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There’s a song by Five for Fighting called 100 Years. I’m sure you’ve heard it. He doesn’t have my favorite voice out there, but his lyrics and piano are so good, he’s one of my favorite artists.  In 100 Years, the lyrics zoom through the decades from 15 to 99, I remember not being able to listen to this song just after Kate was born. I was 30 and my postpartum mindset just couldn’t handle the message in the song, which is beautiful but fleeting. He nails the feelings of the ages - the freedom of 15, the love of 22, the responsibility of 33, the chasing youth of 45 and onward up to 99…the song mimics life and connection and I felt it so deeply I just couldn’t handle how fast it was all going, it literally filled me with dread.  Now today, I can tell you that some of those feelings had a lot to do with those hormones after you give birth and a serious lack of sleep…Kate wasn’t big on sleeping in her crib or even letting me sit and rock her, she preferred it if I stood up.  She’s much easier on me today at 14. 

The older we get, the faster it goes, and lately I worry that I don’t have enough days left to do what I want to do in this life.  But I had an epiphany this week that is making me feel so much better.  My ego is attached to what I accomplish, what I do physically in this world with the time I am given. I feel like I have to deliver. And yes, it matters to me what I do with my time, a lot. But when I bring my spiritual self and my true nature back to my goals, my desire to leave places better than I found them and connect with people, that is the work of my spirit, and what we do with our spirit lives on forever. This idea is so freeing and motivating at the same time.  God already knows my best plan with all it’s infinite potential, but it’s my choice what I do to fulfill it.  I figure if I’m tapped into that, if I’m falling short and not executing the plan He has for me, I’ll know it, and make the effort to correct my course. 

As I watch my kids and talk with the people closest to me, I see the parts of my life that have passed in snapshots. Gyms filled with people watching volleyball, kids racing across swimming pools without any aches or pains, college campuses that feel like I was there just months ago…but it’s been more than 20 years. I want to grab it all and I’m not sure what part I want to hang on to the most because it’s all so beautiful watching my kids flow through it. As my friend Vanessa so insightfully put it with tears in her eyes like the ones I have right now…

we are never going back,

and sometimes its hard to believe.  I am so grateful for this friend of mine with strong faith that sees the depth of what this life has to offer. Faith brings progress, goodness, and the intuition to know where the next great adventure or pink sunset lies…andI have so much gratitude for what I have learned and where I am on this journey because I have learned to be present and let the moments unfold. I’m still hoping to get 100 years, and master the art of living every day like it’s my last. 

For writers, a backstory is a set of events that is invented to help create the plot to our story. The truth is, it doesn't work much different in real life. Our life is the plot, those who came before us created our backstory. The more we know about it, the better we can understand ourselves and use our unique gifts and talents to make the world a better place. Human beings leave little fingerprints all over each others lives. I love to reflect on the good ones left by hugs, conversations, travel, and long lunches. My life has been so blessed in so many ways. But on the path to our best life, we learn to reflect on the imprint left by the not so shiny, darker side of life. The addictions in my family are mine, even if I never drink or take drugs. The tragic effects of suicide that happened before I was born or brought into a family is part of my fabric now.

What I have come to understand is, I don’t hurt anyone by trying to understand these things that have happened, it’s when I don’t talk about them that they cause pain in the present and future.

The silver lining is that grace washes over us in waves when we accept that most people are doing the best they can, with what they know, to be happy on this earth. We take control of our lives though, when we are brave enough to confront the things that hurt, and grow as we learn to be honest with ourselves about how to heal them. Healing is an inside job, no blaming involved. So while we are affected by what came before, healing is present tense and on us. Once we realize that, the question becomes:

“What are we willing to stay open to, to learn about, or acknowledge, that will teach us more about ourselves and allow us to grow?”

Let’s face it, as the days go on experiences, even tragedies, have the ability to either expand our vision, or harden us and draw us inward. If we pretend that life didn’t move us based on our encounters, that we didn’t see it or feel it, our world becomes smaller and we feel the need to control a narrative that we know we can manage and there is no freedom in that to be ourselves. In so many ways, its not the experience, but how we choose to be shaped by the experience, that sets the tone for our lives and the generations that come after us. In the case of our backstory, these events came before us, but make their impact on our DNA nonetheless. But as tragic as some of life’s situations can be, we are resilient enough to grow through them.

The real marker of tragedy is what happens when healing is unprocessed or stopped in its tracks.

You’ve heard the sentiment, hurt people, hurt people. It’s true, and these patterns repeat themselves generation after generation. The good thing is we live in a time of choices that past generations, based on social norms, were not as free to make...if we are brave enough to make them.

Old Patterns

 * If we don’t talk about it, it’s not really happening and it will go away. 

New Pattern: The truth is, it will get buried and come back in patterns of addiction and enabling that make us feel unsafe and unable to trust ourselves. When we don’t trust our own judgment that what we see as true, we can’t build our own confidence and self worth and are always looking for a backup opinion or for someone else to reinforce our reality when we feel we can’t manage on our own.  Believe in yourself and trust your gut and extend grace where you can.

 * If I acknowledge that something hurt me, I place blame on people I love, or even people that are no longer with us to tell their story. 

New Pattern: We can’t be deeply hurt by someone that we don't care about. To acknowledge and work through pain that you have been hurt actually shows someone that you care. They may not take it that way but it’s true. Their reaction to your wound will tell you whether you need put up some boundaries to heal on your own, or do the healing together with them. Give them a chance, even a little time to reflect and process. Discuss your feelings with compassion not blame. By admitting your feelings you are already on the path to healing…and hopefully you are a catalyst for their healing too. With reflection, feelings are always better out than in.

 * We see the world in moral absolutes. 

New Pattern: Yes, society needs constructs to coexist, but I have been thrown off before by dualistic thinking. With good intention, being yourself should never cause you to feel guilt or shame.

The longer I am on this earth, my rules are shaped by conscious thought and the time that it takes to know and love myself. I build the best connections from there. As Matthew McConaughey put it so brilliantly in his book Greenlights:

“Conservative early, liberal late.”

These are the words that will save us from living in lower vibrations of fear, shame, and guilt. We all have the power to create and choose the energy that surrounds and connects us. We don’t have to let everything in, but what we do let in, we need to sort out.

Everyday I ask myself:

“What do I want out of this life?”

 The answer is: to leave the places I touch better off because I was there, and to find the deepest forms of human connection. Knowing this answer has given so much more energy and purpose in my days. It points me in the right directions, it helps me maintain my optimism, and guides every human interaction that I have.

My life is better when I connect with growth minded, vulnerable people in real life, and I’m grateful for the path that I have created to be able to do that.

Do you know what you want out of this life? Answer the question, and design your life around the answer.

There’s an assignment that all of my kids have done in school now. As I see it, what I’m about to show you is hanging on the wall in Matthew’s classroom…so I’m not blowing any secrets here.

I don’t save much, but I have saved each one of these. Matthew was asked to do this in 6th grade Language Arts, my others did this exercise in 2nd grade at St. Anthony’s in Fresno with the simply amazing Mrs. Gennock.  With every year of our life, if we choose, we have the ability to grow our own awareness of ourselves and our environment, and I love this assignment because it gives me a little more insight on his inner workings. So here it is, with my response bullet pointed below his words in bold. 

I am tall and hardworking.  

I wonder what I will be when I grow up

I hear my mom encouraging me

I see an amazing beach

I want to be a pro surfer

I am tall, smart

I pretend to be the pro surfer of the world

I feel worried when I do something wrong

I worry when I get bad grades

I cry when I do something wrong.

I am tall and hardworking

I understand my parents well

I say I dream that my mom and dad will get along

I dream that I will do something amazing one day.

I try to do my best in school.

I hope I get really famous one day.

I am tall, hardworking

My poem:

I am conscious and brave

I wonder how many days I get on this earth

I hear enlightened conversation 

I want to join in

I am conscious and brave

I pretend that I’m not scared

I feel optimistic

I worry that I don’t have enough time left to accomplish everything I want to do

I cry when I’m lonely

I am conscious and brave

I understand that nothing works unless I do

I say I belong

I dream that my kids will find their calling

I try to inspire

I hope to find the deepest form of connection

I am conscious and brave

Try it…send it to me.  Self awareness starts with the simplest acknowledgement and opens the door to life long learning.  It’s the real fountain of youth and we are here to learn and inspire each other with our truth.

My new house is a little father away from the beach than I used to live.  For a kid from Fresno though, I still pinch myself that I get to see the water every time I drive down my street, and when the night gets quiet, I can hear the waves crashing, way down at the bottom of the hill. I watch the surfers carry their boards through my neighborhood and across Pacific Coast Highway up and down the hill, the young ones limber and light, some of the older ones wearing a knee brace, maybe a little slower as they make their way up the hill. My thought every time: 

It inspires me to see people make the effort for something that they love. They are embracing resistance.

The real test of our mettle is what we choose to do when things in our life are a less than ideal. I realize ideal is a relative term, it’s only 13 miles from Redondo Beach to Compton, but I write from my personal experience and seek out other perspectives to fill in the gaps…like the one in A Dream To Big: The Improbable Journey from Compton to Oxford by Caylin Moore (yes, this is my second mention of this great book). Just this week proofreading my own son’s college application, he made the connection between having to work for something and therefore appreciating it more. It’s a tough lesson to teach in an upper class world if we aren’t extremely conscious of our own privilege. Man, I hope he keeps adding this kind of wisdom to his tool kit for life. 

As I get a little further along on this journey, I realize that it’s easy to embrace things that are at our fingertips, to be a surfer living three houses off the beach, or a young athlete charging down the court with no aches or injuries. But it’s not until we have to answer the question:

“Is it worth the extra effort to embrace the resistance we encounter?” 

Do we realize what really brings meaning to our days?  Is the rehab worth it to make it back to the sport we claim to love, is the uphill walk with the board worth the thrill of the ride and the calm of the water? This is where we find our core values and what we are passionate about in life. The more we find meaning, the more gratitude we have for our lives. The cool thing about the surfer finding his passion is that he doesn’t carry his board up and down the hill to get my attention or admiration, he’s doing his thing for himself, not to inspire me…yet I get the benefit nonetheless. 

See what happens when we operate in our zone? We create a ripple effect of inspiration just by answering our calling. 

Time is a construct in everyone’s day, but the happiest people identify what is most beneficial for them, and make time for it, whether that means getting up a little earlier, staying up later, or choosing to give up something else, so that they can spend time doing or being with an activity or a person that brings value and meaning to their life. We have to take an honest inventory of our time to design our days in a way that brings us meaning and joy. Otherwise, life becomes a process where we are taking in so much from the outside, we are merely reacting to what comes at us, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, and not in control of our lives. I’ve read that we will encounter the most resistance on the path to our greatest destiny…the extra practice that leads to the starting position or a team championship, the difficult conversation that leads to a deeper and more meaningful relationship. Next time you encounter resistance, try reframing it as a path to the greater calling in your life and see if instead of feeling defeated, you find energy to dig deeper. 

Yoga has taught me that tension in life is normal, and that it’s in learning where to relax and surrender, and where to embrace resistance and hold, that we become the strongest and most authentic versions of ourselves. 

What do you need to surrender today?  What is asking for your extra effort?  Chances are by answering these questions you will move closer to alignment with your true self and when we do that, we find the energy to carry our boards a little further up the hill. 

I don’t know if it’s the start of a new school year or just more of the growth and healing process taking place but the concept of lost and found runs heavy through my storyline these days. There is a line in one of my favorite new country songs by Tyler Rich, Leave Her Wild, 

“…she ain’t all found, but she ain’t all that lost.” 

Speaking to me loud and clear…I have a mild obsession with songwriters because the truth in their lyrics makes my life make sense. Music is a constant in every day and has been since I had my first clock radio in 4th grade that did it’s job helping me fall asleep at night. Zac Brown blaring in my kitchen on many occasions has been my assurance that life is going to be ok if I just kept working to uncover the layers and music plays a significant role in the book I’m working on connecting life stories and what is found on the journey when we feel lost.

The reality about writing and healing is that it brings up memories that I probably would never have thought of again if I wasn’t combing my brain for signs and patterns of how I arrived in the present, how I can design my best life from here, and how I can teach the next generation to embrace self reflection to help heal generational pain.  

I texted my mom from a workshop I was attending in Nashville last week, 

“I can’t imagine why you would remember this, but do you remember me having a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox?” 

I remember it, it was the first one that wasn’t one of those tin ones that made all that terrible noise in the lunch room.  I was in second grade and my sister had one too. Well, mine disappeared, and to my recollection it was taken from me by a redheaded girl that I didn’t know how to stand up to.  Even though I towered over everyone, I was young for my class and so shy that this girl had had my number since first grade. My mom remembered the lunchbox, but didn’t remember anything happening to it. Lord knows I didn’t tell her my story about where it went. She did remember me losing lots of things at school and always encouraged me to “check lost and found” which made perfect sense, but I didn’t do it. I remember giving the long line of sweatshirts and lunchboxes a sideways glance as my class would file into the cafeteria everyday, but I never would have stepped out of line to claim something, or worse go back there on my own later to claim a lost item. When I look back on it, I remember feeling that if I found what I was looking for, it felt like I did something wrong by losing it in the first place, so rather than risk admitting that, I ignored, instead of solved my problem, compensated, and went on. Life made me so nervous, so it was easy to lose track of things.  It’s strange how far back we can trace our tendencies if we think about it.  

I have been ignoring my perfectionist ways for years, letting them bubble under the surface, hiding them under a facade of calm, and stirring the pot of unworthiness that boils away the energy to accomplish what I want to do in life.  

I always felt safer hedging my bets on someone else, pushing them forward, and helping them quietly from behind the scenes accomplish their goals.  Blending in is safe, and no matter how strong the feeling was inside me that I should step out, I never found the courage to find that place until my world looked like something I didn’t want my kids to have to experience. Without a lot of honesty, patterns have a way of repeating themselves generation after generation, and at that point I knew it was on me to travel the road from lost to found and The Optimists Journal is my place to chronicle that journey. 

Lost holds on to insecurities, fears, a false sense of control, perfection, expectation, and my own ego. I know what I feel like in my body when I enter a room and I am working from this place. Lost looks for results, validation, and for someone else to give me the blessing to move forward with my plan or tell me I’m right. Found moves freely in the world and the inevitable judgment from others doesn’t fall heavy on my shoulders. I don’t always know what to do in every situation, but when I don’t, I know how to breathe and stay present until I figure it out. Gone is the worry that has been just under the surface my entire life. I see the confidence that I have trained into my grown and almost grown children and know that so much of that is coming from my own vulnerability and ability to turn lost into found. Through my process, I have learned, and grown and turned myself into a writer, speaker, and coach…things I had been doing for years without stepping into the light.  Found is loving myself for who I am today, confident in my choices, authentic in my words, and autonomous in my decisions, and all of this adds up to a whole lot of calm…and that is a feeling I have been searching for my entire life.  

I recently moved into a new house, a space of my own, and even as a self proclaimed home body, I had no idea how happy it was going to make me. Within days of moving in, it looked like I had been there for years because I got my pictures hung and my favorite things in place. I’m still working on getting everything organized just the way I want it…it’s always that last 10%, 10 pounds, or 10 minutes that hangs us up right?  This process of moving, and moving on, has gotten me thinking about simplification in my life, not just with my material possessions but in what I choose to focus on and do with my time. I tend to find a lot of synchronicity in my life these days and these thoughts were already on my front burner when I went to Nashville this past week and met and furthered this conversation with Monica Leed, author of SIMPLY SPACED - Clear the Clutter and Style Your Life, coming out in October. When I said I had four kids, the conversation shifted to the work she does for mom’s, simplifying, making things more efficient, because we don’t have a lot of time for the extra. She knows exactly what to do with this last 10%. 

Our head and heart space often mirrors our physical space, so I see what Monica does not only as practical, but also energy creating…always something I am looking to do. I aspire to simplicity, it feels good, and free, and fills me with gratitude.  I have lived the fanciest life, but studies show, and I have experienced firsthand, that the more choices we have, the less content we are. What I realize today is how my current lifestyle has helped me simplify by letting go, and in many cases shifting life’s details to my (almost grown) kids, to create a more cohesive environment for all of us, creating time for me to do what fills me up, setting that example for them, and allowing them to learn to take more responsibility for their own lives.  

Since I was born with a pretty anxious nervous system I have always sought calm in the surroundings I spend the most time in. But, having four kids, I have been behind the curve for quite sometime as far as keeping up with all the details. As with any field or topic, perfection is an illusion, and I work to let go of it day after day.  I’ve come a long way from racing back home to pick up the library book that one of them forgot and was in tears over leaving at home. Life is messy, sometimes we forget the details, and we learn and usually can still manage to pull things off. I make no secret of the fact that I have befriended many a one or two kid mom to help me stay on track and I couldn’t be more grateful for their expertise and attention to detail that slipped past me.  But I have also been more than inspired by one of my closest friends, also a mother of four, who coined the phrase “survival days” over a decade ago, so that her kids could learn much needed life skills and she could get a break.  If you know my friend Sarah, it’s not really a break, just a time to focus on other things…she never sits down and her kids are some of the most competent I know. 

After my divorce, and as I started to set my own professional goals, so many things that I used to have a strong hold on, like library books and kneepads, started to fall on my kids. My attention is focused on the big character building stuff, teaching work ethic, drinking and driving, and curfews, because with teenagers that stuff comes flying at you fast and straying outside those navigational beacons are the mistakes we can’t afford for ourselves, or our kids to make, even once. As I’ve said before, parenting is an art not a science, and there could be a curve ball in the next inning because of that amazing free will we have all been granted, but, the silver lining in letting go as they grow is raising more competent kids…who will soon be adults. 

I live in a top 1% place, materially speaking, we have so much more than the rest of the world. As I observe, and read books like Caylin Moore’s A Dream Too Big, The Story of and Improbable Journey from Compton to Oxford, (READ THIS BOOK, so inspiring & I love the TCU connection) it strikes me that the more we have, the more time we spend on the details trying to make our kids lives easier and more fluid today, which I am convinced will leave them struggling later when we aren’t around to arrange the puzzle perfectly, and they haven’t had to do it on their own. Fixing and doing for them is an easy pattern to slip into, we love them and we are are so far removed from survival, we have plenty of time to focus on the little things. But what if we simplify? 

The conversations I had dropping Lauren off at college continue to fill my mind and heart. As the oldest of four, she has lived a pretty independent life. As we walked and talked through Target, watching mom’s pushing carts that were almost to big to maneuver with toddlers sitting in seats on the back, she said:

“Mom, I always walked.” 

That’s because her brother was only 19 months behind her and the simplest answer was to put her down and let her hold my hand…and after awhile she didn’t even need that.  My challenge today is to let the younger ones walk like she did, because there is nothing like the empowerment and freedom that is created when we can handle our responsibilities on our own and teach them the paradoxical principal that abundance and simplicity are two sides of the same coin.

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