It took a little work and a few conversations, but I had my mind settled comfortably around spending Thanksgiving on my own. Thankfully, being thankful is not something I save for one day of the year, and although I wrote from Hawaii last week and am thankful for the experiences in life that blow my mind, I count my blessings for the heat in my house and the gas in my car daily…warmth, mobility, and freedom.
It’s an off year, so I didn’t have my kids on Thanksgiving but they were coming home on Friday, and it didn’t feel worth battling traffic or airport crowds to make that turnaround happen. I’ve noticed no matter how much my mind is able to say a holiday or birthday is “just another day” it takes more processing to get myself to really believe it. But just in time, I got my mind to that peaceful place and was looking forward to a quiet day in front of my fire with my favorite books, settled in, no turkey, no traffic…then my friend Guy extended an invite that felt right and I found myself sitting next to a great grandmother at their dinner table. As we started talking, there was a sense of something familiar about her, she told me about her five sisters, her 90 years on earth, and pointed out her great grandchildren across the room.
“When’s your birthday?” I asked
“December 10.” She answered.
Mine is too. We were kindred spirits. And I had to give myself a moment to imagine what it must be like to look at a room full of people that had so much less experience in life, but you now rely on to help make every day happen. The circle of life takes active participation from all of us, and it was happening throughout this home.
Guy has four kids too, so we have a lot of common ground to cover, like how it all goes so fast. Both of us understand, especially as they get older, that parenting is more modeling, less speaking, because for teenagers and young adults so much has to be risked and experienced for them to grow on their own. It’s literally the hardest part of parenting. For the last few weeks I have felt the heavy lift of my goal to break generational patterns of alcoholism, codependency, and all the baggage that comes with it. As I continue on my own wellness journey, I love connecting with people who have patterns I can learn from. Here are a few things I experienced this spontaneous Thanksgiving:
Families come together in many different ways. It’s beautiful when they show up with love for both their differences and their sameness.
Faith builds resilience that surpasses human frailty. Keep praying.
If you are an adult, know yourself and lead with love. Let the kids be the kids.
For all you hear in the news these days, it was a blessing to be in a space for Thanksgiving filled with these women who make things happen no matter what challenges they’ve come up against in their lives. My almost 91 year old birthday twin Laura, Guy’s mother Florence, a force of an 85 year old woman who stood over a foot shorter than me, and the other women in this completely new environment, gave me more hope than I even knew I needed that wonderful and loving families rise out of the chaos of life if we are strong enough to lead and keep the faith. They say wisdom is pattern recognition, and I grew a little bit wiser this Thanksgiving surrounded by tough and loving women. This beautiful blended family has a story that is not mine to tell, but it was wonderful to be a part of it for an evening. Here’s to embracing the holiday season with no expectation of what it needs to look like, and with complete trust that there is always something more to learn, and even more to celebrate.
With love & optimism,
The first time I visited a spa I was 24. It was for my sister’s 21st birthday and I marveled at the calm that I felt after three days there. Looking back, that was my first glimpse at what it felt like to balance an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system. I had been a fearful kid, my optometrist uncle saw what are known as “worry lines” in my eyes in the third grade. I desperately wanted to hold on to the serene feeling that I had after three days of yoga, meditation, massages, and deep sleep in the most comfortable beds with pillows that perfectly cradled my head. The tension melted from my neck and shoulders and I wanted to know how I could hang on to this zen feeling when I re-entered regular life. I had no idea how that could be possible. It’s funny to think that at that point in my life, I wasn’t a mom and had 20 years fewer miles and experience on my body and mind…and yet was already craving that rebalance.
In the years after that first visit to the spa, I’m grateful to have had plenty of soul-restoring slow downs that brought me back to that blissful state, where my heart rate slows, my breath flows deep and easy, my mind is clear, and my aptitude for learning sky rockets. Some have had big price tags, others are daily rituals that are virtually free. One of these experiences has been this past week, doing little to nothing except write, read, walk, exercise, and eat fresh delicious food with my dearest friend Elizabeth on the big island of Hawaii with much thanks to the generosity of my mom and dad. Elizabeth is the cleaning to my cooking, the detail to my big visions, and the note taking to my listening ear and we could travel the entire world together and never tire of each others company.
As I look back, this restorative path that I have sought, attracted, and craved was something I long felt guilty about. Even when I’m not on vacation, as an adult, I have sought a healing path dotted with chiropractors, acupuncturists, somatic healers, a yoga practice, and research on every type of recovery I can come across and the people I have met in this walk of life have become dear friends. I understand now that I feel my connection to the earth and the world around me on an even deeper level than mind, body, and spirit, and being wired that way takes a lot of care to sustain a healthy and purposeful path. I also believe, and now science has shown, that recovery should be emphasized as a priority on any high performing path because burnout is the enemy of sustainable success. Proper challenges, combined with strong recovery strategies, will increase our potential and performance over time and we don’t even have to take long vacations to access many of these ways of being (although if a vacation is available to you, I highly recommend the reset). The research I have done on recovery methods has led me to better sleep hygiene, nutrition, meditation, infrared and near infrared light exposure, yoga, acupuncture, talk therapy, music, and understanding the importance of deep connection with people in my life. Recovery in itself requires discipline and has helped me push my limits, understand myself better, and be better for the relationships with the people that I love and care for. If you are looking to level up in the game of life, start looking for the reasons you avoid recovery and scope out some protocols that would be easy and enjoyable to mix into your routine. If you need help with this search, let me know. It may feel like an uncomfortable sacrifice of productivity at first…but discomfort is a great catalyst for growth.
The truth is, our ability to propel ourselves to new heights and create sustainable flow in our lives, is directly related to the state of our nervous system and our ability to recover. Today I know I’m not a bliss junkie who wants to be on a perpetual vacation, just that that the yin energy in my life creates a home in my body where I can stay awhile.
As Ferris Bueller famously quoted:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
We honor the first half of our life when we are able to wink knowingly at the good and unlearn what didn’t serve us, and then see what we can inspire others to understand that has helped us along the way. The more mindful, calm, well slept, and unrushed I become, the deeper my connection grows to what is possible.
Thanks mom and dad for this time in paradise, my mind is clear and refreshed and that will have a ripple effect that extends far and wide.
With love & optimism,
As we inched our way into the gym last weekend, past vaccination checks and metal detectors, to watch Stanford Men’s Volleyball in their second preseason tournament since the program was reinstated last May, it was glaringly apparent to me how much our world has changed. If you would have told any of us two years ago that to move through the world to connect with others, enjoy art, listen to music, or watch sports, would require mandatory testing, shots, and face masks, or that people would lose their jobs because they chose not to take a shot to reduce to the risk of contracting a deadly virus, most American’s would have thought you were reading from the pages of a dystopian novel.
And yet here we are. There is a political firestorm around all of these topics every time we open a newspaper, turn on the TV, or listen to current events podcast, and the debates loom large. Instead of framing things in terms of political power, I look at these issues from a mindset perspective. Fear and scarcity are low vibrations that turn people against each other and fail to inspire cooperation in communities. An abundance mindset inspires people to come together and perform at their best for the good of themselves and the whole. One of my favorite stories from corporate America comes from Delta Airlines. They didn’t mandate, but rather encouraged, their employees to get the shot, and an amazing 95% of the employees did so. Americans on average are a caring, compassionate bunch who believe in taking care of their neighbors. We like pitching in and being part of something bigger than ourselves. But a vortex of fear takes hold every time we turn on the news and, while it’s important for us to listen and learn from to the stories of others, it’s also critical to our health that we don’t live a fear based existence trying to ward off one of the millions of risks that are inherent to a life well lived. As a parent, I am much more afraid every time I watch Matthew grab his boogie board and walk down to the ocean without me than I am of any of us contracting and dying from this terrible virus. I let him go because it trains his independence and sharpens his life skills, and I breathe through it every single time.
Coming back to last Saturday, as Matthew, my friend Allison, and I inched through the line to get inside and watch the team, I could feel the loss of freedom to move through the world with the ease that we used to. Between terrorism and the pandemic, the simple freedoms that we have lost in the name of safety that were once second nature to us, and made it easier for us to care for ourselves are many. Gone are the days of bringing in a water bottle to hydrate yourself over the course of a day. Forget bringing a backpack, or even a purse, to hold the work that you could do should any down time happen, or to organize keys, glasses, the coffee mug that got you through the morning, or a book to educate yourself about whatever new topic you wanted to learn about that day. These situations feel stark, sterile and untrusting and create a lot of second guessing and stress…especially if you are a rule follower like me. As we continued up the stairs and away from the security line, you would have thought the mask mandate signs changed to “please have a mask securely tied around your wrist”. Regardless of what you believe about mask protection, it’s frustrating to jump through hoops for no real protection or gain, and realize that many of the situations we have to plan for these days are there for legal reasons more than the actual protection of human life.
COVID has been terrible for many, just as 9/11 was before that, but I miss being able to plan and choose how to move through the world, using empathy and compassion that has always been a part of my personality and genetic make up, without second guessing, or judgment. Our freedoms have been impacted in ways we never would have imagined and we intimately know what it feels like to live in fear of the unknown. Never has it been more clear that there is risk inherent in living and it will always vary from place to place and person to person, it’s the very essence of being mortal. There is no way to make that risk universal. As Americans we need to be able to make choices that fit our own risk profile. We can’t cover America in a warm blanket and avert it all. Life will always give us reason for caution, I’ve lived on the heavy side of caution my whole life. But a mindset of fear and scarcity will never serve human connection and potential, and yet it is there every time we venture out or turn on the news now. When we are fearful, our light in the world dims. We play small, take shortcuts, and even blame others in an attempt to feel safe. Then we start to doubt the positive effect our choices and life can have on the world, and instead of empowering ourselves and inspiring others, we look to be saved. The policy debate will make its way through the halls of Congress and the courts, but already today we know that fear will never create or produce what freedom will. There is no law that works better than transformation that happens from the inside out when we know how to connect with our own potential. What we need is an inoculation against fear based mentality so we can support each other and brave the risks of being human together.