on a need to know basis…

May 22, 2012

After the Oprah article hit there was a swirl of energy, the kind of swirl that turns you upside down and you start imagining all kinds of things. Book agents reached out, a TV show producer wrote, all kinds of lovely and dear people filled my inbox with stories and interest.

I started to believe that I was on a new track, that the fairy godmother of goodness herself had come down to make kindness big, big, BIG!  I felt grateful, overwhelmed and humbled…and I braced myself for what was to come. …and then, it just sort of never came. Time between communication started to grow longer and longer.  I got a little crazy starting to check my e-mail 42,000 times a day,  rereading my exchanges…

Was that too forward?

Did I sound weird?

Oh God! It is so obvious how crazy I am! They wanted less crazy, less passionate, more normal.

I am so not smooth or cool, my brand is hilariously real, not polished at all.

And after awhile, this got so tiring that I went back to the thing I love and realized that I had the same exact feeling planning a kindness campaign in my alley with my garbage men that I did when I got the call I was going to be in O Magazine- the rush, the excitement, the thrill.

This feeling would last until the next kindness project was over, or there was a quiet moment, or a new opportunity fell through again…the thoughts would creep in again. I was confused because while the big doors were closing, everything in the grass and roots was beautiful and thriving.

All the places in my everyday kindness world were rockin’…hard. It was almost as if while I was losing my way there for a bit, waiting for the one shot, the small was getting deeper and wiser, despite my doubt and uncertainty…somehow my heart was still winning. How could that be? How could things be going so well and I feel so off at the same time?

I kept thinking, “If I just knew what it was, what I am missing, what track I am on, I can fix it, course correct, fix myself or accept it…this thing is worthy of all that.”

And then one day, out of the blue I got an e-mail…from one of those dear people I met as a result of  O Magazine…a friendship that had grown over letters exchanged with sweet Lisa, she had become a bonus mother and mentor and yet we’ve never even met in person. I didn’t ask her for advice, there was no great drama that day but her words came like a salve of understanding over everything, the wisdom that made the pieces finally fit…

She wrote:

Just have faith in that, trust that what you are doing is exactly right. The “how” is none of your business because as you trust the “what” (being and spreading kindness in our world) the how will come to you on a need to know basis. Kind of like traveling a road in the middle of the night. Your (flash)Light can only shine so far along the path. But you keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that the path will reveal itself as your light reaches it.  

My heart was instantly shifted. It had never occurred to me that I was on a “need-to-know” basis with the universe…that maybe I am not supposed to know at all or that it isn’t my job to try to figure it out. My light right in front of me is all I need and that it will grow stronger and brighter if the path ahead requires it.

That thought was so freeing yet totally frustrating at the same time for the girl who wishes she could control it all, work harder, do whatever it takes. …and here we are at a gentle surrender again…

…because the “what” is my love, it always makes sense even if it’s hard or unclear, and I know how to follow it. I can wake up and do that everyday. I am already doing it, it is enough. Kindness doesn’t need me or my crap to be together to make an impact on the world.

Maybe it was never meant to be so complicated. Maybe you are meant for something but the how is none of your business and your heart just needs to get completely lost in the what. Maybe the unknown is a kind gift, making space for the greater joy and all that already is and is to come.

Are you sweatin’ the unknown today? or wishing the light was brighter in front of you? Feel free to tell us  about it or offer your words of wisdom or hope in the comments. 

60 Responses to “on a need to know basis…”

  1. Cindy Tyra Says:

    Just having you in my life, gives me inspiration. We’ve never met, but you bring warmth into my life. I pass your comments on to others, which in turn lets them know they aren’t alone. You were named Patience for a reason. Patience and Kindness go hand and hand.

  2. beth4158 Says:

    Like E.L. Doctorow once said: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Fellow control freak here. I totally relate to what you wrote. And yup, letting go of the “How” feels really weird since we’re so used to orchestrating everything. But, turns out, if we just hold our goals in our minds and go about taking whatever steps feel right, the Universe takes care of the “How.”

    • kindnessgirl Says:

      love that quote…and it’s nice to know there are other fellow control freak friends!! 🙂

  3. anastasia Says:

    I worry about never getting married..a very unknown and out of my control thing..

    • kindnessgirl Says:

      oh anastasia, I had that one too…hope there is lots of loving and caring for yourself while the unknown unfolds… ❤

    • Anastasia… I think everyone has worried about that… but once I found my true love I looked back at all the time I spent trying to make mr. not so right work…. and I wished I’d spent those years taking art classes and not worrying about finding my soulmate——-when the right one comes along..you will know! Hang in there!

      • Angela Says:

        I too once worried about if I would ever get married? I learned to let that fear go. I put my trust in God & thought okay God’s plan for me was to focus on being a teacher so I continued to teach. Out of the blue I was intruduced to a fabulous man and here it is I am married 10 years. I got married when I was 45, so you never know? Just be the best that you can be…

  4. Angela Says:

    I am a 55, a woman, mother, wife, sister, friend and a teacher. I love being all these things and am grateful that I am. I pray to God to hold my hand and guide me in the right direction everyday. I feel that I can do so much more and I want to. My expereince has been that it all works out and everyday opportunities come my way. I love spreading kindness and ask everyone I come in contact with to pass it on. Kindness is magic to most people I need.

  5. Amelia Says:

    great article…and now I have a new mantra..”we are all on a need to know basis” 🙂 it is actually quite soothing

  6. emily keenum Says:

    i love stephen covey’s analogy of how we think of a plane’s “flight route” as a straight line from point A to point B, but in fact planes are always going off course. They continually reset. drift a bit, set your course, drift another way, reset. the human condition seems to require a continual resetting. or at least mine does.

  7. Annette Says:

    “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

  8. Gina Says:

    Lisa is absolutely right. You just keep doing what feels good and what feels right & the rest will reveal itself. And know that you are touching more people’s lives & inspiring more people than you realize. I’ve been hovering since the Oprah article, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented or posted.

  9. I think most of us women are planners and the more information we have about where we’re headed the more at peace and comfortable we are. However, I don’t think that’s what God wants us to do. I think He wants us to put our trust in Him to navigate our lives. Easy to say (and write) but not always so easy to live by.

    Joel Osteen recently tweeted “Learn to accept the place where you are. God is directing your footsteps. You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”

    I have to constantly remind myself to accept the place where I currently am. But I’m human, so sometimes my need to control things takes over. Until I read something that reminds me it’s okay to be content with wherever I am in all aspects of my life.

    So today I will embrace all the good and the challenges presented to me today knowing that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

  10. Kelly Says:

    Just “the next right thing” is all I have to do…not the next 20 right things…blessings to you and yours

  11. What wonderful comments and deep sharing…I too am fixer, a pilot, a navigator…can’t do it all…and waiting is so very hard, but you got it right sweet one…release…your work…where you are…is not done yet. Enjoy the journey and keep spreading the magic.

  12. dianne Says:

    I needed this today…thank you

  13. Kristin Says:

    This is the second time this week I’ve been reminded that we can only see as far as our headlights, but we can make the whole trip that way. Thank you.
    These are such difficult times we live in. I worry that I will never be able to find a job that provides financial security. Luckily, I have been offered a two-month job this summer for $8 an hour. That is enough for now, but I can’t help but worry about the future.

    • kindnessgirl Says:

      thinking of you Kristin as you hold the future in your heart…sending strength and hope your way.

  14. winemakingwithjuliet Says:

    Thanks for your post Patience. You’re so very different from most of the people I know who tend to think things like, “If you don’t have what you want, you haven’t worked hard enough to get it” or “No one ever handed me anything in my whole life”, concepts I find to be patently untrue. Today I am applying for an entry level job (that people in high school work, to get experience in the workplace) working terrible hours at a pay that will barely cover my cost of living. I am grateful that a friend will recommend me and that I will have some income, but this isn’t the future I envisioned for myself. And if this is where I am supposed to be, right now in the universe, I only have swear words to describe it. Because I don’t want to be here and my best efforts couldn’t prevent it.
    Surely this isn’t my best or happiest moment. The place I might be working is one where a lot of people will run into me, and this also makes it kind of terrible. “What are you doing working here?” “Oh, that’s so sad.”
    One has to do what one has to do, but all I can think is, “Why does it have to be this?” On this part of it, I am lacking gratitude.
    I suppose the only thing I can do I apply for the job with dignity and calmness, two things out of most that I actually have control over.

    I hope everyone here is more comfortable with their place in the universe. If not, let’s commiserate. 🙂

    • Melissa Says:

      @winemakingwithjuliet: I believe that nothing happens without God’s okay. That doesn’t make anything feel better but it makes more tolerable for me. I may be in a place that other’s will ridicule, that other’s will pity, that other’s will judge, etc. But, Jesus was, too, and He sits at the right hand of God. If God has allowed for me to work regardless of what type of job, I thank Him that I am not unemployed and that I am physically capable of working. Then, I ask Him to put me in a position that will bring Him glory. It certainly isn’t easy, but I also don’t believe it’s supposed to be. Life is messy but, that’s where the beauty can be found.

    • kindnessgirl Says:

      ughhh….that sucks on so many levels…I have no answers but sending hope and goodness your way…and a glass of wine, and just the right kind of commiserating your way until things change again…and kindness. may kindness find you tonight.

      • winemakingwithjuliet Says:

        Thank you Melissa and Patience. The manager was really nice and i have an interview Thursday. Each person has to go with the beliefs that are right for them but for me, in my life, if someone has pre-planned how much of it has gone down, I wonder why anyone would pre-plan that. 🙂 I hope kindness finds you both tonight.

  15. Danyelle Says:

    I worry about employment as I am getting laid off as of tomorrow…..do I take the first offer that comes my way? Do I hold out for something good? Will I even get a “first offer”?

    I like to drive in the day time where I can see the WHOLE ROAD – – I don’t want to have to depend on the headlights.

    Faith is a lot harder than it looks

    • Danyelle.. it WILL work out.. I’ve been there… just take the first offer and keep looking…. it is going to workout!
      fingers crossed for you!

      • kindnessgirl Says:

        yes, it is so much harder and I am not sure I know what it means to be be a good driver in the dark yet…but know we are with you and will share our light if you need it.

  16. Erika Says:

    I’ve been sweating the point for far too long. The Point is my unknown. I’ve just grown tried of trying to figure it out and getting lost in maze of the unknown knowledge. Better to do things because you love them. That’s the point. My days have felt easier since I figured that out.

  17. Beth Chambers Says:

    Patience, can I tell you that your relief is MY relief?! I’ve been thinking about your struggle since I witnessed it in February. And I “needed to know” that you are ok with your path. Ha! 🙂 What you do can’t be harnessed or stuffed into a PR box – it just “is” and it’s glorious. I’m glad you can make peace with the unknown. Your friend’s comments are good advice and certainly helfpul for me today as well. Hope your light flashes my way again one day, lady. Until then, keep your path illuminated. 🙂

  18. Cindy Says:

    Can I ever relate! I was just journaling the same types of questions to myself today – how/when will this situation ever resolve? I’m dealing with two parents with Alzheimer’s and all of the issues surrounding that – the medication confusion, the total resistance to moving to assisted living, the family drama of all of us being stressed far beyond our normal capacity.
    Thank you for this post! The answer to my question is “none of my business” right now, I just need to keep plugging away and doing the best I can to help myself and my parents.

  19. LizI Says:

    I have to say that sometimes I walk this world without a flashlight. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is all I can manage. There are so many things that I rely on blind faith for, dating, jobs, being the best person I can be. There is something to be said about doing the next right thing and thinking no further than that.

    That said, I think I speak for many when I say that there have been many moments when your words have become my flashlight. You have said things that I have not been able to articulate. You are a kindness guru to so many and an inspiration to even more. I think often about what you have to say and know that there is a balance in my life that I am in the process of creating by being kind to myself and kind to others. And this is done by flash light and constant readjusting. Keep being you Patience your presence is a gift to the world.


    • kindnessgirl Says:

      oh thanks Liz…sometimes it’s hard for me to receive kind words back but there is something about what you wrote and how you wrote it that is allowing me to take it into my heart tonight. so thank you.

    • Cindy Tyra Says:

      Liz, I couldn’t have said it any better. You nailed it!

  20. Jen Bailey Says:

    Reading this beautiful post, and then these insightful honest comments, I feel as though my light has gotten a little bit brighter after feeling so dim lately. I can relate to so much of what Patience and everyone is feeling. Perhaps we are all connected in our worries and fears, our sorrows and “what ifs”. Perhaps in realizing we are not alone in this, our paths are all illuminated just a tiny bit more. Thank you so much.

  21. G Says:

    Keep the faith. TV is a weird animal.

  22. TIffany Says:

    I wish I could give you glasses to see your life from the outside looking in. I read your blog and I think ” why am I not doing what really matters, kindness. Why am I just going to work coming home trying to keep up with the Joneses. I feel myself looking back saying “why didn’t I do more kindness and forget the rest?” I went to Africa for two weeks, 11 years ago and it changed me. After seeing things from that point of view, my whole life was about things that really mattered. Kindness, good laughs, children, health etc. I would think , I’m worried about a cell phone bill or a promotion and there are kids without water! It was so easy to see then. Now 11 years has passed and I believe America changed me back. I need another trip to reset my heart and mind.. When I die it will b memories of kindness I think of, my children carrying that on. What if that is your purpose! What if your book doesn’t come? Maybe it will be your daughters book that will, because she grew up watching you. Your purpose is deep seated in this world. I mean you were in oprah magazine, Oprah ! Oprah who influences the entire world. She is a legend and she found you, your blog, your kindness. That’s your moment. And that your kids get to live your life’s work with you and be a part of it. You are doing everything right, totally, absolutely right.

    • kindnessgirl Says:

      Oh thank you Tiffany! You are so right…it was an incredible moment, and the gifts from the article are still coming…and I continue to be grateful. and you know, I never even thought it may be my kids that end up carrying on the kindness torch- but what is interesting is that most of what I learned about kindness, I learned from my parents. 🙂
      (confession: I really do still hope I get to write that book. :)) AND I hope you get to go back to Africa some day, I would really love to go too! Thank you for your words…i needed the perspective.

  23. stuartart Says:

    Oh wow! That really resonates with me. I’m trying to keep a hold on 1001 things I HAVE to do to get my new book out there, when in actual fact I just need to methodically move through each on in turn and leave HOW that might turn out to the universe’ momentum. Thanks for the timely reminder. 🙂

  24. WRITE THE BOOK— We’ll help you edit it, self publish it and we’ll buy it… 🙂

  25. Brenda Says:

    Patience, you’ve done it again…given beauty to something that is not so beautiful. 🙂 Keep doing what you’re doing…it’s all beautiful!!

  26. Miriam Says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s so timely in my life, too.

    Patience, your just being is such a gift to the rest of us. Your doing is the icing on the cake–{too much icing makes us all sick!}


  27. barefootlisa Says:

    Patience, this obviously resonates with soooo many of us. Yes, on a need to know basis. My mom has always always told me “just do the next right thing.” Some times that is taking a nap, getting off the computer and on to the ground and playing w/ my kiddos, or saying NO, or saying YES. Just the next right thing. And sometimes — that’s just exhaling. Gentleness, kindness, allowing. I know of no other way. Oh …and surrender. I hear you, girl. I hear you!

  28. Shannon Says:

    Oh, how things do come to you when you need them, even if you didn’t realize it. This post and conversation has been a blessing.
    Last year I lost my job of 16 years, I felt unfairly. Shortly after, I took a job that several people warned me away from, but it felt like the right thing and all along the way, they had gone on and on about how great it was going to be. I was also full of anxiety because I am the primary breadwinner and life would be vastly different without my income.

    Well, 6 months and many hurt feelings later, I am again looking for work. Sadly, practicing kindness and caring (in a geriatric practice) was valued far less than the bottom line. This time, however, I am in a much better mental place and actually looking forward to the summer with my children after killing myself for so long at this job to try to make it work. I will have an income through July, but no immediate prospects for the future. I am just like so many of you who have posted- I’m the fixer, the have to have everything mapped out just so, the ‘if i just work hard enough, they will like me/understand me/appreciate me’ person. I am that person who has always “hustled for worthiness.”

    But…I keep trying to convince myself that this was how it was supposed to be: I had been so busy, I had not yet finished all the summer camp reservations; it came just as school ended and I can spend fat, lazy, unstructured summer time with my kids for the first time ever; I have learned so much about how I envision my future practice being than I would have if I had stayed at my old job or if I had not taken this one.

    I still have my moments of angst at finding a new position (and, realistically) income, but I really am driving in the dark with my headlights on right now. I don’t know what the future holds, and I need to figure out where I am going before too long. But right now that headlight distance seems okay, especially as my kids and I make plans about our next Ding Dong Ditch that we have been putting off waaay too long because I was always working.

    Thanks, everyone.

    • Kristin Says:


      I related to so many things you said in your comment. My heart is hoping for you and cheering you on. I wish you the best summer ever with your kids, and I pray that a great opportunity will come your way soon.

  29. marleystop Says:

    Patience– Oh how i needed to stumble into your words tonight..
    I was speaking with Alexis (Scott) and mentioning a desire to be in control and my recent attempts to “send some things into the universe”. Our conversation led me to your facebook which led me here… just where I needed to be.
    I have a LOT of reading to do in your archives, I think… a little reflection in the midst of that… and hopefully in short order I will be in touch about what led me here in the first place.
    I can’t wait to see what’s in front of my flashlight!

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