I recently traveled by car to the rural southern community of my childhood to attend a funeral. This meant a more than 700-mile trip alone. Instead of being frightened at the prospect of such a long drive; I was secretly thrilled at the opportunity to see if I could manage a journey that I had made often with ease when I was younger. I did it. I arrived in time to honor a woman who had played a significant role in my life.
Although I had little time to linger, I was able to reconnect with family and folks who had not seen me since the last funeral of a family member. These were people, most of whom, I had known from birth. They were part of my foundation; yet, I was only seeing them at funerals? Was I really that busy? Feeling a combination of loss and nostalgia; I decided to drive around my old community taking pictures of everything that caught my eye or stirred a memory.
After returning home, I reviewed each photograph. One depicted a lonely, long neglected house and yard. I had fond memories of visiting with its former occupants. The roof of the house had not fared well in previous storms. Since it was late fall, none of the flower beds that I knew were hidden behind the nearly thigh-high overgrown grass and weeds were visible. However, in one corner, a lone tree stood tall and vibrant; almost defiant with reddish blooms against a dreary fall day.
The photo resonated with me. Looking at it, I compared myself to what I was seeing. What aspects of my life did I neglect? What might be blocking me from being the best, most vibrant version of myself? As our busy lives are overgrown with tasks, obligations, and countless distractions; we have to take a stance and maintain those things that nourish us and help us to be the best versions of the vibrant, individuals that we can be in both our personal and professional lives. My road trip and that photo challenged me and I focused on some key issues that I plan to maintain:
1. Reconnect with roots - whether we want to admit it or not; the people and places of our early life shape who we are today. Acknowledging the impact of those roots for better or for worse is significant.
2. Show care by communicating - a visit, a phone call, a handwritten note, or a thoughtful email can bridge distance both real and imagined.
3. Recognize the power of nonverbal communication - a hug, a touch, a smile, and eye contact can fill reservoirs within us that we might not even know are depleted.
4. See nature - the heat of sunshine, a cool breeze, or a snowflake can help us to remember that there is more to the world than the rat race inside our heads.
5. Treasure others - we can find many who devalue us in countless ways. Maintaining contact with those who value us should be a priority.
In summary, regardless of our careers, schedules, deadlines, or responsibilities we can nurture that which sustains us. We can challenge ourselves to be mindful daily to seek regularly the people and the moments that help us be our best.
Originally published on LinkedIn December 30, 2017 - Photo credit Sheila Yarbrough