Someone close to me brought me a meal.
I hadn’t had a baby, broken a leg or been in a car accident.
But she brought me a meal.
So did another friend, and she was the one who had just delivered. I was supposed to bring her a meal.
Words sent to someone else and passed on to me — kind, affirming, validating.
These things breathed air into my floppy balloon, the one that was in danger of settling on the floor, a puckered, withered, sandy shadow of the party favor it had once been. Their words, their phone calls, their messages, buoyed me up and let me float in a more proper balloon-y place.
Maybe I’m not floating on an airstream across the world with a special note hanging from my string, but
I’m more in that middle air of the hallway, at the level that makes you think there’s a person walking towards you,
the kind that makes you jump and if someone’s watching they laugh to see your surprise. That moment that gives freedom from worry and concern, hope that there will be laughter again.
The encouragement of friends who hold you up when it is hard to get off the floor — this is a precious thing indeed.
Join a great group of people for Five Minute Friday to write without editing for the sheer joy of it. Find out more at http://lisa-jobaker.com.
Are you facing challenges or a hard time? This is a safe place to share about it. I genuinely hope you have people in your life who can help breath air into your life. Maybe in the comments we should name names. Who is an encourager in your life?
My mom is a great cook. No, I mean it. When my mom gets going she lays out a spread of dishes that, when taken together, represent the depth of her care for the people she’s entertaining. (She’s also wickedly funny, but that’s for another day.) She has a gift for cooking intuitively, and she sticks only to the bare essentials of a recipe. After she’s got those taken care of she wings it, adding a little of this, a dash of that, so she couldn’t tell you exactly how to replicate the recipe she served. Even soup becomes multi-faceted with complex flavor profiles (thank you, Top Chef, for altering my terminology so I could say something more than, “This tastes yummy.”). You could try to follow her recipe, but it will never end up tasting as good as what she made.
Contrast that with my dear friend who we’ll call Velveeta, who is also a good cook but cooking without a recipe would drive her bonkers. When the two of us were out of town together and wanted to make a raspberry brie appetizer, it seemed pretty straightforward – you spread raspberries and rosemary on top of a wheel of Brie and wrap it all in pastry dough. It was Velveeta who felt compelled to phone her husband and ask him to find the recipe in her cookbook. She thoroughly relied on it. And because of that she has consistently solid results and you can be sure that her recipe card will include all the ingredients.
Let’s go back to Kung Fu Panda.
When Po, the panda who has been chosen as the Dragon Warrior, worked at his father’s noodle shop, he was never given the recipe for his father’s signature Secret Ingredient Soup. Oh, and Po’s dad is a duck.
Does your life ever seem like you’ve been given a recipe that’s missing an important ingredient?
When Po thinks he can’t handle being the Dragon Warrior and the whole valley has to evacuate, Po talks to his dad about his sense failure. He even admits to his dad that sometimes he wonders if he’s even his son.
His dad takes the opportunity to tell Po something he should have told him long ago…the secret to his Secret Ingredient Soup.
Dad: The secret ingredient is…nothing. There is no secret ingredient.
Po: Wait – what? It’s just plain old noodle soup? Doesn’t it have some kind of special sauce or something?
Dad: To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.
Po: There is no secret ingredient…
Is that a cheap parlor trick or is it more true than we like to admit?
If there’s no secret ingredient, that means that I can take responsibility for my own path.
If there’s no special sauce, I can’t claim that I don’t have the right background or upbringing to achieve my dream.
If there’s no special ingredient, then (gulp) I’m all my kids’ve got.
Sometimes it is easier to throw up our hands and complain about the cards we were dealt. But if we were all dealt the same hand, then the thing that matters is what we do with it..with that hand…
I mean, that deck of cards…
Ugh, you know what I mean.
It is easy to find reasons why things don’t go well, if that’s what you’re looking for. In this scenario reasons = excuses. There’s usually somebody to blame, even if it’s a stretch to make the blame fit. It is a huge departure when we believe that we have what it takes to get it done, to achieve it, to create it, to find that solution.
Truthfully, it is a bit terrifying.
If I start thinking I have what it takes, who will I blame if things go wrong?
If I start taking responsibility for the course of my life, what will I do if it doesn’t go my way?
Don’t worry about that just yet. Let’s review the beauty of the Kung Fu Panda lesson.
“To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”
I’m gonna get all up and personal in here for a second.
Scoot your chair in closer.
“YOU are special.”
Yes, I’m talking to YOU.
I know. You’re going to tell me all the reasons you’re not. All the reasons I’m wrong. All the things that prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about.
You’re not listening.
To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.
You may not think you have what it takes. But you do. You may have to dig deep into your personal reserves. You may have to let go of some other things that have been getting in your way (ie. excuses, self-protection, sleep) but you can do it.
Remember, there is no secret ingredient.
As you read the stories of people who have achieved their dreams, sure there are sometimes when they happened to be in the right place at the right time. But frequently that was able to happen because they got out of bed and made themselves available many times prior to that occasion.
What about the moms out there who are not convinced that they can do this mom thing?
You aren’t missing a crucial “mom-gene” that other people received when all those hormones washed over them during pregnancy. You can do this mom thing. You have what your kids need. If you feel that you are lacking, welcome to the sisterhood my friend, because most of us feel we are lacking in at least one area of our parenting. Be the best you that you can be, work on those areas you know are weak, don’t allow your issues to become your child’s issues, and when you screw up (which you will, we all do) admit it and try again.
Maybe a more accurate kung fu statement is that YOU are the secret ingredient. Not your neighbor, not your partner, not your cubicle-mate, not your mammy, not your granny.
You are the secret ingredient.
So put yourself into the recipe of your life like broccoli in the LeAnn Chin Broccoli Beef (’cause we all know there’s hardly any beef to be found in there). Don’t hold back. Trust yourself. Learn. Listen. Try.
You got this.
What is the secret ingredient you feel you’ve been lacking? What goals do you have that seem out of reach? What would be impacted if you changed your mindset and started to believe that there was no secret ingredient?
Some things are worth doing even if they’re hard.
In college I had a friend for whom everything seemed to come easily. He was from a family with wealth and great connections, he had natural charm and charisma, and he was talented in many areas. It was easy to feel envious of him since, from the outside at least, everything seemed to be handed to him. Every job, every opportunity, every whim, every card seemed to fall in his favor.
In spite of all that, he remained grounded and humble. How did he manage it?
I sometimes wished for the challenge of remaining humble, but when your big plans all seem to be routinely thwarted, you’re automatically kept pretty humble with zero effort.
Flash forward to parenthood.
Our first son (let’s call him Rex) is compliant, pleasant, curious but reserved. He likes to weigh the risks and take in the landscape before trying things.
Contrast that with our second son (we’ll call him Bobo) who is headstrong, bold, intense and a risk-taker.
Sometimes Rex wishes he could be brave like Bobo. But I assure him that it isn’t bravery if you’re not overcoming fear. It doesn’t take courage to enter a situation that doesn’t present you with any danger. And my second son’s danger-gauge is faulty. The victories of parenting are harder won with Bobo. He tests my patience and creativity. He pushes my buttons. And sometimes he just makes me straight-up, plain angry. However, because we’ve had to work so hard to steer him in the appropriate directions, when he chooses those directions freely, it feels like a tidal wave of success.
Rex chooses wisely naturally, so it isn’t that we don’t appreciate his good choices, but the good ones Bobo makes took so much more work, they feel like big deals.
I’ve decided to take this approach to both parenting and writing: Some things are worth the investment of time, even if the results are long in coming.
I love this quote so I’m sharing it even if it’s not the first time:
“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” Earl Nightingale
Maybe you’ll get rejected hundreds of times. Maybe you’ll want to pull out your hair when you child needs near constant redirection. But the investment of energy in a worthy endeavor is so much more gratifying than energy invested in a flight of fancy that is discarded quickly in favor of some new glittery distraction.
The challenge is to know the difference.
What is the nature of your goal right now? Worthy or glittery? (And a worthy goal can involve glitter, but you know what I mean, right?)
Once you decide the goal is worth the time it might take to achieve it, then lace up your shoes.
Pull up your big-girl undies. Do what it takes to get off the couch and invest the time.
And when it hurts,
when you think it might not be worth it,
remember why you started.
Remember the relationship goal,
the parenting outcome,
the end result you’re aiming for.
And press on.
A virtual friend of mine (virtual meaning online, not someone who is almost my friend) mentioned this week that he was feeling discouraged. My initial desire was to cheer him up, but then I got scared that his discouragement might be contagious, that if I tried to say anything to shed some positivity on him that the blue shadow of his mood might transfer to me. I also worried that because I don’t know his specific situation, my attempts at encouragement might be misplaced and come across as trite.
This week I found out that I did not make it into the top 30 finalists of a writing contest I entered. There were over 450 entries and I didn’t expect to win; however, I really thought this would be the year I’d at least make it to the top 30. I know that my writing isn’t a fit for every publisher/publication out there but it’s hard to remember that when you scan the list and your name isn’t there.
As I’ve tried to put my writing out into the public world more, rejection is a recurring theme. In order to choose one piece, another must be rejected. I get that. And while I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, I will admit that I’ve been knocked down by rejections more than I thought I would. It has affected me more than I would have predicted at the beginning.
Rejection feels personal, even when it’s not.
When facing discouragement, from whatever source, what can you do to get through it? How can you get up from feeling down?
Just as we all have widely different personalities, what works for one person might not be effective for someone else. It is also surprising how the source of the discouragement and the intensity of it can elicit different responses. For example, I’m not usually a huge crier, but when my novel was returned to me with extensive notes pointing out all the bad things about it, you better believe I cried.
Crying works wonders. It’s like a sauna for your eyeballs, sweating out through tears all your body’s impurities and sadness, but without all that heat and inability to breathe.
A long, fast walk outside can do the same thing.
Moaning works too.
Praying about it is useful, but during those times my prayers usually tend to be one-sided whine-fests. I’m convinced that God wants to hear about it anyway, though, even if it’s not eloquent or lofty.
Chocolate chip cookie dough is also effective.
The thing that works the best, at least for me, is talking to a trusted friend, somebody who “gets it” and understands the significance of your discouragement, or doesn’t mind sitting in it with you. To hear that you are understood and not alone can be the most powerful way out of discouragement.
Have you been discouraged? What caused it? How long did it last? How did you turn things around? I hope that you find encouragement at this blog, if only from knowing you’re not alone. Hang in there, and in the words of that old gospel song, joy’s gonna come in the morning.