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2 woodless graphite pencils in plastic sheaths...

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I’m going to tell you a random fact about me that you probably wouldn’t have guessed. When I was younger, well before running, there was one activity I did to relieve stress. No, no, get your minds out of the gutter. It was a repetitive activity that most people only do when they need to, but I do know other people who do it for no real reason.

What did I do, you ask?

I sharpened pencils.

It didn’t matter whether it was a traditional pencil sharpener or an electric one. It didn’t matter if I had to twist a handle or twist the pencil. Something about those little curls of wood and sharpening the tip just so made me calm. I was everyone’s best friend at exam time. 😀

There’s two real points to this post’s title. One has to do with that random opener, and one doesn’t. The one that does is this: Sometimes you have to peel away some skin and get the lead out. You can’t really use a pencil that hasn’t been sharpened. The lead has to be exposed so you can write with it. The lead itself is too fragile to be completely exposed, so it’s encased in a sturdier material to hold it up a bit. Some of that tough exterior has to be stripped away in order for a pencil to be useful.

Perhaps there are some things that make up your exterior that are tough, things that have held you up and allowed you to be the sturdy individual that you are that are also limiting your usefulness. We all have some skill or ability within us that is useful, this fragile thing that we need to nourish and protect in order for it to reach it’s full potential. Sometimes we are so intent on making it sturdy and fortified, we make it useless. What good is your tender, giving heart if it’s encased in a bitter, angry attitude? You’re only trying to protect your heart, as well you should, but you aren’t allowing your best qualities to shine through.

You have to know when it’s time to shed a few layers of skin and sharpen that special talent or ability you have. When you feel it becoming dull, sharpen it again. Don’t get rid of your more rigid and stable qualities altogether, but allow yourself to be useful. Make some impact on the world around you. Add to your legacy in some way other than by how independent you were. Plug back into your community in some way and utilize the better parts of yourself. Get the lead out.

As a writer, I know the power of the pencil. It has been said that life and death are found in the tongue; a pencil is just an extension of that. We allow are thoughts to take shape on the page, to walk around and speak to other people. Pencils harness our creative power. They force us to slow down and carefully related each minor word and detail in a way a keyboard never will. We are allowed to create our own versions of life, tell what we know to be the truth, remind ourselves of the things we want to accomplish. But first, you have to expose the lead.

That’s my bit of wisdom to you today: Whatever amazing things lie at your core, get them out into the open. Celebrate the unique abilities you have. Sharpen and improve them. Then use them. You aren’t any use to anyone if you don’t.

That’s my two cents, anyway. Leave yours in the comments section. What light are you hiding under a bushel? Do you have trouble uncovering/exposing your talent? How are you going to sharpen it? How can it be useful?