Soul Muscle

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
“She not about to change now.”

Such remarks assume that our souls wear down alongside our physical selves: that the uniqueness that is you and me develops age spots, wrinkles, and osteoporosis. I can see where folks get that idea; with aging, some people close in on themselves, growing brittle and bitter. But it need not be so. Indeed, with the children grown and a level of vocational competence achieved, we gain the freedom to tone our souls.

No matter what age we are, we’re just getting started—there’s much more to each of us than this suit of skin can contain.

Below are some fitness options for a good “soul workout.”

1. Be available to different opinions: read a book that professes an opposing worldview, or hang out with folks from that “other party.”

2. Tone our brains: take on a subject that’s always been a challenge, be it an online philosophy course (iTunes U offers some great courses) or a workbook on mathematics. Thanks to Rosetta Stone, I’m having moderate success learning Spanish.

3. Create: whether we tend a garden, write a poem, or decorate our workspace, creative process supplies restorative oxygen to our souls.

4. Serve: walking in another’s shoes and tending to another’s needs, keeps our souls & soles supple.

5. Practice prayer: Connecting with God our morning and evening pillow, as we work, on the highway (eyes open, please!) supplies needed electrolytes to our wearied soul muscles.

Whether we’ve eight or eighty, our souls are an infinitely renewable resource. Given regular exercise, they’ll grow heartier and more limber with age. What are your practices for toning soul muscle? I’d love to read them!

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Hosting a Party an Introvert Can Enjoy

He arrives late—a survival skill he’s developed over the years. “Good to see you,” welcomes his host. “Introduce yourself around.”

Gazing across the partying crowd, he feels that familiar squeeze to the gut. Maybe he can just back himself out the door…

But he wades in, introducing himself to one disinterested partier after another. After several aborted attempts at party banter, he retreats to a corner, pulls out his cell phone and presses the “Angry Birds” app. Painfully aware of the laughing crowd enjoying themselves without him, he takes out a few green pigs and checks the time. Still too early to leave.

He makes an extended bathroom visit. After an hour and one minute, he murmurs thanks to his host and escapes, convinced that he is the most uninteresting man in the world.

With the holiday party season upon us, I thought I’d speak a word for us introverted invitees. I’m convinced most people throw parties because they value their guests and want them to enjoy themselves in community.  And with some planning, a host’s introverted friends can enjoy the party instead of feeling they’re doing time. A host might:

1. Invite us to help. Whether it’s refilling drinks or snacks, handing out name tags, or supervising a party project (like getting signatures on a huge birthday card), a task provides us a reason to meet new people.  Plus, letting us help takes pressure off you and enables us to feel valued at your party. Win win!

2. Provide solitary activities. Unlike extroverts, who charge their soul batteries through interpersonal interactions, we introverts require solitude for restoration. Provide us a recharge zone: a gallery of photos at a birthday party or anniversary; a journal to write in at a shower; or, at your holiday party, a creative outlet, such as ornament making or cookie baking.

3. Supply interactive options. Introverts step outside our comfort zone when we enter your party. Meet us halfway by providing something in addition to food, drink, and party banter. A televised sporting event or film to view lets us participate without constantly making conversation. The same applies to karaoke or group games. We make supportive audience members and, with the right encouragement, might even step up on stage and belt out “Freebird.”

4. Be a host. Introduce us to a potential friend by helping us connect. “X, this is my good friend, Y. Y does computer graphics and I’ve never seen her without a book. With your shared love of reading and things technological, I thought you might like to tell her about your new blog.” Then stick around until the conversation takes on life. We will arise and call you blessed.

When planning an inclusive party, it just comes down to standing in your friend’s shoes. Your introverted friend really does want to party—and he really is quite interesting.  A party that values your friend as the person s/he is: now there’s something to celebrate.