Monthly Archives: May 2014

Remembering and Reflecting

Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the USA. Historically, for me that has meant a day off of work, perhaps a barbecue with family and/or friends, and maybe some fireworks somewhere. When I was younger there might have been a parade. It was festive, relaxing, and fun.

This Memorial Day, I decided to sit down and really reflect on what it means to me to remember the service men and women of this country. I began by searching my memory banks of family and friends for all the people I know who have gone into service. It turns out the list was a lot longer than I originally thought it would be.

It starts with my grandfather, who was a member of the cavalry. I actually still have his belt from that time, stored away in my keepsake trunk. It’s dry and tattered, and I love it. He was a good man, who did his best by his family, and I loved his laugh.

Beyond my grandfather, I have cousins, friends, friends of friends, ex-boyfriends, former classmates, and other relatives who have signed up to serve at one time or another. It seems that at most stages of my life I’ve known someone who has served my country. What a remarkable thing, considering the draft was eliminated shortly after I was born.

I then reflected on a couple of these people in particular, and how I feel about their decision to sign up for such an unknowable endeavor. You see, the thing is, when you sign up for service, if something happens, you go. It’s not optional. You can’t suddenly decide you don’t want to be in a war, tired and hungry, scared and homesick. You go. Whether you feel ready or not, whether you want to or not, whether you agree with it or not – you go.

And that’s what struck me the most when I truly sat down to think about the decision to join the armed forces. The sacrifice is not only in the loss of life that we hear about with each operation, but it’s in the willingness to sign up without any guarantee of what that ultimately means. There is no way to know that when you enlist there won’t be a war the following day. You can hope there isn’t, but there’s no promise. There’s only the promise you have made on the day you decided to serve: that you will go, no matter what. And that, to me, is what’s most extraordinary.

I can’t think of any other decision that is so filled with faith and hope. To agree to do something, without truly knowing what that may entail, is the greatest leap of faith I can imagine. For that reason (and so many more) I sit in awe and deep gratitude for those who have made the decision to serve their country. Thank you. xo

Letting it Happen

Last week I had a chat with a very dear friend (who always seems to know how to challenge me in just the right way at just the right time – I call him My Muse. Lol)

Anyhow, My Muse and I were discussing all sorts of existential issues, but one that we ended up focusing on was this idea of constantly trying to make things happen. Personally, I recoil at the Nike slogan “Just do it.” Here’s why:

If people could “just do it” don’t you think they would?

Seriously, it’s simply not that simple. Creating change goes deeper. If someone’s not ready for change telling them to “just do” anything isn’t going to be effective. In fact, it will almost always backfire. (If you want to see the proof of why that slogan doesn’t work – look around you at the billion-dollar industries geared at helping people lose weight, get healthy, earn more, etc. If we could all “just do it,” none of these would exist – though admittedly, it’s been brilliant for Nike.)

And here’s another thought that came streaming into my brain as we were chatting that demonstrates my reaction:

Just because something is easy(ier) for you,
does not mean it *should* be the same for me.

“Just do it” implies that we are all the same, starting from the same point, with the same experiences and tools, and that all that’s missing is the motivation to get up and just do whatever it is that we’re currently not doing.

And that’s when My Muse chimed in with: “So, just let it happen – what have you got to lose?”

It took me a minute (ok, it took me a day or so) to wrap my head around what he was saying. Part of me got defensive, but a bigger part of me knew there was something there that I couldn’t quite grasp…yet.

My initial reaction was “that’s a cop out,” followed quickly by “huh,” and then the ubiquitous phrase enjoyed by all thinkers out there, “Hmm….” He gave me pause. I started to consider his words. A day later this quote by Mandy Hale came across my news feed:

“You will get there when you are meant to get there
and not one moment sooner…so relax, breathe, and be patient.”

My initial reaction (“that’s a cop out”) was based on a prescribed thought pattern that suggests that inactivity, or lack or proactivity, is wrong. If we’re not out there (wherever ‘there’ is) actively pursuing our goals and dreams, then we’re failing before we begin.

But that’s simply not true. And I know this.

So, what’s going on? My Muse’s statement was a challenge, a reminder, and a gift. As all good muse’s do, he created an opportunity for me to get creative and really dig in to an idea.

I have a saying that I like to use (actually, my mom gave it to me at some point, and I use it regularly – My Muse uses it now too, so it must be good! Lol):

Sitting with my thumb in my navel.

It’s what I use to describe that absolutely necessary time we all need to slow down, breathe, recharge, and create the space we need in our hearts, minds, and bodies (our lives!) to be who we are, authentically… and to ALLOW the Universe to support us. That means we become more deliberate in both what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We open ourselves up to greater possibility and to letting things happen as they’re meant to.

This isn’t about advocating laziness or a lack of accountability and responsibility, it’s about advocating deliberate thought and action. Knowing when to make things happen and when to let things happen. And it’s about showing up for yourself in a deeper way. Understanding your values, goals and dreams, as well as your blind spots and Achilles heel. “Just do it” takes none of that into account. “Just let it happen” makes it all possible. What a beautiful reminder.

Thank you, My Muse. xo

What’s in the Box?

Once you open the lid on the box of awareness, you can’t close it again. It’s not like ‘The Matrix’ where you get a glimpse and then get a choice, one option of which is the choice to go back to sleep. It doesn’t work like that. In fact, it’s pretty much the opposite. In order to get the “glimpse” we have to open the box.

First, though, we get a nudge to want a glimpse, which requires waking up. We become aware of something. For everybody the catalyst is different. Sometimes it’s health-related, sometimes it’s a life event, or sometimes it’s a subtle nagging from your subconscious and nothing more. There’s always a catalyst, and it’s usually that moment in time that stirred you just enough to ask a simple question: Why?

Why… are things like this?
Why… am I feeling this way?
Why… can’t I make progress?

Once that’s happened, it’s usually followed by the thought: There must be another way.

Enter: the Box.

Once you see the box, you can never un-see it (this is where ‘The Matrix’ reference comes into play). You can’t choose to forget you’ve seen the box. The Box of Possibility lies before you, and it’s filled with your story and your identity.

The box will never go away again, even if you push it aside or store it in the attic-like recesses of your mind for months or years. You will always know it’s there, asking the question “Why…?” and answering it with, “There must be another way.” Furthermore, the longer you avoid the box once you’ve seen it, the more difficult life can become.

Eventually, we all open the box. (Seriously, we all do in the end. Curiosity is an ally here, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.) And, once we’ve opened the box, we can never put the lid back on. In fact, opening it pretty much destroys the lid rendering it useless.

So, what’s in this Box of Possibility?

All your hopes and fears, your dreams and desires, your goals and failures. It’s filled with the story of your life, or lives. (And yes, One Direction just came streaming into my consciousness. Sigh – I love that song!)

Inside the Box is everything you are and everything you tell yourself you are, and these can be very different. One is your identity and the other your story. It’s when we identify more with our stories that life becomes unmanageable, which is often what leads us to the Box. It’s only when we begin to unpack the box, sift through its contents and then choose what’s relevant, that we can start living a life in greater alignment with our values and our authentic self.

So, don’t be afraid of the Box! It may look and feel threatening, but at its core it’s a gift. A gift of immeasurable rewards and possibility… and who wouldn’t want to open that?! :)

Happy unpacking!

Bottoming out and bottoming up

What if “bottoming out” actually required bottoming out?

We’ve all been there, or know someone who has. Hit rock bottom. Bottomed out. It’s a common metaphor used especially often in the world of addiction and recovery. It describes the point at which everything had no choice but to change. Some refer to it as the moment of surrender, or letting go to let God. I think of it as the moment of possibility.

Here’s the thing though… all too often, I see or hear stories of people who have bottomed out without actually doing so, which requires them to do it again (and again, and again). I’m going to paint you a picture.

photo 1Imagine we all live in barrels (bear with me), and at the bottom of those barrels lay all the sediment and debris from our lives. It’s the land of negative thoughts, pain, suffering, and fear. So, as we get close to that bottom of sludge and mud, we would naturally want to move as far away from it as possible. Hence, often times we hear of people hitting bottom and making changes.

However, “hitting bottom” can be just our big toe touching the sludge, causing us to instantly leap toward the top of the barrel in our best effort to avoid the boggy madness. Or, sometimes we can go in up to our knees before we jump to make a change. And sometimes, sadly, people drown in the muck from sitting there and staying in it without movement.

But, what if there were another way? What if I were to tell you that all that you know about positivity and hope is not only “above” you in the barrel, but the source of light is also below you – through the muck? What becomes possible then?

Here’s how I see it.

photo 2At the bottom of every barrel there is a hole. That hole may be tiny, no bigger than a pin, or it may be large, but it’s there. On top of the hole is a covering, not a plug. It just sits there. Occasionally it allows the muck to seep out, but mostly it just holds it all in place.

Now, what if swimming down through the muck and getting to the covering to move it out of the way actually allowed your barrel to empty the sludge? What if the way “out” of the bottom is actually through it?

Too often, I think we bottom up when we are bottoming out, which often leads to hitting bottom again (or grazing bottom, actually). I think, though, we’d have a lot more success in wellness if we chose instead to plunge deeper into the mess at the bottom to release it from our containers. Of course, that would require some work and support, but it would be well worth it if we could drain the barrel and exit out the bottom. That would truly be bottoming out.

From there, who knows where we could go? Anything would be possible. Which means, at the bottom of every barrel lies possibility.