Thursday, July 29, 2010

You Had Me at Hello

It’s funny, my husband never even read my blog post yesterday, but he got back from a business trip and handed me a card he picked up for me in the airport. He said he saw it and had to get it for me. It says: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” A quote from Neale Donald Walsch.

I gotta say, it’s pretty great to be married to someone who not only gets me, but supports all my phases and stages.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcoming the Breeze

I love quotes. Sometimes other people have already summed up what I’m thinking or feeling. Sometimes I just love the way a quote hits me. One I ran across is from a writer named Barbara De Angelis; “We need to find the courage to say “NO” to the things and people that are not serving us if we want to rediscover ourselves and live our lives with authenticity.”

I think that’s pretty awesome. For me, I’m thinking more about the thoughts and emotions that aren’t serving me well. Like so many other things, I’ve definitely settled into an emotional pattern with feelings like fear and lack of self-esteem (to name just a couple). Even if they’re negative emotions, there is a comfort in them. I know them, what they feel like, how I respond to them. To move away from them means moving to feelings I’m unfamiliar with. And as someone recently told me (and I’m sure its quoted from someone/somewhere) – “the hell you know is less scary than the heaven you don’t”. Something like that, anyway. True indeed.

Getting older is something I love, and I think a large part of that is because every year I get more courage to cast off things that aren’t working. I wish I could be more aggressive about it, but regardless of the pace, I’m better every year. I will say that I think sometimes things happen that do force a much bigger leap forward, for whatever reason. I probably won’t have a good view of this for years to come, but I do think this is one of those years for me. The kind of year that marks a shift in myself, my career, my relationships, my life. The catalyst? It would have to be the untimely death of my father. Nothing like watching someone struck down quickly to make you think about life and how you’re living it.

I’m not saying I can toss off the security blanket of fear and self-judgment completely, or in one gesture. I’ve worn that fabric for a long time. But I’m pretty excited about pushing it off a shoulder and seeing what the breeze will feel like.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Taking it Down a Notch

I was talking to a friend today, and we were talking about my fears and just generally about the negative feelings that we as humans harbor. It was kind of enlightening to notice that so many things I fear or that I resent are things that are self-inflicted. Things I’m holding onto – not something that is being forced on me. Which is cool – because if its in my control, well, then I should just be able to let them go, right?

Right. But…wait. How? Exactly where I’m at now. One thing that I’m doing to figure it out is to kind of flip the table a bit. Instead of looking at all the things I want to get rid of, I’m trying to look at the things I want to be/have/feel. What does the best me look like to me?

I’m brought back to the comment of an extremely sane friend who listened patiently as I bitched about what someone had said or done and how much it upset me and so on and so on. When I stopped to take a breath he looked at me evenly and asked, “why do you care?” I was stumped. Why DID I care? I couldn’t control that person's actions, focusing on it only bothered me, and it had nothing to DO with me. It was that other persons issue. I think about that comment a lot, and I still don’t have a good answer. It’s impossible for me to not care at all what other people think, but I certainly could do with a healthy slide down the scale in that direction.

Not sure how to do that either. But hey, at least I’m trying. Right?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Puppies in Wolves Clothing

I heard this great story the other day that I think was originally told by LBJ.

A little boy ran into his house yelling and screaming that there was a wolf in the front yard. His mother, knowing there were no wolves in the area, ran out to look and saw the neighbor’s dog in the yard.
Anxious to get back to her chores, she punished her son for telling lies. “You know that is the neighbor’s dog and not a wolf. You shouldn’t run in here screaming, scaring everyone like that. I want you to go up to your room and pray about what you did.”
Awhile later, she went up to the boy’s room.
“So did you pray?” The boy nodded. “And what did God tell you?”
“He thought it was a wolf too!!!”

I love this story because it’s all about perspective. We all have our own perspectives – some we have held our whole lives through. Some are shifted dramatically by events in our lives, or people and conversations, or explorations of ourselves.

I think that challenging our perspectives and trying on some other ones, just to gain a broader view on something, is a great exercise. Sometimes it brings me back to my original view with a stronger conviction, and other times it brings me to a whole new place. Right now, I’m taking a hard look at some behaviors of mine that have been habits that I thought I needed. Habits that covered my lack of self-esteem or gave me the ability to put something between myself and something else. And you know what? Its super-liberating, and really enlightening.

I thought some things were wolves, but they turned out to be puppies. And that is a good thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Me and My Tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about God and spirituality lately. God and I have had a complex relationship. And religion and I have gone toe to toe more than once. I’ve typically dealt with any questions around my beliefs with the phrase “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.” I think I believed it. But I didn’t really ever have anyone hold me to task on it, and I never had to actually really define what that means to me. And I’m realizing that all these years, I’ve pretty much used that phrase as a copout and just put myself at the head of my world.

I’m kind of rethinking that. I still am not comfortable with the word “God.” It makes me squirmy. So far, I’ve gotten to the point where I do believe in a higher power – something more than me. I don’t know what that is or what that looks like at all. Which is ok.

I’ve had some things making me think about this a lot lately. And I’ve decided that for me, the image of a higher power is a tree. Its bigger than me, and its connected to the Earth. I could go on about the aspects of a tree that align to my thinking about a higher power. Not to mention that trees just make me happy.

No worries – I don’t plan to get all weird and preachy with spirituality and higher powers. But I do think there is a benefit and a place for those thoughts. And I do like the process of making myself think about it and being honest about what I really believe – and don’t believe. For the moment, me and my tree will just be pondering things.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Holy Brain Cells

I’ve been recently reminded of how physically taxing it is to be mentally and emotionally functioning at a high level of intensity. I remember when I went to the Peace Corps I spoke no Spanish (aside from “Hola” and “Cerveza”). I lived with a family, so I was immediately in a situation where I struggled to communicate daily. The first 3 months in country I spent in crash language and cultural courses, ramping up faster than I ever remember doing before or since. Most nights I was so completely and totally exhausted from the mental and emotional energy I had used that day that I hit the bed at about 8pm every night.

I feel like that now. I’ve got some pretty intense stuff going on at work, and I’ve also taken on some personal work that involves what I guess could be defined as a personal deep dive into myself. And man, I am just BEAT. Its all so good, and I know the work and the effort will be totally worth it on all counts. I think I just haven’t taken on something big and new for a long time, so I forgot how tiring it can be.

All that said, its also very exhilarating after such a long time to challenge myself. I’m not bored, that’s for certain. And to some degree I’m altering the very foundation that I’ve used as my personal bedrock for most of my life. Pretty scary and weird, and also really cool to know that you can shift gears anytime in an effort to get things more right. To be better and to live better.

So its 8: 15pm and I’m wiped. So off to bed. Looking forward to sharing more about what’s going on as I process. Brain shutting off…..NOW.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Oh, The Humanity!!

I’ve been thinking a lot about toolboxes. Not the normal kind with the hammer, screwdrivers and such – but the mental kind. The toolboxes full of things that help us navigate life and crazy situations. My toolbox has been feeling a little on the lean side lately. So I’m doing some things to fill it up.

Some of the hardest things we do as people, I think, involve opening ourselves up and making ourselves vulnerable. Humility. Admitting our faults. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m kind of a black and white kind of person. When I approach something, I do it perfectly or else I’ve totally failed. I don’t give myself a lot of grey. But I’m trying.

I recently was chatting with a new friend who told me “you know, this sounds stupid, but I only am just now realizing that I’m not perfect. And man, what a HUGE relief!” I get that totally. As soon as you give yourself permission to not be perfect, it’s like a weigh is lifted. The irony is that the pressure to be perfect is probably only coming from you. And you are the one who can make it go away. It’s so easy – yet it can be SO hard to do.

So, I’m human. I screw up. I’m learning to ask for help. Learning to throw my arms up in some aspects of my life and say “I can’t do this, I need help”. And I’m learning that it’s ok. Beyond that, even. It’s actually awesome to recognize that we’re just human. What a relief indeed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Life Was Weird

Holy insane week. I have some nutty stuff going on at work that is keeping me busier than I’ve been in a long time. On the one hand its good – I hate being bored. On the other, I could use some downtime, you know? But things should calm down shortly, so there is an end in sight.

So now that I actually have a second to sit and write, I’m drawing a blank . Sheesh. Though I did just remind myself a couple hours ago about some funny past experiences. I used to have a weird, crazy life. I lived all over and it seemed like unlikely things happened all the time. It was great – though after awhile I was ready for a calm, settled lifestyle. Anyway, I was living in New Orleans for awhile at one point and found myself backstage at House of Blues sitting on a couch with Tito Puente, sharing a bottle of vodka for hours. He was awesome and we had a total blast. At the time, that’s just the kind of weird stuff that seemed to happen. But in retrospect, I’m like – wow. That is weird and cool and totally random.

On another random evening a few years earlier Tommy Lasorda invited me out to dinner. I went and we talked about his grandkids because I started the conversation telling him I know nothing about baseball. True story.

Why do I always run into famous people who could be my grandfather? Why not Johnny Depp, just once? There was an evening partying with Jon Lovitz, but, well – he’s not exactly Johnny Depp either. That was a fun night though.

I’ll probably get my writing groove back soon – I feel it coming. In the meantime you’re stuck with odd stories of my former, more bizarre (if less stable) life. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hug it Out

I love quotes – bumper stickers, whatever. Anything that makes me smile or think. But I was driving today and saw one that just hit me wrong. It said “To err is human. To forgive is not something that I do.” Ouch!

I have a lot of reasons to find forgiveness difficult. I have a mother-in-law and father-in-law I’ve never met, who disowned their son and in 11 years have never met me or their 5 year-old grandson. I have known people who have deliberately gone out of their way to hurt me, who make a conscious decision to be mean or cruel. But what I have learned over the years is that the only way I can move past those things and not let it make me crazy is to forgive. And I can’t imagine holding onto the anger and frustration. What a waste of my energy.

When I was in the Peace Corps, the village I lived in was small and most people were totally uneducated. The ironic thing was that there was a strong sense of political allegiance. Part of it is that the political parties would come into the villages and bribe people with food and money – things they desperately needed. I also think people found pride in being attached to political groups – even though they didn’t really see the whole picture of politics in general. Sadly, I saw these political games breakup friendships and even families. Brothers who wouldn’t speak because each supported (i.e. was bought out) by an opposing party.

Anyway, my work in the village wasn’t associated with a party – I was out to help everyone. This didn’t go over well with some. At one point after I’d lived there for well over a year I had managed to get the government to give me permission to start a pilot project in natural resource management in my area of the country. Until then, people were being arrested for cutting down trees to build homes. I launched a program that allowed people to cut down only what they needed – and we started a community nursery that they were required to work in and then plant 20 trees on their property for every one they cut down. It worked beautifully. I even had the Vice-President of the Dominican Republic come out with camera crews to check it out.

But I pissed some people off in the community, who felt I was favoring villagers on one side of the political fence. I think I just wasn’t paying attention to who was with which group. Anyway, some villagers got together and wrote a letter to the government asking to oust me from the village. It was sent behind my back and signed by people who I thought of as family there. A government official I had gotten to be friends with came out to the village to tell me about it.

I was devastated. Then mad. Then defensive. But once I managed to calm down I made a decision. I went to each of the 7 people who signed the letter. I told them how hurt I was and I told them how much I had wished they had come to me with their issues before taking a step like that. And then I forgave them. And I know for a fact that I walked out of each conversation with a clear head and that it took each of those people awhile to feel better about things. And I told them I’d work with any of them anytime again – and would continue to as long as I was there. And once they could face me again, we did work together.

It’s amazing what forgiveness can do for everyone on all sides. And so to the person driving that car with the bumper sticker – I hope they figure that out someday and take that thing off. It would be a lesson well worth learning.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Think and Grow Exhausted

My newest book on CD for my car time is “Think and Grow Rich”. You know what surprised me about this one? I know it’s been popular forever, but I guess I always thought it was just a book focused on money. Investing, saving, etc. I never looked into it much.

I was totally wrong – this is a GREAT book. It’s definitely right in line with all the other stuff I’ve been reading about how your thinking and feeling affects your success. It’s pretty inspirational and definitely makes you think. The book also gives tons of short bios of amazing, successful people – which I find interesting and motivating. I recommend it for sure!

Anyway, it’s definitely helped feed that fire under me. I’ve realized I’m actually pretty torn in a few directions right now. On the one hand I have some pretty cool and satisfying stuff going on at work. I’ve launched a new service and have, so far, a team of 15 contractors working for me. On the other hand, I have this book I’m working on. And though I’ve been working on shaping the plot and characters in my head, over the past few weeks I haven’t had a moment to sit and put it on paper. Time is the one thing I haven’t had much of, and that’s what I need.

That said, I’m not feeling too bad about it. My plan right now is to roll with the work stuff, and keep thinking about the book. I’m hoping that in a month or so I’ll have enough time to take a couple days off, go out solo to a place in the hill country, and just write and write. I feel confident that this will come and I will make it happen, and oddly that knowledge alone is providing me with peace about it all.

What I’m ready for now is to stop thinking TOO seriously, have a great holiday weekend, and enjoy my amazing little family. Cheers to THAT!