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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Nights at home with family & heaven...

Last night, as I sat on the couch watching American Idol with my daughters I soaked in every moment like it was last night we were ever going to spend together.  I wrapped my arms around them and let their limp bodies tangle up with mine as we watched the final 6 perform old Queen songs together.  They clung to my limbs like their childhood blankeys pressing their cheeks into my biceps and rubbing their faces against my neck and jawbone.  Their legs would drape over mine dandling there about 8 inches off the floor.

We tried to get a blanket and get it wrapped around all of us at the same time, but it was an involuntary jockeying for position on my lap for the coverage of that scrawny blanket made for one--one person who was about 4 foot tall and 4 foot wide.  And here we are trying to stretch it to fit three or four.  But you manage somehow.  Only families can find a way to make small, cramped conditions a moment for intimacy.  This is what it means to be a family.  You don't do this kind of stuff with other people.  It would be weird.

I would kiss the girls soft foreheads with my daddy lips brushing them back and forth on their faces and then pecking them ever so softly.  One time Aly said, "Dad, you're breathing too hard."  She was right and that was kinda gross, so I had to monitor and manage my breathing to an almost indistinguishable rhythm.  It was what I imagine a breathing exercise feeling like, forced at first, but over time you get the hang of it.

I would rub their little arms with the tips of my fingers, trying to find the perfect place right up to when it is sleep inducing--entrancing--without going beyond that tipping point to ticklish.  You can feel when it's too ticklish because they twitch a little and that gives you the cue to press down a little harder and quicken the movements of the "figure eights" you're making all over their little limbs.  I also massage the palms of their little hands with my thumb hitting those sensitive little spots in between their fingers that hardly ever get any attention.  They just put their hands out and let me have my way with them.  One them has clammy hands, one of them has dryer hands, and the other one, I suppose, has normal hands and she doesn't seem to find it all that relaxing.

My whiskers present a little bit of a problem, but I can tell sometimes they use my face to scratch an itch on their shoulder or face, like a bear rubbing his back up against a rough-barked tree.  But most of the time, they ask me to shave so they can run their little hands across my skin making remarks about how smooth it is and almost always asking, "Does mom like it when it's like this?"  To which I respond discreetly, "You have no idea."  They smile and keep rubbing my face putting their noses up close to it to smell the lingering aroma of the shaving cream.  Remember that smell growing up?  They love when I smell like after-shave or cologne commenting, "Dad you smell sooooo good?"  I'm not sure if this means that most of the time I smell wretchedly bad, but I'll take the momentary affirmations.

Halfway through the American Idol 2-hour show, we pause the DVR and tell them to get upstairs and brush their teeth in preparation for bed.  It's already 9:30pm, so we're at least an hour past when we normally begin the long, arduous process of "bedtime".  I chase them up the stairs slapping their little behinds, goading them like a herd of cattle.  I keep them on task with little reminders of what they are supposed to be doing: "Where's your toothbrush?  Tay, get your shin-guards out of your socks.  Kami, don't worry about texting your friend sappy goodnight well-wishes.  Aly, quit horsing around!"  And so on and so forth.  Finally, they make their way to their bunk-beds...they all sleep in the same room.

That begins another tradition of climbing into bed with each of them and wrapping them up in my arms asking them the simple question: "How did your day go?"  They usually respond with a flippant "good" or "ok".  Sometimes I'll probe deeper with half-jokes like: "Anyone I need to beat up for you that's been giving you a hard time? or Any boys that you need me to take care of that are being annoying or bullies? or Any girls talking about boyfriends and girlfriends that need me to come in and set them straight?  They giggle and begin to tell me stories they'd never tell me if they didn't think I was joking in the first place.  It's a great parental ploy.

Aly likes to be tickled a bit, but she also loves to be snuggled where she lays on her left side and I spoon with her and pull back her hair and lay softly on the side of her tender face.  Then she'll say something like: "Ask me a question, dad?"  From there we could explore anything from her feelings about herself or life around her to funny things that happened that day or how she's feeling about her relationship with her mom.  Often she wants to play the "would you rather game"...where I say "Would you rather snuggle with your dad or ... go to Disneyland."  She will wait to give an answer and I'll play into the evasive game of mounting tension by saying, "What is taking you so long to answer, it's a no brainer." If she feels like getting tickled and tortured, she will pick Disney and brace herself for the full fury of my fatherly mauling.  If she doesn't feel like getting tickled she will reply, "Snuggle with you, Dad."  We will lay there for a while and then I'll kiss her goodnight, rub her face with my fingertips like Gramma Lavin used to do with me, sometimes pray into her little ear, and then make my way to Taylor's bed.

By this time Tay is giggling already as I make my way up the ladder to her upper-bunkbed.  She is crunched in her little purple blanket she's had since she was a baby.  She's a unique creature, because during the day, she isn't as affectionate and snuggly with me.  She appears busy like she's got something to do or somewhere to go when I ask her to give me a hug or let me pick her up.  Sometimes she'll initiate connection or affection during the day, but her mind is filled with tasks and to-do's.  But at night time, she wants to connect.  She will grab my arm and pull it over her shoulder like a blanket and hold it like her favorite stuffed animal.  She wants me to envelope her and often asks, "If there was a tornado and you were trying to protect me, how would your cover me?"  I take my body and wrap her up in it so tight and completely that she senses she would be shielded from any blast.  Then she'll want to do antonyms and synonyms.  I will say and word and she will either come up with the opposites or the similars to that that word.  She loves this game.  She came up with it one day when she learned about  this concept from her English class.  I ask her how her day was last night and she said, "God...it was a God day."  We laughed and commented on how she was missing an "o" but how cool it was that you could have a God day and it would be even better than having a good day.  She loves a good "play on words".  We made up a tongue twister last week together just before bed:  "Hey, whiskered mister, where's my sister, I've missed her."  Say that five times fast.  When I'm getting ready to leave, we'll often pray and then she wants me to kiss her 8 times, one for every year of her life.  She loves it when I miscalculate and go over one or two...reminding me that she tricked me.  I always purposely miscalculate.  I love childhood.

Then it's my eldest who gets the caboose of the bedtime train.  She has her bed set up with a configuration of pillows and blankets that are put in place like a Tetris game.  It gives her comfort and a feeling of protection.  I climb in bed behind her and put my arm under her head and wrap my leg up and over her body. She asked last night, "Why do you think it feels so good to be held so tight?"  I commented that it's probably something that we felt in our mother's womb as we floated around in amniotic fluid tightly snuggled in the loving belly of our mom's body.  She said, "Dad, that's gross."  I replied, "I know, but I'm just saying."  To which she'll respond, "I'm not saying, I'm just saying."  This is my daughter who loves little one-liners passed down through the years like "Don't insult my intelligence" or "You can't beat that with a stick." or "Make my day." or "Floating an air biscuit".  She absolutely loves the expression of language and how it can change someone's mood or the atmosphere of a room.  She is the most open with me about her feelings and loves to know about my life.  She's the only child I have that asks me questions: "Dad, how was your day?"  "Are you feeling good today, dad?"  "What did you do today, dad?"  Most of it is unabashed nosiness, but a lot of it is her psycho-social skills and her affective spirit.  She is deeply tuned into the spirit and soul of life and can feel when something has changed in the environment that goes undetected by most people.  She wants to get in on the story and listens with the attentiveness of a prairie dog--upright, staring intently and listening for a pin to drop.  She loves to kiss me right on the lips.  Before school, after school, before dinner, after dinner, before bed, after bed...she is Miss affection.  And I love this about her.  I wrap her up tight in her blankets before I kiss her goodnight and then I warn her about the bedbugs and how they are poised to bite her all night.  She  snickers and buries her head in her pillow faking like she's not going to be standing at the top of the stairs in about 5 minutes asking her mother and I if she can take a Melatonin, to which we respond, "Yes, and then get to bed!"

This is the stuff life is made of.  I needed to write it down so I wouldn't forget.  Still counting my blessings and naming them one by one...how 'bout you?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Margin for meaning-sake...

Creating space between meetings.  Making room for variables.  Planning for the unplanned.  This is all-important.

I can often pencil in back to back appointments and almost always they turn out to be back-to-back disappointments.  In a perfect word I would be able to shift seamlessly from one table to the next, changing hats and shifting gears on the fly, but most of the time I'm rushing the first meeting to a conclusion and still showing up 6 minutes late for the next.

The damage isn't just in your organizational credibility, that may be the least of your worries honestly.  The real breakdown is what this kid of cramped and frantic life does to your own psyche.  An uptight hard makes it hard to lead and it's a very difficult heart to follow.  

This kind of heart always feels behind or overwhelmed with what they are forgetting.  They aren't all that present either when you're hanging with them, they are elsewhere either nursing either a post-partem depression of their last obligation or a pre-imposed depression of the one yet to come.  These people check off things on their list, a task that has turned into an almost sick enjoyment.  The more tasks they check off in a given 8 hour period, the more important they feel.  And I can't believe how many people would rather feel important than be important.  It's a drug.

Recreation is critical to success.  The re-creating of brains cells and bloods cells necessary for high performance.  The re-creating of positivity and possibility that is necessary to leading humans toward something instead of from something.  The re-creating of hope and happiness that gives meaning to the motions.  You've heard of "going through the motions".  This is almost always describing a person who has had their soul vacuumed out of their body.  Recreation makes honest toil seem purposeful, dare I say, enjoyable.  It gives you the often overlooked feeling of true significance instead of stale success.  Success, you come to find out, isn't all that hard to achieve with heavier lifting and longer days and guttier leadership...but significance (def - meaningful and generative life) is a much harder greased pig to apprehend. 

Without margin...it's hard to feel meaning.  Without space to do so, you can't smell the roses or absorb the moment.  All your senses are deadened by duty and what was once a soul with a body, becomes a body with a soul.  And it might not seem like a perspective shift that makes a hill-of-beans difference, but it is.  When you think you're a human being having a spiritual experience as opposed to a spirit being having a human experience, it frames your life differently.  The fallout is subtle, but brutal.

So, yeah, margin.  That's what I'm after today.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Count your blessings...name them one by one...

I'm thankful for so many things.

My God.  My life.  My wife.  My daughters.

My home.  My yard.  My firepit.  My landscaping.

My job.  My church.  My leaders.  My sheep.

My Lowell community.  The rivers.  The farmland.  The good people here.

My health.  My quality of life.  The providence of God.


I'm thankful for the joy of being able to serve the King.  To be able to do his bidding.  To herald his word to the peoples of the earth.  To plead with people to harken to his heart.  Sometimes I fear I'm not doing his heart justice, for it is a great heart filled with so much desire and delight.  I long to take people into the inner courts of his joy.  Being a bond-servant of Jesus is such a privilege and pleasure!  I get to spend my life for His glory.  I get to listen to people with his ears.  I get to hug people with his arms.  I get to talk to people with his tongue.  I get to.  Then I get to watch people experience his touch, voice and spirit for the maybe the first time in their lives and connect with their Creator.  This is an unspeakable gift...to luxuriate in this holy moment where divinity and humanity bleed into one another. Introducing people to God is, well, it's unparalleled.  I want to die introducing people to their God.  Seriously, if I could breathe my last breath, my final exhale, and utter the words, "In the beginning God..." and just leave people to carry on their own conversation with Him after that, well, that would be my dream.

I'm thankful for the treasure of marriage.  A soul bearing witness to your every whimsical movement.  How lost I'd be without my mate, my intimate.  She is my lighthouse when I'm losing my way.  My thermometer when I'm checking my temperature.  My fireplace for warmth.  My warm shower for cleansing.  My fresh air for renewal.  She asks me questions inquiring of my heart's whereabouts.  She senses shifts no one else would see.  She notices changes and notes those changes for further conversation.  To be noticed by someone regularly has got to be the chief delight of matrimony.  She loves me even when nothing noteworthy has taken place.  This is a good woman.  A woman of selflessness that takes care of me well.  She thinks for me when I've forgotten something.  She can anticipate things about me and get in my head.  She does things for me and never tells me about it, I know this because I've caught her doing that without her knowing it before.  That is goodness in its truest form.  I'm in love with her.  Her beauty deepens with age.  It's gone from skin deep to soul deep.  You have to stay married long enough to move to the deeper beauty...I feel like I've just skimmed the surface.  Like I've just grazed the glory of this woman.  It's true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I don't take enough time to behold her...to really see her, to know her.  I want to spend more time beholding her.  Holding her.  She is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.  I would not be me without her.

I'm thankful for my daughters.  They are 12, 10, and 8...if you could stop time with three children, these are the ages you would want to freeze-frame.  The oldest is not too old, the youngest is not to young.  They all can go to places and share in the joy together.  They all still play and pretend together.  They enjoy watching the same silly shows like "I love Lucy" and "Loony Tunes", sitting on the couches eating cereal in the morning with their blankeys in their jammies.  I love climbing into bed with them and tickling them, snuggling with them, making up games with them, and asking them about their thoughts and ideas and remembrances.  I love cradling them in my arms and wrapping myself around them like a cocoon.  I love whispering into their ears and seeing if I can get goosebumps on their arms and legs.  I love running my fingers through their hair as they recount the story of the day.  I love rubbing the soft skin of their foreheads with my fingertips and playing with their flimsy earlobes while we talk about things that hurt them that day or things that made them feel sad.  I love reading the Action Bible with them at night delighting in the crazy stories of the Bible.  I will give the characters in the stories different voices making sound effects to animate them and get them to pop off the page.  I will look over at Heidi and she will smile and almost be embarrassed of my antics.  I like that.  I love that my girls are feminine because their mother has taught them to be so.  They aren't afraid to be female.  And you know what, I'm not afraid to lose myself and be as female as I can be with them.  I try ever so hard to be available to their souls, and make my own soul accessible to their young hearts.  I love them so much, they have no idea to what degree.

I could go on...but I think I'll stop there for now.  Like the old hymn says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one..."  I want to try and do that in the days and blogs to come.  I'll warn you, it could get a little sappy.  But here's the thing, you can't enjoy the syrup until you extract the sap.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What takes the joy from the boy?

What takes the joy from the boy?  When did he start taking himself so seriously?

When did he stop making noises for things, impersonating everything?  Why the silence?

Where are the snide remarks and the one-liners?  When did "not thinking before you speak" turn into not saying anything at all for fear of saying the wrong thing?  The cat got your tongue?

What takes the joy from the boy?

When did he start forgetting how to laugh or relax?  Where are the foolish pranks?  When did he stop pulling a fast one?  When did he stop caring about getting the last word?

Where did the stubborn rebellion go?  What happened to the never-say-die attitude?  Where did that little guy go?  What happened to him along the way?

Where did you take one too many on the chin?  What was the thing that broke your back?  When did you lose your will to fight?  What happened to you, little guy?

What takes the joy from the boy?

What takes the joy from the toys?  Why don't you go outside and play anymore?  Why do you stay inside so much sitting and starring at stationary objects?  Why the boredom?

Why don't you ask questions any more?  Where did your curiosity go?  Don't you want to find out what's over there or around that corner?  Why not?

What takes the joy from the boy?

Is it something some said to you way back when?  Is it something somebody did to you that robbed you blind?  When was the day the "that something" inside you died?

Why don't you get in trouble anymore?  Are you too scared to venture out and take a risk...to act, to speak, to feel something that might get you chided, scolded?  What gives?

Don't you ever want to climb that tree just for the fun of it?  Don't you ever just want to dance with danger to see if you will live to tell about it?  Why do you play it so safe these days, son?

What takes the joy from the boy?

Where did the spunk go?  The piss and vinegar.  The vim and vigor?  What are you scared of...failure, exposure, loss, unknowns, criticism?  Come on, speak up, young man!  What say ye?

Where is the fire in your belly?  Where is the laughter from your belly?  Who took your guts out?  Who emasculated you along the way?

Have you done this to yourself?  Are these prison walls self-constructed expectations of perfection?  Who told you that it had to be just so or like this or that?

What takes the joy from the boy?

When did you stop doing things for the love of them and instead worshipped what they gave you or where they got you?  When did you start thinking too hard and straining for just the right words?

Don't you miss the days where you ran woodward--deep into the forrest--and climbed the highest rough-barked cherry tree swaying in the eastern breeze of the lake?

Don't you miss the youthful zest for life that drove you crazy?  Crazy for that girl.  Crazy for that game winning shot?  Crazy for that next adventure?  Crazy for whatever, whenever, wherever.  Hugh, is that still in there, buddy?

What takes the joy from the boy?

What field dresses him along the way leaving his carcass cooling on the earth's surface?  What makes him despise manhood with all its loss of innocence and transcendence?  What makes him capitulate to the adult world of getting your act together and taking the show on the road?

Where did the supple heart of the boy flee to?  Where is it hiding and why is it hiding?  When did yearning give into yawning?

What takes the joy from the boy?

He is a figment of who he was.  A fragment of what he was.  He is looking for himself, backtracking to see where he lost his way, backpacking to find his way forward into the jungle of other men doing the same.  Lost in the woods, lost in the weeds.

What takes the joy from the boy?

Proverbs 15:13 - A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

You might be a leader if...

You might be a leader...if you get credit for things that you didn't actually do.
You might be a leader...if you get blame for things that you didn't actually do.
You might be a leader...if people get to critique you because you're up front or out front, but you don't get to return the favor and critique them.
You might be a leader...if you have to know more about people than they think you know and yet have treat them like you don't know a single thing.
You might be a leader...if you've ever cried when you see someone obscure get recognized.
You might be a leader...if God reminds you just before bed that you're the luckiest guy alive.

Which reminds me, it's my time to sign off....

Jason

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A letter to my Dad about honesty in leadership...

This is a letter I wrote to my dad a couple years back after sharing with "brutally honestly" (being 'fearfully human' as one author put it) with my extended family as a "family sharing time".  My raw thoughts were met with some mixed reviews, shall I say.

Dad, wrote me and simply said, "I'm praying for you...how are you doing?"  This was my letter back to him...I just felt compelled to share it.
___________________________



thanks Dad.
I'm doing much better,thought the battle still rages.  My spirit is buoyed.
I would refer to myself as a "Peter" personality as it relates to th disciples.  I am passionate, I am emotional, I am die-hard, I am vulnerable, I am easily tempted, I am honest sometimes to a fault, I am "all or nothing"...these are good qualities, but they also lead to my demise.
They are my bread and butter and cause people to be drawn to me.  But they also torture my soul in the secret places and are only shared with those who can handle the raw data and drama of my life.  For the most part, I lead with strength and passion in front of people, but there are few who can shoulder my burdens with me and really understand. I don't want to alarm anyone...but that's what happens when I open up with people (even family).  I sometimes sense that people don't really want to know what's
really going on and what you're really struggling with and what you're really feeling, they just want the product you produce...the feeling you give them, the security of your stabilizing leadership presence...but this can be fabricated without the outlet of truth.
I sense that sometimes when I share...people just sit, listen, and absorb the shock, not knowing how to respond.  Rarely do I hear,"I hear you.  I feel what you're saying.  What you are experiencing is normal and natural for a leader.  I'm with you.  You're going to be ok." More or less it's "Oh no! Jason's going down!  I fear for his soul!  And if Jason can't survive we're all screwed!"  It is this response that makes it hard for me to share my true self with people...family included.  It's like people don't know me enough to know of my inner strength mixed with my inner fragility.  They just see my fragility and respond accordingly. Maybe this is the life of a pastor.  Or maybe this is just the kind of thing that keeps leaders
in dark of the "unshared life" and people in the dark as to who their leaders really are under the cloak of ministry.
This I know, we as leaders do ourselves no favors, nor do we do our followers any favors, by feigning faith in the midst of honest questions and confusion.  I would rather alarm people with my brash and truthful thoughts than edit reality in order to comfort the hearers. I am fully aware that the time, place and people where this sort of unadulterated truth can come forth is a small arena.  Family and close friends. (and sometimes not even
them if they can't handle it...I hope my family can handle the weight of my heart without pigeonholing me in some unstable category.)
I wonder sometimes if you had a real place to share your true heart and feelings early on in ministry if you would have found the freedom of accountability and friendship and honesty.  We grew up in a Christianity that unknowingly promoted "Don't ask, don't tell" modes of operation and everyone feared excommunication or at least emotional, relational "ostracization"
(not a word) in the faith community. That fear of risking loss of spiritual reputation due to "over-sharing" kept a great many hidden under a shroud of guilt, fear and loneliness.
Dad, I share this with you so that you can know of my heart.  I love you heart of faithfulness and care.  I love you desire to live for the glory of God and to serve people with every fiber of your being.  I think sometimes I just wish you had an outlet to just be real, I mean completely and embarrassingly real.  I think your story may have played out a bit differently. 

We'll never know though will we.  We can only lean into the future.
Thanks for you prayer.  I love you, Dad.  I pray for you and your ministry often.  You are doing a great job.  You're a leader whether you think you are or not.
Jason

Saturday, April 07, 2012

The yawn, the dawn and the song...

I'm sitting here this morning at my kitchen table.

The sun is coming up and I'm listening to the birds sing their "dawn songs".  The landscape is eerily still as it appears there is not a wisp of wind.  The ground is green and covered with dew, some shaded parts still sparkle with the diamonds of what looks like a light frost.  The sun is casting long shadows along the backyard creating the coolest charcoal art with the still--almost naked--trees.  Trunks, branches, and twigs darken the surface of the yard with silhouettes that are almost HD in the quality of their detail.

The sky is clear and blue, a canopy of hope letting people know that the morning is here, the mourning is over, that it's a new day and we are met with new mercies rising with the dawn.

I just yawned which is my bodies way of telling me there's much to do and more to be today.  I drink in the picturesque landscape lapping up its beauty to bolster me for the day ahead, still to come.  Nature is like a gas station for my soul.  When I'm on empty I pull myself toward the fuel pump of creation, grab the nozzle of nature, remove the gas cap off my closed off innards, and pour in stuff the gas tank of my heart needs to run.  This is so important to my existence.

I haven't been doing this enough lately.  I haven't been filling up on the beauty of the world around me and my heart can't run on fumes forever.  I don't believe anybodies can.

Thanks for the beautiful morning and the mercies that accompany it.

I needed this today.

Now for the other nectar that soothes the soul, a good cup of joe.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

"This could be a long story..."

It always is.

No matter what story your telling, if it's anything, it's long.  As it should be, it's a story.

I hear people saying this phrase: "Well, in a nutshell here's what happened."  And then they precede to talk fast and edit out details, adverbs, adjectives and correct punctuation when they can get away with it.  And why not?  Their primary objective is to get to the point, not tell the story.

But here's the thing with story, it's not alway about the point.  That's why the Bible was written in the form it was.  And I don't think you can argue that if the Bible is anything it is "taking the scenic route" to Jesus.  Story after story, some mystic, some mythic, but most just long drawn out stories of regular everyday things happening to everyday people with everyday issues.

But the "scenic route" is becoming the point to me.  You don't see deer in rut and heat trying to get to know each other before mating sitting on a bench at the park swapping stories and holding hoofs and laughing at the annoying geese.  Animals don't get to know each other through the medium of story, well, maybe dogs, they sniff each others butts for a while in an effort to get to know each other better.  But other than that, we are the only creatures walking this planet that interact with story.

And we can try to cram a story into a nutshell if we so desire, but a story wasn't made for a nutshell.  It's like putting a toothpaste back into the tub.  It's made to come out, not be re-put make in and re-squeezed back out.

So the next time someone says, "Oh, it's a long story."  Surprise them by saying, "Oh boy, Oh boy, I love long stories, tell me every juicy detail and don't leave out a single storyline."  When they warn you that it could get a little more detailed than you desire, giving them fair warning as well that you're in the story for the long haul and that they won't have to get queer in the middle of the story and say something like "I'll let you go." or "That is probably more than you wanted to know." or "but that is beside the point."

We need a generation who doesn't want to be let go, that could never be told more than they want to know because they are so curious, and who relish the off-roading in the conversation found beside the point.

I'm sick of truncated stories fit into nutshells.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Depression...

You struggle with depression?  So much has been written about this pesky debilitation.

I used to think it was feeling bored.  But that's not nearly as depressing as feeling boring.  There is something crippling about feeling like there's nothing about you that would produce anything but a yawn in the people around you.  You ever been in the middle of telling someone a story and they are glazing over with boredom?  When you feel boring, this belief can cripple your day from the onset.

I used to think it was feeling uninterested.  But that's not nearly as depressing as feeling uninteresting.  When you're in conversation and you've got nothing noteworthy to share, nothing to hold a persons attention.  When your life feels bland and banal.  If you start believing that your greatest thoughts aren't worth a pot to pee in, it's hard to even want to begin a conversation with someone.

I find that when I'm depressed it isn't because I don't want to be around people, I do.   I just don't want anyone to be around me.  I don't want them to be disappointed by my lack.  My lack of witty comebacks. My lack of youthful zest.  My lack of hopeful optimism.  My lack of charismatic joy.  When I'm down, I can't think about anything but how lackluster I feel and am.

I then get tired of hearing myself talk or write.  Words, words and more words.  They all start to sound the same.  I get bored of myself, I find myself uninteresting.  And this is when it can hit a paralyzing level, because at the core, one of the things that keeps you going is the belief that you have something to say into the world, you have something to offer, you have something that is needed and wanted by the general public.

But, at the end of the day, when all accounts are taken and you balance the books, words are generally just breath and sound evaporating into the wind like a morning mist.  You won't remember saying most of them and people will remember even less.  They are filler.  They pass the time.  They keep encounters with people from being highly awkward.  Words.

And this is really, really sad when you love words so much.  To come to realize that words are a dime a dozen.  Words and Spam.  The only difference between the two is meaning.  And do you know how difficult it is to make words meaningful when so many of them are being thrown around.  Let me answer that for you, really difficult.

Depression, rather deflation, happens when you offer up your best and your best can't hold people's attention because you realize that thousands of other people are vying for the same market share.  People are busy, they don't have time unless you're really interesting and have something going on that's more interesting than the next guy.  And that's hard to be...interesting.

Depression.

It's not about being bored, it's about being boring.
It's not about being uninterested.  It's about being uninteresting.

This is depression...at least a form of it.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Leaders listen.

Often when we think of leaders, we think of pictures of grandeur.

Standing atop a stage challenging a room full of eager participants.
Sitting in a conference room going through a motivational powerpoint to galvanize the foot soldiers.
Walking into a room and having people wait in line to talk to them.

But here's the thing you need to understand about that one picture.

Most of the time, the people talking to the guy up front who just got done with his speech, or talk, or sermon is not hearing encouraging responses from the talk, sharing pearls of wisdom on topic or signing autographs.  No.

He or she is listening to people.  Listening.

People may come up thinking they want to talk to you, but most of the time, they want to just talk.  You spend the better of your time standing there listening.  Listening to their story (most of the time unrelated to the talking point of your message).  Listening to their random thoughts.  Watching them get all nerved up with blotches on their neck sharing something they've never told anyone before.

But those are the easy ones.  The ones that are really hard are the people who just want attention and you're the only one that will listen to them.  You are the easy target because you don't have a get away car so to speak.  You are cornered.  And this is part of a being a leader.  I would go so far as to say this is a good majority of what a leaders spend their time doing.  Listening.  To all kinds of stories and opinions and ideas.  Sometimes they are borderline hallucinations they are so goofy.  But you sit in the moment with them, nod your head, and listen.  As intently as you can.  As genuinely as you can.  As fearfully human as you can.

So if you don't want to listen, you don't want to be a leader.