Are You A Leader Or A Follower?

Have you ever played Follow the Leader when you were a little kid? A person is appointed to lead, and whatever they did you were supposed to do without question. It was a fun and harmless game. But what if the leader of the child’s game would have jumped off a cliff? Would you have followed or would you have questioned whether that was a good decision to make? Basically in the rules of the game you were to follow without question.

I have heard parents make the remark about their children that their child is a follower rather than a leader and it worried them.

As adults we still play the game but it is real in what we call the game of life. The dictionary defines leader as: the person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.

At some time or other we have all been part of a group in school, college, our workplace or in our social and personal life. It has been said birds of a feather flock together. The phrase has been in use since 1545. It means those of similar taste congregate in groups.

I find that to be true in my own life. I tend to migrate to the authors, readers, compassionate, caring groups. I have been led astray during my lifetime when I hung around those who were critical and belligerent about almost everything. It is very easy for me to be that way, especially when the only ones I am with lend to that category. During those times I did not like myself very much, and I have to watch that I don’t get sucked into that abyss again, because we feed off each other. I followed a leader that led me down a path I couldn’t feel good about.

I was reading Max Lucado’s book “In the Eye of the Storm” and that is what brought about this blog post. It zeroed in on my thinking about what a good leader is. Of course, Max was talking about Jesus, which brought me thoughts about where I have been the leader and also a follower.

I don’t think I have always been a good leader. In my younger years I could have been the bully, bullying people into volunteering for things they didn’t want to do. I have probably mislead them on judgements that I now know are false when it comes to other people and my opinion. Thinking back on it my problem was insecurity and so if I judged someone, I thought it might make me feel better about myself, only it had the opposite effect.

Life is a learning curve when it comes to leadership and following, whether you in grade school, high school, college or being an adult.

Bullying is big in the world now, not just in school but our society, and to change it we have to start in our homes and in our schools. We have to look at our actions and how we are leading our families, our friends and organizations. Little children aren’t born with hate and judgement in their hearts, we teach them that by being parents who do not monitor our behavior. We teach them that by allowing social media and television to give them the message if we treat others badly it is acceptable.

I think of when the Bunkers and All In The Family, first came on television. Of course it was funny, but was it really funny the way Archie treated Edith? I never did like the Honeymooners even as a child, because of the way Ralph treated Alice. Because of what I was seeing I accepted it in my own life, laughing off the jabs when it hurt inside. Isn’t that what we were expected to do?

Here is what I think leadership is NOT. Being a leader is not leading by making others feel less then, belittling or threatening. It is not leading others to mimic the same behavior in our society. It is not leading by fear. Leadership is not building a group that stands for anything even related to bullying.

A father and mother lead their family not by prejudice, hate and fear and bad behavior; they lead their family by teaching their children respect, integrity and trust for themselves and others.

Being a follower you can become a leader if you see you are following behavior that harms others, and make the decision to not accept the behavior of the person you are following. I know many good people that follow a leader whose leadership is harming others and make excuses for whatever reason I do not understand.

We can whine and moan and berate the things that are going on with our children, but we are not going to change it or stop it unless we as adults show that leadership by denouncing bullying as being wrong, and quit making excuses for it on any level from the top to the very bottom of the rung.

Are you the leader or the follower? Is the person you are following teaching you integrity and compassion for others, or are they urging you to jump off that cliff from a place you may not be able to come back from? The choice is yours.

Anxious About Everything

Chapter Two: Anxious About Everything

my mindOver the years during past illnesses, I have learned rest is the only thing which will help calm my mind. My friend that I lost at the end of 2018 always told me during my illnesses and bone breaks that God was telling me I needed to rest.

During those times I found a new direction for my life so she was right. During those times I also learned when anxiety and exhaustion were filling my soul instead of peace that some days I just needed to go to bed, sleep and take time to listen to what my body was telling me.

The first months of this year when I found the book, Anxious for Nothing, things began to make sense. I would freak out over others problems, taking on in my heart what I felt they were feeling. I would worry if I didn’t hear from my children. I would worry about snowstorms or let’s be honest I would worry about things that didn’t even exist.

By April I felt my inspiration and joy coming back after taking time to rest, read and relax and grieve. I had pulled back from face to face interaction–-part of it might have been the winter–and I felt ready to meet and greet again. I held on to my book and in the morning I would read part of it over and over to keep myself centered.

During this time I pulled away from the church. I would listen to the Live Stream but I felt the need to step back. I wasn’t comfortable going. I liked the Pastor and I liked the sermons but when I attended I felt as if I was boxed in and I didn’t know why. It was something within me, not the church or its people but there was something broken inside of me or so I thought.

It wasn’t that I didn’t pray. I did. Everyday. Although I felt inept at that too because I wasn’t connecting with those rote prayers we said in church every week. I had memorized many from my childhood but they felt distant and foreign not reflecting what I was feeling or what I wanted to say. And other Christian people at events could speak flowery, meaningful, well put together prayers. I knew in my heart it didn’t matter but yet niggles of doubt about not being able to articulate a good prayer were there.

This was another journey I felt I had to take to figure out why I was so lacking in wanting to go to church. I had made the church a real priority after my children were born. I wanted them to know God and wanted them to grow up in the church. Now I have to wonder if perhaps I made my decision based on biased feelings as to which church was right or wrong because of what I was taught in my childhood.

While I was pulling the covers over my head, which I took to doing every few weeks to regain my sanity from the hold of my anxiety and the world, I contemplated why I felt so lost when it came to religion. I didn’t feel lost from God. I truly felt He was there and it gave me peace, but I felt lost from my religion.

Do you feel this way? I am learning I am not alone in this feeling.

Next blog: I’m Catholic — Wait I’m Lutheran –Wait!

There’s A Time and Place For Creative Clutter

SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING published the week of January 23 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel

whats-upI am not a neatnik; I am a messer, and I am not going to apologize for it anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t clean up my messes, it means I don’t always clean up my messes when others think I should. There is a time and a season for everything and that can be said about messes too.

I am trying to simplify my life so I have more time to write and to enjoy my family and friends, and movies, and chocolate, and reading, and not feel guilty spending the time having fun and relaxing. Stuff does get in our way. Yet, that same stuff can bring us peace. Simplifying does not mean always being neat.

I called a friend in Nebraska this week. We hadn’t talked in a few months. I thought of her over the last few weeks and was going to place that call, but I got sidetracked and it never happened. It was one of those messes which reminded me of my friend. My mess was funeral cards. When I talked to my friend she too has been simplifying and mentioned how behind she was on her house because of taking care of family. I mentioned I was behind, too, for no good reason. She explained she knew my house wasn’t as bad as hers. Yes folks, we do the dueling houses; my house I know is worse than yours. I laughed and said, “Yes and do you remember the reason I thought to call you? I am going through funeral cards from when my mother died 14 years ago.”

Those long-kept funeral cards were a blessing. I pulled them out because I am purging and I wondered why I was keeping them. One of the blessings was a reminder to call my friend and the other — the realization that in my grief at my mother’s passing, and other things going on in my life at the time which added to the grief I was feeling, I didn’t take the time to absorb what others wrote in those cards. Fourteen years later I sat down and read every one and my heart was moved by what others said, and those that took the time to remember us. Some of those precious people are now no longer with us, and it made their words more meaningful as I remembered their friendship. That is where the thoughts of time and season come in. This was the perfect time and season in my life to read those cards.

Yes, I kept some still for when I want to remember and need some comfort when I think of my mother. No matter how old you are or how much time has passed you never quit missing your mother. I remember as my mom was in her last weeks and ill. She was smiling, and I asked what she was smiling about and she said, “I am going to see my mother and dad and brothers again.” It was a beautiful smile. She never quit missing her mother.

That is the part of the messy me, not always being able to let go of things that bring back memories. There is also the day-to-day messy me. It is hard for the person I live with to live with messy me. He is a neatnik and doesn’t have as many indoor hobbies as I do.

When I am immersed in the creative me, watch out. I may need a drink of water or a plate of food but don’t expect the dirty dishes to go anywhere beyond the top of the cupboard while I am creating. Don’t expect my shoes and socks to go anywhere except beside my chair. Don’t expect my paints to be put away one by one as I finish with each color. Don’t expect newspapers, books, appointment books, reference materials to be anywhere but scattered around me.

When I am in full creative mode I don’t hear anyone, and I don’t take the time to open the dishwasher, go to the clothes hamper, watch any food that is cooking or sweep the floor. It disrupts my chain of thought especially if I am writing, and it isn’t easy to get the flow of words back. I am in the groove so don’t expect me to carry that plastic water bottle all the way to the basement stairway for recycling. Don’t expect me to be neat when I am splashing paint or creating something out of nothing. I absolutely cannot work in a neat restricted environment. I work better in disarray. I find things better when my materials are spread out and tossed around me. And I drive my husband crazy because of it.

I’ve tried to be this neat person, and it is agonizing. It stifles me. I do the same thing when baking and cooking. You will see flour all over me, the kitchen counters and occasionally all over the floor. But I have fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to sit back when I am relaxing in a cozy, soft, neat environment, and I do, after all the creative craziness has passed. I clean up the countertops, sweep the floors, light my candles, make peace in my environment and relax.  My house is either one or the other. There is no in-between. I haven’t found the balance. Maybe I don’t want to. There is a time and place for my creative clutter and there is a time for neat and tidy.

“I like messy. What fun is tidy?” — Dasha Zhukova