I’ll Miss You Mr. Spock

I lost a friend on February 27th when Leonard Nimoy died. And by friend, I mean when I was 7, I developed a hopeless crush on Mr. Spock and have followed Mr. Nimoy’s life ever since. Those who love Star Trek are a unique and specific bunch – it is entirely possible (although difficult for me to actually believe) that you may not really care about Star Trek or (heaven forbid) don’t like it. Because I am grieving (and magnanimous) I will not hold this against you (nor the chance that you are now catagorizing me as a sci-fi geek). And, due to this possibility, I will talk primarily about me, in the context of Mr. Spock, rather than about him specifically.

The real question here is: Why do we love the people we love? (To be clear, my attachment was firmly on Mr. Spock – Mr. Nimoy merely was the keeper of this persona). I firmly believe as you grow in your understanding of yourself, you then are better able to understand and accept others. And you become more human in the process.

Perhaps I was attracted to Spock because of his seeming predictability. The man who had no emotions, who was always “logical” was not going to suddenly break out in a rage or become depressed. I knew what to expect from him, and he delivered every time. I grew up in a fairly tumultuous home. Maybe I needed the stability that Spock represented. When I got into arguments with my friends about “who’s best” – they usually cited Kirk, because he was passionate, handsome and a ladies man. But I had enough passion in my household – my father was known to feel things deeply and express his feelings mostly by yelling. I preferred someone who was more what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Spock didn’t change when he had a bad day. He was always respectful, helpful, and trying to learn and grow. He felt (pun intended) “losing it” emotionally was an unproductive course of action – being reactive is not nearly as productive and wise as is being responsive.

It is entirely possible that I wanted Spock precisely because he was not Kirk. I have found over the course of my lifetime that I am quite comfortable not being like everyone else. If you look at personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs, I am a INFP – one of the characteristics of these is (they are a minority of the population – 3%) that they pride themselves on being different from other people. I am a 4 (Artist) on the Enneagram personality indices – their hallmark is that they are “unique.” – maybe I identified with Spock’s isolation of being the only one of his kind on board the ship – I often felt this way as a young person. No one could ‘get’ me, because I was so different from the others. (Now, as an older person, I know that ALL young people feel this way)! As I have grown, I have found more INFP’s (and INFJ’s) and we hang around talking about how different we are from all the rest of the world, but we are grateful for each other. And, by the way, we have come to appreciate all the rest of you, because you bring what we cannot. We all are valuable and needed.

Sometimes, I think I was attracted to Spock because he was emotionally unavailable. I thought that if someone understood him and gave him the room he needed, he would (in private moments, of course) be able to express himself emotionally. I knew those feelings were there and that they were important – he just required help to access them. Looking back at my little-girl self, was this a need to rescue? I certainly have done plenty of that across my lifetime! Was this pull to understand and draw Spock out of himself the early formations of my vocation? I am, after all, a therapist at heart! Was this a desire to have someone draw ME out? A need to be special? We each have the need to be seen as essential.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. It is enough to say that regardless of the reasons for my childhood attraction to the First Officer of the Enterprise, my affection has lasted to this day. While Spock will live on in celluloid and paper, I am saddened by the loss of Mr. Nimoy who was respected in his field and loved by millions. Someone who was referred to as kind, generous, and humorous. Whenever we lose one of the “old ones” – people who have been a part of our formation – we lose a part of ourselves. I will miss knowing there is someone in the world who can raise that one eyebrow, who can say, “fascinating” in a way that actually is. I will miss the one who can merge his thoughts into someone else’s, knowing their true self via the Vulcan mind meld. I will miss the only man on the planet who can say with authority, “Live long and prosper.”

Good-Bye Mr. Spock. You were my favorite.

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Three Ways to Hear Your Heart

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I was listening to a podcast the other day with my son. He was somewhat interested, but mostly tired, so his focus was less than intense. In the context of the show, the narrator read a line from a C.S.Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. My son sat up and said, “YES!” even before the sentence had been completed. He recognized the quote from the first few words. “I love that book!, he said, now animated and engaged.

The podcaster’s whole point was that we (or rather he) could relate to this character – someone who was lost, confused, and living out of a lesser self. He was destined to be a king, but had been living as a servant. His point was that we relate to stories, because our LIVES are stories.

The other day, I was re-watching The Horse Whisperer I had seen years ago, where the main character is wrestling with overwhelming grief. Her friend was telling her a story about a boy who broke his neck while diving; he became so depressed that he just went away. She said, “I know where he goes.” At the time I initially saw the film, the line haunted me, because I felt like that was me. I felt that deep sadness that tempted me to ‘go away.’ Though the reasons for my sadness were completely different from either of these characters, I fully identified with them. Even now, when I struggle with feeling depressed, I hear that line in my thoughts. The story was about fighting to not surrender, to push through those dark feelings, fighting them, and coming out on the other side.

There are other famous lines that spur me on toward greater character or courage:

“When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” (Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire). I, personally am not a runner, but when I write or paint, I feel this. When I have a good conversation with someone, where they feel seen and supported, I identify with Liddell’s experience.

“Carpe Diem. (Whispered) Caarrppe Diiiiem.” Who can forget Robin William’s fantastic, inspiring plea to his students in Dead Poet’s Society? There are many times where I am tempted to take the easy route or the less daring; I hear his words in my head, and I change my course of action. In this way, he has become a part of me. Because I would like to be that person who ‘lives life to the fullest’ – ‘who sucks out all the marrow of life.’ When I see myself in Dr. Keating, I live out the better version of me.

Elrond to Strider in Return of the King: “Put aside the ranger. Become who you were born to be.”

What a wonderful way to say, “It is time to grow into who you were destined to become.” – I hear it like this, “Miriam, step INTO your giftedness. Don’t hide. Don’t play the lesser role. Fulfill your destiny.” (Can you hear the music swelling?) On a good day, believe me, it doesn’t sound cheesy. It draws me up into something Larger. And yes, there are plenty of bad days, where I push the thought aside and stick a mundane “to do” list in front of me.

This business about being both intentional and more sensitive to the callings of your soul … it’s what I am about and wanting to challenge you to as well. Here are three ideas to nurture this space in you:

First, pay attention to lines in movies and songs that grab you. There is a reason that they pull on you. What is the latest phrase that has snagged your attention? My guess is that this will give you some pretty good insight into where you are struggling. Sometimes your heart knows before your brain does.

Second, busyness ASSAULTS insight into how you actually are doing. It reduces our emotional states to very primitive words like angry and sad. You are so much more nuanced than this. Try to carve out some little space where you can check in with yourself and ask, “How am I actually doing right now?”

Third, make a conscious effort to pay attention to the hearts of the people around you. We are so quick to judge, quick to anger, quick to dismiss someone because we are stressed or in a hurry. When you deliberately try to hear your child’s perspective, your spouse’s feelings, your friend’s view point … this will hone your skills and you will get better not only at hearing their hearts, but hearing your own.

Why bother, you ask? Because out of the heart flows the well-springs of our life. That’s why.

(If this post has been encouraging to you, please pass it on to someone else whom you think might benefit from it. Share it on Facebook or on Twitter.)

How To Fight The Resistance

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work in potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is
to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work. – Steven Pressfield.

You know it is there. It pulls against you. It makes your eyelids heavy. It makes your mind wander. It makes you want to check Twitter or Facebook ‘just one more time’ before you get down to what you really need to be doing. It causes you to absentmindedly say, ‘uhm hm’ to your child, who only wants you to look in their eyes and pay attention to them. It makes you hungry for a snack the moment you pick up your paintbrush or sit down with your laptop to write.

Pressfield calls this the Resistance.

I know Resistance. And I hate him.

When I sit down to write, suddenly, I need to check my e-mail. My bathrooms need
to be cleaned. My dog’s toenails need to be clipped. Oh. Have you noticed that something in
the fridge stinks? I should clean that out. It feels like Spring. Perhaps I should get those leaves
raked up. My throat hurts. And, actually, if I pay attention to it, my head hurts too. I start thinking about how little I see my friends now. Maybe I’m a worthless friend. Maybe I suck at life. I could be a better parent, better wife … I am the worst. I probably am not in the best frame of mind to write. Maybe I should wait until later this afternoon when I feel better. And what was I going to write about anyway? It’s not like I have anything of value to say.

Here is where it lands. The Resistance starts out by telling you about all the things you should do instead of this venture you feel called to and it ends up assaulting your personhood – telling you that you have no business doing this thing, because you are deficient, less-than and small.

But wait.

I am not small. I have something to offer. I have something of value to bring. And so do you.

You know how there are things that get your ire up? For some of you, it is competition, for others of you it might be someone telling you to do something. For me, it is when something gets in my way and blocks my goals. That frustrates me INTO action. Nothing galvanizes me more than when someone tells me I can’t do something. And that is what the Resistance is all about. When I recognize it (and for me, that is the issue), I can fight it.

Some things that help me fight well:

1- Knowing what I am using my primary energy for.

Making a choice to narrow it down. I want to be a painter, but this is not the season of my life to do this. Right now, I am focusing on being a writer – on sitting down every day and WRITING. All of my energy is being diverted into this skill acquisition.

What do you want to prioritize? You have to KNOW. It can’t be vague and it can’t be six different things. Because to work on everything is to make progress in almost nothing. Are you focused on being a better parent? Too vague. Try, “I am working on praising him for something before I criticize.”

2- Knowing what will help me.

TIME. ACTION. FEEDBACK. REPEAT. I have set aside 3 hours a day (4-5 days a week) to write. That means, I sit my bottom in a chair and I don’t move until something has shown up on a page. Then I submit my work to a group who gives me feedback. I revise and do it all over again.

Right now, I have little to show for it, because I’m at the front end of it all. But I have to believe that a consistent application of time and effort will yield results at some point. It has to, because this is the way life works. If you want to get physically fit, you can’t do it once a week – you have be put regular time into it. If you want a better marriage, being engaged on date night only is not going to connect you like it would if you were relationally investing every day.

What will help you do what you are called to do?

3 – Knowing what pulls me away from my goal.

I don’t schedule ANYTHING during my writing times. No doctor’s appointments, no dentists, no grocery shopping. Writing only. No phone calls. Writing ONLY. Because I require blocks of time to get into the “zone” and I’m highly distractible. When I get pulled out, it’s hard for me to go back. You may not be that way, this is me I’m talking about.

What pulls YOU away? The internet? Putzing around the house? Letting other people’s stuff become your stuff? I do understand that you probably don’t have the gift of time like I have right now – and up until this year I didn’t have it either. There are seasons where its difficult to even find 5 minutes. But you perhaps don’t need the volume of time I need to accomplish your calling. Each of us is different in the art that we bring.

The real question is – what pulls you away from your art? (and by art, I mean the thing that you do best that you bring to the world. It could be the way you parent or grandparent, the meals you make for sick people or the music you write). Figure out what hinders your forward movement and don’t just fight it a la will power – come up with a way to actually address and deal with the hindrance.

Another thing that saps my energy and dissuades me is conflict. I cannot access my deep heart when I am upset. I feel this part of me is integral to my creativity. So I avoid conflictual situations that I can have no bearing on. I stay out of political wrangling. I avoid theological bantering. I’m not interested in being loudly opinionated about anything. I am not saying I don’t have strong convictions – I do. But there is a time and a place where my words and voice accomplish something – I’m all for that. But ineffectual energy, hissing out of my soul like a tire losing air – that is not good use of me. It serves no one and it’s exhausting.

What do you need to curtail in order to focus your energy?

4 – Knowing who has your back.

I need people who remind me that I can do it. People who encourage me and who tell me that they love me. People who are excited about my latest venture and can say, “I see you succeeding” – even when I can’t. Especially when I can’t.

Do you know who your people are? The ones who will gently hold you accountable and who will love you? If you don’t have people like that in your life, the way to acquire them is to start BEING that person for someone else.

5- Knowing who is ultimately in control.

I believe in a God who designed me for something. And when I live out that best
version of me, when I live out God’s breath in me … I am most fully alive and shed positive
light onto what it is to have a relationship with Him.

So I pray.

For insight. For my path to intersect with people smarter and more talented than I am. For strength to fight the Resistance. For love to give to people well with my limited time. For ears to hear Him and a will to respond. For growth and maturity.

I pray for courage to live out the me I was designed to be.

How To Dance With Your Fear

Fear paralysis – it’s a real thing. It stops us from going to the dentist or the doctor. It prevents men from initiating with a woman; or vice versa. Fear shuts down good ideas. It whispers that you are sub-standard and that no one would want to hear what you have to say.

I have always thought of fear as a hungry dragon; a bully. Someone who will take whatever ground you give it and unashamedly ask for more.

Many of you know that each year, I try something new. 2015 it is the year of writing – in public. I have long desired to publish a book – this blog is the beginning of that process. Putting something out there for people to engage with.

But it’s scary.

More so that I would have anticipated.

It is fear producing, because I can’t sit down with you and read your expressions. I can’t tell if you are misunderstanding what I am trying to say. I can’ t add extra words or fill you in on the back story. I can’t know where you are coming from as you read my words. Perhaps I will say something and you will disagree. It’s allowed. We all have our own opinions. Yet, in a virtual format, I see people being more direct (and rude) than they are in person. Anonymity seems to give license for aggression. For a die-hard introvert who is fairly private, an online presence feels somewhat naked.

Yet, I love to write. And I feel I have something to offer to the world, to you.

Deliberately Human is about exploring this – pushing both of us to examine our lives and stretch for better versions of ourselves. Some of the content will be quite practical – really, about making decisions to streamline life. Other posts will dive into the emotional, philosophical, WHY spaces of our lives. Because all action comes from a deeper ‘why.’

So. I dance with my fear.

I invite you to join me to dance with yours. To comment, to share your stories, to “Like” and “Tweet” and “Share” – I am looking for People willing to give feedback. Fellow Travelers. Allies. Explorers.

Will you come along?