I was honored recently to have a post featured on Freshly Pressed; my thanks to WordPress editors. It seems appropriate to mark that occasion — and also my 100th post — by republishing this entry from last November, during my first week as a blogger.
Every now and then — this morning, for instance — I become acutely aware of how much we all want to feel seen and appreciated, and how often that desire goes unanswered. It’s one of those quintessentially human aches, a longing that often goes underground but never goes away.
One of my family’s favorite stories concerns Billy Katzenburger, whose older sister Blanche was a high school classmate of my mother’s. In the presence of both children, their father was going on proudly and at some length about something Blanche had done, seemingly oblivious to his increasingly jealous son. Finally, little Billy could no longer restrain himself. “Brag on me, Pa!” he pleaded. “Brag on me!”
“Brag on me, Pa!” remains a catchphrase for my family, half-jokingly plucked from the past whenever we feel within ourselves or each other that hunger for praise. But the need itself, the vulnerability it reflects, is no joke. We all want to feel we matter, that our little piece of the whole — the gifts we have been given, subtle or obvious — are seen and taken up.
Often, that appreciation is not forthcoming. Sometimes, it is doled out so tepidly or sporadically that we understand, organically, what it means to be damned by faint praise. Preoccupied as we each are with our own unanswered longings, we fail to truly see one other, to lift each other up. And it becomes easy, over time, to abandon what we cherish most about ourselves under the weight of that missing validation.
Lara James is not letting that happen. In a recent Tiny Buddha post, the Spokane, Wash.-based singer/songwriter described the half-hearted encouragement she received as a child about her dream to sing professionally. “The logic that reigned was if I had something worth praising, someone would tell me,” she wrote. “When no one did, I took my talents, dreams, and hopes underground.”
But they didn’t stay there. James now has a family of her own and the kind of busy, ordinary life that — in addition to a lack of encouragement — can easily sap energy and the will to create. But create she does. And the results are wonderful.
Give a listen to her exuberant “Why Wouldn’t I?,” an irrepressible anthem for all of us who may never “make it” in the eyes of the world, but whose beauty matters nonetheless. It’s a clarion call to keep expressing our gifts — whatever they may be — and an implicit reminder to encourage each other to do the same.
So here’s to Lara, and to you, too: You have something worth praising.