A look back to look forward…and where do I find myself in this story?

The past couple of days I’ve been heartbroken by how the deep divides of our nation have been expanded and exploited. I’ve been gutted by the assault on our democracy fueled by those tasked to unite us.

 
I’m asking myself: how do I show up to this historic story? I’m still in the throes of the question…but I am reflecting on how my work with story can serve as a salve to promote dignity, empathy and connection. As I try to understand the story unfolding in our midst I find it helpful to look back and get context.
 
I appreciated this video by Vox as a bit of meaning-making to the story we’ve been living this past year. It’s a power-packed 7-mins representing such an intense year.
 
Watching the video of the past year I was struck by the immense amount of disruption and conflict…and the courage of so many. There’s an idea in story structure that conflict is best used: 1. to reveal how much the hero wants what he/she is pursuing; and 2: to show the true character of the hero.
 
So, I am not without hope. I see courageous and grace-filled heroes all around me, showing up more committed to peace and justice than ever. That’s the story I long to live more into…one with an unrelenting love for my neighbor that grows stronger under duress. May it be so.

Wait. Hope. Love. Advent in this strange, strange year…

Some days it feels like I’ve been waiting a lifetime. I’ve prayed ten-thousand prayers, “Please God, now . . .won’t you?”

 

Years of waiting to marry and be a mom have stretched into two decades. There’s the waiting for my company to take off—for big dreams of contribution to come to life, and for me to have a steady income again. There’s the waiting for family members’ health to improve and relationships to be restored and friends’ children to get the help they need. There’s waiting for the vaccine and waiting for refugees’ I’ve interviewed to find a true home.

 

“Please God, now . . . won’t you?”

 

Those ten-thousand prayers have been pleas for life to be transformed to the way I long for it be—for the way I believe it should be. Waiting to not feel behind in life. Waiting to belong. Waiting for justice. Waiting for security. Waiting for love.

 

What have you been waiting for? What do you long for to be transformed? And I’m curious: What does waiting feel like in your whole being?

 

For me, waiting can feel like a daily street fight. Take a deep breath as I walk out the door. Clench my fists. Run as fast as I can through a gang of naysayers as they yell: You don’t deserve it. You’re all alone. Things never change. I swiftly, and sometimes sloppily, throw punches and try to block what is most vulnerable—my hopes, my dreams, my heart’s deepest longings.

 

For me, waiting can also feel like getting into a wreck on the way to a party. I’m so angry after dressing all up to go to a gathering I’ve been looking forward to and now I’m a bloody mess. My car is totaled. I’m exhausted and sad.

 

Yet, more often than not, waiting feels like a dodgeball game with Distraction. To not feel like I’m in a street fight or a car wreck, I keep myself busy and distracted. Work, and binge Netflix. Work, and listen to NPR and play solitaire until I have a quick win and feel like a champion again. Call a friend, text a few more. Then, back to work.

 

I am really curious how waiting feels to you.

 

In Psalm 130, the psalmist speaks of a different way of waiting than I often go about it. Waiting to the psalmist doesn’t feel like frenzy or despair, distraction or isolation. It’s a waiting that grounds itself in hope and grows in love.

 

Here’s how Psalm 130:7 in The Voice declares it:

O Israel, ground your hope in the Eternal.
For in the Eternal lives the most loyal love,

and with Him comes the most abundant redemption.

 

When I wait without hope in the Eternal I become “a hot mess in a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” Yes, I’m as composed as a 2020 presidential debate.

 

Yet, waiting profoundly shifts to hope when I remember one thing.

 

When I let myself be reminded that I’m not alone; when I ground my hope in the Eternal—I’m transformed.

 

God’s most loyal love reminds me that Immanuel (God with us) is for me. I don’t wait alone. I don’t have to make everything happen on my own. I am not alone.

 

God’s love invites me to hope, and hope expands my capacity to love . . . even in the elongated and excruciating seasons of waiting.

 

Through the years, I’ve discovered that I have to be intentional to do one thing: Let myself be reminded of God’s most loyal love. For me, that’s the only way my hope grounds itself.

 

Letting myself be reminded of God’s love can take a hundred forms. I’ll share a few that have been meaningful for me this year. And of course, I’m curious to hear yours.

 

Before I stumble out of bed, I listen to Pray as You Go (a free app that has British-accented Jesuits reading Scripture. I highly recommend it). Once coffee is made, I light a candle that sits next to an icon of Jesus and Mary. I read (sometimes just a snatch of Scripture); I journal my prayers (it keeps me more focused); and then I try to wait long enough to hear God’s voice of love for me. The Beloved naming me beloved.

 

This year I’ve been daily praying: God, expand my capacity to love and be loved.

 

I walk. I walk a lot. I find that when the sun brushes my cheeks, light shimmers through leaves, and dewy grass glistens that I am reminded of God’s most loyal love.

 

I lean on friends. One of the great gifts that has come from waiting for family has been cultivating a family of friends. A couple of months ago I realized that I was more desperate to be reminded of God’s love and grounded in hope than typical. I reached out to several friends and asked them to pray five minutes a week for my business and my heart. That has been such a powerful gift in this season.

 

I give thanks. Here’s a paradox: when I pause to note how much I have been given, waiting for what I long for loses some of its sting. I’m once again reminded of God’s most loyal love.

 

So, what are you waiting for?

 

And in the midst of the wait, how are you letting yourself be reminded of God’s most loyal love for you?

 

I leave you with this: You don’t wait alone.

 

That’s the story of Advent we enter into once again. Immanuel—God with us—is for us.

 

Right now.

 

Forgive me, black and brown friends, but I’ve been busy…

Dear Black and Brown Friends,

 

Forgive me…for I have been busy…too busy to be disrupted, too focused to have my scheduled shattered.

 

That is my privilege.

 

Trust me, I’ve been sad, gut-wrenched, heartbroken for you–my black and brown friends–for POC in my community, for those who experience injustice in our country. I’ve felt the weightiness of outrage—but you see I still have had work calls and deadlines to meet. The protests have come during a really hectic season, and I’m just not able to schedule around them this week.

 

And that is my privilege.

 

You have to understand, it’s not my rights that are being threatened. Ok, my lot should be in with you, my neighbors. As you know, I love the philosophy of Ubuntu—I am because you are. But your sense of urgent threat isn’t as urgent of a threat as my to-do list not getting done during this unusually demanding time.

 

And that is my privilege.

 

But take heart, this week I talked about how awful things are. And I listened to NPR stories and was moved…sometimes to tears. And I posted a thoughtful article or two in between meetings. I fought the good fight…scaled to my scheduled, on my own terms.

 

And that was my privilege.

 

Then a dear friend dared to interrupt my noble schedule, asking: Where have you been wrong and still may have blind spots? What are you learning? Ask God where your heart is.

Where have I been wrong? I’ve been racing toward deadlines on work I thought could change the world…and failed to take time to look for blind spots.

 

I’m sorry dear black and brown friends that I have succumbed to the addiction of society—my addiction of being too busy to be truly disrupted, too comfortable to be inconvenienced.

 

Forgive me.

 

What are you learning? You, my black and brown friends, live in disruption day after day. You don’t have the privilege to schedule around racial slurs, they just come at you. You have to spend extra executive function to code switch—all the time. You have to invest energy and intention to tell your kids what to do or not do if they’re pulled over by police. You have to work twice—or ten times—as hard to get a fair shot, to be taken seriously, to get a loan or rental property or senate seat.

 

You’re so much busier than me simply navigating institutions that have their roots in racial injustice. I’ve said I’ve been too busy but in a lot of ways I’ve just been sleeping.

 

Forgive me.

 

Ask God where your heart is. Humbled…and grateful.

 

Thank you, my black and brown friends, for how patient you’ve been with me in my drowsy state. As I’ve been slowly waking up, you’ve been working all night to see the light of justice come.

 

Forgive me.

 

Deliver me from the addiction of society, Most Gracious One. Oh, keep me from temptation that I may tell of your justice and mercy.” Psalm 51

I Want it All…and Other Bad Ideas

I caught myself –not once but twice—this week declaring: I want it all!

 

Most recently I announced it to my brilliant co-founder when he laid out a choice with a timeline. We could have a strategic, steady tech build this spring or the cool tech features I just requested.

 

We prioritized the strategic, steady plan…and I figured out a workaround for my fancy features. Yet I concluded our robust discussion with one last attempt: “You know I would prefer to have it all, please.”

 

Growing up I assumed I could be a war correspondent or host of Good Morning America by 25 and be married by 26 and a mother by 30. It wasn’t too much to ask, right? I’d be nice about it.

 

I want it all—please and thank you.

 

When 26 hit and I wasn’t a war correspondent or a wife I had an existential crisis. This was the late ‘90s, so I was quite the early adapter of the Quarter Life Crisis. Yet there I was—so far from where I thought I’d be.

 

Big dreams and cheeky ideas have often served me well. They’ve taken me to such fascinating places and launched me on gorgeous projects. Yet sometimes I’ve forgotten there are trade-offs.

 

There are choices with timelines. There are long-term strategies and short-term sprints. And sometimes you can’t have both.

 

“Every yes must be defended by a thousand no’s.” Jeff Walker

 

I’ll concede. For many people this is a straightforward reality. An exercise in stating the obvious. You can do this OR that. A OR B?

 

Yet for me—and perhaps for you—these choices can produce conflict. And my version of “having it all” doesn’t include conflict.

 

OTHER BAD IDEAS

 

A life without conflict takes us into my “Other Bad Ideas” section. Conflict is vital. I know this to my core when it comes to storytelling. There’s no story without conflict. And when used well it serves the hero in two powerful ways.

1) Conflict reveals how much the hero wants whatever she is chasing after. The greater the conflict the more the hero must confront desire.

2) Conflict cracks open the true character of the hero. It challenges the hero’s notions about who she really is—her ideal (false) self and her true self. I am a person who can have it all (assumption). CONFLICT. I am a person who can only do so much (truth).

 

So here I am. I’m confronted with my wiring to want it all and my ideal vision of myself that I can. And I’m left with I can only do so much.

 

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
― Bruce Lee

 

This post isn’t theoretical or philosophical. It’s a confession.

 

I had hoped to do 40 days of Story for Lent…then 30 days (thinking I was right-sizing it)…all the while embarking on a big research and writing project with my startup StoryNow.

 

+ > –

 

I’ve always loved addition more than subtraction. This has played out in drink orders on planes: “I’ll take coffee and orange juice, please.” as I clutch my water bottle. And it includes holy seasons such as Lent. I’ll take up a practice rather than give something up.

 

So here I am in real time saying I need to give up adding things (such as 40 or 30 days of writing).

 

Yet there’s good news for me—and hopefully for you.

 

A great life demands a great deal of tradeoffs. It calls for choices and conflict. More Nos. More “I can only do so much…” declarations. And that’s ultimately a gift.

 

If I had it all, I would be stripped of desire. I would not be acquainted with reliance and awkwardly bump into the end of myself.

 

Where I find desire is where I find grace. Where I discover my need for another is where I find abundance. Where I stumble upon the end of myself is where I find greater Love and Life and the Hope that greets me Easter morning.

 

So…no 40 or 30 Days of Story. But I will post some really cool research I’m discovering on story and how it heals our bodies and brains.

 

As always I love hearing from you. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. How you’ve discovered you can’t have it all? Has that brought fear or freedom or a combination of the two? Do tell.

 

“ ‘No’ is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott

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