Questions for Deeper Conversations: Judgment

Happy Thursday, friends! I have a bit of a lower-key day today. Planning to do some writing + editing work at home, and then I’m meeting up with my sweetie for dinner. Thinking about whipping up a batch of these classic cookies as a treat! Allyn is heading out tomorrow for a boys’ weekend with his best friends from high school, and I’m going to drop him off at the airport in the morning. It’s a rowdy sports weekend, so I’ve got my fingers crossed nobody hurts themselves. #rememberyourenot18anymoreguys 😉

air hockey, guys, games, guys weekend

Allyn and his friend Justin played an intense round of air hockey at my birthday party.

Moving on to today’s topic… a few people have asked what questions we are discussing in the Young Adult Community Circle I am leading at my church, intended to spur deeper, more meaningful and authentic conversations. I thought I would share these questions here on the blog, in case they spur some deeper conversations of your own — with longtime friends, new acquaintances, family members, loved ones, or even perhaps with yourself! These are great questions to journal about as well. 🙂

Week One Topic: Home

sunset at home

Community Circle Questions : Week 2

Theme: Judgment

  • In what ways do you notice yourself judging others?
  • What are you most judgmental about? What do you get annoyed by? Why do you think this is?
  • What do you judge yourself most about? Why?
  • What do you feel others judge you about? Have you ever had an experience with someone else negatively judging you?
  • How does your self-perception differ from others’ perception of you?
  • How can you step away from judgment and give others, and yourself, more grace?

“When you judge others, you do not define them; you define yourself.”
Earl Nightingale

learning to lean on others

me and greg walking

In December 2013, I was feeling a bit lost, unmoored, unsure. So much had changed in my life in the past year, and I didn’t quite feel like I had found my bearings. Uncertainties and questions whirled around my mind constantly. So, trying to find solid ground and seeking comfort in letting go, I wrote a list of big questions in my journal:

  • Where am I supposed to be living in this season of my life?
  • What am I meant to contribute to the world through my writing career?
  • How can I give more to others?

In January 2014, I found a church nearby and started attending regularly, because I wanted to be part of a community. More specifically, I wanted to give to others. And my church provides so many amazing opportunities to give. I signed up for committees and went to meetings and added my name to social justice petitions. I volunteered on the dinner crew for Winter Nights, an annual event where local churches provide meals and shelter for homeless families. I began serving as a Worship Associate. The church community welcomed me with open arms, and I felt connected and appreciated and loved.

sanctuary

Funnily enough, after I began attending to my faith and my spirit, other pieces of my life began to fall into place. The other questions I had asked began to receive answers. The Bay Area felt more and more like home. I made close friendships and began a relationship with a wonderful man. Instead of trying to please other writers and critics, I wrote the novel I most wanted to write. And I found a fulfilling part-time job teaching creative writing to children.

In December 2014, a year after I had asked those questions, I felt secure, like I had been given all the answers.

But then, in January, my world was rocked to the core.

Celine died in a car accident.

me holly celine in paris

All of a sudden, nothing made sense anymore.

The past six weeks have been the most difficult time of my life. Boomerang days. Roller-coaster days. I have sobbed and shaken and screamed into my pillow. I have zoned out and filled my hours with busy-busy-busy-ness; I have felt exhausted and stayed in bed most of the day. I have written pages and pages, and I have not written at all for a week. I have tried to be “strong” and I have broken down in public.

I have learned a lot.

I still have many questions. I’m still searching for ways to fit this harsh new reality into my worldview. I’m wondering how this could have happened, if my former guiding life belief — that “things happen for a reason” — is still valid, and if so, how to bring that to terms with Celine being gone. I’m trying to accept that there are things about this life that I will never understand.

mexico sunset

Mostly, I am learning how to lean on others.

It’s something I’ve never been very good at, or very comfortable with. I much prefer to be the one other people lean on — the one patting someone else’s shoulder, sending cards, baking cookies, calling out of the blue to check in. I’ve always thought of myself as strong and self-reliant. I’ve taken pride in being a person who is never “needy” or “high-maintenance.”

I’m learning that maybe I *need* to be needy, sometimes. And that’s okay.

I’m learning that the people who love me aren’t going to love me any less because I ask for help or am less “fun” to be around or take up more of their time or call them crying late at night.

It’s ironic that this is the final lesson Celine is teaching me, because she was the most fiercely independent spirit I’ve known.

celine on train

I’m learning that being part of a community isn’t just about giving to others; it is also letting others give to you, hold you, and take care of you. I do not know what I would do without the support and comfort from the people in my life — my family, friends, sweetheart, church members, colleagues, and you wonderful people who take the time to read this blog and send nice words and love.

Leonardo di Vinci said, “An arch consists of two weaknesses, which, leaning on each other, become a strength.” I have been slowly learning how to lean on others — and you have all held me up, given me strength, and made love and gratitude bloom in my heart, even in the soil of such raw pain.

st louis arch

For that, I want to say two simple words: thank you.

mid-week meditation #12

First off: happy October, everyone! It is beginning to officially feel like autumn.

September ended on a lovely note for me: we had a wonderful time last night celebrating Allyn’s birthday! His mom cooked a delicious meal of salmon, broccoli and green beans. Plus we had a beautiful red velvet cake for dessert! {Apparently Allyn’s mom and I were on the same wavelength with the red velvet desserts!}

als bday dinner

red velvet cake

al candles

I hope Allyn had a really special birthday, because he is a very special person.

It’s been a busy morning around here. I’m trying to get a solid day of writing in before teaching two classes this afternoon. Taking a quick break right now to nosh on this salad — spinach, chard, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, celery, sunflower seeds, grilled chicken, balsamic vinaigrette — yummy, healthy and fueling!

salad

This week’s meditation is one of my favorites ever. Such important words to take in and think about. Thanks to my brother Greg for passing along this quote to me:

work lives on quote

 Questions of the morning:

  • What work do you do that focuses on others?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?

year of kindness challenge: week 16

year of kindness button

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Sorry I’m a little late posting this — hope your week is going fabulously. Mine has been fantastic and busy! My family and best friend Holly were in town for my thesis reading — a special night that celebrates the graduating class of the MFA program, where all the graduates get a chance to read from their thesis in front of a supportive audience of friends and family. I felt so blessed to have my family there with me — it was amazing of them all to come out to Indiana to celebrate. I loved introducing them to my friends and professors in the program!

me and hol thesis reading

Holly was so sweet to drive out from Nashville for my thesis reading!

dal and porter

Here I am with my thesis advisor, Porter.

Perhaps the most treasured part of the night for me was actually not when I read from my thesis, but right before I got up to read. Every graduate asks one person from the program to introduce them before their turn to read, and I asked my close friend Terrance, who I have worked on the literary journal with as fiction editors the past two years. Terrance is one of the funniest people I know, and I expected his introduction to be filled with jokes and friendly teasing. There were definitely some laughs, but I was surprised when his introduction was mostly serious and heartfelt. He told a story about an incident two years ago that I had nearly forgotten, when he was printing out copies of a big 15-page report for class and forgot to click on the button to collate them. He was on a time crunch and said he was close to tears as he spread the various pages out on a table and began to gather them up in the right order and staple them together.

I remember walking into the grad lab that day and seeing Terrance surrounded by papers, furiously shuffling and gathering and stapling. At that point, we were not fiction editors together and didn’t yet know each other very well. Still, I could tell he was stressed out, and of course I offered to help. I have a fond memory of us stapling and gathering and shuffling the papers of his report, talking about school and writing and teaching, and in just a few minutes the task was done and he made it in time to his class. In the ensuing months, there have been many times he helped me in similar ways — it’s just part of being friends.

But Terrance remembered that day. For me, it was a small, simple act, but to him it meant a whole lot — so much that he shared the story in my thesis introduction. It brought tears to my eyes, and it also was a powerful reminder of the profound effects of kindness. Even small, everyday acts of kindness can touch others greatly and create ripple effects of kindness that spread out further and further.

Last week’s kindness challenge was to simply spend meaningful time with someone else you otherwise might not see. I had a wonderful time with this challenge! I went for a long walk with one friend I had lost touch with, had coffee with another acquaintance, and spent an evening playing board games with two friends from my program who I will miss when we all leave soon.

with friends at reading

Here I am with friends Tiffany and Shavonne at the thesis reading night.

The Week 16 Kindness Challenge is to smile. Smile at everyone you meet. Smile at strangers you pass in the hallway, smile at cashiers when you purchase things from a store, smile at your waiter in a restaurant. I think it is easy to forget the power of a smile to brighten the days of others. {And I’m willing to bet the world will smile back at you many times over!}

I’ll leave you with this thought from Heather Waxman, inspiring blogger at For the Love of Kale:

body kindness

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a wonderful week filled with smiles!
🙂 Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
– week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry
– week 8 challenge: donate toiletries to a shelter
– week 9 challenge: post a kind note in a public place
– week 10 challenge: do something kind for a child
– week 11 challenge: thank someone in a genuine & meaningful way
– week 12 challenge: deliver baked goods to a fire station
– week 13 challenge: give someone flowers
– week 14 challenge: donate books
week 15 challenge: reach out and spend time with people

marvelous monday: year of kindness challenge

In a post a few weeks ago I shared that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be a better person and give more to the world around me. Give more, do more, brighten more, serve more. I want to be grateful and I want to be joyful, and in my experiences the best way to do so is to give gratefully and joyfully to others. Case in point: one of my favorite experiences over this past holiday season was taking handmade cards and cookies to the local nursing home. In this next year–and beyond, for the years to come– I want to work on stepping outside myself {my petty grievances, my small problems, my unhelpful worries} and focus on the people and neighbors and global community around me.

Inspiration clicked into action when I came across this amazing post by blogger Becka about her birthday tradition of doing a random act of kindness for every year she has been alive. {I also found a similar and very neat Facebook community, The Birthday Project!} Reading through her deeds and looking at all the smiling photos, I felt energized and filled with hope. I immediately knew I wanted to do the same thing for my birthday this year — and then I thought, my birthday isn’t until May. I don’t want to wait that long! Why wait?

Hence, I present to you my Year of Kindness challenge.

year of kindness button

Here’s how it works:

Each Monday, I’ll present a small act of kindness “challenge” for that week, and the following Monday I’ll let you know how I did and then present a new challenge for that week. I would LOVE if you would join in on my year of kindness and blog about your experiences, then add a link to your post below. It would also be wonderful if you would share the photo button above with your followers — on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, your blog, wherever! If you don’t have a blog, you can of course email me at <dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com> with any stories or photos you have from doing acts of kindness, and I will gladly share them with blog readers!

Let’s make this a powerful “pay it forward” year of kindness!

Here’s the challenge for this week:

Go through your closets and cupboards and pull out things you no longer use but are still in good shape. Then, donate them to others who will be thrilled to have these items. The goal is to give at least one thing away for each day of the week, for a total of seven items.

Have a marvelous day! Can’t wait to hear how the week goes! 🙂

Blog about completing the Year of Kindness, Week 1 Challenge and add your link below!