Trusting the Process

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Kelsi and I have been having a lot of conversations lately about writing.  She’s been writing a book about a girl with OCD and it’s been such a joy to see her using her gift of writing.

I have been passionate about writing for decades and have read numerous books on the topic over the years.  Sometimes when we’re talking, I find myself wanting to implant some of my learned knowledge inside Kelsi’s head so she won’t have to work as hard at the craft of writing as I have.  Certain things she says triggers a memory of something I learned from a great author and my first instinct is to tell her all about it.

Here’s what I’ve done instead; I’ve trusted the fact that Kelsi is already such a talented writer and she has wisdom beyond her years so she will pick up the books or listen to the podcasts she needs to hear when the time is right for her.  Sure, I may suggest an author like Elizabeth Gilbert or Anne Lamott or Steven Pressfield when it’s appropriate to do so, but to convey everything I have learned about writing to her in just a few conversations would be counterproductive.

Interestingly, while I was reading this morning I came across this short paragraph by Hugh Prather that spoke directly to my thoughts on teaching Kelsi what I have learned.  In Love and Courage, Prather says:

“There doesn’t appear to be a way to give someone else what you know.  Whenever I think I have succeeded in keeping someone from going through one more little hell, the long run proves me wrong.  We each have to learn it all over again for ourselves.  If we say we are all in God’s hands, perhaps it is arrogant to believe we can improve on the job.”

What I have learned about teaching Kelsi and Keaton important life lessons is probably exactly opposite than most would suspect.  You see, I believe we all have an innate wisdom that guides us.  The last thing my children need is me running my mouth about how smart I am and how dumb they are because I have been on this earth longer than them.  Age does not equal wisdom and authority—one visit to any Walmart proves that.  I speak loudest and clearest to my children when I let my life do the talking.  A life well-lived that can be witnessed on a daily basis speaks volumes compared to forcing them to see how smart I think I am.

Whenever someone starts yakking about how smart they are your first instinct is to say, “Yeah, but you do this, and you do that.”  So I know I’m not perfect in this department, but whenever possible I let my life speak more than my mouth does.

In much the same way as I attempt to do in my writing, I strive to teach my children to be comfortable with their humanness.  Friends and loved ones make mistakes.  We will all fail one another probably sooner rather than later.  Life can get messy and confusing at times.  But it’s important to remember we are all human and learning as we go.  Friends and loved ones sometimes have to convey their thoughts several times before they say what they really mean.  Prather speaks beautifully to this as well:

“It’s becoming clear to me that none of us fully knows what we are saying.  In conversation we don’t have the luxury of a rough draft.  Just take a good look at individuals trying to talk: every time they open their mouths it’s an experiment and a gamble, often a minor disaster.  Our friends are the ones who don’t hold this against us.  Even if one had unlimited time to word each thought, there is no fact or feeling so obvious, so simple, that it would fit perfectly into a sentence.”

Isn’t that wonderful?  Everything that comes out of our mouth, or the mouths of those we encounter, is a rough draft.  If I truly grasp that concept then I don’t have to walk around offended anymore at the little things my family or coworkers said wrong.  It’s all just a rough draft, man.  Or as Anne Lamott would say; “All good writing starts with shitty first drafts.” Much of our speech begins with shitty first drafts also.  If given the opportunity to edit our speech much like we would edit our writing, most of us would definitely go through a truckload of erasers.

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I spent a lot of years in the dark.  I felt as though I woke up in the pitch black, no idea where I was.  I would feel around with my hands to find a familiar nightstand or closet door.  Nothing.  I ran my hands along the walls of this unfamiliar place desperately trying to find my whereabouts.  Still nothing.  I bumped into what must’ve been a dresser—because dressers are in bedrooms—but it still gave me no clue to where I was.  Panic set in.  Eventually I found my way to a flat surface on the wall that felt like a window.  I found a toothpick in my pocket so I scratched and clawed in the dark at this flat surface until finally a tiny hint of light illumined on the other side.  My panic faded.  I still didn’t know where I was but I suddenly remembered I have an uncanny ability to figure out my next step in any situation.  Finally, I made my way out of the dark.  I began to see clearly and make sense of my surroundings.  I learned to trust my instincts and trust the process.  What felt like a lifetime of fumbling in the dark is now a distant memory.  Having emerged from such a dark place has done wonders for my eyesight.  I don’t see the world through the same lens I once did.  My eyes have shifted to see the beauty in life.  I now attempt to serve as a flashlight for those who find themselves in their own dark place.

So back to talking to Kelsi about her writing . . . . I have no doubt she’s going to learn what she needs to learn in perfect timing.  I wholeheartedly trust the process.  I unequivocally trust her innate wisdom will shine through and will navigate her to the information she needs when she needs it.

Living in the mysterious flow of life is less about control and more about acceptance.  I am just kidding myself if I think I have any control anyway.  Life is so much better when I let each moment unfold inherently and effortlessly.  Every moment is exactly the way it’s supposed to be and every lesson is learned the minute I’m ready to learn it.  This is true for Kelsi and it’s true for me.

I trust the process!

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Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis

PS. Here’s a link to Kelsi’s story Finding Me.

WHY I WRITE

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WHY I WRITE

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There are a lot of reasons why people write.  I can’t speak for anyone except myself so I won’t even begin to speculate on the many reasons why other people write.  Obviously, the very good writers write for a profit and they are handsomely rewarded for it. 

I write for two reasons: to connect with myself and to connect with others. 

Writing to connect with myself usually means I’m writing in my journal and I’m getting as many of my thoughts on paper as possible.  I gather my thoughts so I can use them as clay.  Once they’re on paper, I can rearrange them, mold them, or shape them to better define what I was trying to say.  Rarely (ok, NEVER) do I lay down a sentence and consider it brilliant the first time around.  That is why Anne Lamott so knowingly called these “shitty first drafts” in her book on writing, Bird by Bird.  She suggested that all great writing begins with shitty first drafts. 

I write most of my shitty first drafts in my journal for a few reasons.  First, I love the natural flow I get into when my fountain pen lays the ink across the paper.  There is something very organic and original that resonates with me when I use a fountain pen.  I also write in my journal because I don’t want my mind to edit everything I say before I can get all my thoughts down.  I’m too tempted to edit myself when I write on a computer; when I read my previous sentences I find myself editing before I can move on to the next thought, which is a major flow killer.  With the journal, whatever I lay out there is there, until I type it into the computer later and start the process of editing afterwards. 

The other reason I write is to connect with others.  There is no greater feeling in the world than to truly connect with another human being.  The joy and honor I feel when I hear my writing has touched someone is astounding.  Knowing I’ve made a difference, if only for a brief moment, makes all the difference in the world.  Let’s be honest, there’s enough negativity swirling around our globe so when I can brighten someone’s day or put a smile on someone’s face it makes my early morning alarms worth it. 

Chicken-Shit, Bull-Shit, & Elephant-Shit

Fritz Perls (1893-1970) was a flamboyant psychologist who perfected a popular form of therapy called Gestalt Therapy.  His honesty about the present moment and his matter-of-fact attitude earned him quite a reputation among his peers and clients.  When people talk about present moment and share their experience honestly, Perls considered this genuine communication.  This style of communication is very rare, however, and even trained professionals struggle to stay in the present moment all the time.  In contrast, he came up with three types of shit that people use when they talk to people: chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit. 

The easiest way people avoid any kind of emotional contact is by talking about chicken-shit.  Chicken-shit is the small talk about the weather, sports, or any other cliched conversation.  Talking about chicken-shit serves a rather important purpose for me since it keeps me safe.  I don’t have to risk being vulnerable when talking about chicken-shit. 

Another way to avoid emotional contact is by talking about bull-shit.  Bull-shit is the intentional lies I tell for three reasons: I lie to hide the truth and wrong-doing, I lie to protect myself or someone else, and I lie to gain something (like prestige, power, money, sex, etc).  Talking about bull-shit also keeps me safe since I don’t have to be vulnerable while talking about bull-shit. 

I’ve heard two explanations for elephant-shit and I like them both.  First, elephant-shit is when I talk about everyone else’s chicken-shit and bull-shit.  Elephant-shit is when I get together with my friends or family and talk about other people’s drama.  Or, more popularly known as gossip.  As long as you and I have our neighbor’s chicken-shit and bull-shit to talk about, we never have to be real with one another and talk about what is truly happening between us.  The second explanation I heard for elephant-shit refers to the grandiose plans I come up with so I never have to face reality or take responsibility.  In other words, I talk about what I’ll do once I win the lottery but I won’t even buy a ticket.  Either explanation works for me since they both give another example of how we avoid true connection. 

Since I heard this explanation of chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit, I can’t help but say this internally when I’m talking to someone and listening to their words.  I really do long to make genuine connections with those around me but our society seems programmed to avoid these connections.  I totally understand life cannot be lived bluntly telling everyone exactly what we think of them in every moment.  That’s probably not the easiest way to win friends and influence people.  However, I do believe that life presents plenty of opportunities for genuine connection but it takes hard work to steer clear from the chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit. 

Why I Write

Back to why I write: I write to avoid the everyday, unimportant chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit.  I write to promote genuine connections among myself and others I come in contact with.  I write with the hope of starting a conversation between people who have talked with chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit their entire lives.  I write with honesty and integrity longing for just one person to say I made them think differently.  I write from a loving disposition because we are all learning as we go and none of us have all the answers.  I write the way I try to live my life; sometimes I put an explanation point where it doesn’t belong but I’m never ashamed to use a question mark. 

Many years ago I decided I would expand my mind by reading books.  I made up my mind to become a life-long learner and I’m thrilled I made that decision.  A large percentage of the books I read have to do with human relationships, memoirs, and different philosophical perspectives.  You could say I write now because after years of learning and living what I have learned, it’s time to share some of it with the world.  I write as a gift.  If I can make you smirk, smile, laugh, or cry, then I will consider my job successful.  My gift to you today is a smile.    🙂 

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Peace and Love!

~Travis