The Twist inside of Us

I sit at the table, a stack of papers in front of me. The red pen is dancing across the white sheets as I cross out something here or correct something there.
I am grading papers – one of the uncomfortable parts of my teaching job.

The more I have to tell others what they did wrong, the more I realize how twisted the mindset behind it is. We focus so much on our mistakes, call out what is not going well and complain about everything we lack. We have drilled our minds to watch out for the negative and always strive for improvement.

And while I’m not saying that we shouldn’t grow and learn and change ourselves, I wonder if this mindset tells us something about a belief we have installed in our society and allowed to trickle down into the very core of our DNA: We are not good enough. There’s always something wrong about us. 

This lie has shaped our identity from early on and affects the way we perform in school, engage in our relationships, practice our faith. In this fast-paced world of ours, we only seem to matter if we become faster, better, more effective at hiding our weaknesses.

But what if we shone some truth on this lie?
What if we celebrated our strengths and put them to good use?
What if we practiced more gratitude for the many great things we’ve been given?
What if we handed out compliments instead of criticism for a change?
What if we believed in the old words of “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The “Good Life”

How do we measure a life? 
What determines the label ‘good’, ‘successful’, ‘amazing’?

The titles in front of our names?
The numbers on our bank accounts?
The mountains we have climbed in our careers?
The accomplishments we can brag about?
The size of our homes, cars, fridges?
The value of stuff we can afford?
The photos of our many glamorous vacation spots?
The relationship status?

What about the many little moments of happiness that show us what is really important?
The seemingly mundane days when we simply show up for work and are present in what we do? 
The many conversations that give our soul depth and new perspective?
The valleys that have taught us growth and endurance?
The cracks in our surface that allow the light to shine through?
What about the miraculous symphony of joy and pain that make life so incredibly rich? 

Maybe life isn’t supposed to be good.
Maybe it was created to be abundant. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Photo Credit: Unsplash

We Need More Life in Our Days

Adulting is a funny thing. We can’t wait to be done with school, graduate from university and find our first job. We move into our first home and finally create the life we’ve always dreamed of.
And before we know it, we’re knee deep in busy work schedules, endless to-do lists, messy apartments, tired feet, complicated relationships, challenging life questions.
We try to keep up with the insane pace life seems to dictate, wondering where in the world our time has gone.

I recently had an epiphany about that.

After some very intense weeks at work, I decided life could not be this way. I had worked for school all week and prepared some more for it on the weekends. If I wasn’t too exhausted from working and worrying, I managed to squeeze some cleaning in between. Everything else – connecting with friends, reading, meeting for coffee, shopping, summer plans – had been pushed to the next school break.

Wait, what? All the things that somehow made life enjoyable and ‘normal’ would only happen every seven-eight weeks? Insane. 

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Annie Dillard. The Writing Life.

Yes, there is still a lot to in my days and I can’t just drop everything and leave (and I also don’t think it should be). But I want to give my tasks the appropriate place in my week, so that I still enjoy doing them at the end of the day. I want to create rhythms, so that my days actually have more life. 

Like setting time aside to answer emails and do school work. And not be bothered by it outside of these times.
Like unsubscribing from emails I don’t read anyway and rather focus on some healthy food for thought.
Like being present for the tasks and people in front of me.
Like being more conscious about what I buy and eat.
Like treating myself sometimes .
Like taking time to reflect and practice gratitude.
Like cleaning out the messy parts and making space for new thoughts and new life.
Like taking a walk after a few hours at the desk.
Like being still and resting in the peace of the Almighty.

Something fundamental had clicked inside of me: I don’t have to live that way – haunted by my lists and unfinished business. I actually have the privilege to work and create and network – all in its appropriate time. 

When I told a friend about my epiphany, she just smiled and said, “You know, I’ve been watching you work and toil for months now and wondered when you’d come around.” Well, I finally did. It just takes a while to grow – especially as an adult.

Which rhythms can you create to give your days more life? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Incidentally, Emily P. Freeman has just released a podcast episode on theme days on The Next Right Thing, if you’re interested! 🙂

Watch out for the Balloons

There are certain things about ourselves that are rather difficult to control. Like our emotions or spontaneous reactions to something we see.
As I rode the subway halfway across town with twelve giant balloons in tow, I noticed people were looking at me differently. Heads turned and followed my every step. Looks lingered just a few seconds longer than normal. And then people broke into smiles, shy at first and then grinning from one ear to the other. Some nodded at me with approval, others voiced a soft “Oh”.
And I couldn’t help myself, I just had to chuckle and wonder about such a simple thing of joy.

Balloons make people happy.
And I believe there are a lot more metaphorical ‘balloons’ in our lives that we tend to overlook in our busyness or are too afraid to acknowledge. 

Dreamy sunrises and sunsets on cold winter days.
The first signs of spring.
Someone singing along to music in their ears on their morning commute.
A stranger smiling at you.
A child talking to you as if you’d known them for years.
A pretty dress on someone else.
A word of encouragement from a friend.
People elevating your ideas to something magical.
The smell of your favorite food at the end of a long day.

It takes just a few little things to make us happy. Watch out for the ‘balloons’ in your mundane life – notice them, acknowledge them, speak them, celebrate them. 

“If you see something beautiful in someone, speak it.” 

Ruthie Lindsey 

ruthie lindsey


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

When We Feel Like Imposters to Our Own Lives

When I first started teaching, I would sometimes stand beside myself as if someone else was teaching in the classroom. Even though I had spent quite a few years at university preparing myself for this job, I didn’t feel ready to be a teacher. I was waiting for the day when a student would jump up, point his finger at me and discover who I really was: a fake, pretending to be someone else. An imposter to my own life.

Sometimes in life we might do exactly that: we stand beside ourselves and watch life happen to us.

We compare ourselves to the shiny projections others share online and wonder why we don’t seem to be so happy, well-traveled and balanced.
We long for authentic relationships and a sense of belonging, but we are scared to be vulnerable and rather hide our true selves.
We carry all these big dreams inside of us that we’re too timid to share, so we stick to the same old.
We want to have it all figured out, to know exactly who we are and what we stand for. We want to go far and grow deep, but we lack the courage to take the first step right in front of us.
We think of who we will become.
One day.

In all of this, we might overlook the most important part: We are the ones who can make it happen. In fact, we need to make it happen. No one but us can build the life we envision to have.

The life before had happened to me as childhood happens to everyone. The mark of adulthood is when we happen to life.

Jedidiah Jenkins.
To Shake the Sleeping Self.

If we want to grow and go anywhere in this life, we need to take responsibility for ourselves and the person we want to become.
We can’t escape from the seeming imposters in our lives – we need to get to know ourselves and fall in love with them. We are the only ones who will always be around. We can’t chase someone else’s dream – we need to figure out what we truly want in life. We cannot just repeat what others say – we need to craft our own words.
We can’t hope for answers to come by naturally – we need to sit in the waiting and embrace the unknown.
We can’t expect relationships to grow out of the blue – we need to give away some of our time, our thoughts, our selves to build something that lasts.

We can’t just stand by and watch life happen to us – we need to understand what kind of crucial impact we can have to this life.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Why You Matter in this World (Thoughts on the New Year)

I know I’m a little late to the game, but welcome back to a new year on this part of the internet!
Here’s to a new year of making plans, hard work and great achievements.
Here’s to a new year of self-doubt. 

You’re not good enough for this task. 
Don’t overestimate your own talent. 
You will never be able to see it through to the end. 
This has never been done before. 
No one will read your writing anyway. 
So you want to become famous?

I am not saying that this year all your dreams will come true. And if you’ve been around here for a while you know that I am not a big fan of New Years resolutions. I can’t guarantee that this year will be a good one for you.

But there’s something that might make a difference:
Let’s focus on influence this year.

Seek inspiration for your work and creativity. If something or someone doesn’t strike a chord deep inside of you, don’t waste your time comparing yourself to them.
Discover the magic of the unsubscribe or unfollow button.
Slow down and notice the beauty around you.
Dig into a good book and marvel at other artist’s craft.
Challenge yourself and listen to someone outside your bubble, you might just find treasure.
Find your people who are brave enough to dream with you and step into the groundwork together.
Surround yourself with friends who are willing to hold your heart as it cracks open with vision and vulnerability.
Become aware of who you’re around every week and how you might influence them. Take responsibility for the impact you make on others and the world around you.

Here’s to a new year in which growth and strength will slowly, gradually conquer the spaces in our heart where self-doubt once used to sit. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

 

A Simple and Profound Message for Christmas

This year I went a little crazy with Christmas music. Beginning with the first advent Sunday, I put on my Christmas playlist and the familiar tunes have been blasted around the apartment for the better part of the past month. Songs about snowy landscapes, time with the family and peace all around. 

The melody of this world often sounds very different, though. 

Winter has been replaced by climate change, people dread the drama of relationships and Christmas is anything but peaceful. We’re stressed out, exhausted from the year and overwhelmed by the darkness surrounding us. 

Emmanuel. God is with us. 

In the midst of our busy lives and worried hearts, there is the soft and yet so striking message of Christmas. It won’t solve all our problems, it won’t take all our burdens away. 

And yet there is something comforting, peaceful, profound to know that we don’t have to walk through the wilderness alone. 

Emmanuel is with us. 
His presence is closer than we often realize. 

So as we gather around the Christmas tree at slightly warmer temperatures, as we bask in candle light and maybe struggle with the darkness – be with each other. 
Be present at the dinner table and in challenging conversations. 
Be there to share the pains and joys of life together. 
Remind each other of Emmanuel this Christmas. 

He is with us. 
Where can you see him this week? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today, the last one for this year. Merry Christmas to you agnd your loved ones!