Upon traversing back and forth over the interwebs yesterday, I stumbled upon an old college friend’s blog post on a 2021 Writing Challenge focused around a new word each week. I haven’t written much over the past few years and fear the neural pathways that previously inclined me toward expressing myself through the written word have all but deteriorated. I want to take on this challenge and try to establish some form of discipline in this area of my life again.
So, the first word of 2021 is intend. Right off the hop I’m taking the liberty to expand the rules of this challenge to include all variations of the word. So intent, intention, intending, intended, etc… they all count. Cool? Cool. Let’s do this.
I grew up listening to country music. Now, I eventually discovered good music (sorry, country fans) but I can still sing most every CMT song circa 1990-1995. Tim McGraw was a staple in those days and although there are a few contenders, one of his tunes (that admittedly didn’t come out until a few years after this era) seems to quintessentially capture the vibe of so much of what country music was in those days. It also happens to challenge me to live with intention.
You likely know the song. It’s about a guy in his early 40s who’s got a lot of life before him when a medical diagnosis comes and stops him on a dime. He ends up spending most of the next days staring at the x-rays, thinking about options and thinking about sweet times. And when asked about how he deals with that kind of news, it breaks into the catchy chorus:
“I went sky-diving, I went Rocky mountain climbing, I went 2.7s on a bull named Fu-Man-Chu…”
I warned you it was cliché. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t get choked up and feel all the feels when I listen to it. On repeat. At 90% volume. While singing with abandon in front of my boys. I can feel your judgmental glares and I don’t even care. Okay I do. Stop it.
The message, of course, is to live with intention ’cause you never know when the game’s up. To not take for granted each day, each moment, each relationship, each experience but to see it all as this gift and to live life in such a way as to not fear dying. To quote another band who, tho country-esque, somehow fully avoids falling into cliché territory:
If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.
If I’m honest, I’ve spent the last few years in the drift. There are moments of intentionality here and there, but I’m not moving toward something with purpose. I’m… drifting. Yes, I enjoy my family, my friendships, some of my hobbies, but there’s been this existential angst building all along that stems from an overall lack of intentionality. So I want to change course in 2021. In fact, taking up this writing challenge is a part of that (thanks Krista!).
I was talking with Rhonda about this just yesterday while celebrating my 39th birthday. Sure, the milestone of another year no doubt contributed to this angst but I know there’s more to it and I’m confident I’m not alone. Part of it, I think, is the onslaught of messages of inadequacy we receive on the daily while scrolling through the highlight reels of other people’s lives. And I don’t just mean famous, “successful” people. I mean you. And I don’t blame you for this as I know I do it, too. We project an image of having it all together: perfect kids, fulfilling job, accomplished in all things that matter; awaking each morning inspired to seize the day; etc., etc., And even though we may know it’s a pale reflection of our day to day to day reality, those on the other end of the screen don’t know this and it’s likely we aren’t inspiring them with our polished, perfect reels the way we may be thinking we are. How many times have you turned away from a solid newsfeed scroll feeling deflated and, as is so often the case with myself, a sense of falling short of your own potential? And so we drift.
I think being intentional this year requires some serious addressing of this in my life. Maybe yours, too? There are other factors that contribute to the drift, no doubt, and it’s important to name them and do the hard work of sorting through it. I only make mention of this one because, perhaps like me, it’s the most prolific force drawing you away from being intentional and toward drifting.
We’re six days into 2021 and already speaking of 2020 as a dumpster fire has become a truism of sorts. We get it: the year was a write-off – let’s move on to blissful days ahead. But just hold on. What if we treated 2020 as the equivalent of receiving dire news from the doctor? To let it serve as a catalyst toward us becoming more intentional? I hate to say this and I don’t mean to trivialize the pain and hurt that 2020 unleashed on so many, but maybe 2020 was exactly what I, what we all needed, to stop the drift and to live life in a way so we’re not scared to die.