The Art of Being Human II: The Flip Side

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to say no? And I don’t mean the “Because I said NO!” kind of no. I mean the, “No, I’m not going to be able to X, Y, Z.” “No, I’m not going to take/bring/cook/fill in the blank.”  We don’t want to disappoint the ones asking but we seem to think of nothing of disappointing the ones doing—ourselves! Whether it’s a parent thing, a friend thing, a spouse thing, a daughter thing, a work thing, or any other kind of thing, it really doesn’t matter what the situation is where we say yes instead of knowing that we really mean to say no.

No is a strong word and saying it can be empowering but also scary. It should never mean that we failed ourselves or another person when we say no, sometimes even after having said yes and changing our mind.

Agreeing to something we don’t want to do isn’t always intentional. There are circumstances when we say yes, and we mean it at the time, but sometimes things change and that’s when the conflict comes in of changing our answer. Occasionally we say yes because we don’t want to disappoint the other person or we feel strongly that it’s important to keep our word, but when whatever you agreed to do is more for the benefit of the other person than for you, it becomes a disservice.

I’ve been saying no to people and things more frequently recently as a matter of self-preservation from crazy schedules and admittedly, some self-induced commitments, but it hasn’t always been easy. I still find it difficult but what I recently became aware of was that no matter how uncomfortable it may be to say no, it is okay to doThat soul whisper in my ear of “it’s okay to say no” one morning not that long ago, when I was thinking of a decision I needed to make, caught me off-guard and stopped me short. I never thought I needed to give myself permission to say such a simple word, but really, it’s more than about the one word. It’s about granting myself permission to do be in true alignment of my beliefs and heart. I strongly believe in keeping one’s word, but I feel just as strongly in keeping true to myself.

The ego wants to be the king/queen of the prom and will agree to anything that will get them that crown for being the good girl, the savior, the reliable one so it will always say yes. Next time you say yes, ask yourself who is saying Yes– your heart or your ego?  By saying no, we can take the lead in the dance.

Realizing this and recognizing the power of choice has shifted things enormously for me in my heart, my head, and of course, my schedule! I feel freer in saying yes, and by the same token, saying no. The next time you are asked to do something, I urge you to think for a moment of your answer. The choice is yours of course, but I hope that if “no” is really the answer you want to give, then allow yourself to do so and notice what happens within.

As I write this, I’m reminded of the lyrics to the song “Time to Change” that was sung by Peter Brady in the 1972 episode from the Brady Bunch show. Peter is approaching puberty and his voice begins to crack but with a smile on his face, he loudly sings:

“When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
Move your heart to where you’re gonna be.
Sha na na na na na na na, she na na na na.”

So go ahead–Let your voice crack and let your soul sing:

“Sha na na na na na na na, she na na na na”—NO!



See the USA in Your Chevrolet….

I love highway rest stops. There. I said it. Rest stops, truck stops, I love them all. Those commercialized hubs on the major highways and over state lines gets my heart beating a little faster every time we go on the road. With the warmer weather around the corner, I have vacation/road trip on the brain, and with that comes memories of past road trips and so naturally, between needing gas and restroom breaks, there are the rest stops.

There is a sense of adventure in the anonymity of rest stops and an unspoken instant camaraderie with other road travelers. No matter where you go, they’re all the same–people striding purposefully toward the bathroom while others leisurely eyeball the cold case for something to munch. Then you have the tchotchke shoppers checking the token key chains, shot glasses, hats, and t-shirts emblazoned with the state bird or motto of wherever they are. Newspapers, magazines, local and state maps, and miscellaneous car paraphernalia round out the window shopping before heading over to the cashier to pay for the coffee or whatever it is that will get these travelers through to the next leg of their trip.

Where are all these people going? Coming from? Who are they visiting? Meeting? Leaving? Rest stops are like a pause in the journey. It lets you take a time out and assess how far you’ve come and how far you’ve yet to go.

Every vacation has a story and every road trip just begs for one. Some of my favorite memories have come from rest stop situations that enhanced our vacations like nothing else could have, from “lost keys” that ended up being on the air filter of the car engine while stopped in Memphis to a rest stop in Pennsylvania where I gave a woman back her wallet she thought she lost but simply left behind in the bathroom.

My favorite rest stop memory though happened just outside of Las Vegas where I found a coupon for 10 percent off a wedding service at a Vegas chapel. The initial reason for our Nevada trip was a whole other story, but we held on to the coupon and in the end, simply couldn’t resist. We got married on the way back to the airport on our last day in Vegas and then boarded the plane to come home. (Yes, we used the coupon.)

That particular rest stop has led me to the best road trip of all as this year marks 20 years with my husband—definitely the trip of a lifetime! So if you’re planning on any sort of road trip for your next vacation, be sure to enjoy the rest stops along the way. You’ll never know what you’ll find or where they may lead you, but at the very least it could be one of the best parts of the trip!


Finding Our Tribe

I was at the Apple store yesterday needing to get my computer fixed and I sat down to wait next to an elderly woman, who appeared to be somewhere in her 80s, who was also waiting service for her laptop. She caught my attention because not only was it rare to see someone that age sitting at the Genius bar with a laptop in front of her, but she was just a beautiful woman, dressed very casually but elegantly with soft-looking gently, curled gray hair, and beautiful silver jewelry. I found her intriguing and tried not to stare at her as I waited for my turn, when she started talking to the technician, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop.

She, too, was having problems with her laptop battery. She lived in an adult community and recently she’d been taking her laptop to an armchair in her room and logging into iTunes and YouTube to listen to music from the 1920s. She said that the community she lived in had a shared playlist on iTunes (!) that everyone contributes to and she was using that when her computer stopped working. I was intrigued and charmed with her comfortableness around the computer as they went through some troubleshooting procedures, her choice of music (she said she especially liked Sophie Tucker), and impressed that she was living in a community with other seniors who shared their iTunes library. Who were these people? I want to be like them when I’m their age!

I couldn’t stop smiling as I listened and decided right then that I want to be like her when I get to be her age. She completely blew the stigma of senior citizen out the door and I got to thinking about what keeps us fresh and supple in our thinking and attitude (I’m purposely not adding “as we age” because you can be “old” whether you’re 20 or 60, and anywhere in between).

I recently read an article about how when you get to be a certain age, you start looking for people that are your people. People you want to surround yourself with not ones you find yourself surrounded with. At a certain point in our lives, if we allow it, we begin to build our tribes. That special group of people, friends and acquaintances that inspire us, hold us in accountability and truth, and make us want to go that little bit further. It’s a place where we can exchange stories and share and not compete

Thinking about this the other night, I realized I have been doing just that. By putting myself out there as a writer and an artist, I have unconsciously begun to surround myself with other poets, artists, musicians, and writers, and people who have gone through similar experiences as me. These people all call to me and call from me. It’s like we all recognize each other on a soul level. When you have that kind of surrounding, I believe you can do and be anything.

I want to dance the Bossa Nova when I’m 50, I want to still play with iTunes and sing to the Beatles when I’m 60, I want to hold a paintbrush in my hand when I’m 70, I want to still be writing when I’m 80, and I want to be an inspiration when I’m 90. Thank you lady from the Apple store. You don’t know it but you’ve certainly inspired me, and dear reader, I hope I inspire you as you all find your own tribes!

The Art of Being Human

You don’t need to know a name, date of birth, or occupation and it doesn’t take a big commitment. It can be a gesture as small and simple as a smile, holding the door open, or allowing that car into your lane of traffic. It’s about looking into the cashier’s eyes when they hand you back your change in the supermarket line. It’s about saying Good Morning every day to the security guard at work who never looks up but then one day, returns with his own, Good Morning.

It’s about helping someone who is lost find their way back to familiar surroundings by letting them follow you in their car. It’s about remembering that there are actual people behind the phone calls and tweets and screen names on Facebook. It’s about calling customer service and instead of giving a complaint, complement the service you just received. It’s about sharing an article or a photo with someone because it reminded you of them.

It’s about not always waiting to be asked. It’s about paying it forward, paying it backward and whatever falls in between. It should not be something we need to remember to do, it should be simply the way we are. It’s something that should not wait for a holiday to show people how we feel.

We are spiritual beings learning to be human. We are human beings learning to be spiritual. We never know what each day will bring or even every hour. My mother-in-law used to say, “It’s nice to be nice.” It doesn’t mean we can’t get angry, but recognizing that the anger should be about the right things—for wrongdoings and injustices, and not to be angry just because something didn’t go our way. Anger is a natural emotion and can be all powerful and used the right way, can move mountains, but so can empathy, love, and joy. It’s about the art of being human.

It’s a balance of recognizing each other’s soul and existence and stepping up and out without having a reason for doing so other than opportunity. It’s about not hiding behind our anonymity of technology or the false strength in our insecurities. It’s also about nonexpectations and about trust. We have no way of knowing where our one act of kindness, our one act of humanness can lead, but just trust that it does.

Let me

Let me make you think.
Let me make you squirm.
Let me make you uncomfortable.
Not to be a mean girl but to be an inspiration;
not to make you feel lonely but to show you that you are not alone.

Let me take you by the hand and we’ll peel back the layers together.
Let me show you that your underbelly is not a weakness or something to hide. It is a soft place where dreams are born and die and are born again but with bigger wings.

Don’t hate me for making you question your own limitations.
Don’t put me down because you’re too scared to look in the mirror with the light on and you’re too afraid to be alone with it in the dark.
Don’t tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when you haven’t even tried to step in my shoes, let alone really walk in your own.

Don’t tell me you don’t have anything to say because by your shear existence, your breath is your pen.
Don’t tell me that no one can love you, because I do.
Don’t tell me that no one believes in you, because I do.
Don’t tell me that you can’t go on…move up…let go, because I believe you can.
Don’t tell me that you aren’t worthy, because you are.