Tag Archives: change

Button Eyes and Lemonade

24 Aug

Guess what?

After much discussion and thought and prayer, I decided to take the opportunity I told you guys about last week.  Now that it’s officially part of my life, it’s only fair to fill you in.

I’m going on my tenth year in this place.  The first eight years, I was heavily involved in the college ministry at my church.  Over those eight years, I was in Bible studies, I led Bible studies, I did an internship, I did a nine-month long program for women who want to learn more about their Bibles.  All of this stuff was great, until I tried to do too much at once.

Because of my good intentions to serve in the ministry, I overcommitted and got a bit burned out.  I learned that even if you’re good at stuff, you can’t commit to a thousand things and give 100% to everything.  Sometimes saying no is the most helpful thing you can do.

The past two years I spent laying low and learning a lot of things: things about being married, about being a good friend, about living a balanced life where I think about others, but don’t neglect myself.  Finally, I figured out what it is I have a passion for (writing fiction) and am pursuing it.  These things are great, and I’ve recovered from my final two years of overcommitted crazy tiredness.  Those were years I gave of myself – to the church, to employers, to people-people-people – until there wasn’t much left to give.  Those were years I tried to be Little Miss Perfect when really, I’m just this worn-out rag doll with mismatched buttons for eyes.

Last week, I got a phone call: Would you consider being a mentor for the leaders of the freshmen Bible studies?

Deep breath.  First, I’m surprised they’re even asking.  My failures intimidate me, but I guess they’ve considered that and are asking anyway.  I think about the opportunity and know I now have a lot to offer these girls – I’ve been there, for many years, with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But, I know myself, and I know how it turned out last time I helped.

People change, have you ever realized that?  I changed.  I have more of a spine than I had a few years ago.  I don’t tiptoe around people’s eggshell feelings, I don’t take blame when it’s not mine to take.  I definitely have more road rage and am more forthright with my thoughts (though I still aim for tact).  I’ve learned more about love, not only the comfortable kind but the kind that’s sometimes tough to hear or say.

The ministry I worked with is changing, too.  New ideas, new leaders, new members, which means an exciting time to come back.  It’s a blank slate.  For everybody.  For me.

I said yes.  Now I’m praying that God will change people’s lives despite me.  That I’ll be successful at the few commitments I’ve made – my marriage, my novel, and now, the girls from church.  

I’m hoping to turn my lemon years to lemonade; I’m hoping for, well, more hope.

When Hard Work Goes Unnoticed

22 Jul

I want to be remembered as someone who did the very best with the talent she was given.

– J.K. Rowling, J.K. Rowling: A Year In The Life

Motivation: we all need it.  Some of us have it.  It’s sometimes easy to lose, in the face of difficulty or after hard work that seems to go unnoticed.  It’s definitely easy to lose in the face of hard work that will never get noticed.

I’ve been thinking about my novel’s characters a lot lately, and why they do the things they do.  It occurred to me to ask myself, the author, the same question: why is it that I do what I do?  Why do I love this work so very much, why does it feel so satisfying when I complete something that may never get appreciated by someone else?  I hope it gets noticed by someone else one day, but there’s no guarantee of that.

So why do I do it?

The quote above resonated in me when I heard it.  It’s no foreign concept to me – for a while now, this has also been one of my main reasons for writing.  What struck me about it is that it was THE answer she chose – not to be remembered for her uncanny knack at telling a great story, not for her rags-to-riches story, but for doing the best with what she had.

About a year ago, I was on my knees, scrubbing coffee from the undersides of the tables in Starbucks.  I spent countless days, not making the lattes, but taking orders and handing drinks out the window.

The years before that, I cashed checks and made deposits all day, most every day.  My cash drawer always balanced, and it was perfectly organized.  I got yelled at (um, cursed at, rather) for asking for ID.  I got yelled at for things I didn’t do and couldn’t change.  

I did those jobs as well as I could, though.  I learned how to craft great drinks.  I scrubbed the tables vigorously (more from annoyance than from love of scrubbing, I have to add).  I smiled at the people who yelled at me.  

I did the best I could, but I felt a gaping chasm where I should feel at least a little satisfaction in the work I got up every day to do.  I tried to push my pride aside when the (evil) man in the Starbucks drive through said, “Oh, your parents paid for college? I bet they’re really proud of you working here.”  I tried, but I was truly, deeply unfulfilled.

Why, though?  People do these jobs every day.  We need people to scrub tables, we need people to deal with the money.  Goodness knows I need my lattes!  I rationalized myself into staying with them, because they are good jobs and I am not above them.

One day, though, it occurred to me:  these are not bad jobs, but they don’t use all of me.  They use my people skills and my ability to be responsible with money, but what about my brain?  What about my passion to create?  What about thoughts about life, love, morality, spiritual things, and people?  What about my heart?  Where does being project-driven fit in jobs that have no end and make no progress?  

It’s not just about doing the best you can – it’s about doing the best you can with the talent you are given.  

For me, writing is where I feel myself blossoming.  Hours and days fly by before I know it.  Writing a novel seems to be the perfect combination of using my brain, my creativity, my discipline, my organization, and working in all sorts of things I care about.  I get to explore so many avenues of myself just by sitting down to write.  Therein, I find motivation.  

Doing the best with what I’ve been given might lead to some great side-effects – publication, success (whatever that is), and seeing my printed ideas in the hands of other people.  But it might not.  Whatever happens, I love what I do every day, and it is satisfying to exercise all, not half, of me.

How about you?  What was it that motivated you to write in the first place?  What drives you to keep going, especially through times when you feel like nothing you’re doing is making a difference?  

 

PS: J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life is a documentary put together by James Runcie, a novelist/filmmaker.  There’s an article about the documentary here.

PPS:  I notice, often, that people find this blog by searching for “When my hard work doesn’t get noticed,” and other similar things.  If this is you, I hope your situation gets better soon.  Under-appreciation is never fun, and boy do I understand.  Please feel free to drop a line in the comment section, I love hearing from new readers.

Neon Skin

23 Jun

Maybe it’s the fact that my hair no longer looks like Medusa’s nest of snakes.  Maybe it’s the fact that my trips to the gym happen more like daily than twice a year.  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, and that I don’t have to take on every opportunity that falls in my path.  And maybe it’s because I try things I’ve never done, just to find out if I can.

For whatever reason, a subtle layer of confidence has grown just inside my skin.  When you live in your day-to-day life, though, those small changes go pretty much unnoticed.  Happiness, confidence, drive, ambition, opinions – these things build over time.  When you step back a bit, they glow like neon against the dull background.

Over the weekend, my cousin married a guy who graduated in my high school class.  We are nearing our ten-year reunion, and I have hardly been in touch with anyone from this era of my life.  The groom was popular in school, and naturally, so were his groomsmen.  I was not.  It’s not that I was particularly unpopular.  I moved to this small town at the height of junior high, when egos and cliques had already been set in stone.  I wasn’t clearly related to anyone, and I was clearly different from everyone.  Frustration and bitterness nagged me for a long time – I was alright with being myself, but why wasn’t anyone else alright with me being me?   

It occurred to me last Thursday that I would most likely see some of these people at the wedding (especially since half the town was invited).  To my surprise, I felt excitement bubble up in me, not the heavy dread I expected.  

On the arm of my handsome (and extremely talented and smart) husband, I already felt a thousand times different than I did a decade ago.  We navigated both the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception comfortably, and had good conversations.  It was surreal to talk to people I went to school with, people whose opinions I thought were The Final Word on all things cool.  Now that I know how much bigger the world is, I wondered why I ever held them in such high esteem.  I also pondered the mystery of a small town’s effect on aging (not so) gracefully.  They didn’t look bad, they just looked about ten years older than expected.  Also to my surprise, their forever-friendships struck me as sweet and special; back in the day, I felt jealous and annoyed.  

Against the background of my past, the subtle changes in me glowed obvious.  For the first time in this place, I felt confident and at home in my own skin.  I felt no hunger for their approval, and that freed me up to enjoy the weekend.

Whatever my expectations, among them was not the closure I ended up with this weekend.  Who knew that a wedding could bring balance to years of frustration with the nuances of small-town life?  Not me.  It was a small reminder that bitter memories can be reversed, or at least re-balanced.  I have changed – is it so surprising that the world I remember is different now, too?    

Can any of you relate to these things?  Bad experiences, relationships gone wrong, or other things you’d rather forget – then, one day, something happens and you feel closure about it?  I’d love to hear your stories.