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I write every day, and yet this week, I’ve done a lot more living than writing. Leading up to Thanksgiving, I got a little sideways and pulled away from the present moment taking in too much news and trying to decide what was “right” or “wrong” about going to see my parents. It had been five years since we spent Thanksgiving with them and for a few days it felt like it was going to be another year past. So before the latest round of stay-at-home orders, with negative COVID tests in hand, part of us traveled by plane, masks on, through mostly empty airports, and the rest by car, and all made it safely to see my parents. Barring a positive COVID test, now that I think about it, nothing was going to stop us, but I will admit that 2020 has made me much better at making decisions on the fly…and I’m convinced that we made the right one.

There is nothing that makes you more proud to be a Californian than traveling on our coastline, there is truly nothing like it in this entire world, and Pebble Beach is some extraordinary footage. As always, travel gives me takeaways that I tuck away, things to think about, learn from, and be grateful for. 

So here are my Thanksgiving takeaways from this beautiful trip:

I’ve spent the better part of my life fearing something...not feeling like I was good enough, trying to judge what other people expected of me instead of making my own plan, worried that I would fail, or thinking I was not tough enough to take it when life takes a difficult turn. But leveling up means meeting your own story head on and teaching the next generation with the power of what you have learned. I’ve learned I can be respectful and still have my own opinion, I’ve learned that I am ok if you don’t agree with me even though I hope you will try to understand if our points of view are different.

I ’m grateful that we took the chance and took this trip because I got to fit in what makes me feel most alive, and now we come home to a place where they are trying to take that choice away again. There is social distancing, and there are masks, washing hands, and good common sense, but I’m worried about kids not being in school and what that is doing to their education level for years to come. I’m worried about college kids not being engaged academically, socially, and athletically at at time in their lives when there are so many harmful things pulling on their idle time. I’m worried that the unintended consequences of keeping people locked in their homes are going to have a higher death rate than this virus itself. But most of all, I’m worried about people being so afraid of dying, that they are scared to death to live…because this life can be made into a beautiful place when we choose to live in the moment and meet it with breath, movement, and gratitude. To take one more quote out of Greenlights (one more time, go buy this book) I’m ready, despite what 2020 and LA County have to say about it, to just keep livin’. 

Sending love, optimism, and wellness,

Wendy

At least if we are going to find ourselves at home more this holiday season, there is a new double album from Morgan Wallen. Loved this Release Radar this week -Somebody’s Problem - isn’t life all relative anyway?

I’ve said before in my writing that what we learn in black and white when we are younger helps us process the shades of gray that are inevitable as life goes on. I have been reading Greenlights, the new memoir by Matthew McConaughey this week and I came across a page titled “Conservative early, Liberal late.”  This page, having nothing to do with politics, was full of quotable wisdom. I highly recommend you go out and get this book, read it, and then give it to someone younger than you for Christmas.  But I’m still going to share a few of these golden nuggets with you in case you don’t.

“Create Structure so you can have freedom.”

“Map your direction so you can swerve in the lanes."

“Creativity needs borders. Individuality needs resistance. The earth needs gravity. Without them there is no form. No art. Only chaos.”

Yes! These are the things that are at the heart of the black and white that I was getting at in my own quote. The foundation of a happy life is built on discipline, planning, and consistency and only then can we reap sustainable rewards of spontaneity, freedom, and the ability to carve our own unique path. I often find that the things I think about show up in other people’s stories.  I used to sabotage myself with the “it’s already been said, it’s already been done” mentality, until I started to see the beauty of how the hero's journey plays out on a thousand different stages with many characters and settings…but the themes stay true to the human experience. 

This Thanksgiving week,  my mind is focused on the incredible power of gratitude to change our perspective and mood on just about anything.  This year has been incredibly challenging on a physical, mental, and emotional front for everyone.  I’ve written a lot lately about mental health, especially for our younger generations, in the wake of COVID19. The times are showing us that we need to dig a little deeper and not be frail in the face of the adversity we face.  The question I find myself asking at this point is have we had the training? Do we know how to find our footing? Did we get enough conservative early to earn our liberal late? Toughness is a concept that needs to be modeled, it’s not something that can be preached without action, and in modern day life, with all its bells and whistles, and in California culture, it is easier said that done. Everything, at any age, is relative. If we haven’t been forged by the fire thus far, and then 2020 smacks us in the face, how do we ground ourselves enough to stay present and push through?  Although we need to meet people where they are today, we also need to communicate and model the strength and resilience that is built into being human that only gets sharpened when the going gets tough…that sometimes we have to do what we don’t want to do, and we have to be challenged to understand that we are indeed strong enough to handle it. No one I know is doing that better than Joe…keep inspiring us and getting better, your strength, attitude, toughness and faith are the model of toughness.

2020 has taught me to dig a little deeper and know with even greater certainty that it does take an abundance of presence and pressure (combined with grace) to move goals closer to fruition. I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty of being a “late bloomer”, because I’ve taken my time to learn the truths about myself and the way I see the world in a deep and connected way. At 45, I feel better than when I was 30, because my memory is sharp and my mind, body, and spirit are healthy. I understand how I function, almost down to a cellular level. I’ve been motivated by love to learn about these things, first because I wanted to help Matthew’s cells learn to communicate better, and now because I want to last 105 years to be able to do all the things I want to do and watch the people I love get to do their things too. 

As I watched Matthew drag his board and his long, lanky, self out of the water this morning after a shoeless hike down the cliff and an hour and a half of surfing, I realized that I still have a lot of toughness training to do, to teach him to feed himself with the right things to be both tough enough and more loving on himself, to learn to be a critic so he can see where he needs to grow, and also be his own greatest admirer. I’m still squarely in the parenting arena to teach conservative early…and grateful this Thanksgiving week that I get to experience the taste of liberal late, and optimism always. Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy your families…whether in person or in this crazy virtual experience we are all living, we are connected by our stories, and in the end, they are more alike than different.

* This is the song that came to mind as I wrote this blog…one of these days, I’ll bring something that’s not country, but it may be awhile:)

In my home, I have a dog, two cats, and a turtle…sometimes four kids, right now it’s three, and technically if these times would cooperate with us a little more, I’d be down to two. Half the time it’s no kids and no dog and it gets a whole lot quieter, which for a short time can make for a good recovery session, but I can’t imagine life without them all filling my days.  As far as the animals go, the little cat eats the dog food, the dog eats the cats food, the big cat is after the turtle food (he literally tries to knock it off the shelf to get it open) and most of the time, I  feel sorry for the turtle because it seems lonely to me in his isolated tank.  All of this has taught me more than two things about myself and life, but the two I’m thinking about this morning are that:

I realize that just by making that statement, I will ruffle probably more than a few feathers of people I respect and hold dear. I realize that there are many people who I respect and love who wouldn’t have traveled to Utah last week like I did to attend an outdoor concert and visit old friends, but man, it felt good, healthy, and alive.  The windshield of my life has cracks in it made by substance abuse and suicide and I can’t support an approach that creates secondary trauma like what is described in that survey and what I have witnessed as part of my own experience.  When I was in Utah last week, the Governor came on TV at 9:30PM on Sunday evening with an emergency address, letting citizens know that cases were climbing again and he was mandating masks when you leave your home statewide, and banning large gatherings of any kind.  But what he didn’t do was shut down schools or businesses.  The pandemic is real, but so are the social, emotional, and academic needs of our students if we want to produce a healthy next generation and, right now, from what I experience in my own home, we are not getting our chin above the bar. They are not learning on Zoom what they learn in a classroom. In addition, striving American families (included in that is anyone who needs to work to maintain their standard of living) need to be able to work and create opportunity for themselves and the people who work for them, there is no amount of bailout money from Washington that is going to physically and psychologically support able bodied humans who are used to being in control of their own destiny, even though there is no escaping the short term effects on commerce that this pandemic has and will continue to have.  Beyond that, we have the ability to deliver love and any worldly goods necessary for the people who need to stay home.

We are adaptable. We must have the agency to assess risk and innovate, because having agency over our own lives is an essential component of maintaining our optimism about our road ahead.

It is true, nothing shakes our foundation more than the fragility of life. In many ways we have been forced to confront it this year with the pandemic, I also remember sitting in a very silent space after Matthew’s accident in 2009, and last week I confronted this space again as a dear friend, a young man just outside the circle of my own kids, was in a terrible car accident and is in Texas fighting like a champion and empowering others to do the same with his faithful, strong, and hopeful spirit.  He is teaching others what real bravery looks like in the face of immense and incomprehensible tragedy, and showing us how to walk the road, no matter what it looks like, with faith instead of fear.  His journey reminds me that there are no guarantees in any day, that we have to make the most of every moment, that there is no perfect life, and that judgment of others is a waste of our time and energy because most of us are doing the best we can with what we know.

Being human is a risk in itself, the beauty is that we have

the capability to adapt and handle it. 

I sit here today, perplexed by the state of our country, even though I spend so much time trying to figure it out.  Knowing in my heart how hard I have worked on my own state of mind to not show up timid and fearful of what the world is about to throw at me, and work hard to improve the view out of my own windshield so that I can give my kids a better ride.  It’s becoming more clear to me that the ride doesn’t need to be easy, without any potholes, they just need a sober driver with a love instead of  fear based approach to risk. So I trust my gut and try not to second guess myself, knowing that loving something, whether life itself or the people in it, requires great risk.  My favorite quote this week from one of the books on my bedside table is: 

“ Wellness isn’t a state of being, it’s a state of action.” 

            - Burnout - The Secret of Unlocking the Stress Cycle

I’m fairly certain that the authors wouldn’t agree with a lot of the things I have just written, but I still love their book, and writing is one of the many things I do to complete the stress cycle.  I’m empowered this week to continue on my own journey of wellness, complete with growing kids, confused animals, country music, lots of volleyball, looking out my own windshield, and beating fear with kindness, love, gratitude, and faith…and praying that grace will be extended to me in the places I am wrong.  Joe we are praying and fighting with you all the way for a full recovery.  Stay strong, you are the embodiment of the strength the world needs so much right now.

P.S. - Most every Friday, I listen to my Release Radar on Spotify because I am in awe of artists and songwriters and the chills they bring to me every day. Most weeks there is a song that speaks to me and helps me understand myself and the world a little better.  When I find one, I decided I’m going to start including it here.  Take a listen to these genius lyrics from Eric Church.

Photo Credit: @ralphkaden on Upsplash

I don’t have a coherent story for you this week, because sometimes life just can’t be pulled together to make sense. What I know for certain as I write this is that there is risk in every moment of our lives. It’s the hardest thing about being a parent…worrying about how to keep them safe, or how we keep ourselves safe so we can be here for them. I also know that worry doesn’t change a thing...so we have to learn to breathe, accept, and stay present because the alternative robs us of the very essence of what it means to live. If you are a praying person, or a healing person, or a sending positive vibes kind of soul, please send them to this sweet, funny, charismatic young man, Joe Radanovich.  He’s is in a hospital in Texas after a tragic car accident on Thursday. I believe in miracles and I’m praying for one. He is a dear friend and we love him so much. 

In light of where my heart is this week, I don’t want to talk about the election or the state of the dialogue in our country. But these words were shared with me on election night and I asked her then if I could share them with you, so I’m going to let a 13 year old girl whom I love do it for me: 

“Seeing how we have been calling each other names (on both sides) has really upset me. 60ish years ago there were 3 things people never talked about, money, religion, and politics, and now those 3 topics have been completely normalized especially by the youth.  Why is someone verbally harassed because of who they agree with (from both sides). You can agree and believe whatever you want. This is a free country. But when you are telling someone what they should believe or what they believe is wrong, even putting them down for what they believe in or ending relationships because of different views is just straight up and down wrong. We are human beings. And disagreements are going to happen, and that is healthy, but what this has come down to is truly disgusting.  What the whole entire world has been through this year is unbelievable. And we started off as a team, “in this together”. What happened to that? What happened to helpfulness, love, peace, UNITY! We were united! And that was beautiful! Does anyone miss that? I certainly do.  Please, everyone is nervous. So be kind. Be understanding. And put others before yourself.  Because we are setting the example for the next generation.”  - text message from Allie Taylor, 13 shared with me and sent to her friends on election night

I share this because it sums up coherent intelligence and child like innocence in the best and most real way.  I love how she talks about setting an example for the next generation at the sweet age she is…she’s already a leader. It reminds me that they need to be allowed to grow in safety and love and stay kids for as long as they can. With the way American families struggle, social media, and a 24/7 news cycle the world presents today, it is completely unlike what I experienced in my generation.  Idealism deserves it’s time to settle into the hearts of children before they have to take the seriousness of life and issues on their shoulders the way we carry them as adults. I wasn’t shielded from political discussion growing up, but I certainly wasn’t traumatized by it. Yes, they are influenced by all that is going on around them, but they are smart, they’ll figure it out, we don’t have to force them down one road.  We just have to make them feel safe, and loved, and like nothing about their inherent worth depends on politics.

Like Allie, I’m tired of the way we talk to each other to sell air time and get people to click through. I still have a little of that child like idealism left in me, but find myself needing to turn off the news to hang on to it. Power structures in the world feel like a necessary evil at this point, they feel so broken and distorted. There is more change to be made one on one, with real human connection.  It’s the reason I stop at Starbucks in Hermosa most days after I play volleyball…it’s more for the conversation and connection than for the coffee itself.  Usually, I can find my friend Jason sitting outside, researching and educating himself on the issues of the day and prepping for his next podcast (you should check it out).  He has an intelligent voice that real, raw, and full of life experience. And he’s one of the only people, besides my dad, that I want to talk about the state of the world these days. Besides, where else can you find volleyball and current events in the same place? He makes a thousand friends and he introduced me to a few of them the other day as we chatted by saying:

“she has new school empathy and an old school work ethic.”

Thanks Jason, that was one of the coolest compliments I received in awhile…and I’m going to run with it because all I know to do today is keep caring and keep working so that we can create stories that matter, and inspire the next generation to be better too.

We all have the ability to be the strong ones, the brave ones, the ones who work a little harder and care a little more.  So let’s credit our differences to uniqueness and push to make regular life great, because you never know when your whole world will be changed in an instant.  Love you Joe Rad, praying for healing miracles. 

Most of the people I come across and work with these days are hard charging, type A, goal oriented people who are trying to squeeze the most out of every day. No matter what their role in life, from athletes, to parents and students, they are grinding it out to make the greatest impact in their jobs and lives. But what most of us don’t realize, or can just be a hard pill to swallow, is that as high performers, we are being asked to conquer the recovery process too so that we can keep doing what we do for longer, with greater success, more fulfillment, and better relationships with people that add much needed human connection in our lives. It’s all possible because when we honor our minds and bodies with the care they need, we are more productive, connected, and find more flow in our days than when we fill every moment with work.

Sometimes for high perfomers, recovery is the work, and we need to give ourselves the permission to do it. 

I’ve been called  Zen Mom, a graceful *ss kicker, and I wish I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I stay so calm. What I know is that my calm used to be a veil and a management tool that luckily led me down the path of asking the big questions about how to make it real and heal from past traumas, instead of burying my feelings which leads to more discomfort and usually down a path to addiction that makes our lives more out of control.  It was from this place of pain, striving, and discontentment that my intuition led me to a yoga mat, a practice I must have tried five times between the ages of 30-40 that I just couldn’t get to stick. I had all but figured it wasn’t for me and then at my lowest point I found the magic of breath to movement and it set off regeneration in me that led to me to dive deeper into the why of active recovery practices that enhance healing and high performing lifestyles. Yoga and breath work healed in big and small ways, like removing that tiny pebble in your shoe that you can walk with but is causing constant discomfort.  I’ve heard it said that living with unresolved trauma is like holding a brick in one hand and trying to do all the heavy lifting yourself, credit to @intrinsicway for this beautiful analogy, because this was definitely true for me. But these realizations have helped me uncover knowledge and helped me create a beautiful healing community that weaves it’s way through my days, shows me a safe space to learn more about myself and help others do the same. These healing elements, both internal and external that are available to us, help us learn how to down regulate and befriend our nervous systems. And guess what? All of this “chilling” makes us happier, more efficient and productive than if we put our heads down and try to work straight through.

When grace becomes a part of high performance, we are far less likely to succumb to overwhelm, exhaustion, and burn out, and learn to reframe perfectionism when it rears its ugly head.

Intuitively, I have always known this, it’s what makes me rise early in the morning to get that slice of quiet before the noise starts trickling in. But learning the science behind recovery is what makes me feel healthier at 45 than I did in my 30’s. It motivates me to focus on my sleep, hydration, movement, and nutrition because of how these things relate to my creativity, and connection with others. When I was younger, I didn’t know how to be kind to myself and the answer to find calm evaded me as I keep trying to do more to please others and ended most days exhausted and yet knowing deep down I was missing something that couldn’t until I learned to balance my nervous system with rest and recovery.

As I press forward into the world of high performance, I continue to learn about the multifaceted ways recovery brings calm to our systems and connection to our relationships because we are in a state to sit comfortably in our own bodies and listen and offer insight, instead of being distracted by what is ahead or behind us.  Just discovering the magic of presence is curative in itself.

My piqued interest in the recovery and self care process helped me find a new book called Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.  Did you know that positive social interaction is one of the easiest ways to signal to our brain that the world is a safe place.  Pre-pandemic, when there were many situations that offered us interaction with others, I didn’t fully appreciate how much I got from my short conversations with the barista at Starbucks.  These days, my visit there has turned into an almost daily habit, just because I find the little bits of connection so rewarding . If you find yourself moving a little closer to burnout and causal conversation isn’t delivering some relief for you, the next step is deep connection with someone you value or love. Did you know that, according to psychological researcher John Gottman, a six second kiss with your significant other will signal safety and help complete the stress response in your body?  As will a 20 second hug when each person has their weight over their own center of gravity.  At the height of a world experiencing a pandemic, it’s important for us to know how important we are to each others health, yes in keeping our distance when necessary, but also in our deepest forms of connection. From the benefits of daily movement, the power of a good deep breath, a solid sleep routine, music, belly laughter, and conversation and affection with the people we love, we have to remember that recovery takes discipline. It’s the greatest form of self love that will save us from ourselves and make us lifelong high achievers on any stage.

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