Whoa, That’s Deep!

When we moved from the suburbs back to my rural hometown, I thought we’d be trading the cacophony of Chicagoland for the quiet of the country. And, in a way, we did. The thing is, the countryside wasn’t as quiet as I thought it would be. In a really good way…

The Loveable Podcast

Photo Credit: David Clinton

On a spring morning, the birds twitter and tweet and make a concert of their morning song. On a summer evening, the cicadas crescendo in the crowded trees, until, in the small hours of the night, they finally quiet, and the crickets take over, with their constant hum. On an autumn afternoon, dry leaves rustle in the treetops, and they skitter raspy along two-lane roads. In the winter, a snowfall can lay undisturbed for hours, and the muffled world fills your ears with the tinny ringing of your own blood rushing.

Underneath the loud and frenetic world we’ve created is a world that’s been created for us, and it moves to a deeper, slower rhythm.

I was recently asked, in an interview about Loveable, how do we start the journey toward wholeness? My answer was…space. Space to rest, to notice and to feel, to contemplate and to question. Space to move deeper into the wholeness that already exists, forgotten and neglected, somewhere within the depths of us.

Depth.

As we live increasingly on-line, where depth is quickly going extinct, it can look like the desire for depth is dying, too. For instance, the comments section of a blog was once the place you went for meaningful conversation; now, it’s the place you go to troll people. Not so long ago, social media was where you shared content that stirred your thinking and your heart. Now, generally, social media is where you stir up controversy and conflict.

But the publishing of Loveable renewed my hope.

The desire for depth has not died and it has not even gone dormant. We simply don’t go to social media for it anymore.

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An Introduction to The Loveable Podcast [Loveable 001]

Welcome to Episode 1 of The Loveable Podcast. In this introductory episode, I give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse at my story, share details about the podcast, narrate the introduction to Loveable’s companion book (which is available nowhere else), and tell you how you can participate in future episodes…

The Loveable Podcast

The two deepest desires of every human heart are to love simply and live fully. So why do our relationships remain so complicated, and why do our lives sometimes ring so hollow? Because neither love nor life can be truly embraced until you, and only you, have embraced your truest, worthiest self.

In my book, Loveable, I explore how embracing our worthiness is the foundation upon which we can find true belonging and live a purposeful life. Loveable has been described as “a handbook for how to be human.” Now, in this podcast, I want to give you the tools for living fully into who you are and why you are here.

I’m excited to tell you all about it and to share with you the introduction to Loveable‘s companion book. Listen in!

What to Do When Your Path Is Covered in Darkness and Fog

I’m surrounded by darkness and fog.

Autumn drifts closer—the air is getting cooler, the leaves are getting drier, the crows are getting louder, and the days are getting shorter. Which means, if I’m going to get in my bike ride before the morning carpool, I have to begin in the dark.

On this particular morning, a fog has descended, reducing visibility to almost nothing, and I’m on a bike path, surrounded on all sides by forest. A small headlight illuminates the path ahead of me, but it cannot penetrate beyond a few feet.

I’m surrounded by darkness and fog, and it’s a metaphor for everything.

purpose

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As my feet push the pedals on this dark path, I wonder if maybe I should have just stayed in bed, where it was safer. Similarly, while I’d slumbered the night before, the doubt had crept back in, unbidden—doubt about this passion of mine, this writing thing. Six years of words on a page. Three-hundred-some blog posts. A book. I wonder if my words and I should have just stayed in my heart, where it is safer, where blood, sweat, and tears may not end quite so badly.

In every life, there comes a dark morning when you question the path you’ve chosen—the decisions that have left your life decidedly undecided. It’s the kind of morning that can turn into depression, if you have too many of them in a row.   

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How Can You Trust a Therapist’s Authority?

Confession: the first time I went to therapy, I’d been a therapist for more than five years.

I asked a friend for a recommendation. He gave me the name of a therapist. I conveniently lost the number. Several weeks later, I asked him for it again, and he gave it to me again. It collected dust for a few more weeks. Then, one day, when the suffering within me finally outweighed the resistance within me, I made the call.

No one likes to schedule a first therapy session.

therapist naperville

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It’s hard enough to spill your mess in front of a perfect stranger. It’s hard enough to present your pain to someone you’ve never met. It’s hard enough to reveal your hidden parts to someone you have not yet begun to trust. But, ironically, it’s particularly hard in therapy, not because you don’t know anything about this therapist person, but because you think you know at least one thing:

You think they’re different than you.

They’re a therapist, so they’ve got it all together. They’ve figured it out. They’ve arrived. Whether by good fortune or good training or some combination of the two, they are on a whole different level of health and happiness. They may not be superhuman, but as you pick up the phone, you assume they are at least a little better human than you.

This, is baloney.

The authority of a therapist does not come from some big difference; it comes from just a little bit of distance.

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Why We’re Lonelier Than Ever (and What to Do About It)

In Chicago, at the peak of the eclipse, you could still see about 13% of the sun. That is, I think, about how much remains of our communal life, as well. This is what I mean by that, this is the damage it is doing to us, and this is what we can do about it…

lonely

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As the eclipse began to wane, I looked to my side and saw one other person on the hillside next to me. She too was lowering her gaze and removing her eclipse glasses. Our eyes met. We smiled at the same time. No words. Just a smile. I can’t be sure what her smile meant, but I know what my smile was saying:

In this space and time, we were enjoying the same experience.

We were two people paying attention to this one thing.

We shared this.

As I walked off the hillside, I wondered why her small smile had moved me more than the vast crescent smile of the sun shining around the moon. I think it was a feeling of connectedness—a sense of unity that transcends familiarity; a sense of belonging that can happen even amongst strangers who are sharing experiences in community.

But our communal life is going extinct.

And it is making us lonelier than ever.

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The Life-Altering Decision to Love Your Limitations

life purpose

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Around the time I turned 40, I became acutely aware of the passage of time.

Imagine that.

So, I’ve spent much of the past year trying to make the most of it. For instance, several weeks ago, I was planning to take advantage of a gorgeous weekend by camping out in the backyard with my kids.

Then, I got sick.

A summer cold that leveled me for most of a week. My throat hurt so badly I could barely swallow. I couldn’t climb a set of stairs without getting winded. The very idea of pounding tent stakes exhausted me. My body had reached its limit, and that limit did not include a night under the stars.

And it angered me.

It angered me because we are trained from a young age to believe we don’t have limits. We are told—in defiance of all reason and history—that we can be anything we want to be, and do anything we want to do. We are given all-you-can-eat buffets. We are given all-you-can-binge Netflix. We pay for unlimited data on cell phones, and we rent unlimited wardrobes on-line. We use oil as if it is limitless. We pretend houses can inflate in value without the bubble eventually bursting. We pretend the stock market can just keep on going up forever.

It’s no wonder we get a little angry when faced with a limit.

At first, limitations feel unjust, unfair.

We loathe our limitations.

While loathing them, though, we miss out on the opportunity to learn from them.

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The Real Reason Back-to-School Makes Us So Emotional

back-to-school

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The summer is fading—and the sun is rising—as I drive my son to his summer job.

At thirteen-years-old, Aidan has spent his summer riding a bus into the cornfields, along with other teenagers, walking row after row of corn, and pulling the tassel from each stalk, so the rows can pollinate each other. As we cross a river, he looks to the west, where the night is slowly giving way to day. He says it’s beautiful how you can see the layers of night disappearing in the sky. We talk about how, even farther west, there are people still sleeping in the dark, unaware of the passage of time.

This image haunts me.

It haunts me long after Aidan boards the bus, long after the sun climbs into the sky. Because that’s how most of us live—myself included—asleep in the dark, unaware of the passage of time. Or running to and fro under a midday sun that hangs so high and steady in the sky you can almost convince yourself it isn’t moving. Hurry is its own kind of sleepwalking. The noisy bustle obscures the ticking of the clock.

The passage of time is only unmasked in the boundary lands.

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What Anxiety Steals from Us (and How to Steal It Back)

mindfulness

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My pockets are empty, and it’s disconcerting.

We’re at a church picnic in a local city park. The sun is shining and it conspires with summer foliage and a gentle breeze to dapple the grass in dancing light and shadow. The children do their dance, bouncing and playing amongst it all. But thunderstorms are predicted and I’ve left my iPhone at home and I have no way to check on the ever-shifting summer forecast.

I mindlessly reach for it several times. I touch only lint.

Finally, during a lull in conversation, I ask someone with a phone if it is going to rain. And then she does something that undoes me. She doesn’t reach for her phone. Instead, she looks toward the sunny skies in the west, looks back at me with a smile, and says, “Not for the next thirty minutes.”

Not for the next thirty minutes.

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The 3 Reasons You Should Not Try to Make Anyone Happy

We are shoveling mulch like our lives depend upon it.

My three kids are loading wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, and I’m hauling and dumping and spreading and sweating. Eventually, my nine-year-old son Quinn asks a completely reasonable question. “Why are we going so fast?” I tell him I want the flower beds to look beautiful when his mom gets home. To which he responds with another totally reasonable question: “Because you are trying make her happy?”

The word “exactly” is on the tip of my tongue. But then I bite my tongue.

codependence

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I have an opportunity here to save my son a lot of heartache, disappointment, resentment, and conflict. You see, many of us spend our whole lives trying to make our loved ones happy. Years of believing our worthiness can be tallied by the number of smiles we put on the faces of other people. Years of bitter disappointment, as our success rate remains frustratingly low. And when we don’t get the results we’re looking for, we get ashamed of our failures.

Or we get resentful, thinking of our loved ones as hopelessly ungrateful people.

The truth, though, is that they are just people. Ordinary people, with their own inner world. Their own moods and wounds and worries and hang-ups. Ordinary people who are responsible for their own ordinary emotions, just as we are responsible for our own.

When it comes to ordinary people—all of us, in other words—there are at least three good reasons we shouldn’t try to make anyone happy:

First, you can’t do it. I can barely make my kids brush their own teeth; what are the chances I will somehow figure out the trick to rearranging their inner world, with all of its heart and soul and neurotransmitters and synapses? If they don’t brush their teeth, they get consequences, and that helps a little. Have you ever tried to give someone a consequence for being unhappy? It backfires.

Second, sometimes, what makes someone happy isn’t even good for them. For instance, if I gave my kids everything that makes them happy, they’d sit in front of televisions and iPads all day long, eating popcorn and chocolate, drinking juice and soda. We’d probably have to catheterize them. If you’re primary goal in life is to make someone happy, you will often harm them in your effort to happy them.

Third, sometimes, what makes someone else happy isn’t good for you. For example, if someone is only happy when they’re “right,” and you stay silent so they can feel happy, while all of the good and lovely and important things you have to say remain trapped inside of you, then trying to make this someone happy is the last thing you should be doing. There are a multitude of ways to slowly wither and die inside; doing so while telling yourself that you’re doing it on behalf of someone you love is a particularly insidious one.

So, Quinn is waiting for an answer, but instead I respond with a question.

“Bud, when you’re in a bad mood, and you’re determined to be grumpy for a while, is there anything I can do to make you happy?” He looks thoughtful for a moment, and then admits with a rueful smile, “No.” Then, I tell him this:

You can’t make anyone happy; you can only do your best to increase the odds of their happiness.

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Warning: This Post Could Be Hazardous to Your Paralysis

mindfulness

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I’ve been trying to wean myself off my iPhone. Again.

Nothing drastic this time. Just a slow detox. Turning off my mail app. Deleting games. Deleting news apps. Deleting social media apps. Turning off text notifications. Turning off all notifications. I just don’t have the willpower to resist the dopamine rush that a smart phone gives you every time you use it, so I’ve neutered the thing. I’ve made it as unpleasurable as possible.

And it must be working.

Because a couple of days ago, I found myself standing at the gas pump—waiting, waiting, waiting—and I realized I wasn’t holding my phone. I hadn’t even thought to dismount it from the dashboard. So, I hadn’t mindlessly filled myself with data while I filled my tank with gas. I hadn’t compulsively checked messages or news, and I’d gone a few minutes without the craving for entertainment.

And yet.

It wasn’t pleasant.

Instead of swiping, I found myself thinking. For instance, I thought about someone important who was waiting for a reply from me about something important, and I felt my anxiety about being honest in that reply. Then, I thought about another complicated situation I’d gotten myself into, and how difficult it was going to be to face it with integrity. And so on and so on. In other words, I thought all the thoughts I’d been avoiding thinking.

We prefer our digital life because real life isn’t nearly as easy to swipe away.

When we’re on our phones, if we don’t like something we see, we can change the settings or close the app or mute the friend or block the caller, or just wait a few seconds for the algorithm to realize we don’t like it and never show it to us again. But in real life, problems don’t go away. They wait for us. So, while they wait, we scroll.

A tech detox can be dangerous, because it plunges us back into the complexities of real life.

And yet.

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