So, this Mother’s Day, celebrate all of the incredible moms in your life who are superheroes — they deserve to be celebrated. But so do the nurturers. And the encouragers. And the givers. And the lovers. And the believers in people. The ones who are all of those things without the title of mom, but from a place of selflessness and genuineness. Because the role for us in this world is also to be celebrated, even if there isn’t a title for it, let alone a holiday.Read More
“You are so much more than a before-and-after story.”
When I was talking business with a beautifully observant and articulate woman on a summer afternoon, sipping on my favorite cocktail at one of my favorite Minneapolis hideouts, I didn’t expect to hear words that I’d repeat back to myself every. single. day. For years.
“You are so much more than a before-and-after story.”
I’ve had some pretty high highs in life. Once-in-a-lifetime, surreal stuff. I’ve also had some horrifyingly low lows. The stuff that seems like it’s from a scary movie. Then there’s the everyday stuff, the stuff that exhausts all of us, the stuff that hurts deeply that all of us experience at some level — depression, anxiety, ended friendships, work stress, deaths of loved ones, job changes, life changes, relational stresses, family arguments, financial challenges, health scares.
“You are so much more than a before-and-after story.”
There was the childhood that I hid from many because I didn’t want anyone to know my dad was an alcoholic. There were my early introductions to death and loss when I lost uncles, a cousin, and a grandfather I loved dearly and desperately wanted to stand by my side and someday meet the man I might marry. There were all of the great accomplishments I pursued in high school to prove to myself and everyone else that I had my shit together and to do great things all by myself. There were the jobs I earned in and after college that proved the same things. There was my first interaction with the terrible, awful, horrible disease called Alzheimer’s when it slowly disassembled and destroyed my other grandfather, little-piece, by little-piece, which was the most painful thing to see and watch my family experience. There were the losses of my grandmothers, and I think what pained me most was watching how horribly broken my parents were. There was the first person I ever saw die — my grandmother — a moment etched in my heart forever when her eyes opened one last time, and brightly, as she looked beyond those of us sitting beside her to something that captured her, which we could not see. Then there was one of the lowest lows when my best friend was abducted and murdered — abducted while I was talking on the phone with her. There was the time I the world’s kindest and most incredible man from Mississippi took a chance on a girl from Minnesota — and it worked — more than 20 years later I’m so thankful for his courage. There was the time I left a stable and safe job to pursue everything in my heart. There was the time I was ordained as a pastor of a church I helped plant and lead for several years — and the understanding of true grace and love changed my life forever. There was the time some of my dearest friends moved to a different country and it ripped my heart into hundreds of little pieces, but I had to learn to move forward using our friendship as building blocks for the kind of person I could be to other people. And, shortly thereafter, my dad and I made a trip to Peru to visit them, a trip that changed both of us — me literally experiencing that my life was a story that (if approached vulnerably and humbly) would change lives…and then watching my dad realize that despite his past, HIS LIFE was valuable, too. And then there was a season of pain, surgeries and infertility treatments that ended in an acceptance of the fact that Rodney and I would never have children of our own. Then there was the time I decided to truly tried to take hold of my health — and it worked — and I lost 140 pounds and landed in People Magazine and on Good Morning America. And then there was the lifetime of back pain that culminated in three surgeries in 14 months — situations which left a questionable future as to whether or not I’d ever be able to walk normally again, let alone live with the ongoing risks of blood clots — most of which I’ve been able to overcome and lessen with a lot of hard work, positivity, and shear will. And there was the slow demise of my father — from scares with him literally dying from alcohol consumption, to falling from the roof and having his arm amputated, to Lewy Body Dementia eating away every ounce of his being and dignity until the very end (the second person I ever saw breathe a last breath). Then there are the moments of my current journey when I see people come to a realization of strength in their lives — moments I wouldn’t trade seeing for anything.
And here I still stand — MOVING. Constantly moving with a journey line that doesn’t even include the day-to-day stuff, both highs and lows. A journey line in the paragraph above that contains 643 words — but ONLY 34 of which are tied to a weight loss before-and-after story. None of us are made up of just one story. Single pieces are just flashes in a pan. And if we want to truly grow, we can let each micro-story of our lives create the bigger and more powerful and all-encompassing story that changes lives.
“You are so much more than a before-and-after story.”
The video here is from a walk home a few weeks ago. My feet aren’t perfectly straight, you can still see the foot drop in my right foot — BUT I’M MOVING. And that’s how I like to think of my life — made up of movement with heart and purpose. Movement, no matter what. Even when it’s messy. Even when it’s crooked. Even when I trip. Even when it feels like I’ve been pushed off a cliff. The only befores and afters are the ones embedded on a journey that tells a bigger, richer, and more powerful story of movement. Movement that inspires others to embrace movement. And vulnerability. And realness. Because nothing in life is prescriptive. Because everything in life is situational. Because relatability and authenticity bring people together. Because the more personal we are, the more universal we become (pretty sure this was from a podcast with Glennon Doyle Melton and Elizabeth Gilbert). Because that real life messiness in movement is the real stuff that CREATES A MOVEMENT of PEOPLE. A movement of vulnerability and realness, beauty, and rising strength.
“You are so much more than a before-and-after story.”
That’s my story anyway. And I’m going to keep following that path. Moving to create a MOVEMENT.
Ten years ago today I did a pretty big thing — I closed a chapter of my life when I said goodbye to a company (Best Buy) and a group of people whom I loved…a company I assumed was the whole book of my life…at the time I didn’t know it was merely a chapter, albeit a formidable one. I had to leave because I had an opportunity and a hunch…a hunch there was something big inside of myself that I needed to discover, uncover, embrace, and become.
I had always played life pretty safe. I had always followed the “rules” of what was expected in my life — by myself and others. For almost my whole life to that point, I assumed I was on the right path, and in order to learn and grow, I’d keep following it…the safe one…the expected one…the “right” one.
So this move at the time? Absolutely uncharacteristic of me. But, at the same time, truer to my soul than I could ever have fathomed in the moment.
But, completely uncharted territory.
One the backside of 10 years later? I haven’t discovered, uncovered, embraced, or become. Instead I’m unregrettably (and some days carefully, some days bravely, and other days fretfully) discoverING, uncoverING, embracING, and constantly becomING.
In that 10 years, I owned my own successful business (and then shut it down)…launched a church and even became a pastor (and after some time, moved on)…lost 140 pounds and was featured in a boatload of media, nationally and globally…found out I’d never have children of my own…had a series of spinal surgeries, one of which my body went haywire on and threatened my ability to ever walk normally again (even unknowingly threatened my life for a few days)…I joined one of my closest friends in building and growing a fitness company…I embraced all of who I was and became unafraid to share it from a stage…I lost my dad after an ugly battle with a horrific disease…we lost our Bailey-dog, but found our Cali-dog…we traded our big, comfy, suburban home for a small apartment in the city…we experienced world of highs and lows that I cannot even begin to articulate…and I unearthed an unquenchable desire to always give people hope and show them how valuable their lives’ stories truly are (that official venture will launch this spring — Strength and Moxie).
And I've learned a few things along the way:
- There is more inside of us than we can know; everything we do builds upon the previous; we’re never walking into anything cold.
- We never know what we’re truly capable of until we step beyond what we’re currently doing.
- The only person who can dictate your priorities is you — no job, nor friends, nor family sets them )unless we let them).
- Taking care of ourselves gives us life and helps us give life to others. It’s not selfish.
- Our network is only as big as our passion. If we're genuinely and authentically passionate about something, and it seeps into every ounce of our beings, people will rally around to share, to help, and to be a part of the light.
- Our individual stories (life…perspective…passion) are not for everyone. And that’s ok. We all need to find the people who resonate with us because we’re all different. We’ll affect more people for the good then we’ll ever know…we cannot focus on those who aren’t our people.
- We can never, ever, ever, ever think we're better than someone else. And we can certainly never act like we are. If they’re not your people, just walk away and let them be.
- You don’t have to chase passion in order to live in passion…we can find the things that fill our hearts in a lot of our everyday work.
- Life is too short for fake anything. Vulnerability and humanness change lives.
- If there’s love or gratitude in our heart, we must share it. That shit isn’t meant for keeping to ourselves.
Ten years didn’t bring me to a destination — thank God. Ten years took me on an adventure — from some of the very darkest moments to the highest and brightest peaks. And, mostly, I’ve learned that I never want to arrive. Because, if I’ve arrived, then I’ve given up. Stopped. Become complacent.
If I arrive…I’ll never see more possibility.
And I’m all in on this journey.
And to my forever Best Buy network? You’ve remained a growing family that gave me my fundamentals and still supports every move I make. Everyone, do yourself a favor, for (at least) a few years, find a place to contribute or work where people care about WHO you are and not just what you do. That experience will change the trajectory of your life.
Memorial Day holds a special place in my heart. Not just because it’s a celebration of incredible selfless sacrifice as a gift for others. But because the weekend of honor and reflection always falls near the birthday of Tracie Joy McBride — the bestest friend of my teenage years. She was serving in the U.S. Army on Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, when she was abducted at gunpoint, raped, and beaten to death by a tire iron.
I was on the phone with her when she was abducted. And I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget the moment when I learned why the phone went dead that dreaded February night in 1995.
That event could’ve taken me out. Completely. It probably should’ve.
But in honor of her life, I chose life, too.
If she could impact as many peoples’ lives as she did in 19 years, imagine what we all could do with our lifetimes if we harnessed the passion, drive, and generosity that she embodied.
Her life is the reason I am adamant about following passion and heart to make a difference. Her heart is the reason I won’t let anyone or anything temper my heart and empathy. Tracie’s legacy is the reason I’ve chosen the paths others think impractical — because giving people hope, freely giving love, and helping them feel their value, is the most precious gift I could ever give anyone.
Her tenacity and grit is the reason that I refuse to live life in the “what if” zone, and instead always move forward with “what now,” no matter what life throws at me.
That’s how she lived. That’s how she inspired me to truly live. That’s the legacy she left for the world in less that two decades on this planet.
This particular blog post is from the deep archives…written back in 2009. The words still ring true today.
May 27, 2009
It’s been so long. I seriously don’t know how time flies by so quickly. I miss you tons, but, to be honest, it doesn’t seem that long since we’ve chatted.
I think you know how profoundly our friendship has affected my life, but I really feel like I need to publicly thank you for all you sown into my life, whether or not you ever knew it.
I didn’t realize it during our high school years, but you inspired me to live joyfully. Even when we had boy problems, got in trouble for talking in choir or were sad about deeper and more complex issues in our lives, you’d find a reason to smile, then laugh, and then go grocery shopping and make cookies for the soccer team (or the basketball team…or the track team…). You showed me that the simple act of doing something for others turned things around, pulled out smiles and brought joy to everyone around you. Your joy made you shine. As teenagers, I think we took that infectious joy for granted.
You also proved to me in those years that courage shaped character. It wasn’t just because you had the guts to join the military, but you had the gall to join the track team as a senior when most people joined in junior high. You didn’t care that your best friend was younger than you (which was a big deal in high school). And, you weren’t afraid to befriend everyone, regardless of label. You were unashamed about what you believed. You had the courage to live life fully.
More than anything, you taught me about true friendship. Everyone had best friends in high school, and our relationship was no exception. But looking back, you showed me the fullness of friendship…a letter telling me you cared when you knew I was had a bad day…a trip to the grocery store for cookie-making supplies to celebrate successes…tolerance in moments of crabbiness…willingness to talk through tough times…an incomprehensible commitment to people you cared for (including me). After the last time we spoke, I wasn’t sure I’d ever have a best friend again. But, because you taught me how to be a friend, I now have several. I’m convinced my friendships now wouldn’t exist had you demonstrated true friendship. In fact, my new friendships filled the void left in my heart after you were gone. I know that might sound strangely harsh, but I know you understand. And I know you wouldn’t want it any other way.
Sometimes I feel bad that you weren’t able to be a teacher liked you’d hoped to be. But, I believe you did fulfill that dream. You’ve taught. You’ve inspired. You’ve encouraged. I believe those are traits of the best teachers.
I know it’s been more than 14 years, but you’ve been on my mind a lot lately. No doubt it’s because today is the 34th anniversary of the day you were born. I even went to visit you today, but I knew you wouldn’t be there. Regardless, it meant something to see a little piece of the girl I knew back then.
Sometimes our time apart feels like an eternity. Yet, not a day goes by without me vividly remembering the last time we spoke. You wanted to know what I was doing home on a Saturday night. I laughed and asked you why you called if you thought I should be out! I was busy telling you about the new guy I was dating, you politely complained about having to “guard” the laundry room because people were stealing things. We even talked about the validity of a magazine article about the diminishing respect guys had for girls who put out too much. You know, important 19-year-old-girl stuff. In the moment, it all seemed so trite.
But our conversation that night taught me something I’ll never forget. Nothing is trite. Not words. Not love. Not life.
The day after our conversation I began regretting things. I wished I would have tried harder to listen to the unexpected muffled voices that interrupted our conversation. I wished I would have known something was wrong and called 911 when the phone went dead. But I honestly never knew anything was wrong. I’m sorry.
I’ll never be able to comprehend all you went through that night. I bet it felt like you were stuck in a nightmare – kidnapped, raped, beaten. But, since I know what you believed, I know that somehow God gave you peace in the eyes of terror. I know that you spent all of your final hours praying. I also know you knew how much I loved you, even if I didn’t say it that night. Never again will I let anyone wonder what’s in my heart.
You inspired joy. You lived courageously. You taught friendship. Not just to me, but thousands during your earthly life, and thousands afterward. In fact, I believe that somehow the story of your life and how you lived changed the heart of the man who ended your life.
Even though you’ve got better things to do these days in eternal glory, I know you still love me, too. Ironically, your very life helped fill the hole in my heart after you were gone.
My bestest friend in the whole, wide world…that’s what we called each other…and that’s always how I’ll remember you.
So I ran a 10k a couple weeks ago. And by run, I mean, I looked like I was running, but I’m pretty sure the speedwalkers passed me (definitely passed me, actually).
But I sucked.
I wasn’t embarrassed.
I wasn’t discouraged.
I’ll probably even do it again – sucking the whole way.
And I’ll be proud of finishing then…just like I was proud of finishing this race.
And I’m ok with never getting better at it, but it’d be cool if I did. But it’s really no big deal either way.
It’s not that I don’t want to get better.
It’s not that I don’t want to see what happens when effort and determination pay off.
It's just that I’ve learned to thrive on the relief that comes with being vulnerable. I’ve learned freedom comes from letting go of needing to (or even wanting) be the best, and fuels my ability to truly live. I’ve learned to treasure the humility that comes from having my ass handed to me.
I've learned that it's important for me to do things I suck at. For all of those reasons.
No one is good at everything. And none of us will ever be the best at anything. Ever. And if we think we are, we’ve got so much more to learn.
I can say all of this now, with confidence, because when I was younger – I wouldn’t do something if I didn’t think I could win…or, at least, be really damn good.
Because I thought that being the best was winning. Because I thought I was letting someone down if I wasn’t the best. And that only made me frustrated with all I couldn’t be.
And, boy, did I miss out at amazing chances to learn – in doing, in observation, and even in losing.
It’s not about learning to be the best. Not even learning to be better. But learning that experience – good or bad – is winning, especially when it makes me a better human. I’m not talking about taking home a participation trophy. I’m talking about flat-out sucking at something and learning to still walk away with a smile. And walking away wanting to do it again. Doing it again because it’s worth it.
Someone will always be better at something. Perfection doesn’t exist. Humanity does. Let’s be the ones cheering on the sidelines for anyone chasing to face hard things…even if they suck. Because it means they're also great at embracing human-ness and becoming better people. (But, the people who are good at things? They need cheering, too! Both at the things they're good at and whatever they suck at!)
We all have things that we’re good at. But the things we conquer don’t define us. Character in the face of all things does.
Unboxable: the inability to place or keep anything in a confined space because said item will never fit a mold, or be constrained by standards; the item isn’t static, so even in moments when we think it fits, it moves and grows, creeping out.
Unboxable because a no set space can contain a moving, shifting, and growing, dynamic object.
Or, in the case of life, people.
Or, in my case, me. And I have to remind myself daily.
I have never fit in. Ever. Not as a child. Not in school. Not in my work. Not in my life pursuits.
After 42 years on this planet, I’ve learned to embrace it…I’ve learned to lean into it…I’ve learned to stand on it. I’ve learned to LOVE the premise.
I will not be confined.
I will not be defined.
Transparency of my whole self and my whole story refreshes and frees me. To be me. To be the me I want to be for myself. To be the me that I want to be for everyone around me.
Boxes denote complacency. Boxes can be easily stacked, sorted, and are, often, made to look non-descript. Boxes hide valuable contents on the inside. Boxes usually end up stored away.
That will never be my life. That should never be YOUR life.
Life isn’t about being contained. Life is about ongoing growth. Life is about discovering your uniqueness. Life is realizing that none of us are standard.
All of our flaws and all of our strengths make up our humanity. Humanity is what ties us together. It’s the foundation for encouragement and hope. They’re the points of relation that give other lives both solace and hope.
The notion of unboxable is counter-cultural. Businesses and organizations categorize people to appeal to customers and understand/capitalize on behaviors. And as humans with the world at our fingertips, we try to categorize ourselves (and friends!) to deepen understanding (I’m right there with you – an INFP empathy with crazy-relational strengths (according to Gallup), I relate to that desire to understand!).
I believe, learning and understanding is good and healthy. But using definitions or job descriptions, or a list of who we think we are (or who we are not!) to define the borders of what we think we can DO or BE inhibits our impact on the world.
Put the boxes in their proper places – out of our lives. Smash them, burn them, recycle them, kick them out of the way.
Let’s keep ourselves out of boxes – ourselves and those around us. Better yet, let’s unwrap them and open them and share what is inside with the rest of this earth. Because that is what is truly beautiful.
Ironic, really. As a lover of words, one of my favorite words isn’t even a real word. But it’s one that dwells in the core of my being. A reminder. A light. A guide. The crux of my being.
Almost exactly nine years ago (04/19/09), Unboxable was the name of my very first post on a now-archived blog. The word resonates with me. It's meaningful to me. And it's a reminder to me to begin that writing journey again. Over time, I'll post some of those old, archived blogs.