So I’m privileged…

“The fact that I can choose to go without, no matter what my motivation, tells me that I’m privileged.”

I took a cold shower the other day. I do it a few times a month. I don’t enjoy it. Normally I luxuriate in long, hot showers for as long as I please. I did the dishes by hand the other day.  I do it occasionally. I don’t enjoy it. Normally I just pop them in the dishwasher and let it do it’s magic. I didn’t wear a coat to work today, even though my phone told me it is 27 degrees outside. I do this sometimes. I don’t enjoy it. Normally I choose from my many warm, stylish winter coats and never feel the wind. I’ve been thinking I should sleep on the floor occasionally. I wouldn’t like it. Normally I crawl into my cozy, soft bed and sleep comfortably. Why would I do these things? Because I’m privileged and I know it.

When I’m in Africa, I take swift cold showers because hot water for any length of time is a luxury. I often don’t have electricity, and rarely wifi. I wash dishes and clothes by hand. I seem to get along just fine without these things when I have to. Once a month I help my friend Acha feed people in the homeless camps here in Kansas City. Summers here are HOT and winters here are COLD. They don’t have a comfy, warm bed to fall into at night. They don’t always have the appropriate coat to put on for the temperature. They don’t have electricity at night to watch TV and read, or wifi to help them find resources.

I’m very privileged and I know it. I have all the comforts a girl could want. I have all the choices. The fact that I can choose to go without, no matter what my motivation, tells me that I’m privileged. But, I do choose to go without sometimes. I need to remind myself what life is like without convenience and comfort. I need to remember that people all over the world do not have the comfort and the choices that I have, and be grateful for my life.

This Thanksgiving season, make intentional decisions to be grateful. This Christmas holiday season, make intentional decisions to be kind, and share what you have with others that don’t. Occasionally, choose to go without, to remind you of your privilege and to keep your heart tender. “For unto whom much is given, of him much will be required.” Jesus (Luke 12:48).

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So it’s important…

“Don’t give anything so much significance that if it doesn’t go well it destroys you, or invalidates who you are.”

When I was in my 20s…and 30s…and maybe a little in my 40s….it was very important tobirthdaycake-R6noC1o5Vnp61fOlQCj9sZI-680x383 me that things were celebrated on the right day. If my birthday was on Tuesday, I wanted to celebrate on Tuesday. If an anniversary was on a Thursday, I wanted to celebrate on Thursday.  I didn’t want to celebrate on the weekend, which would have been easier and given us more time. It needed to be on the exact day of the significant event.

Then, a few years ago, I stopped. My family of 6, had turned into a family of 17. My children had become parents and in-laws and step parents. There were A LOT of people that wanted to see my people on holidays. This resulted in my kids being overwhelmed every holiday, trying to get to 4 or 5 “celebrations” and not enjoying any of them. In addition, I only got them for a short time each holiday before they had to head to their next destination.  I decided that we needed to change something, so we did.

This year my family of 6 is a family of 20! We celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. I get more time with my people and they get to enjoy our family time.  I stopped giving the day on the calendar significance, and instead, I have started placing the significance on the time with my family, whenever that gets to occur. This year we are moving our family Thanksgiving celebration to the Saturday after.

SignificanceThis caused me to begin thinking about the importance of, well anything really. A day, an event, a person, etc. all only have the amount of significance that we choose to assign to them. We’ve all been in love and assigned that person top priority in our life, only to break up and that person now has little or no significance in our life.

Do you see what I’m saying? Any day, is just a day, until you decide it’s more to you. Any person is just a person, until you decide they are more to you. Any event is nothing, until you decide it isn’t. I was talking with someone recently who had worked for months to do well on an assessment that could result in a promotion. They told me that if they fail, all their self-esteem would fall to nothing, and they didn’t know if they could recover. They were thinking of quitting, to avoid the possibility of failure. I told them, “Don’t give this one event the power to invalidate everything you have accomplished.” Don’t give anything so much significance that if it doesn’t go well it destroys you, or invalidates who you are. Not a wedding, not a holiday, no test, no interview, no person. You choose how much power you assign to anything in your life.

What are you giving significance to? You can choose. Do you need to examine the things you hold so tightly (rigidly) and see if the significance is misplaced? Is there something  that you fear failing at because you think that means YOU are a failure? It doesn’t.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m welcome…

“Maybe that’s what I was missing when I was lonely. A deep acceptance of my presence by someone.”

Have you ever felt lonely? I have. I’ve felt lonely when I was alone and lonely when I was with hundreds of people. Loneliness can be deep in your heart or it can be a momentary missing of someone. The dictionary definition of lonely is: sadness because one has no friends or company. From my experience with loneliness, I don’t feel like this definition is very accurate. I had friends, I even had company, and yet I still felt lonely. How then can we define loneliness more accurately?

I asked those who follow my facebook (Jules Kilson, LPC) to help me with a better definition. Here’s what some of you said:

“A feeling of isolation regardless of how many people you are around.” LH

“Not having someone to closely connect with.” PK

“A deficiency of human contact.” JK

“A void that seemingly cannot be filled, no matter who you’re surrounded by or the environment in which you live.” EK

“Walking into my empty house and going without human interaction.” LC

“A self-induced social hiatus.” KH

Feeling of isolation, lack of connection, lack of contact and interaction, a void, a social hiatus. I asked the author of the last one if that is refreshing or lonely, and they said both. In our culture, we can get overwhelmed with being constantly connected to others

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electronically. But, we are made to be in community. We desire connections and interactions. When we are deprived of these things, voluntarily or not, we are lonely.

I think that we desire authentic connection. We desire to be truly known and accepted by someone else. We desire interactions that are genuine and intentional. Interactions that are specific to us. We desire physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual contact with others that is deep and meaningful.

Both times I was in Africa, I was so impressed by a small gesture that is a part of their culture. When you enter, someone says,”You are welcome.” At first, I thought I was being chastised for not saying thank you for something. When was the last time you were told you were welcome somewhere? It feels good to the recipient. It felt good to walk into my office and have my friend Mgbechi tell me I was welcome with her, or my friend Michael say I was welcome in the car with him, or my friend Destiny say I was welcome in the kitchen while she was cooking. It made me feel noticed when my friend Rose in Uganda would say I was welcome on the patio with her. I knew they didn’t mind if I shared the space, but to hear them say it to me was a deeper acceptance of my presence.

Maybe that’s what I was missing when I was lonely. A deep acceptance of my presence by someone. Authentic connection, genuine, intentional interactions that were specific to me. Contact that was deeper than the surface and meaningful. Now that we figured that out, what can we do to manifest that in our lives and in the lives of others? How can we create connections, interactions and contacts that fill that void? I believe we can look at these things we have identified and see what is missing for us. Maybe we are scared. Maybe we are scarred. Maybe we are cautious. Maybe we can just start by saying “you are welcome” to someone else.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I see you…

I just returned from a trip to Nigeria. It was my second trip to Africa. I love Africa. For so many reasons.

The African culture is a collectivist society. This means they emphasize family, and group goals, over individual needs and desires. In collectivism, social rules focus on promoting selflessness and putting community needs above the individual’s needs. Working as a group and supporting others is the societal and personal norm. People are considered “good” if they are generous, helpful, dependable and attentive to the needs of others. America, in contrast, is an individualistic culture. We often place assertiveness and independence above the needs of the family and/or community.

Either of these, if taken to the extreme, can be dysfunctional. But, when kept in balance, I enjoy the collectivist culture. There’s an African proverb that goes like this: A basket of fruit was placed under a tree. A group of children were put on the starting line and told that the child that reaches the basket first, gets all the fruit. The “go” signal was given, and the children all joined hands and ran to the basket together and shared it.

Greetings are important in Africa. Before asking anything from someone, or conducting business, you recognize that person as an individual. You are asked things like, “How was your night?”, “How is your family?”, “How are your crops?”. Greetings can take a few minutes, or quite some time. In the market, before asking a price, you greet: “Hello sir. Hello ma’am. How are you today? I’m well thank you, how are you? I’m well thank you. How is business today? It’s slow because of the rain ma’am.” This promotes the idea of being part of a group, and not simply individuals going about their day. We are all connected, and therefore, I have a desire to begin our interaction by connecting to you.

Even after a short greeting like this, I’m then free to ask a price and begin bartering. It would be rude to walk up to a shop and ask the price of an item without noticing the keeper as an individual first. I like this noticing part. How often do you feel noticed? How often do you interact with someone, with the goal of getting information or a service from them, without taking the time to recognize them as a person and not simply a means to getting what you want?

This idea of indirectly saying, “I see you.” is powerful. This idea of taking a moment to let someone know they have value as a person, above their ability to satisfy your need, is powerful. This idea of intentionally connecting is powerful. Every relationship you have, every interaction with a stranger, every conversation in your day, will all benefit from this simple idea of noticing.

Try it out and let me know the responses you get!

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m impatient…

I’ve always thought of myself as a patient person. I’m rarely one to give in to road rage, or growling at customer service, or eye rolling when my line isn’t going fast enough. I enjoy cooking dinners with multiple steps that take longer to cook than to eat, I’m delighted to fantasize with my g’babies for hours about the clouds or the stars or fairies. When my clients are needing to move slowly, I can easily empathize and feel no need to set the pace. However, there is one area that I’m especially impatient. I like to see the results of my work.

This immediate gratification comes in many of the things I really love doing. Painting a room or writing a story. Cleaning the kitchen (actually that’s my least favorite chore, but I see immediate results). Many DIY home and landscaping projects reward me with an immediate satisfaction for what I’ve done. Perhaps that’s why I gravitate towards the activities that I choose. But, none give me as much pleasure and instant gratification as mowing my lawn.

My yard is 5 acres. It’s beautiful and park-like. And when it’s not mowed, it’s a daunting visual, but when it’s mowed it’s lovely. The mowing part itself is easy because I just ride around on my little machine and get some sun. But, the satisfaction of looking back over the strip I’ve previously mowed, compared to the next one, is strangely satisfying to me.

When my four children were little, as soon as I cleaned a room, they un-cleaned it. As soon as I cleaned the bathroom, someone took a shower or missed the toilet. As soon as I cleaned the kitchen, another meal for six had to be made. I don’t think I ever actually got all the laundry done in those years. No one un-mows my yard behind me.

I can put on my headphones and be in silence with my thoughts. No one is going to interrupt me, or invade my head space. It’s time to me alone, to let my thoughts wander and ponder and go into places that wouldn’t make sense to anyone else. It’s four hours of time to think as I want, listen to music that I want or let my mind meander. That’s not something I get often.

There is something deeply satisfying, to look back on a section of yard and see the immediate change and know it was a result of my willingness to spend my time doing what needs to be done. I like working out. Biking, walking, kayaking, hiking, swimming, but there’s no immediate result I can see. I can feel good about it, but there’s something about the visual of the grass being tall and then being mowed that is powerful to me.

Often, when I’m frustrated with a task, I find it’s because I can’t tell any difference. There is no apparent change. Do you ever feel that way? This is a growth area for me. The long term value of staying with something to get eventual desired results is well worth it. All my schooling, my 31 year marriage, raising my children, planting new little trees that won’t mature for 10 years, all valuable. I focused on the outcome, not the immediate.  Our culture says if there is not a desirable, immediate outcome, move on. That’s not the way to live a successful, joyful, satisfying life. Good things take work and time and commitment. There are times when we need to stop and assess and make a change, but be patient and work at it. Give it time. Learn all you can from the experience.

So while I work on being patient and looking at the big picture, I’ll keep getting immediate gratification from my mowing.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

 

So I’m faulty…

“… it’s like having a camera and ignoring it. Seeing obstacles but backing out anyway, running things over.”

“He’s never going to change. I’ve told him over and over what he is doing is killing our marriage, but he refuses to see any of his faults.”

“I can’t keep a job more than a few months. I get fired over stupid things. Bosses just want us all to conform. Who can work in an environment where you can’t be yourself?”

Is it possible that we have faults we can’t see? Faults that others recognize and bring to our attention, but we refuse to see? And if we changed, or even worked on these faults, could we save a friendship, a job, a marriage or a family tie?

In a recent post, I talked about worth. That if we are rejected, whether it be personal, professional, or romantic, it doesn’t diminish our worth. That is true. It does not however, mean that we are not at fault ever. Part of accepting ourselves is looking honestly at our whole being, good and bad. And just because we accept our faults, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work on those things to make them better. Especially if they are continually being brought to our attention and affecting our relationships.

In 1955, two psychologists, Joseph Lutz and Harrington Ingham, came up with a technique called the Johari Window. (Joseph + Harrington = Johari). The Johari Window has four panes: one is the part of ourselves that we and others see; one contains aspects that others see but we are unaware of; one is the private space we know but hide from others; one is the unconscious part of us that neither ourselves nor others see. Let’s put a pin in that for now.

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I drive a Challenger. It’s my dream car. I waited all through undergrad and grad school, got a job and worked there for two years, before I bought my car. My car is everything I wanted it to be. I only have one complaint, it has a terrible blind spot. The way the back windows are made, you can’t see when you back out. I usually have to back out slowly and hope for the best. That’s scary. When I can, I find a space I can pull through so I can avoid backing up. It’s really a hazard. I’m seriously contemplating getting a back up camera to help me out.

Okay, let’s go back to the window. The Johari window can help us with a number of things, but let’s focus on that pane that others see and we don’t. This could be filled with all kinds of positive adjectives that others see in us and we don’t recognize in ourselves. It can also be filled with negative adjectives that others see in us and we don’t recognize in ourselves. We have blind spots. Things in our lives that we can’t see. It’s a hazard to our relationships, no matter what the type.

The people in our lives are the back up cameras. They are trying to help us out. If I get a camera and never turn it on or ignore it, what help is that? If you never consider what others are telling you, or examine it to see if it is true, it’s like having a camera and ignoring it. Seeing obstacles but backing out anyway, running things over. You can choose that. It’s an option. But, it’s a reckless way to live your life. A destructive way that will end in you being alone. You can also choose to change, or get help changing if you don’t know how. Don’t let your pride keep you from your best life.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules

So I’m shifting…

It’s been a little over 8 months since my dad died. I’m still figuring my grief out.  This week has been a struggle. It happens. This morning I’m coming out of a four day funk that was really hard. But, today seems better. If you’ve lost someone you love, you know. I wrote my feelings. Maybe the words will resonate with some of you.

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At first, my grief made me feel as though I was adrift in a dark ocean.  Tossed about, at the mercy of the waves. One day, I realized I had washed upon the shore. Laying on my belly, exhausted, but on the ground in the light. Still later, I found myself standing, but the sand under my feet was shifting and not predictable. Recently, I felt as though I found my footing. Sand that is mostly packed, that holds me steady as I go through the day. But, it’s still sand. Some days, with unpredictability, the sand under my feet shifts. I’m unsteady, tentatively taking steps to see if I sink. Some days I can’t. It’s too much work. So I stay still. And then, just like that, I stand again, unfounded confidence urging me to move forward. I accept the cycle.  Right now I can’t imagine that solid ground is an option. Then again, at one point I didn’t imagine that sand was an option to being tossed in the waves. So I’ll keep moving forward. Allowing myself kindness and compassion for the unsteady days. Enjoying the sun on my skin, and the feeling of the water washing over my toes. Knowing he loved to see me smile.

Be kind, be grateful, be courageous,

Jules