they wanted to love or be loved in a relationship. I just want to love him well. I just want to be loved well. I’ll confess I found the phrase a little self-righteous like now we have even put our love on the good, better, best grading scale. I always wondered if people even knew what they meant when they tried to make a distinction between loving someone and loving him well. So I wrote off the phrase as yet another example of a buzzword that bugged me.
About a month ago, I had an experience that changed my opinion on the phrase “loving well.” In early January, my father’s best friend of 50 years passed away. I cannot remember a time when I did not know Dr. Hugh, and his funeral was a true celebration of a life well lived. As I listened to his children deliver one of the most honoring and beautiful eulogies I’ve ever heard, I kept thinking, “He loved well. This… this is what it means to love well.” Dr. Hugh loved with every fiber of his being. He loved with a dedicated, actions-speak-louder-than words type of love. It seemed that so much of his life flowed out of love- his active engagement with his family, his business activities, and his mentoring countless young professionals.
On the way home from the funeral, the Mumford & Sons song, Awake My Soul, came on the radio and the line “Where you invest your love, you invest your life” seemed to be shouting from the speakers. Where you invest your love, you invest your life. For the rest of the afternoon I kept thinking about the truth of those words. Where you invest your time, talents, energy, soul, it is there you invest your life. Dr. Hugh invested well. He invested very well.
Are you investing well?
Are you investing your love in the things and relationships that are worthy of your love? Are you investing your time in the things that will matter 10, 20, 30 years from now? Or are you investing your time in short-term pleasure, or rather short-term pain avoidance? Are you investing your energy in relationships that are healthy, reciprocal, and life giving? Or are you investing your energy in relationships that are one-sided and incite worry and anxiety. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…
To love and be loved are innate human desires. We are born into this world seeking a finger to grasp, and we leave this world yearning for that same connection. In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware noted that in her work with the dying one of the most common regrets she heard expressed was that people wished they had stayed in better touch with their loved ones. In the end, it’s love and connection that matter. Not success. Not accolades. Not being on time or having everything perfect. It’s where we invest our love that matters in the end.
But there are two sides to the love coin. There is the side of loving others, but there is also the side of letting others love you. Too many of us spend our lives wanting to be loved, yet not knowing how to let down our walls so that people can actually get their arms around us. We live like emotional porcupines and then wonder why no one gets too close. If we want to let love fully into our lives, we must believe we are lovable and worthy of love. We first must learn to love ourselves well. If we ever want someone else to love us well or if we want to love others well, we must treat ourselves with love and compassion.
I was wrong. There is a difference between love and loving well. I think loving well has to do with investment. Are you investing wisely? Are you depositing your love in the things and relationships that will last? At the same time, do you believe you are lovable and worthy of love? May today serve as a reminder to love others and yourself well. It’s the best investment you’ll ever make.
A year ago today, I sent an email that set in motion a series of events I never could have predicted. Here’s the backstory…
In the Fall of 2012, I started reading and thinking more about what it means to live brave and be courageous. I’ll admit when I think of courage the name Mazi Robinson does not immediately come to mind. I am still afraid of the dark. I don’t see scary movies. I still have weird fears about attics, crawl spaces, and storage rooms and will not go in them by myself. (It is a hard and fast rule… much like my no fruit policy.) I have no desire to jump out of a plane, bungee jump, or do anything that is remotely adrenaline rushing. So when I started thinking about courage and living brave, my instant thought was I am not a brave person. And my next thought was I want to be.
Over the next several months, I learned that living brave was not just jumping out of airplanes, but living brave had a deeper meaning to it. Living brave means letting others really see you. It means letting yourself be vulnerable and leaning into that vulnerability rather than running from it. Vulnerability and courage go hand in hand- anytime time you are being courageous, you are being vulnerable. So I got honest about all the things I avoided and ways that I hid. I started challenging my justifications for why I didn’t do or try certain things. I started to identify and peel back all of my armor that I thought was protecting me but was really keeping me small and hidden.
How do you build courage? You learn courage my couraging. You stop hiding. You stop avoiding and justifying. You start doing.
As I began to make little changes here and there, I noticed a shift within myself. As I stopped doing some things and started doing others, as I tried new things and let go of old, I started wanting more. I wanted to try more new things and let go of more old habits. You learn courage by couraging. I still felt some intimidation and second guessing- should I do that, say that, try that- but I learned to navigate through that dialogue in my head because I knew it was coming from my shame self, not my true self. I was on a nice little personal growth journey, and then… and then I spent a weekend in January with a wonderful group of women.
Last January, I was asked to speak at a women’s retreat for a local church. Let me say that it is not unusual for me to cry on the way home from a speaking engagement. I usually feel so grateful for the opportunity to speak and teach that crying seems to be the only way to let that emotion out. But on the way home from this retreat, I cried out of sheer awe. Later that week a friend asked me how the retreat went, and I told her it had been the single most powerful experience of my professional life. Because you see these women… these women asked for prayer. They didn’t ask for prayer for their aunt or their neighbor’s cousin or their co-worker’s niece. They asked for prayer… for themselves. They said I’m lonely, I’m lost, I’m hurting. With tears streaming down their faces they boldly admitted that they were tired and struggling to connect with God, with their husband, with their family. And they didn’t write it on a notecard or say it sitting down with their head hung. They stood up with heads held high and were vulnerable. I have never seen such cut open, let-yourself-be-seen courage in all my life. I was in pure awe of the vulnerability expressed and the courage lived out.
Brené Brown says that courage is contagious. It certainly is. These courageous women moved me, and I wanted to be brave and vulnerable. I wanted to stop giving into my fears of I can’t and what will people think. I knew exactly what I needed to do, what I had been avoiding doing for a year. A year prior to this I had the idea for this blog. I spent all of 2012 trying to convince myself not to do the blog, but the idea stayed with me. I realize that for a lot of people starting a blog does not seem like that courageous of a step, but for me it was, and continues to be, the definition of vulnerability. You see, I don’t consider myself a writer. I have always been incredibly insecure about my writing. (I am well aware that comma splices and other punctuation crimes litter these pages and am deeply appreciative that no one ever corrects me. My deep issues with grammar are for another post…) Yes, I speak and teach all the time, but for some reason having people read my words, rather than hear them, feels much more exposing for me. But the idea of this blog, and other changes I wanted to make in my life, just would not go away.
February 5th, 2013, I emailed my friend, Kristen, and told her all that I said above. I told her that this felt like a big step into the arena for me and that I believed she was the one that could bring my ideas to life. Kristen has this amazing ability to infuse grace and beauty into everything she touches. I wanted her fingerprints on my daydreams. I knew that I could entrust my little brainstorms and hopes to her and that she would get it. From that email, she began designing this blog and events started to unfold that I never could have imagined. All of my little daydreams that I had silenced with thoughts of you can’t do it and what if you fail finally came to life when I started my own counseling practice in June and a whole new world of experiences and opportunities opened before me.
You learn courage by couraging.
You learn courage by being around courageous people. I think of all the things I learned in this past year, the most important lesson was that you never enter the arena alone. You never take your leap of faith alone. You enter the arena with the people in your life that have modeled courage for you. You enter the arena with the encouragement of friends’ words ringing in your ears. You enter the arena with the One who will never leave you alone or ill-equipped.
Have you been thinking about making a change recently? Do you have a dream you would love to bring to life? Do you want to start facing your fears and living more courageously? Are you ready to step into the arena? Do it. Do. It. Life inside the arena is riskier; it is more exposing. Life is messier in the arena, but it is better than sitting in the stands watching others live bravely and boldly. The stakes do get higher when you put yourself out there. But let me tell you, it is so worth it. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it in those first 30 minutes or hours or days when you are still wrestling with doubt and uncertainty. But one day you will wake up, and you will realize I did it… I survived the uncertainty and I now taste the sweetness of being brave!
You learn courage by couraging.
You never take your leap of faith or step into your arena alone. The models of courage precede you, and the speakers of truth and encouragement walk beside you. And maybe, if you are lucky, God will send you a special friend who can make it beautiful. 🙂
To those wonderful women last January… thank you. To Kristen… Happy Anniversary. Thank you for bringing this past year to life. Here’s to more daydreams becoming reality.