I have done bit of coaching as part of my working life and have so often found myself saying the so much of the same thing to people. We all generally have the same experiences with people – we confront them or say something which we believe is reasonably neutral and we get the all too familiar can of worms thrown at us or we say ‘hi’ in the wrong way and the next thing you know we are labelled as the uptight chick in the overly high-heeled shoes or the arrogant dude with shirts that come out of “That 70’s show”.
People have ‘stuff’. You have it – I have it and quite frankly – it never really goes away, just the degrees and the levels of tolerance vary. It is simply the level of insight and awareness of our own stuff that enables us to either get it under control or let it control us. It reminds me of an alien invasion of sorts – we are just not as lucky as the Americans as we don’t have the brilliant MIB at our service and definitely no theme song to go with it! Then again, maybe that is a good thing!
We do have choices though and right now as I type this I know that it is based on choices that I sit and type, that I lose my 5 kilo fluff band, that I spend more time with my children in my arms and less time frantically typing up reports and designing wonderful but ever-changing learning guides for those corporate companies who will always want more changes tomorrow.
It is also by choice that I, amongst the countless many, let go of all the stuff that makes me insecure, under confident, suspicious and overly sensitive.
This is what is commonly known as being a little self-absorbed and I have been there over and over again in my life. My greatest lesson out of all of this is that self-absorption does not work for me – sounds a bit like a contradiction in itself – but self-absorption is like only ever eating chocolate and peanut butter – you are not going to be able to feed your body sufficiently with what those two food groups have to offer (as fabulous and decadent as they are). The only way you can truly enrich and strengthen your body is to take a little bit of all of the food groups, even the ones you are not overly excited about, that build immunity, strengthen bones and muscle, nourish hair, skin and nails and increase your energy.
Now this is exactly how looking outward and focusing on other works. When we start to give and share and take that ever shining spotlight off of ourselves we start to understand that life is not just made up of me, myself and I, but you, and him and her and that fabulous person next door.(Okay maybe they aren’t fabulous…but let’s not get stuck there).
When we start looking from the outside in, it also gives us that huge wake-up call that says “you are not always such a great person and maybe you need to make some well needed changes”. Not an easy message to the all-important self but as I am learning along the way – a very necessary message.
In order to grow and to be able to stand firm when those dreadful people moments happen – we need to be strong, immune to some degree and filled with God’s grace and His humility. We cannot do this if we are self-absorbed – all you see in that space is the big, all demanding ME, that is under attack and at that moment you go into the mode of survival at all costs. Not only that but you get so wrapped up in your own life and your ‘unique’ problems or life dramas that you start to lose connection with reality – the lines becomes blurred and every decision takes on a new dimension of self-preservation and the ‘what if’ fear factors instead of the wisdom of patience, objectivity and perspective. The latter of which can only truly be discovered when we stop molly coddling our big egos and start getting real with life.
I read an amazing book a while about Mary Magdalene by Angel Hunt. In the story Mary Magdalene is a well-known dyer of cloth, business woman, wife and mother. No-one was able to create colours as she did and she was very proud of her work. Her greatest creation is an incredible piece of purple cloth that changes colour in the light and it is stolen from her. On the same night she loses her entire family in the most devastating way. She turns to a complete path of destruction as she seeks revenge on the two men who killed her loved ones where she gets hooked into a life she does not expect and becomes possessed by a number of spirits. She is tormented day and night by demons and goes to live among the graves. When Jesus meets her he immediately sets her free and she becomes one of his most dedicated followers. Mary Magdalene watches as her saviour and teacher is captured and tortured and then is given a ‘kings’ robe to wear as he is loaded with the cross that will eventually be his end. She recognizes this robe as the cloth she dyed that fateful summers day, the cloth she was most proud of and was so angry at having been stolen from her – is now covering the tortured body of her Jesus, her Messiah. At that moment she finds herself beyond emotions as she realises that all those times when she held her talent and abilities in such esteem were meaningless as she had now clothed Jesus’ broken body with her pride.
I was stunned – all I wanted to do was weep when I read this. I was on a flight to Johannesburg at the time and I think all those around me would have thought it was due to a fear of flying or a bad packet of nuts – so the only thing I could do was close my eyes and repent of all the moments when I have held myself up as greater than and as more than and, and, and ….
There was no condemnation in the moment, just a deep, gentle realisation of my weaknesses, my pride and then a profound, quiet revelation.
We are but human and if we don’t catch ourselves it becomes all about us and what we can get out of this life to benefit ourselves. It should be about what we can give and be part of to make this small piece of what we have been entrusted with, count. I don’t want to leave this earth one day with only good intention. I want to shed the procrastination and fear, the ‘me’ stuff and the ‘it’s such an effort’ attitude and I want to get out there and make a difference.
I have this vision of red sand and my shoes being covered in it – the dust settling on my clothes and the redness of the earth under my un-manicured fingernails. I have a vision of us making a big difference and sharing what God gives us with those who have no opportunity to move forward unless someone opens the way for them.
A great dream that I could write about for hours and when I started dreaming it with Robin – because he really had this dream way before I did – it was so much about me and improving our lives, but over this long waiting time it has shifted so much. Which is clearly why we needed to wait and learn…. It is not about any of us.
The purple cloth in the story will always remind me of that.
This is about God and His incredible plan for our lives and it is like that for all of you reading this blog too.
There is something you have had on your heart to do, where your heart-strings have been pulled but you have put it off to another day, the day when you have more money or more time or the kids move out the house, when you finally start resisting the human condition.
I believe right now there is something we can all get going with and we need to be busy in our waiting. Once we get going and move past being so passive, we will discover that when it is not about us and when we start looking outwards that life starts looking a little less mundane and pointless. It starts taking on a lighter hue and hope begins to light up a once dark corner.
That hope is something we can make happen if we move off of the couch and outside of our safe space. It could be something as simple as going to visit someone and share a cup of coffee with them, helping out at soup kitchen or even help someones label some envelopes.
Beyond the picket fence is so much more and it is when we venture past the ‘me’ that I believe we will find our purpose.
A big step but I am guaranteed it will be wonderfully adventurous!