This “blue carrot” flower was always one of my mom’s favorites, and I never really understood why. I mean, it’s pretty, but… Every time I see one, I think of her. This summer, as I was walking, I spotted one and decided to stop take a picture of it. As I was thinking of my mom today, on the anniversary of her passing, I was compelled to look at that picture. It was as if she was here with me…I get it now. Although all of the little white flowers within the flower are equally beautiful, there is the one tiny blue/purple flower in the middle that dares to stand out and be different from all the rest, and that’s the one we see first. It doesn’t try to be like the others and “blend in”, and by being individual, displaying its own color proudly, it makes the entire flower more beautiful. My mom was like that.

As I sat looking at the picture, I recalled an “event” that occurred when I was in elementary school. I was in a play and the audience was filled with the parents and family members of my classmates. Moments before the show was ending, I noticed my mom running in one of the side doors. When she saw me notice her she seemed to stand taller, smile, and wave with excitement; as if she didn’t realize that she was still in her surgical scrubs, looking disheveled and arriving late…again.

After the show, as I was approaching my mom, I remember noticing another mom talking to her. This mom was tall, thin, looked picture perfect as always, and had been sitting in the front row when the curtains opened. I remember seeing her with her arm on my mom’s shoulder as if consoling her, it made me slow down and listen with trepidation. I heard her say something to the effect of, “oh poor Betty, you must feel so badly about arriving so late and missing the whole show.  It must be so hard on you and your kids with you working so much and missing out…they’re growing so fast…etc…”  I remember not knowing whether to jump on her band wagon or kick her in the shins. Before I could do either, my mom was already responding; again with one of her whole face smiles and twinkling eyes shining up from her petite 5’2” frame.  She looked the other mom directly in the eyes, took her hand from her shoulder, held it in her own and said something that I remember as, “Yes, it is hard not being able to be everywhere for everyone all the time, but I continue to do the best I can every day and then try again tomorrow.”  She went on to add something like, “I am so fortunate that my husband was able to video the program tonight so that we can all go home and watch it together, and the baby I was operating on, she is recovering with her parents now too, but thank you for your concern, I do appreciate it.”  (She definitely had a little spice with her sugar.)

Without another breath my mom turned, saw me, and came in for the hug. Wow! I distinctly remember that feeling of not knowing what to think or say. Now, when I think back, I realize that my mom was the perfect example of someone who got her self-worth from within.  She knew her purpose was to discover her own unique gifts and do her best to share them with as many as possible to the best of her ability every day, and that’s what she did.  Of course she wished she could do more, but she didn’t get down on herself for not being able to, she simply used it as her motivation to get up and try again the next day.

As a teenager, I recall times when this same quality of my mom’s drove me nuts. I couldn’t stand that she seemed to not care how mad or upset I or anyone else was at her.  How she would show up with cat hair all over her, in surgical scrubs, or smell of the horse barn, and not seem the least bit embarrassed. It wasn’t that she didn’t ever take the time to get dressed up and go out etc… it was just never about trying to impress anyone else (except maybe my dad from time to time). As I have gotten older and had the opportunity meet more individuals that seem to possess this same “something”, a quality that makes all shape and sizes so attractive that they seem to almost glow, it occurred to me that “it” is their self-confidence; the unshakeable appreciation of their own self-worth. The common denominator is their awareness, total acceptance and love of who they are and all that they can be/do.

My mom always told me that, for as long as she could remember, she knew she was going to be a surgeon, even though there were no women surgeons when she was growing up in the 1930’s. My mom never seemed to believe that anyone outside of her had the ability to know what she could or couldn’t do, only opinions that she could choose to take into consideration or not.  She was the only one who lived in her body with her mind and her soul, she seemed to know  that her job was to try her best at whatever she was doing and that, as long as she did, the rest was not in her control.  I would ask her how she wasn’t afraid of this or that and she would respond, “It’s not that I’m not afraid, I just don’t let that stop me.” It was as if the fear made it exciting for her. I would ask how she could not be bothered by things other people said or did, and she would respond with something like, “Honey, you can’t let what others say and do dictate how you feel or act.  You never know where they are coming from, what kind of day they are having, who they may be mad at, etc…”  She helped me understand: that people do and say different things for a million different reasons and our job is simply to listen to what we feel, inside, and do what is right for us.  And even though we can’t control others, and we have no idea what’s motivating their words or actions, we can control how we react, and that’s all we have to do. Such an amazing, and yet such a simple, concept.

My mom played hard, worked hard, loved hard, and had a smile that lit up a room. She was constantly squeezing all that she could out of life. I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone that ever met her that didn’t love her, or at least respect her. Days before her funeral I heard a story that still makes me smile and really sums up her essence. The gist of it was, when she was told that a patient was referred to her and told that she was “the best pediatric surgeon on the East coast”, her immediate response was, “I wonder who my competition is on the West Coast?” That’s pure confidence.

I miss my mom, but I feel as though I continue to learn from her every day. I like to think that a part of her lives on in me as I pursue my passion as a life coach. She is my role model as I strive to help others achieve a greater sense of self-worth and/or confidence; to realize their innate abilities to generate happiness by knowing who they are, doing their best to be their best, and not letting that fulfillment be dependent on or swayed by the opinions or judgement of others.  Each time I am able to do this I feel as though I have fulfilled my purpose and honored my mom at the same time. Through me, she can continue to help others live a fuller life.
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When did we become so consumed with doing so much, with being “productive”? What does it mean? What are we “producing” or accomplishing? If we realize it’s noon and we’ve made the beds, emptied and filled the dishwasher, washed-dried-folded and put away the laundry, and maybe even made a trip to the grocery store, have we been more productive than if we spent the morning having coffee and conversation with a friend? Or simply sleeping in and recovering from a wonderful night out? Is it more productive to complete a project at work than to take the day off, take your child out of school and spend the day at the zoo? I used to think so… but I don’t any more. I used to think that I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, “waste” my time doing “frivolous” things when there were “things to get done”. Then one day, after my mom passed away, I wished I hadn’t been so “busy” doing all the things that constantly require redoing, and had just dropped everything more often to just be with and talk to her. The fact is, all of those things would have waited for me, and even if the house was a little messier or my work load a little larger, it really wouldn’t have taken much more time to complete, and it would have no impact on my life in just a few days. I wish I had just let all the things that, in hindsight, really don’t matter, sit there, while I spent time with my mom. Instead, I let my mom sit there while I “took care of things”.

LESS time with things, MORE time connecting.

Sometimes I think being “productive” is just another, more acceptable, way of pushing aside our real feelings about our lives.  As long as we keep our mind and bodies preoccupied, much the way some do with drugs or alcohol, we don’t feel (or at least can more easily ignore) that annoying gut wrenching sensation that we somehow wish things were a little different. But as long as we’re “productive” we have a great excuse why we just didn’t have the time to do anything about it…right? So how much of the stuff that you are so busy doing really matters to you? How much of it will matter five years from now? How long have you been wishing things were just a little different? How were you thinking those wishes were going to come true?

Think LESS, Feel MORE

Recently, I have decided to try to be a little less productive with the things that don’t get me any closer to my dreams/goals, or have no significant meaning to me, until I have done at least one thing, regardless of how small, that matters to me (which can simply mean… it makes me happy).  Just something to remind me to appreciate the fact that I’m alive. Sometimes it’s taking the dog for a walk, spending five minutes looking at horses, exercise, or another attempt at a yoga pose. Other times it means writing, reading a book, volunteering, being a mom/wife/friend/sibling/daughter… or taking a course in something that interests me. Honestly, most of the time I still feel that “guilty, listing all the things I “should” be doing, who I am going to disappoint”, feeling inside when I first set out to do these things, the difference is, now… I do them anyway (most of the time). I remind myself how I will feel after and that, 90% of the time, I will still get all of those other things done too. Maybe I’ll have to get up a little earlier, stay up a little later, work harder or faster, but they’ll get done, and I’ll feel so much better that I spent part of my day actually living my life. The five minutes I spend doing something that adds value to my life has such a significantly greater impact on me, and ultimately those around me, than some of the entire days I spend being “productive” with things that just don’t matter. The point is, all those “productive” things will still be there when you finally get to them, but time…appreciating being alive, once it passes, is gone forever.

LESS stuff, MORE value.

Some people say that, because of their jobs or responsibilities, they “can’t”. Is that really true? If your life depended on it, would you be able to find the time? Well guess what…it does! Every day is another day of your life that you won’t get back, there are no redo’s in your current set of circumstances.  If your work doesn’t provide you with a sense of purpose or fulfillment, than what are you doing to provide yourself with that? I totally understand that some people are lucky enough to have a job they love, it’s a passion vs. “work”; my mom was that way in her career. Others have jobs that provide them the means to pursue their passion.

But what if you don’t put yourself in either of those categories? What if you just get up and go through the motions each and every day on auto pilot? What is one small thing you can do to change that? Is it a special cup of coffee? A snuggle with your child? What are you waiting for? What are the excuses you’re telling yourself as to why you can’t?  Are they really true? Or is it a case of “if I can’t do it BIG or PERFECT I might as well not do it at all”?

LESS perfect ideas, MORE real action.

How much time do you spend surfing social media? What if you told yourself that you were going to spend half of that time every day for a week doing one small thing that really mattered to you or just made you feel good? Just to see how it feels? What not try? Do you remember what those things are?

Don’t wait until you reach your goal; to lose 5 lbs., get in shape, have X dollars in the bank, get that promotion, etc.… Are any of those things really what you’re striving for? Or is it how you imagine you will feel when you have them? If it’s the latter, the secret is, you can choose to feel that way now! It’s true, you can start feeling and living that way now while continuing to work towards your goals. For many of us, as soon as we reach our goal we find a new one anyway, so why wait to feel great and love your life? What’s the point? How much longer are you willing to put your life and your happiness (and those around you) on hold? The world needs you NOW, today, goals will always be there; they may be your destination but what about the journey? That journey is your life, and you get to, no…actually…you have to, CHOOSE how you feel as you live it.

Wait LESS, Appreciate the current moment MORE.

If you disagree, I’m willing to bet that you have felt that way for a while, long enough for that way of thinking to have become a habit. There are numerous studies out there that prove that habits can be changed. “Old habits die hard”, but just because something isn’t easy doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or worthwhile. Some of the most rewarding things in life are the most challenging to achieve. What could be more rewarding than living a life you love, a life that matters to you? What could be worth more?

LESS “productive”, MORE true to your heart.

Try to imagine yourself in the future… all of these days that you are letting slip by, or just “getting through”, being “productive”… that’s your life, this is not a dress rehearsal, you can’t get that time back. What do you really want to have accomplished 3, 5 or 10 years from now? How do you want to feel along the way? Make a list of all the things you do on a daily basis, and then ask yourself if any of them are getting you at least a little closer to your dreams (saving money doesn’t count). Do they make you appreciate being alive?  If not, how are those dreams or that happiness going to happen? What are you waiting for? You just have to start, don’t strive for perfect, just take the first step. One small imperfect step forward will get you so much further than 10 big perfectly planned steps never taken. If you take one small action each day, 5 minutes or 5 hours, I promise you will be getting closer to your dreams, and LIVING your life at the same time. 🙂

DO less, BE more!

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