Today I wrote the 12th of my 100 living tributes. If you haven’t read my original post about my tributes for the living, you can find it here. So far, this has been an awesome experience. I’m currently sitting at a laundromat in Colorado, doing laundry during a rainy afternoon and decided share some thoughts on my #TFTL experience so far. But first, a gallery of random wildflowers I’ve admired over the last week…
The beauty of other people’s lenses
I think we all need to have the experience of seeing ourselves through the eyes of others who love and respect us.
Your loved ones are likely to see the best in you. They’re able to identify the great things about you that, perhaps, you’ve forgotten about. Many of us have the tendency to be self-critical (especially women) and it’s good to have opportunities to view ourselves through outsiders’ lenses. We get stuck in our own minds sometimes, wrapped up in whatever chatter is going on in there.
Having someone else say uplifting things about you (and to you), can rip you out of that zone of self-criticism in a fast and powerful way. Not too long ago, I wrote a few posts on self-confidence (a series I plan to continue), and one of the self-confidence tricks I use sometimes involves temporarily viewing myself through the eyes of people who love, admire, and respect me. If I’m not feeling super great for whatever reason, I’ll try to look at myself from the perspectives of a handful of people who think the world of me. By writing tributes for the living, maybe I’m reminding people in my world of how awesome they really are. Maybe I’m infusing them with a little blast of love and appreciation that they hadn’t felt in a while.
Although it is not my intention at all, I think the tributes might make some people feel uncomfortable. This reallyyyyyy isn’t what I’m going for. In the tributes, I share little anecdotes to illustrate what I view to be the great qualities of the people I’m writing about. But what happens if they’re so wrapped up in negative self-talk that there’s no way they can possibly believe what I’m writing about them is true? What if someone gave a glowing, adoring speech about you to a crowd full of close and not-so-close acquaintances, and you felt that the words spoken were too… celebratory? What if you couldn’t possibly see the truth in those words – does that make you feel like an impostor?
If it does, it shouldn’t. If someone else sees beauty in you that you’re struggling to recognize, rather than rebuff it, you should welcome it. Instead of recoiling, try viewing yourself through their adoring eyes.
When I started this process, there was part of me that was a little concerned about how people would react to the tributes. What if they thought I was a weirdo? What if they thought this was some silly, over-the-top writing experiment? How would the words be received if I wrote tributes to people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in, literally, decades? I mulled over these questions a bit and then realized any hesitance I was experiencing was related to fears of what others would think about me… and the tributes aren’t about me. So I threw that out and told myself that as long as everything I wrote came from a place of love and authenticity, I couldn’t go wrong.
I think everyone should try writing living tributes. Stop saving the good stuff for when it’s too late, you know?
The living years
There’s an 80s song by Mike and the Mechanics called “Living years.” The song is about saying what you need to say and working past your problems and disagreements while you have still have the time. Although that’s not what #TFTL is about, there are a few lines that have always struck a chord with me. They are:
I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years.
Certainly, there are things I wish I’d had the chance to tell my dad before he pulled the trigger. There are things I wish I’d had the chance to tell a former student of mine, Tyler, before he did the same. I wish I could have spoken to my friend Matt, before he took his own life. I wish I’d had another chance to talk to my friend Chris, before he was gunned down after a political debate in a restaurant. My list is long, and it’s mostly of people who have committed suicide or died unexpectedly and tragically. I guess maybe…. As I write this… I think I’ve been most compelled to do these tributes because of the people I’ve lost to suicide. You never really know what’s going on in someone’s head, what secret battles they’re fighting. Maybe if someone had reached out to these people and shared some loving or encouraging words, it would have made a difference. Or maybe it wouldn’t have… I’ll never know. What I do know is what feels right to me at this moment, and that’s to say the things I want to say to the people I care about… in the living years.