I have been reviewing and looking over my past posts with the intention of pulling together thematic ideas for a book. The thought is to try and  "work smarter" by using ideas I have already begun to explore and flesh out.  But, I have a tendency to not look back on my work.  Once created, any work is once and done.  

Through this review I am noticing duplicate themes: not only that, but also duplicate exact topics.  I am either passionate about a certain subject (which can be true) or I am a very slow learner (alas, which can also be true).  I know that what I wrote was in earnest about what I was feeling and experiencing at the time. 

By the repetition of my ramblings, it seems as if I haven't learned anything yet.  I thought that I was moving forward in my quest for becoming more of the person God has made me to be.  I thought that I had improved or completed some of my personal and professional goals.  

Apparently not. 

I am reminded of the quote by George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

I am also reminded of the idea that  keeping one's eye on the past is like driving a car by looking in the rear view mirror.  It won't take too long before you hit something. (mangled version of a statement by Rick Warren)

What are we supposed to do?  Never look back?  Always look back?   Resign ourselves to circular travel? 

Once again (as I have previously written) it all comes down to balance.  Balancing the remembrance of the past with the expectation and hope for the future. Having just celebrated Easter, I am reminded of the nature of people.   Holy week is divided almost mid-week by the Last Supper which was the celebration of the Passover meal.  Every time Christians celebrate communion or eucharist or the new covenant they are also (maybe not so noticeably) remembering the old covenant of the Passover.  It is in looking forward to the unhindered relationship with God that we reflect on where we have been.  We remember our state of dis-grace so that we can appreciate and enjoy our new state of grace. 

What about you?  Have you ever looked at the things which worried you in the past?   If you would review your Christmas letters or past journals, would you find that you are writing about the same things?  Are the topics the same- year in and year out?  Do you feel that you are in a rut?  Are you stuck in doing the same ole, same ole?  Or are you the rolling stone gathering no moss as you keep moving forward? Are you the shark mentality- keep moving or you can perish? Either way, are you happy with that situation?   What can you do about it? 

I think reflection is good, both as individuals and as a society.  It keeps us accountable.  We have responsibilities for our actions and the remembrance of the past keeps us in check not to repeat detrimental action (or so we hope). 

Refection also helps to understand new situations as they arise.  Sometimes we may be in a quandary how to respond to the new predicament and we need the context of what has gone on before. We need to view the new through the lens, and possibly the actions of the old in order to accomplish our current and future goals. 

In visiting the Nantucket Whaling museum some years ago, they had a display of old fashioned hand tools that the sailers used to carve up the whale once they harpooned and killed it.  The tools were designed to get the most out of the carcass.  The docent remarked that a few months prior to our visit a beached whale had died on the shore.  They needed to clear the beach and wanted to remove sections of the whale for scientific study.  None of the modern tools could accomplish what they wanted.  They had to come to the museum and borrow some of the display tools.  It was only through using the past could the present be helped.

I think in order to keep the balance, we do need to remember the past.  To remember and learn from it. 

However we cannot be heavy laden with that side of the balance.  We need to reflect on what is on that side of the scale and move forward, learning what we should and shouldn’t do. 

One thing that was eye opening in looking over past posts was that I could see growth and stagnation.  It has helped inform my decision of my life choices for the couple of months.  I am realizing that some of the things I haven't completed yet, need to get done.  No more mucking about. 

I think that is one of the blessings in keeping a journal.  One can look back to see answered prayers, concerns, joys, cries of the heart.  The  blog has become a journal of sorts.  I notice what I have commented upon and the date and it is a good remembrance of things done.

If you don't, I would encourage you to keep a journal.  Try it.  It doesn't have to be a lengthy epistle, just lists of what you are thinking would suffice.  It would be interesting if you could keep it for at least a year so that you can go back and see what has happened in a year's time- your thoughts and reflections.  If the journal is too daunting, why not jot a view things down each day on your calendar?  Perhaps three words to describe your day?  Three things for which you are grateful?  Or have as a goal?  

If you don't journal, do you have some record, demarcation or milestones of your past?  Do you reflect on them?  If so, does that inform how you go forward? 








Future Strength

Have you ever been in one place, say a meeting with a specific purpose, and something will be said that causes you to have a "Eureka!" moment?  It is some statement or idea that transcends the immediate reason for the gathering and can be applied to other aspects of your life. 

Such was the case for me recently.  I was at a church meeting and the activity at hand was to look at the church's strengths and how that would determine its future.  We were doing a process called "appreciative inquiry".  As they briefly explained the theory and rationale behind the process I was struck with how much the process would help not just a group but an individual. 

The idea is that the group reflects and discovers the strengths of the organization and then through a series of questions, begin to dream and design a future based on those strengths.  A group is cautioned that a fixation on organizational weaknesses doesn't move the organization into the future.  While that may be beneficial at some point, the purpose of dreaming and vision casting should be based on its strengths.

I wonder if our societal tendency to navel gaze and self-help would be better served if we concentrate on our individual strengths rather than improvement of our weaknesses?  It makes me think of the French women philosophy of accepting their physical flaws and concentrating on showcasing their positive physical features. 

I am thinking of all the times that I have made my "self-improvement" lists.  Mostly they are comprised of physical defects (plan to tone up the upper arms), unwanted behavior (eat more slowly) or character flaws (be more assertive with certain family members) that I want to correct.  I think most people have some type of thoughts of self-improvement whether or not you actually list them. If you think you don't have these lists, think to Bridget Jones' diary.  One of the reasons readers loved Bridget was that they could relate to her continual attempt at self-improvement. "Reduce amount of cigarettes. Must reduce consumption of alcohol.  Don't shag strangers or wait until sober, no matter how ding-dong gorgeous the gentleman may be".

In some ways I think I have wasted way too much energy and time on trying to improve the negative instead of using my time and effort on expanding and improving the strengths.  Just think how much farther down life's journey I would be and how much further I would be towards reaching my goals if I didn't worry about and try to correct past items and encounters.  Where would I be if I didn't get stuck trying to "fix" something that may never be completely fixed?  

It is similar to how I view our house. I think I can be so critical of our house, that I am spending so much time on painting and repairing it to the point that I forget to sit and enjoy the beautiful garden spaces that we have.  I can do the same thing with myself and then I wonder why I am stuck and why can't I move forward? 

My plan for this year is to focus on the strengths. Embrace it. Don't fight it.  And let the weaknesses fall by the wayside. 

What would that look like for you?  Do you focus on your strengths or weaknesses? 

Start Your Week With a Smile

Last week my sister shared with me a video about the "Oldest Hip Hop Dance Troupe in the world".  They are called the Hip Op-eration Crew.  Visit their website. Their story and the story of Billie Jordan their "dance instructor" is inspirational. Click here to hear BIllie's Ted Talk

What I love about the story is that Billie reached beyond herself, her pain, and her loneliness to help others, the aged in her community, who were also feeling lonely, without purpose, and without hope for a future.  Billie believed in these marginalized elderly people and provided an expectation that was missing in their lives. As she says they no longer talk about the past but rather make plans for the future. She has given back to them their dignity and their humanity.  They in turn have given those things back to her. 

The thing is, not only has the common purpose of the troupe been good for their emotional and mental state it is also providing them with physical benefits. Sure there are healthy issues.  The ages range from upper sixties to upper nineties with the average age being eighty. But Billie works with what she has and encourages the troupe to keep striving and doing.  As of 2015, after two years from starting the troupe, she hadn't lost any to death and the consensus from their physicians was that they are all in better shape.  

As they say under their website's beliefs statement, "Even though their age can limit their dancing capabilities, they are all inspired by the founders of hip hop from the Bronx who believed it’s not about limitations, it’s about possibilities. Regardless of their age and physical ability, they are not letting those limitations get in the way of learning hip hop." 

Certainly their story is a great reminder that we are never too old to learn and grow.  We are never too old to find purpose and meaning in our lives.  We are never to old to strive for healing and wholeness in body, mind and spirit. We are never to old to encourage and inspire others. We are never too old for possibilities. 

 Click here to see The Crew perform    Watch it and be inspired.  Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.