Where are you From

“The closer you come to knowing that you alone create the world of your experience, the more vital it becomes for you to discover just who is doing the creating.”Eric Micha’el Leventhal

Yup, I admit it proudly. It’s been somewhere between 15-30 days and I have restarted my New Year resolutions at least that many times so far. How about you? My restarts come by way of sitting down to write to you and by way of tackling a new recipe and by way of getting my ass to the gym on cold days that beg me to stay in bed cuddled up under my comfy king size blanket that wraps around me twice and just do absolutely. Nothing. but luxuriate in its warmth.

One of my favorite winter activities is to go through closets. I love going through last year’s clothes and shoes and papers and clutter and get to the end just to feel the unbelievable relief in taking a deep breath knowing I have new space to clutter up again this year. It’s cathartic, it’s rejuvenating, it’s therapy. What can I say, I like the routine of cleaning and purging the old stuff?

So, in my maniacal purging frenzy, I found myself in my daughter’s closet and came across a writing project she did when she was in the 5th grade. It was the start of the new school year and the teacher wanted the students to write about where they come from as a way of getting to know each other. In a prose kind of format my daughter talked about where she comes from in a self-defining kind of way such as her family and how and what we eat, her music, her books, her play time with her neighborhood friends. Of course, I started to cry because she is so far from 10 years old now and man, do I miss her at that age.

As a writer stuck for inspiration, how could I not take a good long look at this project and think to myself where the heck am I from? I have invented and reinvented myself so many times and each time is as authentic and real as the last time and as authentic as the next time I phase away from one persona and bring on the next one. What has changed and what has stayed true about me? What do I continuously go back to and what do I consciously stop myself from doing and remember, oh yeah, that’s something I want to get better at or that’s something I want to put way behind me. And isn’t that all part and parcel of new year’s resolutions? We want to make changes to go from old to new, to go from bad to good or at the very least better? We want to be a shiny new version of an old self. So, in keeping with the theme of the project my daughter had to do, here is the short”ish” version of who I am….(so far):

I am from childhood memories of staying out late during endless summer nights and waiting for mom to call us in for the night knowing full well that “5 more minutes” was the rebuttal.

I am from a family I helped to create and struggle to keep together during this self- discovery phase we are in as individuals now.

I am from outdoor activities that thrill me because it means getting in exercise without feeling like I’m exercising, gardening, volleyball on the beach, biking, hiking and walking trails that allow me dual time to bring my camera and get lost in nature.

I am from baking and cooking that excite my family and friends who wish I would make a career out of it, home sweet home making, celebrating for any reason, and curling up on the couch with a good romance novel and deep mug of green tea or hot apple cider on a cold day.

I am from “mom, where’s my favorite shirt”, “hun, do I have underwear for work tomorrow”, “what’s for dinner”, and no one at the table tonight except me because everyone is working.

I am from a barrage of photo memories mounted on the walls of my home that remind me of the life I had and wondering what lies ahead and my overflowing hope chest still filled with hope for a person I’ve yet to become.

“The bulk of life is discovering who you are—and then reconciling that with who you wish you were.” Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts, & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year

So, if like me, you are struggling to keep those resolutions afloat, to keep trying to find who you want to be, to keep pushing forward and make those changes that so very much meant so very much only 46 days ago, then try to take some time to think or perhaps write about where you are from in every sense of the idea.

Are you from a collection you started when you were 5, are you from a tree you loved to climb when you were young, are you from a food you absolutely will enjoy until your last breath, are you from an entire generation of people that influenced who you are at this very moment and that is why you are pushing for some. Kind. of change. or leveling up or distance?

Get as real as you can and see what you can see from inside yourself, outside yourself, and the 360 view. If you need a nudge or a sounding board, write to me. I live for this kind of thing.

Call to Action

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  1. So, you want to change the whole but what’s going on with all the parts? What do you want to change on the outside that first needs changing on the inside?
  2. Where is fear showing up? How is fear causing you to do nothing or go backwards?
  3. If you could choose an adjective as your theme word for this year what would it be? How have you started living that word? Does the word need to be adjusted?
  4. There are reasons for everything we do. List 3 top reasons for wanting to make a change in your life and 3 top strategies for making each one happen.

4 Starting Points to Help Set Priorities

Resilient

It is the priority, intention and discipline of all living things to push through adversity and accomplish its purpose.

— Journey On Coaching

“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” Leo Babauta

What matters to you in the New Year?

What stands out as the most important thing to accomplish, focus on or plan for?

I’m not one for resolutions. For me, resolutions come after I’ve experienced something and have learned a great lesson from that experience. I resolve myself to be more streamlined toward a better outcome should this particular situation rear up again. My resolution shows up in acknowledging my mistakes or missteps, in resolving myself to the new reality of what worked and didn’t work and most of all I resolve myself to the changed me that I have become because of those experiences or lessons.

For me, when the New Year comes around I like to set priorities, intentions and disciplines. I recently attended a sermon being given by a very wise pastor, someone I have become a fan of.  He pointed out that although it may sound counterproductive in today’s world to put ourselves into a box or to set limits upon ourselves, that is exactly what we should consider doing. I know this isn’t what you truly want to hear but stay with me because this just might reach deep inside of you and inspire you.

As I was researching and soul searching to write this post a book appeared to me through reading another person’s blog post. I resonated so deeply with just the title of the book that I had to get a copy for myself. The book is called hand wash cold, care instructions for an ordinary life by Karen Maezen Miller. On page 122 of this very down to earth book came the point to my post for you. It combines thoughts from the incredible sermon and this incredible book:

Each of us is given one life as a great gift. The image that came to my mind as I was listening to this sermon was one of a garden and then these were the words I read, “Life is a garden, and when you do not yet see that your life is a garden you may not see your life clearly at all. You are the garden and the gardener, you reap what you sow.”

We each have whatever limits our mind sets for us as to how to manage this great gift of life however, it is up to each of us to tend to, develop and take deep care of the piece that was doled out to us within this great gift of life. “You may think to yourself that your portion of this garden is too much work to tend to; then take it step by step. You may think to yourself that you might make a mistake; then know that gardens are forgiving and will grow back.” You may think to yourself that it is too much discipline to carry; than know that if not this discipline there are many more gardens to tend.

“You make everything true by bringing it to life, so be careful what you bring. Anger kills, bitterness poisons, greed spoils, fear stunts, and inattention withers.” By neglecting our garden, by taking on more than the land can hold or yield, by not putting your full intention and discipline and priority to this gift of your garden, you can’t possibly do great things in your garden or be the great gardener you were meant to be. To be true to our miraculous abilities and gifts we must truly work in the garden or the gift of our life with priority, intention and discipline.

So I ask again, what matters to you in this New Year? What are your priorities? How do you set intentions within your garden of life so that you can accomplish what was destined for you to accomplish?

I believe that we get lost sometimes in what becomes a priority and what becomes important. Yes, what you set up as your priority becomes important however, what we make important doesn’t necessarily mean it should become or is a priority. Sometimes what we make important or for that matter urgent is really procrastination or avoidance of what we really should be making a priority or our intention or our discipline.

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.” Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The dictionary defines importance as the quality or state of being important; of value or significance. The dictionary defines priority as something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done first; superiority in rank, position or privilege; a preferential rating.

The things we make important can carry a heavy feeling of urgency. The things we make a priority can carry a heavy feeling of self-discipline, intention and courage.

According to the website www.differencebetween.net,

“Urgent tasks have an immediate deadline although not necessarily a task that will have a significant impact on your life. Often things become urgent or an urgent situation is created when a person always knows that something had to be accomplished but kept deferring it.”

“Important tasks need not have a deadline looming over the person. The task is important because it has an impact on the person’s life. For example planning your education or career since your days in school is not something that you need to execute right now but will help you chart your life’s direction. Urgency of tasks is based on deadlines. Deciding which task is important is relative to each person’s thoughts and circumstances. Urgency of tasks is decided based on external pressures. Importance of tasks is decided on introspective thinking.”

“There are times when tasks can be urgent and important. For example keeping up with yearly doctor visits and deeper level check-ups can have a significant impact on you and your family. In keeping up with these important yearly tasks of keeping yourself healthy you can avoid the urgent need to see a doctor should something suddenly go awry because you put off your doctor visits and check-ups.”

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

When a person sets his/her priorities it is equivalent to celebrating limits. Limits are helpful in creating priorities because it puts into a neat little package time, people, resources and focus. It prevents overwhelm and helps to achieve goals whether the goals be lifelong or short term. The priorities we choose to label urgent AND important are also a great step toward time management and organization.

To start your New Year off on good footing it might help to create your priority list for each month or each week or each day. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Four Square: I’ve never actually played this game but I love the concept of it for setting priorities. Divide a piece of paper into 4 squares. Label the top left square “Important and Urgent”, the top right square “Important but not urgent”, the bottom left square “Not Important but urgent” and the bottom right square “Not Important/Not Urgent”. The top 2 squares are all those tasks that are crises like deadlines, right now work that will yield punishing outcomes if not completed. The top two squares are often reserved for people such as family, volunteering and leadership activities. There will always be something that comes up unexpectedly and falls into square one or two so always be flexible enough to allow for that however square one will be more manageable if you are disciplined enough to always stay on top of what is in that square through time management and intention. The bottom 2 squares are more of the procrastination stuff like chatting, email, meetings, surfing the net, in other words all the things we allow to drag us away from what is really a priority.

The Mountain: Each night, or each new week or each new month before you close out your day sit somewhere quiet and write out all the really significant tasks that need to get done. Maybe your list will have 20 items on it. Only the 3 most significant tasks count here. The biggest, toughest, most challenging mountains to move are the most significant because it will not only impact your life but the lives of those around you. The next day look at your 3 top tasks and start with number one. Work on that number 1 until it is as complete as possible. Then move on to number 2 and so on. Once the top most significant tasks have been completed or started enough that it requires further small steps to complete then you can move on to more of those details within each task.

Getting to know YOU: Do you know when you are at your peak performance during each day? For me I know for sure that my peak concentration and self-discipline times are from 8am until around 1pm. By the time the early afternoon rolls around I am reminded that I haven’t eaten, taken a drink of water or looked up from my tasks and I feel my mind start to fall away. I make sure that my priority list of tasks each day gets done during my peak performance times. I like the feeling and satisfaction of knowing that the tough stuff is behind me early enough in my day that now there is room for miscellaneous things to happen like day dreaming, reading, and checking email.

The Payoff: Any forward movement in fulfilling your priority list of tasks is a reason to take time to celebrate every little achievement. This is up to you how you choose to reward yourself for a job well done. Having someone like a close friend, sibling or life coach in your corner to hold you accountable to your priority lists and celebrate each accomplishment with you is also a tremendous incentive to tackle your to-do’s.

I’m a bit unconventional when it comes to this New Year in how I set my priorities. I decided to set my top priorities as more of a mantra that will help guide me in the everyday tasks that need my grateful care, purposeful intention and willing discipline. I don’t mind sharing it with you:

To love and be loved, to always speak and show gratitude, kindness and integrity.

This mantra for me means saying no if a task doesn’t meet my personal expectations for what I set as my priority that day. In other words knowing my limits and disciplining myself to always strive to be and give my best, staying organized and balanced and always doing what needs to be done with enthusiasm and courage. Don’t misunderstand, I will trip up, I will abandon my disciplines from time to time but my mantra will always be right in front of me cheering me on.

“Time is our most valuable nonrenewable resource, and if we want to treat it with respect, we need to set priorities.” Albert-László Barabási, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

Call to Action

According to the social security website, www.ssa.gov the average life span of a male today is 84.3 years. If you take 24 hours/day times 365 days a year times 84.3 years that equals 738,468 hours of life. That doesn’t seem like very much time does it?

What are you doing with your hours or as I like calling them, your life minutes?

What are your priorities that lead to action that lead to intention that lead to discipline that lead to integrity that lead to what people will say about you when all is said and done?

Who do you want to be this New Year with intention and discipline and courage?

Image by bing.com

 

The Little Things: What was Your Life Made of This Year?

friendsoriginal

“I’m not sure why, but when a person expects something to last forever, they don’t notice the little things. It’s only when the clock is ticking all those little things add up and become bigger.” Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

As the year winds down I am so acutely aware of each minute that ticks by. I take stock of what the aging year has produced and what hope the New Year holds. I think about what I’ve learned, hoping that I have learned a lot of things. I think about how much better off I am now than one year ago and I don’t mean in terms of money. What I truly mean is in terms of personal growth and life experiences, which to me is so much more than money. It’s the little moments of my life this year that I hope made the biggest impact on my soul and then I think if I can remember all of those little moments maybe they were the big things after all.

“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

In the spirit of honoring the year as it takes its final bow out of time I would like to leave you with a few of the moments/memories that have left an imprint on my soul. A trusted colleague calls this his annual review. It’s made up of the very personal good and bad moments that made this year stand tall.

Perhaps you have had similar experiences but never thought to really pay them much heed or perhaps you will take these shared moments and watch for them in the new year or perhaps we are all on the same journey through time sharing similar experiences in our own unique perspective. Whichever way you honor the good and the bad of your life moments I hope you are better for them.

The most recent life moment I absolutely honor with grace and awe is the time spent celebrating my daughter’s birthday. It wasn’t a milestone birthday but it was a celebration of her birth nonetheless and that in itself deserves to make the list of little things.

“So much of life is in the smallness of moments…but they are harder to mark. So we need the grander celebrations and occasions. People like to feel significant.” Ally Condie, Atlantia

Glancing over at the large picture window in my office and stopping everything to go sit in the sunshine streaming through.

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. Just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.” Laura Ingalls Wilder, Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder – Volume One: On Wisdom and Virtues

Meeting new people and realizing that their impact on my life, be it good or bad, changed me for the better.

“That’s the ideal meeting…once upon a time, only once, unexpectedly, then never again.” Helen Oyeyemi

Seeing a hummingbird for the first time in my life.

“Some of my old memories feel trapped in amber in my brain, lucid and burning, while others are like the wing beat of a hummingbird, an intangible, ephemeral blur.” Mira Bartok, The Memory Palace

Silently celebrating the day after the first day of winter because for the next 182 days we add one minute of daylight and hope blooms eternal.

“I find it inspiring to actively choose which traditions to celebrate and also come up with new ideas for traditions of my own.” Sara Sheridan

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop enjoying the smell while sipping my green tea and writing. I am not a coffee drinker at all but I love a good, old-fashioned, wrap me in warmth coffee shop.

“A smoke, a book, a cup of coffee. These are the little things that get us through this sometimes weary world and all the rainy days.” R.M. Engelhardt, The Resurrection Waltz Poems R.M. Engelhardt

Window shopping in the winter and seeing all the beautiful colors of the flowers in the flower shop on the most gray, snowy day of the season.

“Somehow, those cold, lifeless winter months had prepared the land for something breathtaking. Something beautiful. Something brimming with life.” Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter

Laughing so hard when I’m supposed to be as quiet as a mouse. Whether it be at my job at the library as an adult or a teenager sitting in my English class I find that those quiet moments are the ones that really spark my uncontrollable laughter.

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Hearing the perfect song at a time of day when I needed it most.

“Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn an emperor into a laughing-stock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams are gone. That’s the power of songs.” Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Raising my level of gratitude so much higher than I ever imagined it could go but battling still with moments of unhappiness.

“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” Maya Angelou, Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer

Understanding the lessons in why it’s important to make quality decisions but not yet feeling able to make important decisions in my own life.

“The problem, simply put, is that we cannot choose everything simultaneously. So we live in danger of becoming paralyzed by indecision, terrified that every choice might be the wrong choice.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

Continuing to worry about the same problems year after year and finding it so hard to let it go or finding a solution.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:25-34 ― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

Thank you for your indulgence with my annual review of the little things. I hope it sparked something inside of you to help you take stock of your life this year and highlight what you want to work on and grow in the New Year.

Call to Action

How possible is it to mine each new day of the new year for little life moments, for the little things that flavor life with its sweetness? That is the call to action for you. Find the little things in each new day of the New Year and see how it changes you for the better.

What went well this year?

What did not go well this year?

Where does growth reside for you in the New Year?

What little things became the big thing after all?

The Exchange of Presents Demands your Presence

Presents

Tis the season for presents/presence and there is no better time of year to practice both the giving of your heart as well as the giving of your attention.

Have you ever noticed, I mean really truly noticed that when you give a gift to someone you feel as excited and/or nervous to give as the person feels to receive? There is anxiety: will he/she really like what I chose to give, there is anticipation: Oh I can’t wait for him/her to open my gift, there is heart: I really paid attention this year to what he/she said they needed. If you are prone to just hand a gift to someone and allow distraction to take you away from the actual opening of the gift then you are missing out on all the magic of that moment. Being in the present with the person receiving a gift is a gift itself.

Where in your body do you feel this anxiety, anticipation and/or generosity?

In what ways is your energy transferring to those around you?

It’s an amazing connection, a coming together moment for the giver and receiver, where synchronicity is so aligned only the uninterrupted presence of awareness in the opening of the gift, the present, could break the bond. It is the height of mindfulness or intentional attention. How many times during the year do we use intentional attention in our daily lives?

“To allow ourselves to be truly in touch with where we already are, no matter where that is, we have got to pause in our experience long enough to let the present moment sink in; long enough to actually feel the present moment, to see it in its fullness, to hold it in awareness and thereby come to know and understand it better.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are

The question is how can we give ourselves the present of presence all the time? It’s a magical feeling to be so engrossed in the moment of giving that we don’t pay attention to time or space or what comes next. This deep concentration, this deep immersion of presence is called flow and scientists believe that the pathway toward inner peace and happier human beings is through these flow moments where we are so absorbed in the moment we occupy that there is no room for past or future. Author and psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., considered by some to the be the father of the concept of flow, says,

“flow experiences occur in different ways for each person. Some might experience flow while doing a sport such as running or playing tennis and some might experience flow while playing an instrument. Some people might experience flow in the simple act of giving a gift whether it be an actual gift to unwrap or the act of volunteering and giving of their time and energy.”

If you are ever in a situation where you want to get a handle on what is happening in this exact moment, breathe. Practicing presence is as simple as deep breathing. Your breath is always with you and you can stop in the middle of everything you are busy with to take purposeful breaths and calm your brain and your heart and your spirit and create focus and intentional attention. There are more ways to give yourself the present of presence. Here are a few to take with you in your bag of goodies this holiday season:

“…the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Turn off your thinking mind and tune into your now mind. The health benefits of mastering being in the here and now are significant. According to an article published on www.ecoinstitute.org “these health benefits include a reduction in stress which we all know reduces the risk for heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing recurring pain, and is a boost for our immune system. This boost is accomplished by increasing our antibodies and brain function by our body’s response to our thoughts both positive and negative.”

You won’t be leaving anything important behind if: You let go of old thoughts or let go of what if thoughts. You will however be gaining awareness and color and vibrancy in the moment you occupy by accepting what is happening right this moment and all this moment is giving to you.

Let go of the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda mindset: Each new moment that presents its gift to you has the ability to be a gift for your heart and soul. Give in to what is being offered by enveloping yourself in the passion, authenticity and energy of now. By letting go of your expectation of what the moment could or should or would bring, allow the moment to unfold in all its organic splendor and guide you.

No Restrictions. In helping my clients set goals and create their own avenues of accountability we create if/then statements. For example: A client wants to lose 10 pounds by the end of the month. The if/then statement might say, “If I feel like having a sugary snack after dinner then I will drink a hot apple cider or munch on an apple instead.” In the present or gift of presence this would be the one time when your prepared mind could hinder complete flow of enjoyment. Let go of the if/then thinking and align your mind with the here/now thinking. Notice how much more rich and emotional the here/now mind perceives life in its raw and real time. If/then changes your course and forces you to control the gift of the present which then has the potential to control the outcome. Here/now allows you to just enjoy flow in the moment for what it is without the stress of barriers or diversion.

Sense your way to presence. Play a mind game with yourself by paying attention to each of your senses, one at a time. This activity is great practice for presence and being mindful of the here and now. Pay attention to your breath, carefully watch how your hands touch things, observe what is going on right in front of you, concentrate on the smells all around you and see if you can name them, really dissect the flavors of your next meal, listen carefully when someone is speaking to you and try to detect the many levels of emotion being used in the conversation.

Purposefully create daily moments of presence. Go a different route home from work, eat lunch in a different location or pack a lunch that is different than what you normally eat, skip lunch completely and pamper yourself instead, take your hobby with you wherever you go and work on it at least once during the day away from home, learn something new today and bring it up in conversation. The opportunity for an awe moment is created in being present with intentional attention.

In the winter time I enjoy washing the dishes, even with dish gloves on because I am so comforted by the warm water cuddling my cold hands. It is a daily, year round chore but at this time of year the cold is a stark reminder of the blessing of heat. My appreciation level for warm water and keeping my family healthy soars. I find myself actually looking forward to this chore and instead of washing dishes 3 or 4 times a day t keep up with the mess I let it pile up so that I can spend real time appreciating the warmth. Bizarre, I know, but the presence it creates is magical.

“Wherever you are, be there. If you can be fully present now, you’ll know what it means to live.” Steve Goodier

Call to Action

In what ways can you create presence during present giving?

Whatever level you are involved in while preparing for this holiday season, how can you be more mindful of each preparation step along the way?

Even if you are alone, how can you be present rather than wishing the time away?

 

7 Tricks to Ease the Melancholy of the Holiday Season

Thanksgiving

“Your heart’s strength is measured by how hard it holds on. Your self-worth and faith is measured by finally letting go. However, your peace is measured by how long you don’t look back.” Shannon L. Alder

It’s hard to not look back on your life or certain memories especially during the holiday season. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it always gets me to thinking about the past even if I think only about the year that is almost ending. I think about family, the people I can still share the holiday with and the people that are no longer part of that tradition. I’m grateful for the memories of past family gatherings during the holiday season and I get a bit emotional when I dwell too long there but I find that as I get older I long for the new experiences to start so that I can add them to the list of things I’m grateful for.

A few times in my life I’ve been the host for Thanksgiving dinner, the most I’ve entertained at one time was for 23 people. Our family really isn’t that big but I never believed in putting a limit on how many were welcome to our table. We lived in a condo at the time and although it was a 3 bedroom unit the living space was small and so it was quite a feat to figure out how to seat 23 people for such a huge dinner. Funny that I was more concerned with how to seat everyone comfortably and not worried about what to serve and how to serve. My children were all under the age of 10 at the time so it took probably close to 2 weeks to prepare not only the menu and the seating plan but to prepare the house comfortably for those guests that were staying for an overnight .

The anticipation building in those 2 weeks was volatile. The kids were excited every day to count down to family coming over to their house. The smells in the kitchen radiated throughout the entire house for days on end. To this day my daughter associates certain foods that I cook throughout the year with Thanksgiving such as caramelized onions, sautéed apples, homemade bread, anything made with nutmeg, etc. Mmmmm…my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

“Hunger of the heart is much stronger than hunger for food.” Amanda Comer

I can’t help but think back to the craziness of preparing for Thanksgiving because the celebration is so different now. I definitely have a hunger in my heart to relive those crazy holiday times. I was busy, I felt purposeful and I felt needed and important. That is the magic and the power of family.

I have to admit right here that although it was a lot of work and I enjoyed the anticipation as much as the kids did not every ounce of it went smoothly or happily. I felt stress and I’m sure at one time I murmured to myself how I would like it if just one year we could be the guests and just show up to eat and schmooze.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” Sarah Dessen, Lock and Key

Many years later, kids mostly grown, family moved away and/or defected I find myself melancholy about the holiday season for different reasons entirely. My soul feels alone. On the one hand I’m not alone because I am blessed to have my husband and almost all of my children still living at home to share in the celebrations of the season but the enthusiasm and anticipation is tempered to an extreme and I feel the emptiness of that. I don’t know, there is just something magical in cooking for more than just my immediate family; listening to different kinds of conversation; getting lost in someone else’s life for a while; listening to the children get involved around the table and really noticing them blossom into adulthood. It’s just the 4 of us now, no friends, no family and oh how I wish I could cook and bake and fuss over a house full of family now that I actually have the living space for them all to come over and spread out. Even with all the family members and their issues it would still be nice to fuss.

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns

Life is funny that way. It is my “life is backwards” theory. The theory is that things that should be obvious and make sense, don’t. When we had hardly any space to entertain, people came over in droves to spend time. Now that we moved up a bit I hear crickets. When I felt overwhelmed at entertaining I wished it would not be so stressful and now I’d give almost anything to have just one stressed out, manic, family crazy, I-hate-you-but-I-love-you Thanksgiving. I’m sure you can think of a few examples of life being backwards for you as well.

But what I’m realizing as time goes by is that we are in a transition phase. I will have family to cook and fuss for again someday because the children will bring new people to my table and one day I might even become a grandma and then not only will I have someone to fuss over but I’ll have someone to teach and play with and pass on a part of me to. I can look forward with anticipation to that.

In the years since the “great big Thanksgiving” we have enjoyed a few Thanksgiving meals away from home like the time we spent Thanksgiving in Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It was cold and it was a beautiful grayish day with the smell of snow in the air. If you have never been there in any season, please try to go around Thanksgiving time. The village encases you in the past and helps you feel what it was like to live around the time when the pilgrims came to America. During our day long tour, before our dinner reservations, it did indeed start to snow. It was probably the most beautiful snowfall I have ever experienced. The snow blanketed the outdoor sounds and made me feel more intimate and connected to my surroundings. As the snow was falling it seemed like it was just for effect. The roads home stayed clear but the village was awash in seasonal holiday cheer made ever more magical by the snowfall. I let myself get so caught up in the holiday lights and spirit, the smells in the air and the historic feeling of it all and the snow just brought more coziness to the village and the warmth of a good meal waiting for us by the open fire.

We have created new traditions within our little clan. I have enjoyed experiencing Thanksgiving in many different ways with our children. I try to find new ways to anticipate the holiday season and to try to hold on to the magic of it all. For example we started watching the movie Scrooge and also the movie Elf as after dinner family time entertainment; and while cleaning up from our large holiday meal we get ready for the winter holidays by playing seasonal music and singing out loud. That’s always fun because not all of us have a singing voice. I’m happy for having had the experiences of holidays of the past but I consciously now choose to look forward to what could be. I try not to let my heart get too heavy for what is missing.

If this holiday season finds you with a melancholy heart or a yearning for what used to be, here are some tricks that might help ease the pain:

Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep at least 2 weeks before the holiday. Sleep keeps your body regulated not only in its basic functioning but also emotionally.

“Also, I could finally sleep. And this was the real gift, because when you cannot sleep, you cannot get yourself out of the ditch–there’s not a chance.” Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Follow a healthy eating plan. While this is something you need to do all year long, at least one month before the holiday reset your stomach and hormones by eating better before the emotional stress sets in.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” David Mamet, Boston Marriage

As best as you can, try to do some physical exercise even if you go for a walk for 30 minutes every day before the holiday. Physical activity just for yourself is soothing, refreshing and empowering. It naturally reduces stress and sets your brain to a more positive way of thinking. Exercise increases creativity.

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.” Ellen DeGeneres

At least one month before the holiday purposefully allow yourself to enjoy activities that make you happy. Enlist some friends if you can but it is okay if you go alone. Having happy experiences to bring to the conversation at dinner time will be a big boost for you and the people around the table.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.” Anne Frank

If, like me, your table will be short a few more people than you would like perhaps setting their pictures around the table as decoration would help. Include photos from holidays past and let the reminiscing begin. Before you know it laughter will take over and the trip down memory lane will feel like you traveled somewhere for a little while.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, and the people you have loved.”Ansel Adams

Reach out to a trusted friend, mentor, coach, clergy or family member and talk through the melancholy you are feeling. Maybe ideas will pop up and help ease the pain and infuse hope. If talking to someone is not comfortable for you then consider writing out your thoughts just for yourself. Twenty minutes for 4 consecutive days does wonders for the soul.

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” Albert Camus

Take time to force yourself to do relaxing things leading up to the holiday. Go to a spa for a massage, sit in a steam room or Jacuzzi, play soothing music while falling asleep, light candles around your space instead of turning on lights, burn some incense, meditate, anything to help create an air of relaxation and peace.

“A massage is just like a movie, really relaxing and a total escape, except in a massage you’re the star. And you don’t miss anything by falling asleep!” Elizabeth Jane Howard, Mr. Wrong

perspective change

I know it can be a tough situation at holiday time for many reasons but in the whole of each person’s situation is the truth that our own attitude and perspective can make or break the moments we experience. The undisputable truth is that when things get really dark in my life I always have the choice to be afraid and sad or I can choose to see the stars more clearly. I am trying to train my perception of what appears to be a negative and find the hope that lives in the positive.

I wish you all peace, happiness, renewal, and an abundance of reasons to be filled with gratitude this year. Thank you all for your support and friendship. Happy Holiday Season!!!

Call to Action

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

How do you bring newness to the holiday?

Where can you try to see the good in the perception of bad?

If you are disconnected as a family this year, why and what does the disconnect mean for you?

Images by afieldofblessings.blogspot.com and simplereminders.com

8 Essentials for Thinking Like a Child

 

fake it 001

“Would the child you were yesterday admire the person you are today? If not, adjust for desired results.” Ziad K. Abdelnour, Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics

When a child is born there is an immediate and uncontrollable feeling of awe and wonder and reverence toward some higher power, maybe it is G-d for you, that here in this tiny package of humanity is this amazing miracle of life.

As adults we treasure this miracle and we dote on this miracle and we do all we can to feed the spirit of this miracle as it grows. We take possession without realizing that we possess but at some point all too quickly the child becomes its own person.

Once the identity of the child starts to come through we see in this miracle the only word that can describe a child, determination.  A child’s determination says, “there is only right now in this moment and this is what I want to do, accomplish, conquer, master, overcome, make happen so watch this….”.

So what happens along the path of growth that stunts the natural sense of determination and turns this miracle into a human of sorrow, self-doubt, limitedness, and negativity and how in the world can each of us humans get it back for keeps?

 “Children see magic because they look for it.”Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Every day to a child is like a first day. Every day is filled with new discoveries, new awareness, and new abilities and with each new thing a child can do the child wants to shout to the world, “hey ma, look what I can do” or “look what I just did.” It’s almost as if the child performed the greatest magic trick ever.

Do adults lose their magical abilities because no one is watching or cares to watch anymore? Oh sure, some adults have the ability to see magic throughout their whole lives, just look at Walter Disney, but it’s more than just seeing magic, it’s also feeling magic and feeling that all things are possible and never being influenced otherwise. When did it become childish to let magic into your adult life?

I remember working in a middle school with kids who got sent to detention a lot . Although it was the policy of the school to make the detention room as somber and negative as possible so that the kids would not want to go back there ever again, I couldn’t help but make the room scream of possibilities and dreams and jokes and riddles and hope. Does that make me a rebel? I don’t think so. I just can’t help imagining what it must be like to have to deal with the thought of feeling like a failure and not knowing what to do with that feeling except to be angry, all the time. I pray I created hope and possibilities for these kids to be able to see beyond the anger they were feeling.

Sometimes as adults we look at children and think to ourselves what can children teach us that we don’t already know now that we are the adults; I mean we’re adults, so we have already been where they are, right? The one thing that keeps coming back to me is that a child can teach us to see what a child sees and what a child hears and the unrelenting, untouched, uncomplicated thoughts of a pure mind on the verge of innocence lost. Sometime it is essential to stop and listen to the words of children:

There is a really good reason why we start out helpless and small and unknowing; so that adults can be reminded of the freedom, joy, un-limitedness of who they used to hope to be when they grew up. I believe children know more than adults do. They are pure, untainted entities that embody every possible person they want to become and they don’t care who knows it or what they each look like exploring all those magical possibilities.

 “I wept because I was re-experiencing the enthusiasm of my childhood; I was once again a child, and nothing in the world could cause me harm.”Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

It’s not rocket science to imagine all the ways in which we can re-capture our innocence and feelings of being a child but just in case your mind is stuffed full of adult mumbo jumbo here is a little list of ideas that just might take you out of the limitedness of adulthood and open the imagination doors of the child’s soul inside of you:

    1. Take the blame with “relish”. As a child you gladly took responsibility for your actions anytime you did something you thought was justified or amazing or fun. Harness that positive energy of owning your actions by finding all kinds of ways to take responsibility for your actions as a grown-up. Only do those things that will leave you feeling proud to own up to something.
    2. Be Dramatic. Sure you might have thrown a temper tantrum or 2 when you were feeling out of control as a kid or feeling like no one was listening. (Perhaps you didn’t but wished you could). It was dramatic to live in your imagination and to act out as a kid. How can you use that dramatic flair of yours to make a point, to get ahead, to add spice to your days? Use your imagination and create that dramatic magic that is still living inside of you.
    3. Ask why as often as you can. How many questions do you ask in a day? Children ask questions constantly because they are not afraid of sounding ignorant. They use the information like Popeye uses spinach. Information empowers them and enables them and strengthens them. As adults we hide our questions for fear of being stared at by everyone in the room or fear of sounding ignorant. Drop the fear, ask the questions. There are no stupid questions. The question not asked is the key not found that could open all the other doors.
    4. Be the cardboard box. According to an article written by Chelsea Greenwood of the website, http://www.success.com/article/think-like-a-child, Alison Gopnik, a professor of philosophy at UC, Berkeley says, “children are designed by evolution to be extremely good learners. They are the research and development division of the human species, and adults are the production and marketing.” How amazing would it be if a simple cardboard box really was the answer to all boredom and limitedness of the adult mind? Get out of the cardboard box adulthood put you into and make something magical happen with it once you are on the outside.
    5. Be relentless. How often do you take your kids to a store to discover that you didn’t even make it passed the welcome sign and you realize you are already counting to 10 just waiting to hear them say, “mom, can we get this”, or “mom, can I get that toy”. They don’t take no for an answer. My youngest has learned a great skill over his short little life, the art of the negotiation. Sometimes when I am feeling weak and overrun I call it manipulation or in today’s terms, bullying, but the truth is he has learned how to negotiate to get what he wants. How many times during the day do you hear the word no when presenting an idea or asking for approval on a project or for a raise? Be relentless in your wants. You believe in what you are seeking so keep seeking until you get that yes. No is not an option.
    6. Be in awe. Too often as adults we are tainted and narrowed by all that we have seen and learned and we choose to put blinders on to all else except what we want to learn and choose to see. Take the blinders off, step way back and be in awe of everything around you. Be the sponge, be the clean slate, be the child that is fascinated with all things unknown and big. Get down on your knees if you have to and look around, look up, look down and change your perspective.

      7. Play : Where did recess go? Public schools hardly encourage recess anymore for fear it will interfere with test taking. The adults of tomorrow are not going to have much to fall back on when they need to harness their imagination because imagination time is being sucked out of their learning. Chelsea Greenwood takes a page from author, speaker and futurist, Jack Uldrich and quotes, “play allows people to practice skills they might need later down the line. Play has consistently been found to reduce stress, increase energy levels, and brighten people’s outlook, increase optimism, and foster creativity.” Start or join the company sports league, start a chess group, bring your guitar to the office and serenade your co-workers during lunch. Play your heart out!

8. Laugh Your Ass Off:: I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic, that children laugh an average of 400 times per day whereas an adult laughs an average of 15 times per day and I must say that the number 15 seems a bit high to me. Have you heard a child laugh lately? You need to because you are missing out on the most out of control, smile inducing, free spirited moment of life, ever. On the website,  http://velutions.com/prankbaskets/zLaughter.htm, it lists several reasons to laugh each day such as “laughter is the best medicine”, not only for adults but for children too. Laughter is good for oxygen intake, reduction of stress, is good exercise, and among many other things is a great bonding mechanism and best of all laughter cuts across all language barriers. Everyone speaks laughter. If you want to learn more about how laughter can increase work flow and be a positive influence at the office please consider reading The Levity Effect by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher. If you want to make something contagious, laugh.

It all comes down to this: Kids don’t know to be hard on themselves. They like who they are and they should. Take a page from your own story when you were a kid and BE PROUD OF YOU. Celebrate like the child you still are. That child’s soul is still in there. The only difference is the body got bigger and then therefore so did the expectations. My son was born to a family of average height people. He is 6’2”, which is no big deal except in our family and he always saw his height as a negative. He likes it now, mostly because he can look down on his dad, but he tried to walk smaller and behave smaller because people outside of his family always expected more from him thinking that he was older than his actual age due to his height. That added expectation played havoc on his psyche no matter how we tried to celebrate his individualism. He needed time to grow into all of himself, inside and out, and for the most part so far he has become proud of what he was given and who he is becoming.

Now, repeat after me:

 “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”Edward Everett Hale

It was only you that day when you pulled yourself up from the floor to take your first step. It was only you the moment you climbed those stairs for the first time. It was only you the instant you went from not balancing very well on the bicycle to riding like you were born to ride. It was only you when the puzzle got solved by the thoughts you applied and then made the connection that opened a world of possibilities for more.

Oh, if only we didn’t have to lose so much of the soul of the child inside of us when we grow up. I leave you with this amazing poem by an utterly amazing and talented author who never forgot the child inside, and I wonder: Would any of this poem work for any adult? Perhaps we should take a chance on one of these ideas and just go outside and play, even if it isn’t Saturday…..

“I cannot go to school today”

Said little Peggy Ann McKay.

“I have the measles and the mumps,

A gash, a rash and purple bumps.

 My mouth is wet,

my throat is dry.

I’m going blind in my right eye.

My tonsils are as big as rocks,

I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.

And there’s one more –

that’s seventeen,

And don’t you think my face looks green?

My leg is cut,

my eyes are blue,

It might be the instamatic flu.

I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,

I’m sure that my left leg is broke.

My hip hurts when I move my chin,

My belly button’s caving in.

My back is wrenched,

my ankle’s sprained,

My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.

My toes are cold,

my toes are numb,

I have a sliver in my thumb.

My neck is stiff,

my voice is weak,

I hardly whisper when I speak.

My tongue is filling up my mouth,

I think my hair is falling out.

My elbow’s bent,

my spine ain’t straight,

My temperature is one-o-eight.

My brain is shrunk,

I cannot hear,

There’s a hole inside my ear.

I have a hangnail,

and my heart is …

What? What’s that? What’s that you say?

You say today is ………….. Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!”  –Shel Silverstein

 

Call to Action

GO PLAY!!! Find that inner child and kick ass!!

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.

Help Wanted

Needed

 

“One day, I decided to help wherever I could, & it was almost like magic because I was exactly what the world needed everywhere I went. Step right up!!”

I just absolutely LOVE this website: www.storypeople.com

“Five truly effective prescriptions to remedy a bad day: (You can’t overdose.)

—Pray; discuss your troubles with God.

—List your blessings. (The blue sky, soft cookies, warm socks, etc.)

—Call your mom.

—Visit an animal shelter and hug a lonely dog.

—Visit a nursing home and hug a lonely grandparent.”

Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway: Quotes, Verse, & Grumblings for Every Day of the Year

 Whenever I am having a day that is off the rails or I feel lost or detached or things seem to be going all wrong I try to do at least one good thing for someone else and instantly my bad day is conquered.

 All of us can be more powerful and empowering just by giving of ourselves toward the betterment of someone else. As an example to my children and to my clients I decided to volunteer at a hospital, the absolute last place I ever would have imagined myself to volunteer. In all honesty and with great enthusiasm I can tell you that it has been the best thing I ever did. The experience of volunteering allowed me to think about a different way of employment and I now work as a temp breezing in and out of many kinds of jobs just like a volunteer. I am needed to fill a spot for a short period of time and get a job done. Then I am off to another job and helping fill another need. Although as a temp I do get paid the mentality is the same as if I were volunteering. People are always happy to see me, happy to help me in return and happy that I was able to be of help to them when they needed it. For the first time in my life I feel purposeful and I feel a sense of honor to be contributing to the betterment of someone else’s life.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Call to Action

What else can you add to the list above?

What was the one thing you did for someone else that you instantly knew made a fabulous difference?

In what ways do you notice your mood getting better because you helped someone?

Journey On and be needed………

If you would like to explore more about personal growth, building and strengthening your success characteristics, or discovering what more you have inside of you please call for a free discovery session in my Art of YOU coaching program.  Not ready yet? Please visit my website at www.journeyoncoaching.com. You can reach me by calling 203-560-3061 or send an email to: lisa@journeyoncoaching.com.