As I was quietly sitting in my chair early this morning, sipping coffee, and organizing my thoughts for this blog, something happened. My intention was to write about my favorite things: the sound of rain on a tin roof, the laughter of children, the smiles of sweet baby boys, any song by Kenny Chesney, the series “Anne with an E,” good friends, family, and memories of fishing with my dad. The goal was to encourage anyone who might be feeling down, or weary, or unsure to get out of your rut by doing some of your own favorite things.
It’s textbook Counseling 101—when you’re feeling sad, or have a case of the blues, do at least one thing each day which brings you joy, relieves stress, and makes you happy.
For some unknown reason, all weekend long the Glen Campbell song, “Gentle on My Mind” has been on repeat in my head. Aside from the fact that I used to have a major crush on Glen Campbell, and truly believed I would marry him one day, I couldn’t imagine why this song from long ago was gently playing in my mind.
As I dissected the words I realized it wasn’t so much in the meaning of the words, but was in the way those four words flowed. Gentle on my mind…
The words were soft, and peaceful. But within their quiet sounds, was power. I found within that simple phrase a truth of life. I found something I hoped to aspire to. To be gentle in a world that is anything but.
So what does it mean to be gentle on someone’s mind? I wondered.
And that’s when the topic of this week’s blog changed.
It is always my goal that within my words readers find hope, and peace, and love, and kindness, and maybe a few laughs. At times, I might be a little opinionated, but I honestly strive to hold my thoughts back, and not pound my beliefs into your head. Maybe there are suggestions made, or a slight slant on certain topics, but all in all, I want you, my readers, to walk away thinking, questioning, examining, and then come to your own conclusion. I want my words to evoke within you the memories, and choices, and circumstances, and events that have made you who you are.
And when you stop reading, I want my thoughts, and words, and even myself to be gentle on your mind. I never want to be abrasive, and loud. I never want to force-feed my opinions to you. I want to be a quiet voice that maybe inspires you, moves you, and possibly helps and encourages you in the very ways you need to be pushed to be the best you can be.
In a time that is far from gentle, I find the need to withdraw, to bury my head in the sand, to turn off all the noise. I don’t like to have this attitude or make this choice, but for me, and many others, this is the only way to deal with the chaotic, violent, divisive, and destructive times in which we are living.
From my experience, I know this much to be true: You will never, ever change someone’s mind on a subject by arguing, attacking, or forcing your opinions on them. People rarely change their minds or their set of core beliefs and values that form their perspectives and convictions.
In my life, I’ve learned at times that silence can be louder than words. Sometimes it’s in what you don’t say, or don’t do, that you have the biggest impact.
Choose your battles wisely. Learn when to stay and when to go. Learn when it’s worth the effort, or the argument, or the frustration—-because at times it is. Even if you don’t get the outcome you intended or wanted. Sometimes people just need to know that what you are fighting for matters to you.
Another hard truth is this: You can’t be all things to all people. You will never please everyone, and you aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Be gentle with yourself.
I think, for the most part, I have a good heart and honest intentions. One of my biggest flaws is that at times (often) I am too much. And as I search for words to describe what I mean, I am at a loss. Maybe obnoxious, and “in your face,” or maybe it’s that I’m always doing a project: writing, podcasting, creating, decorating, thinking, and sharing about it…
Sometimes I intentionally and mindfully tone myself down because I don’t want to be too much. But the biggest irony in all of this, is most of the time, I feel that I’m not enough. I feel less than.
And I think this is a struggle many women face at one time or another.
Most people who have known me all my life, might be shocked to discover that I’m not always comfortable in the limelight, or when in front of a group. Or even just being a part of a group. I learned early on to overcome shyness, but that doesn’t mean that I’m at ease when I’m seemingly outgoing. At times, it’s exhausting. But I’ve learned to overcome, and to put myself out there, and to do the things that I want to do that require this type of personality.
I was told by someone I admire very much, that I’m a “performer.” And she didn’t mean this in a negative way at all. She simply meant that I know how to present myself in situations, and even if I don’t feel motivated, or secure, or worthy, I can carry myself as if I have all the confidence in the world. It’s a great trait to have, but it’s also excruciating. And at times, I feel I’m not genuine or real.
I’ve learned the hard way that not all acts of kindness are received in a positive manner. The revelation that people can be unkind and mean when you have the best of intentions, was difficult to accept. My first grown-up experience with this revolved around a party at work. One of the longtime coaches was retiring–a man who was a friend to me, and a mentor/coaching buddy to my husband. Nothing had been mentioned about having a party for him, so I took the bull by the horns and plans were set in motion. We were going to have chalupas (kind of set up like “walking tacos”) and we bought a “director’s chair” and had his name monogrammed on the back.
The day before the party, a couple of my students came to me and they were very upset. When I asked what was bothering them, they told me they overheard two teachers talking about me. The gist of the conversation was that I had only been working there a couple of years; who was I to think it was my place to organize the party? etc…
I know my eyes welled up with tears, but I couldn’t cry at school in front of students. I somehow managed to say something to the effect of, “I was just trying to help.” This cut through my very heart, and also reminded me how teachers at times, act like the age level they teach. These two were mean girls. But I didn’t let them rain on my parade. I didn’t say a word, and went on like everything was fine.
And therein lies the rub. When something like this happens, it should be talked about, and worked out, but usually, I move on because I don’t want to “be a bother.” I don’t want to come across as needy, or hurt, or appear to be “hysterical,” or ridiculous in thinking it was a big deal.
It’s sad to say, many times people will disappoint you, and you will disappoint people. It’s impossible to be liked by everyone. And knowing and accepting this comes with a degree of power. When you know who you are and love yourself, other people’s opinions don’t matter so much. If you’re trying to be good, and kind, and honest and real every day, then that’s all you can do.
So for those of us who aren’t naturally loud, and opinionated, and strong-willed and audacious, be comforted in knowing that your quietness, your silence, your ability to blend in and keep calm, and remain respectful, speaks volumes. By not making everything about yourself, you can be an example, a voice of reason, a person whose actions speak louder than words.
In this time of change, and uncertainty, and monotony, I have to remind myself daily that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I have to tell myself, You are enough.
I am blessed with a precious dog named Lorelai. I got her three weeks after we had to put my sweet dog of 16 years to sleep. I didn’t think I was ready for another dog, but I perused the Nicholas Pet Haven facebook page daily. I enjoyed looking at the animals, and prayed they all would find good homes.
And then one day, out of the blue, it happened. The moment I saw her big brown eyes, I knew we were meant for each other. The day I picked her up, she was tiny! Probably four pounds soaking wet. She had a rash on her head, and kind of looked like a “hot mess.”
I took her home, and before I went to bed, put her in the crate. Her cries and yowling were more than I could bear, so I got up, took her out of the crate, and laid her across my chest. And that is how she slept for the first few months of her life.
I might have been the one who saved her, but in many ways, she saved me. At a time when I was filled with sadness, I was rescued by a sweet and feisty dog. Lorelai lives her life being happy. It’s a state of mind. She didn’t learn it or have to learn to fake happiness. She simply is.
I rarely have to scold Lorelai, but when I do, she’ll jump up on me, or even jump on top of the table to look me in the eye. She paws me, and smiles (she literally smiles all the time) and wags her tail. And it’s all in an effort to say, “Please love me. I’m a good girl. Please love me.”
All she wants is love and adoration. And what a small thing to give this precious creature who has loved me and adored me unconditionally. She has taught me to never, ever throw people away. Never give up on others. Give them time. Pray for them. And continue to believe in them. They may see things differently from you, but that’s where the beauty lies. As different as we all are, we have a whole lot of “sameness.”
As you go through this life, trying to navigate the many unknowns, the turns in the roads, the disappointments, and even the fears of all that lies ahead, be true to who you are.
And like the breeze, blow softly. And like the rain, fall gently. And when it’s time for you to go, or move on, or adjust to something new, walk away gracefully. The times are a’changing, and we must learn to see through new eyes, listen through more understanding ears, and speak with kinder hearts.
And through all the changes, hold this thought close: Walking away or trying something new isn’t giving up, it’s allowing yourself to grow, and learn, and become better. There are so many things in this life you can’t control or change, but it’s in the wisdom of knowing what to let go of, and when to let go, that you will find your peace.
And my final thought is this: Amidst all the chaos and ugliness of the world, I hope you still believe that it is a beautiful place. Because it is.
When I think of Audrey Hepburn, I think of beauty, class and grace. I love what she said about people, and I hold these words close to my heart:
Remember her words when you see someone whom you consider to be a lost cause.
But remember them also as you look at yourself. You are enough. Value who you are and all the unique and special things about you. And it never hurts to do a little spring cleaning–restore, renew, revive, reclaim, and redeem yourself. Dust off and polish the masterpiece you are.
This is something I try to work on daily. And as much progress as I might make, it seems it’s a never-ending struggle. In this daily quest of renewal and self-acceptance, it is my biggest hope that I’ve said something to inspire you or help you heal from unspoken or unrecognized wounds.
I believe in you. You are beautifully, wonderfully, and fearfully made.
And with each day that passes, I’ll always remember you in the back roads by the rivers of my memory.
And I’ll keep you ever gentle on my mind…