#22 – Time Alone

This is #22 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Here’s another one you might like.


How I Go to the Woods

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.

― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems


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Leading From the True Self

The purpose of the true self is to keep us honest about playing as big as we can, fully living into our particular gifts. It knows that when we do so we are healthier, happier, and more energetically and generously connected to both self and others. That’s why the true self scares us so much. It keeps calling us to new edges and new possibilities, the ones that seem well beyond our reach because we are so committed to perceiving them through the lens of the false self.

And that false self, that construct we’ve busily and expertly put together through a lifetime of adaptation to everything but our own sense of purpose, it not only limits our well-being but it drags down everyone around us as well…those who stick around, anyway.

This is why it’s impossible for someone who has not identified and who does not regularly work on living into his or her true self, to be a transformational leader, a leader of real change.

People who rely on positional authority for their leadership “credibility” are leading from the false self, always trying to quiet the voice in the head that accurately names their fraudulence and their fear.

“True self” leaders are known by their humility and their freedom. No longer bound by their old constraints they remain aware of how easy it is to slip them back on again. They are vigilant and watchful, cultivating relationships of mutual commitment to the truth because they know they can’t do it alone.

“True self” leaders always start with this question: “How do I need to change before asking others to change?”


photo of person inside cave

Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

All the Other Selves

I really like this quote:

“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather”

 Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

I like the way that it makes me uncomfortably aware of my internal conflict. On one hand I feel the shame of knowing that he’s right. I peruse the catalog of all of the other selves I have lived and it’s got more pages than I can count!

On the other hand, I read it with feelings of thankfulness and even a sense of freedom. I consider the work I have done to both recognize and reattach to my original shimmering self and I am proud of how it has allowed me to discard a bunch of old coats and hats!

My thankfulness comes from the appreciation I feel for the many kind and patient people who have both insisted on and supported the reemergence of my original self. These are the people who remain in this conversation with me, unwilling to put me in the box marked “Done” and unwilling to allow me to do so either.

I continue to clean out my closet and I continue to discover old coats and hats, fewer than before but still some remain.

Packing them away for good is the work of a life.


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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To Be Oneself

“Fully alive people are liberated by their self-acceptance to be authentic and real.”

– John Powell, S.J.


Today, I continue to explore John Powell’s “five essential steps into the fullness of life.”

Part 2: To Be Oneself

Sometimes I think I matured in reverse. My memories of high school in particular are a series of Technicolor images of “being myself,” feeling fully human and fully alive. Not long after that time, my “self” slipped away and it took a long time to get it back.

In high school I remember feeling completely comfortable expressing myself in the assorted ways it made sense for me to do so. I sang in choir, performed in musical theater, participated in student government, in talent shows, pep rallies, air bands, skits…anything and everything that gave me a chance to employ my extraversion, my energy and my joy for performance. I wanted to create, to connect, to engage. I instinctively wanted to use my energy to energize others.

Once in a while, I hit the books. And I did well enough. But the classroom was not my personal proving ground. My greatest learning, and my most positive memories of that time, came from getting up in front of people. It was what I knew how to do and I had a wide-open runway on which to do it.

College wasn’t remarkably different from high school in this regard and I found some similar ways to tap into that bottomless reservoir of performance energy.  This gradually became muted by more rigorous academic demands and the fact that I was swimming in a much bigger pond. The fact that it never dawned on me to get involved in theater at the college level is a decent indicator that I was already working hard to protect myself from not getting picked.

Since the approval of others came so easily in my teenage pursuits I was ignorant about how much I needed it. As that veil was lifted, as my need was exposed, I began to shrink away from some of the risks that would have come easily before.

As comfortable as I was in “presentation mode” in my earlier years, I found myself anxious and afraid as my young career provided opportunities to be out in front. I got myself convinced that those innocent exploits were an anomaly, not really me, and what chance did I really have to repeat an anomaly!

Finally, at 37 years old, an age that seems obscenely old relative to how intensely my unmet internal desires were burning, my friend Molly Davis paved the way for me to make my first professional presentation at a conference. It was the first time I stood up and said, “this is the work I do, what my team and my company have accomplished, and I am very happy to share it with you.”

I had some skin in the game and because of that I was very, very nervous. And it went great. And there was no looking back.

Twenty years after experiencing the joyful and easy expressions of my youth, I had discovered it again, this time with the maturity of my professional experience to back it up. It was quite a moment to be reconnected to myself after all of those years.

Today, I am a soloist at church and I give lots of talks and trainings. I freely share stories about my experiences, striving always to represent myself authentically and without a varnish that begs for approval. And I still get nervous. But that nervous energy is no longer rooted in the fear of not being good enough but rather in my desire to do good work. I care about what I do and I want that to come across loud and clear.

I once heard it said that if the path ahead of you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s path. And tempting though it may be to stay on that safer road, to get to oneself requires the harder work of a boulder-strewn, uphill climb.

No one else can walk it for you. And the view from the top is breathtaking.


Tomorrow: Part 3, To forget oneself in loving

January-12