I was sitting at a table at Collina’s last Saturday with a friend of mine. Our conversations are usually deep and fast paced and I tread water in the ocean of his intelligence as best I can. Just when I think I’m keeping up, he almost always switches gears on me and there’s a trainwreck in my head, and this time was no different.
I don’t even remember exactly what we were talking about at that juncture of the conversation, but while I was trying to process what he’d been saying, he suddenly asked, “what motivates you?”
Most of you that know me, know I am a ponderer. I weigh my words carefully and choose them with purpose… and if I don’t, I often don’t make sense or unwittingly contradict myself because I haven’t thought things through. Sometimes this weighing of words is a quick process, other times, depending on the subject matter, it takes a couple of days.
I don’t get the luxury of pondering with this friend most of the time. His brain runs at full speed unless he’s sleeping. When he asks a question, his brain has already moved beyond my answer, because nearly every question he’s ever asked me is a bridge to a point that pops into his head at any given moment.
My brain zips along at a pretty good clip most of the time, but I still would rather think about what I’m going to say before I say it. Still,I try to keep up with him as best I can so he threw the question out there and I responded with the first thing that popped into my head.
“What motivates you?”
“Health. Health motivates me. I don’t care what I look like or if I’m thin… I just want to be healthy.” (and for me, that’s in all areas of my life, not just weight)
I could tell by looking at him that I’d hit the tip of the iceberg of what he intended that question to grow into. He let me finish, then he firmly pushed one of my buttons and said that I needed to do whatever I could to succeed, not just to prove the naysayers in my life wrong (you know, the people who said, “you’re not a writer,” “dreams are for other people,” etc), but to make sure that my father “doesn’t win,” and that if I don’t succeed, if I let life pass me by, my father most definitely wins.
I sat there and let his words wash over me. Very few people understand what I’ve been though let alone verbalize that they not only understand, but they know I can use that pain and turn it into purpose… that I need to use my past to motivate me as I build my future. My friend has done this to me before – pushed a button and taken me off guard and forced my brain to churn out one word or a phrase that can’t possibly encompass all I want to say. He’s really good at it, in fact (and I’m sure he knows it).
His questions or phrases hit me – zip! and those are the times I nod numbly, wishing I could pause him for a few minutes while I come up with a response. Instead, we usually forge on, and he gets an email hours or days later when I’ve thought over his question and the things I wished I could have said in the midst of the conversation.
The phrase, “what motivates you?” stayed with me a few days. More words poured into my head – a woman spoke at our church and talked about how she once was motivated by fear… I read or heard how money or power or security motivates others. I pondered it all for a few days, but what I really wanted to let him know, besides being right, was that I was grateful for his encouragement… because encouragement also motivates me.
I’ve been blessed over the years to have a core group of cheerleaders who have spurred me on, who at times, when I wanted to let go and give up on everything, have grabbed the cross with one hand, and clung to me with the other. These friends have lifted me up, cheered me on, filled up my tank and kept me going when so many walked away and gave up on me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them… my persistent, loving, encouraging posse.
I don’t know why I’m surprised then when my wheels start spinning again or when I feel like I’m never going to turn that corner or be able to leave that hurt or hinderance behind, that one of the posse steps up. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, either, when the source of that encouragement comes from a most unexpected place.
Why is it unexpected? It’s unexpected because, for most of my life, my posse has been made up of women for many reasons. If I continue to only let women speak into my life, I know my father wins. I’ve long known that, but in the past I’ve opened myself up to the wrong people, including men, and have been broken and ripped apart because of it. The old me had horrendous friend choosing skills and I paid for it dearly.
Fast forward to the new me, the me motivated by being healthy and a healthy person, and times have changed. In the past five months, I’ve taken leaps of faith that have drastically altered the course of my life. And, in the past two weeks, I’ve opened myself up to a new group of people…men included… and I’ve tried so hard not to hold the men at arm’s length. Though I’m still scared to death of even a close friendship with a man… I know that distance is motivated by fear. And isn’t fear… the black cloud that follows me… isn’t that what I’ve purposed to put behind me during this Lent?
I’ve gone against every impulse of self preservation in the last few months and not to say it’s been painless, but I’ve emerged on the other side a more courageous person… who still has a long way to go… but a person who is reaping the rewards of leaving fear in my rearview mirror.
My friend has told me more than once that strong hearts always make a comeback even after they get ripped to shreds. If I keep telling him he’s right, he’s going to get a big head, but he is again correct in his assessment. I’ve risked a lot for this friendship and have gone against my very nature to take baby steps with him and I think it’s paid off in ways I haven’t even began to ponder yet. I can ask him anything, and I’ve returned that sentiment, which is why I’m still pondering motivation a week later.
I’m no longer fearful of building on the new relationships that have formed the past few months, and I’ve gotten there one tiny, deliberate, purposeful step at a time. I’ve discovered my heart is a lot stronger than I’ve ever given it credit for and I’m motivated to keep walking down this path to find out where it leads.
I am motivated by health and by encouragement (among other things). What motivates you?