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 you share, you feel you matter enough for someone to want to know your story; everyone needs to share.

Sharing: How much? When? What? Why? With who? Etc.…etc.…

It seems like the answers to these questions should be so simple, so why do so many of us struggle with them?

Studies show:

I’ve read a lot of studies touting the therapeutic benefits of sharing your stories. However, the same studies warn of the detrimental effects of sharing those same stories with the “wrong” people, at the wrong time, etc.…

I’ve read about the physiological changes that necessarily take place in our brains when we “remember” a certain event. Apparently, each time we remember an event, our brains automatically fill in any missing/forgotten/fuzzy pieces with “something that works”, i.e. something that confirms our preexisting belief. We move on continuously noticing things that reinforce these beliefs. To make things worse, each time we remember that event, we are really only remembering our last memory of it…still with me? Our memories of these events effect our feelings about them, and that effects who we are today. Based on that alone…I can definitely see that one obvious benefit of telling your story would be that someone else could help you verify the facts later on.

Some studies have shown how sharing stories helps satisfy our intrinsic need for connection. It makes sense, when you are with someone who knows a lot about you, you generally feel a greater sense of connection with them. They know the real you and they’re still hanging out with you; that’s reassuring and probably relaxing. It’s as if just by sharing your stories with another person, the two of you now share some common history. Even though you didn’t live through the actual event together, you relived it and allowed them to share in that experience; they are now somehow connected to that part of your life as well as the present. When someone shows an interest in listening to your stories, they’re telling you they are curious about you, they want to know more. This can be incredibly validating for you as a human being.

Social Media:

Sharing leads to feelings of connection, from which comes the feeling “I matter”. When you feel you are part of something bigger than just you, you have a purpose, you fit somewhere. Science has proven multiple times in multiple ways that communities that connect thrive; we are meant to share, we feel the NEED to share.

That explains why Facebook, Twitter, snap chat, etc.… are so successful. It’s natural, they feed off of our physiological wiring. However…social media is not real sharing, and that’s why, I believe, it tends to cause more social problems than it helps. True beneficial sharing is necessarily a two way street; it requires mutual trust and doesn’t expose you to judgment.  With social media there is a lack of trust and an overabundance of judgment. Add repetition over time and you have the perfect recipe for anxiety, depression, imposture syndrome, comparisons etc.… It may not seem harmful at first but, each time you look at social media put a grain of sand in a bag and carry it on your back. You’ll be surprised how quickly that bag fills to the point where it crushes you.

Sharing involves talking with each other, not about each other.

To Share or Not to Share:

I’ve known people who choose not to share their lives. The feeling is that if you don’t share something about yourself with, say, your coworkers, then when you go to work each day, the people around you know nothing about it; it’s almost as if it never happened/doesn’t exist, at least in that part of your world. No one is going to ask you about it or do/say something to remind you of it.  You don’t have to wonder if anyone is thinking or talking about it or what their opinions may/may not be. This is probably extremely appropriate and perhaps even beneficial in many situations. It’s as if that part of you is completely disconnected. In this way, perhaps disconnection can be positive.

Some people say they don’t want to bother people with their stories, waste their time etc.…, some are simply too embarrassed or ashamed and want to pretend it never happened. Others say they started not sharing in order to protect people; ie… to not disappoint, hurt feelings, etc…  But who are you hurting in the process?  Is the cost worth the benefit?  What would happen if you stopped?  Are you sure you’re not underestimating these people?

Many people simply feel that they just don’t have anyone to share with. Some have spent their whole lives listening to others, being the rock, and they don’t want to jeopardize their image by needing to share; their role was always to be there for others and now they don’t know how to ask others to be there for them.

In any case, if you continue to go on not sharing, so that you can pretend certain parts of your life/self didn’t/don’t exist, because it’s a habit or you don’t know how/with who, what does that do to your sense of self-worth? How do you go on living in an environment that you feel so unattached to? How does a plant survive without roots…? A cut flower in a vase can only last for so long without some help from an external source. A fully established rooted plant however…that plant thrives because of its connection to the earth; it is able to get everything it needs. The cut flower survives for a limited time, the rooted plant can thrive indefinitely.

Sharing the Past vs. Living in the NOW:

Recently, I have started to wonder what the physiological effects are of not sharing, for whatever reasons, and our innate need for connection. The “non-sharers” I’ve spoken to definitely tend to feel less of a sense of belonging in general. Many of them begin to feel as if their past (their stories) don’t really matter…after all, aren’t we all about living in the NOW?

I believe that living in the NOW is extremely important, however, I also believe that it’s everything that we’ve been through or experienced in our past that has made us who we are, put us where we are, and created our current set of life circumstances. I believe truly living in the NOW requires doing it as a whole person, not just the parts of you that you decided were worthy of bringing along.

I’m a big believer in “everything happens for a reason”, I also think that sometimes we have to either try harder or wait longer to figure out what that reason is. However, if we simply ignore or pretend certain aspects of our lives didn’t happen or don’t matter, than how will we learn the lesson it was meant to teach us? How will we discover the “reason”? Perhaps that’s why so many of us find ourselves in certain situations over and over again; the universe is trying to teach us something but we just want to push that “set of circumstances” under a rug and pretend it never happened or isn’t continuing to happen…and we keep doing that…every time it repeats itself.

Every year that goes by without sharing your secrets seems to somehow make them worse, it’s not like the past changes, but its power over you somehow continues to grow. It’s almost suffocating, as if you’re drowning, maybe that explains certain phobias, anxieties and/or depression? I believe that when you don’t share significant events in your life, your mind begins to mess with you. Memories become distorted and the truth harder and harder to remember; was it really your fault or did you just convince yourself of that? Do you find a way to twist things so that they don’t seem as bad? By convincing yourself that one experience was a certain way, do you go through the rest of your life behaving or thinking differently to continuously justify that idea? Can your perception of a single event actually begin to distort your decision making from that point on? Yes, I think it can. So, physiologically, the way we internalize and/or process an event(s) as a child actually continues to affect the way we behave and the choices we make as we become an adult.

If we have no one we trust to share with, then our mind is free to direct the show with no outside influence or the interference of different perspectives.

Where to start:

I have met people who have shared so little of themselves, and feel correspondingly little connection with others, that, over time, they have begun to wonder if anyone would even notice if they were to just disappear. If we don’t feel like we are part of the puzzle, so to speak, than are we just an extra piece?  What’s the point of an extra puzzle piece?  Others, who have spent the majority of their lives trying to take care of others (Hero Support), tend to believe that their services would be missed; that they would let down or disappoint people. These people describe themselves more like the board the puzzle pieces are being laid out on, this belief gives them some purpose. All of these people often feel alone, regardless of  how many people are around.

If you’ve gotten to that point…why aren’t you sharing? Do you not want to or do you just not know how/where to start? Do you have someone to share with? This may not be what you want to hear but…, sometimes it helps to hire someone to share with for a while.  It’s possible that you may just be out of practice; it can actually help just to talk to someone who makes a living listening and offering different perspectives.  You don’t have to feel guilty for “wasting” their time, or wonder if they really care; it doesn’t matter, do it for you (generally speaking, people go into those professions because they care).

If that sounds too crazy, what about a journal? Even if you don’t think of yourself as a “writer”, it can be incredibly therapeutic to just release your thoughts on to paper and then, when you’re done, to read what has come out; most people are surprised by what they find.

Do you have one friend who shares with you? How does that make you feel? What do you think would happen if you shared with that person? Why not try it with something neutral to start with, maybe a childhood memory or a work/home related story, perhaps whichever the person is not part of…

Do you know that every single one of us was put here for a reason? Created to be exactly as we are. Have you noticed that you are at least a little different than everyone else? That there is no one else exactly like you out there…there’s a reason for that. The world needs YOU, but how can that happen if you keep You all to yourself, or keep pretending to be someone else?

Not everyone deserves to hear your stories, but you deserve to be able to share them, you deserve to not have to carry all the weight of some of them and/or to relive and celebrate the joy of others. 

Oftentimes, when we share childhood memories as an adult, we process them very differently, from a new perspective, and thereby go forward living with them much more peacefully; maybe you learn something or at least feel differently about it. Sometimes doing so can help you let go and move on, even find serenity where there was once pain or unrest.

I think it’s important to share, I think it’s important that you feel worthy of sharing, that you know that your stories are important and that you matter. I know that it’s not always easy but…what’s the alternative?  Reaching the top of a mountain is only as awesome as the difficulty of the climb…

I also believe that sometimes it’s not entirely your conscious choice not to share. Maybe you’ve become surrounded by the wrong group, maybe you’re comfortable there but, are you happy? Are you thriving or just surviving? I was once assured that my pet lizard was happy in its tank because it had never known anything different…

Maybe it has nothing to do with your current “tribe”, maybe you’ve just developed a habit over time, for whatever reason(s), and you have no idea how much those around you would love to know you better, to feel more connected. Have you tried? If not, what are you afraid of? Is that really any worse than living with that fear?

None of us were meant to go through life feeling alone.

You matter, you’re stories matter, your life matters, and it’s all here for a reason. This world needs you, you’re the only one we’ve got!

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How will you ride the next wave?

Life is like the ocean waves, a constant repetitive cycle

Big ones, small ones, some we don’t even notice until they have passed

Rising up, crashing down, deep into the sea, hard onto the sand, or perhaps lightly washing over the shore

Smooth or harsh or in between

Continuous…always never ending

Ride the wave, surf, swim against it, or maybe just float?

Take a deep breath for the down part to help you survive until you rise again

You will rise again, but you will have to go under first

The more you struggle the more difficult it will be to hold your breath,

Relax, let go, don’t fight the current, it will take you back up, just don’t resist

Take the down time to think about what you will do the next time you are on top

You will be on top again…

And it too will pass, again

Soon you will be going down again, but how can it be different this time?

How can you make the down time as useful as the rise?

How can the awareness that this down time is only momentary help you?

What strengths can you acquire here to help you achieve what you want when you return to the top?

The entire ride is the journey we call life, it’s the lows that create the highs, and the highs that create the lows,

Cherish them all as if they may not last forever, get the most out of EVERY MOMENT

Life is an ocean and the waves are just moments, no two identical, once gone, never to return exactly the same…

This is your life, your ocean, and the choices are YOURS

When the waves are no longer coming and going, rising and falling, the ride…the journey…is over

Ride the wave, surf, swim against it, or float?

Take a deep breath for the down part to help you survive until you rise again

You will rise again, will you be ready?

 

I believe that our destiny is to be our best selves. To realize our innate strengths, gifts, passions and values and then use them to make a difference in the world, to help out or contribute in some way, big or small.  I believe that our destiny is in us when we are born and that free will helps determine how the journey will go.  One mistake so many of us make is to turn that free will over to others, often those with the best of intentions, but they can only make the best decisions for their selves, not yours. Many times, when we dutifully follow the “shoulds” of others, despite the feelings in our gut, or voice in our head, telling us otherwise, we live with the loss later, often in the form of regret and resentment.

For some reason we repeatedly listen to other people’s inner voices yet we tend to silence or discredit our own. Why would someone else’s inner voice know more about what’s right for you than your own?  Who else has lived your entire life, experienced everything you have experienced and perceived it the very same way?  Who else has heard all of your thoughts? Who else do you know that has always, and will always, be with you every night when you go to sleep and every morning when you wake up, for your entire life?  And yet, that is who’s voice we tend to ignore or discredit.  Why? There is no good reason, I think it’s just habit. Habits are comfortable, after all, we are neurologically wired for survival and our brains know “doing ‘this” has kept me alive this long so….continuing to do it is safe”, and safe is comfortable (but there is no growth in the comfort zone…)

When we were younger we needed to rely on the voices of others for survival.  Somewhere along the way this was no longer necessary yet it’s what we’ve been conditioned to do. I’m not suggesting that seeking and/or receiving guidance is in any way shape or form bad, I’m a huge fan of learning from others experiences. I just believe that, once you’ve gathered whatever information you think you need, your own inner voice should be the ultimate decision maker for what’s right for you. Use the voices of others as guidance, not orders.

We spend years learning, or being conditioned in some way, to listen to others; our parents, teachers, mentors, authority figures, bosses etc… When are we taught how to be in touch with, listen to, or even hear, our own “voice”? Why does that concept even sound strange? Is it the idea that we need to be told or taught to hear our own inner voice? But we are told/taught to listen to others….

It seems logical to treat a 2 year old differently from a 12 or 42 year old. They are in different stages of life and, therefore, should live by different standards. So why, when it’s us, do we allow ourselves to be ruled by our same old standards? Why do we continue to listen to the “rules” that were put into our heads when we were children? We aren’t 12 anymore yet so many of us still do things because “that’s the way I was taught”, or brought up.  Did you ever stop to think about how old you were when you learned a particular rule or standard that you have continued to live by? Is it possible it was applicable to your life then but really isn’t any more? Do you continue because you believe it’s right for you, or is it just a habit?

If it’s habit, is it a good one? Is it still beneficial or even applicable to the new realities of your life? If not, than how do you break it? For me, the first step was stopping long enough to question my thoughts and my actions; to just become aware of the fact that they really don’t make sense for me any more. Once I started doing that, the rest just sort of happened, and continues to happen… What about you? What “shoulds” do you still follow for no other reason than because you always have? Do they still work for you? Did they ever? Why do you continue? If you could do something different, what would you do? What’s stopping you? Who’s “job” is it to make up the rules for you these days? Who lives with the consequences? If you could rewrite the rules for your life today, knowing all that you know about your current self, what would they be? Think about that, that’s your first step…enjoy the journey, after all…it’s YOUR LIFE, what is YOUR inner voice telling you? 

p.s. If you’ve decided to stick with the “status quo” for whatever reason(s), before throwing in the towel completely, ask yourself: “How will I feel 5 years from now if I don’t make any changes today?” What are you putting off or not doing? Imagine your dream life two years from now? Are you on your way there? If not, what’s one thing you can do to get closer? Maybe it’s just making a plan? Remember…small steps forward vs. big steps nowhere wins every time.

 

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Why do we waste any one stage of our life wishing, hoping, or trying, to make it like another; each stage has its time and its purpose, but we only get one shot. Live for the moment, enjoy the things that are only available, possible or even acceptable, in that moment…and then move on. Get everything you can out of the stage that you are in, it will only help you in the next, but you have to be in the moment you are in if you don’t want to miss it. Before you know it, those moments were your life. Remember, it’s not about how much time you lived; it’s about how much you lived during your time.

Recently I sat through an assembly in my son’s middle school where we were given a folder full of papers with names and descriptions of, not only classes students could take in High School, but suggested clusters of classes for various career paths. The catch was…you pretty much needed to have it all figured out by Tuesday.  Suddenly I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me. I automatically started looking through the papers and wondering; what should he take? What if he takes this and then decides he should have taken that? Can he take them all just in case? Etc… Just then I turned around to look at my son, sitting several rows behind me with his buddies, and I noticed that they weren’t even listening. My first reaction was to be annoyed, but almost simultaneously, I had to laugh. He was just acting his age, living in the moment with his friends, not stressed out about what he was going to be when he grew up, but simply trying to get a little balled up piece of paper into another boys sweatshirt hood a few rows ahead.

Instantaneously I felt concerned by the assembly. How is this helping our society? Why are we encouraging children to focus so narrowly on their future instead of what might benefit them right now? I mean….I get it, it’s the “way things are” and I commend our school for preparing our children for that harsh reality, but could there be another way? Who is benefiting from the current “way things are”? Do kids seem happier? Are addiction rates or drug abuse down? How about school shootings or the suicide rates of college/university students or young adults? Do the “way things are” seem to be working very well to you?

Sitting there, I felt like I was witnessing an example of the out of control social pressures on our kids that have now become “normal”. We are picking a “career path” in 8th grade… If in 11th grade a child realizes he made the wrong choice, or changes his mind about what he wants to be when he grows up, does he risk making his transcripts look bad and take the opportunity to try something new? Does he value the learning he received, even if it was simply discovering what he didn’t want to do, and start in a new direction? Does he push those feelings away and march forward to achieve the goal he set simply because he has already come this far? In 11th grade is anyone encouraging him to think about how much happier he’ll be in 5, 10 or even 15 years by changing course now? To think about what his gut is telling him? Or is he being informed about how much better completing the courses will look on his resume etc.…? What if he has been doing well in these classes? Who will advise him that it’s ok not to continue even though he’s good at it? Will human nature deter him from wanting to “throw away or waste” all the time and energy he has spent getting to this point?

What does it mean to “waste time” anyway? Especially time that has already past. If it’s already past, and you gained something from it, is it possible for it become “wasted” at some point in the future, or is that just a matter of perspective? And if its perspective, can’t we change it? I think so. To me, when we stop listening to our own inner voice and let ourselves be controlled by the voices of “others”, that’s wasting time; that time is your life.

What if life is just a bunch of experiences and all we are supposed to get is what we learn from each one of them? (Versus a big job or paycheck etc.…) What if we looked at each moment as precious in itself and merely tried to get the most out of it rather than just using it as a stepping stone to a “better” future moment (which may never come).

As I sat in the assembly, I couldn’t help but wonder, when did we become more concerned with teaching our kids what to think then how to think? When did it all change? No wonder kids seem so stressed out today; not only do they have to deal with the out of control peer competition on social media, but they also have to compete for their position in life as an adult as well. When are they supposed to just be that awkward, in between, not a child or an adult, hormones taking over my body, teenagers? I can’t imagine feeling all that pressure and not yet having enough life experience to have the tools to deal with it. I have to admit, I suddenly couldn’t even hear the speakers, all I could imagine was a huge factory; with our unique, individual, creative children on a conveyer belt going in one side, full of life and laughter, and coming out the other side as robots. There were are few different makes and models, but basically just little adult robots with all the childhood sucked out of them, never to be seen again. An entire stage of life…gone. It was heart wrenching.

When we got home I asked my son what he thought about the assembly. He told me that he “wanted to take cooking and art”. When I asked him why, he said that he loves to cook and he loves to eat, so it seemed “awesome to be able to do both during the school day”. Regarding art, he said he’s always loved art but has noticed that if he doesn’t take it in school, he just doesn’t do it anymore. He said he really likes learning new drawing techniques and drawing is something he has always loved. WOW, proud mom moment!  My son wants to make sure that he continues to do and enjoy something that has made him happy for as long as he can remember…talk about “out of the mouths of babes”.  Ok, so he definitely didn’t listen to the assembly, and he may not be able to complete the engineering or business track with these electives, but he will be reinforcing a habit of “making the time to do what makes you happy. I believe a happy, self-confident individual is at least as capable of accomplishing whatever they set their minds to as someone who is just really good at following a curriculum. Besides, isn’t the whole point of “achieving our dreams” to be happy? What good is a great job and a large bank account if you’re miserable? If you don’t learn how to be happy NOW, in THIS moment or stage of your life, how can you expect to be happy later? Will you even remember what it feels like?

I’m not suggesting that I have all (or any) of the answers, but, I do know that my child will only be as young as he is now. There will come a time when he has no choice but to act like an adult, and it will no longer be appropriate for him to act like a teenager, so why not let him be one now? A toddler can poop his pants and its ok, by letting them, eventually they learn not to so that when they are in school they use the bathroom. When we are in elementary school we might throw sand at other kids. This is normal, but we quickly learn that we don’t like it when they throw it back, so we learn not to do it before reaching the upper grades when that behavior is no longer acceptable. As teenagers we may stay up too late and not be able to fully function in school the next day. This is typical and usually we just get a few extra hours sleep when we get home, but we have learned the consequences of our actions first hand so that, a few years later, we are less likely to repeat our mistakes when our jobs are on the line, and so on…

When did we stop appreciating the stage we are in and become “OK” with letting it pass us by while we work towards a “better” one? Why do some of us wait until we’re old to want to be young and others spend so much of our youth trying to be grown up? I’m sure it varies but, I feel as though we first step onto that treadmill somewhere in the mid to later years of elementary school; wishing to be just a little “older”, more “grown up” and given more independence. I’ve noticed that somewhere around 50 many people start to step off that treadmill and realize where they are, wonder how they got there (and sometimes why). The more I spend time with older people, 75 plus, I hear mixed reviews: some wish to be young again, to be physically able to enjoy the simple things in life like running, playing and rolling down a grassy hill. Others, unfortunately, have told me how grateful they are to have been young when they were because they couldn’t imagine living with the pressures of being young today. That always saddens me, probably because I have young children. But then I think, maybe, just maybe, the pendulum has swung so far in this direction of fast times, that it will soon start to head back the other way.

Maybe there is a whole generation of us that have spent some of the last 30 or so years with blinders on; striving for certain goals, filled with determination and absolute disregard for alternate possibilities. Now, having achieved our goals, we realize they don’t make us happy. Some of us may have recognized that we were heading down the wrong path along the way, but we kept going because other people told us we should, it was relatively easy, or maybe because we’d already invested so much time/money that we couldn’t imagine “throwing it all away”. Somehow we convinced ourselves that it’s better to waste our future time than to waste the time already spent, but does that make any sense? That time is gone…, the only time we have is now and our future. Do we have to be anything “less than happy” in our future because of our past? Maybe we can use that past, not for what we “accomplished”, but for what we learned from the experiences (thereby making all that time invaluable). Perhaps we can help teach the next generation the importance of living in the moment you are in, listening to and trusting your heart, and living your life. Can we lead by example?

“Society” is just a bunch of people; WE are those people. If things in society are not working, it’s up to us to fix them, one person at a time. A lot has changed over the last 30 years with the advancements in technology etc. The speed at which we do everything has increased dramatically; it’s normal to expect some growing pains, but now it’s time to adjust. One thing that has not changed is the amount of time we have at each stage in our life. My mom always told me that every season has a reason, and I believe that’s true for each “season” of our lives. Each has its own unique set of possibilities for a reason and no one is more/less essential than another. What can you do now that you weren’t able to do in a previous “season” of your life? What have the seasons past left you with to help you grow? This is your moment to make the most of NOW, and share what you know with those younger than you. You are “society”, so if you agree that some changes are needed, it’s up to you to start today! “Be the change you want to see“. No pressure 😉

p.s. You’ve probably heard the saying, “If I only knew then what I know now.” How do you respond to that? What would you have done differently? Why? What do you wish you knew? This is your moment to pass that on to the next generation, to make the difference you wish someone had made for you. Perhaps that is the reason you had to learn the “hard way”, to be the one who makes that difference for someone else. Someone has to start the change…why not you?

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As the rush of the holiday season begins to subside, I find myself thinking about the people I got to see, the ones I didn’t, those I spoke with, the gifts that were exchanged, and the memories made as a result of it all. It made me wonder why we cram it all into one small season, why not spread it out over the whole year? If I could give people a gift simply to let them know that they are important to me, that I appreciate having them in my life, that I value them as a friend/family member and a person, and that they are worth more to me than something money could buy, what would I give them? What would mean the most to me from any of these people? It was obvious; the only gift I could possibly give them was the most precious thing I have, the one thing I can never get back, exchange or replace…my time; my undivided attention. I could let my presence be my gift.

Now that may sound boastful or conceited to some, but I don’t mean it that way. My intention is to make another person(s) realize how significant they are to me. To let them know, for at least that period of time, that there is nothing more important. No cell phones, TVs, computers or other electronics; no laundry, work responsibilities, kids to chase, dishwasher to unload etc., just two (or more) people…talking, listening, and/or being, for the sole purpose of connecting, emotionally and/or spiritually, without distractions. Whether it’s on the phone or in person, in a coffee shop, movie theater or at the kitchen counter; for an hour, a day or 15 minutes, the quality of that time is what matters. Experiencing the time as it passes, instead of trying to “capture” it with a selfie.

It may seem strange to think of time as a gift, but what is more valuable? I remember when I was younger and a friend would call to talk. Out of necessity, I would stop everything I was doing and go to the room in the house where the phone was attached to the wall and be completely present. It’s true, I didn’t have a choice at the time, but I also didn’t know any different. If a friend came over we would actually spend our time communicating with each other. There was nothing to watch on TV, no video games to play, no cell phones or computers to stare at, and a fraction of the magazines to compare ourselves to or talk about…we had no choice but to interact. Today, I often find that when I’m on the phone with a friend, I’m also driving, picking up or dropping off children, running errands or, if I’m home, I’m working at my computer, folding laundry, cleaning rooms, etc… and, most of the time, the person on the other end is doing the same sort of things. If I stop and think about it, each of these things deserves my full attention (maybe not the laundry…) and yet it seems natural to do them all at once. What have we sacrificed in exchange for all of our modern “conveniences” or “technological advancements”? Is it worth it? I may be getting a lot more done in a shorter period of time but what am I getting out of any of those things? How are they contributing to my life and/or helping me grow as a person? How much quality am I loosing for the quantity I gain?

Because of “how far we have come”, million dollar industries that make their money making us feel insufficient or not enough, now have the ability to influence us 24/7 and, as a result, have become billion dollar industries. At the same time, in the age of communication, we have stopped communicating WITH each other and simply communicate TO each other. Instead of real people getting together (on the phone or in person) and being present with each other, we post glorified pictures on Facebook, watch reality TV shows that either make us feel bad about ourselves or make us feel better by making someone else look worse, compare ourselves to magazine photos, tweet this, pin that, etc. When did it all become such a contest? What happened to “we’re all in this together”? Aren’t we? What is the difference between “us” and “them”? When did we trade in connection for competition? And was it worth it? Who wins when one of us loses? I grew up hearing that “we are only as strong as our weakest link”…so why aren’t we trying to strengthen each other?

I believe, and there are several studies that agree, that we, as humans, have a strong innate need for connection, just as we do for food, water, etc…. Meaning, we are programed to desire it because we require it. It has actually been shown how this need is imperative, not only for survival but, for communities to thrive. Currently, I believe that we, as a society, are approaching epidemic levels of a deficit of the very connection that has been proven necessary for humans to thrive. Small doses of undivided personal attention from you to your friends/family could be just the antidote we need. I remember when I was younger, my mom worked a lot. She was a wonderful pediatric surgeon and saved many lives. However, she was away from home a lot. Because she was always thinking about me and my siblings, she was constantly picking up little trinkets here and there that she thought would make us happy. I remember, as a child, wishing that I could trade in all the trinkets, and the time it took her to gather them, for one hour of her time all to myself. Children are very sensitive to the primal need for deep, meaningful connection. We become numb, or use to, not having it after a while, but the cumulative negative effects on society continue to grow. It may not be obvious as it gradually occurs, but what about when you look back over time? Can you say that society has improved over the years since the internet was born? I suppose that depends on your perspective, but I’m only talking about it in a sense of people’s hope, faith, and good feelings about life in general; their happiness and feelings of self-worth vs. productivity levels.

What if your time in someone’s life could make just the difference that they needed? What if they then passed that on to someone else? Etc., etc.… Is there a down side? Worst case scenario, you make a memory. So what if this year, you consider giving someone(s) a handmade gift certificate good for one afternoon, a cup of coffee, a half hour phone call, a walk, etc…at some date within the coming year; during which you completely unplug and give the recipient your undivided attention. In your own words, let them know that they are worthy of the one thing you have that you can never get back, your time. Give them the gift that lasts forever, a quality memory. Time is the most precious thing any of us have, without it, we have nothing. Giving someone your time tells them that you value them; they are significant in your life, they matter. Maybe even consider thinking of a topic to discuss, some questions you’d love to hear their answers to, opinions on or perspective of. Maybe you just want to go for a walk and be in their company; tell them things you’d want them to know if you never saw them again (it’s never too soon). Make it a small group thing, a family thing… Just do it, schedule it, put it in your calendar and make it a priority in your life. I promise you will add more to your life with that time than you will lose by missing an exercise class, etc…

In these busy, fast-paced, auto-pilot, hectic, electronic, multitasking times, let your loved ones know what they mean to you by giving them your time and attention. Let your presence be a present. It will be appreciated; if not immediately, in time. Imagine how you would feel if someone special gave that to you…and then treat people the way you want to be treated 😉

Wishing you peace, health, love and deeper/meaningful connection in the New Year and beyond! 

 

 

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Ever feel like your “faking it” in life?  Like you’re playing a role, as opposed to just being yourself?  Making a conscious effort to “perform”, “behave” or even look a certain way, that maybe doesn’t come naturally to you but you believe it’s “correct” or the “right thing” to do? Do you believe it’s what you “should” be doing, or how you are “supposed” to act? Do you waste time and energy fretting about when others will catch on, or if they already have? Do you sometimes feel like an imposture in your own life?

Chances are, if you’re feeling even remotely similar to this, you’re not following your passion.  You probably got sucked into the “you should”, or “you’d be great at”, or “have you ever considered” cycle and, somewhere along the line, lost track of whose ideas/dreams you were following, or who really knew what was in YOUR best interest. I’m not suggesting that people giving you suggestions/advice did not intend for it to be in your best interest, but many people base what they think is in someones’ best interest on what they believe would be best for themselves. Only you can know what’s best for you…by how it makes you feel.

So how do you feel now?  What has all of your life experiences up until this point taught you?  Do you feel like you love what you are doing? Do you at least love what it allows you to do?  Are you thriving in life? Do you feel energized by your work or your play? If not, where are you stuck?

Are you following your passion/purpose? Do you remember what it is? What is that “thing” that you’ve always loved to do; the subject matter you can never read or learn enough about, or the thing that always makes you smile when you think about it? That’s it, that’s your passion, and it’s been in you since you were born. It’s the gift you were given to share with the world and, I believe, when you do, you will begin to feel a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose in your life (even while doing the laundry 😉 ).

Do you ever wonder what you would do with all that time and energy you spend “acting” like this person you’ve become if the choice was yours?  Well, it is…so what will you do with it? Who do you want to BE? What is one small step you can take today to get you closer to the life you were born to live? What support do you need? How can you get it?

Don’t stay stuck in a mistake just because you spent so much time and effort getting there. You still have the rest of your life to live, why not start today by putting who you ARE back into everything you DO.

It’s your one trip on this merry go round, go ahead and give yourself permission to enjoy the ride. You deserve it, we all do.

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Have you ever said to yourself or felt, I just need a “me”? A duplicate of yourself to be your teammate in life? To help you through each day? To talk to, to give you advice or support? When was the last time you stopped and realized that you have a “me”? It’s you.

How much time and energy have you spent today trying to figure out how to make others’ lives better? How much time and energy have you spent doing that for yourself? Who does it for you these days? How do you feel about them putting you before themselves? Do you enjoy giving? Who do you allow to give to you? What do you do on a regular basis to take care of the only “me” you have?

I believe we were each entrusted with one person to take care of first and foremost, and yet we continuously disregard that person to take care of others; why don’t we feel justified in putting that person, “me”, first? I’m talking about feeling good about your own self-worth, feeling that who you are and how you spend your time contributes in a meaningful way for you as an individual and your community, i.e. family, friends, town, etc…

If you had another “me”, how would you treat that person? How would you require others in your life to treat that person? Do you do that for yourself? If not, why? If you step outside yourself, don’t you think you deserve it? How are you telling others it’s ok to treat that person? Where do you put “me” on your list of priorities? Who is the one person in this world you literally couldn’t live without?

Maybe we simply do what we do out of habit. If we started putting ourselves first, not in a selfish or egotistical way, but the way we would a child, friend or loved one; if we made putting ourselves first a new habit, what sort of impact would we, our best selves, be capable of having on the world?

If individuals made striving to become their best self as natural as putting others needs before their own, what would that be like? If we could all be true to ourselves out loud, how would things be different? How can we teach our children to listen to their guts, be true to themselves, follow their passions, and always take care of themselves first…if we don’t show them how? Children watch what we do far more carefully than they listen to what we say.

I think that, over the years, society has made us feel badly about taking care of ourselves first. But who/what is “society”? Isn’t that just us? So if we created these negative connotations, can’t we change them? Instead of teaching people to wait for others to take care of them, why not teach them to take care of themselves? If each person were given one person to be responsible for, to take care of first and foremost…that could work! Imagine how we can change the world one person at a time… I truly believe, baby steps forward will always get you farther than big steps nowhere. After all, if you don’t start where you are (as opposed to where you think you “should be”) and take a step that you can achieve (instead of the one you think you “ought to” be able to take), how far will you get?

Do something for yourself today to begin or continue a habit of appreciating yourself the way you deserve to be appreciated. Try starting with the simple act of looking in the mirror, past all of the external features you may typically find fault with, now look into your eyes, deep inside, until you catch a glimpse of that unconditional friend staring back at you. That’s her, your best friend. Tell her how much you love and appreciate: how she has always been there with and for you, regardless of how badly you may have treated her; how she has never judged you, although you may have judged her; how she has always loved you no matter how much you said you hated her. She is your #1 fan and she is only here for you. Tell her you love her, thank her and let her know that from today on, she will be your priority. If that seems silly or hard to do, maybe just ask yourself why. Would it be difficult to say any of those things to a child? Friend? Loved one?

A good friend once told me this story: I have a pitcher of lemonade and I want to fill everyone’s glass. I want to be able to provide all who are thirsty with a drink. It gives me great pleasure to do this for others. However, sometimes I realize that my pitcher is empty, and then I can’t fill anyone’s glass. It makes me mad, sad and sometimes even resentful, when I can’t continue to serve. But, I have come to learn, I have to stop and take the time I need to fill my own pitcher if I want to be able to pour another glass for anyone else. So now I make it a regular habit to periodically stop to refill my pitcher, sometimes even before it is completely empty. The funny thing is, people wait patiently for my return; they have learned that when I first return after stopping to refill, the lemonade is even colder and fresher!

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A while back, during a trip to Arizona, I was hiking up one of the beautiful canyons with a small guided group.  Within the first 30 minutes of the 3+ hour hike, a woman in the group said to one of the guides, “I can’t do this, there’s just no way I can make it to the top.”  When the guide suggested that he would walk back down with her and they could wait at the bus until the rest of us returned, I could see the look of utter disappointment on her face.

At that moment she just sat down. The guide told her he would give her a few minutes to make her decision but the rest of the group continued to climb. When the woman noticed me standing there looking at her, she made eye contact with me and smiled.  That was my in…so I sat next to her and suggested that, since she had to wait for everyone anyway, why not just see how far she could get.  Instead of trying to climb to the top, “why not just concentrate on taking one more step, and when you can’t take any more, I’ll stop and rest with you, and then you can either take a few more steps up or we can turn around and head back towards the bus”.

She admitted that the idea sounded better than the alternative and off we went.  We talked about all of the rocks, trees, blooming cactus, lizards, etc. that nature so graciously put on our path as we took one step at a time. Some steps were slow, some more quickly, sometimes we even stopped to smell a flower, laugh at a stumble, or take a picture.  Each step was filled with fascinating conversation, discovery, and breathtaking silence.  Before we knew it, we were admiring the view from the top with the rest of the group.

As we stood there, without a word, she looked at me, gave me a huge hug, and we continued to talk about “nothing” all the way down the canyon. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized, I never even got her name, I’d probably never see her again, and yet she had had a significant impact on my life.  By “helping her”, she actually helped me finally realize that all any of us can ever really do is one step at a time; whether it’s up a mountain, to reach a life goal, or even just getting through the day.

Since then, when I find myself overwhelmed at the thought of a big project, trip, or even a possible future event, I stop and think of her and how we made it to the top. I take a deep breath, try to figure out what I can actually do now, and that’s where I begin, one step at a time. I find my anxiety starts to disappear once I get started. I tell myself that if I get stuck, I’ll assess that actual situation, as opposed to the one I’m imagining, and do what I can at that point. That’s really all we can ever do, isn’t it? I have always said that taking baby steps forward gets you further than standing still, paralyzed at the thought of a giant leap, but now I actually practice what I preach, or at least I try ;-).  I recommend trying it (it really doesn’t required any major changes, just less thinking and more doing…less is more)

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p.s. Most of the time, when I am successful at focusing solely on the step in front of me, somewhere between where I start and finish,  I end up learning what I need to know, or gain the strength required, to figure out and reach the next step more easily; it’s pretty amazing how life works that way!

As I was washing up the breakfast dishes I overheard my two younger sons (my twins) talking about a classmate.  I noticed that what they were saying about him wasn’t very nice so I interrupted them and asked why they were being so mean and what this boy had ever done to them to make them not like him.  Simultaneously they both looked at me, almost laughing, and explained to me that this boy was a friend of theirs, they did like him, and that it was OK to talk about him that way because he talks about himself that way all the time.  Needless to say, my boys and I had a long conversation about insecurities, desires to make friends and/or fit in, the difference between being laughed with and laughed at, etc… and then it was time to start our day.

Later that morning as I was driving, it dawned on me, we really do teach other how to treat us.  Even as a young child, this 5th grade boy was teaching his classmates that making fun of his weight, clumsiness, etc.. was acceptable.  So then what?  If this boys “claim to fame” was these jokes, what incentive was there for him to improve in these areas? But that’s a whole separate post, for purposes of today, think about how you treat yourself. Be aware of how you are telling your friends, family, co-workers, etc that it is OK to treat you, how you expect to be treated.  Don’t be surprised if, for example, your child doesn’t always show you the most respect or appreciation if s/he doesn’t see you showing it to yourself.  Be kind to yourself, treat yourself the way you want others to treat you, because, chances are, they will. The best time to start a change is now 🙂

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