An ode to Joy

9 04 2010

My generation is so much different then my parents.  I think I’m probably different from my father in a lot of ways too.  We all know stories of parents who sacrificed something for the good of something else.  My mother sacrificed her dream of teaching to pursue raising her family while my father spent 12 hours everyday working which included 4 hours of commuting to and from the big city.  Wasn’t a very joyful existence but they sacrificed for the family.  We were spoiled.  For me sacrifice is reading when the cable goes out or taking the bus.  God forbid!  My parent’s generation would often sacrifice joy for the financial well being or improvement of the family.  Comfort and happiness in the hopes it brought joy.  We’ve had it pretty good.  I’ve had it pretty good.  Maybe that is why my significance matrix is so different?

Maybe you are like me?  We have a basic family budget to run our household.  We go to work to ensure our budget gets fed every month.  Anything beyond that is earmarked for all kinds of things – savings, projects, vacations, debt reduction, and luxuries.  I think we all have an internal gage of the level of discomfort we are willing to accept to ensure these details get looked after.  I call it “working for free”.  The income we earn which pays for the basic budget is working for free.  Quite often when there’s more month at the end of the money we’re working for less then free.  Anything over and above is getting paid for my contribution.  That’s how I look at it.  When the level of brain damage at work is greater then the level of remuneration and the remuneration is barely allowing me to “work for free” – we have a big problemo.  Here is the question of questions – if I am working for free and hating my job due to the level of brain damage, what would I really want to do for free.  What would fill me?  What significant contribution could I make to the world?  Where would my strengths best be deployed allowing others to be served and my life to be full?  I’ve often heard it said to discover what you should do with your life, discover what you’d do for free – and do that.  I never understood what working for free meant until now.  A close friend said to me yesterday, “when I leave my job its not like I could make less then what I’m making now so I’m not worried…”.  That’s the ticket!  That’s the freedom.  I’m not advocating everyone quitting their jobs to go volunteer at something.  Not at all.  However I am advocating the move to courageously living our dreams in all aspects of our lives – including our careers.  We can do whatever we set our minds to.  Fear, insecurity, comfort, entitlement, family history, experience, safety, routine, and so much more are all ways we protect ourselves and protecting ourselves is a good thing.  But these same protections can also hold us back from realizing one of the greatest treasures God gives us – a life filled with joy.  I’m not talking happiness.  I’m talking joy.  That overwhelming feeling you are doing THE thing you were made to do.  Maybe you have never experienced that thing before?  Maybe you don’t know where to start?  Maybe you have been like me – scared and comfortable?  Maybe you are 1 of the 88% of people Marcus Buckingham suggests are “living in their weaknesses” or in other words are spending the majority of their time in the things that deplete them.  Stop the insanity!  Don’t you agree its time for a change?  Living my dreams means living a life filled with joy.  Getting up everyday to do THE thing I was made to do.  The ascension of Dream Mountain.  Living my dreams. 

My father and I were driving home from church on Easter and I asked him about living his dreams.  In light of his life of sacrifice, what that meant to him?  You know – he surprised me.  He told me there was no greater joy then having a place to call home, a family to love, and to be married to my mom.  He sacrificed whatever he needed to as long as it ensured he could be THE thing wanted to be – a husband to my mom and a father to my brother and me.  In hind sight, I guess he has lived his life filled with joy.  Maybe we’re not that different after all.


WTF? (where’s the friendship)?

7 04 2010

Friends – can’t live with them, can’t live without them.  There are so many different variations of friends.  Long time friends, new friends, long distance friends, next door neighbour friends, arms length friends, friends of friends, family that are friends, friends that are like family, friends with benefits – lots of different kinds of friends.  I would hazard to suggest we probably have just as many different experiences with friendships as there are different definitions of friendships.  I certainly have.  We all have right?  We can all name a time where we have been lifted up by a friend, supported in a way or at a time where the palpable friendship was so moving – it was burned into our memory of what “real” friendship is like.  Conversely we have all had the opposite experience haven’t we?  A situation where we have been so let down by a friend the let down caused disillusionment for friendships as a whole?  More than that, the definition of friend is changing too isn’t it?  I have an old friend with whom I am not really close with anymore who has more than 3000 Facebook friends in his mission to have the most Facebook friends on the net.  Heck, Tila Tequila became (in)famous because she had the most MySpace friends in the world.  For my money, I like the few and fierce approach.  A few very close and fiercely active friendships.  The types where you may not see one another all of the time but when you do you walk away feeling so good – regardless of the conversation.  Could be a surface thing, could be deep and challenging – but always good.

Yesterday was great day.  On the heels of a friendship disappointment, I travelled back to my hometown for the day and got to see 4 good friends.  They are all different friendships with differing levels of time and experiences but all are good friendships.  The first has become a friend through a business relationship but when we get together we laugh and laugh.  That’s not something which comes easily to me so to have a friend like this is so cool.  It’s never super deep but it’s good that way.  The next friend I saw is one of my medical practitioners (he was a friend first).  He and his wife and my wife and I are all close individually and together.  We have great conversations.  Deep and shallow.  We have such an understanding.  We share common loves and dislikes, young children, spiritual understandings, just so much.  We don’t see each other every week but when we do see one another it’s great.  I was at my best man’s house next.  He wasn’t there but his wife and kids were.  I love this family so much.  I’ve actually been friends with them longer than any other active and engaged friendship I have.   They are an example to me of how to grow but not change.  How to be who you are happily and yet grow more deeply into who you were made to be.  Even the 20 minutes I was there was so awesome.   Finally we stopped for supper at a relatively newer friend’s home.  We always love being with them.  They are generous, open, warm, inviting, understanding, caring, and genuine.  We have told them pretty much everything there is to know about us and they don’t flinch.  They do the same with us.  The wives get together and are close and us husbands get together and talk too.  He and I talk more on the Blackberry’s but it’s our communication and it works for us.  What is so cool to me is when friendship truly works.  My hope is my family can be even half the friends these families/friends have been to us.

We’ve all had friendships where we’ve been let down.  I think it’s a fact of life.  Friendships suck sometimes.  Jody Watley sang, “friends will let you down/friends won’t be around/when you need them the most – where are your friends?” and she was right.  However, coming home from my hometown yesterday I was reminded of the best part of friendships.  Good friendships, real friendships are the flavor of life.  A light in the darkness of our lives.  Yesterday I was encouraged to be the friend I want to have by the friendships I have been blessed to be a part of.