Smoky Mountain Rain

smokies 020

It is so funny how things connect to memories in our brain. Seemingly unrelated things are connected by strange, oft forgotten, little triggers from our past that stir up memories of those times who framed our being.

I seldom remember how much I love sitting on a porch in the morning, sipping coffee, while a light rain comes down until it happens again. It isn’t an experience I ‘crave,’ but it is one that I always cherish when it happens. This morning was one of those moments and I was overwhelmed by the flood of memory connections that started to occur as I quietly let that moment happen.

I know that one of the reasons that I love softly raining mornings is that we had them a lot when I was a student at Milligan College in the mountains of East Tennessee. The rain would fall lightly as we walked or biked to class, coffee in hand, trying to wake up for an 8a lecture. Normally, when we came out of classes for lunch, the rain and fog would have burned off and we’d have a view like the one in the picture above greeting us. For some reason this morning, the temperature, fog, and soft rain were exactly right to trigger a very specific memory of a fall day of my junior year when I rode my bike to class in such a rain from my first apartment to campus. It was a glorious day, rain or no rain. I was so excited to be able to ride my bike to class with my new Mountainsmith backpack (which I still have), no longer an underclassman, time on my hands since basketball hadn’t started yet; a man with the freedom of living off campus!

And the memory connections continued…as I recalled that rainy mountain bike ride I remembered that a song popped into my head that day that took me even further back in time. When I was growing up my parents listened to the ‘new country’ of the time – The Carpenters, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Ronnie Millsap. That fall morning as I rode my bike to class, the song Smoky Mountain Rain popped into my head right off of one of my parents’ 8 track tapes and wouldn’t let go. I sang it over and over all the way to class that day. I’m singing it again this morning.

I was profoundly impacted by my time at Milligan College. In some ways it was the mountains, which I fell in love with and have been a place I’ve loved ever since. In some ways it was the lifestyle; an outdoorsy, laid back approach to a life lived in pursuit of knowledge and beauty. And in all ways it was the people – my best friends, my roommates, my first loves, my coaches, my professors, and my classmates who made up an environment that shaped me from a boy with few of his own thoughts and values to a young man who had figured out how to learn, question, search, and find what he needed to be successful in life.

I’m so glad that the brain finds ways to connect those little things in our lives to one another in amazing ways that allow us to recall and give thanks for moments in our lives that have made us who we are.

Fear and Courage

Image

Fear: An emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous.

Courage: The ability to act in the face of fear.

A little over a year ago, my friend Brad and I decided to go mountain bike riding in Moab, Utah. For those of you unfamiliar with mountain bike culture, Moab is to mountain biking what Nashville is to country music. Neither Brad nor I are exactly mountain biking experts and when you put two 6 foot, 3 inch guys over the handlebars of a piece of aluminum screaming down a rocky trail we’ve never been on, fear will creep in to the picture. The photo above was taken AFTER we faced those fears and came out on the other side at the entrance of Arches National Park, unscathed and courageous.

I tell this story to illustrate a lesson that I’ve been visiting quite a bit lately – fear is not something to ignore, it is something to embrace. It has been amazing to me that as I have improved my level of self-awareness, I have become acutely aware of how much fear I have in my life…fear of failure when I go into a big business pitch, fear of a lack of approval from my boss for my job performance, fear that I am making parenting mistakes, fear that I’m not meeting all of my wife’s emotional needs, fear of being accepted by new friends for being who I am, fear of disappointing my true, long time friends because I’m not available enough for them, and the list goes on and on. For a while I was so ashamed of these fears thinking I was weak and lacked self confidence. 

The turning point for me was a realization that the fact that I can recognize these fears creeping in to my thoughts, gives me an amazing power. I now can recognize the fears for what they are – simple emotions, not good or bad, just feelings. I have now become the most courageous person I know because I recognize the fear is there and I ACT. I do not allow the thoughts of fear to linger for more than a moment, I attack them with a rigor that allows me to confidently sit across from a client and stay completely in the moment with them, I work every day in a way that I know will produce my best, I parent with love and grace and trust that it is enough, I do things that I know will make my wife feel good when I see them to be done, I talk to new friends in honesty and straightforwardness and let them decide where the relationship goes, and I try to touch my dearest friends in multiple ways through the power of technology on a regular basis.

My life isn’t always screaming down the side of a single track mountain bike trail, but my fears are real. I’m courageous because just like during that trail ride, I hold on tight, pay close attention, and only go as fast as is prudent.