The Hard Truth About Being An Idealist

Do you have a dream? Do you think about what could or should be? If so, you may just be an idealist who longs for Utopia, a heaven on earth where perfect peace and justice reign.

It’s not easy being a dreamer.

At some point people and the world will disappoint you. Leaders cheat. Gunmen take out dozens of unsuspecting people in the blink of an eye. Friends speak harsh words to one another, wounding each other at the core. Families rip apart over pain and betrayal.

Good people suffer at the hands of other good people, making us wonder why we say they are “good” in the first place.

Broken KeysAnd when an idealist encounters the heart-wrenching, back-breaking, soul-searching painful realities of life, they begin to wonder, “Why bother dreaming of something better? It will never happen, anyway.”

Friends, that’s one reason why some of the beautiful idealists you know are so often depressed. I know. When I realized that I wasn’t the ideal me I wanted to be and I didn’t have the power to make the world the ideal world I believed it could be, I gave up trying.

Why bother with futile dreams?

I have a special place in my heart for dreamers.

I talk about this more in my upcoming book UNFROZEN, but there came a point where I had to find a deeper truth to sustain me through the heartache of life. It came down to this:

No amount of joy in this world could overcome the heartache of never achieving the ideal. But being a living, breathing display of God’s love to the world…now THAT was something I could live for.

While I am usually frustrated with anything less than the ideal, it’s often that frustration that motivates me to stand up and make a difference in the world. I see potential everywhere. Nothing and no one is without hope, until my world crushes in on me and I stop believing in dreams.

Idealists have a very difficult choice to make.

Don't believe too much in your dreamsWill we refuse to acknowledge the pain of this world? Will we succomb to the heartbreak and get lost in the loss of what “could have been”? Or will we sacrifice our need to make everything ideal so we can offer who we are to the world anyway?

Sometimes it’s easier to settle for being happy over making a difference.

Sometimes it’s easier to give up.

But not you. You have it in you to let go of your need for everything to be ideal so you can offer the best of who you are to make the world a better place, anyway.

I created something to give you the opportunity to discuss what it means for idealists to face the hard truth.

Download this discussion/reflection guide for Disney’s Zootopia.
Download

Some Live Like Tortoise, I Live Like Hare

About a year and a half ago I completed a half-marathon. I say I “completed” because I can’t say I ran the whole way, by any stretch of the imagination. Actually, I can’t ever say that I run anything! I jog. But I do put one foot in front of the other at a generally faster pace than walking, so it’s something.

Lincoln Half Marathon

I started the race with a lot of energy so I took off at the pace that accommodated my enthusiasm. Then at mile 6 I initiated the jog-walk cycle. I walked up hills and then jogged down them. I made it to the end and wasn’t the last one, so I counted it a win.

I started the race with a friend of mine. We didn’t plan to run together and she had a running buddy so when I had energy that first mile, I took off while they chatted. I didn’t see them again until later – when I found out they finished the race 15+ minutes ahead of me. They ran the same pace the entire way and didn’t walk. It was the classic case of the Tortoise and the Hare and I was the “lesson” we teach our kids: don’t be like me because slow and steady wins the race.

I think I run all of life like I ran that race.

I love new ideas and new projects. I love all of the energy and enthusiasm I have when I start something new, and I enjoy completing tasks. But I have never been slow and steady. I’m all over the place. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a strength and it’s a weakness.

It’s who I am.

I am super-excited that I started writing for my “job” a year ago. I love that I can write a blog post or article and have it out in front of people that very same day. It fits my all-over-the-place pace and my love for completing projects. A few months ago I started writing a book (that is currently with my editor). I hit the ground running – HARD – and finally made it to mile 6. Now I’ll probably walk-run to the end because I am excited, but my sprint pace only lasts for so long.

My goal is to post to this blog on Tuesdays and send out emails on Wednesdays, but here – at mile 6 – I can’t quite hit my own deadlines. In the past month or two I beat myself up for my lack of consistency and inspiration for writing blog posts until I realized that maybe the Hare’s “consistent” framework just has more wiggle room than the Tortoise. Maybe it’s OK if I post on a Wednesday or Thursday here or there and maybe it’s OK if I miss a week of emails.  (I know…stop laughing)

I want to keep writing, speaking and offering my voice so others will be able to offer their’s, and I want to do it for a long time to come. I know I can’t sustain my typical mile 1-6 pace. I know that I will be a healthier person and better wife, mother and friend if I find a sustainable, steady pace. So I’m pushing back deadlines a little and dialing down my own immediate expectations a notch.

But I doubt I’ll ever be steady.Aaron and G running I’m not all that concerned about “winning” races. I’ll still try to take advantage of the burst of enthusiasm that thrusts me forward at beginning of a project, but I won’t be surprised or beat myself up when I hit mile 6 and need a break. In fact, maybe I’ll plan for it. Maybe I’ll set deadlines for the half-way point of projects and then reset my pace and determine project completion deadlines at that point.

I don’t need to be Tortoise. I just want to allow some of the wisdom of the Tortoise to help me be a healthier Hare. Who said it’s a race, anyway?

Are you a Tortoise or Hare? What are your corresponding strengths and weaknesses? How do you manage them?

Dear Tortoise,Your steady pace is inspiring.

Dear Tortoise,

Your steady pace is inspiring. Don’t be discouraged when you see a Hare sprinting at the beginning of a race. Cheer them on and then give them a drink as you pass them at mile 6.

Love,

An admiring Hare

 

Dear Hare,

Your enthusiasm is inspiring. Don’t be discouraged when a Tortoise offers you a drink at mile 6 and then passes you by. Thank them, cheer them on and then reset your own pace with confidence.

Love,

A fellow Hare

Emergency Cancellation

Choose Love Anyway

Do you ever do something spontaneous and exciting? This week I made a last-minute decision to sign up for a workshop in Nashville. It’s the kind of workshop that could help me clarify the way I talk about my message now and for the future work I do. I would get to confer with business leaders and expert storytellers to help me make the most of what I am offering. I’ve been hungry for something like this for months and this was finally the right thing at the perfect time.

UnknownA couple of days ago I took off on a 3 1/2 hour ride to Denver so I could fly out the next morning. After a restless night sleep, I was up and on the shuttle by 4 a.m., ready to embark on my little adventure. That’s when I took this picture to send my kids.

I feel bad for the unsuspecting girl in this picture. She has no idea that she’s about to be really disappointed. A few seconds later I checked my email and saw this headline: Emergency Cancellation. Sure enough, the workshop team had to cancel our gathering due to a family emergency.

Oh.

When you get news like that at 4:00 in the morning it feels a bit like waking up from a dream. Surreal. Disappointing. This wasn’t ever real, anyway.

I took my zombie self to the ticket counter and cancelled my flight. An hour later I heaved my bag up the stairs of the shuttle, lowered into the chair and finally spilled the tears pooling in my eyes since I got the news.  There’s nothing like a vacant bus, driving away from the airport under the early morning stars, to usher in a moment of grief. Back at the hotel I wiped the tears, thanked the gruff bus driver and headed home.

Decision Time

There came a point, post-tears, where I knew I had a decision to make. Will I choose to love in this or not? Writing is good for me, if for no other reason than that I think about you in moments like this. Will I live what I say I believe or will I give into the temptation to cover, hide and blame? I handled it differently this time than I would have a few years ago. Perhaps you recognize these things in yourself.

My Choice:

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

Photo by Linda Liljehorn

  1. I let myself cry. I didn’t deny the fact that I was disappointed. I didn’t throw my tears onto any unsuspecting person around me, but I was honest with myself and God. I cried my little heart out on the way back to the hotel and then released myself from over thinking my sadness after that.
  1. I own my decision. It’s tempting to say all kinds of disowning comments when things don’t go as planned. I could say “it wasn’t meant to be” or “maybe something bad would have happened if I would have gone.” But there is no way of knowing what could have happened had I gone, because I didn’t go. I could say, “I must have been wrong about this opportunity, since it didn’t work out,” but I don’t believe that. I own my desire and pursuit of this little dream, whether I get another chance to go or not.
  1. I am not defensive. I had to explain why I felt the workshop was a good idea when my husband and I were deciding whether not I should go. Ultimately, he was very supportive and we made the decision together. (We make all decisions like this together.) However, years ago I would have felt like a fool for proposing such a thing and then being “wrong” because it didn’t go as planned. And when I feel like a fool, I act defensive. I would have walked into our home with a chip on my shoulder even before seeing him. But I didn’t this time.

This time was different. This time I let myself cry, I owned my decision and I didn’t get defensive. And you know what? I am still a little sad about the whole thing. But I am not carrying around additional pain from holding back tears, forsaking my decision and acting defensive whenever I talk about it.

This time, I choose love.

Which of these three choices is the hardest for you to make when you feel disappointed? Why? (They’re all hard for me!) 

Answer in the comments below or on the Facebook post.

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

My husband informed me yesterday that this is the best weekend of sports for the entire winter, (IHHO). Playoffs and Championships – the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Living rooms and sports bars across the country will be filled with anticipation as beloved favorites lay it all on the line. There will be wings, nachos, brats, beer, high fives, manly hugs, tears…and a lot of profanity thrown at TV’s.

(Well…in our house there will be vegetables, Spark, stationary bike-riding and replaying to analyze injuries over and over, but that’s beside the point!)

There’s nothing quite like the drama of football.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Unless it’s having a baby.  

Yep. I’m comparing the two. Why? Because I said something pretty audacious in “When I Should Feel Joy #2: Post Partum Depression”:  Sad is under angry. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either.

Sad is under angry. I have not yet come across an exception. I was definitely angry, but I put anger on top of my sadness. I chose it over tears. I don’t have to choose anger. You don’t, either.

If there’s ever a good reason to be angry it’s when a ref makes game-changing call in error…against MY team…in the playoffs!

Am I right?!

I have no intention of telling fans to not be angry. But I will say this: sad is still under that anger. I’m totally bummed when my team loses the chance at an epic Super Bowl win. When the ref makes that call, I lose my chance to feel the thrill of victory I so passionately craved. Bummed. Sad. Ticked.

What I’m saying is that when that call is made, I can feel angry and display that anger in ways that hurt others and my relationship with them, OR I can choose relationship over my reaction.

I can choose relationship over my reaction.

It would be hurtful to carry the anger past the end of the game and into the hours or days ahead – then look for vengeance wherever I can find it: beer, food, slamming doors, cutting remarks. Anger seeps out into the way we interact with others and can actually hurt relationships. Generally, people don’t want to be around angry people. This creates distance.

It would be helpful to recognize that it sucks to have my team lose like that and admit I’m disappointed – then look for potential wherever I can find it: make a plan toward a goal, think of creative solutions to the problem, look at the situation from other people’s perspectives. Disappointment without anger is sadness and can actually help relationships. Generally, people want to comfort sad people. This creates a stronger bond.

So, my Friend, do you really want to hurt others and your relationships with them? You don’t have to. When you feel the volcano about to explode…or even after you popped your top, try this:

Breathe 3 big breaths and ask yourself, “What is sad about this situation?”

Choose relationship over your reaction. Deflate the intensity of your anger by recognizing your own disappointment/pain.

And may the best team actually win!

When the Gift Disappoints

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas — just like the ones I used to know…

I hate disappointing people. But with songs expressing familiar sentiments like that, ’tis the season to disappoint!

The other night Amelia (7) was very sad. I asked what was wrong and through tears she began listing off a bunch of ways I failed so far this month.

You SAY we’re going to do this and we don’t. You SAY we’re going to leave at this time and then we leave ten minutes later and I’m always late. We haven’t done the advent calendar and I’m NEVER going to get my gifts ready in time for Christmas!

And in my head I added…

And the flippin’ Elf keeps forgetting to move and never does anything fun!

By the time she was done, I was a hot mess of tears. She felt bad for making me cry but the truth is, the girl speaks truth. I DON’T follow through on a lot of stuff (for all kinds of reasons that a 7 year old can’t understand), and I DO underestimate how long it will take to get places (about 10 minutes under MOST of the time), and the poor girl HASN’T gotten to read our special advent activity every morning (even though most days we do something special, eventually), and the Elf DIDN’T take the peppermint stick she gave him or pop into her room this year (good thing he leaves a letter explaining everything before he goes back to the North Pole)!!!!!!

But the big question remains – will we get our gifts complete in time for Christmas? Will everyone like what they get or will they be disappointed?!

Here are my thoughts on the matter after a few days of reflection:

  • Disappointing people is devastating to me. I hate to be the cause of someone else’s suffering, for any reason! But then again, I am a person in relationship with other people. It comes with the territory. I guess I could wallow in self-doubt all the time, but where would that get any of us? I’m pretty sure self-deprecation never made anyone more loving. Sometimes it’s best to ask forgiveness, regroup and move on.
  • Christmas gifts are a lot of fun, but geesh! What is the point if I’m tense and worried leading up to Christmas and apologetic and defensive when it’s time to open presents? Who would want to be around that?! The truth is, nothing under the tree compares to the love I have to give. Nothing.

 Nothing Compares to Love

So the next time I disappoint, I hope to graciously admit it, let it go, then step right back into relationship with all that I am.

Merry Christmas, Friend!  

*I would love for you to share this post with friends, if you feel so inclined! Let’s get the word out that this Christmas – we’re gonna love.*