People who really want to make a difference, usually do it, but it’s not always how you expect. Years ago, when I was a young woman, I craved to help and even make a dent in the universe. And maybe I did.
We who are idealistic have a faulty way of seeing things. If we don’t help by teaching or doing some large mission like Mother Teresa touching thousands, we feel we have failed. Our purpose is misty and unfocused.
With maturity, I’ve developed wisdom. I know there small steps can change your life. One moment can make a difference. And if you can hold out a little longer than others you can be mighty. But I’ll tell you what has become the pièce de résistance.
There’s a habit I’ve developed, and this little detail has made the most significant difference in my life. It’s the practice of saying thank you and acknowledging those things I appreciate.
Worry, Worry, Fret, and Worry
Before, I spent my time fretting over what I didn’t have, praying for more, listing my needs, and planning how I’d get them. I still ask, but now I put more emphasis on my gratitude. This is how I focus. This is how my vision comes with a better focus.
Darkness. We don’t sit there often. As soon as I get home, I turn on the light, feed the cat, and get the activity going. The dark seems empty. But it doesn’t have to frighten us.
Go back to what you know for sure. Those were the words that I heard when I was in my dark space. It’s taken me some time to understand their meaning.
In the Bible, there’s the story of Jonah, the man who didn’t want to preach to the people in a city called Nineveh. He hid on a boat until he was thrown out into the storm and he was swallowed alive by a great fish. Darkness. Crazily, he ends up back where he was supposed to be in the beginning.
I laugh because if you call the customer support line for help with your computer, the first thing they ask is, did you try turning it off and on again? Restart. That’s their answer for everything.
But start overs are impossible in real life. Aren’t they? A start over, a cleaning, a bottom level, that was the message I got when I heard the words, “Go back to what you know for sure.” What did I know for sure? Love.
Where is the love?
I was uncertain of religion. I couldn’t tell you at that moment if I believed in God or the devil, heaven or hell. I didn’t know if the Bible was real or if the teachings I’d grown up with were true, but I did know there was a love that was buried deep inside of me that I’d felt all of my life and it wasn’t of any religion.
What does that mean? What does it look like? I had to stop trusting in everything else. I only had love. So I let myself sit in the darkness, in the emptiness with nothing to light me but the one candle of love. It sounds silly, but when you’re a traditionalist, and you let the old teachings slip away, the emptiness around you isn’t lonely or scary. The love you feel grows. There’s a freedom in that love. Joy unspeakable.
My favorite characters are usually the odd ones. Just a bit off beat. They’re likely not the girl to be invited to the party, but not because they’re hated, or ugly, more likely because they were wandering in the forest, gathering mushrooms or rare moth larvae. Let me introduce you to Auri, from Patrick Rothfuss’s series – The Kingkiller Chronicles and Luna Lovegood, from J.K. Rowling’s, Harry Potter series.
Auri was a young genius whose spark burned too brightly to function in what most of us call reality. Instead, she created her own reality in the tunnels under the university. Her days are spent making order of the abandoned areas in that hidden world. Her one friend is a current student, Kvothe.
Auri hopped down from the chimney and skipped over to where I stood, her hair streaming behind her. “Hello Kvothe.” She took a half-step back. “You reek.”
I smiled my best smile of the day. “Hello Auri,” I said. “You smell like a pretty young girl.”
“I do,” she agreed happily.
She stepped sideways a little, then forward again, moving lightly on the balls of her bare feet. “What did you bring me?” she asked.
“What did you bring me?” I countered.
She grinned. “I have an apple that thinks it is a pear,” she said, holding it up. “And a bun that thinks it is a cat. And a lettuce that thinks it is a lettuce.”
“It’s a clever lettuce then.”
“Hardly,” she said with a delicate snort. “Why would anything clever think it was a lettuce?”
“Even if it is a lettuce?” I asked.
“Especially then,” she said. “Bad enough to be a lettuce. How awful to think you are a lettuce too.” She shook her head sadly, her hair following the motion as if she were underwater.
Luna Lovegood – Harry Potter series
At first, you dismiss Luna, especially when she’s talking about mysterious things that go bump in the night that steal shoes. But, she also knows things that no one else seems to know. Besides, just listening to her talk is enchanting enough for me, whether she speaks by book or by movie.
The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace of Butterbeer caps, or that she was reading a magazine upside down. – From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“Mistletoe,” said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry’s head. He jumped out from under it. “Good thinking,” said Luna very seriously. “It’s often infested with nargles.”
Harry Potter: [sees that Luna is barefoot] Aren’t your feet cold?
The flip side of survival and the fear of failure is thriving. Thriving shouldn’t be difficult. How is it so difficult to win? To succeed? Well the difficulty is when you have achieved, what’s next? You’ve met your goal. Do you coast or do you keep pedaling?
Keep pedaling. This is why slow growth is better than lottery winning. If you’ve slowly grown a business you got there and grew into your success. Lucky breaks give you false hope.
We are good with striving. Making changes, adjusting, sacrificing, but actual thriving seems so dull sometimes. Oh, yeah we all have the fantasy of buying an island and not having to work for a living, but how long would it be before we would want more? A month? Six months? A year maybe? Somewhere in that time you start feeling the itchy feet. The need to contribute is too great. Building something even if it’s only a garden is a rewarding experience.
The nice thing about the internet and our current global society is that we choose our influences. We choose our world. You may not realize how much of this you do. Our world is no longer the gas station attendant on Main street and the store clerk on Broadway. Our news isn’t from the local barber. It’s from around the world, even foreign websites if we wish. Our world is made up of people that we see everyday in blogs and news casts. I recently realized how different this makes my life while talking to my parents. My mom still gets her self-esteem from her high school days while my dad’s morality is from his own generation’s creed. And they are not alone. Certainly they aren’t the minority in this. It’s their generation.
I often daydream (seriously) about creating my town. I’d populate it with people I admire and enjoy being around, which can change daily. On the most part I choose people like Seth Godin, Derren Brown, and Meadow DeVor, because they represent the values that I want to encourage in my life. They value people and honor individuals. Who do you have in your perfect society?
What values would I want? I pick Seth Godin because he makes me think by saying things like this,
Society benefits when people selfishly choose the long view and the generous view. The heroes we look up to are those that sacrificed to build schools, to overcome evil, to connect and lead–even though it didn’t necessarily help them in the short run. Culture and Selfishness
I also pick Derren Brown, a British illusionist. He challenges my perceptions and makes me think. But not only is he an illusionist, he encourages people to live their lives to the fullest and not to let opportunities pass them by. I saw these on YouTube, episodes The Secret of Luck and The Apocalypse.
And I can’t forget Meadow DeVor and her blog. There are so many wonderful people out there, I can’t name them all. I think you understand. The people in my imaginary village are the laughing, kindhearted, generous people who make you proud to be human.
This is something I was given a few years back. Hopefully it will help you as it has me. These are stages that our world has gone through. We are now on the path of light. Tell me what you think.
The Path of Love [praise God] Love the LORD your God- Him only shall you serve (worship, applaud).
The Path of Righteousness [lay down distractions, simplify] Keep your feet and steps on the truth, the truth of God’s love and kindness. Keep your way free of snares of evil, seeking your own way and your own pleasures. Know your God. He is Holy.
The Path of Freedom [surrender will & desires] This path comes only from complete and utter surrender. No other way to freedom. Take up your cross (accept your death and pain). Forget your pleasures and rights, then you’ll know freedom. All. From fear, worry, strife, disorder.
The Path of Light Light travels faster than sound. Always conquers darkness. Never can darkness be turned on. Only light. Light causes shadows to flee. Light routs the enemy. Leave on the light. Keep your lamps burning. Always. Never turn them off. Never give me only half of your soul and leave another part for yourself reserved. Let me be your restraint. Let me be your fasting. Let me be your God. 100%. No less. It’s all or nothing. There can be no other way. Wholly. Fully. Passion. Fire. Raging currents of waters. When you plunge in, then the rapids take you where you need to go. You do no work, no effort. Follow my paths. Find your life only in me. Lay down your measly life. Pick up your abundance in me. Keep back a reserve and I will spit you out. Then we’ll have to start again.