There are countless actions we can take to bring about positive change in our life, and ultimately the lives of others. We might find work that propels our purpose, we might release soul-depleting thoughts, habits, and relationships and replace them with soul-nourishing dialogue and interactions, we might leave our comfort zone and try something new, we might lend a hand or shoulder to someone, we might expand our perspectives by traveling to new places, we might show up and speak up for worthy causes, or we might listen carefully to words, sounds, and even the quiet around us.
Find the quiet.
I created this blog to chronicle my journey of intentional change, and at the end of each week I share a sliver of insight gained as I move toward living passionately and away from living passively. My mindset is profoundly different from where it was four months ago. Four months ago, I was mentally, physically, and spiritually depleted. I needed to pause, rest, reflect, and change course. I have since made positive changes to my work life, my daily habits, my prayer life, my connection to others, my commitment to nutrition and exercise, and my pursuit of play and passion. Focusing on each of these important life areas has brought me to a place of absolute gratitude and inspired clarity.
My journey of living passionately is just beginning – the roots of this new life are shallow. Having seen many trees topple during monsoon storms, I understand how important strong roots are to sustaining life during unpredictable weather. A tree that appears rooted and strong, might actually hide shallow roots growing in depleted soil. Our growth and stability are the same. To establish deep roots in this new life direction, I understand how vital it is to nurture my being with inspired people, places, ideas, and prayer. I understand how important it is to tend to the health of that which is hidden – the health of my soul.
Just like there are countless ways to bring about positive changes in our lives, there are also many ways to strengthen our stability by nurturing our inner lives. One way that I accomplish inner strength is by reading books. Becoming internally stronger is not necessarily a goal I have when beginning a book, and it certainly wasn’t my aim as a young reader. Intended or not, stories have strengthened my understanding of life and myself. Books have given me a connection to other people, places, and ideas, and each, in their unique way, have changed me. I could spend the rest of my life writing about the many books that have changed me, and two books had that effect on me just before starting this blog. I will get to the importance of those two pre-blog books, but first a few highlights from (just) five books that had a profound impact on me as a young reader:
- As a middle-schooler my life was forever changed when I learned about the mistreatment of immigrant families when reading Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle.
- Through S.E. Hinton’s, The Outsiders, I learned that although privileges are not equally distributed at birth, our familial status is not a predictor of the bonds we forge or the beauty we choose to see in the world.
- I learned about grit and courage in John Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath, which taught me about the plight of Oklahoma tenant farmers who lost everything during the Dust Bowl that occurred during the Great Depression.
- The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison, exposed me to the damaging consequences of racism and the limiting societal views of what beauty should look like.
- Reading the Bible, as a young person often left me with questions, but the experience also left me with comfort and connection that was felt, if not understood.
This short list features a few books from my childhood that changed me. Books continue to do that, and I cannot imagine living without experiencing the growth that stories can bring. I experienced the benefit of two books just before starting this blog forum. The two books are distinctly different, but both came into my life at just the right time.
- Susan Cain’s, Quiet-The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, will forever change how I see myself and other “quiet” types. Former wall street lawyer, turned author, Susan Cain, spent seven years researching the topic of introverts and extroverts and how each role is perceived in our society. Extroverts tend to be celebrated and introverts tend to be undervalued, even though so many inspired ideas, breakthroughs, and successful businesses, are attributed to introverted leaders and thinkers.
- The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan, was a fun find that unexpectedly gave me a dose of inspiration to embark on a new journey. Against societal pressure, the main character decides to pursue an outrageous dream and open a mobile library in Scotland (far from home) after losing her librarian job. The book also gave me a strong desire to visit Scotland someday.
Many years ago, I heard the phrase, “Except for the books you read and the people you meet, you will be the same person in one year, as you are today.” I would like to give credit to the author of this memorable quote, but I have not been able to find a match – only a few variations. Regardless of the source, the sentiment encourages us to include reading as part of our journey of growth and change. I plan to continue my reading voyage as long as I have a mind to make meaning of the messages.
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