Old Friends

There’s something about an old friend that can provide connection to the past to keep you grounded.

Sometimes, you just need to spend a little time with an old friend. Sometimes, being with someone you haven’t seen in years can do wonders for your soul. For your well-being.

On Friday, I had an opportunity to spend some time with just such a friend. We hadn’t seen each other in years since we live on opposite coasts, and the opportunities to get together are minimal. But we picked up as if we had just seen each other the previous day.

What I realized is that spending time with an old friend can bring life into sharper focus. It can remind you who you are, how far you have come, and where you are going. Your old friends, they knew you back when life was new and fresh, and opportunities lurked around every corner. You were still figuring out where you fit and how you could contribute to the bigger picture of life. These friends… they helped you to form your identity as you struggled through challenging times, navigated new environments, and started to settle into your adult life, forming new perspectives that were truly yours (and not your parents’).

Old friends are the best friends. You can go years without seeing them—or even communicating much at all—and yet, you always find yourselves right where you left off. Conversation is comfortable and casual as you move from one topic to the next, sometimes circling back in that weird way in which conversations flow. And yet, it never seems weird.

Sometimes, you just need an evening with an old friend. An evening to re-examine who you are and who you’ve become. An evening to reminisce and remember that change is not always a bad thing. An evening to look ahead as life changes from one phase to the next and you continue to evolve… even through midlife and beyond.

Sometimes, you just need an old friend to help you reconnect to all that once was, and still is, and will be important in life.

Refocus

What is going well in your life? I would love to hear about it.

We have trained ourselves away from asking that question. We focus on what isn’t going well, and we endlessly pick away at those bits as if throwing ourselves into what isn’t good will somehow make it better. We believe that strengthening the weak areas and taping up the cracks that threaten our lives will somehow make us happier.

We throw resources at our lack of talent and our lack of happiness. We chase after the goals we can never reach—but that wouldn’t make us happy, anyway. These goals are not ours, but someone else’s goals imposed upon our lives.

And these are just band-aids.

What if, instead, we focus on what is going well? What if we take some time to truly examine our lives and untangle the good from the not-so-good. The amazing from the “eh….” And then, once we have figured out what is working, what makes us happy, we focus on those areas. What if we look at life from the standpoint of abundance rather than from lack? What if we concentrate on the things we do well and the things that make us happy? I believe we should take what we’re good at and the activities that bring us joy and do more of those things. These things, these activities… they will lift us up.

This is a strengths-based approach—to use our abundance to create more happiness. If we bring more positivity, the rest will work out. By focusing on what is working, we will be happier. We will be more rested. We will feel cared for. And rather than making the “tough” our main struggle, tough can be our side job. Because focusing on the things we are good at and the ones we enjoy, we can make the tough that much easier.

So what is going well in your life? I would love to know!

The Box

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash 

Sometimes in life, we get stuck.

We do the same thing every day. We see the same people. We eat the same foods. We go to the same places. One day, we look up and realize we haven’t been venturing out of our box. Not in a long time. And we think, Maybe, just maybe, it’s time.

Admittedly, my box has gotten a bit smaller in these past two years. My home is my haven, and I have purposely tried to stay away from people and public events as much as possible. After all, I am with student-people every day, working shoulder to shoulder as we share a document or a computer screen.

But my box is small, and it’s getting too tight around the edges. I have to curl myself up and squish myself in to fit, and to be honest, the air has grown stuffy and stale. The scenery is bleak and unchanging. It’s time to stretch… up and out.

Outside my box, I know grand adventure awaits. Plans have been forming, evolving, coming together, to move beyond the confines of my box. My plans are full of light and energy. They will pose challenge and choice and adventure. But these plans are carefully laid and well-timed. These plans are mine and mine alone, though I might bring others along with me. And perhaps, others will bring me along—maybe willingly and maybe kicking and screaming. There is no doubt adventure awaits. I must simply muster the courage to step outside my box and break free.

The Path


Photo by David Talley on Unsplash

The path we travel is seldom straight. It twists and turns, skirting the edges of danger as we hold on tight. Our path takes detours around pothole-ridden streets and over stumbling blocks in order to set us in the direction we are headed. It redirects to new routes and sometimes presents more opportunities than we can handle. And others we might not want.

Nowhere is this meandering more evident than in our young adults. They spend their early years in state-mandated school until then they are suddenly expected to choose what comes next. The choices can be overwhelming.

There is no doubt there are many 18-year-olds who know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They step from high school graduation onto a fully paved path they’ve planned out for years, and they never waver. They go on to reach their lifelong goals in careers they chose when they were small children.

The vast majority of young people, however, have no idea what they want to do when they ‘grow up’ despite teetering on the line between childhood and adulthood. And a large portion of them are afraid to admit it. We put so much pressure on kids to know what they want to do that they feel they should know even though they don’t have enough experience to know. Or worse, we have steered them in the direction that we think they should go rather than letting them decide for themselves what is best and which path(s) they will travel. The pressure to choose a direction is so intense for kids this age.

What they don’t realize is that very few grownups know what they want to do next week, let alone 10 years from now. Adults—young and old—are expected to be solidly on a path with one career in view. But this is not often the way life works anymore.

Young people are much better off when they take the time they need to figure out their own best direction. Will they pursue a degree? Work? Go to trade school? Join the military? There’s nothing wrong with trying out some of the available options before they settle on one. The only way to figure out where you truly want to be is to recognize where you don’t want to be. Rather than push kids to make premature decisions about their futures and expect them to know exactly what they want when the emerge from high school, shouldn’t we be laying out their various options? Maybe we should be encouraging our children to experiment and try new things rather than taking the “safe” road and ending up somewhere they suddenly realize they don’t belong.

The path is not straight, and it is not easy. The bumps along the way…, the uncertainty in the choices that arise…, these are all part of the process. They help us to put things in the proper perspective. And for young people, this early part of the process sets them up for many of the obstacles they will face on their journey through life.

The path we travel is not straight, and the obstacles are many. But somehow, with a bit of trial and error, we all figure it out.

Ideas

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash

I had an awesome idea for a blog post last night. It slipped into my semi-conscious mind just as I was sliding off to sleep. It was such a fantastic idea, and the pieces began to come together as my head remained firmly planted on the pillow. I thought about getting up to write down this great idea so I wouldn’t forget it. No, I told myself. This one is definitely too good to forget. As soon as you wake up, you will remember it. Write it down then. I even settled on some key words to help me remember, and with that, I drifted off to sleep.

Now, there is no doubt my years of experience with half-awake idea generation should indicate that this idea—like so many before—would be gone as soon as I slipped into sleep. That thought did occur to me as I resisted the urge to jot down a note or two—a word or a line—because I was tired. I wanted to sleep. And I was comfortable….

Of course, when I woke up this morning, the dust had settled in a heavy film over the ideas that flow so freely in that space between wake and sleep. Try as I might, I could not find my key words. I could not reconnect the dots to recall the awesome idea that flitted like a butterfly through my brain, alighting only for a second before migrating far from here.

Tonight, as I settle into my bed, I will be sure to have a notebook, pen, and flashlight in easy reach—like a butterfly net at the ready, just in case another idea floats through.

Welcome Winds

Photo by TOMOKO UJI on Unsplash

Here in the northeastern United States, winter has been cold and bleak, as winter so often is. The first day of spring was glorious—sunny and warm—but a few days in, Spring turned her back. Winter temperatures and a dusting of snow greeted us one morning, and the wind has continued its bitter assault, letting us know who’s boss.

These winds, they are the winds of change. On the horizon, the golden glow of the morning brightens the dark sky as a long, low rumble of thunder can be heard in the distance. Winter always turns to spring eventually. The spring peepers begin their evening song—slowly at first as one then two then dozens of frogs join in. The earth and air warm and the colors of blooming trees dot the mountains.

These are the winds of change, and they are blowing fierce and free. The change is welcome as the creative embers, buried deep for far too long, are glowing brighter. With a bit of TLC, the sparks will catch and spread their warm energy, bringing new places, new friends, and new opportunities.

Dark winter has lingered long enough, and spring will bring a needed respite. These winds—the winds of change—they are welcome here.

Empty Space

On New Year’s Eve, as the final light of 2021 faded into an eerie dusk, I walked through my neighborhood listening to my footsteps, a dog barking in the distance, and the sound of tires on wet pavement as the occasional car passed by on the street. I breathed in the damp winter air as I watched the fog rise from the melting snow. I noted how the snow cover brightened my path and softened the darkness. I took in the world around me in my quiet walk to end the year.

These walks have been important to me over the past two years (since the start of lockdown back in March of 2020). These walks have kept me grounded. They have offered me fifteen minutes each morning to reflect on my day, and they have given me space to breathe, reflect, pray, and allow creativity to flow.

Too often, we tend to fill every minute of our lives with “stuff” that likely doesn’t really need doing. We keep a hectic schedule, running from commitment to appointment to activity. In between times, we cram in as much social media and web-surfing as we can in attempt to prevent downtime and keep our minds from being idle. And so as we enter the new year, I want to urge you to leave yourself some empty space.

Despite all we have been told about idleness, an idle mind is necessary to live a healthy and balanced life. Empty space allows us to recognize and process what is going on in our lives, in our heart, in our heads, and with our emotions. When we have a moment to process the heaviness of the world—and the laughter, as well—it opens up space for new ideas to flow. It opens space for new feelings, for grounded thinking, and for a more objective view of ourselves.

More importantly, it is in the empty space that ideas take shape, dreams become reality, creative ideas form, and inspiration happens. It is in the empty space that new thinking can take hold, leading you to move down an entirely new path in your life. Or maybe it allows you to come up with a plan to change the things that need changing in your life. Regardless, empty space is a vital part of a healthy life. As you fill the days, hours, and moments of 2022, leave some empty space for yourself. Leave some space that won’t be filled with the hustle and bustle of everyday life and social media interactions on your devices. Whatever your empty space brings, may it bring you joy and happiness or at least a more defined direction and self-confidence as you face all that the new year may bring!

Lost

Photo by Dunamis Church on Unsplash 

When I look back on 2021, I will remember this as the year I lost my way.   

At the beginning of the year, everything seemed to be going along pandemic-fine, thank you very much. And by “pandemic-fine,” I mean I was figuring out how to exist in the world with the constant ebb and flow of the waves of COVID virus. It took a little time, some deep thinking, and lots of creativity, but we had even figured out how to work side-by-side with students without infiltrating their enlarged 6-foot radius of personal space. At the beginning of 2021, I kept my head down, plugged along, and stayed the course.

Things were going along fine—at least… they seemed to be. Until they weren’t.

I had been so focused on what I was doing that I must have missed an important turn. Or maybe I took a turn that I shouldn’t have. Because when I had the opportunity to look up and study my surroundings, I didn’t recognize anything. There was more shade than I’d grown used to. Space seemed a bit warped from what I remembered. And time had a unique way of crunching together while simultaneously stretching out to the horizon. Seriously, nothing looked familiar. And try as I might, I could not figure out how to get my bearings when I didn’t recognize anything.  

For a bit of time, I walked the line between fear and intrigue. How would I find my way back? How would I ever get back on track? And did I even want to? I just couldn’t see how this situation would right itself.

But as time dragged on and direction remained elusive, I settled in to experience the ride and figure out what had happened. Time is a funny thing. And Lost is a curious place. I kept working, hoping for familiar, and a funny thing started to happen. I started to get used to being lost. I started to recognize the unfamiliar, and I became just a bit more brave. I took on tasks I didn’t know I could complete. I made small changes that surprised me. And I forged a new path because no matter how lost you are, you still must continue to move forward.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and from here, I can look back on my journey and see it for what it has really been (and continues to be)—a shift of focus. A readjustment of priorities. And a need to exit the fast lane. I now have a new focus and a new direction.

Somehow, in the busyness of life, I got caught up in what I do, and I forgot who I am. I forgot why I’m here. I forgot that life is short and finite. Losing my way has made me realize I am not where I want to be. I am not living the life I want to live. Somehow, I lost myself when I lost my way. But the disorientation that always accompanies Lost allowed me to reconnect with something deeper. It allowed me to reconnect with the real me and the meaning of life—the meaning of my life, but that also allowed me to find my way back to a better life, a stronger me, and a greater sense of purpose.

Maybe I didn’t lose my way after all. Maybe I just took a scenic detour and ended up traveling in a new and unexpected direction to a brighter and more appealing destination.

The journey from Lost is not over. In fact, this journey—the one that will take me into the new year and beyond—has just begun.

Running Ragged

Lately, I have been run ragged by life. If I were a toy, my seams would be ripped, my stuffing spilling out. It’s funny (or not), but sometimes life does that to you. I have slumped into a funk that I can’t escape. I keep pushing to move beyond this point, so I can get back to the energy and light that creativity brings. And so I am working to develop a strategy to get me through.

I am pulling myself away from noise and into silence. It is in the silence that we can hear what is going on inside our heads. It is the silence that reveals the truth.

I am turning away from busyness and moving toward stillness. Busyness pulls and rubs and irritates, but stillness is peaceful and soothing. Stillness is like the hug of an old friend—warm and comforting.

I am rejecting chaos and clutter for simplicity. Chaos and clutter are a result of the worldly and material taking over as the focus of life. Simplicity brings calm. Simplicity allows us to disconnect from the material to reconnect with the spirit.

Sometimes—often, in fact—you need to reject the ways of the world if you are to see your own light. If you are to spread your light in the world.

Sometimes, you need to be alone in reflection to see where you fit in the world with others and within your own life.

Don’t be afraid to take the steps necessary to care for yourself, to rediscover yourself. Too often, we get caught up in the everyday. We try to live in the expectations of others, of the world, and we lose ourselves. We lose what makes us true and right and unique. We lose our passions.

Without passions and creative energy, our light dims. Our candle burns out. Our life becomes a series of day upon day upon day with no real rhyme or reason.

It is only in pulling back into the silence that we can escape the noise. It is only in seeking stillness that we can recognize the poison that is busyness. And it is only in letting go of all the trappings of the here and now that we can truly find ourselves among the simplicity.

So let go. Find your way back and reconnect with your true self.