Friday’s Focus—Setting the Timer

All good things in moderation. How about all things in moderation? Good is subjective. It’s good to have a job but if you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, unless you’re throughly in love with what you’re doing, it’s not so good. If it’s not our jobs, many of us find ourselves giving to our spouses, our children, our families, our committees,  and our friends. Did I miss anyone? Oh, yeah. When do we give to ourselves?

Commitment is commendable but so often, and so quickly, we find ourselves chasing our own tail and living in fear of making sure we did what we were supposed to and make sure all angles are covered.

Each one of us has a personal motivation for doing what we do and for however long and hard we choose to do them. Typically, the urgency and frenetic energy of the “hamster on a wheel life” starts to feel like the norm and anything otherwise can tend to make us feel lost or like we’re missing or forgetting something.

I think we all know on a root level when we are doing too much and become out of balance. Once we see it, it becomes a matter of taking our attention deeper and consciously setting the timer to approach whatever we’re doing in a manner more aligned with balance of anything that’s been missing (or been pushed out).

It’s not just important but imperative to our mental health (which influences our physical health) to find that benchmark within us and understand the driving force behind what is creating the one-sidedness and drive.

The realization came for me as an almost physical click. Sitting quietly one day, my monkey mind was incessantly chattering away as it swung from thought to thought “And then this [inhale] but then what if [exhale] oh yeah and then that [inhale]…” when suddenly I felt a tug in my solar plexus and a loud “NO” reverberate through me.

I was done. Cooked. In all of its frenetic energy that monkey ripped away a veil that had been covering what I finally recognized as feelings of fear I was using as my drive: fear of missing something, and then the deeper dirt-honest fear of not being good enough and making mistakes.

So, now what? So now I set the timer. Some time for this. Some time for that. Like a New Year’s resolution, it’s so easy to set an intention, but it’s another to put it into action. Recognizing and understanding motivations is a great start. To make any sort of difference though, we need to go the next step and put the intentions into action.

No matter how good we are at our jobs, at our roles of parent or spouse, it’s impossible to cover all angles all of the time and make sure that something isn’t overlooked there, or a skinned knee is missed here. Sometimes we need to set a timer on our overload of one-sidedness. Making a mistake is not a taboo. Wearing a band-aid is not the end of the world. You’ll live. We don’t need a permission slip from anyone else but ourselves. And admittedly, sometimes that’s the hardest permission to get.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—There’s One on Every Corner

My father-in-law used to say, “Opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got them.” And they do. Whether it’s good or bad depends on what side of the opinion you’re on. Sometimes it’s neither but there’s still a comment that didn’t have to be made. I’ve let people’s opinions knock me off my course and hurt me. I believed what they said because I thought they knew better, had more experience = knowledge and I’m sorry now. It’s hard to stay true to your own compass at any age but especially when you’re a teenager or young adult.

One such person was a professor I had in college. I was an art major and he was not only my professor but also Chair of the Department. I knew his reputation early on, but he taught many of the classes I had to take and so there was no way around escaping his classes or attention.  Soon enough, he showed himself the tyrant that I was warned of. One afternoon, he went around the room critiquing each student’s assignment from the previous week. He stopped in front of mine and completely tore it apart telling me I had no idea what art was and I had no talent. This was the latest in a series of derogatory and humiliating criticisms I heard from him.

His comments of my work and  my abilities was particularly harsh, and I decided I was done. That was my last art class and I changed my major the next day. Reading that, you may feel I was weak to have done so, or just not passionate enough to stay with my art. Trust me, I thought the same things about myself then.

And so do the kids who are told they are stupid and can’t learn anything; the young adults that are told they’ll never make anything of themselves if they don’t have a job; the girl who’s told she’s not pretty enough until she loses weight; the boy who won’t grow up to be a “real” man because he doesn’t like sports.

I didn’t believe in myself enough to stick with it. It’s not about pride—it’s about believing that you can do something and if not now, then one day. This can be taught to us only so far by our peers but there’s also something within each one of us that needs to recognize it and own it. Sometimes we do, but it’s not until much later in our lives.

It’s never too late or too early to believe in yourself and what you can do. I bet there is something each one of us was told we couldn’t do or be, which changed the directions in our lives.

Every day, every hour, every conversation, every argument, every person you meet, every relationship you’re in and every situation that presents itself is an opportunity and a chance. Take it, run with it and believe in yourself.

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—Being the Center of Your Own Universe

It’s only natural to want the people you love to be happy. Who doesn’t want to see their family and loved ones content and taken care of? But what if that happiness comes at the expense of your own feelings, to the point where you specifically change the way you do things and go about your own life just to secure someone else’s happiness?

A few days ago, my husband and I had tentatively planned on doing a day trip for the upcoming weekend. I wasn’t really thrilled with going but I said I would because I knew it would make him happy to go to this place. I didn’t know it at the time, but he really wasn’t up to traveling, but was prepared to go because I said I wanted to. We were both willing to make the trip because we thought it was what the other person wanted.

After a bit more discussion, he looked at me and said “Do you really want to go?” I made a face and answered, “No, not really,” to which his shoulders slumped and he smiled and said, “Good, I’m so glad you said that because I’m not up to it but I thought you wanted to go so I was willing to give it a try.” We both felt such relief sharing how we honestly felt. A short while later, I said to him, “I still feel bad about not going. I know you like it there and I wanted you to be happy,” to which he responded, “Don’t worry about it. You’re not in charge of my universe.”

KABONG. Though it hasn’t been often, he’s said this to me before, and each time, when I thought about it, I realized I was doing things to ensure his happiness at the expense of mine. It’s not bad or wrong to want someone you love to be happy—it’s what you do in a healthy relationship, but, when you consistently sacrifice your own happiness and compromise your feelings to make someone else happy, it’s not good or healthy anymore for either one of you. Another person’s happiness does not nor should depend upon your actions for them. Your actions are not the center of their Universe dictating how happy or content they feel. I’ve understood this on a subtle level but this was one of those cartoonish Kabong moments that it finally sunk in.

I think a lot of that had to do with setting my mother up into an Assisted Living facility last week because she couldn’t live alone anymore. The emotions from that decision rocked everyone in my immediate family. Even though we knew it was for the best, there was (and is) still a lot of emotion involved. She is still in the adjustment period and in thinking of ways that I might be able to make it easier for her, I realized that I couldn’t do any more than what I had been. With stunning clarity, it finally became obvious just how much I was making myself the center of her Universe and yet, no matter what I did, I would not be able to solve her problems, resolve her issues, or make her any happier. That’s a role that is hers and hers alone, as it is with each one of us. I will continue to care for and look for ways to make my loved ones happy but this time, from a more decidedly healthier stand.

I’m working on becoming the center of my own Universe instead of or in addition to other people’s. Sometimes, going the distance to make sure someone is happy has roots deeper than feelings of love for the person and wanting their satisfaction. It can come from a need for a sense of approval, acceptance, or even a justification of our own existence. To discover the true underbelly of our motivations as to why we do things is a very personal road and is different for each one of us.

Today’s Focus is about bringing attention to areas in each of your lives where you may be making yourself the center of someones else’s Universe instead of your own. Look beyond the actions you take to make others happy. Don’t take away their lessons; their own path. It is not up to you to ensure someone else’s feelings or contentment no matter how you feel about them. While it’s generous and deeply loving to want to ensure someone else’s happiness, the flip side is it’s a disservice to them in that you’re taking away chances and opportunities for them to learn their lessons and walk down their path. You can hold them in empathy but you can’t use your life and your resources to make someone else happy without perhaps the biggest disservice of all—the sacrifice of your own life and energy.

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—When Not Asking Is Louder Than Asking

Admit it—we don’t want to believe it but it’s true: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I feel pretty confident to say that we’ve all seen this whether it’s with our coworkers or our own families. Sometimes the squeaks from these people are so loud that we tend to overlook those who seem content and quietly go along, not asking anyone for anything as they cruise through their days. BUT. What if they’re not as content as they seem to be? Not everyone asks for help when they need it or when they should. The reasons are as many as the colors in a 64 color Crayola box:

Not wanting to appear weak or helpless;
Not wanting pity;
Shame of not doing something perhaps they used to do;
Fear of ridicule;
A still-held belief in their own strength and abilities;
Feelings of unworthiness;
Fear of being judged.

And these are just the colors in the first row. Whatever an individual’s reason may be, it’s just as important to pay attention to what’s not being said and what’s not being asked as to what is actually articulated. Silence should not be an assumption that all is right with this person’s world. If offering the assistance is still met with hesitance, don’t give up at the first rebuff.

Some people are reticent about asking for help regarding their own needs and you may very well be one of them. If so, think about the reasons why you may not ask. Look back at the list above—do any of those reasons apply to you? If so, learn to be comfortable in your own discomfort and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help, whether it’s with a personal problem or with a ride to the grocery store. No one is perfect and believe it or not, no one expects us to be except for the pressure we put on ourselves.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they need help because they’re so used to having to do things by themselves and so oftentimes it becomes more evident to family and friends when help is needed before it does to the individual. Today’s Friday Focus is really something that is an everyday Focus: Become aware of those around you and notice how actions can speak louder than words; how sometimes not asking for help is the same as if they shouted it from the rooftops.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main….
—John Donne, No Man Is An Island
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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Admitting

The other day, Jill, a friend of my family, had called me in tears saying that she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t handle the pressures of her current work situation and didn’t know what to do about it.

She had never said anything like this to me before and though we were friendly enough with each other and spoke often about what was happening in our lives there was still always that separation between us, so I was especially caught off guard by the brutal honesty of her call. She was given a three week work assignment that exposed her to levels of business dealings and decision makings she didn’t have a lot of previous experience with. I knew that on one hand she was excited at the prospect of being trusted but on the other, nervous about how it would all work out. The time came and there were the normal blips that happened and she was handling things well enough to keep things moving. But then the call came.

It was just one of those days when nothing was going right and whatever could go wrong did. Imagine weeks of Mercury Retrograde packed into a few hours! Situations and problems just exploded exponentially. The morning of the call, there were already problems brewing on the job but then, the personality of one particular employee, who was high-maintenance and had a combative nature was the factor that tipped Jill’s balance. Jill had taken this woman under her wing because she reminded Jill of her own mom, but this woman’s constant neediness and antagonistic behavior was becoming a real issue from increased confusion of early onset Alzheimer’s. Coupled with a series of problems that had come up that Thursday morning brought the frustrations of Jill’s new responsibilities to a peak. Her initial fear of not being able to do the job seemed to come to fruition and that morning brought her to the point of the phone call to me and the tears.

In truth, it was the first time that she was left with such enormous responsibility and for such a long time, and I think it would have been a challenge to many people with her experience. Listening to her talk, I didn’t judge her for how she was feeling because when I heard her say that she couldn’t do it all and didn’t know what to do or who to talk to, I heard myself in her voice and in her words and most deeply, I heard myself in her tears. How could I possibly judge her for something I knew only too well from experience, from words and tears I’ve cried myself?

I just listened and let her talk. I assured her that she was going to be alright and that all she could do, and all anyone could expect from her, was to do the best that she could. There’s no way that she would know all the answers to the situations that cropped up—how could she since she never dealt with them in that capacity before? I told her she did the right thing by walking away from an argument that was brewing. She was afraid of what she was going to say and so walked away to sit in her office to cool down and gather her thoughts. It was then that she called me. I was really surprised that it was me she reached out to, but I’m glad she did, because I completely understood every emotion she was going through.

The conversation with Jill was a good reminder about how important it is for each one of us to feel free to admit our fears and frustrations and honestly say, “I don’t know how to do this.” or “I can’t handle this.” It’s here in that mustard-seed moment that our true power comes in.

Each one of us has our own threshold of what we can handle or think we can handle and we do so in different ways. Some people dodge responsibilities when they feel they can’t handle them, others plow through them like a bull, and then there are those, who I think are the bravest of all, are honest with themselves and admit that it’s not working.

My mother used to say, “Don’t play hero,” meaning don’t be so full of bravado to think you can handle everything yourself. The real hero, as far as I’m concerned is the person who admits that they can’t do everything themselves and that they don’t know it all. And there’s no shame in that. Even just admitting it to yourself is an act of release that opens up space and energy in yourself, creating room to allow for growth.

Admitting that something is too much for you to handle is not a sign of weakness, insecurity, or immaturity as some would have you believe. I look at it as a sign of maturity, honesty, and integrity with yourself and it’s from that place, from that deep place of surrendering and acknowledging that you don’t know, don’t have all the answers, and don’t know what to do is when we grow our strongest self.

I am lucky in that I have someone in my life I have said the very same things to about situations I found myself in and I have had my days of being alone where the only thing I felt I could do was literally throw my hands in the air and cry out to an empty room, “I can’t do this!” Each time I did this, I grew. And I know Jill will too. And you, as you’re reading this thinking about your own situation that you’re wondering how you’re going to get through.

I hope this Friday’s Focus will take you to a place in yourself where you can find solace in knowing it’s okay to admit, even to yourself—when you’ve had enough and you don’t know what to do. It’s okay to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It doesn’t matter if it comes as a shout or a whisper, you’ll find that you can do whatever it is but you will do it to the best that you can and not to the expectations others had for you or the ones you may have placed on yourself.

Go and be your own hero today!

Friday’s Focus—Face the Fear

The immortal words of FDR says it all: “[The] only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear can make whatever we want or need to do seem larger and worse than it really is. Having a healthy sense of fear can be a life-saver, but when fear keeps you from moving forward or taking the next step, then it becomes more of a hinderance than a helper.

Don’t let your fear and insecurities get in the way of whatever it is that’s been stopping you. Put all that energy of worrying about “what happens if…” to better use and see for yourself “what happens when“.

Remember, though there may be similarities, each person’s experience is their own, so don’t rely on what happened with other people and use that as an excuse for not stepping through your own fear.

Don’t be afraid—be curious!

Have a good weekend!
Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Friday Focus’s—Getting Out of Our Own Way

So often our we let our insecurities and fears hold us back from things we want to do. Or maybe it’s thoughts about what he said/she said that replay in our mind. Each one of us has two choices: Rest in the comfort but constraining mindset eventually giving birth to regrets or change the subject in your head and not care so much about what other people say or think. In other words, change your focus.

It’s up to you, but if you really want to get juicy about life and turn those, “Oh, but I can’t” into “Let’s go!” we first have to start with getting out of our own way  by getting past old fears, habits, voices, and thinking. What’s been holding you back?

Have a great weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Friday’s Focus—Creating From Your Inner Twitch

There is a feeling inside all of us that makes our fingers twitch, our toes tap, and our voices hum, and if you tell me you’ve never felt it, I won’t believe you. We ALL experience this at some point in our lives.

You may not know what that urge is or that inkling or feeling is, but I’m going to let you in on a secret—it’s your creativity calling out, begging to be seen and heard.

It’s like a deep itch that nothing quite yet has scratched. You feel like there is something inside that is so full, so ready to burst but you don’t know what to do with it, like the energy before a storm except you feel it all within you.

Today’s focus is on releasing that creativity and letting it out to be seen and heard. Listen to your creativity today instead of the critics and let it go!

Paint, draw, doodle, take photos, compose a tune using the drums or keyboard on Garageband; sing in the shower or in your car, create a meal with whatever’s in the fridge; dance even if you look like Elaine from that episode of Seinfeld.

Let it out and use today’s focus to create from your inner twitch!

Have a great weekend!

Keeping it light and singing LiLoLa [Live, Love, Laugh] all the way…

Why I Do What I Do

Someone asked me the other day why I write. What was it about writing that attracted me and wasn’t I scared or nervous to put myself “out there”?

I write because I want to. I write because there is something inside of me that wants its own voice heard whether it’s a piece of fiction, a personal cry of injustice, or simply an homage to a sunrise. Do I get nervous making my writing public? Sure, but I do it anyway. I wouldn’t say I’m fearless or brave and yes, there’s an edge of trepidation that accompanies every piece I push out into the world, but it’s not enough to stop me anymore.

It’s only natural to feel scared. People can be downright petty, cruel, judgmental, and jealous but they can also be loving, supportive, inspiring, and forgiving. To the haters and their fears: I’m sorry you feel the way you do and that you have that much energy to waste being negative. I’m not going to let you stop me from sharing how I feel or what I want to say.

As I’ve gotten older and collected more stories, I care less about being judged and more about being heard, and that’s where I want my energy to go. What I write about is how I feel and about my observations and no one can say that my feelings are wrong.

Writing is the breath to my creativity. It’s the voice of my loves, likes, curiosities, and trepidations, and maybe most importantly, it’s the voice of my heart. I write because it feels good. It’s the kind of feel-good feeling I used to get with the first inhale of a cigarette or the first glass of wine after a long day and with it came that blissful sweet spot of release as I felt myself soften and relax.

Where do I want to go with my writing? I’ll let my stories take me where they decide. I’m proud to have already published a non-fiction book, but now as I work on my first fictional novel, other fiction stories are pouring out of me for the first time. Spontaneous mental scenarios and conversations between characters are now a normal part of my day that just begged to be noticed and written.

I would love to publish my fiction either as a self-published work or through more traditional ways, but these days, to be a published author also means having to be a lawyer, designer, editor, proofreader, and marketer, and if that’s not enough, you have to know how to tweet, pin, share, post, upload, and download to reach the maximum potential audience. To have all this control over one’s work is great, but I also see how it can be time-consuming and daunting. I get overwhelmed sometimes just thinking about it.

I’ve decided to stop worrying about all the things I’m going to have to do once my stories are ready and focus instead, on what got me here on a blog in the first place, and that is simply my desire to write and to create.

So here I am again, sharing my thoughts. A writer writing about writing, and maybe just maybe, giving someone out there reading this the courage to start writing and posting and a reminder to let the future take care of itself. Don’t stop dreaming of writing that best-seller or having thousands of blog followers. As Jim Morrison sang, “This is the best part of the trip, …this is the trip…the best part.”

Blogging From A to Z: You

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Sometimes we feel as though there is no one we can talk to; no one to turn to share our fears and hopes and whatever it is we are feeling. How often have you wished that someone would just grab you by the shoulders and say, “yes, you….”?

So, I am dedicating this next to last post in the A to Z blogging of the letter “Y”, to you:

Yes, you are going to make it through this hour, this morning, this afternoon, this evening, today.

Yes, you are going to impress them with your interviewing skills.

Yes, you are strong enough to handle this.

Yes, you can commit to this relationship.

Yes, you are going to be a good mom/dad.

Yes, you can finish that marathon.

Yes, you can go back to school.

Yes, you can stop drinking/smoking.

Yes, you will survive this and get through it.

Yes, you can write it/compose it/draw it.

Yes, you can / will _______________________[fill in the blank], and no, you’re not alone.

Taking it deeper…..