Thursday, June 21, 2012

Will You Be My Tribe? (part 2)

How do you answer this question: "What are you passionate about"?

A few years ago, at a Memorial Day bonfire a new friend asked me this question.  Of course, the question itself wasn't new to me, but at the time it'd been a while since I thought about anything related to my passion.  And to be asked by a relative stranger in between torching marshmallows and chasing kids caught me off guard.  

For a certain season in my late twenties and early thirties, exploring my passion energized me.  I could read any book on the subject in one week or less, talk late into the night with friends and not feel the tiniest bit cynical.  I am willing to admit that I created an entire scrapbook dedicated to archiving my dreams and passions.  I believe that season was healthy for a woman just starting out into the world, toddlers in tow.  The only part left to learn then was the true meaning of the word passion.

Definition of PASSION

often capitalizeda : the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his deathb : an oratorio based on a gospel narrative of the Passion
obsolete : suffering
: the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
(1) : emotion <his ruling passion is greed> (2) plural : the emotions as distinguished from reasonb : intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or convictionc : an outbreak of anger

I'd guess definition number two, "suffering" didn't become obsolete because the definition changed.  I'm willing to bet that particular definition for passion fell out of favour with society because suffering is not especially marketable. The optimism of dreaming sells way more books and packaged audio seminars.  I'm wondering if we sort of co-opted the word to be interchangeable with dreams and then, somewhere along the way, just started believing it to be true?  (I've decided to blame the current scapegoat for all the evils of our society: the baby boomers) 

The other problem might be that we're not entirely certain what the word suffering means?  We certainly are aware of human suffering on a global scale.  But if suffering sits on a continuum between the worst tragedy man has ever experienced on this planet all the way to the daily nuisances of living in a fallen body in broken world,  what might daily suffering look like in the pursuit of what we love?  I know when I morphed into motherhood, the daily sorts of suffering increased exponentially.  Sleep deprivation, infinite financial demands, the inability to control outcomes for another human being no matter how many books I read on the subject, all fair game on the daily suffering continuum.

What is the sort of suffering that accompanies your passion?

My husband discovered his true vocation after almost twenty years and two degrees pointing in another direction.  Now he suffers for that passion pursuing another degree with money, time, and energy that are quite hard to come by these days.  My oldest son gave up one year of college in order to move to Austin with his family and worked outside in 110 degree temperatures to start saving for a future he couldn't describe to every well-intentioned person who asked him what he wanted to do with his life.  Both of these men are suffering for a sense of clear calling.  I watch and learn.

What stops you from pursuing what you love?

I ask the question again, pester the corner of my mind that likes to ignore inconvenient truth. Most likely, my lifelong commitment to avoid suffering keeps me from pursuing what I love more than any other reason.  I came by this dread honestly.  Those blooming-with-possibility days in my twenties and early thirties shrivelled up a bit when the suffering part kicked in.  When pursuing passion took its natural course and I suffered misunderstanding, conflict, detours, disillusionment, fear of failure, interruptions, lack of education, lack of resources, insecurity, boredom, and the general malaise of non-sexy suffering all sidetracked me from the passion conversation.

Embarrassment from those days of starry-eyed optimism stops me from pursuing what I love.  Another word for embarrassment is shame and it is a death-speaker.  As if I were foolish to get myself into trouble with suffering.  To hope for something and then find out it was hard to accomplish. 

For example, a few years back I hoped for reconciliation with a co-worker.  I responded to a challenge to  not cower in fear of conflict.  I walked into his office, offered my olive branch of reconciliation, exchanged beautiful words of hope for healing, and walked back out, delighted.  I celebrated the accomplishment of something big -- overcoming my fear of conflict, speaking truth in love at the risk of rejection.  One week later, I discovered the man had betrayed my confidence, expanding the rift between us and turning the opinion of others against me.  I was crushed, angry and embarrassed.  Hoping for reconciliation had led to suffering instead of celebration.

Later, I shared this feeling of shame with a spiritual leader and he told me something I'll never forget:  Keep hope as your default response; it's better than the alternative.

This series of blog posts is my attempt at nurturing hope as my default response, defying the alternative attitudes of cynicism, shame, laziness and fear. Today hopes looks like me asking you to help me solve a riddle, an assignment from the non-fiction writing coach, Mary Demuth at Bestseller Society.  When I asked her how I could avoid reckless narcissism and inauthenticity in building a platform she reminded me something I used to know when I was making my living as a salesperson. Pursuing what I am most passionate about -- in my case, writing --  is not a pursuit for me only. Something about the defining and pursuit of passion will bring blessing to others also.  She challenged me to ask friends to help me fill in the blank:   I help people [fill in the blank].

  • First, maybe you want to answer the question for yourself.  I help people { _____ }.
  • Now, if you'd be so kind to share any thoughts you might have for my blank of the riddle:  Tamara helps people { _________  }.
So there's the four questions for this week (see the summary below, if you've lost count).  No fancy giveaways or prizes -- just my undying gratitude to you for joining me in the conversation.


Joining this tribe is super simple!  All  I'm asking is that when you see a blog post titled "Will You Be My Tribe" that you'll read it and answer one or more of the questions in the comment box or via email. No pinky promises, pledges or club dues required.

As a reminder, today's questions:
  • How do you answer this question: "What are you passionate about"? 
  • What stops you from pursuing what you love?
  • Answer this question for yourself: I help people {fill in the blank}
  • Help me answer the question: Tamara helps people {fill in the blank}

Your passion is showing:
 This tribe gathering is sponsored by this witty little gem I found on Pinterest.  

For those just tuning in, wondering what the word "tribe" has to do with anything: 

Checking off my "Learn to Be A Blogger and Writer" checklist, one of the first recommended books I read was Seth Godin's Tribe: We Need You to Lead Us.  You couldn't accuse the book of overflowing with practical nuts and bolts for people like me, but Godin deserves all the accolades he's got for being inspirational.
   "Human beings can't help it: we need to belong. One of the most powerful of our survival mechanisms is to be part of a tribe, to contribute to (and take from) a group of like-minded people. We are drawn to leaders and to their ideas, and we can't resist the rush of belonging and the thrill of the new."                                                          -- Seth Godin, Tribe: We Need You to Lead Us
So that's my ask:  Will you be my tribe?  I promise I won't hold you to it for life, but maybe for the next few months you could join me in this conversation.  To get some clarity for my own nagging dreams, yes, but we might just discover that the combined sheer genius of our discussion will surprise us.  We might just discover together the thrill of the new.

*Thank you to the passionate Grant and Deb of GrantandDeb Photographers for the sweet picture of Brian and me I used for this post.*

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