Dec 072009

Lobsters, soon after they’re born, find one partner, lock claws, and walk together for the rest of their lives.
*I learned this lobster fact from Phoebe on Friends, so verify before sharing at a dinner party to avoid potential embarrassment.

Monkees, meet my Lobster, Amanda.

A Song She Can Sing In Her Own Company

I believe in believing in just a few, simple things.I believe that the beauty of believing is in your beliefs’ longevity and longsuffering and loyalty – that the greatest blessing is to live long enough, and open enough, to see your simple, few beliefs made real in the adventure of your life.

So, I have decided share my key beliefs with you.

[You will note that I have exerted much effort to avoid discussing many of my other, let’s say less-fundamental, beliefs with you.Sometime, it might be appropriate for us to discuss these.They include my unyielding belief that most people are doing the best that they can.That nothing is sexier than when a man stands up from the table when you come to the table and leave it.That refusing to ever say something about someone that you wouldn’t say in front of them is the highest form of living.That if you need to drink Coke with your bourbon, you’re not drinking proper bourbon, and that if you are drinking proper bourbon, it is a crime against humanity to drink it with anything other than ice.That it is not charity, but reward, to look for the goodness in others, because when you find it you can catch a glimpse of God.That people are unspeakably brave.That in this stormy, harrowing life –full of joy and miracles and suffering and nonsensical tragedy and struggles – maybe the key is not to decry the sun’s absence, but to cling gratefully to the few, rare souls who will stand in the rain with you for as long as it takes for the skies to clear.Perhaps we can discuss a little later.]

Mostly, though, I try to hold the idea that a few infallible beliefs are all we need, and exactly what we need, to sustain us and help us keep the most important things the only important things.So, these few beliefs are the center of me:

I believe in God and my family and the reality that you have to lose your life to find it.

And I believe that you have found your life when you find

A song that you can sing in your own company.

I believe in God and my family.I believe in God with the certainty that I believe that Sister loves me – even though you could never prove she does – because of the way she shows up, everyday, to save my life.I believe in God because he held me the morning I was curled up and broken on the couch on my porch – the morning I realized my dreams were crushed, every promise worth keeping was shattered, and the life, home and marriage I had built were gone.I believe in God because He stood watch at the bedside of my sorrow, nursed me to health, and restored me to a life that I could have not imagined before my suffering began.I believe in God because He is as present and real to me as the breeze that moves my hair and the leaves crunching under my feet – as He shows up, everyday, with a small miracle to let me know we’re boys, and where He wants us to take this adventuresome life.Just as some people pursue money because they have faith that it will afford them a life of security and comfort, peace and excitement, I pursue God because I can’t imagine a life more exciting, peaceful and adventuresome than the life we will have together.I believe in God because God shows up, everyday, to save my life.

I believe you have to lose your life to find it.I believe we spend a lot of our lives trying desperately to get what we don’t really need.And the trouble with that is we can never get enough of what we don’t really need – so we are constantly salivating and struggling but we remain hungry and empty.But when we finally break free from the belief that we need the things we don’t – when we give up on the standards of success and normalcy and progress that don’t come from within us but have been hoisted upon us – when we lose that life, we gain the possibility of living the life we were meant to live.“For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”Mark 8:36.

I believe that you have found your life when you find a decent melody; a song that you can sing in your own company.Ernest Becker wrote:“Most of our life is in large part a rationalization of our failure to find out who we really are, what our basic strength is, what thing it is that we were meant to work upon the world.”I think we learn our basic strength, that thing we were meant to work upon the world, when we find what breaks our heart.Or when we find what makes our heart hum.Or when we identify something that energizes and inspires us more than anything else on the planet.When we find that thing, that when we look upon it, we recognize ourselves.

You know that certain, specific feeling you have when you are somewhere new and strange and alone and you scan the room frantically for some familiar anything, and your anxious eyes suddenly rest on a smile you know and the foreign place is suddenly home, and a wave of warmth and comfort sweep over you?Just as our eyes scan for recognition of home in a strange place, I think our hearts do the same thing in this confusing world, overcrowded with so much that we don’t recognize in ourselves.And for each of us, there is a unique place where our heart’s gaze rests, and it is home – because it breaks our heart, or because it makes every fiber resonate with the joy of recognizing ourselves.Where our heart’s gaze rests, this is the thing that reveals the unedited version of ourselves – the raw, one-of-a-kind dreams and desires and passions that compose our souls.

I believe that we all crave to know and to respond to this thing – this thing where our heart’s gaze alone rests.To listen to this still small voice that whispers:I know the puzzle of your heart, and this is the piece that is your fit; this is the melody that is more beautiful to you than anyone else in the world.This is the song that you would sing over and over in your own company, if you never had to worry about what anyone else wanted to hear.

My dear friend Joanna is never more herself than when she is painting something that only exists in her exquisite brain, and because she is brave enough to create, the world sees colors and forms that would have never exist without her.The world needs Joanna’s thing.

My dear friend Allison was specifically crafted to be a friend.She will stand by her friends through anything – even when they are wrong, even when she shouldn’t – and she does it with every possible means of avoiding credit.Allison doesn’t feel her friends’ pain.She feels the pain her friends feel as if it were happening to her – because it is.I am convinced that Allison would rather burn up with me than leave me in a fire of my own making.The world, I, need Allison’s thing.

My dear friend Bill’s mind was made to mesmerize on Renaissance literature – he is brilliant at that thing – and students of the discipline for years to come will read his scholarship, and be fascinated and energized and full.The world needs Bill’s thing.

A beautiful, strong woman I know, Karishma, after attending elite undergraduate and law schools, left her fancy law firm job to become a Yoga instructor.I can only imagine she made this leap because practicing yoga makes her feel whole and integrated and calm and strong.And now she is delivering to stressed-out New Yorkers a place of tranquility and empowerment.The world needs Karishma’s thing.

I have a dear friend in New York, Michael, who loves to analyze stocks.He worked and prayed for years to land the position he is in now, projecting the viability and profitability of stocks.He is very happy, and he is helping lots of investors who don’t have his gift.The world needs Michael’s thing.

I met a woman last week – brilliant and beautiful – who wanted more than anything to use her law and business degrees to empower people to obtain better health care, but she had no idea whether this was possible or where to start.The world needs Kelly’s thing.

The world needs each of our things – each of our things we were meant to work upon the world.And each monkee deserves to walk this world to the hum of a decent melody – even if it sounds decent to her alone.

What’s your thing?

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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  44 Responses to “Sister”

  1. I don’t think I have a thing. what if I don’t have a thing? what if I have a thing that the world doesn’t need? now I’m frightened. I started out sad but now I’m sad and frightened.

    • Everyone has a thing – it’s there in your soul even if you have yet to acknowledge it. Fear not friend. The world needs your magic as much as you need air.

  2. What an amazing discussion! My thing is positivity and encouragement. I try extremely hard to be happy and to be a strangers bright spot in their day and not the straw that breaks their back! Like all of us I’ve had some seriously tough things happen to me in my life and I try to teach my kids never to say, “why me?” I show them how to walk thru life with your head held high and to get thru the tough spots with a lot of love and giggles! My amazing Mom taught me that. She is 73 and recently went thru a double mastectomy. She is always so light, kind, and loving with all the doctors and nurses tending to her care. I swear half the time she is putting their minds at ease and not vice versa. When Im 73 I want my daughters to be as proud of me as I am of her!! So yes I’d have to say that loving, positivity, and a lot of the times silly disposition is my thing!

  3. My thing has always been the gift of intuition. Of learning how to be still and know…and how to share our “SEEK SUNSHINE” philosophy. Basically, God blessed me with some kind of sixth sense to know when someone truly is in need and to help me find a way to help them. Seven years ago, I shared stories similar to what I am reading here..and we literally made a difference by encouraging everyday strangers to become lifelong friends. The We Are One project brought strangers together in real life, for life; as a side effect, it was so inspiring, it won a national Make a Difference Day award.. Dear God, I am so blessed to know these women that I am sitting here crying happy tears. Of all days, I am so grateful to have been lead here, so grateful I came with an open heart and so excited to share the joy. I can’t encourage the Monkees enough to seriously consider a WE ARE ONE , TOO project…or something similar. Make a Difference Day is the last Saturday in October :) To have all your readers do what mine did seven years ago would be even more powerful today. It’s not about the money we give, it’s how much we truly give of who we are…not the shell, but the center. Thank you so much for inspiring me with your love in action.

  4. I just found you guys and am thrilled. My “thing” is entertaining and cooking for people. I’ve don’t it since I was young and I feel so blessed that God helped me realize it early on. My “thing” also helped me gain weight over the years, but that’s another conversation.

  5. “Aw, she’s your lobster!” – Phoebe. One of my favorite episodes. My parents actually gave each other lobster ornaments (or maybe it was a stuffed toy lobster, I forget) after that aired. =D

  6. Amanda,
    Wow! Amazing post. I think I have been searching for my thing for years. This post and all the responses have made me see that the real adventure is in all the searching and the finding. It is in every part of the process. Each step is exciting and one day, God will whisper to me "You found it!" We are, each one of us monkees, exactly where we are supposed to be.
    Thank you so much!
    Xoxo Susie.

  7. wild thing, you make my heart sing. you make everything groovy…you mooooove me.

  8. Sister, I love this! You have painted an exquisite and challenging canvas for us to look at and look at again from different angles in different lights.

    I think the real beauty in the song that you sing in your own company is how beautiful it sounds to others. It is definitely meant to be shared. Thanks for sharing with us today. Look forward to hearing more from you.


    p.s. Love the reference to you thinking people are doing the best they can. This is the only proof thus far that you and Glennon might actually be real sisters… ya know disagreeing on something :) See Sept. 3.

  9. I'm not sure exactly what my song is either… but I think I'm on it's trail.

    When writing my blog I can always tell when it's perfect (not for anyone else, but perfect for me)… I can always tell when I read it to my husband or a friend and the retelling of the precious moment or funny occurance or embarrassing tale makes me choke a little with overwhelming emotion that I got it right… I was able to say it just as I felt it. That's when I know…

    I'm sure this sounds silly, but I know God is giving me a clue when I have this feeling.

    Thanks little lobster for a reminder to look for the more important things in life! Apparently the gift runs in the family. You are as lovely a writer as you are a person.

  10. Yet another Momastery post that brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful Sister!
    Like Jennifer (and I'm guessing this is my dear high school friend, Jennifer M.?), my thing is my ability to laugh. I laugh at just about anything because I find lots of things and people funny (in a good way, not a mean spirited way). Throughout my life, people have told me that my laugh is distinct (I think this is code for annoying and loud, but I'll stick with distinct) and that the ease with which I laugh is comforting. So, I hope that this sticks with me throughout my life, because I have a secret-self sad side as well that I battle often. Here's to laughter!

  11. Sister, you are amazing. It seems to run in the family. Love love love your post!

    I am a lover and have not found my thing to love. (sherwood anderson)

    But I'm having a blast seeking it out.

  12. Am I the only one who is struck by all of these amazing responses which, to me, are a not so subtle reminder that, as women, our "thing" is actually a multitude of things working in harmony to make us each unique and special??

    That is, it's okay not to be able to articulate your thing — it doesn't mean it's not there. And, it's okay if your thing exists along a continuum, changing with the seasons of your life. And it's okay if your current "thing" isn't necessarily your calling or passion as you once imagined it, but rather where you are needed most at this time in your life. That you can simultaneously be a loyal and true friend, a playmate, an artist, a go-getter, a listener, a writer, a loving mom, a seeker of truth, and a hot, hot mess all rolled into one glorious mad Monkee woman.

    What an amazing bunch of women you all are!

  13. The bathing suit/ice cream woman is my new personal hero.
    When I'm out somewhere like Target with my 4 kids, I feel like my thing is to make people realize that their lives could be worse. I literally had a woman with her 2 sons and a baby in an Ergo look at me (with my 2 sons, a baby in an Ergo and another in an infant seat) and say, "I was feeling really bad for myself today. And then I saw you." Um… thanks?

  14. yes, i agree, krystal is brilliant. i had a friend who believed she looked horrible in a bathing suit. but she decided one day that instead of worrying about it, she would consider it her life's work to make others' feel more confident about their bodies in comparison. this way, she could just relax, eat her ice cream, wear her bathing suit, and help save the world, one lady at a time. and that's what she does.
    clearly, she found her thing.

  15. I just have to comment again. Krystal — you are an inspiration! My husband used to have to attend fancy dinner parties as part of his job. He resolved to always be the first one to spill something or drop a utensil, so that the pressure would be off everyone else. ME — way too uptight to be the one that everyone laughs at first. I've learned a lot from him over the years!

  16. My thing is to always say the wrong thing. I think inappropriateness might be my thing. That way everyone else gets to not have that thing be hers!

  17. vrwfox…I love that…where my deep gladness meets the world's deep hunger.

    I switch jobs without fail every two years or so in search of my thing, because the search IS my thing. I love the search. And I think God gave me a searching heart so I can meet and smile at more people.

  18. Thank you for this beautiful post! Your words have been in my thoughts all day. I've been trying to figure out my thing and I think it's encouragement. I love the feeling of lifting a person up and making their day just a little better, even if it's just with a smile!

  19. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”
    (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC, San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1993, page 119).

  20. Thank you for a wonderful, moving post. When I taught at a Jesuit high school many years ago, I heard the advice given to a group of Juniors preparing to go to El Salvador. The priest said, "Let them break your heart." That's tough advice for kids to hear, but when those boys spoke about their experiences, it was clear that God had really been part of that trip and continued to be part of their lives.
    I believe that the world is healed when we speak in truth and vulnerability to one another. So much of our culture is about hiding our brokenness and seeking perfection, but all the faith traditions I've studied seem pretty clear on how IMperfect we all are and how we need God and one another to be whole.
    I feel like my thing is a moving target right now. At the moment, I am a stay-at-home mother of four. This is definitely not my thing, but it is where my life and family need me. I've just started letting myself ponder what my next thing might be.

  21. Hmmm my thing is to help adoptive parents find and help nurture the "difficult children". Did this for 5 years. Should probably go back to it. Thanks for lighting a fire under my butt Mandy!

  22. SLM- just beautiful. i loved the description of being your husband's "playmate."

    josie, me too.

    jess and jeanette- i think we should not stress. i think maybe half the battle is just believing that we HAVE a thing…or two or three.
    and then the other half of the battle is staying aware of what our heart responds to – so we'll recognize our thing when God presents it, in His time.

    anyway, just the believing is enough for one day. we should probably rest.

    ps. when we're done resting, we could always ask our friends and family what they think our thing could be. sometimes people we love can see us more clearly than we can see ourselves.

  23. I think my thing is seeing the beauty in every person. Although, come to think of it, I might only see it in nice people. I guess I need to work on my thing.

  24. My thing is helping to share an awareness that our thing changes over time. God allows us the privilege of Him using us where we are at that moment, in abilities and inclination, and gently invites us to grow to be used in a different way later.

    When I was trying cases, my thing was the courtroom. I loved it and I was good at it.

    When I had little kids, my thing was being mommy. I loved it and was mostly good at it.

    When my kids became teens, my thing IS NOW being present without being a helicopter mom. I love having teens and I'm occasionally good at it.

    As I contemplate that in a few short years it will be just him and me, and kids off to college, I realize my thing will be … being my husband's friend and playmate. I aspire to be good at that. I resolve to start learning how to be better right now! Even when the teens say, "Oh mom, AWKWARD!"

  25. I think my thing is to laugh because if I didn't I would sit in the corner rock back and forth and cry.

  26. I think your thing is what you always seem to be doing while you're trying to find your thing.

  27. I'm really lucky to be a part of the Doyle family, thank you for this post. Although I don't know for sure about my "thing", I think it's along the lines of helping kids who are less fortunate.

  28. I'm with Jess. Someone tell me what my thing is. Please.

  29. I think I meant listening. Listening is my thing.

  30. Sofia, love your dad's quote!

    Sister, what a post (and what a picture…you are smokin' girl!)

    I know it sort of misses the point, but gosh I wish someone would just tell me what my thing is.


  31. Mandy – GREAT POST! I love it!

    In reference to your thoughts about desperately trying to get what we don’t really need, I'd like to share something that my Dad has written (my own translation):

    If we had a little less of what we don’t need
    and a little more of what we do need
    we would be richer
    even if we had a little less…

  32. Much to my surprise I believe my thing is kids, all kinds of kids, but especially the ones that tend to get "labeled" with words like difficult or out of control or disrespectful or unmanageable or ADD/ADHD…I am passionate about helping these kids know how loveable they are!!!

  33. I meant "gets to have you close." Clearly, my thing is not proofreading.


  34. Amanda, what a thoughtful and inspiring essay. Once again, you've managed to express in words what so many of us experience as only inchoate emotions.

    And now I'm jealous of India, because it gets to have to close for a whole year and I don't. So thanks. Now I'm jealous of a subcontinent.


  35. Amazing post!

    I left a career in corporate america years ago to become a personal trainer/yoga teacher/massage therapist. So, my thing is most definitely helping people feel better and live better by taking charge of their own health.

    I knew I'd found that "thing" when it no longer felt like work to get up and go to work each day.

  36. Not sure what my thing is, Doyle, but that was a beautiful post. I'm very lucky to have you, your thing, and Allison (who is the very definition of a friend) in my life. kling

  37. What a wonderful, beautiful post!

    My thing? Hmmmmmm…..I think I'm an encourager.

  38. I will read your post for days, months and years to come . . . love you and miss you lots!!

  39. "I believe in God because God shows up, everyday, to save my life." – not sure what my 'thing' is, but knowing God is there to help me figure it out is what gets me though. Thanks for your words this morning!

  40. I think my thing is smiling.

  41. Wow, I don't know what my thing is either. A lot to think about on Monday. Thanks Amanda, great post!

  42. I honestly don't know what my thing is, but I'm going to figure it out.

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