“A life that you don’t live is still lost.”
It’s not rocket science, but it’s the truth. A life unlived might be the most tragic loss in all of space and time. How do I define life? Life is about the people that you touch, the legacy that you breed, the love that you’ve given and how you give it freely in return. Good, bad or meaningless, the decisions of life are up to you.
Think about this: what will you do with it…..this life?
No matter how old you are, you’re standing in the first day of the rest of your life this moment. You can accomplish anything that you can imagine (within reason, not stuff like teleportation). But this monumental life you want to live – it requires communication to grow.
Love, faith and hope all require communication between you and the love(s) of your life – spouse, children, parents, etc. How to best communicate that in a world that has gone into information overload? We’ve merchandised and prepackaged what “sexy, smart and desirable” look like, stereotyped the losers and the winners, labeled the sinners and the saints. How do you look past the labels to communicate with fellow human beings like fellow human beings, not the shallow photographs that we see in glossy fronted magazines?
I had the honor of meeting with a brilliant young woman in her late twenties this last week, a new friend that attends graduate school with me. No, she’s not going to grace the cover with Julia, Katie or the crew from Twilight any time soon. She’s full of energy, life and intelligence, struggling through the cards that she’s been dealt with a rare form of muscular dystrophy that has left her the oldest known surviving person for this particular illness. Wheelchair bound, she struggles with things that I take for granted – participating in class from the seats that she’ll never sit in, with elevators and doors that are hard to reach. It’s something to be told that you’re going to die so many times in life just to prove those docs wrong time and again. I really like her – she’s an amazing person with so much insight. Just look into those clear blue eyes, and you see an intelligence born of that special thing – living her life, not losing it.
How does this represent communication? First, let’s think about the picture that you’ve drawn in your head of my new friend. Did you notice her shiny blond hair that reaches her shoulders, well brushed and cared for? Did you see that those dangly pink earrings match her new pink Ball State t-shirt, or that as she coaxes her hands to write they are definite in idea if not form? She communicates in body language that although her feet never fully formed, she’s happy to wear coordinating socks that complete the pink ensemble. It all says “I’m put together.” Communication begins when we’re willing to really look at the person that we’re talking to, instead of seeing the snapshot that we have in our head. How long has it been since you really saw the person that you’re married to? Do you notice their form, words, thoughts? If your response is “I see her every day,” think again.
I mean really see them.
Do you interact with their words, thoughts and emotions?
Do you see them as an independent, breathing human being? Are you speaking their love language?
1. Be aware. Take time today to really study the people in your life. Child, parent, spouse, sibling, friend – actually look at them and intentionally read body language, pace, tone and intent. Are the looking at you? What does their body language tell you? Is their emotion connective or disconnected from you?
2. Be mindful. As you notice the people around you, think about what you’re going to say as you respond. How is your body language? Are you open or closed? Interested or annoyed? Do you project yourself onto that person and respond to your own emotions, or are the vibes you’re getting from them? Are there vibes at all? One good way to know if your projecting is use of titles vs. names. It’s not “my wife” or “my husband.” You do not own them, and that is not their definition. Use a proper name.
3. Be authentic. As you observe the communication structures in your family and social life, notice when you’re editing your authentic reaction. Are you saying “I love you” when you feel the opposite? Are you not talking about something that has you both nailed to the emotional landscape? Nothing buried alive ever dies. How can you best phrase what you want to communicate so that it builds up and supports the person that you’re communicating with? No platitudes or flowery make-nice here. What is honestly in your heart?
4. Know your boundaries. Boundaries are a big deal in my life, both professionally and personally. I’ve learned to set higher boundaries with the outside-my-family sorta folks as not to distract myself from the family that I love. What are your boundaries? I promise you that if you’re not intentional about boundary lines, there is a good chance it will come back to bite you in the butt. Talk about boundaries with your mate, family and friends. Let them help you providing that safe space where you can communicate without fear.
5. Intentionally communicate faith, hope and love. Life is tough at moments. Being the most negative person that you know simply makes you the one no one wants to be around, like the drama queen or the spineless one. Intentionally look for the upside, the silver lining in the situation as well as facing the problem head on. Problems are temporary if you’ll let them be – they dissipate amidst communication. Business 101: if you want a team to succeed they must have good communication skills and cohesion. Family life is no different. Good cohesion comes from a deeper sense of true love, one of those selfless feelings that realizes you at your best and healthiest is actually the biggest gift you can contribute. You can’t give what you don’t own.
As you work on your communication skills, ensure that you intentionally leave the world a better place than you find it. Be openly kind to those pressed into service to help you – those cashiers, waiters, attendants and workers that you might recognize with a smile and a word of kindness. Liberally be faith, hope and love – and you’ll find that your empathy will build into your life an amazing appreciation for ” life.”
After all, we’re all children of the same universe. Think about this for a while and enjoy the vocals of Sara Haze, an amazing woman who sings “Lovely.”