I have a tendency to tap my brakes a little harder than usual when someone is following too closely behind me. The young driver behind me apparently thought I was the only thing between him and the most important destination of his life.
He threw his hands up, most likely assuming I was just unnecessarily slowing down, not picking up on the subtle signal of, “You better get off my tail.” With both hands raised, he shouted and contorted his face. He then whipped it over into the next lane to try to gain ground.
He didn’t. He didn’t go anywhere forward, in fact, because we were driving in traffic, and cars cannot be driven through. He actually slowed himself down even more by changing lanes from behind my car.
As we continued to travel down the same road, I noticed he was following way too closely to the car now in front of him. In similar form to what I did, they dramatically slowed down as if to say, “Stop following so closely.”
He exploded again. I could see the exact reaction as before from my side view mirrors. This kid was completely unaware of the fact that he was the only one driving unacceptably. I’m sure he just thought the rest of the world was opposed to the direction he wanted to go.
I laughed and laughed as this all unfolded. As I turned off the busy road towards my office, I thought about what I witnessed moments before. I started thinking about what was at the core of the issue. Why would someone get that worked up?
Have you ever met someone who constantly complains about people being rude, coworkers being crazy, circumstances not going the way they want? They don’t say it out loud, but it’s like they’re saying the world is out to get them.
Meanwhile, the common denominator at the root of all the dysfunction is them. That’s not a new idea, but I think it describes exactly what the young driver was dealing with. It points out a question he certainly wasn’t asking himself and something I so often have to come back to.
What if I’m the problem?
If everyone else is moving in the same direction. If I’m the only one that sees obstacles. If it’s always me in the victim position of a situation. If I run into the same stories over and over again. If I found myself viewing those around me as road blocks and not fellow travelers...
Maybe I’m the problem.
The answer won’t always be yes, but I believe it’s a healthy practice to ask the question, a self-enforced checks and balances, because we often only see what we want to see. It creates an awareness that suggests the subtle brake tap in front of us is actually a friendly reminder to ask, “Am I the problem?”
It’s been three years since the inception of the blog. I can remember the excitement of committing to a new endeavor, the uncertainty of sharing inner workings outwardly, and the hope that it might make a difference.
I started with little direction but a desire to be honest, vulnerable, helpful, encouraging. I can remember spending hours thinking of titles, themes, tags, categories, and various other details of where to take this thing.
After deliberating for what seemed like ages, I took one from the Seth Godin handbook and decided “done is better than perfect.” I set out to show up regularly. Committing to once a week was my form of accountability to write. Notice things, learn something, share it.
Listen. Learn. Share. Repeat.
That was the first theme that emerged. I signed off each week for a while with that phrase. As time passed, the topics range became more narrow, and I realized what seemed to sink the deepest with readers were the posts that took life experiences and extracted meaning from those narratives.
Written across the top of my homepage was this description, “A blog about belief, relationships, and personal growth, written from a position of hope.”And then soon after, “A weekly blog written from a position of hope.”
Position of hope.
That’s the posture. That’s the place I’m at right now. That’s the fuel this thing is being powered by. In the midst of all of life’s happenings, despite struggles and doubts, trials and sufferings...hope is the lens I want to see and share through.
The one wildly important goal I have is that whether someone reads one post or all 155, they begin to believe this “life is a gift and love expressing itself through their own life is the whole point.”
I say this word a lot, but I only continue to mean it more. I am very, very grateful. Thank you for three years of allowing me to be honest, to work through my own stuff, to travel through challenging and wonderful seasons, and for joining the journey.
Here’s to three more years and beyond!
Maybe there is something unique about your twenties. Maybe it’s recency bias. Maybe it’s just me. Whatever it is, when I think about who I was and who am I now over the course of a decade, it’s bewildering.
Beliefs, interests, personality traits, food preferences, hobbies—so much has shifted, evolved, grown. I have gray hairs, weigh twenty pounds more, and can grow a much better mustache. My heart doesn’t feel like it might escape my chest at the prospect of public speaking now, and I’m not trying to be a full-time musician anymore. The list is extensive.
What’s on your list? Are you proud of the change, or do you see a course correction ahead?
I heard someone say recently they don’t trust someone who hasn’t changed at all in the last five years. If you wouldn’t disagree with your five-years-ago self on anything then you probably aren’t growing. I wholeheartedly agree. We are not, and should try to be, static creatures.
“If you are not consciously choosing to do one thing, you are subconsciously choosing to do the opposite.”
We are influenced by innumerable things: who we surround ourselves with (and follow), the books we read, the shows we watch, the music we listen to, the circumstances that happen to us, the consequences of the choices we make.
Some things are out of our control, and the only thing within our control is our reaction. But for everything else—people, books, shows, your environment—are you choosing well? Are you choosing at all?
On a recent episode of Back Porch Hangs with my friends, a question about goals for 2019 came up. My immediate thought went to growing my income, increasing my savings, reducing my debt, having and doing things.
The “what” is easy to talk about. The more I think about the question, and the more I unpack this idea of changing as an individual, the more I realize I need to also clearly define the “who” answer to that question and revisit it often.
I turn 30 next year. People call that a “real adult” I hear. And while I have an idea of some things I want to have and do, I feel a swelling conviction about making sure the “who” in that equation is growing in the right direction.
Yes, I’ll write out goals, and they’ll be meaningful ones I’ll strive towards. But I’m also going to write out a five-years-older description of myself in terms of character and convictions.
Are you clear and specific about who you’re becoming? Are you choosing your influences? Do you feel in control or out of control? Does this sound refreshing or like personal growth mumbo jumbo?
Here’s the risk, and I’ll be done...
Time is flying, at least from my perspective. I remember the day I got my drivers license like it was yesterday, and I will be completing my twenties next year. I don’t want to wake up once a decade and have missed the opportunity before me because I didn’t set my sights, not only in the right direction, but at all. The cost is just too high to float through life.
“Hello?” I recognized the voice on the other end of the phone. The number was actually correct. I hesitated to call, unsure if I even had the right number, wondering what exactly I would say if he did pick up.
“Hey Charlie, it’s Chase Butler.” After a brief pause, “You know, Sadie’s grandson.” You would have thought I told him he won the lottery as he responded with excitement and surprise.
Charlie has lived by himself next to my Grandmother’s house for decades. He’s a small, friendly man with few family members I’m aware of. Years ago he started to go blind, and he’s now confined to his home most days.
When I think back on memories of Charlie, I remember a time he taught me a magic trick with a key on the front porch of my Grandmother’s house. Another time he showed me a knife he made from an animal bone he found. He was well-read, had no shortage of stories, and one of the nicest people you’d ever meet.
I can recall one conversation where he praised my curiosity and inquisitive nature. He, too, enjoyed learning and seeking. He said he and I were similar in that sense, and the compliment always stuck with me.
I’ve always felt a connection with Charlie. He’s one of those “guide” figures you see in literature—a quiet, subtle voice of wisdom. As wisdom often does, it comes from those sometimes on the fringes, easy to forget, easy to ignore.
A couple weeks ago I found myself on a long drive. I was in one of those “questioning your purpose” moods and actually feeling a little down on myself, chasing some existential rabbit hole of thought.
Out of nowhere I thought of Charlie, who I’ve not spoken to in at least a year, and realized I had his phone number. I called, and he picked up after a few rings. Immediately, the self-centered, anxiety-producing thoughts turned off, as Charlie began telling me about his world and asking about mine.
“Sometimes I have bad days, Chase, but I tell myself this too shall pass. But what I’m realizing now is that even on the good days I need to tell myself the same thing, this too shall pass. I’ve learned to be content in all things.”
Simple words from a profound perspective. Charlie spends most of his waking hours alone in darkness, but he has a joy that transcends circumstances, that rises above the loneliness, exceeds any sadness. It doesn’t ignore the bad days, but it informs and empowers the response.
It’s likely Charlie is sitting in his home by himself right now, listening to a book on tape, drinking coffee (he said he likes Starbucks dark blend), and pondering the love of God, waiting on the next opportunity to speak of the peace that surpasses all understanding to anyone who will listen.
Two things my heart instantly felt and stored away in the archives of my life when talking to Charlie...
First, when you’re too focused on yourself you so easily miss the ones who not only might need encouragement but are sitting at the ready to bless your soul. And second, bad days come, negative emotions are real, but the aim is contentment, and Charlie reminded me I have no excuse but to keep pressing on.
I felt something in my soul prompt me. Not a voice, not an audible instruction, just a gentle nudging. “Tell her how you feel.” I had briefly seen my mom earlier in the day and realized something I appreciated about her but never acknowledged. I pulled out my phone and typed a quick message.
I didn’t think much about it at the time. Immediately, I got a response, “I cannot believe the timing.” She then went on to explain the incredible coincidence of what I said and what she had been thinking about. I sat with misty eyes at the beauty of the magic of intertwined lives.
It’s way too easy to let the pace and the progress of our own lives tune out the prompting to speak what those around us need to hear...
If you have a word that gives life, don’t hold it in. Don’t keep it to yourself. You don’t know what encouragement, refreshment, or nourishment is needed by those you have the privilege to speak into.
When you feel that gentle nudging, give in.
Don’t second guess yourself. Don’t let the risk of awkwardness rob someone of the encouragement they need. It’s okay to be emotional, sentimental, vulnerable, grateful. You could be holding the very lifeline someone else needs and not know it.
“We overestimate the level of awkwardness and underestimate the impact.”
I can’t remember who said it, but it’s so true! The fear of being uncomfortable is not a good enough excuse for letting good words go unspoken.
Last week as I began writing this I received a text with words I needed to hear. A friend had thought of me as they reflected that morning about what they were grateful for. They simply told me why, and it was what I needed.
It probably took you a couple minutes to read this post. What’s 30 more seconds? I’d invite you to follow through on not letting good words go unspoken and send a brief message to someone who might need it. “I am really grateful for you because _____.”