Friday’s Focus—Again

It’s been some time since I’ve been here last. Did you miss me? I did! Literally. Things have been so hectic with the selling and moving from our home to not only a new house but a new state,  I feel as though I lost myself in the process. Everything was put on hold that didn’t have to do with the day job, lawyers, bankers, or real estate agents. The only writing I was doing were checks and emails. Subjects of blogs and short stories swirled in my head borne out of people we met and circumstances but there they stayed, behind the wall of my mind and never making it beyond the thought, “Oh, I should write about that.” It’s time to breathe life into those stories and writings again.

Last night, I decided enough was enough and sat down to the keyboard to let my fingers do the walking so my mind can do the talking, and well, here we are. Again. Still feeling my sea legs in the new place, I look for corners and spaces as new homes for my yoga mat and books. Settling into a daily routine of day job mixed in with the new neighborhood sounds will take awhile, but in the meantime, I’m growing accustomed to the sounds of hammers and saws sprinkled with a few swear words from my husband, which has actually been helpful to use as a gauge on how well (?) repairs have been going!

This move is the cap of what has been a fierce 8 months (actually the last 3 years) of continuous major life events. Feeling tense and uptight had become very familiar feelings for me. Sitting within these new four walls, with the dust settling and the boxes slowly being unpacked, I can still feel the anxiety continue to surround me, which is exactly what I had wanted to change. “Maybe it’s too soon,” I tell myself. “I need to give myself time to slow the twitching and unwind from the hectic pace,” I add.

Almost as a ready response, I hear the words “no matter where you go, there you are” echo through my head and immediately recognize the truth in it. No matter where you go—house, hut, country, or planet you move or travel to, if the changes you seek aren’t made within, it won’t matter what zip code you land in.

I knew better than to expect a complete whoosh of having all my problems disappear as I watched the tail lights of the moving truck leave, but I guess to be honest, on some deep level, I must have expected it to happen all the same.

How we experience things all comes from our perspective, and if our perspective, our basic way of seeing something, doesn’t change, our experiences and our views will continue to be more of the same. This week, as I get myself back into my writing, and once again set my sight on the changes I want to make within (and without), I’m consciously refining my perspective of what each day can bring. This is not about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but rather taking off those glasses to get a clearer and more honest view. One of the simplest and most profound ways of doing this is by intention, which is something we can all do.

Even if you don’t have any plans of moving or traveling any time soon, you can still set your intention and perspective anew each day and welcome yourself home.

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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—Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs

Signs, signs, everywhere are signs….the clocks moved ahead, the flowers are budding, Easter candy has been on sale since February….all signs indicating that Spring is around the corner (at least after the next predicted snowfall). There are always signs around us, guiding us, informing us, playing with us. How often do you notice them?

If you’re on the road, notice license plates and slogans on trucks. Listening to the radio, notice if a song or a chorus resonates with you. When you’re watching TV, talking to people, or reading a book, become aware of any word, phrase, or idea that keeps popping up (“That’s the third time I’ve heard that today!”).

Make it a game! Sometimes the Universe uses what’s around us to reveal answers to a particular question or something that may be on your mind, while other times, what we see is just a fascinating reveal of simple patterns. One of my favorite authors, Robert Moss, talks about this regularly and it is the focus of his book Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life. He calls these reveals, sidewalk tarot. Be aware of your thoughts and aware of your surroundings as you go about your day and see if the Universe doesn’t have a word or two to offer you.

Last September, I wrote a post called “Don’t Stop Believing,” about keeping the faith and hope alive even when you can’t clearly see the path in front of you. What inspired me to write that piece was my going through a difficult time where it seemed that every area of my life—from job to health to family was being squeezed. You name it, and there was an issue or at least a concern with it.

During that time, the song of the same name, by the group Journey, kept popping up during some of the deepest experiences I’ve ever had in playing sidewalk tarot. I started to notice that moments when I’d get lost in thought of “How am I…?” “Where are we…?” Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believing” would come on the radio—sometimes from the beginning, sometimes the middle, and sometimes the tail end, but just enough of the notes for me to recognize the song. I heard it so often during these times of personal questions, I couldn’t help but notice it had long crossed the line from coincidence to message.

One particular afternoon I’ll never forget, my husband and I were people-watching from a bench in the center of the town we’ve been talking about moving to. We dreamed and schemed about how we can arrange things and make this our new home. At that time, there was no clear way that we could see it happening, so we kept pleading our cause to the Universe.

As we continued to sit and talk about the house we would have and what we would do once we moved there, a blue pick-up truck came into the local traffic queue and in the most perfectly-timed sidewalk tarot orchestration I’ve ever seen, the truck drove past us, and through it’s open windows we heard the undeniable voice of Steve Perry belt out those three words “Don’t Stop Believing.” That was it for me. Not only was it the appearance of that song, but what stunned us was of all the lyrics, it was those specific three words that we heard as the truck passed directly in front of us as if in answer to our questions. I didn’t know how but I knew  from that day things would work. Six months later,  we’re now in the process of moving to the town we’ve always talked about.

There were other moments  when those three specific words showed up for me, and now looking back, I can see that it was always during the times I needed to hear them most. Because I had become aware of the message, each time I heard them or read them, I was able to take a moment and just close my eyes and say ok. I wasn’t alone.

Signs can come from anywhere and everywhere, from an image in the clouds to a phrase in a commercial. Sometimes you’ll see the signs when you least expect it and other times when you’ve specifically asked for them.  I hope you use today’s Focus to go out and play and see what the Universe has to say to you today—Is it an answer? Is it a new opportunity? Is it a new pattern? Whatever it is, just Don’t Stop Believing!

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—From Stuff to Simplicity

About a month ago we made the commitment to put our house up for sale and in preparation for the realtor’s picture day, we’ve been busy packing, boxing, disassembling, and either donating things or throwing them out. This has shown me two things: we have way too much stuff and the different ideas my husband and I have of ways to get rid of things.

I tend to just toss something either in a give-away pile to a local drop box of whatever charity I can find in the nearest parking lot, or throw it out in the garbage. Even larger things (thank you strong garbagemen). I want to add, as a caveat, lest my throwing things out is seen as being cavalier, it’s not. I would be more than happy to donate to any number of organizations but they have become extremely picky at what they take and won’t come to my zip code.

Trust me. I’ve tried….numerous times, from my father-in-law’s passing, to my mother’s passing, and now to us planning our move. I ended up having to hire a haul-away company for my mother’s things because no one would take the furniture. In speaking with the owner of the company, he agreed with how difficult it is to donate these days where we live but what I liked about them is that they bring the items they pick-up to other agencies first to try and donate them before just trashing it. Since I don’t have the capability to move larger items to the nearest facility (about 20 miles away) and take a chance they may not even accept the donation, this doesn’t leave many options open, so it’s garbage, parking lot donation box, or haul-away.

My husband holds onto things he’s more than ready to let go of but would rather give said object to someone he knows, which I think is actually very admirable, sweet, and thoughtful, but it also makes it harder and takes longer to get rid of things which end up in bags in his car until he sees the person! I’m a big believer that things find themselves to people who need them and so, I figure, let the Universe decide who gets what, but my husband goes for the the more personal touch.

In the last few years, we’ve found a middle ground focusing on a community center we know of that does great things for the neighborhood and is much needed by providing crisis intervention, information, prevention, and support services to individuals and families. This is something we both strongly believe in and we’ve come to make special piles dedicated to donating to this center. We strongly believe in this place and what it does and means for the community, and personally, I’m happy because I’m still getting rid of things and my husband’s happy because even though he may not know the person’s name that will receive that shirt or book or whatever, he knows the type of people who frequent there and is more than happy to help those individuals and families out.

Now that we need to start weeding through a lot more stuff for our eventual move we’ve both become a little more ruthless at what stays, what goes, and how it goes. What I’ve found so interesting is not just our divesting styles but the psychology at play when you go through a clean-up.

There’s our parents philosophy that creeps through with “We paid for it so we need to hold on to it, because throwing it away is like throwing away good money” and then there’s, “Well, maybe one day we’ll use it.” And of course, the favorite, “Oh I’ll fit into that again…..It will come back in style…I’m sure I can use it somehow…..Every time I’ve thrown something out before I’ve needed it a few days later….” Not anymore. Whatever it is if it hasn’t been used yet—off it goes to a token person or a token garbage bag.

There are some things that are harder to toss than others because of personal attachments but it’s also those same attachments to people or places that make it easier to let some things go if the memories aren’t so good. I’ve learned that the memories in our minds and experiences of events mean so much more (and take up less space) than any tchotchke or T-shirt that doesn’t fit anymore anyway.

Packing things for our move has been very cathartic and a step towards simplicity that we’ve been yearning for. I’ve been yearning for. Every spring of course, there’s the token spring clean-up but judging by the amount of things we still have, spring wasn’t enough of a motivator. Moving out of house is though!

I’m craving the need to shake out and crawl out from under anything excessive and using that space to stretch and breathe. It’s more than metaphor or an inspirational passage. As much as I’ve been working on myself on the inside to rid things that don’t serve me, so I’m moving on to the outside. It’s time to create that much needed space around me in addition to inside me and it feels good. Looking around at the boxes already packed and the piles of books still needing to be gone through, there’s so much to do, but it’s a start.

When will you have enough of your stuff and what will make you move from Stuff to Simplicity?

#takingitdeeper

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Now.

Every single one of us.
Has something to say.
It’s not just a story.
It’s their story.
It’s your story.
It’s your time to tell it.
It’s your time to write it.
To draw it.
To sing it.
To be it.
Will you?
Or.
Will you let it remain.
In your mind.
In your soul.
As a thought.
As a desire.
As a dream.
Let’s make it so.
And be.
Who we have been.
Dreaming ourselves to be.

#taingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—Our Dash

Changes changes
The planets are aligning
Our stars are falling,
The winter full moon
shines a light for the storm coming home.

Passages and endings make way for new beginnings, yes, but couldn’t there yet, just be one more day? For some, a death is expected while for others, it’s not. Either way, it’s a part of the bigger cycle but who cares about the bigger cycle when all you want is that one more day?

It makes us stop and snaps us out of where we are. I’ve written before about how a death can make us take stock of where we are in our living, and where we think we’ve been, but I’ve found that with each passing, the snap is fresh and the restocking feels brand-new. When my mother passed away, my life shifted in ways I could never have foreseen except by first-hand experience. It’s still so new to me and I keep sifting through my mental attic and basement; shuffling, sorting, tagging, boxing, and working through old habits, memories, thoughts, and baggage that don’t serve me any more and so I don’t want them around. It’s a process, for sure, and one with a capital “P”.

Then came news of the deaths of several musicians and actors. All well-known, all larger than life, suddenly a headline with a new date added to the end of a dash. It was shock after shock for many people. The papers reported most of the causes were from long-term illnesses so it’s safe to say that their passing was more of a surprise for us than for them, but no less devastating. Grief doesn’t care how famous you are.

David Bowie and Glenn Frey’s deaths hit me the hardest. I felt sucker punched. They were the soundtrack to anyone growing up in the Seventies. Pick any song by either of them and guaranteed there is a memory curled and wrapped around it. It was the theme to boyfriends, first loves, summer nights, great friends and days filled with the innocence of blue jeans, long hair and the freedom of a full tank of gas in that first car you bought with your own money. It was about taking the world by the balls and we were innocent and hopeful enough to think we could. No matter what, it was all going to be alright. Their voices, their music was inspired and inspiring.

“People don’t run out of dreams, they just run out of time” sang Frey in “River of Dreams.” It really is all about that dash in the middle and what you do with it. The death of loved ones and creative giants like those we’ve recently lost grabs us and shakes us and challenges us to look at ourselves and our dashes. Their music and movies are a reminder of our younger selves and who we wanted to be, who we could be. Not like them necessarily, but the best of us.

“What will be left of all the fearing and wanting associated with your problematic life situation that every day takes up most of your attention? A dash, one or two inches long, between the date of birth and date of death on your gravestone.” ― Eckhart Tolle

Last night I stood outside under the light of the moon, and stared, in awe, at the alignment of the planets and I couldn’t help but feel the smallness of my humanity under God’s dome.  I will do this again tonight, and then, when the snowflakes begin to fall ushering in this Winter’s first fury, I will come inside, sit by the fire, hug my loved one, and pay attention to my dash.

Will you?

#takingitdeeper
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Friday’s Focus—Not Just for Today

Last night, I sat in the dark with nothing but a candle lit and the Christmas tree lights on.

I squinted and the lights looked like colored stars that might otherwise have shined out into the night.

Each ornament a memory, a celebration of a time and a place. Christmas cards with holiday greetings and blessings of the new year hang nearby, a reminder of friends near and far.

The smell of the pine mixed with the scent of the candle filled my senses, and I could hear the carols from a radio in another room. I felt surrounded by the spirit of Christmas and the true celebration of its tidings of peace and joy.

This year, the greatest gift I could have gotten was seeing the generosity, compassion, love, and appreciation in people as my mother’s health declined and finally ended.

To witness genuine nurturing between two people whose only thing in common is that they are sharing the same space under one roof for a few hours, was a testament, to me, of how much you can love and take care of a stranger. Eye color, skin color, religion, and ethnicity gets stripped away until all that is left are the two hearts, which beat the same.

I think it was especially poignant this year because my mother’s passing was on the eve of Christmas eve, and my focus was simply on caring for her. No holiday department store sale could touch me.

My Christmas gift from God, if you will, was seeing and being reminded of our deep capacity to love and care for one another, with no attachments, no “What’s in it for me,” kind of thing.

I plan to take this gift and do my best to share it with friends and family and strangers alike, throughout the coming year, and not let it stop at Christmas or with my mother’s passing.

The ultimate pay it forward, if you will.

Won’t you share it with me?

#takingitdeeper

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Friday’s Focus—There Is This

What is in between but touch?
A gentle stroke, skin whispering to skin.
A firm hold, fingers intertwined.
An embrace that suspends you in time.
Fingertips, lips. arms, bodies.

It all comes down to touch.

It’s between the lovers in the darkest hours before morning.
It’s between a parent and a newborn babe.
It’s between the living and the dying.
It’s between two friends, two strangers, two human beings.

It’s this.
All this.
In our deepest human experience,
when no words can convey…

there is touch….

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#takingitdeeper

Friday’s Focus—And How Will You?

Your pen can write a love letter or a scathing hate note.

Your pencil can render a beautiful sketch or be used as a weapon.

Your hand can gently caress or slap a face.

Your mouth can utter sweet nothings or spew hateful accusations.

Your foot can take a step forward or kick someone when they are down.

Your words can raise someone’s spirits or tear someone down.

Your whisper can be a secret or a prayer.

Your heart can love immeasurably or shut down, shut out, and beat itself to death out of fear and anxiety.

A glass of wine can be used to unwind or be the first of many toward inebriation.

A locked door can keep you safe or it can be your prison.

And it goes on…

We all have choices. What will you choose?

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#takingitdeeper

Defining Moments

Today, I woke up and fell in love with the sound of the rain.
The clock ticked and the refrigerator hummed as I let my coffee grow cold beside me while I continued to listen to the drips of water outside my window.

It was a moment of perfection.
Not THE defining moment in my life but certainly one of them.

Yesterday I heard the expression, “defining moment” more times in one day since I don’t know when. It inevitably caught my attention and by the third mention, I could almost feel the poke on my shoulder and hear the “Pssst” in my ear.

What was my defining moment?
Did I have one?
It was a great question and gave me much to chew on.

I don’t think I can say I have ONE defining moment but rather several small ones that, looking back, certainly add up. Maybe my big ONE moment is still to come. Maybe not. Maybe it is meant to be chuncked into these smaller pieces. I think the end result is the same though. Moments occur in which my self meets my Self in a series of Howdy do’s.

Falling in love with the sound of the rain and the quiet moments between the ticks of the clock, was certainly one of those times because in that pause when everything is just so….a realization, a shift of perception, was finally able to wake up and bubble up. But they haven’t always been so peaceful and serene.

I think that any time something happens (whether it’s an event or simply a time of reflection) that gives us the chance to redirect and realign where we are in our thoughts and actions—basically where we are in our life, is a defining moment. They’re not always welcome…at first, and not always what we think they are… at first.

I believe that these moments, whether they come as softly as a whispered ah-ha in meditation or as powerful and disruptive/destructive as a hurricane, it’s what we make of them that holds the key to our growth.

Hindsight has the gift of reflection and hopefully clarity. I’m not going to lie and say I never thought “Why Me?” when things happened to me and it was only through hindsight, sometimes years away from the original incident, did I see the circumstances for what they were and  looking back has now allowed me to say “I’m glad it was me.”

Have you given thoughts to any of your defining moments?