Do You Really Know Who You Are?

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Last week I received an email from a friend who was given an assignment to pose the following question to people who know her.

When I walk in the room, how do I show up?

I immediately had two strong reactions….

My first thought was  “That’s BRILLIANT!”  We don’t get to experience ourselves the way other people experience us.  We may have opinions about who we think we are, but they tend to be distorted.  We are our own worst critic, quick to point out all our faults.  We have little awareness of the actual impact we make to both those we are close to and strangers alike.

What better way to really discover who we are, than to directly ask those who know us best!  The question “When I walk in the room, how do I show up?” is really asking “Who am I?”.

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It is a gift to look into a mirror that gives back an accurate reflection of who we are, not the distorted vision we have of ourselves.  This is not intended to make us feel better about ourselves (although that may be a by-product), nor is it meant to give us an over inflated ego.  The purpose of this question is simply to help us get who we really are in this world, the role we play and the difference we make.  To help us discover our AWESOMENESS!

Yes, it was a BRILLIANT question!  Then came my second response, “OMG – that’s TERRIFYING!”  We have to be pretty darn brave to actually ask that question of people in our life.  It takes courage…..to seek out the truth, to hear the response, to see our reflection.

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But BRILLIANT overpowered TERRIFYING, at least in the moment, when I decided that I simply had to share this with you, challenge you and give you the opportunity to see who you really are.

Then TERRIFYING overpowered BRILLIANT, when I realized there was no integrity in me encouraging you to go for it, to discover your awesomeness, if I wasn’t willing to play right along!  This is not a journey of “do what I say, not what I do”!  I have always pledged to talk the talk and walk the walk – even when it’s uncomfortable.

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So I drafted an email to a few friends and family members, asking them to play this crazy game with me.  Much like jumping out of a plane, as I was about to hit the send button, I wondered if my parachute would open or if I’d come crashing down to the ground.  It felt like a long free fall, but my parachute did open, and I landed safely, enveloped in the love and honesty of my friends.

While this entire exercise was enlightening, what I found most intriguing was discovering the common thread among my friend’s responses.  The word that was most frequently used to describe me was passionate.  Being a lover of words, I went in search of a better understanding of what that meant.  Passionate is defined as showing or caused by strong feelings or a strong belief.  Synonyms of passionate include intense, heartfelt, eager, excited, animated, spirited, energetic.  I was starting to get a visual picture of why this adjective was used to characterize me.

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Then I happened upon a definition that I could totally and completely relate to, that gave me the best explanation of  why multiple people chose the word passion to distinguish who I am!

Passion is when you put more energy into something than is required to do it.  It is more than just enthusiasm or excitement, passion is ambition that is materialized into action, to put as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible.

Yes, that is who I am – passionate!

WHO ARE YOU?  Are you feeling courageous?  Like a student of life, ready to take on the next lesson?  Posing this question to people in your life will require you to be vulnerable and exposed, but the payoff of discovering who you are and how you occur in the world is worth it!

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GO FOR IT!  Be brave and have fun!

P. S. I was so moved by how my friends graciously gave me the gift of my reflection, that I in turn gave them back the same gift, and told them how they occur for me, who they are in this world and what a difference they make.  When you give….you receive more in return!

with Joy & Gratitude,

Cherishing a Friend for a Lifetime

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There are distinct differences between a ‘lifelong friend’ and a ‘friend for a lifetime’.  A lifelong friend is a person you’ve known for a long time, for your lifetime.  The emphasis in this label is placed on time (longevity), not on type or depth of the friendship.  A friend for a lifetime is a friend first and foremost, the kind of friend that can endure the ups and downs of a lifetime together.  Someone that once they enter your life, they will never leave.

The length of time that a friendship has existed certainly has an impact, for over time we have a multitude of experiences together, which build upon themselves to create a shared history.  But the qualities that really makes a friendship last a lifetime include mutual respect, lack of judgement, open communication, and unconditional love.

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I met one of my “for a lifetime” friends 23 years ago in Washington, DC.   I didn’t realize the difference she would make in my life when I first laid eyes on her.  How could I?  I had already decided I didn’t like her the moment I met her.  I was a co-manager at a national clothing store, working my way towards a promotion to store manager.  Sue relocated from Georgia where she had already earned the position of store manager for this same chain.  I felt threatened by her and was angry at her for messing up my career track since her experience would bump her ahead of me in line for the next store manager position.

Thankfully, she made it impossible for me to not fall madly in friendship with her!  Her energy, positive attitude and sense of humor made her irresistible.  While my head was telling me one thing (she’s a threat), my heart knew we were supposed to be friends.

The first few years of our friendship were easy since we lived near each other and worked for the same company.  After 3 years, I relocated about 200 miles away, but it felt like I had moved across country.  Even with the distance, we were both able to periodically make the 3-4 hour drive to get some girl time together.

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Ten years later, Sue did move across country, from Virginia to Kansas.  I knew the geographic separation was far enough that maintaining our friendship would be challenging, but not impossible.

We continued to share in each other’s lifetime milestones, but the distance began to chip away at the part of a friendship that is solidified from sharing the mundane, silly and trivial parts of every day life.  We had a choice to make.  We could let the friendship slowly dissolve due to circumstances, or we could be intentional about our relationship in order to maintain a “friendship for a lifetime”.

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So we did the only thing we could think of given our situation, we started scheduling a monthly phone call – a girlfriend appointment.  Our conversations last upwards of 2 hours (ok – maybe a little longer), and even then, we aren’t really done talking.  We just force ourselves to bring the conversation to an end so as not to neglect the other responsibilities in our day.  I know with certainty that our consistent communication with each other has been the glue that has kept our friendship strong.

As fate would have it, Sue lives less than an hour away from where Silpada holds their national conference, which kicks off later this week.  I’m catching a plane to Kansas tomorrow and I don’t have to limit my next conversation with Sue to just 2 hours.  We get 24 hours together, and chances are, we’ll still have things to talk about when our time runs out!

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A friendship for a lifetime is a gift!

When people enter our lives, we have no idea how long they will stay, or what impact they will make on us.  Each of us are only one half of a relationship.  We can’t force a friendship to be one that lasts a lifetime.  But when we find ourselves fortunate enough to be in a relationship with the potential to last a lifetime, we have to nurture it.

Do your friends know how important they are to you?  Communication doesn’t have to be a 2 hour phone call.  It can be a text, an email, a facebook message or a hand written note.  The act of staying in communication can be the difference between a life long friend and a friend for a lifetime!

with Joy & Gratitude,