Whether it’s an ending or a beginning is all a matter of perspective. Ironically, the first time I had this realization wasn’t after my divorce, it was as Lauren was graduating from high school. There were a lot of tears, it was the first of my four high school graduation milestones, now I’m two down and a third one next year, I know it’s heavy for a reason…change. But as so many situations in our lives, change is reframable and if we frame it right, it usually ends up moving us forward, and that is how I started to turn endings into new beginnings. And whether it was a child who grew up and moved away or the end of my marriage, when I looked at it as a new beginning, things began to heal and evolve. Some days it happened so slowly, it didn’t feel like healing at all. It felt like sitting on the couch and reading a book, or even laying on my bed and staring up at the ceiling until I fell asleep. But I learned how to tolerate, and then even began to cherish and enjoy the quiet. This week, I stumbled upon this quote from Yung Pueblo, a favorite Instagram writer of mine, and the words felt like a warm cup of coffee by the fire.
“A leap forward sometimes requires a cocooning period where you decrease the amount of interactions you have with other people and are less focused with your daily work. Moving slowly and turning your attention inward prepares you emotionally and energetically for the next level.”
That’s what I was doing. That’s what healing felt like to me. Whether it is your body, mind, or spirit (and often it is a combination of the three), healing requires us to turn inward and look at what actually needs to be healed. It brings us back to our foundation and asks us to look for cracks, and then find the ways that we can reinforce them to create a stronger foundation to build upon. This is the process that turns an ending into a beginning.
I remember sitting on the patio of my old house in 2016, a few days before Luke’s 14th birthday. My personal life was in a shambles, is there a better time to start a blog? It felt sticky and uncomfortable putting my words out there, but my purpose of generational healing was bigger than my fear. Since then, I have written well over 150 blogs…I haven’t stopped to count in a while, and now a blog a week feels easy. It feels like being me, instead of something I have to do, and that feeling has taught me a lot. Our life becomes our own when we understand that we have nothing to prove and everything to learn and become. Our struggle gives way to a beautiful flow if we learn to stay with it instead of pulling away or distracting ourselves, and these things are true at every level of the game of life.
In the next few weeks, my blog at The Optimists Journal is getting a new home. Stay tuned…there will be something for everyone who wants to be a little better every day and embrace healing for yourself and the generations that come after you. My blog will have the same name and intention, to inspire us to be better through relatable human stories from parenting, American life, sports, and relationships… but there will be so much more, to align your mind, body & spirit and become the greatest expression of yourself.
This is the next evolution, another new beginning, and a call for anyone on their path that wants to get better. More often than not, that path requires some cocooning. Go easy on yourself, take the time to rest and recover and figure out how to find joy and meaning in your life. Do what matters to you with grace for yourself and the people around you, then being you becomes easy. If you’ve ever wanted to be more of yourself, and step away from what anyone else thought you “should” be, you are going to like this new place. Can’t wait to show it to you;)
With Love & Optimism,
One of my favorites - This song captures so much about the healing process.
P.S. - My friend Jason and I met up on his Podcast, The Option, this week and talked Dave Chapelle, John Gruden, and how to heal from deep trauma and come out stronger and ready to help others. This one isn’t for the kids…Jason swears like the kid from Brooklyn that he is. But his independent thinking and vision for what he wanted this podcast to be is what the world needs right now and I enjoyed every bit of this conversation.
I went to the opening night Laker game this week and as much as I appreciate my alone time, I love being in spaces with energy, athleticism, and the star spangled banner. There is a feeling being around people you don’t know, it’s filled with potential and excitement, and I noticed how long it had been since I had felt that. Over the time I have written my blog, I’ve learned that nothing in life is random, that every chance encounter with another person is full of possibility and could be the source of the next great story. Curiosity about other people, what their experiences are like, and what makes them tick is the ground floor for uniting people, which is something our country feels like it is looking for, even if we don’t always know how to act to make that happen. Beyond the joy of watching athleticism on display, what I have always loved about sports is the ability they have to bring people together…and that’s exactly what I felt at that game on Tuesday night.
I used to think that all the things that catch my eye, or more likely my wandering brain, were unrelated, but now I see them as my own unique story, and I’m not afraid to tell it. Even if someone tells me they don’t get it. Lately my mind has come back to the intersection of mindfulness and the politics, two topics of interest for me, but when I’ve tried to explain my thoughts on the intersection of the two to people, most of them have responded by saying:
“Wendy, those two things couldn’t be more opposite.”
But the way I see it, the corporate world is embracing mindfulness more and more amongst their workforces, and I’ve experienced firsthand the way mindful pursuits can change a home environment, so why shouldn't the people wielding power, and the citizens that have the conversations on contentious issues, look at following the same path? It seems to me it would make our interactions and connections much more positive and meaningful. Here are a few reasons why:
Mindfulness teaches us to recognize our ego, and where it may be overzealously driving the boat. If we can stop feeling so protective of ourselves and our way, we will be more receptive and less threatened by the thoughts of others. We will be able to blend, compromise, and learn while we still have a deep understanding of our own stances and beliefs. As my dad put it in a text to me: “Politics is the art of listening to others, not yourself, and incorporating what you hear into your policy that you also support.” It doesn’t feel like we have a lot of that spirit running through our Capitol’s these days. In learning to slow down our minds, maybe that could change.
Mindfulness teaches us to recognize fear based thinking. All too often, in politics and the ensuing policy, the ideas that we encounter come from a fear based approach to life. Being able to slow down our thoughts helps us recognize our motivation for the feelings we have and the decisions we make because of it. Mindfulness reduces anxiety and helps us feel safe in our bodies, which always gives us a better picture to make a decision.
We need to set an example for the next generation about how to have compassion, evolve, and get along with people who have different opinions than our own without caving in to fear of rejection, being immediately offended or hurt by what we think other people think of us. Mindfulness helps us create a strong sense of self that will create a more resilient spirit, thicker skin, and the discernment to know when to challenge and when to pull back or compromise on an issue. The next generation needs to see a greater example of this than what we have been showing them.
I was heartened this week when my favorite podcast came out on Wednesday and it was an enlightened conversation between Dr. Michael Gervais and Dr. Amishi Jha. Dr. Jha, among other important positions, is the Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative and her work has been featured at NATO, the World Economic Forum, and The Pentagon. Those qualifications more than caught my eye…maybe it is happening. The conversation had it’s roots in exactly the place my mind has been swirling for some time. The synergy can’t be ignored…the optimist in me tells me we are due for a shift. We are a country capable of gathering to celebrate and relate together. As Dr. Mike put it so well:
“Extraordinary performance is counter to our natural impulses, so it takes incredible training.”
It’s time to take that training from athletic arenas and the corporate world and bring it to the Capitols to change the dialogue between both the power brokers and the citizens of our great country.
With love & optimism,
Every day that I dig into the news, my synapses fire like crazy, and I analyze and want to know more about so many stories. Often I don’t have time to go all the way down the rabbit hole, so I have learned to employ the adage that you don’t have to know everything to say something. Life experience, critical thinking, and good intention go a long way, and I’d rather live in a world that knows how to express itself, as well as listen to different perspectives. So with that said, the John Gruden story caught my ear this week…
From a high level view, leaders are responsible for the culture they create. Gruden is a leader, the standard is and should be high. Given the email conversations that were released, whether you see them as conversations between a close knit group of guys or professional correspondence, these were not his finest moments. If I said those words, they would hurt coming out of my mouth, and coming from the information released, they didn’t for him, so it’s a clear that there was ‘a way’ between these guys that made that kind of talk normal. From a more global perspective, these words and attitudes certainly don’t build inclusive culture. But the standard of judgment should be the same across the board and it’s not. When I hear music with lyrics that are sexually explicit, mysogonistic, or racial in any way, it always jars my system. As humans though, people show who they are over time reap the rewards or suffer the consequences of those actions. In almost every respect, no one should be defined by one day or moment in their lives, but patterns prove a point. The NFL has had many issues that run deep ranging from domestic violence, entitlement culture, and bigotry of many kinds, Gruden’s words are just the tip of the iceberg in the hierarchy of too many power structures. If we were to comb email accounts across this country for the past 10 years, we would find a lot of demeaning language and human frailty emerge. No one is perfect, but the bigger question is why do we say offensive things and how can we evolve past so that our words and our values line up more often.
Mindfulness is the key to real inclusion. When we are able to slow our mind down and better regulate ourselves emotionally, our words and our values will align more often. When we are triggered or upset, we make statements and express ourselves in ways that cause pain to others. The more mindful we become, we feel the pain that these words cause to ourselves as well.
Just because something has “historically been this way” doesn’t mean it should stay this way. That is the key to evolution and enlightenment. But the standard should be the same for everyone. It is incumbent upon each of us to break whatever harmful norms are part of our past or culture and see the way forward that brings people together, no matter what their differences.
Anytime two groups are pitted against each other as the oppressed and the oppressor, there will be a sense of entitlement and of hopelessness and victimization, and neither perspective serves anyone’s long term growth. I liked a point I heard recently from Ryan Holiday on this podcast (around minute 36) about the difference between responsibility and accountability. Our responsibility is to understand where we came from and how to make it better, but we are not accountable for the decisions of people who lived 300 years before us. If we understand this difference it is where healing takes place.
Gruden is both responsible for his words, and a scapegoat for a bigger cultural problem. Until we take it upon ourselves to build a culture that has the ability to lift everyone, regardless of where generations before us have been, there will be division and the inability to connect with each other as human beings instead of members of segregated groups. I know firsthand that there are people out there who don’t talk like what we heard this week…we just don’t talk about them. What’s the standard? And in the same breath I ask, how are we going to stop being so easily offended, because there isn’t one of us who hasn’t said something we aren’t proud of? Answer the question, am I elevating the conversation with my words and actions? If the answer is yes, keep going, if it’s no, then change it now, for yourself and everyone around you. The conversations I have every week as I connect with other people, often with opinions different from mine, prove to me that the stories of regular people are much better than the ones we hear in the news, and that’s why I take the time to speak, write, listen and get a little better every day.
With Love & Optimism,
The best antidote for perfectionism is a commitment to be better one step at a time. No advancement is too small, no step insignificant. But those aren’t the moments we see as we scroll our social media feeds 10, 20, or 100 times a day. Because I am passionate about human potential and growth, almost every product that crosses my feed is related to potential and performance on some level. My friend and I joke that 'they' are listening to our conversations...the products that show up on our feeds right after we chat are just too well marketed for it to be a coincidence. The thoughts and quotes and perfect pictures of the highlight reel of life fill in the rest of the space, and you have the perfect recipe for overwhelm. And yet I come back every day, posting on my story daily, taking part in the great social experiment that is Facebook and Instagram.
I do many other things to guard my consciousness and discipline my thought process but Monday, my mind was clear after a workout and the full realization that Facebook and Instagram were down hit me, and I paused to take it in. I noticed the slowdown in my brain and it felt blissful. I went back to a time when it was just me, and the connections that I made with people were one on one, which are still my favorite kind. I love uncovering layer after layer of someone’s story, when they are ready to tell it. Compared to that experience, social media feels jarring and shallow. The irony with all this sharing of information about our lives, is that we are lonelier as a population than we were in the past, not something that I would attribute solely to social media, but definitely a contributing factor. I texted my kids and a few other college students asking them if they had any thoughts on the matter…I got back some sarcastic jokes…”it’s the end of the world mom”, which of course made me laugh out loud, I know they have enough papers to write so when I ask these questions I don’t actually expect a deeply philosophical response. One of them chimed in saying that she and her roommates had been talking about it, checking their phones over and over again, to see what they were missing, noting how conditioned they had become to want to see whatever was coming across their feed first, in short order, before it became old news.
Behaviorally, most of us are guilty of the mindless scrolling that keeps us procrastinating, numbing whatever thought or feeling may be ailing us at the moment with that dopamine hit that comes from our feed, or feeling a sense of overwhelm as ideas, pictures, and products fill our consciousness. It’s no surprise that the growing interest in mindfulness practice coincides with our social media addiction. The first is trying to help us return to ourselves, the latter, especially if we don’t participate in the first, is pulling us away. Then when you couple the thought that the algorithm is dividing us, grouping us with like minds rather than exposing us to different views or opposing ideas, we are understanding less, with shorter attention spans than we had in the past. I wonder why the algorithm can’t be changed to do the opposite, so that we could be more easily informed of the flip side of an argument, the other side of the story, or an opinion different than our own. My mind always has a way of finding it’s way back to the optimistic side of life and because I believe in living exactly where my feet are planted today, social media is a part of that picture, so the question becomes how we handle it, rather than letting it handle us. Here are a few ideas and practices that I have come up with that help me keep it all in perspective:
Consciously choose the amount of time, and schedule the time you want to spend on scrolling or returning DM’s. With smartphones, we have all become accustomed to quick responses and having information at our fingertips and we forget that we are in charge of our schedules, and instead our impulses and buzzing alerts run our life. Before social media, there were other challenges that pulled on our ability to be present, this is just the latest one, and there will be more. So use the current reality to train the underlying habit of being present with the people around you, and dedicate specific time to build new connections that originate online.
Dedicate time, whether a hour or two or a day or a week to detoxing, consciously choose to stay off, and read a book or talk with a friend instead. Create real downtime for yourself and notice how your nervous system decompresses with the space you create between you and the social media universe.
Drill down on the connections that you are introduced to via social media. They may be the first layer of something that can become a passion. If you notice you don’t find interests that provide you with an avenue for growth on your feed, that is something you have the power to change just by paying attention to different things. Your feed is a snapshot of what captures your attention, if you don’t think it is helping you grow, change it.
In the end, I am so grateful for the real connection and learning that results from the time I’ve spent in this alternate dimension, because I pulled on the thread of an an initial introduction to a concept or human. The knowledge and friendships that have happened in this space for me have often led to profound understanding. Once again, life is what we make it by where we choose to focus. Honing that skill will always be important. I’ve made “friends” and learned things from their honest intention to help the world that would have been much harder for me to find and grasp without social media. Most of these are people I have never met, a few have I met in passing, and even fewer I have now shared meals with and turned into what I would call real connections. We live in an age of so much information, where it seems like the algorithm rules…keep thinking for yourself. Understand the current environment and find the courage to be you, independent of what the social stratosphere registers. The world needs your original thinking, don’t shy away from it.
When we look up from our scrolling, take a deep breath, and notice the real people and stories going on around us, we learn that they are always far from perfect but I’m drawn to them like a magnet. So post the highlights, but know that we are so much deeper and richer for the moments in life that we will never post, where our character is tested and real growth happens. The foundation of real optimism lies in how we react in the most ‘unpostable’ moments and our ability to adapt to the truth that life will never be perfect, but can always be better…sometimes in the tiniest steps, and others in giant leaps. Once we know this, we’ll experience a million moments that are worthy of our highlight roll…whether that’s the one in our head, or we decide to share it is completely up to us.
With Love & Optimism,
Of all my favorite things in life, a great conversation is at the top of the list. Meeting new people and hearing their stories has become one of my favorite things, and when I’m out, my ears are open all the time for the possibilities. I love expansive, unguarded straight talk. Not the reckless, I’m going to shoot from the hip kind of talk, but the type that isn’t afraid to speak out of fear of judgment. I am always ready to hear a new story, and most of the time when I do, the charge I get energizes my own journey and inspires me to keep going. Let’s face it, there are so many situations in life that can put our backs up against the wall, but man are we a resilient bunch. We are wired for this kind of connection, and we won’t get as far down our path as we should, if we don’t know who to trust, learn from, and have the courage to share and connect with those people that come into our lives. And then after a few of these conversations, I’m good for a little introvert retreat and reset and I couldn’t be more grateful for the space I have created for myself and my kids with the calm and grounded energy that makes me feel at home.
Given how much I value human connection, I was in the zone this week. Wednesday I had the chance to record a great dialogue with Olympian and new mom, Carli Lloyd, about empathy, connection, and the hopes we have for our kids in this world today. And then, Friday night, I found myself in my own neighborhood, recording a podcast called Drinks on Saturday, with two new friends, Joey, who I met on the 4th of July, when I showed up at a party, by myself, knowing no one except the host who invited me, and Mike who I only met when I showed up to record. I promise to share it when it comes out because it was a blast! These are the kinds of situations I find myself in these days because of this eyes up, ears open experience I am learning to live. It gives me a good read on curious people who embrace life and live it a way that makes the world smaller and more connected. Joey and Mike are asking some big questions and trying to make the world a little better through connection and conversation. And truthfully, I haven’t met a memory bank on American history and current events like the one Joey has! We had a two plus hour chat on everything from parenting to mindset & politics, and whether it was a Friday or a Saturday, that was my way to spend an evening! That is what I love about the world of podcasting…its a gold mine out there!!
Here are five takeaways from my conversations and listening this week:
Drastic Changes don’t last, take small steps, celebrate little victories.
EQ is as important as IQ, the way the world is going, maybe more important.
Recklessness is opposite of cowardice, courage lies in the middle. Learn to be discerning.
Focus on how you want to live your life, rather than how others should live theirs.
Your mindset is the difference between being the victim and the victor in your own life.
I’ve been going back through my blog gathering insight from my thoughts to add to a my next book. I am convinced we have so much to learn from each other, we have to keep talking. Trust your gut, and when it tells you the moment is right, open your ears and listen, and then share your own experience…I promise you’ll find connection and more inspiration for whatever life throws your way.
With love & optimism,
Photo Credit: Anthony Moore - @amoorephoto_