We all have the intuition that life, even with all of its hardships, is fundamentally good. Its original appeal is continuously being reawakened by things and people – an appeal we can resist, but never eliminate. And yet, we have a hard time relating to many aspects of life: family, work, politics, society, even our own bodies and the very food we eat. In the end, since life does not bend to our desires and its meaning remains elusive, we use our ingenuity to construct our own reality and give sense to life. We believe this is the pinnacle of human dignity and freedom. But the reality we try to create, when put to the test of experience, does not deliver on its promises, and too frequently the ensuing frustration turns into anger and violence. What are we missing? Whey do we often perceive reality as disappointing? What can help us reconcile with reality and engage life as it is? Reality as it emerges in experience is so positive that it presents itself as inexorably appealing. Instead of appealing, we might use another word…promising.
Luigi Giussani – Catholic Priest & Founder of the Communion and Liberation Movement (CL)
If the stories I heard over the past several days were the highlights of cable and evening network news, I am convinced that the world would be a more peaceful and empathic place. I just returned from a brilliantly executed New York Encounter, that attracted the likes of NY Times columnist David Brooks and actor Richard Cabral. The theme given to the encounter was“Reality Has Never Betrayed Me” and the event was beautifully produced by the Communion and Liberation movement, founded by Father Luigi Guisanni. Over the course of these few days, I discovered a building block to my faith and experienced a deeper sense of freedom in Jesus than I have ever felt. The encounter featured speakers of all different backgrounds, faiths and walks of life. Never for one minute was there a judgement or a superiority among them. Open and real dialogue between scientists, priests, rabbis, and secularists was exchanged, unfiltered, challenging many ideas, all without pretense and never condescending.
Because this was my first encounter with the CL movement, I don’t pretend to be qualified to analyze or dissect its teachings but I do feel the need to give a testimony to what I experienced. The speakers were so compelling and their insights as they applied to modern life were so keen, that I can only highlight a few favorites here, but they will shape the way I encounter my faith from here forward:
Surrender in todays society is a very countercultural idea. When I am not present, I can be lured into a false reality that does have the ability to betray and lead me astray, but reality starts fresh with each new day and is always available and within my grasp. When I am suffering or my heart is troubled, this is a sign of false reality, one God does not intend for me, yet is available to me based on my free will. As author and recovering addict John Waters brilliantly put it, “thank God the pain doesn’t go away, because sometimes its the only way God gets in.” He went on further to explain that the crisis of our time is that we are looking at a reduced reality, more cells touching cells than hearts touching hearts. It takes courage and energy to enter into this process but only when suffering is used as a catalyst can it be used to improve the human condition. Our longing will never cease until we connect it with the source who created us and in that connection is where the freedom lies. As John Waters also said “Darwin might explain you, and you and you and you…but he does not explain me.”
A crisis becomes a disaster only when I respond with prejudice or judgement. Instead, I should let the crisis allow me to consider how I am living and create an opportunity, rather than a obstacle to rethink my perception…a reality check you might call it. Am I living my true reality? Faith must give us something beautiful to overcome the tendency for religion and culture to feel more like judgement and less like the grace that God is always so ready to grant. Hearing Dan Jusino, President of Emerge, a social enterprise dedicated to building the skills of the formerly incarcerated, the question isn’t what is wrong with you, but rather what happened in your life to bring you to this day and where do you go from here to reunite your soul with the freedom that comes from living the reality that God intended for you. Morals and ethics do not satisfy our human longing when they are cut off from the source. They become powerless, angry and condescending. That’s a lot to consider I know, and this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the powerful words that filled my notebook and my heart.
Do I have the courage to confront reality as God intended for me? Yes, the peace is unimaginable. If greater numbers of people could spend the time I just did with these members of the Communion and Liberation movement and see the joy and freedom with which they live, I believe that we all could. I am thankful to my wonderful Italian friends, Simo and Vanessa for being God’s presence in my life, I hope that I could be this presence for someone else. It feels like the world could use lots of us.
Writing brings so much clarity to life circumstances that seem so overwhelming before putting them down on paper, virtual or otherwise. I started The Optimists Journal at a time when I was seeking connection with like minds, to know that there were people out there like me, who were interested in deeper meaning, not just making a list and checking the boxes, but figuring out what makes us all tick and connecting all of this human potential to make a better world. But there was something so foreign to me about global sharing, and worse, global attention seeking, that I have continually struggled with the blog concept from inception. I am not an attention seeker and honestly one of my worst fears is being seen as boastful, better than or like I have it all figured out…because I don’t, not by a long shot. My daily discovery though is that life’s journey is so fulfilling when I am transparent, real and vulnerable. In approaching my relationships this way, as scary as it is, the freedom and beauty that is unleashed makes conquering my fear worth every deep breath that it takes to get there. I have lived with the fear of vulnerability my entire life. It's based on fear of failure, confrontation and judgement and also my nature of being a straight up people pleaser for most of my life. This (maybe not so unique) combination of personality traits has made me spend thegreater part of my life purposely trying to stay small and unnoticeable, surrounding myself with people with bigger, louder personalities than me and mastering the art of exiting a room as quickly as possible. I pushed other people around me forward, helping them on each of their journeys from behind the scenes and I was perfectly happy about it. I still don’t regret having lived this way for 40 years because I learned some very valuable lessons. I learned how to listen without responding or judging, I learned to watch for patterns that expose the universal truths in the circumstances that we encounter and that connect us as human beings, and most recently I learned, while going through separation and divorce, that when you expose a struggle to the world, you find connection not condemnation.
Today, I am grateful that I have learned these things but there are so many more lessons that present themselves everyday, challenging me to master them. The trick seems to be staying present so that I don’t miss them as they come my way. I’ve started practicing this on a daily basis and have realized once you are on the journey to knowing yourself, there are practical steps like yoga, books, podcasts, and healthy lifestyle choices that keep you on the journey of being a life long learner. There is always room for growth and improvement in this beautiful life. There has been a shift in my thinking and here I am sharing my writing. Today I thank God that the voice that He put inside me is turning out not to be as weak as I had once allowed myself to believe.
Over the last almost 20 years, I have had the joy, challenge and privilege of loving and parenting 4 amazing kids, the youngest of whom is on the autism spectrum. I have encountered the near drowning of that same mystical little boy, felt the pain of watching loved ones with addictions fight major battles, and experienced the break up of my family through divorce, a word that still feels bitter in my mouth. And yet, as major and course altering as all of these things have been, they have taught me that adversity provides the building blocks of of a beautiful life if you respond properly. Contrary to how I thought I would handle the bumps and brusies, I learned slowly to lift my gaze to the beauty, not the tragedy of any situation and in this I began to rise and attract like minded people doing life in the most beautiful, conscious way. People who are embracing challenge and turning it into human capacity, exploring their own limits and always seeking to become better at the game of life. As a lot of smart people have said before me, its not what happens to you, its how you handle it. I’ve learned that I can smile through just about anything, but even more importantly, I have learned that my capacity to sustain, to connect and endure life's hardships, still filled with optimism and gratitude, is far stronger than I ever believed.
So herein lies the bigger message of the Optimists Journal: Our connection is found in our broken stories, not our perfect ones. We are the storytellers of our lives and I’m just learning how to tell mine. I invite you to share yours too, its where all the best connections in life are made.
Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we all realized the power we each have to do good, to make choices to challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves and see what results. In the past, I could get myself so excited about human potential and then so quickly be let down when that potential wasn't realized. The truth is though, everyone grows at their own pace and in their own way, not the way I would always say it should be done. Accepting that people have the same freedom to make their own choices and live their lives as they (not I) see fit, leads to a lot more freedom and happiness for me. In the past, when people, particularly those I loved, didn’t make choices the way I wanted them to, I got upset and tried to convince them that my way was right. That action plan takes a lot of energy and slows me down in my own process of fulfilling my own goals and living an independent life. It also gave other people so much power over the energy in my day. Some days, people brought me great things that revved me up, like a child with straight A’s and some days those same people brought me heavy problems, like sickness or relationship problems. I would take these things on, even though they were not mine, rolling them around over and over in my head and diminishing my potential to efficiently focus on my own life and what was actually within my scope of choices.
Today, I make it a point to focus on a live and let live mentality that leads me away from needing to pass judgement and rather focus on my own creative path that I work on intentionally every day. It leads me to create connections with people who have different ways of seeing the world, but similar ways of communicating their vision. In the end, the best relationships are not about being like minded, but authentic in their communication and discovery of their differences. There is infinite room for growth, connection and intimacy in relationships like these, not the case when everyone is just trying to conform or operating out of a sense of obligation. Judgement happens, its a natural part of being human, but both how we communicate it (or don’t!) and take it when it comes at us is a choice that I am getting better at making. My actions today are the ones that matter, my confidence in taking action on my path is what I am building. Join me, I’m excited to see where it goes from here.
As wonderful as sleepy, soft, cuddly newborns are and as hysterical and challenging as the toddler experience was, my favorite moments have come farther along on this parenting road. Today, my oldest turns 17. There are 3 more behind her that are 15, 12 and 10 so I have a distance still to travel on this journey, (that really never ends) but it still seems impossible to me that I have a child this age. I don’t feel old enough, I look at her and remember so clearly being 17 that it brings tears to my eyes. When she describes her experiences to me, a friend letting her down, a first date, I can feel them because they still feel so fresh in my own mind and heart. I’m grateful that I have such a good memory. I am mindful that we have a mother daughter relationship, she isn’t my friend yet…one day I am confident she will be. And although she teaches me things everyday, today I collected the 17 thoughts that I hope she will take with her on her journey.
Happy 17th Birthday Lauren! You are amazing and so loved.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to measure and pass judgment on my own strength, as if this subjective thing can be quantified, and I either pass the test or I don’t. I’m seeing improvement in my thought process and confidence though because I consciously look for ways to make myself stronger and I realize that the more challenges life brings me, the more sure I become that I can handle far more than I thought I could.
Part of my rising confidence in my own strength is because my definition for strength has changed. For a long time, probably all of my adult life, I thought I was strong if I could accommodate and handle anything that people threw at me. Join this, be here, plan that, call them, organize that, be ready in 20 mins to leave for a week… this kind of accommodating didn't leave me much time to figure out my own head and heart, to define what I wanted to accomplish in my life. When I look back on this time and the way I lived, I actually picture myself, standing on a staircase with someone tossing glass plates at me while I tried to catch and stack them neatly before the next one got tossed and I didn’t catch it and instead watched it shatter on the floor. Living like this left my heart racing, my spirit tired and my confidence shot because, inevitably, I would take on more and more, until I hit a breaking point. When I did hit that point, I would have to drop everything and hit the reset button, which then caused me to feel like I was failing at everything and could never accomplish what I set out to do. The self talk that came out of this pattern of living ended up killing my confidence in myself and my abilities to accomplish my goals. My voice of self doubt can be so loud and convincing, I don’t have to give it much to work with and it can stop me in my tracks.
Today, I define strength not by how much I can hold, but by how much I decide to carry. That choice is up to me and I know now that I don’t have to take everything in. I have a choice as to what I decide to accept from others, from situations in my day and the blessings and challenges life presents me. I challenge myself to slow down and stay present because this is how I have a clear head to evaluate what situations are mine to handle and what needs to roll on by. Changing this pattern isn’t easy and sometimes make things look like they are falling off my plate compared to how I used to operate. I did things at other peoples pace for so long out of a sense of obligation and desire to keep peace, the way I operate these days looks strange to them too. So in a way, I’m not only retraining myself, I’m retraining people in my life in how they respond to my new way of thinking and reacting. My learning extends to them as well though because the road doesn't just go one way. Letting the people around me be who they are, take in what they choose from me and not judge them for it gives me and those I love lots of freedom in our relationships. It gets uncomfortable sometimes, but more struggles are lasting just moments and strength is emerging in sustained action and peace of mind so I know I’m on the right track. The challenge today is to choose wisely and use both the highs and lows that I decide to accept to fortify the path ahead while I enjoy every step along this beautiful journey.
As I move forward in life, I have learned that so many experiences we encounter can be a double edge sword, being used for either our growth or destruction, depending on how we choose to use them in our lives.
Water will forever be a constant reminder of this lesson. The very medium that has brought me so much joy in competition, peace, clarity and happiness over my life, profoundly changed my perspective and grew my faith eight years ago today when Matthew was almost taken from us in a near drowning accident. Although it's a day I wish never happened, I will forever honor it by sharing what he teaches me because God spared me the ultimate tragedy of losing him. This summer, he locked in on his goal to learn to surf and the water turned into something that bolstered his confidence, established determination and focus I had never seen in him before, and even gave him a social environment where he was an equal. Before I knew it he was standing up on a surfboard.
When I see him in the water, he reminds me that we learn and grow most where our passion lies, and that the things that can be the most scary, can be used for the greatest good when we encounter them with courage and confidence. Matthew has certainly figured that out, even if he hasn't realized it yet. He seeks out what he needs most in life, whether that is support from the right people, sensory input from the world and even specifically the peace of the water, which I can so appreciate on my own personal level. When he's in that mode, it is just my job to stay calm and take his lead.
There hasn't been a September 6 since that one in 2009 that brought me to my knees that I haven't used time and space to say, never turn your back on a child around the water, drowning is a quick and silent killer. Somehow I was afforded the opportunity to witness the miracle of his survival and this amazing kid started 4th grade today...and he was in the ocean before school. His courage, resilience, perspective and strength are a blessing and something he uses daily just to get through, because it's never easy for him. But no matter the challenge, I'm so grateful to have him here setting that example every day. We love you Bubs!
I received so many gifts in my 43rd year of life and none of them were bought in a store. Confidence, toughness, resilience and calm were the winners this year over fear, timidity and frantic movement and for that I am so grateful. Parts of me still feel twenty-two and other parts fifty-five, luckily I am still somewhere in the middle of those two. Twenty-two because I know I have so much more to experience and so much I want to do. Twenty-two because I neglected parts of me trying to tell a story that my life wasn't meant to tell. Fifty-five because I feel so much wiser and equipped for what I have experienced. I know now how freedom and vulnerability can lead to such rapid growth. My commitment to myself is to move gracefully through both the simple and hard things, to let the traditions and lessons I am meant to pass down to my kids settle out and become clear. These lessons and traditions are not meant to be chores or things that wear me out, but derived from the wisdom, calm and joy I gain from life experience. If they happen that way, they should be celebrated and if in my new state of calm the elf on the shelf got lost...well, maybe he just went to dad's house and he watches you when you are over there;)
Another beautiful thing about getting older are the layers of ourselves that we get the chance to develop. Sometimes I get so excited about the hybrid of a person that I am, one that can have a deeply traditional soul but a free spirit too. One that knows where she came from but also appreciates so much were she is today. I have lived on a farm 40 miles from the nearest city and have such a deep appreciation for people who sustain that way of life. I am a girl who loves the feeling of her toes in the sand and the sound of the ocean in the not so far off distance. Between these two experiences I became the girl who rarely turns off country music but can confidently navigate the 405 (and I truly never thought that would happen!) My confidence is rising, my mind is becoming clear and my perspective has a thicker silver lining than I ever would have thought possible. Why? Because I know I can sustain and it has taken me this far into my life to know that for certain.
He doesn’t know what mitochondria are or how they function, he doesn’t recognize the words sensory processing disorder, nervous system or adrenal fatigue. Only a few weeks ago did he ask for the first time, “do I have autism?” thanks in large part to watching the new tv show, The Good Doctor. He doesn’t remember that he couldn’t walk until he was almost 20 months old, wasn't talking at 2 and started occupational and speech therapy right then. I wonder how much he understands about what is harder for him than other kids. He wrote in his letter to Santa this year:
“ I have been good. I did all of my work in school and played with other kids.”
It struck me because to him, playing with other kids on the playground is literally a matter of following the rules, not because it actually sounds fun to him.
But there is another side, the part of him that I have always trusted. He’s a kid who can read a person in a matter of seconds, if he likes you, he will bare his soul and if not, you get none of him or his time. His eyes are as clear blue as the water that he has always loved. Thinking back, it started with a hose and uncontrollable laughter, and then the hundreds of hours he spent hanging around the koi pond in our old backyard in Fresno. At two and a half, the water almost took his life, and if not for a miracle he would not be here telling his story today. My faith has always been strong and amazed by His grace and Matthew has been living proof of that even on the hardest days. He personifies the principle that the harder you have to work for something the sweeter the victory when it is achieved.
Six months ago, he said he wanted to learn to surf. He has had more obsessive passing interests in his life than most people twice his age, so I easily could have chalked this up to something that would pass after he asked a few thousand questions about it and became frustrated with how hard it was to learn. I even remembered how my dear friend Chrissy had gotten him a spot in Surfers Healing 18 months ago and how he spent most of that surf experience trying not to be terrified despite the amazing professional surfers that were sharing their gift with him and hundreds of other kids on the spectrum. How can a kid who has trouble keeping his balance and walking a straight line learn how to balance on a surf board? Not to mention, he frustrates and loses focus easily. I knew I couldn’t teach him, I don’t surf. But what I do know is the peaceful feeling that the water has always brought me; the bliss of sensory deprivation when you dive in and hear…nothing. I’m not sure over my lifetime there has ever been a better sound and sight than what I take in under the water, staring up into the sky and wishing I had gills so that I could stay down a little longer. Genetically speaking, maybe he was on to something? I watched him gather his confidence and Costco surfboard we bought as well as the surfboards that neighbors began to donate to his cause. He was up and out every morning, always looking for an adult to take him to the water. Stumbling, falling, learning as his dad pushed him into a few waves and within a few weeks learning to stand and ride an occasional wave, but above all, trying and trying again and never getting frustrated. Youtube videos, Riding Giants, the stories of Bethany Hamilton, Jay Moriarty, Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater, The Wedge, Mavericks or really any big wave spot in the world, he is happy to discuss, because he now knows all about them.
All of this culminated in today, as his older brother does what he loves, playing volleyball and his sisters drove home after hanging with us for a few days. Today it was just us, and honestly, he’s not a real conversationalist so I was eager as I call it to “soak his brain” or as he puts it “charge his battery”. On a good Instagram tip from a friend, we showed up at Tourmaline Surf Spot at 10am and with the exception of a short salmon lunch break, he surfed until the sun sank into the Pacific and his legs were so shaky getting out he looked like Bambi. He must have caught and stood up on 100 shallow, long rolling waves that let him ride white water all the way into shore as he balanced and turned and controlled his body in a way that I have never seen him be able to.
The joy that I experience watching my kids do something they love to do I have felt before with Lauren and Luke when they play volleyball and Kate in a great theatre production, but I always wondered if I would get that experience with Matthew. No need to wonder that anymore. He has figured out a passion and purpose. He calms, his questions slow down, his fear goes out the window and his mind is clear and focused. I’m pretty sure that is all any of us need to figure out each new day. He’s only 10 and he knows where to go to find this wisdom, and that is a blessing in itself.
“Our society often follows the wrong stars. We track celebrities as if it’s breaking news. It’s as if we’re using someone else’s map to find our way, someone else’s measurements to determine our worth, some fickled criteria like numbers on a scale, or in our banks accounts to determine our value. This is where wisdom is paramount because it will guide you back again and again to your true course if you are willing to trust the map of your heart.” -Elizabeth Lindsey
So much of my life I have felt lost. I think that is why this podcast
with Elizabeth Lindsey on Michael Gervais’s Finding Mastery podcast has resonated with me so deeply since I listened to it for the first time over a year ago. No one would ever know I was lost, over the first 40 years of my life I became a master conformist and have been blessed in the ways of the stars that our society follows. I have experienced material success, have enough talent and intelligence to fit in, can turn a head if I want to. I have worked hard within those navigational beacons, raising 4 beautiful kids, imparting wisdom where I can. I try to leave spaces better off than I found them and these habits created a good life except for the part that ignored the stirrings of my heart. I allowed myself to ignore those stirrings while striving to do the "right" thing. I am so good at following rules set out by others that most of my life I never questioned them. Instead, I showed those around me how good I was at following and supporting. I think I believed that is where my deepest in a way that it was worth lied. Those who know me best know that I stop at stop signs on my bike even when there is no traffic around and have massive trouble sneaking a sandwich into the movies (“no outside food”), like I am trying to smuggle drugs across the border.
Today I know that so much of this lost feeling came from quietly trying to fit in rather than sit quietly with myself and figure out the story that my life was really meant to tell. I love words, deep thinking and solitude. I am an introvert and an empath and the world can quickly deplete my energy. I used to feel like I needed to sprint through things, because I wasn't sure when my energy would wane. I have had to learn not to be afraid of the attention that comes from speaking my mind or seeking my purpose. I have the courage now to let my thoughts wander deep and not just to a point where I can ponder, but then come back around and fit them into the same conforming story that I needed the outside world to see to feel safe and accepted. It doesn't always please everyone I am finding. In learning to listen to my heart and not just my head, the journey I am on becomes a little lonelier in many ways, not everyone understands and thats ok. What I find though, is the place where my head and heart intersect and I don’t feel lost. I am not there all the time, it is a continual challenge each day to change my habits and seek out this place, but when I am there, I am amazed at the real connection and energy the world provides.
I am a creative. I didn’t know it, or even the term, until recently. I did know the word artist, and I never would have pegged myself for one of those because I had judged artists as free spirits who had talents like painting, drawing, writing music…and I’m not particularly good at any of those things nor would I necessarily consider myself a free spirit. Not to mention, if one of my kids suggests a trip to Michael’s or Joann’s craft stores I literally break out in hives. I confused crafty with creative too. What I have discovered though, is that my mind is creative, it is constantly inventing stories out of my experiences and being moved to tears when I encounter people who have discovered their unique way of telling their story with their God given talents. I have had these encounters at concerts, Tim McGraw was born to be on stage. I have had them listening to speakers talk about the truth they have discovered in the world as they live lives of charity and mission or watching athletes rise to the highest levels of their game. I have even encountered this feeling being waited on at a restaurant by the owner who was so clearly delighted to be serving customers in the space he created it was actually moving. Most of all, I have discovered that I am a creative because I am constantly seeking the greater why of my life and trying to put it into words. I love it when a great universal truth intersects with a specific experience in my life, it's discovering the sweet spot that God intended for me to find.
Because this is my lens on life, I am so grateful to have a friend who is a creative like me, a philosopher of sorts if I had to put another word on it, that gives me the opportunity to travel and learn and dialogue about what we encounter (and play a little volleyball too). This weekend, for the second year in a row, we came to New York City to the New York Encounter, put on by Communion and Liberation, an Italian movement started by a Catholic priest, Fr. Giussani, who understood mans deep desire to belong, not in the fast paced, social hierarchy of this world but to truly belong in our most vulnerable state. He believed that in the joining of reason and faith, a lifelong presence of Christ could be encountered in anyone’s life that can fill the void of human pain and nothingness and give true and sustainable energy to a life that could then be well lived. There were speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist faiths, not just Christians, bridging the gaps of common humanity in the greater question of how religion can encounter the human soul and make the world a more beautiful place. The encounter is filled with people seeking knowledge and living full lives because they understand true love and acceptance. In a world that can feel so full of judgement, it is a beautiful thing. We heard a humble woman named Rose, a registered nurse and the founder of Meeting Point International who experiences joy in the midst of suffering as she works alongside women in Africa afflicted with AIDS as they collected rocks and made necklaces to sell, and sold so many that the proceeds built a school to educate and empower African youth. She is quiet, humble and at the same time a force because she knows why she is here and to whom she belongs. In understanding that, it all becomes simple and the joy and energy are so effortlessly produced. These are not stories you hear on the news but I am so inspired by the people who are out there doing the work that we rarely get to hear about in the normal channels of daily life. It struck me how far removed these stories and actions are from the traditional seats of power in this country and all around the world. That thought is going to take me a little time to digest…
In the same day, (and this is what I love about NYC) we jumped on the subway and went to see Jason Mraz in his broadway debut in Waitress. There was so much talent on that stage and universal truth in the story and lyrics that I was in my element again. The writing and realness of this play gives everyone something they can relate to while being awestruck by great music and live talent. We figured out that we happened to be sitting right in front of the mother of the actress playing the lead, who was the understudy last night, and knocked her performance out of the park. I can only imagine how proud she was as her daughter filled up that stage with her talent.
Without giving away any of the plot, which I also knew nothing about going into the show, the theme of opening up and recognizing the path to your true self and the story your life is meant to tell, not governed by ego, fear or scarcity, was so beautifully translated through the music and lyrics of Sara Bareilles and the talent of the actors onstage it brought tears again. I will go back and reread the lyrics to the songs again and again, I was meant to see this play this trip for sure, but here is just a taste of what anyone who can should go and experience.
Sang by Joe, an old man with more than a little life experience under his hat:
“Take it from an old man, my mistakes have made me what I am, and although I don’t believe in silver linings, I believe there is something in you. Something good is trying to break through. You might have to fight the good fight, and when you think you can’t, you can. Take it from an old man.”
There is that universal truth again, captured in art, talked about over dinner and helping us find a place in this world to be moved. And finding that place is the greatest gift and fulfillment of being a creative.
In April of 2016, as my almost 20 year marriage was falling apart, I turned around to grab a ball to serve as I was playing beach volleyball at 2nd St. in Hermosa Beach. Immediately, I recognized one of the players on the court behind me and said hello, thinking at the time that she looked familiar from one of the kids schools or teams. We hadn’t lived in Hermosa Beach long and I didn’t know that many people. As I went to serve though, it dawned on me, that’s not a mom from school, that’s Misty May. So, with my new “seize the day, what have I got to lose attitude”, I went over and introduced myself telling her about how my two oldest kids (one of them being the only boy in attendance) had participated in a clinic she coached when we still lived in Fresno. Being that I’m older than Misty but still feel like the kid who had the Hovland/Dodd and Stoklos/Smith posters covering her walls, I was happy enough with that quick conversation and got back to my game thinking that was a pretty good story to tell the kids later where they would definitely laugh and chastise me for being a dorky "fan girl".
After the next game, I went over to my towel, grabbed some water and checked my phone for messages and as I scrolled through, I saw a text message from Kerri Walsh Jennings. At that point, I almost decided that I hadn’t really woken up that morning and must still be dreaming. What were the odds that I would have and encounter with the both players on the winningest team in beach volleyball history while I was playing “mom volleyball” on a regular Tuesday morning? As I read Kerri’s text about Abraham Hickes and the Law of Attraction, the goosebumps rose on my arms and the tears came to my eyes as this champion of a human being recognized the bond that I have and the energy that I put into my kids. If there is anything I have true confidence in, it's that bond. Kerri and I had only met a few times because our kids were taking jiujitsu at the same place but her instantly thoughtful, caring and beyond empathic nature saw me, and took the time to recognize it, at a time in my life that I was working overtime to keep my optimism and zest for life at its usual heights. She, of course, made a massive impression on me with her humble nature and helpful ways. I was reminded as I read the text of how I watched her one day at jiujitsu run over to help an older man pick up a bunch of mail he had dropped all over the street. I was amazed at the attentive way she managed conversation with complete strangers and wondered how she could manage the energy she was putting out into the world with so many eyes on her all the time. It’s not that one person’s opinion or relationship defines my view of myself, but her intuition and attentiveness blew me away and provided so much inspiration as to what I am attracted to in this amazing, beautiful life. The real thing that has come out of this ongoing dialogue between the two of us that started way back at jiujitsu over 2 years ago and continues today, is the insight it has provided me in how to raise a champion. What I have learned from Kerri has given me so much perspective on how I want to raise my four to be champions in the game of life. The court is just one place to learn; but the world, full of its adversity, trials and tribulations and matched by its amazing beauty and potential is where the real game is won. True champions aren’t defined by their medals and results but rather by their character, work ethic, and ability to positively impact others every day. Champions leave other people's days a little better for having showed up…and that is exactly what this champion has so selflessly done for me.
One of the first times I experienced the feeling of knowing that being a mom is the best experience anyone can ever have was when the nurse took a crying, freshly bathed and swaddled, not so little 9lb 12oz baby boy and laid him on my chest. Instantly, he stopped crying. I had never experienced anything so magical, soothing and empowering in one moment of life before.
Luke, you are my calm, kindhearted, hilariously funny, March Madness baby. Although I love having a boy named after a Gospel, if I’m honest, you were named largely because of Luke Walton and the basketball I loved watching with my swollen belly in 2002. I’m having a hard time comprehending how 16 years went by so fast, as March Madness again plays in the background as I write this. How are you closer to the age I was when I had you than I am today? It was yesterday when you were walking with that little blue cast when you broke your foot (you were 17months old!). Then a few days later you were naming every Thomas and Friends train that was ever invented and building tracks for hours, in between Lauren dressing you up like a princess and you having to learn why boys don’t get their toenails painted too (although, we did paint them a few times anyway). Then i tossed a volleyball at you and you just seemed to get it. No matter where you go from here, you have already given me so much joy with all of these memories that my life is blessed more than i could have ever imagined.
Your calm and fun loving approach to life has taught me so much because even with that calm, when you do something you love whether it’s laughing with your friends or winning a game (be it Fortnite or volleyball) I can see such a fire burning inside you. I will always have you in my ear with your question “how is stressing about it going to help mom?” Wise words from my boy that I have absolutely taken to heart.
Then one day you walked out of your bedroom, towering over me and even though that face (and thankfully, again that haircut) is the same...my little tan man was a man-child.
You are going to do great things, and great things are both big and small. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and ask the big questions, it’s what leads you to finding your purpose, the why of your life, and it is what gives us the deepest sense of joy. When you hit a rough patch along the way, don’t smooth it over, but dive deep to find the calm water below where you can find the real answers and then come to the surface again wiser and stronger for having done the hard work. Remember that how we do the small things is how we do the big things...practice that daily. Don’t do (or overdo) things just because you think they are expected, but also know that nothing gives you more satisfaction in life than working hard and seeing success because of what you have invested. Know that you don’t have to make things ok immediately, pain happens in life for a reason, and ironically it is the greatest chance we have as people to grow into the best version of ourselves. Have confidence always. Confidence is the key to having the courage for your thoughts, words and actions to align and when they do, it’s the key to leadership and deep contentment. I want nothing more than for you to than to leave the places you go a little better than you found them. I am beyond confident that you will do that. You are so blessed in life, honor those blessings with hard work and honest goodness that is such a natural part of who you are and your life will be a beautiful place.
Happy 16th Birthday Lukey B. I love you more than you will ever know.
Today I opened up a fortune cookie and it read, " Don't pursue happiness - create it.”. Seeing it spelled out so simply made me realize that although I have entered into a contract with myself mentally, it is time to get it down in writing. It seems in general, the older we get, the more sidetracked we become about what leads to true happiness. Watching my niece and nephews over Easter, I found myself concentrating on what made them happy, especially the 4 year old. When he was rested, a scoop of ice cream or a dinosaur easter egg were reasons for laugh out loud, jump up and down celebration...simple pleasures. Fast forward a few years, and the modern day perspective, so many times, creates a slip…happiness seems to be more expensive and more elusive, when the reality of what brings happiness hasn’t changed, we have.
There are a few things about my personality that I am thankful for that seem to make it easier for me to be happy than the average 43 year old. I have been tested by real trials, among them having my life drastically upended with the end of my 20 year marriage, and coming through the other side of that incredibly sad experience confident in my ability to grow through struggle and always find reasons to be grateful. Another trait I am grateful I possess is that I enjoy (even crave) the mundane and find pleasure in the simple things. Choosing my coffee cup in the morning makes me happy, watching planes take off makes me happy, real connections with everyday people make me happy. So today, here is my contract with myself, spelled out, so when I need a reminder, I have something to come back to.
1. I will slow down and be grateful. I have learned through hard times that I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude.
2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that lead to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost.
3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist. My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness.
4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect and understanding, but will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked.
5. I will seek the place where my mind, body and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts, books, articles and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram, and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back. Adequate sleep, healthy food and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness have happened when I silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.
5. Most importantly, it is no one else's job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other. It takes courage to find that place…and I will seek it every day.
Signed with intention,
Without giving too much information, I will confess that the word "calm" is in a lot of my passwords, as a reminder for the most part. While sitting watching one of my kids play volleyball, I have been called the "zen mom" more than once, a compliment that I am proud of but don't always feel like I deserve. Knowing my beginnings and tendencies in life, I have to say I have always felt a disconnect by what people observe about me and how I observe and feel about myself...I don't always feel so zen. Trying to bridge the gap between my insides and my outsides has led me to appreciate the concept of mindfulness, solitude and meditation. I have embraced these things through a yoga practice that helped me to come through the hardest 2 years of my life. I have learned a lot about how these same concepts can calm a heightened nervous system like the one I had as a kid and like the one my youngest is trying to tame today. I am grateful for life's circumstances that have brought me to a place where I can contemplate these sensations in everyday life. I breathe deeply, I am aware of my heartbeat and my senses, and I like that I can feel my emotions and state of mind in such a real way these days. Learning to stay present has been the biggest gift received through hardship because in each moment I have learned to feel that I am fine.
Today, my exploration of meditation lead me to Float Clinic, where I submersed myself in a 5Wx8LX7H pool of water that held 1200lbs of epsom salts. As a water baby, the idea of floating was intriguing to me from the start. Personally, I learned the value of Epsom Salt baths years earlier when Matthew's doctor prescribed them to calm him before bed. Not long after I saw the effect they had on him, I began taking salt baths myself and really became a believer. The home version consists of 2 cups of Epsom Salts in a bathtub full of water...just think of what 1200lbs could do!
So today, I played 6 beach volleyball games and made my way over to Float Clinic in Torrance. After showering to make sure there was no sweat or skin oil to contaminate the water and putting in ear plugs to keep water out of my ears, I immersed myself in the float pool in complete silence and darkness, floating on my back. There was a small part of me that was nervous but I've always been so comfortable in the water, I pushed through. The water is not hot and not cold, it's perfectly comfortable on your skin. The salt makes the water so dense, it's like floating in the Dead Sea, there is no way you can sink or even turn over, no matter how much your body relaxes. Easily, within the first five minutes, the world seemed to slip away and wherever my brain went, it was blissful. Time passed unnoticed and I can't tell you one thought that I had for the almost 90 minutes I was floating. My brain was truly at rest. AMAZING! The guy who gave me the tour and instructions told me that at the end of my 90 minutes, soft music would begin to play, indicating that my float was over. At some point as I floated, unaware of time and completely at ease, a tense slightly anxiety ridden state came over me. I tried to figure out where that was coming from all of a sudden and how I was going to use my brain to overcome the slightly panicky feeling that I had. I started to worry that I had been so relaxed and had been floating too long, what if I slept through the music, or I couldn't hear it. I pulled out my earplugs and low and behold, there was music playing! It had disrupted my completely relaxed brain! For the record, in total, that low level anxiety feeling lasted about 30 seconds...no big deal.
Tonight, my skin and my hair feel so soft, my muscle fatigue is nearly all gone and the aches in my neck and traps that are almost always there are nonexistent for now. I will say, as I walked to my car, I noticed how dry my mouth was, and knowing the power of Epsom Salts, figured I needed to get a hold of some water really quick. Within an hour of exiting the pool, I drank 2 liters of water and have continued to drink several glasses the rest of the afternoon...pretty sure this is key for the process to continue to benefit the body. Hydration is huge! I'm excited to see how I will sleep tonight and how my body feels in the morning...but i have already booked again for next Friday. According to the sources, they say the experience only gets better!
From my earliest days, I have had a connection to the water. One of my first memories is bouncing around in my dad’s truck on a canal bank outside of Firebaugh and stopping every so often to throw dirt clods into the canal. Like osmosis, the stories of the life giving medium that brought forth the most productive farmland on earth and the appreciation for the life that water produced for so many were passed on to me from my grandfather and father. My grandfather was on the State Water Board when the Central Valley Project brought water to the westside of the Central Valley and my dad was a State Assemblyman who worked tirelessly to develop more water for California as the population of our state has doubled since the last water was developed. Today my family still operates a third generation diversified farming operation on the westside of the Central Valley. All of these statements are read as controversial in this black and white political world of today, environment versus ag, labor versus land owner but there was a time when this wasn’t so. The lives of the people who have created that place have instilled values in me and cultivated my traditional soul for as far back as I can remember.
When I was in sixth grade in Fresno, CA , my class took at trip to Camp K.E.E.P. and as I stood on the beach just outside Montana De Oro State Park, I remember asking my mom who was a parent counselor there that week, "why have I never been here before?” My soul was once again being moved by the water as I stood next to the ocean taking in all the environmental education that the camp had to offer that week about the tide pools, land marks and the delicate environment that surrounded my new favorite place, the beach. That trip made such an indelible mark on me that when I had the choice to go to Cal Poly SLO or UC Davis back in 1992, that trip to Camp K.E.E.P. was close to my heart that I made the decision to major in Agribusiness at SLO and spend 4 years studying the business that connected me to the Valley and spending as much time as I could at the water in at Avila Beach and Morro Bay.
The years went by, quickly as they do, and in 2009 I found myself living back in Fresno raising four amazing children. My youngest, Matthew, is on the autism spectrum and in those days was a handful to keep up with. My connection to the water taught me a giant life lesson on Labor Day Weekend 2009 when I found him at the bottom of our family swimming pool. By the grace of God and the proximity of the fire station, I was able to pull him out and resuscitate him before the fireman arrived and got him to the hospital. He is a walking, talking miracle today. I can’t write this story without saying, never turn your back on a child around the water, it is a silent killer and I will never understand why I was spared the pain of losing my child that day, but will be forever grateful for it. Ironically, Matthew’s accident never created any fear in him and to this day is still drawn to the water.
To say life changes quickly is an understatement and in 2013 I relocated with my my family to Hermosa Beach in Southern California. While there are so many things that I miss about Valley life, having my feet in the sand daily, playing beach volleyball and raising my kids by the ocean has been a dream come true in other respects. Just about a year ago, Matthew said he wanted to learn to surf, and being that he has struggled with coordination and sensory issues his entire life, it sounded like a long shot to me but off to Costco we went to buy a longboard so he could give it a try. I watched as he tried and tumbled over and over before he stood up on his first wave and hasn’t looked back since. Surfing has given him confidence, physical strength and a socially relevant topic he can discuss with his peers. It has been such a game changer for him that he is out of all other therapies and is in the water every day before and after school doing what he loves and thriving in a way I never imagined he would.
One day, not too long ago, I stumbled across something called The Surf Ranch on Facebook. As I clicked and read, I was shocked and amazed to find out that multi generationally famous surfer Kelly Slater had built in the perfect wave. That in itself was fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating to me as where it was located…Lemoore, CA. The Westside and surf culture were being connected in a way I never could have imagined and Matthew soon began asking about how we could get to see the “Kelly Slater Wave” as he calls it. When the World Surf League Founders Cup was announced for May 5-6, just a few days shy of Matthew’s 11th birthday, I knew what his birthday gift had to be. On Saturday, he and I will spend the day watching the surf competition, not far from where I spent time floating and boating on the Kings River, but never dreaming that a surf board would make any connection with this place.
The water connects us all in ways that we may not see at first and maybe never dream possible, until one person does. Innovators, big thinkers and dream catchers define every part of my story. I look for them now and observe their habits and ways, I’m even beginning to think that I am one of them. Big dreamers make waves along and create controversy. I think controversy is there to make us think and contribute in the way that is true for each of us, not just to anger and inflame. As a human race, we have so much more that unites us than divides us. Professional surfers in Lemoore and a little boy who almost lost his life to the water and has found his life because it remind me of this fact every day…connection and community in the most unexpected places. My life is a blessed place as I get to connect the core strengths that being raised in the Valley gave me and the freedom I feel every time I stand at the oceans edge.
There is something special about being the youngest. I wouldn’t know from experience but I have observed it with Matthew from the day he was born. There is always someone, especially in a big family, looking out for you, someone who wants to show you the way, someone to learn from and look up to. Although he doesn’t always appreciate it, and we have to fight the urge everyday to give him help that he doesn’t need, he won’t know until he gets a little older how lucky he is to have these people on his team.
Sunday night, as we sat around the kitchen table, I took out 11 candles sticking them in the cake as I counted them for an early birthday celebration for Matthew. All of a sudden, my oldest, Lauren, who is 17, started shaking her head.
“Wait, he’s 11? No! He’s ten….” realizing her mistake as the words came out of her mouth and tears immediately filled her eyes. God bless that first born old soul of mine. She feels things so deeply and has always had a bittersweet relationship with birthdays because she understands the nature of getting older so well for a young person. Being almost seven years older, he was her baby too, she still watches over him in a mothering instead of sisterly way. Lots of psychology goes into that, and even though I tell her its not her job, it is who she is, and she can’t stand the thought of him getting older. The fact remains though, that he is and as everything has always been with Matthew, the milestones are a little sweeter because they have been a little more hard fought.
Sometime during these last 11 years, it became obvious to me that this baby of the family was here to teach us as much as we think we need to teach him. Birthdays are starting to make me sad too, in part because of the reminder that the family that started together is marking these special days separately and, as cliche as it sounds, it really does just go too fast. What seems to take the sting away is to be able to honor the amazing things each of these kids teach me in that year. There are so many I can't ever list them all, but hopefully someday they will look back and realize no matter how difficult some days can be, it is an amazing experience to be their mom. Today, Matthew turns 11 and these are just a few notable lessons from the highlight reel.
To watch you today and know the challenges you have overcome my heart rests easy. You go out every day and figure things out in the way that they make sense to you. That takes a keen awareness and sense of self that I know I didn't have when I was 11. There is no greater blessing than being your mom, thank you Bubs for all of the wisdom.
Happy Birthday! I love you!
I grew up a political junkie in a time before 24 hour news cycles and where Crossfire was the only news program where bipartisan debate took place. I remember being taught the words public servant, statesman but definitely not politician, it was a derogatory term as I understood it. I asked my dad questions about communism at the dinner table, I argued (respectfully) with my critically thinking history and civics teacher in high school and I felt genuinely upset when I was still 17 in my first semester of college and I couldn’t cast a ballot in the 1992 Presidential campaign between Clinton and Bush like the rest of my friends were lining up to do. My dad was a six term member of the California State Assembly from the time I was seven until I was 19 and after that served as California Secretary of State for eight years so my memory is full of trips to Sacramento where my sister and I would navigate (and get lost) in the State Capitol building. When that happened, we would approach the nicest elevator operators and tell them that we were lost so they could steer us back in the right direction. So, when I heard the news of Governor George Deukmejian’s passing yesterday, I felt a genuine sadness for the good man that we lost and the breed of public servant that seems to be very difficult to find these days.
One of my most vivid and earliest political memories was my sister and I getting dressed up one school night in 1983 and going to the Hacienda Hotel in Fresno to meet the Governor. I was in third grade and my sister was in kindergarten. It was my dad’s first term and I was never a fan of anything where I had to wave or speak. We wore our nicest dresses and shook his hand and, aside from nice to meet you (or less than that knowing me), we didn’t say much or stay too long. When the news broke of the Governor’s passing yesterday, that night was front and center in my mind in an instant.
Fast forward 35 years (oh my gosh, I can’t believe my memory goes back that far!) and the TV’s in my house are silent and I catch my news in snippets from the Wall Street Journal mostly. The personalities in politics today, 24 hour media frenzy and heightened sensitivities that prevent too many of us from listening and learning from one another have crushed my interest in current events. The personalities have become bigger than the policies, and the grandstanding more prevalent than the consistent work it takes to build workable compromise. It seems that the hard working, well intentioned statesman on either side of the aisle are unelectable today and truthfully we have no one to blame but ourselves. I wish I had a solution to offer, but tonight all I can do is honor a man who was in stark contrast to the politicians of today.
Although it may seem strange, for many years I have had the ideal guest list for a dinner party in my head. It includes, authors, athletes, songwriters and world leaders and the guest list changes as I learn and grow. When my dad and I talk, I tell him this President would not make the cut for that list by a long shot, but Governor George Deukmejian certainly would. So tonight I tip my baseball cap for a man who climbed the ranks honestly, left the places he went better off than he found them, without a lot of fanfare, and let the policy be greater than the man.
Mother's Day weekend has, of course, got me thinking about the life long journey of motherhood and being that my oldest will turn 18 in July, I think a lot about how the law tells you that the job is over and how my heart knows that it will never end as long as I'm on this earth. Through all of life's ups and downs, the deep connection that I feel when I focus on the four lives I get to have such a strong role in shaping, make any of life's heartbreaks more than survivable.
Mom's are influencers, quiet shapers of confidence, stability and safety for the kids that we have been blessed with. Mom’s make their mark in small ways that have big time impact over a lifetime. As with anything done successfully, consistency helps solidify a bond that was born in the womb, a jump we have on bonding that the rest of the population will never have or understand. I used to think that providing a protected environment, low in stresses and high in close contact was the way to go and I actually still believe that for the little ones during those physically exhausting early days of parenting. Keeping kiddos from harms way, teaching them how to sleep well, play hard, imagine, create and showing them where their safe place to land is is the foundation for a compassionate and confident teenager and adult. I know firsthand the guilt a mom can carry when safety evades her child and it isn’t a feeling I would wish on anyone. I also know the joy of seeing an imagination at work as I remember so vividly watching Kate, my third born, out the window playing the role of Peter Pan and leading the Lost Boys all through our Neverland backyard. As moms, we are privy to so much beautiful detail if we slow down and take the time to watch.
As my kids get older though, my role changes and I have to start to let them go. My faith makes that a little less scary than I actually thought it would be. As with so many things in my life, when I look ahead of where my gaze should be, circumstances sound so scary, but then when the present moment actually arrives, I am more equipped than I believed myself to be. Giving responsibility and holding them accountable is so much a part of raising them to be the contributors that I hope they will be in this world, and if that is the goal, then letting go becomes a natural part of the process.
Over my life, I have lacked confidence in so many areas, but never in my ability to be a good mom. It’s not because I know what to do in every minute but more because I find so much peace in knowing there is never one right answer. Parenting is an art, not a science and where intention is good, parents and kids usually find their way through some pretty sticky situations over the years.
Before my marriage ended, family dinner was something that I always looked forward to. I felt like the dinner table was my board room and instead of agendas and reports, stories and wisdom could be passed around on a regular basis. I had a beautiful dining room, comfortable chairs and every so often I would get people to linger long enough to get my fix of the best conversations on topics from preschool playgrounds to the Wall Street Journal and so many things in between. The kids would take turns telling their stories from the day…you could actually feel the bond being created. I grieve this time deeply today but also know that life always has a way of changing and new stages of awareness seem to present new opportunities to connect and learn from each other.
My kids are used to the philosophical wisdom that dances around in my head, and they each take it in a little differently. My oldest, Lauren, who is 17 and an old soul to begin with, loves to engage and build the conversation with me. My second born, Luke, who just turned 16, and is a very bright kid despite the one word answers he gives frequently in a deep low toned voice that resembles nothing of the little Thomas the Train loving kid that used to be my carwash buddy, listens respectfully but usually doesn’t feel my level of passion for deep conversation. My twelve year old Kate laughs, occasionally rolls her eyes and has even compared me to Grandma Tala from Moana, as if I am some hippie chick telling everyone who passes to follow their heart…but deep down I know she really gets it. My youngest, Matthew, who is 11 and also on the autism spectrum, takes most conversation so literally it’s hard to get the philosophy in sometimes, but then all of a sudden he chimes in with some shamanic wisdom that beats all of us…you just never know when that will be. This blissful combination of personalities is what makes my life amazing and every moment that I get to share and listen, not just at the dinner table, one of connected amazement for the people they are becoming.
Although everyone is different and I have wonderful memories of the early years, pushing strollers, filling sippy cups and waiting for nap time so I could get a little something done, pale in comparison to the big challenges of raising older kids. There aren’t enough hours in the day with the schedules that they all keep (and let’s be honest, they actually don’t want to sit and philosophize with me all day) to say what you want to say. I have started to think of my blog as my extended moment at the dinner table, sealed in time so that as they grow and aren’t with me as much, maybe they will take a look at it and know where my head and heart were at certain points in time.
Happy Mother's Day to all of the mom's out there. Your impact is great. Keep doing what you do.
“It’s a balance between stability and mobility”, she said, as I laid on my yoga mat rolling lacrosse balls under my tight hips and inner thighs. Yoga has become an almost daily ritual in my life and I have seen some amazing growth from my practice…mind, body and spirit as they say. A yoga practice gave me the patience to let myself just be, and in doing that, the real me...calm, purpose driven, and free, showed up right on time. Almost every class, simple and profound statements roll over me, while I lay there on my mat, that clear my mind of clutter and let me sit with just a thought or two for an entire hour. That's a pretty impressive feat for someone who up until recently was losing the battle to the 2am demons.
I took up my yoga practice because as a mom of four active kids trying to give my body a break from my usual swim/volleyball routine, I still craved the sweat and endorphins that I have always had such a sweet addiction to. What I didn't know was that it could teach me to love my journey, give me the patience to let my story play out, and not get too attached to any outcome. These benefits have been so stabilizing while I learn to define and get comfortable with a new normal. With each new day, I am fine. That doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time, there are plenty of tears, happy doesn't exist without sad and loss is a part of life.
This brings me back to the stability and mobility quote that struck me. The cool thing about yogi wisdom I have noticed, is that what applies to the physical body, also often applies to the spirit. For some, stability can be so boring, and so that person goes looking for mobility to reach new heights and experiences to keep life interesting. For others, like me, stability is the greatest peace…routine, advanced planning, knowing what to expect, ahh, heaven. And yet, this stability inclination of mine can keep my life in a very tight little circle and make me afraid to step up and out to create that growth finding mobility that leads to a more impactful and meaningful life experience. The story of my life has yet to play out, and, as the author of that story, I have to have the courage to act on my plan. Those who really know me would vouch for my stability, some might even call it boring. I have realized though, that I can leverage that stability to find sustainable mobility, even flow, which is the most amazing feeling. My challenge to myself: do not be too afraid to act, do not run too fast and burn out, and use my stability for mobilization and enjoy the growth that will inevitably come from that. Thanks Soho Yoga for freeing my heart and mind time after time. Teacher training...yep, it's in my near future for sure.
As a parent, there are so many choices that I make where my overarching philosophy about how to raise a strong, compassionate, disciplined kid are directly opposed to my kind hearted, I love my kid too much to do this to them, softness. In my head, I know that discomfort brings growth, that unconditional love can bridge almost any disagreement over time, and that even if my teenager doesn’t like me today, I’m still pretty sure he’s going to love me when he’s 40 but learning to look for the long ball over the instant gratification of making one of my kids happy in the moment, requires check in multiple times a day with what I am trying to train and inspire in each of them. Training is born in the consistency of my message and their actions in response to that message. Inspiration is what I hope I can provide for them by showing them, by example, what makes life great…finding a purpose, understanding how ego affects us, both for better and for worse and identifying their unique gifts that are meant to carry them to the outer reaches of their potential.
I know that the results of my parenting choices don’t usually show up immediately, and many of them not until years later. I’ve been at this for almost 18 years now and although I’ve learned a lot of things and think that I have always had a pretty good gut instinct, the questions like, “Am I pushing too hard?” “Am I doing this for my own ego?” or flat out, “Am I going to make my child feel neglected and unloved?” still loom large in my mind in big and even small decisions. On top of that, my decision making relationship with my kids has also had to become, at least from moment to moment, one that will stand on its own...no questions, no backup, no good cop/bad cop. That has been an evolution in itself, testing my resolution and ability to stand firm in what I believe. Every once in awhile though, one of my kids will say something that reminds me that the principles I believe in, and have adhered to in the past in some uncomfortable moments, do pay off.
Today Luke came home from a USA Beach Volleyball tryout and we were chatting about who his team will play in the CIF State Tournament for indoor boys volleyball next week. He was explaining how one team gets selected from the North, which includes teams from Fresno where we used to live. He asked me if I knew who was dominant up there, and started listing teams he knew from the area…
"Buchanan, Clovis North, Clovis…I wish we would play Bullard and Roy Verduzco," he said. “Remember when you guys dropped me off at his beach camp? I was younger than Matthew.” (who is 11)
“Of course! You were 8, and most of the other boys attending drove themselves there! I remember leaving there thinking, what are we doing?”
Even though Coach told me it was fine, I remember Luke looking at me like, are you seriously leaving me here? He’ll be fine Coach assured me, so off we went, me with a pit in my stomach. A few hours later we came back and Luke was playing doubles on the one beach court against boys twice his age, pretty much getting his hat handed to him, but digging and serving and surviving! I was in awe. On top of that, these boys gave him candy and carried him off the court when it was over. And he went back again the for the next session.
"Yeah, that ended up being fun." he said today.
These conversations that I get out of almost grown children are priceless. As Luke’s volleyball has progressed and become such a developmental staple in his life, where he learns discipline, leadership, how to keep a clear head under pressure, and countless other lessons that will undoubtably enhance his life, this goes down as one of my favorite stories. It will always remind me to trust my gut even when it feels scary, keep a close eye on what inspires my kids, and challenge them to use that gift to help build their confidence and make them great, not just at their sport or interest, but great at life.
I have always been an early riser. The morning is my favorite time of day and most days, as I feel the pink light and the quiet slipping away, I wish it would stay just a little bit longer. I want to hang a little longer in the daybreak, before the rest of my world is awake, because it feels like a place where everything is possible. My dreams are alive in this sacred space and the doubts that threaten my resolve and make me feel scared are still asleep. As the day goes on, it takes more focus to keep my self talk positive, my eyes clearly set on my goals, and quiet the voice that tells me there is too much to learn and too much time passed to turn these dreams into reality. I know that sounds less than optimistic, which isn’t like me, but I have also learned that confronting what I’m afraid of, rather than burying it deep, plays a big role in me never lying in bed scared to death of being alone and believing that I need a co-author for my amazing life story.
One of the things that has gotten me through the unfortunate break up of my traditional family has been the reconnection with friends who knew me 20 years ago. It’s strange in so many ways, because I never felt the change that happened in me over the last 20 years. It occurred slowly, but friendships that were once so easy to maintain fell away. In those years, it was simple to make excuses about why…we have miles between us, kids to raise of all different ages, single friends with different lifestyles. There were a million excuses to throw out and the days always passed so quickly. At the heart of it though, I’m not one to lose contact, and over the first twenty years of my life, I had established deep and meaningful friendships that meant the world to me. In my heart, it pained me that I had lost touch, the real me detests small talk and is such a huge believer in deep connection I simply couldn’t bear the thought of losing people who I had shared those connections with, so I buried my thoughts on these matters deep. Over the last year or so, I have reached out and even visited some of these friends, and in other cases others have reached out to me (yet another reason I am a fan of social media). Although the reestablishment of friendships that mean so much is the biggest gift, there is something else that God has offered me through these experiences that has been invaluable to my healing…these friends remembered the old me even when I couldn’t. They remembered someone who wasn’t afraid of being noticed, someone that would share what she thought to a bigger group, someone who enjoyed conversation with differing points of view without being afraid that people would get upset, and, most of all, someone who was strong and unafraid to stand up for herself, without needing the backing of anyone else. In some way, each of these reconnections has offered me this message:
“You are strong enough for the story you are living, I never knew you would doubt yourself.”
Wow…this was mind blowing stuff to me. With each of these encounters, I started to remember the girl that my friends knew, and I started to speak up, to write and create. Now I know that this creation is part of my journey and entirely up to me, all I have to do is believe in it and back it up with my effort.
The amazing thing about life is that if you use the right lens and habits, and a fair amount of discipline, everything we experience can be used for progression. Real progression includes loss, failure and hardship to create life’s true beauty. Real progression is the yin and yang, the ebb and the flow and the knowledge that life is always moving and changing. I can be both a power player and a keen observer in my own life and both will sustain me. Today I know that if I had never experienced deep pain and loss, the beauty that I seek to find everyday when I’m with my kids, in the faces of people, in nature, in my health and fitness adventures, and the rest of God’s creation would not be as remarkable. This knowledge reinforces my belief that it’s ok to be scared, as long as I face my fears head on, to feel small, as long as I rise up and loom larger in my own story and to hold tight to the heart of the girl who’s name was Jones ...a name that holds a history that I am proud of and belongs to me, not in an attempt to detract from anyone else’s history making abilities, because every one of us is so capable, but to make my mark, strong and independent, and most of all embracing the joy of the present. In the now, I feel like that girl again and it’s all part of the progression.
It’s all connected. I’ve seen it time and time again in my story. One decision leads to another and I find myself creating circumstances that shape my reality everyday. I’ve learned to correct course so much quicker these days when I feel a decision making an undesirable impact, it goes with the work of soul searching and is one of the many great benefits. I know that how I do the small things is how I do the big things, and each choice, even the monotonous ones, have such an impact on both my daily and long term fulfillment and success.
The connections I feel between my mind, body and spirit serve me in such an amazing way and are filtered through my writing. I am a thinker, a doer and a feeler and I’m learning not to block or numb any of these roles so that they have their full effect on my life. Mentally, I am always building new philosophies that I use to frame my challenges in the most optimistic light. Physically, I have a tendency to go so hard that I break down from time to time, and although I could say age is catching up with me, anyone who has known me for most of my days knows that I’ve been a tad injury prone all along. Although I’m competitive to some extent, what I’m really after is the endorphin rush that comes with exercise and the clarity it brings to my mind. My clearest head and best connections come through sports and movement. A life long love for volleyball, the Masters swimming that taught me about the toughness that comes with oxygen deprivation after I had to switch from running to the water after the birth of my fourth child, and the patience and calm that I have learned from my yoga practice, which began to bring balance to my compensating body, not realizing that it would enlighten so much more, have connected my mind and body in such amazing ways and this connection allows my spirit to soar.
Tomorrow I go in to have a torn meniscus fixed on my right knee. It’s a bit scary to feel like your body is breaking down. It’s not the surgery that scares me (I’ve had plenty of them before) but the notion that the connections between the bad ankle from 20 years ago has made its impact on my knee. It’s that feeling that creeps in knowing that I’m experiencing “what they said would happen” after 40, because until it does, I think we all have a tendency to believe that it happens to everyone except us. I’m pretty sure that’s what I thought until about a year ago. The idea that I won’t be able to do what I love to do and get the endorphin rush I crave while I recover is daunting for a moment, but it’s time to give the body a rest and let my mind create and see where that silver lining leads.
If we pay attention, history has a way of teaching us about our own destiny and fate. I have always loved a good history class. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to have had history teachers who could communicate stories, some with calm, clear voices and some with more excitement that you could imagine, hands flailing around and even one who jumped off his desk, mid-lecture (George Cotkin, unforgettable, Cal Poly Fall 1992). Either way, these voices showed me the angles of history that could incite critical thought and great conversation...a testament to the power of a great teacher. In part, because these teachers sparked my interest in history, I became an observer of the people in my life that could tell me the stories that had come before me. Stories of strength and perseverance and grand plans that turned into reality. I have always had the sense that what came before me was there to teach me about my own life story and, I have been fortunate to have people put in my path to be proud of and to prove my theory true.
Today I woke up thinking about D Day. I don’t know how many people my age did that, maybe a lot, maybe not so many. I would be willing to bet though that there are far fewer in the generations younger than me, mainly because the storytellers of the Greatest Generation have not been a part of the younger generation's day to day experience and, as humans, we learn so much more through story and experience than hard text.
When emotion is weaved through historical data, it embeds in our hearts and minds in a much more profound and impactful way. I grew up with a grandmother who told stories of being stationed at Elveden Hall (think Eyes Wide Shut and, more recently, All The Money In The World, they were filmed there) in England in World War II. She was a secretary to General Partridge and one of the first members of the WAAC, the Women’s Army Auxilary Corp. Her stories were my first taste of ground breaking female strength and conviction, and I always admired the way she radiated those qualities in the most humble, grace filled way. She also used the tenacity it took to get her to that point of her life, defying odds and breaking barriers, to carry her through both blessed and, more importantly, difficult life circumstances after the war, always using that strength to be a constant light to other people who crossed her path.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Normandy and see the beaches and rocky cliffs. It was the trip of a lifetime. Even better, I shared this trip with my dear friends, one of whom had been there before with his father Jack, who had shared his story on that trip, as they traced his journey through the European battlefront to celebrate his 90th birthday. Jack landed at Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944. Note the irony of that date. As fate would have it, his ship was delayed by bad weather after leaving England, and when it arrived in the waters beyond Omaha beach, the fighting had moved inland. Hours and even minutes can make such a difference in the outcomes of our lives. A delay of 24 hours could have been the difference that afforded him a life well lived. A story that includes a wife, six kids, and more grandkids and great grandkids than I can count. Jack turned 100 on September 6, 2017 and is still going to work today. Born just two days after my grandmother, and as fate would have it again, they became friends much later in life, after the war, going to party's, traveling together, and sharing a life that looked much different than the days of World War II. On top of that, I am fortunate to call Jack's son and daughter in law among my closest friends...like attracts like.
The strength of the Greatest Generation will always be something I admire and use to motivate me in our modern world, in the face of fading human contact and the instant gratification that we face as a society every day. I am so grateful to have had these stories passed on to me to wake up with every day. When I stop for a minute, and let the stories I have been told sink in, the universal truths are there for the taking. Perseverance in the face of adversity, belief that both fate, and our own discipline, choices, and actions, have a hand in telling our story, and above all, that love, family and friendship will carry a story through many generations, if we care enough and are brave enough to tell it. May we all have the courage to create stories worthy of telling to those who come after us.
June 9, 2005…one of the four best days of my life. I’ll never forget the ear piercing scream you let out after the doctor coaxed you to breathe, your stubbornness was apparent from the first moment of your life. Two nights later, and back at home, when Lauren was afraid to sleep on the top bunk, Luke was crying because “that baby” wouldn’t stop screaming, and I was still awake at 3am because I had to stand up and rock you so you wouldn’t cry, and every time I’d sit down you’d start again…I’ll admit for a moment, I wondered what we had done. Kate, you have taught me so much about hard work and how it pays off. Training your amazing intelligence and iron will has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You are so much like me, and sometimes when that is the case, it makes it harder, not easier to communicate. I feel you and understand you in an almost intuitive way. I feel my feet on the path you are walking, introvert, aware and observant, stubbornly strong but so sensitive on the inside you almost have to put a wall around it. You are a beautiful person already at just 13. So, as you become my third teenager in the house, I have a few words that I hope you will carry with you as your life tells it’s story.
Learn to love the work. You’re old enough to see cause and effect. Give your endeavors your best effort and note the results. The habits you form now, when your hormones are making you moody and tired, will serve you for the rest of your life. If you can focus on your process now, the benefits you will reap will run deep for the rest of your life. The reward doesn’t come from accolades from the outside world, or medals and awards or even report cards. What is of true benefit is the deep satisfaction you feel in your soul when you know that you are giving your best effort. Once you build that muscle, it’s a fulfillment that will sustain you through all of life’s highs and lows.
Find something you really like about yourself and focus on it, even celebrate it. Be humble, but inwardly, focus on your talents and gifts, there are so many. Thirteen is an age of transition, for me it was the height of insecurity, but I always had a voice in the back of my head, even though sometimes it was hard to hear, telling me I was enough, it didn’t matter what other people said. That voice got me through the years of mean girls, acne, and being taller than every boy except for 3 (and I can still remember their names, Kevin, Zach, Tino… because it stood out that much). At 13, there is always something about yourself you will question. Find that positive inner voice and work to get comfortable with it, and your doubts will linger for a much shorter time.
Know that what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right. Popular is still a word that makes my stomach lurch. The discomfort that goes with trying to fit in at 13, and sorting out your own feelings, is not a time I’d ever ask to return to. It’s a right of passage though that shapes your character, and helps you define what is important to you. Discomfort allows our biggest opportunities for growth, so now, looking back, I realize 13 for me was a time of some pretty heavy lifting. As painful as some of it is, I hope it’s the same for you, which sounds strange, but you are strong and it will help you discover so much about yourself. Know that I am always here to help you navigate, with the most open mind and heart.
The cool crowd is always changing, so set your standard. The truth is, you can only find security within yourself. Just keep being you, and you do that so beautifully. If you have a tribe, even just one or two, that you know you can depend on, you don’t need much else. Sometimes even the one or two will let you down, its ok, it’s part of life and learning…if they do, you will always have me in your corner, no matter what.
The amazing thing about having daughters, and today, you in particular, is that I get to see beautiful humans who bear a likeness to me, with vastly more potential. You inspire me to set an example to push that potential of yours to it’s farthest reaches. Kate, to say you are an original is an understatement. You are learning to use your stubbornness for good, your intelligence to learn, create and bring other people joy, and your kindness to make those who feel marginalized, good about themselves. Don’t be afraid to show those qualities to the world in the boldest ways.
Last piece of advice… dance when you feel like dancing, it will happen, and when it does, it will feel like the best night of your life.
Welcome to the teenage years Kate, you join two others in this family who are navigating it pretty well, you will do it in your own original way no doubt, but know that we are all here for you to help make this journey beautiful. Love you more than you’ll ever know.
I am a homebody, but I’ve moved 7 times over the course of 20 years. Each of my four kids was born in a different place. Every home contained multitudes of memories, some amazing, some haunting, favorite spots (which for me were usually the outdoor patios), some included decorators, fancy knobs and pulls, even copper sinks and home theaters, things that the first world pays for and then has to keep up and maintain, in my case, at the expense of connection. Stuff can never fill a human void. I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. What I have learned over these 20 years and 7 houses is that home for me is about the intangibles…safety, security, and warmth, and if you are lucky a comfortable bed.
Yesterday, I signed a lease, on my own, for the first time ever, and I’m 43. It’s a little house, and so amazingly, still close to the beach. I had to move by March 2019, but I decided that the unknown and the anticipation of every “last event” (Christmas, summer, birthday) in my home where I have spent the better part of 12 years raising kids, making memories and at the end, a heavy unraveling that doesn’t need to be dwelled on now, but has nonetheless taught me so much about my outlook and toughness that I never knew, was more taxing on my spirit than just taking the leap. I thought I’d wake up this morning apprehensive, but I happily found that I am confident that I can turn this house into a home and a huge reason for that was one simple statement made by 13 year old Kate, after i took her and her and brother to see the house.
“It’s not extra, it’s enough.”
Talk about clarity spoken by a child from the back seat. She just gets me, whether she knows that completely yet or not. When a comment like that comes out of my child’s mouth, I have a moment of all is right with the world, and I have to take it in and write it down. For me, that profound but simple statement means she sees, hears and knows me, and my influence is being felt. To me, that is the ultimate gift of parenting.
I started to think…extra or enough. Extra is what makes my heart pound with anxiety, enough is what makes my heart full. Extra is what costs more, takes away time and diverts from the simple pleasures. Enough is what gives me time to talk with my kids, write, do yoga, learn more, and breathe easy. Extra is full of comparison, enough is content. Extra is exhausting and enough sleeps easy. Extra is never satisfied no matter how much it has, enough counts every blessing. This concept has grabbed on for me and this list is going to expand and maybe be printed and posted all over the bulletin boards in my new house. Right now life is calling and I get to go watch some more volleyball. Hoping your heart is full of enough today…
There is so much emphasis on balance in life these days, and combining balance with the ebb and flow of emotions of life is something that I have wrestled with on many days over the last few years. I’ve always been pretty even keel when it comes to handling my feelings, but in my earlier days, I didn’t quite have to absorb the chaos of life that came my way in the last few years either. I've learned that it's good to slow down, feel deeply, and yet not react quickly, and cry when I need to. I've learned that comparing my life to a story of what I thought I deserved is the perfect way to play victim, a game I have never been fond of, and that even though some days are rough, I am far from crisis. All that being said, today I couldn't shake the feeling that my life had left one station, and I am barreling down the tracks, with good intention, trying hard to get to the next destination, and when I didn't arrive by the end of the day, I ended up slowing to a crawl, feeling defeated and with a voice saying in my head, “why did you think you could go to the grocery store and be a writer?” There is just so much to do, it's overwhelming. I know that sounds less than my optimistic self, but it’s important to me to be real and acknowledge that, although most of the time I don’t find it hard to focus on the positive and keep my mind firmly set on personal growth, every so often I come up short and I know it’s important to process it.
Today was a struggle day…I miss my kids and feel like there isn’t enough of me to go around…not just for them which is most important, but for friends, family and my own ambition. After my knee surgery three weeks ago, I had to take some time off from yoga and my head feels so cloudy, it’s hard to stay focused and prioritize what to do next. On top of that, today I was feeling the weight, rather than the excitement of my goals, and the life I’m trying to create for myself feels further off than I want it to.
It’s so different than what I imagined. Stay present, the little voice says, keep working. I do, and it rescues me from the slipping down the road of “what if’s” and needing to know an outcome right now. On top of these feelings, I know my voice and my words sound different to old friends, almost unrecognizable in some cases, so I hesitate to reach out, because it's hard to feel understood. So I write about it, and even as these words flow from my fingers, the weight starts to lift, and I start to feel better. Maybe I can be a writer and go to the grocery store, both are pretty important right now.
The thing about personal growth is that it doesn’t ever start from that comfortable spot on your couch, all cuddled up with your soft blanket and sipping hot tea from your favorite mug. Growth is more likely to begin in a crouched position in the farthest corner of the closet with your hands shaking, and a fear so intense that it blinds everything for a moment, before strength takes over. Somehow, in my life, I knew that the only thing that would alleviate this paralyzing fear was action. Action I didn’t feel like taking, but knew I had to. One foot in front of the other, setting small goals, like getting in the ocean every day and going to yoga. Simple choices that started to rewire my brain and the way it worked. Slowly but surely, I started to rise and create a new normal. I’ve talked with so many people lately who have similar stories of fear or feeling defeated. There is so much pain out there, but I know there is more resolve and resilience.
My point is, its ok to hurt, to struggle and to be discontent. It keeps the fire burning, even if you have to step away from the flame for a few minutes every so often. That's my take away from a day like today. Not every day will come up roses, but leaders and followers are separated by what they choose to do when the chips are down, and I am a leader. I will examine and not bury, push forward even when I don’t feel 100%, and know that over time the path will become clear. The cool thing about life is that there is no moment of arrival, we are all works in progress as long as we want to be. I am a writer, even when I don’t feel like writing, an athlete, even when I am healing, and a mom first, foremost and always…a blessing that even on the hard days, makes everything better.
I haven’t had time to write much this past week, just a few notes here and there as I’ve been watching my kids play volleyball in Phoenix and enjoying every moment of it. My thoughts in these times are usually all about the gratitude I feel for the opportunities that they have to play and be coached at levels that were never available to me. I love sports, they brought my timid heart to a place that helped me believe in myself and see my own strength and resilience. Always a little behind in the struggle, learning things in my own time (I consider myself a late bloomer) and now getting to put all of this together and attempt to impart it to my kids, in the best way I can, all without a National Championship, a CIF title or really much of anything but an all league mention from a league I guarantee you’ve never heard of. What I know because of that though, and what is so hard to teach in the moment to kids who know the taste of success from an early age, is that while winning feels so good, the lessons we learn in the downturns, our ability to bounce back and trust in our own good intention and process is what takes us the farthest in life.
Society today is so often looking for the easy win, the answer that makes us feel good in the moment, but that chase for comfort leaves us unable to handle the unease of life that inevitably comes our way. So often these days, when we see our kids struggle, the answer seems to be "quick fix it, there has to be a way to avoid this uncomfortable feeling!" The more discomfort I have encountered as an adult has given me the ability to see so clearly that one of the biggest lessons to teach my kids is how to work through discomfort and disappointment on their own. It's not always easy to do and definitely doesn't feel good in the moment. My goal though, is to raise a champion in life, not just on the court, and those lessons don't always come with accolades and medals in the present.
The real heart of a champion is battle tested and scarred from brutal losses. When the work is put in, in the hours when no one is watching, when others are sleeping, when you’re diving on the floor, drawing blood, clawing and scrapping for every last ball, willing it not to hit the floor and you come up short, in the moment nothing hurts more. But for me, sports have always been a metaphor for life. I have learned more about how to handle the highs and lows of my life with lessons that I have learned on the court or in the pool. As EE Cummings said:
“It takes courage to grow up and find out who you really are.”
Sports has helped me to do that. I’ve learned a few things along the way and I’m reflecting on them today as I watched my son experience the toughest sporting experience and defeat that he has ever had. Here are my takeaways in a nutshell.
My biggest takeaway from this volleyball vortex that I have been swirling in is that as brutal as it is to watch my son in pain, the thing he needs to hear from me most is how proud I am everyday, regardless of results, because I see passion, work ethic and his ability to see a picture of the world that is bigger than himself...and that is the real heart of a champion.
A mouse ran across the top of the TV set and neither of us even moved. They were irrigating the field behind our house outside of Firebaugh, a farm town on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley that many have never heard of. Every time they irrigated, the mice made a bee line straight inside. Not sure that it’s something you are supposed to get used to, but we had. That night my sleep was disrupted when the crop duster barreled down on the field behind our house, looking like it was going to fly straight into the bedroom window, as the cotton was sprayed in the dark, avoiding the heat of the day. When I awoke again the next morning though, the hydrangea that I had purchased at a silent auction we had attended in a cantaloupe shed was on the porch, I had a flag flying, and an oven that would bake cookies…and I was content.
Time passed, and we wanted civilization. We missed restaurants and going to the gym, so we moved 40 minutes east into town. We bought the big house in the tract on the river and couldn’t afford the furniture to fill every room. We made friends, pinched pennies, bought dogs, ate too much pizza, and Lauren was born. My favorite room was the balcony… and again, I was content.
Then we decided that the house was too big, and I wanted to stay home and raise kids, so we moved again. The house was smaller, it had a pool though, and we painted rooms ourselves, and had Luke. Friends gave us a recycled play set, we made more friends and invited them over. My favorite room was back to the patio…and I was content.
Property values rose, and we made some money selling our little house and found an adobe ranch style with a bigger pool and bedrooms, so we moved again. Kate was born. We bought a new play set, re-landscaped the backyard, went to dinner with friends and sat on the new patio…and I was content.
Then, way above average financial success happened, and my dream house was up for sale. It was house that my dad had almost bought when I was twelve and that I had cried when he didn’t. It was my happily ever after house. Matthew was on the way and we moved into the beautifully landscaped estate, complete with pool and guest house, beautiful blond hardwood floors and spacious rooms. My favorite room was still the patio, and I sat on it every morning, organizing my thoughts and feeling the pull of the simple life that I desperately wanted, that gave me contentment, but that seemed to be slipping away.
Was it the chaos of having four kids under seven? That had to be it I told myself. As I worked harder to achieve that simple life I so desired, my optimism was slipping away. We seemed to need more trips, more plans, more of anything but the mundane, but in my heart, what I wanted was to take care of my kids, exercise, sit on my patio, write next to the garden of hydrangeas, and chat in the evening. That "boring" life was escaping me.
Seven years passed and in part, because of that tension that I didn’t know how to identify then, we moved hours away and relocated full time to a walk street, ocean view in Hermosa Beach…great neighbors, beach access, tons of friends to come visit and amazing opportunities for the kids. My favorite room was the balcony, I tried to rise early and seek peace that I could tuck away and use over the course of emotionally tumultuous days. Sometimes it worked and by the end it didn’t. I wanted to be content, but that feeling was gone.
What I know today, is that a house doesn’t make a home, the people inside it do. Memories are made through experiences, possessions don’t hold our memories, our hearts and minds do. My peace and contentment come through gratitude for my health, ability to put a roof over our heads, food on the table and relationships with people who get me. I am beyond grateful that I have all of these things today. Some would say that through all of these moves we were chasing happiness. I choose for my lesson to be that the state of my heart will reflect the state of my home, no matter where it is, and my heart is content once again with the little things…and the big things, and maybe another hydrangea, will come out of that.
One of the most common and yet most rewarding parts of parenting is to take note and celebrate the amazing traits that God gives our children. Seeing your child have something amazing in her personality that she can offer to the world…a world that often seems to be in need of strength, compassion, love, forgiveness, patience, understanding…the list could go on and on, gives us reason to hope and believe, which I am always in favor of despite the odds and statistics. I know that human beings have all of these qualities in abundance to offer the world, especially if we can keep clear minds and hearts, but as the years go by and life happens, it can be hard to keep our best qualities shining.
Last night, as I drove home after taking in Moonlight Yoga under the full blood moon at Terranea Resort (simply amazing!) with Lauren, who turns 18 today, I was thinking about how I could honor the amazing kid that she has been from day one to the adult (legally) that she becomes today with my words. It’s become a tradition for me to write something to each of the four of them on their birthday's that they can hang on to in the years to come.
One of my standard lines to someone when their jaw drops that I have four kids (because frankly, by modern day standards, it just sounds like a lot!) is that there are so many of them because I thought raising kids was like raising Lauren. I’ve often joked that she has raised herself, while helping to raise the other three at the same time, setting the bar high with her example, and the physical work she puts in. She inspires with her drive and work ethic, and sets an unparalleled model for her younger siblings that they have the fortune to think is normal. While all of these traits have made our family a richer, more blessed place to be because of the kid that she is, last night, I arrived at the three traits, as I listened to her talk about real world issues that weigh on her heart on the way home from yoga, that I admire in her most.
EMPATHY - It’s so much different than sympathy, and yet difficult for a deep soul to absorb without letting your energy to be depleted. Lauren, you feel so sincerely what other people need, and yet seem to intuitively know how to retreat to protect yourself and not become jaded. This is such a hard lesson to learn for most empaths, but you have wisely figured out that a long drive with your music or a nap on the beach by yourself can restore you in ways that heal your soul and continue to let you be a light to the people around you. You feel, you give, and you let go of control of things that are not yours to hold in ways that make such a mark on the people that cross your path. As your mom, I couldn’t be more proud, but hope I have protected you enough from all you take in. This vision comes naturally to you ,and your soul is ever so much older than 18 today because of that.
STRENGTH - Because of the empathetic gene that you have and life circumstances, you have been challenged, as we all are at some point, to handle situations that as a parent, I would rather have you not have to wrestle. One of the greatest challenges of parenting though is to sit back and observe and support, rather than swoop in and try to fix. I have watched you take in situations in the world where extreme pain and human imperfections are at the forefront, all without losing your optimism and zest for life. You know how to balance what keeps you strong, taking care of your body, mind and spirit in a way that not only benefits you but the people who are in your life. You have a knack for seeking out what fulfills you, setting goals based on that and using your strength to make your own dreams come true. Because of this strength, you ask so little of me, and reward me with so much…but know, no matter how strong, everyone needs a soft place to land, I will always be that for you, don’t ever be afraid to ask or think you will disappoint. It’s simply not possible.
FORGIVENESS - Although it’s hard to rank these qualities, and the abundance of other wonderful traits you possess, your ability to forgive others and love with a full heart is amazing. You seem to take life like you would a volleyball game, point by point, never getting down and always believing that you and the people you love will win in the end, even if not in the moment. You are quick to forgive a slight and yet always wiser in your words and actions for what you have experienced. I am always amazed at what that kind of life can be attained with that attitude and resilience that you have learned from a young age. In the words of my new favorite Dierks Bentley song "You Can't Bring Me Down"
“But its true what they say about forgiveness, once you find it man, there ain’t nothing that can hold you back…” this couldn’t be more true in my book and you exemplify this every day.
LT - I could write a novel on all the things there are to celebrate about you, maybe someday I will. For today, know that you are more loved and respected that even you could ever imagine. I hope you feel it, covering you in every step of your day. You are and incredible creature and you are never alone…we are here for you always, you don’t always have to strengthen us, we are here to do the same for you.
I love you forever! Love, Mom
As an introvert who craves deep connection, I find myself thinking about the concept of community a lot. So often, I feel like retreating to my corner to write and think and be by myself, and then I get this crazy pull to get out there and connect and learn from other people. I am always after what makes people tick and can’t handle much small talk. Instead of saying “how are you?” or “nice to meet you” I quickly want to get to the questions like “what gives you hope?” “what makes you smile?” or even “what breaks your heart?”. Most of the time though, I think these questions would send people running for the hills and I’m never one to put people in an awkward position on purpose.
Wherever I have lived for the past 25 years, I have had a community based on sport. Locker rooms, pools, gyms, neighborhood running partners and, now that I have lived in the South Bay for the last five years, the beach, is where I find these connections with people who find passion and purpose in similar ways. No matter what life has presented me, whether it was homesickness in college, the challenges of raising little kids, marital strife or divorce, these settings have provided me people to connect with with like mindsets. These are the places where I feel most understood. Locker room talk has always provided me with the most wisdom and clarity. I attribute that mostly to the endorphins and the presence of like minds.
This weekend in Manhattan Beach, the Charlie Saikley 6 Man Volleyball Tournament is being played. It’s a fantastic time complete with costumes, music, high level volleyball and, above all, generations of people who have bonded over a sport that they love. For the past 8 years, I have been able to be a part of it, and it leaves my heart full of gratitude every year. The funny part is, every year, before the start of the tournament, I think, I don’t want to do this. It’s too many people, I have too much to do, I’m not one for costumes…I can come up with a million reasons in my head about why I shouldn’t be down there. And then I go anyway…and play a game I love, (even though it was a little rough this year, 8 weeks post knee surgery) and experience the kind of conversations that I crave, with people that I don’t know as well, or that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, all while we take in the beautiful scene of the MB Pier on a perfect day or the sunset and the fun night that follows. I come away with the deepest sense of connection with people that, when I moved here, spent a lot of time telling myself I would have little in common.
What comes out in these conversations is my realization that we all have a lot more in common than we think. We all have things that break our hearts, that we struggle with daily, and present us with challenges that on the surface we would rather not face. I have learned though, that the key is not to avoid the struggle, but to embrace it, and find the days, the conversations and the relationships that bolster us through the inevitable struggles that are part of each of our journeys. It’s up to us to find that place, that perfect day, that deep conversation and connection, even when we think we don’t have time for it. When we get to, soak it in for all it has to offer, be real and enjoy it. It’s food for the journey, it’s the memories made that carry us when the tough stuff comes to pass. Thanks 6 Man for being that day for me. Can’t wait to be back next year.
The more I write, the more my brain connects with the universal truths that bring together this incredible human experiment. In less than one weeks time, I have been able to share significant experiences with people that I vibe with that span every decade of life. I’m feeling grateful today for the opportunity I have to go from the Six Man in Manhattan Beach to happy hour with a centenarian in just a few days time. I talk a lot about the care I take and satisfaction I find raising my kids, who span just a seven year age range from 18 to 11, but today I’m thinking about what makes life great in the decades after we become independent adults, and how what we learn and pass on forms the generations that come after us.
Tonight I had the privilege to be invited to “happy hour” with an incredible 100 year old man, Jack. I’ve written about Jack and his wife before…six kids and 24 grandkids, a generational family business, and so much in common with the way I was raised, and the history that connects us and forms the people that we are.
For a little backstory on Jack click here:
It’s amazing to take in the energy, flair and competence that goes into an almost 70 year marriage and the stories that go along with it. Their vibrance at 100 and 90 respectively has such an effect on my outlook, as I sit at 43, afraid that I have so much left to learn and do, and not enough life left to accomplish it. They have the ability to take life at a pace that is both awe inspiring for people their age, and yet so comfortable that I felt at home letting them be the hosts, never feeling like my presence was a burden…what a blessing to be a part of.
This morning I sit, finding clarity in the attributes and mindsets that connect the human spirit across these generations that I am fortunate to have in my life. People who help shape me into the person that I am…one that can navigate the 405, while listening to George Strait, talk California history with the greats and analyze both my potential and my missteps and how to evolve. I am so grateful for the people in my life that help me find peace with my past, enjoyment in the present, and hope for the future. As I like to do, boiling these truths down into simple words, today I am paying attention to the attributes that create driven contentment in this crazy world.
Observance - Greatness seems to be born first in the ability to observe others. The people I am most drawn to are not usually the loudest in the room, they are actually the ones who, although not afraid to contribute, often sit back, take things in, and quietly learn from human behavior. From that place we develop a keen understanding of when to act but also how to improve ourselves. What we learn from observance of others, not always having to be the one at the forefront with our own story, and acknowledging that there is both time to learn and teach, is a hallmark of success over generations and time.
Passion - Beginning with advice from my dad and progressing to my observance of human condition over my life, the presence of passion is critical to a life well lived. We are all capable of finding what makes us excited to get up in the morning, but that doesn’t mean that we all do. Our passions can evolve and change over a lifetime, but without one, life is shorter, smaller and offers less to the world than what we were meant for. We only get one go around, and the greats use their passion to define their purpose and inspire others to do the same.
Routine - I am so grateful that I have a personality that finds satisfaction in routine. Routine creates consistency in small things over time that build to great success. Routine is inspiring to me because, so often today, we are looking for big results from lesser amounts of discipline and action. Instant gratification, born of the thousands of choices that are readily available to us at the drop of a hat, does not lend itself to the type of long standing success that comes from good habits. Routine itself is not something that is acknowledged or gratified in the moment, but as time goes on, the rise to greatness is always grounded in consistency. From the athletes I observe honing their craft in the South Bay to the 100 year old who’s answer last night to the question “What are you going to do tomorrow?” was “the same thing I did today”, routine is an integral part of creating and sustaining greatness in every season of life.
Relationships - Over time, relationships are perhaps the most important marker of a life well lived. Caring for people, forming authentic connections, understanding a perspective that is different than our own and allowing it to have an effect on us, is something that requires a lot of intimacy and sacrifice. So often, our defense mechanisms and egos will push us away from developing these types of deep relationships, but the greats, over time, seem to know the meaning of this connection.
The level of care that I observed in the room last night, both spoken and unspoken, (at what will now be called “The Centenarian’s Happy Hour”) is something that I strive to emulate in my life and also look to have returned. When relationships have mutual benefit, human potential that was good before becomes great.
Memories - The longevity of memory, and how we keep those memories alive, was something that really struck me throughout the conversation last night. To listen to people who can speak firsthand of huge stories like the day Martin Luther King was assassinated to the personal and vivid stories of raising children who are older than me, inspires me to keep my brain vibrant and alive. People who connect to their past and can learn from the perspective it provides, lead rich lives and offer so much to younger generations, if we take the time to listen. Part of what I hope to achieve through my writing, which was reinforced by my friends last night, is the importance of telling our stories. In doing this, we teach younger generations the great connections we all share, why we attract what we do and how we are meant to live in community, strengthening each other.
As I finish my thoughts, that have been dancing in my head since I got home last night, taking in the scene at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, where Matthew is having the surf lesson he has been asking for the last year, my two middle kids kayaking with the their closest childhood friends, and my oldest, who held the crew together until I could get here to enjoy, is independent enough to return home on her own, I realize that the brief few days we have had to spend together, without agenda or hectic life schedule, has been marked by all these qualities. Observance of greatness, passion for our active lifestyle and simple routine (thanks for the pancakes and bacon as always Sarah!), relationships span 20+ years and mean so much, and memories that we will carry with us forever, I am again overwhelmed with gratitude for the life and opportunities that lay before me…and hoping that I get the opportunity to host a Centenarian’s Happy Hour someday.
Memories are both the keys to our past and the pavers of the bridge to our future. What we are able to tuck away can both sustain us and teach us because they give us reason to celebrate and chances to learn. They are exclusively our own, even if they are contested by someone else, my advice, don’t sweat it, let them have theirs, yours belong only to you.
The yogi’s say we store our memories in our hips, sounds strange to anyone who hasn’t practiced, but I can attest to some crazy stories popping into my head on my mat that I didn’t even know were there. There are a lot of them, considering that one of my firsts predates my second birthday. Most wouldn’t believe it, but I can still smell the fence that I used to rub my nose against, as I roamed the backyard early in the morning. My mom thought I was looking to see if the neighbors were awake yet and maybe we could go over, but I just remember the smell of the sweet, woody fence, and the feeling of having small splinters in the end of my nose. Interesting to me that neuroscience tells us that the sense of smell is closely linked to forming memories. Based on my experience, I'd buy it.
Yesterday though, my memory brought me back to the Starbucks drive through line at Palm and Herndon in Fresno, babies in the back seat, trying to make it to nap time and feeling like life with little ones would never give way to me accomplishing anything else. As I pulled up to the window to grab my coffee, I realized that my mind had wandered so far away, I hadn’t even ordered the cup of coffee when I had the chance. Thankfully, without a complicated order, the girl took pity on me and I got my coffee anyway. Yep, tired with little ones, especially once you have four and are worried because the last one isn’t quite showing the signs of development that were typical to the first three, is a special kind of tired. Physical tiredness is a given, but mental and emotional fatigue is so much harder to carry…and tougher to beat back with a cup of coffee.
Stories can be so simple but they build on each other to create such beauty in life. Tonight I sit on my new patio, a little Florida Georgia Line on my speaker and drinking my big jug of water as I write. My kids all went down to the water to swim, they don’t need me to watch them, but just a few doors down is a group of moms, kids driving battery powered cars, moms with glasses of red wine in hand, just braving the witching hour together as the inevitable fighting and tears come like they always do this time of day…community in one of its greatest forms. I was just one of them, practically yesterday, and those moms who got me through those days, where 4pm to 8pm felt longer than the other 20 hours, still bring tears to my eyes. When I was in it, it was both amazing and hard. When I was in it, I could never imagine a day that didn’t look like sippy cups (with ice), car seats that were probably not tethered properly, and where’s your shoes, (ok, we still have trouble with that one). When I was in it, there was never a thought of being able to do anything else but handle their growth, which actually wasn’t true, I just didn’t realize the full extent of what I was carrying back then. And then it was over.
Don’t get me wrong, I have an 11 year old that challenges me every day in the ways of maximizing development, and teenagers who aren’t even close to done being guided along this path of life, but it’s just different. With little ones, their development is simple but critical. As an intutive, I’m not a fan of the use of control, but those hard and fast rules in the early years, give way to a beautiful, trusting relationship as the years go on. The grind you put in and the boundaries you set the first five years are the backbone for what lies ahead. To use another "yogi -ism",
"strong spine strong mind."
As my crew came back from the water, I saw some of this beautiful independence earned through those early years of boundaries shining through. My new home filled with teenagers, trying to shock me as they decided which “Cards of Humanity” they could show me and which ones they shouldn’t. It’s ok, be shocked, I’ve never played the game, and not planning on it…it’s not my brand of humor. But, as they baked cookies, played the piano and learned to play with yoyo’s they had ordered on Amazon, that intuition I was speaking of kicked in and told me that we are all going to be ok, at least for tonight. And these days, that is the best feeling I ever have.
As a sports fan, I read my fair share of sporting news, mostly in short spurts as I make my way through the day. I love sports for what they can teach us, how they bond us in community, and even for what they help us escape for just a little while. I am forever a fan of the underdog, the humble warrior, and the life lessons that come from the work put in in the hours before the spectators and fans are a part of the game. No matter the sport, who wins and loses is less important to me than the story behind the athlete or team that is in the battle. The Players Tribune, an online media platform where the athletes write stories about their life experiences and what they learn from them, is one of my favorites places to get to the story behind the story. If you are a sports fan, a life lesson fan, or just a fan of good writing, check them out and prepare to be inspired.
I’ve probably mentioned before that one of my biggest struggles in writing is believing that i have a story worth telling. From the time I was a kid, I have had (for lack of a better word) a ‘guilt complex’ because I was born in California to two loving parents, with a roof over my head and people to love who love me back. Success on this paved road that I have walked my entire life is easier than for those that walk a narrow dirt path on the edge of the mountain or a congested highway full of potholes. Knowing this, I have felt less than inclined to speak up. My life certainly hasn’t been without struggle, but to keep it in perspective, my struggles pale in comparison to so many other life experiences out there. In working through my perspective on this, and becoming braver with my voice, I’ve come to understand that all I can do is honor my God given talents with hard work, look for where I can be of service to others, and be real in working on my weaknesses. I know now that just because I have been abundantly blessed, perfection is not a mandate, and striving, learning and authenticity is at the heart of the good life.
As I read an article from NBC Sports about one of my favorite athletes, Kerri Walsh Jennings, the other day, telling her story of her quest for Tokyo 2020, impending retirement, and her new volleyball/music/health and wellness movement, P1440, chills rose on my arms when I read this quote:
“It’s so liberating when your weaknesses are exposed, when you live your worst nightmare and survive.” -Kerri Walsh Jennings
Here, one of the world’s greatest athletes is getting to the heart of the struggle to be real in this world. No matter the work we put in, or the talents and circumstances we are blessed with, we all have weaknesses and things we can work to improve. Our stories are not for comparison, but they are there for inspiration and learning from one another. Only when our weaknesses are exposed are we liberated to do the work to improve. When we are hiding our weakness from the world, too much time and effort goes into concealing instead of improving, not to mention the harm we can do to ourselves and others when we can’t come to terms with the realities of our own struggle. Our world becomes smaller and sadly, so does our impact to do good in a world that really needs us. I've learned this firsthand walking the road of Matthew's developmental struggles and most recently coming to terms with the effects of my split family. There is so much greatness though when we are vulnerable enough to show weakness, we find our tribe…the people who see our beauty within our struggle. They are there to collaborate, support, love, and provide inspiration for the journey.
Once again, the game of life doing what it does for me, wrapping up universal truth in competition and entertainment. The challenge…be real, struggles and all, the naysayers will still be there to strengthen our resolve but the tribe we discover when we are real is worth it’s weight in gold
I’m not sure when I broke through, but I realized it after Yin yoga on Sunday night. After an all day session of teacher training that started with a heated 75 minute Power Flow, Yin did what it does to me most of the time…it put me to sleep. As I lay there folded over on my blocks in Deer pose, I was dreaming that I was going to be called on for a answer that I couldn’t give, because I was asleep! Besides the sleep being so dreamy and appreciated, I realized, as we talked through the sequence after class with the teacher (another part of teacher training), that I have turned a corner in my life and truly know how to surrender…once again bringing the near daily tears to my eyes.
Surrender doesn’t happen because everything is exactly how I want it or because I have some checklist that has finally been attained. It’s definitely not because I’ve somehow become immune to challenging, or worse, harmful things happening to me or the people I love, something this life will never assure us. That fearful feeling of something dreadful happening was what brought me so much anxiety for many years after Matthew’s near drowning accident. For so long, I would have a burst of fear that would make me leap from my seat and go to find my kids to see that everything was ok. That feeling was usually not instigated by any major event, but rather an unexplained and irrational shock up my spine that annoyed people around me and probably made me look a bit crazy. It's taken a lot of work and strength over time to be able to release from that feeling but it has giving me so much freedom to choose and work to create a life that I see for myself. Anxiety is paralyzing, surrender is freedom.
These days though, my energy and focus is going into pursuing both what I love and what challenges me, and I have high hopes that what it produces overflows for the people around me. I attribute this higher energy in large part to this ability to surrender and not waste time on things that are out of my control. I’m trying to define what I have learned that has changed my mindset and, as usual, it can be easily stated, even if not entirely simple to follow.
1. Make choices for what I want to happen, rather than what I am trying to avoid.
Putting my energy into creating what I want to happen leaves a lot less time to think about the pitfalls that life may offer. When my energy shifted to creating my vision, and fear became more of a motivating factor than something to avoid, calm was much easier to find. For me surrender to the unknown comes both from faith and through the practicality of the work to create and foster what we already know we want, but just haven’t attained yet. Ambition, with a good plan behind it, curbs the fear of the unknown because all the sudden, the unknown becomes exciting instead of scary..the promise of potential. Hard work covers what it needs to to achieve, and faith gets to handle what is outside of my control (and as a mom, that feels like a lot of things!)
2. Have the confidence to bet on myself, unattached from others judgements or thoughts.
This week I made my one woman show a party of two and hired someone to help with with the technical parts of web design and social media that are not my forte (thanks Abe!). I want to use my talents, and since time is a finite issue, I now get to shift the weight of the tasks that were slowing me down to him, and do more of what appeals to me. His expertise also pushes me to do things that spread my reach but that I'm not necessarily comfortable with yet (ahh!! cameras!). In making this decision there were competing opinions and plenty of self doubt, but in the end, I’m betting on myself to succeed and that comes with the ability to surrender to the possibility of failure. I’m not risking the roof over our heads or food on the table, but learning to believe in my own potential rather than the voice of self doubt or the doubts of others is a big step towards any successful venture. The great thing about a growth mindset though is that failure becomes less of a focus when we we realize that there really is no failure, just lessons to learn, and if we keep learning, our potential is limitless.
3. Learn to use my voice, not just my written words. The more it comes out loud, the less scared it sounds...but man did it sound scared on FB Live this morning! It's ok..I'm going with it. Putting my voice behind my ever percolating thoughts out into the universe is scarier than writing and I had no idea it would make me so emotional! I've got a lot of old patterns to challenge, but my belief that we have so much to learn between generations is greater than my fear. Connecting those generations of people, whether they be friends, family or in the athletic or creative world is my purpose. And having a purpose is like coming home complete to flowers and a fireplace.
I got to use my voice on Tuesday and had so much fun interviewing two AVP athletes about their ride at the Manhattan Beach Open…the “game of life” is always fascinating and getting to be part of generational storytelling live is right up my alley. You can catch my first interviews on The Optimist Journal Facebook Page.
So today I surrender, to my lack of control, to what other people think, to the judgement that lies around every corner. We aren’t here to live other peoples lives and when we try, the comparison or lack of understanding between us is a sure happiness killer. I am here to connect and tell stories, to surrender and to look for the commonality in all of us. Be confident and surrender to the unknown, define your process and see where it takes you...amazing stories and real connections are right behind that.
When I started The Optimists Journal, writing was just beginning to be a tool for me to cut through generational pain. Piecing together memories and examining my life so I could figure out how I got to the present day felt like gutting a fish, a memory from Huntington Lake as a child that I won’t ever forget. Turns out, I am not much of a fisherman, but I am a healer. A healer of myself, a helping hand in other people’s healing, and, most hopefully, a healer for my children in this garden of life that grows some pretty good weed patches that need to be cleared to be able to bring in the harvest.
Tonight, I rolled in from a long and beautifully connected day at yoga teacher training, I had one teenager I was trying to locate and another doing a back to school AP Chemistry packet with his friend, laughing and eating candy in my kitchen as they worked. I wrestled through a tough situation with Matthew, my 11 year old, that is breaking my heart, trying to help him find his voice, speak his opinion calmly, and still be ok no matter the outcome of the situation. As moms, we get so good at thinking on our feet, multiple topics and conversations shooting past us in every direction. In my best moments, I can create a 3-D picture out of the myriad of topics running through the house, make it all relate, and capture one or two lessons that we can all learn from…I live for moments like that. So much so, that I have been given the nickname this summer of Zen Mom and Mother of Wisdom (from kids who aren’t mine) and making my 16 year old roll his eyes and plead with his friends, don’t tell her that (all in good fun, he’s a kind heart for sure).
Tonight I was feeling that level of healing power after the Sound Bath at Soho Yoga…yes, LA is a place where I have learned strange new things, adding to the Zen Mom nickname and causing my 13 year old to compare me to the grandma in Moana. Everything was connecting, even in the chaos of this Sunday evening. When Matthew asked me to read him a story before bed after ten o' clock, nothing sounded better. My older three are readers, so I have always kept trying with him, even though he has yet to take to reading as a legitimate pastime. We have a stack of books that have been our favorites since he was 5, with very little evolution of the list…one of the hallmarks of the sometimes maddening, sometimes comforting, life on the spectrum. Tonight it was the later because I still got to cuddle and read children’s books for just a little longer (cue the song by Lonestar, "Let Them Be Little" that gave me a good cry before I went to bed). There are many challenges raising Matthew, emotional regulation, social skills and making friends, anxiety, teaching optimism, (which doesn't seem to be his usual mindset choice) to name just a few, but there is a beauty in his simplicity and love for routine that we connect on, and reading the same stack of books is part of that process. He pulled Olivia out of his pile, and as we read the story that he could easily read, if not recite on his own, I realized what he needed from me in those moments. Routine, closeness and laughter…he hasn’t graduated to Harry Potter or even Wonder, among the favorites that I used to read to his sister. But tonight I found myself full of gratitude that I still get to lie in bed and read Olivia, all cuddled up and laughing together about her “moving the cat” to a kid who, based on his age and some of the thoughts in his head that loom so large and serious, should be far past this simple children’s story. Some of the richest things in life can be captured in the simplest moments and as I finished the story, I realized again that the universe had aligned, picking the right book on the right night.
”You know, you really wear me out, But I love you anyway.” - Olivia by Ian Falconer
As I close my computer after midnight because I have to get these moments down, I couldn’t be more grateful for the simple things that have the ability to cut through some of the pain that life creates…routine, closeness and laughter. I hope you find some of these in your day today.
Life is moving pretty fast these days…all four of them are in full swing, we’ve had first days of school, a concussion, volleyball tryouts, football games, videos to make, and as I try to do these days…zen out and try to find the calm.
Eeerily, when I think of moments of calm in my life, one of them is attached to what still is the scariest day of my life…Sept 6, 2009. Every year since, I write something about it. I talk about water safety…never leave a child unattended around water, not ever, even for a minute. I reflect on the horror of pulling Matthew out of the pool and the moments after when we were waiting for the first responders to arrive. My mind goes to the day after this horrible accident when we got to bring him home from the hospital, never having been admitted to ICU, where most near drownings go, never fully recover and then even got to get him up for preschool the day after he returned home. Had we not said something, the teachers never would have known the miraculous reality of that Labor Day Weekend.
Although I have relived that day over and over in my mind a thousand times and know that I received the gift of my faith that day. Up to that point, I felt unworthy and untested. I believed, but in a way that was almost obligatory because it was what I had been taught (which I am immensely grateful for) and, because I had been blessed in life to that point, it just seemed ungrateful to question. But as I knelt on the red brick driveway in my yellow bathing suit, praying out loud and not caring who heard me, the calm that came over me in the worst moment of my life was a feeling I will never forget. It gave me the strength to go and tell my other kids that no matter what happened we were going to be ok, and I actually meant it. My heart breaks to this day for other people who were in my same shoes who didn’t have the miraculous outcome that we did. I have been wrestled with guilt over that through the years. These days I know though that lessons can be learned without the guilt, and my energy is better spent being present, finding the calm in the moment and honoring his survival by being the best version of myself. He reminds me everyday that I am enough, despite my shortcomings and even almost near failure as a parent. He inspires me to keep working, even when things are hard, because they are hard for him everyday and it’s the best way I can teach him to overcome that fact. We learn and grow mosts from the tests that life gives us…and I study every day for the next one because there are no guarantees when we are going to get a pop quiz.
Thanks again for all you teach me Bubs! So happy to be able to do life with your mystic soul.
Dinner at home…I’ll take it pretty much anytime over a crowded restaurant. Add great company and a fabulously prepared Italian meal and you’ve got the recipe for an amazing evening. I had the best time spending last night in exactly that place, celebrating my friend Terri’s 50th birthday with my 6 Man team. Terri is the “founder”, the one who rallies the troops every year, gets us going on the costume and holds the tradition together. I was lucky enough to find my way on to this team 8 years ago, and have been blessed by this amazing group of women ever since. The chef of this amazing meal was my dear friend and favorite beach partner Vanessa, her gift of hospitality overflows in her kitchen. I think she ran a bed and breakfast in Tuscany in her past life.
The evolution of girl power that I got to enjoy last night is a lesson in why the journey of life is such a gift. Between us we have 16 kids, own businesses, some of us have husbands at home, some are single moms, have survived cancer, have put kids through college, provide healthcare in some of LA’s tenderest spots where love, advice and support are equally if not more necessary than medical care, have been shaped by the medical conditions of our children, have lived on different continents, taught generations of students, and driven a million miles to ASC, StubHub and beaches beyond the South Bay to support our kids and a sport that we all love. The accomplishments are endless and that is just the short list.
The cool thing about sitting around a table like that is that I could feel the evolution, the raw support that comes from a group that has been there. You can look across the table and feel it coming from any single one of their eyes. I remember being in my late 20’s, maybe barely 30 and having people tell me, just wait until you turn 40…that’s when the *$%* really hits the fan…and around that table, you could say that we have each experienced that in a real way. But what is produced in by the battle testing flames of exposure are women who get it. There was no gossip, no fanfare just laughter and realness mixed in with a dance party that featured everything from Chaka Khan to 50 cent. I couldn’t help but think as Vanessa’s teenage daughters hung with us, helping serve dinner and learning the grace of life from their amazing mom…this is what you have to look forward to girls, enjoy every minute…but life on this side is looking good tonight.
In so many ways, I am typical to the scene around me. If you look at me, I dress the same, eat the same, and workout the same as the collective of people in my geographic area. As human beings we tend to try and fit in, to match our surroundings, we are consciously and unconsciously influenced by our experiences that are most often with people more like us. I find myself running in circles of volleyball moms, moms of teenagers, people of above average financial means living in one of the most expensive areas of the country to live. But, I am self reflective, and find myself drawn to independent spirits who aren’t afraid to buck the status quo. My creative mind has always been there with ideas and theories that weren’t always mainstream, but, up until now, I just haven’t had the courage to act on them. What this has taught me is that when our thoughts and our actions don’t line up, it creates discontent in our hearts. Over some time, I have learned to identify the feeling of discontent and wrestle with it in a way that somehow shows me new opportunity and teaches me to fight off cynicism with action. I’ve learned that to become something different than one who just accepts and runs with the pack, we have to challenge our beliefs, and critically think and ask why about 100 times a day. What do I really think? Is it worth breaking the mold? Who do I trust for advice? What will the feedback be, what motivates that feedback and how much will I let it influence my thoughts and choices? Each of us gets to answer those questions based on our own unique experience, there is not one right answer, but there is a feeling of contentment that comes when we get the answer right for ourselves. As humans, we want a tribe, we want to be part of a collective, but we also each have a burning desire to stand out, to let the world know what we are about. That takes courage and a decision to find where our “happy medium” is that creates the most life satisfaction and impact in our own life and for the world. It's not a balance that is easy to strike.
I had the great honor last weekend to attend the Memorial Service for US Senator John MCain at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. To say that standing with a crowd of thousands, tears streaming, with that incredible backdrop, and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a moment in my life that I will never forget is an understatement. I had the opportunity to be there because of the legacy of leadership and hard work that came before and beside me. I was raised in a quietly patriotic family where the example was set not as much by the words spoken but by the actions taken. From the time I was seven until I was 20 my dad served in the California State Assembly and as California Secretary of State. He taught my sister and I, through his example, how to lead with virtue and humility and he attracted the friendship of other leaders with similar values throughout his career. One of the greatest among these was Senator McCain. My sister went on to work on both his 2000 and 2008 Presidential Campaigns, as well as serve in his Press office on Capitol Hill, and over those years and through countless hours of intense work, she built a strong bond with one of the greatest leaders of this century. When he passed away on August 25, as a country, we mourned the loss of a great American hero, but my parents and sister mourned the loss of a friend with whom they shared pivotal moments of American history that are part of the fabric of our country and had great impacts on my family. When she texted Wednesday night asking me if I wanted to join her at his memorial service in Washington D.C., there was no hesitation in my answer.
Reflecting on what I took in there has been a challenge, there is so much depth and connection and so many spot on words spoken so eloquently by leaders on the world stage and those who shared their days with Senator McCain. What was communicated in the tributes given by Senator McCain’s daughter Meghan, his close friend Senator Joe Lieberman, Secretary Kissinger, President Bush & President Obama was a moving oratory of the roles played in a lifetime, that no matter the action necessary to fulfill the role, it was evident through their words that Senator McCain played each role true to his character. Their words spoke to the effect his leadership played on a world stage and in the life of a family. I began to think what an honor it is for a single life to have significant impact on both a micro and macro level. To leave the world better off because you were there, as well as the individuals that you share life with stronger in their own position takes takes consistency of values forged under pressure over a lifetime. Some may say that its easier because he was a Senator, or was born into a position of privilege, having had generations of leaders in his family come before him but no matter our position in life, everyday, we are all creating a legacy. What we do matters to the next generation, just as the generations that came before John McCain influenced the decisions and habits that created a great American hero. The people who helped shape him, influenced a man that who spent over 5 years being tortured as prisoner of war, and then in that same lifetime work to restore normalized relations with that same country. They helped shape the mentality of a warrior who understood forgiveness and the importance of dodging a cynical outlook on life as key factors in a life well lived. His life helped us see that the life choices we make are bigger than us…they have far reaching impacts on the character of the generation that comes after us. We choose whether to carry this fact as a burden or an honor. The greats, the ones who leave their imprint on our history, accept the challenge and stand their ground with honor. They shake up the status quo with their radical way of thinking and they show us how to live with courage, conviction and confidence…thank you for the example Senator McCain. You left your mark on the world, on my family, and even with all of the power you held on the world stage, most importantly on your own family and for that, we are forever grateful.
To know me is to know that I am often having a conversation with myself in my own head. Maybe that’s why I like being alone, my thoughts and I really do have a good time together. I have a conversation going these days about how its ok to be a late bloomer…because that’s what I’ve been calling myself a lot lately. I’ve said it before, but there are parts of me that feel 22 and parts that feel 55. I love the wisdom that comes with age but I know I’m not the first one to think, “I wish I could keep my 43 year old brain and have my 22 year old body.” That sentiment is ringing true when it comes to the sports I still like to play as much, if not more, than when I was younger. My 43 year old mentality is so much better for sports, it knows how to grind, is far less timid, incorporates my mind into my game, pushes through pain and let things go quickly. My mature self plays for my own love of the game, not for any accolade or because of any expectation put on me. Endorphins, friendship, stress relief, fitness…each one is enough to get me moving and make volleyball, swimming or yoga a part of any day. I don’t need a bigger stage or reason, and the thought of not being able to do these things makes me scared.
Injuries are part of sports, but in the last year they have caused me to modify my schedule, have knee surgery, and listen to my body…and I can’t say that I haven’t fought it. My sage of a yoga teacher Jeri told us one day in class that ailments in our bodies are meant to slow us down and take inventory…that thought gave me a good cry because like almost everything I encounter in sports, it has a life meaning as well. Slow down and feel it is what she was saying. Man, sometimes that is so hard. The good part about my injuries (besides making it much easier to pass the anatomy portion of my yoga certification because I have spent enough time with my own aches and pains and figuring out where they stem from) is the people that I have met who do a great job holding me together. From my yoga teachers, to my soft tissue guy Frank at The Center, (who jokingly calls himself my enabler, which is not too far from the truth) and movement guru Cynthia at The Center for Movement & Fluency, who I met when she worked some of her magic on my youngest, Matthew, that then spilled over to me, these people have become my friends and partners in keeping me moving in the way I love and I couldn’t be more grateful. They understand the importance of the mind body connection…some people use shopping for therapy, I forgo that and go straight to these guys. I’m inspired by their continual learning and desire to get better at what they do, and, I like to challenge them with my high arches, lack of dorsiflexion in my feet and ability to compensate in some pretty unhealthy ways!
I’ve been around long enough to know that we teach what we know…it happens whether purposefully or not. Having kids grow up active and learn how to be healthy and take care of the bodies they have been given is so important to me. Learning how to compete, be coached without defensiveness, be a good teammate and be mentally tough in tight moments are all things that I have learned (and am still working on) from playing sports that have given me wisdom, joy and some amazing relationships and, because of these experiences, I am better equipped to pass these lessons on to them. My body will tell me how long the mix of activities gets to stay the same, but life has taught me, I’m adaptable…so I’m going to keep getting better in some way, on and off the court, and we’ll see where we go from there.
Healing…its a concept that I have always understood, but almost from an outsiders perspective. From the time I was young, I have attracted scenarios in my life where I could provide some type of relief with my words. Because I am so sensitive to other people’s vibes, I now understand I have to choose what to react to. My intuition creates scenarios, especially with my own kids, where I have to decide,
“is this something I should address or let them
figure out on their own?”
In past relationships, I was overbearing, because I was attached to a certain outcome that I was absolutely determined to achieve. Today I believe that to attach to a certain outcome, rather than to stay present (the best way I have discovered to beat back fear and overthinking) and let the outcome of any situation reveal itself organically, is what creates a free flow of creativity and, the autonomy that we all need to create our best life. When I operate in this zone, I suddenly feel like I am strong enough to handle what comes my way, my confidence rises and success becomes more tangible in my life.
I realized something though, as I was talking to my friend Sarah this morning. Sarah and I have been close friends for 20 years, a concept that frankly blows my mind. We have traveled the world together and have always found comfort and common ground in our no nonsense approach to life. We see the world from a very similar lens and, I would say, that she is one of the toughest, most competent people I have ever met. To put it simply, I have always been drawn to her strength, and yet we have always been able to be the people we want to be, and be completely at ease in our relationship at the same time. I think there is a certain point in life where you realize that relationships like this are the gold standard. That trusted inner circle where you are your most genuine, and yet also striving to be your best self, without judgement, guilt or reservation, are the relationships that I treasure most in life. It’s a magical spot between acceptance and self improvement where success is born. From this conversation this morning, I understood more clearly that I have developed my strength to be able to handle my sensitivity.
Because of my mind/body/spirit connection, I dove into 200 hour power yoga teacher training after my own yoga practice produced healing effects in my own heart and mind. I have believed theoretically for some time in our body’s ability to store emotional pain as physical pain. Things like tight muscles and food cravings, for example, I believe can be tied to emotional experiences and traumas we haven’t let go of. Hippie talk for some, and a departure from my earlier days of bear down, ignore it and just get it done. What I know from experience though, is that my work ethic hasn’t changed, but the more I open my mind and soul to my own healing, the higher my energy level becomes, to the point that what used to take grind, now comes much more effortlessly.
Last Sunday, as I was finishing up a long day of teacher training, we were learning to do adjustments and practice teaching and my theory of emotional pain in the body became real for me on my mat. As Natasha, our most inspired owner/teacher/sage at Soho Yoga came over to me to adjust my supine twist, (knowing her levels of sensitivity she knew exactly what she was doing when she got to me) and placed her hand on my tøp hip, stretching it to release. When she did this, a lot more than just fascia was released. In a moments time, and before I could even sense it coming, a well of emotion sprang up in me and, as my lip began to quiver, one whisper of
“let it go,”
I did…and I couldn’t stop crying. I have so much to work through in my own body and heart space, but instead of that being a fearful endeavor, it’s a welcomed journey for me that is both unique and universal. I’m comfortable today knowing that this type of journey isn’t for everyone, but, I also know that the people I am inclined to surround myself with are on a healing path. Our stories are distinct, but often their roots are similar. Sometimes we have to be uprooted, and planted in a different soil, to create our most productive harvest. My outsiders perspective on healing is no longer, it’s a inside job, rooted in both strength and sensitivity and cultivated by gratitude and connection…and it’s bounty has yet to be realized.
I write a lot about challenging comfort zones because I have seen the positive effects it has had in my life. Challenging our limits though can feel like a roller coaster sometimes. For me, it hasn’t been easy to unlearn habits like negative self talk, feelings of less than worthy or simply lacking confidence on any stage. Being the empath that I am, I have sought out many paths to healing including counseling, yoga and most recently, energy healing with Reiki. I continue to add to the contradiction and complication of myself by looking for ways to heal and fulfill my potential. Because of this, my conservative nature and free spirit have a lot of conversations these days. Most of my life I have fought with that energy that I feel in my own body and coming from the world but, beginning with yoga, I began to open up to new ideas and figured, if it can help me heal my mind/body/spirit, I’m in.
Yesterday, as I laid on the table and Neda, from Tara’s Garden (who I can’t wait to have on for a podcast next week because I want to understand so much more about her training and what she feels) gently laid her hands on me, she targeted my deepest fears in the first few moments of lying there. I have been to see her twice now, and the accuracy with which she talks to me about my feelings and what is going on in my life is mind blowing. I tell her a few things about what is going on, kids, work, that type of thing, and yesterday she spoke to my most insecure feelings from the start. Her words…
“What’s the fear about?”
“It’s ok to be successful. It’s ok to be seen. It’s ok to be beautiful. You are not taking away space from anyone else.”
Wow. It’s like I’ve been sitting on a couch talking to her for years.
If you’ve never felt these things, I can understand why it would be difficult to connect with these words, and that’s ok. But with these words, Neda spoke to my deepest fears, the things I am working to overcome everyday.
I came up with two practical, if not slightly quirky, tools to help me in this journey towards confidence and freedom and they are helping me beat my old mindset.
I don’t have to order off the happy hour menu.
I realized that so often I am looking to accommodate, to try and guess what makes things easier for people around me. I looked at others as if they had something I didn’t and told myself that I was really good at being average, helping and pushing other people forward on their journey. There is a lot of comfort in that, especially if you have the work ethic to back it up. Every day hums along and I could do great things on a small scale, but in the back of my mind there was always this feeling that there was more to do, more that I am meant for. When that feeling would come up and I would act on it though, it would cause me personal problems that would quickly rob my energy and put me back in my place. Being that I am happy with simplicity most of the time, it was easy to convince myself that the happy hour menu was where I belonged…cheaper prices, fewer options and so very safe.
The only one focused on me is me.
This thought works to alleviate the stress I feel when I believe that eyes are on me. Most of the time, people are doing what they need to do for themselves, and I am a very small part of their picture. This realization has also helped me to embrace the challenge of making my dreams come true myself. I don’t have to wait for someone else to validate or give the stamp of approval on my plan. That’s one of the cool things about the entrepreneurial mindset…I’m the only one who has to have my vision, no one is stopping me from putting it out there. Frankly, I need to be tough enough to put it out on my own, without someone in front of me telling me it’s good or it’s ok.
In a few hours, I’m getting on a plane to travel to p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings’s Inaugural event that is Beach Volleyball, Health and Wellness and Music all in one spot. Sounds like heaven to me. I’m going to connect and talk with people who you may have never heard of, but who have risen to the tøp of their field or game. As always, I want to learn from them and share pieces of their wisdom that every generation can learn from when they are ready. Life in so many ways boils down to small choices and what I have figured out is that it’s not about being famous, it’s about making your mark in a positive way in the world, big or small. I want to tell the stories of the people you think you already know, the ones you have never heard of and anyone in between. Anyone living their dream with passion is so inspiring to me, whether you sell books, make movies or serve coffee to strangers with a smile.
So often it’s the little things we do everyday that add up to the big results. I have always believed this, but that belief caused me to be very hard on myself and rob me of the energy it takes to create flow in my life…I understand now, grind is not flow. Small choices are easy, today I will take them one at a time, not take myself too seriously and have fun.
Hope you find your flow today…
Almost 30 years ago, the AVP traveled to Lost Lake in Fresno, where I grew up, and my non-beach community had access to amazing beach volleyball…the crowds for the final were upwards of 25,000 and it was easily over 90 degrees.
I came away from those days in the sun with such excitement for the sport which, except for that weekend, I didn’t have much access to.
Fast forward to this amazing inaugural weekend for p1440, a soon to be legendary beach volleyball festival that includes not only world class volley, but access to the pros health and wellness gurus, and concerts by night, and volleyball continues to offer me a purpose and a place to connect to higher thought. I pushed the boundaries of my confidence in search of stories and generational knowledge and came away with gold…not surprising for any of you who know how Kerri Walsh Jennings does anything and everything she puts her heart into.
This weekend I was able to observe, connect and challenge my own self imposed limits that have held me back from pursuing my bigger dreams. As I push the boundaries of my confidence in search of like minds that are interested in the bigger questions and connecting the universal truths with each of our specific life experiences, what I desired out of these interviews became more clear. I stopped worrying (for the most part) about my fear of self promotion and committed myself to the why of my message. When I did that, I received an incredible reception from anyone that I asked to share their story. To be able to talk mental game, resilience, female leadership and the game of life with some of the greats of the sport, producers of the event, and grass roots volleyball fans who are out living with passion across the entire country, was completely invigorating.
I know that through my own knowledge quest and game of life experience I am able to draw on, I have the ability to create content for younger generations of players, (like the ones I am raising) to learn from when they are ready for it. I tell my kids all the time that what they learn on the court is a warm up for life. Acceptance, confidence, leadership, even the neuroscience of how we challenge our limits physically and mentally is all there for the taking, if we have the courage to ask the right questions and allow ourselves to sink deep enough into our experience to let the answers become part of our consciousness. Obviously, I think a little deeper today than I did when I was 13, but the feeling of being that same passionate kid who got to run drills with Smith and Stoklos and then told her mom she could die happy now (yes, I remember the quote verbatim) was reignited as I interviewed Sinjin, Kerri, Reid, Z, Brooke and other great players, historians and minds of the game.
Thanks for the energy, grace and visionary leadership Kerri. As I left last night, I watched from a distance as a young player took pictures with Heather Bansley, one of the female champions, and saw the circle connecting again. Generational learning and inspiration…only when we tell our stories, both the good and the challenging, can we learn from them…and this was one of the good ones for sure.
I write often about my life being a work in progress, being a late bloomer, an optimist, and framing the less the favorable situations in life in a way that allows for the greatest amount of growth and learning so that we can continue to become better versions of ourselves every day. I feel like I have a good hold on the concept of resiliency, I have come through some pretty tough times and not only am I still standing, I am stronger and understand myself better than ever. Now that I have a grasp on resilience though, this healing process continues to teach me what I need to work on next, like not second guessing myself, trusting my intuition and, for lack of a better phrase, staying in my own lane and not taking away other people in my life’s chances to learn by trying to “fix” the issues that come their way. I notice almost daily that healers seem to show up along the way to aid this process. They come in the form of friends, family, and mind, body and spirit guides. They have shown up at yoga, and daily on my Spotify account…music is healing as they say.
Last Thursday, I played five games of volleyball and every single step hurt. I have been on a somewhat scary path since last year when I hurt my knee and my lower half just hasn’t recovered the way that I would hope it would. I’ve done PT, soft tissue work, consulted Youtube on how to get better…pretty much anything to keep me playing but my mobility just hasn’t come back as strong as I would hope…I’m not giving up of course.
As my good fortune would have it, my friend happens to be a water PT (which means she works out of the pool, one of my favorite places) and she reached out last week to see if she could try working with me. Friday morning, she strapped some flotation devices around my neck and legs and I sank into that blissful chlorine heaven of my childhood ready for her to do her work. As a kid, the swimming pool was always one of my favorite places to be, under the water looking up and wishing I could breathe under there so I could stay down, is still one of my most vivid memories. I turned that feeling into a love of racing and some of my happiest adult memories are swimming with the Fig Garden Masters in Fresno before I moved south. Clearly, I’m not one to have trouble relaxing in the water. As Teal pulled me around in the pool, and my weightlessness allowed my nervous system to enter a more parasympathetic state, I was overcome because I could feel my younger body making its way back through the haze of trauma and trigger points. I’ve written before about how much we store physically in our bodies, and, I believe that in some part, is why I struggle in my recovery (and yes, I have a copy of Paulo Coelho’s new book “Hippie” sitting right here). After that zen-like hour, I came completely above the surface. Teal was smiling and the words she spoke added her to my list of healers. As I told her how amazing the experience was and how I felt better already she said…
“You knew what your body needs on your own, I just supported you. For you, it’s more about letting go, than strengthening.”
Uh…not sure truer words have ever been spoken. Once again, the message I’m learning to relax, have fun, worry less and let the pain go. Just because you are strong enough to shoulder it, doesn’t mean you should. This is what real healers do… they heal themselves first, then they can support and empower others to do the same. Thanks Teal for helping me learn to stop second guessing myself because I intimately understand how to heal, I just have to trust my voice and relax into it. I can’t make things perfect for my kids but at least I can show them how to heal. Once again, my body is teaching me about my mind and spirit…another reason to get out and get moving today. Hope you do to!
I let go of anger and shame bit by bit, sometimes it rises up in my day and I have to figure out why and what to do with it. At least I notice now. It shows up in my volleyball game when I can’t stop saying “i’m sorry” for my play when it’s less than what I think it should be. It shows up in my hips which are locked so tight that they prevent fluid movement and hinder my performance and enjoyment of exercise and life. These days though, the deep stuff is coming closer to the surface because I started dealing with the surface level a while back. I’m able to clear it faster because of the time I spend seeking and being blessed by connections that seem to just appear in my path. Like Neda, the energy healer I wrote about in this post,
and my friend Teal, the water PT, that I wrote about here:
Over the last few months, I have been putting together a specific healing path which could be baffling to many who haven’t felt physical and emotional trauma show up in big ways in their body. I consider myself to be pretty tough, I have a high pain tolerance and can grin and bear it, or even laugh through my tears, so I hadn’t realized that I had gotten to a point that the tension I was holding in my nervous system were really taking a toll on me. My sleep was off, my hormones were out of whack, I was basically feeling like a pretty big mess on the inside and still pushing through my day. This violates one of my basic tenants of happiness because my insides were not matching my outsides…and when this is out of whack for too long, it sets me down a less than desirable path.
On top of the body and energy work I have been focusing on, I have been putting the finishing touches on my book, 365 Days of Optimism, and listening to some amazing podcasts that are furthering my growth and blowing my mind, like this one…it’s an absolute must listen!
With seeking and exposure comes wrestling with the big issues, so here are a few of the concepts that have reared their head in the past week or so based on my experiences:
It takes a great deal of self awareness to tackle the problem of unworthiness and the ego at the same time.
As I walk the path of creating The Optimists Journal and 365 Days of Optimism, I confront some of my biggest insecurities. So much doubt can creep in when we are vulnerable and put ourselves out there with the stories of our lives. I realize that I struggle to accept the truth that I am enough on my own, that I don’t need a bigger platform or other people to help define me…I have been out there doing some significant living and I take this student of life thing pretty seriously. I believe so deeply in generational learning and healing and the stories that have to be told to achieve that level of understanding for relationships and families to heal, that I am willing to go farther on my own than I ever have before. That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared sometimes, but my core belief is making me braver than I have ever felt and giving me more confidence and a relaxed security comes with that…man, what a great feeling. Here’s the catch though, I am still trying to figure out the prescription of knowing my value and using that value to help others, while letting go of my ego. My ego can get offended so easily when it’s met by someone who doesn’t trust my intention or value my time the way I think they should. There’s some more work for my soul in that equation that I haven’t completely figured out the answer to yet. For now, I will keep working and trust that the big picture, with due diligence, is going to come out right.
Learning to judge what’s good from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, is hard.
I am a rule follower and for all of my life have had a very rigid sense of being “good”, something that I realize was a judgment that I would let other people make for me and then apply their assessment to my own life. Basically, if you watched me and based on the actions that you perceived of how I was living my life, you decided I was “good”, I thought I was winning when really what I was doing was giving up my power and identity. Other people don’t know the circumstances of our lives, how would they know what is innately good for us and by us. As my confidence rises, I am able, more and more, to trust my own instincts on what is “good” in my life rather than let someone else define that for me, and then try to feel satisfied with that approval.
Letting our goodness shine is what the world needs. isn’t it cool that we each have our own brand of goodness that will attract what we are meant to find in this life? I am more and more ok with other people’s judgment…I trust the goodness that is coming from inside me and the choices that it helps to create. Beyond that, the calm is coming from a deeper place and, for me, calm is the root of real goodness and prosperity will come from that newly found safe and stable place in my heart.
I was blessed to spend the weekend with a pack of kind, loving and fiercely strong females. We shared the court almost 30 years ago. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long. Back then, we were all going through awkward teenage years, afraid or uncomfortable about small and big things, by who we were, and who we were going to become.
It turns out we had nothing to worry about.
The irony of that goes even further because we have each dealt with some things that our teenage brains couldn’t have even contemplated back then. As each story was told, in different conversations, over music and dancing, college football and amazing home cooked dinners, I couldn’t help but think, I never thought it would turn out like this…and yet this is some pretty amazing stuff. Collectively, we have weathered storms that brought more than a few tears to our eyes, impacted our kids (nothing worse, and yet we will work the way we always do to make them wiser and stronger for it) and made us come to terms with some of the most formative relationships in life. We have learned some of the hardest lessons about love and lose that this lifetime will ever teach. You could easily say that we have each been given more than one chance to test our resilience, and yet here we all are, pushing past and through, stronger and happier together that I could have ever imagined.
Either no one told us back then, or, because real life experience was determined to give us the tools just as they were necessary, and show us one day at a time, that everything is going to be ok, even when the life event isn’t, we had to learn some things the hard way. We’ve learned to cut through the awkwardness of introversion, learned how difficult it is for so many of us to ask for help, we’ve let go of judgment, shame and other peoples expectations, so we could show up this weekend as the real deal and be able to come together as if no time had passed at all. If we can pass that on to our girls, we are winning. Through our experience we have learned both what we do and don’t want out of life and, from what I saw, we are killing it when it comes to seeking the real experiences that make up a full life. Sometimes we learn by examples that show us what we want to do and how we want to be, other times, our experiences teach us the exact opposite. We all are observant enough to know the difference. To be ourselves, to be comfortable in our skin, to not have seen each other in so long and come barreling in real and raw is a testament to who we have become, and we’re not even close to done.
Now…who was it that mentioned the screenplay?? I’m in, we have a great story.
Almost every time I descend the grapevine on the valley side I start to cry. I think there are many reasons for this; maybe a sense of loss, maybe because I see so much wide open space it overwhelms me, maybe out of a sense of wondering where I belong. For the most part, I’m able to let the tears fall and move on, but when it happened on Tuesday as I was driving to Exeter to Lauren’s volleyball game it really got me thinking. I’ve been a part of so many communities by this point in my life…so many different ways of thinking, value systems, and community involvement on different levels. Sometimes there were activities that resonated with my soul and others that I felt I had an obligation to fulfill.
I believe so much in giving back, but have learned, that we each have our own way to do it. When we find the way that is right for us, we are able to give infinitely more. We find the flow in giving and nothing could be better for our spirit or the world.
My thoughts then went to the idea that communities get set in their ways. We think that we see it all, when really what we see is our tiny space in this big world, and our perspective is one of millions. We think we know the way things should be done, who certain people, or even groups of people are, and we allow certain circles in each community to be the ones that get things done…and the hierarchy forms. It’s the classic alpha/beta scenario in some ways, which isn’t something I am trying to argue against, but we do have a choice as to how we play our role in that timeless system.
What I realize today is that we choose who we are. We can choose to let that be dictated by our circumstances, positive or negative, or we can develop the constructs of self love, discipline and confidence that can transcend both our highest and lowest experiences, allowing us to balance it all out and become the best versions of ourselves. To be honest, I’ve never felt like I belonged in the hierarchy in any of these communities where I have lived. I’ve felt welcomed enough, but there was something in me, that kept me from feeling like an insider. The other thing I know now, is that I feel most comfortable in my own skin when I am bridging the gap between people who I understand, but may not understand each other. Maybe that’s what has given me the ability to have such diverse experience in life; growing up in political life, living far out in the country…rural America so to speak, experiencing financial success in business and then running in the circles that come with that, faith based communities that helped solidify my values and taught me about grace and mercy, and beach life and the athletic experiences that come with living in the training grounds for a sport that I love. There are so many differing points of view and a lot of perspective in all of these life experiences. What I want to do with all of this vision, generational teaching and storytelling is bring people together, to see perspectives that they may not have had the chance to see, in hopes that they might discover there is nothing to be threatened by. There is not one right path or one right answer. When we lead with good intention, hard work and kindness, everyone learns and broadens their perspective and we are all so much better off trying to connect the bigger picture than trying to protect our own little piece of the pie.
It’s typical in the human experience to seek what we know. Traditions, habits and patterns are part of a successful journey and, when we pick good ones, they set us up for success. But as this imperfect life would have it, we can also be prone to seek out patterns that, although might be comfortable, aren’t setting us up for our best life. Usually, intuition is there to help us know the difference, if we have the strength to trust it when it speaks. Luckily, I was smart enough this time to listen to my intuition, at an incredibly chaotic time in life, to take a drive up the coast to visit some of those voices and faces that keep me grounded on my path.
The Taylor family has welcomed me with open arms since I was 16 years old and for that I could not be more blessed or grateful. Last night, I parked my car in front of my friend Elizabeth’s house and walked in the gate. As I made my way down the path toward the front door, listening to the sound of the ocean, I could have been 17 again, being dropped off by my mom for a week at the beach with my friend and her family. Same house, different kind of freedom than that summer when Agassi won his first US Open title…the memories flood my mind. I’ve been coming to this beach for over 25 years, as a teenager, college student, with babies strapped to my front and back, married with kids and divorced on my own.
This time, the memories of Elizabeth’s mom Nancy, one of the most fiercely loving and wise women I’ve ever known, (and who is undoubtably making the sun shine on us today) has moved on to eternity. She is keeping the good bumps on my arms and a few good tears flowing the last few weeks. It’s hard to beat a woman who can cook, teach, and tell stories with wisdom woven through them at the same time. These are the matriarchs that shape our world in the most special ways. I’m sure that the ripple effect of their dinner tables are what the world is surviving on today…Nancy was one of these and has the family to prove it.
Life is constantly changing, and we have to be adaptable to make the adjustments that keep us healthy and free. The circumstances are not always as we would draw them for our perfect picture. They certainly weren’t for Nancy, but I never saw her for a moment when she wasn’t living life to it’s fullest. Independent, strong and yet gentle enough to care for anyone in her path (and she has thousands of students and friends who would attest to that). She held the keys to her own happiness and taught others that same beautiful lesson throughout her entire life. You can see it in the faces of the people she loved most. The lessons and actions just flow as if she were standing in the room still teaching them.
Life gives us people who return our feet to the grounding paths and have a way of gently leading us, whether we are physically with them or not.
I’m so thankful today for those people and places that live in my heart that I can go back to time and again and lead all the way to eternity. Love you Nancy, thank you for this beautiful family that I get to go hang out with until the sun goes down:)
“Let’s dig into the fresh bucket of optimism and if we fail we fail.” - Casey Jennings
Optimism has been mentioned in every podcast I have listened to lately. Whether it’s Bobbi Brown on Finding Mastery, Kai-Fu Lee on Impact Theory, or Casey Jennings on The Net Live, it seems the world is in need of an optimistic lens. In the first few pages of pro beach volleyball player Travis Mewhirter’s new book, We Were Kings, he too talks about the benefit of optimism in sports and life. It is even the message in my younger kids flag ceremony at school today.
There is joy in being an optimist, but to remain one throughout life’s ups and downs, or to transform our outlook to become an optimist, our days must be grounded in discipline and hard work. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy yourself, or even take a day off once in awhile, but on the whole, we must define and honor our unique process. The process is what sets real optimism (which some like to call realism, I disagree) apart from just wearing rose colored glasses and believing that everything will just “work out” no matter what.
In my kitchen last night sat my daughter, less than one year out from being a college beach volleyball player, chatting with her friend, home on break, who is a current college beach athlete. In walks my son from practice, who, despite his effort and love for the indoor game, told his sister, “you guys are so lucky to have the beach opportunities you do, I love playing beach, it’s so fun.” I can’t help but wonder if part of the joy of beach for him is that it sits far away from the pressure of recruiting and grades and rosters that may or may not have your name on them. All of these things make us tougher and are part of what we learn as athletes when we rise through the ranks of our sport. Most athletes don’t forget the day they learned that there is someone out there better than them, whether that’s in 8th grade, at the Olympics, or somewhere in between. It’s real, we learn it, hopefully work harder, and move on. But real joy and love for any game is intoxicating and sits far apart from medals, accolades, recruiting, and the pressure that I see so many young athletes experience. I say that, and this is not negative self talk, because I have gained so much joy from sport, and don’t have any major accolades to speak of. I’ve learned so much about myself when I’m trying to race to the wall and want to take one more breath, but don’t. The adrenaline I get from a good block or kill, the conversations that happen in between races and games uncover some of the best, tough minded, dig deep realizations; I’ve discovered all of this without having even a dollar on the line. Now I’m 44, past my prime, but far from giving up what i love to do. Play volleyball, swim, do yoga, be active. Endorphins lead to optimism too.
The world my kids are growing up in is full of first world problems, privilege, pressure and instant gratification. It’s about SAT scores, medals and GPA’s, not whether there is food on the table or money for gifts at Christmas. They have been blessed with talents and resources, but it’s their reality, they don’t know any different, so it’s from that vantage point that I teach them. As a parent, the reason I have always come back to training character is because character isn’t relative. The fruits of love, kindness, resilience, forgiveness and yes, optimism translate no matter what life situation is in front of us.
Watching p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings and team’s professional volleyball/health & wellness tour, role out their inaugural season is a lesson to younger generations of athletes and entrepreneurs on how to dig deep, learn as you go, and use the spirit of optimism to chart a strong course to success. I was one who downloaded the app, watched the live stream, and attended events. None disappointed. Is there room for improvement? Always...and they’ve asked. Do good business people make choices based on market conditions and what they learned from each event held and opportunity given? Yes, that’s what gives them a chance to survive and thrive. Adapt or perish, it works in business and in life.
I don’t live like Kerri, I live like me. But I look to learn from people who have reached the top of their game, whatever that game may be. I ask them questions, see what they intake and include in their day, and it has helped me rise through my own personal struggles. I also understand firsthand what it’s like to be part of a start up, and want to see it succeed more than anything. I’ve been blessed to see that success happen once in my life before, and understand the blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights that are part of turning a dream into a reality. When you are in the zone, risking capital and hours of sweat equity, there is no room for naysayers, they suck your energy...action and optimism are what give the goal a fighting chance of being accomplished.
The knowledge I have taken in along the way is not always from famous people. There are plenty of everyday hero’s that none of us will ever read about in any large scale format that I learn from everyday...like the one that a friend of mind quoted in a birthday card she sent to me this week that came from a retired army sergeant:
“I learned through experience that adversity doesn’t create character, adversity reveals character.”
Truth. I love that my mindset attracts friends who will write me cards like the one that included this quote. Growth mindset allows the playground of life to have infinite space for anyone who wants to work and risk failure. What I have learned from the masters, and choose to incorporate into my own life, has made the world a much bigger and exciting place. There is always more to learn and so much to experience. My take away is this...the thoughts of leaders matter, so if you consider yourself a leader, choose your words carefully, because they have influence on so many. If you don’t have the inside look and a deep reason to disbelieve, why not be an optimist?
My dad and I had the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays together for the first time in many years. Twelve days late for me and two days late for him but, nonetheless, totally worth the wait. When we get together, I can feel the power and purpose of generational learning (our ability to tell our stories and pass them down to the generations that come after us) in such a strong way. He has the ability to set such a strong example of strength and selflessness at the same time…excellent qualities in a leader and a dad.
When we take the time to tell our stories, they have the chance to impart to younger generations what we have learned through life’s ups and downs. This is only part of the benefit of storytelling though because there is no guarantee that the knowledge sinks in, as so much in life is learned through our own experiences. However, one of my greater realizations about telling our stories is the ability it gives us to work through our own feelings from our life circumstances and sort through the effect they have on us.
It can be difficult to process our perceived negative emotions such as anger, sadness or rejection but, when we push these experiences away, they end up causing us even greater pain that manifests in addictions and insecurities. We almost always end up passing that pain on to other people. You’ve heard the quote:
“Hurt people hurt people.”
That experience has been proven to be true in so many circumstances in my life.
I watched this TED Talk
on “bad emotions” and it made me think deeper about what it means to be real about the difficult situations that life presents and yet keep an optimists lens on life.
As an optimist and growth mindset believer, I believe in our ability to reframe occurrences in our lives that seem negative or bad, into opportunities to learn and grow. As we move though our lives, we encounter heartbreak, loss and other pain that comes with the experience of a full life. When this happens, we can choose to dig deep and wrestle with the discomfort, or let those lessons become blows to our ego and security and give them the power to take over the best parts of us. When we choose the route of avoidance, we become cynical, negative, or even look to criticize or belittle others, in an attempt to put out the flame of our own insecurity. We become easily threatened by other peoples points of view and our world begins to shrink..a sad fact being that we all have so much to learn from each others perspectives. Little by little, comments sneak out and soon we are scratching away at the people we love the most, often because they are loyal and will take it from us. In fact though, these are the very people we should be honoring with our words and deeds because of their unwavering loyalty.
It takes courage to process feelings instead of stonewalling, which only causes us to become more calloused and less vulnerable (which means less of the connection that we as humans are wired for) every time we decide to sweep something under the proverbial rug. These days my ability to be transparent about my emotions is something I consider very important, whether in the form of tears, words or any other respectful communication. When we fail to deal with our feelings and emotions honestly, we create a situation in our own life where mediocrity is accepted and our ability to be transparent and know ourselves declines. Since self awareness is a top trait for a meaningful life, we leave ourselves in quite a bind.
I know that the only way I can teach my kids to handle their lives with honesty and connection is to tackle my own insecurities head on and stand strongly on my own two feet. Better out than in I tell them…we certainly aren’t there yet, but this is a topic that won’t fade for me, and I hope that future generations of my family will be able to thank me for it. Clarity, courage and respectful confrontation…good goals to have for 2019.
I’m re-engaging in the political process after taking a long break since the last election cycle. Over the last couple of years, I switched from being a lifelong news junky who wrote letters to the editor frequently, to a podcast fanatic who was trying to figure out her own mindset and how to go forward in the midst of personal crisis. This happened because, more often than not, the news of the day didn’t help me maintain my usually optimistic mindset, and I had enough pulling on it already.
There are times when the micro of our own lives takes over the macro of the bigger world.
I have certainly been through that scenario over the last few years. But, i was raised to care, to participate, and to give back. Lately, I have found myself in some interesting conversation and debate and am feeling the pull back into the orbit of public policy. A big reason for this is because I believe that just because something is less than perfect or even has some glaring flaws, it shouldn’t be abandoned by people who have the capacity to improve the situation. I also believe that because my free thinking self does not paint party lines or come down on the anticipated side of every issue, my mindset is helpful in the modern day policy arena. As with a lot of things about me, my answers about many issues could surprise more than a few people. I’m also a believer that discourse sharpens our minds and gives us the ability to learn from new perspectives. I was raised in a home where opinions didn’t offend the way they do so often in the world today and am continually grateful for that.
The quest for power without a moral consciousness creates a void in leadership.
When I attended John McCain’s memorial service a few months back this was my thought regarding what we are dealing with in Washington today. As far as the leaders we are looking to today, I can’t think of any with a character defining story as heroic as Sen. McCain’s. In short, we don’t know where our leaders are coming from and what led them to want to govern?
As I listen to podcasts on leadership and growth mindset, I can’t help but think that our elected officials could benefit from some of these words and I have hoped I might find at least one or two of them sharing their wisdom over these particular airwaves. When I can’t, it makes me think that the skill set to rise in the political world today isn’t grounded in the character or mindset that I believe produces the best results. Newscasts shell us with information, but wouldn’t it be interesting to get the backstory and thought process on important votes or decisions? Tell us elected leaders, what inspires you, what are your guiding principles? I would be interested in the answers regardless of political party, or whether I agreed with the opinion. Give us something to bridge the gap that feels so wide between the elected and the electors.
As I freelance through my interests, looking for interesting interviews and story lines, politics is a glaring void because it feels almost impossible to generate an authentic story. People aren’t willing to open their mouths and share without a lot of conditions and understandings up front. But voting citizens would be well served by a leader’s transparency. We want to see that your goals are bigger than your own personal ambition, that they are for us and our normal lives. That was my example growing up.
Over the last couple of days, I watched the movie, Mary Queen Of Scots (highly recommend to any adult for a movie going experience) and read this essay from the Niskanen Center that is embedded in this article by David Brooks, one of my favorite columns as of late.
The movie made me think about why our democracy was born and, while far from perfect, how grateful I am to live in a country where power is not defined by lineage, marital status, religion or the ability to have a child. I do wish that I got to ride a horse up the cliffs of Scotland like that though.
The essay I read dissects, in a very intelligent and logical way, what we can do to bring our process from the more fanatical views of today to a more pragmatic approach that challenges our ability to think critically and not be so dogmatic in any of our judgments. I highly encourage the read if you have a political mind...the rest of you may start it and see what a political geek I really am.
As I see it, our country is only as good as the sum of it’s parts, and I see myself as a strong one. To borrow an old phrase from back in the day...think globally, act locally. I have no desire to go to Washington, but every intention of making my own corner of the world as good as it can be, and let it grow from there. Here’s to tuning in and applying growth mindset to some pretty formidable issues. At least there is a lot of ground to gain in front of us.
Bravery is the focus of the new year for me. As I write this, I’m eating chocolate on a train through the Swiss Alps with one of my oldest and dearest friends who gets me completely (what a gift), taking in a view that I’m so grateful I get to see it brings tears to my eyes. Reality check, pinch me...creation is a miraculous thing and life is feeling pretty great.
As I waited at the train station before I got on, I caught up on some of my reading and, amazingly enough, the Wall Street Journal led me back to my faith. Peggy Noonan writes this week about political correctness and the arts. It’s a good read of course, take it in and let me know what you think.
As she talks about the experience of the artist she says:
“All artists are meant to be free and daring. Their job, whether in drama, comedy or music, is to approach the truth—to apprehend it, get their hands on it and hold it up for a moment for everyone to see. That’s a big job, a great one, and you can do it only if you’re brave.”
Now, brave is not something that I have ever considered myself. In fact when I took the VIA Character assessment, (try it here- it’s fun and interesting)
it didn’t register high on my list of character strengths…my top two were fairness and forgiveness. The cool thing about positive psychology though, is that every trait can be improved with dedicated work. The more I write and explore my faith, the braver I get. I have the heart of an artist, a writer in my case, and the pull of my intuition is not something I can ignore. If I do, it leads to the worst feeling of stagnation and deep dissatisfaction.
Pope John Paul II, in his 1999 Letter to Artists, noted something that, when I read it in Ms. Noonan’s column, struck a deep cord of understanding in my heart, and prompted me to read the entire letter.
Here it is in - just in case:) Pope John Paul II is one of my heroes from as far back as I can remember. He had such a gentle way with wisdom and power.
“The artist faces a constant sense of defeat. You’re working, you’re trying, but it’s never as good as you wanted, as you dreamed. Even your most successful work only comes close. Artists are looking for “the hidden meaning of things.” Their “intuitions” spring from their souls. There is an “unbridgeable gap” between what they produce and “the dazzling perfection” of what they glimpsed in the creative moment. They forge on anyway.”
Oh my gosh, yes. That feeling of never quite good enough and always looking for the hidden meaning…every single day. I love it when something that I didn’t know was “a thing” is so brilliantly articulated. But despite any frustration, the infinite possibilities keep pulling me back to the vision...like “A Million Dreams” from the Greatest showman.
What I have discovered in my soul searching adventure, is that while I’m not wild, I am free, and free looks wild to many. I think what causes this perception, is when we don’t allow our own souls to be free, and we resort to judging others out of dissatisfaction with ourselves. We all have the ability to be true to ourselves and focus on our own best self, if we are brave enough. That’s the life I want, and the example I want to set for my kids.
We hold ourselves back from our fullest life for so many human reasons.
My top three:
Afraid of the judgment of others
2. Afraid of failure, which comes in more forms than I can count - broken hearts, financial loss, lost relationships, being misunderstood…(Big scary stuff that only faith can conquer for me)
3. Making the call as a parent that doesn’t produce the smile in the moment, but wisdom and intuition tell me is the right choice for the long haul (so much harder with teenagers than when they were little).
I experience freedom though, as I confront and work through these things, and the experience is equal parts exhilaration and deep contentment and, as always, mixed with a little fear. As I walk the path, the truth beats the fear when I am brave enough to confront it. Wishing you the brightest and bravest 2019. Here’s to the accepting the challenge of staying brave.
“Your heart will tell you things that your head never will, it’s important to listen.”
This was the last quote I put in my book, 365 Days of Optimism, and I’ve enjoyed the dialogue it has produced. I think it has drawn more comments from readers than any other quote I’ve posted and comments allow me to look at things from different angles. My quotes come from my own life experience and philosophy which I hope is always growing and not afraid to confront new ideas. I have a true appreciation for the way other people think and enjoy running their thoughts up against my own.
As I was working on this blog, I picked up a new book that I was drawn to because of a post from @theangrytherapist, called To Love and Be Loved, by Sam Keen and within the first few pages my philosophy was pinging with his thoughts.
“But probe beneath the secular surface and you will find a spiritual intuition alive and well - but shy.”
My heart is so intimately tied to my faith that this quote resonated with me. Spiritual intuition - such good words to describe the wisdom that lies in our hearts, and for so long I was afraid to listen to mine. I’ve discovered that it is where the truth of my own self worth lies, and listening to my heart has revived my belief in myself, challenged me to look honestly at my life and my patterns, and take responsibility for my choices.
I get it, being completely led by your heart, without the rational mind, can sound reckless. Freedom comes with a lot of power though, and human beings make mistakes. We don’t get a free pass from their consequences and have to learn how to move through and grow from our mistakes. But if given the choice to live a buttoned up dutiful life that doesn’t take in the quality of our free spirit, or live freely and learn from our mistakes, I choose the latter. I wouldn’t trade freedom for the myth of perfection any day of the week.
In my mind, we can still be successful, make a positive impact on our world, and follow our hearts if we rely on two other things that ultimately keep our head in the game too:
A set of core values that are cemented firmly in our hearts, but that are so embedded our brains we automatically believe them to be true.
The desire to keep perfecting the craft of living - even though we will never get there, the pursuit will lead to better days.
These two rules take me out of a purely pleasure seeking state, which is what I believe can be the real danger in following just your heart. As we grow, we have a choice as to how we wrestle with the big self-actualizing stories of our lives, and we have to be brave enough to figure out why we are who we are, and to confront the why’s and how’s of what leads us everyday. If we don’t our pain will follow us and manifest in the form of things like addiction and anxiety that hurt us and those around us and never allow for our best life.
For me, that’s where the heart comes in. As a historically timid rule follower with a traditional set of values, I’ve found that my heart will tell me the truth, while my head tends to conform to what is going on around me. While I need to use both, it takes more courage for me to listen to my heart. It’s the battle of being an original, allowing myself to be different, and being brave enough to stand on my own two feet when it looks different than everything around me, that has given me the most trouble in finding my real truth. It’s about finding that worthiness and knowing that it isn’t tied to conforming. When we don’t feel worthy, we don’t ask for what’s best for ourselves out of this life. Even with good habits and hard work, our spirit gets ignored. When I ignore my spirit, anxiety rises up in me like a scared cat with the fur standing straight up on her back. For more on that feeling, read here, I really enjoyed this article.
For a long time I thought I could muscle through anything, but when I started listening to my intuition, that’s when I learned how to flow. The heart is a muscle, and I have been open to a lot of training for mine over the years, both spiritually and physically, and am thankful for all that I have learned. I will keep training everyday and I look forward to a more free and compassionate life because I have learned to listen, in some of the scariest and most challenging times, and know that the truth in my heart is what has brought me through.
What am I good at? What do I know? What do I do? Not even a year ago, these questions would bring tears to my eyes because I felt such a deep sense of not knowing, even inadequacy, that the lump would immediately rise in my throat. The incongruent angles and lines that are my life are not easy to make sense of at this point. What I thought I knew continues to shift and change. I know a little about a lot of things, and that left me feeling less than confident. Today I can say that I have been staring down that feeling of less than for the last year and, as I try to do the next right thing on a daily basis, that feeling is fading away.
Today I brought my everyday best friend, volleyball partner (and partner in so many of life’s good things) to spend time in Fresno, surrounded by people from my childhood and my high school years, to celebrate the life of Nancy Taylor (who i wrote about here).
The celebration of her life brought the most wonderful people together to tell stories, and to laugh and cry together. We even had those moments where generations confess the crazy stories of the past. As I sat and listened, I realized what I’m good at, and how much of it is a part of upbringing.
I know how to make things grow.
That’s what we do where I’m from. You pass the signs: “Raisin Capitol of the World” “Cantaloupe Capitol of the World”. You name it, I know someone who grows it.
We are proud to tell you what we grow and show you how we do it. But then, I realize it runs so much deeper than that. It’s generations of people, figuring out what grows in what soil, how to take care of things to make them thrive, how to weather hardships and storms when your livlihood is on the line because no year, let alone a life, is perfect.
I was taught by people who know that growing things is not about perfection, but persistence. It’s about showing up when the conditions are less than perfect, and making the best out of situations you cannot control. Growing is even about getting stuck in the mud and figuring out how to get the heck out of it. It’s knowing that someone may have better soil or a bigger crop than yours, but that you are going to make the very best out of what you have made. It’s about having patience because everything good takes time to grow, and intuition to know that every living thing is going to take a little something extra or different to thrive...and then figuring out what that special ingredient is and taking care of it.
I am so grateful that even though my feet are in the sand today, my roots were planted in heavy soil, so no matter where I go, I am strong enough to hold on and weather the storms that come my way. It’s what gives me the courage to put my work out there and let it be seen and to embrace this crazy journey that is mine. From good roots comes strong growth and the best way to learn and teach is by doing.
She said, “ I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have a pain, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel.”
This Maya Angelou quote, in a beautifully rugged wooden frame, was the first thing I bought when I started decorating for myself. It hangs at the top of my stairs and I read it every day. There are few writers whose words have a greater impact on me than hers…Ann Lamott might tie for influence in linking the universe with our beautifully imperfect lives with quotes like:
“The most profound thing we have to offer our children is our own healing.”
Maya’s words inspire me to consider every day the impact I have on other people, Ann’s challenge me to stand squarely and believe in the the hard fought wisdom I have gained in my 44 years. We all have different gifts, different ways of being and connecting, and one thing for certain is that the only truth we have a full understanding of is our own. We only get small pieces of the life stories going on around us, and they only get small pieces of ours, so learning to stand strong in our own truth and have confidence in ourselves without outside validation is an integral part of learning to live freely. I wrote my book, a series of quotes than strengthened my resolve to love myself more, and become more courageous and confident.
As a writer, quotes are a roadmap of consciousness for how to leave the path that I travel better off because I walked it.
Being a writer is something that I am just beginning to consider myself. I’m proud to say that I don’t hesitate or qualify my response anymore if someone asks me what I do.
“I’m a writer.”
It’s a vulnerable statement. It feels much more vocation than profession most of the time. Can I support myself with my talent? Do I have an area of expertise? I used to think all of these questions needed to be answered before I could claim the title. My book, 365 Days of Optimism, CLICK LINK was published almost two weeks ago and so many people have commented to me, “now for the fun part!”. But one of the ways that I know I am sinking a little deeper into a writers shoes is because those words for me can’t be farther from the truth. The writing and creating is what frees me, the promoting… well, lets just say I already want to write another book.
But as I climb my stairs every day and read Maya’s words, I know that my words can affect how I make people feel. Hopeful, inspired, loved, accepted, optimistic. This is my aspiration. If I can affect the emotions, awareness, or positively influence the journey of even one reader with my words, the effort is well worth it, and a lot of the time, that reader is me. Sorting through my thoughts and emotions through my words has been the best kind of healing. If you are (and I find we almost all are) going through something, I highly recommend pulling out a journal or opening a new file, even if its just for you. Clarity flows through both the pen and the keyboard.
Writing is how I communicate best. The calm in being able to think things through and pour them out into words and the ability to connect the greater universal truth with the specific experiences of life is blissful. Creativity is a two sided coin, one side freedom, one side discipline. It seems to me that the best writers master both. Sometimes the various thoughts swirl and the connections between them don’t come as easily, but writers write anyway, and eventually we discover them again. Exercising the freedom to express your truth takes bravery, but the next step, the part that makes my writing come alive, is the courage to back up my writing with the actions in my life. Even when other people don’t see the whole picture, or operate from a different mindset than me, I have learned that the way I sleep best at night is when I am standing on my own two feet and being uniquely and unapologetically me, believing in my own mission and purpose. That’s when people feel my calm, a gift I know that I have to give when I’m in the right heart space. I’ve spent a lot of years having my judgment questioned and my confidence has finally risen to a level that I don’t sway with the wind of other peoples desires and opinions. I’m willing to listen and learn, but I am content these days having my feet squarely on my own path. My faith assures me that I am but a small piece in a huge picture, and this further helps the self doubt to move into a smaller corner of my brain. When I am operating in this space, the sky is the limit, it’s where flow is born.
I’ve spent the last few years learning to hear my intuition clearly again. It’s been a daily slug fest with self doubt and worthiness that has been intense. If you are in this place too, keep fighting through. There is nothing more rewarding than discovering the deeper layers of ourselves. It can be a gut wrenching process, but there is room for each of our perspectives in this bright and complicated world, don’t be afraid to add yours.
One of the greatest insights I’ve gained through this transformational experience, is to better understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Sympathy was there to greet me when I was at my lowest, but empathy is what stuck around, cheered me on, pushed me and wanted to see me grow.
I’ve found that sympathy often wants to swoop in and save me, but on terms or conditions that are not authentic for me. That looks different to many who were around before I found my way closer to my real self. There is always room for more growth, that is what keeps this one journey we’ve been given fresh, interesting and always moving forward, even through the messiness and missteps. But there is no freedom making choices to solely please others and losing yourself in the process. Even if my circle is smaller and path less populated with fans, I will take true understanding of myself and my experience any day of the week. if you find yourself in the position of having to start over again, believe me, the desire, and hard fought ability, to do it on your own terms is a silver lining…and I am always looking for those.
In a conversation this past week about life and the goals I am trying to achieve with The Optimists Journal, my wise and close friend said to me,
“it’s already in your heart, it’s making its way to your head, and then it can flow freely through your voice”
It made immediate sense to me, and I’m working on it. I think that’s a big part of why I like writing so much, it’s a conduit that gives me time to move the words from my heart to my head. I learned so much about that process writing and publishing 365 Days of Optimism. As I move forward sharing my book and new ventures for The Optimists Journal, sometimes the patterns from past life experience chime in, there is excitement and enthusiasm and then all of a sudden a gripping sense of self doubt that feels almost paralyzing. The scar tissue and triggers born from some of life’s tougher moments rear their ugly heads, and I feel myself take a step backward. Doing new things is scary, there is no way around it. I push forward because I have a vision of something great, that elevates the level of social media and the vast amount of informational space that is the internet, but in the very next moment, I am longing for that comfort of what I have always known in my life…complacency speaking loud and clear.
That gap between comfort and becoming, is the difference between surviving and thriving, baseline and best life…and I think I am just rounding the corner to allow myself to envision maximum potential.
Often it seems we have to sustain one of life’s disappointments or even devastations to shake us enough to contemplate what that best life looks like. Only when we are brave enough to seek next level awareness, can we heal our wounds and slowly but surely lower the stress on our nervous system enough to process life in a way that achieves calm and flow. I still, even just this past week, experienced setbacks on this path, but thankfully, the adjustment back to the higher and clearer mind comes quicker these days.
So often, I feel the pull between the big bright world of thinkers and doers, the place where I want to live and achieve my goals, and the small world of judgment and scarcity, as if there are finite amounts of confidence, generosity and kindness out there that we have to fight to receive before it’s gone. I am grateful that as the weeks and months go by, and I am brave enough to stick my neck out there, although there may be criticism and doubt, I get to sit in the presence of calm, present and open minded people that know there is enough space for everyone’s success in this world. With these minds, there is no gaming or territory to protect, just good conversation, action and a commitment not to force but to flow. Check out this interview with Cassidy Lichtman, Stanford All-American, former USA National Volleyball Team Member, currently working for Shift7 in Washington DC helping to create solutions that move society forward for the an example of one of these conversations.
Although force can be goal oriented, it is ego driven. Force always tries to act fast, sometimes before we have the full capacity to feel. Force compares accomplishments and keeps track of the imaginary finish line. Force makes us tired and then looks for validation from the outside to sustain the our energy. In short, force is always calling for backup.
When we evolve enough to find even brief states of flow as we work toward our goals, we can be patient, because the process itself is so enjoyable and worthy. Flow attracts believers and like minds. Flow always propels us forward. One of the most interesting things I learned about flow just this week is that the requirements for finding flow are different for everyone, based on our character traits. As part of the Catalyst Coaching Intensive, a life coaching course I am participating in, we took the VIA Character assessment and discovered the makeup of positive psychology personality traits that make up each of our personalities. For any individual, the top five traits in our personality must be in play to for us to achieve a state of flow. If you are interested, you can take the VIA here:
This deeper level of understanding of ourselves can add so much calm and clarity to our lives but also adds more work. Once you have experienced flow, even for a brief amount of time, it’s easy to feel why that work is only something to be grateful for.
Stay tuned in the next week for some exciting announcements about fun and engaging long form conversations that I am taking on the road, first to my hometown of Fresno, that aim to bring more flow and optimism to our lives.
Have you ever felt yourself standing on the edge of the neat and organized world where everything appears to make sense from the outside but it feels small, like you know there is something more out there that just won’t stop calling? The line between the big, strong minded world, and the small thinking, scared world looms large for me these days. These worlds are both right at our fingertips. I see them distinctly in almost every decision I make…sink back into comfort or charge forward into the kind of unknown that is both exciting and makes my heart pound and my brain hurt most days. Perhaps that has something to do with growing my own vision and knowing that for my heart to be content, I need to keep striving to push it forward. There are a few rules I have realized that have helped me in these tougher moments of self doubt when the big world is calling but the fear is real.
Rule #1 - THE BIG WORLD WILL NEVER BE PERFECT
One of my dearest friends put it best -
“If I can’t start with everything in place, I can’t start yet.”
I don’t think I’m blowing a big secret here, but in case you haven’t noticed, EVERYTHING IS NEVER IN PLACE! Not since I was 20, rented one room, and did only my own laundry, could I fall into bed with that wonderful feeling that everything was finished, and done the way I liked it. Don’t let your quest for the ideal keep you from the daily grind that will get you where you want to go (eventually!). Perfectionism actually makes us think small, because it is so hard to have anything in this world be perfect, we are doomed before we start… so we convince ourselves, why start? Then, with our lack of action, that sense of overwhelm comes along, self doubt kicks in, and we have no energy to take the small consistent steps that can lead to our greatest accomplishments, not to mention we miss the beautiful journey along the way. This journey may or may not include some roughly folded towels and undone dishes…but that’s up to you to decide.
Rule #2 - CONSISTENCY IS THE NAME OF THE GAME
Consistency has always been, and will remain, the key to growth & success. We live in the time of instant gratification. We can order almost anything and have it on the doorstep in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. We can have our questions answered in seconds. So what does that do to our attention span and ability…to wait? Anything worth keeping takes time to foster and grow. Small steps can be tedious, even trying at times, but if we let ourselves see slow growth as lack of progress, we don’t sustain the energy to see our goals to completion.
Judgment and jealousy will not lead you into the bigger world. Don’t spend your time thinking about what other people are thinking, or allow their day to day to become your concern. Goals are accomplished when we use our inner strength to make things happen, and then back it up with our consistent efforts. Sure we can have cheerleaders or a connection or two, but that will never be what gets us where we want to go. I have had people in my life that if I concern myself with “what would they think” would stop me in my tracks. Over time, I’ve learned to take back that power.
My vision, my decision.
Big visions look small to the outside world when they are only being seen out of one persons eyes. But you won’t get the sustaining energy to accomplish your dreams from anyone but yourself.
Rule #3 - JUDGEMENT MAY BE NATURAL BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT IT
This could also be called the 1% rule…and I’m not talking about the highest earners in America. What I have learned is that other people understand about 1% of what is going on in our lives, and we know the same about them. Only a small inner circle really gets to know our heart and mind. If we let the perception of the other 99% affect our reality, our world feels small and closed off. It takes confidence and courage to bring our dreams to fruition…and that can be a lonely road at times, but I have felt the rush of energy, even flow, when I am being brave and living my own dream, no matter what anyone else thinks. Once you’ve felt that a few times, the bigger world looms much larger on the horizon.
It seems that we will never know which small step was the game changer, but slow and steady, the path to success becomes apparent. Have faith that each small thing plays a role in the the big picture…and don’t wait another day to take that first step.
I would definitely consider myself a creature of habit, one who thrives on routine, and enjoys little things like choosing my coffee mug every day and counting my blessings for the roof over my head and the computer that I have to do my writing. Based on the standard, my life, even with its crazy ups and downs is seriously above average. The ups and downs I speak of are what have caused me to do a lot of seeking, contemplating, and work, to understand myself and why I am here on this earth. My whole life I have looked for patterns and meaning but now, as I get older, I want to know how it all adds to my path and what actions I can take to create my best possible life and hopefully help others along the way too.
I was visiting with Neda (check her out on IG @nedaheals), the amazing energy healer in Redondo Beach, who I did an interview with (click link here).
While I have always considered myself somewhat timid and definitely shy, she pointed out to me the other day that, as I walk this new path of single motherhood, independent life, and needing to be both nurturer and producer at the same time, my choices for how I am setting up my goals for The Optimist Journal march straight into the path that I am most afraid of. It wasn’t something that I had considered before but, as she spoke, I saw that she was right.
The path of creating a blog and website to help people tell their stories and learn from mine, and other healers that cross my path, puts me directly in front of the things I have feared most. Not only do I have a new book to promote, (as I said before, the writing is the fun part) I am stepping out of my comfort zone and announcing two speaking engagements as well. The first I will do at Brigadoon 2019 in Sundance, Utah, on Feb 26. One of the slogans for Brigadoon is “No PowerPoints, ever.” Boy is that right up my alley, no technology, just a conversation on my topic of optimism and my new book, 365 Days of Optimism…easy enough for me because it feels so organic.
The second event is in my hometown of Fresno, on March 26, where I will have an original, one on one conversation with Coach Chris P Austin, two-time NCAA Champion, about how we as humans learn from both the principles we apply to our lives and the experiences that we encounter and create along the way. Do principles or experiences serve us best? Is it a combination of both? How do experiences and our principles affect coaching and parenting kids today? How do they affect our relationships and our own heroes journey that every human has the gut instinct to seek? And those are just a few of the questions we will talk about in our conversation. I promise this conversation will be nothing short of interesting, relevant and valuable.
Back to Neda and what she noticed in me, that actually helped me see myself as braver than I believed myself to be before our talk. She showed me that in laying out my plan to create The Optimists Journal and help people heal generational pain, I dove headlong into confronting my biggest insecurities and the things that scare me most.
I am afraid of being seen. I have stood up in front of crowds and forgotten what I was supposed to say, it may have been fourth grade, but it hung with me. Then as I got older, being noticed caused me a lot of trouble in my relationship. If I did something well, there would be a moment of recognition for whatever I would accomplish and that felt good, but too quickly it would turn into defending myself for whatever attention was given, which created a pattern of shrinking back and not fulfilling my purpose. It felt like being a turtle who sticks her neck out only to have something scare her quickly to make her retract into her shell.
I am not an expert in anything. There is no Dr. before my name and my degree from Cal Poly SLO has absolutely nothing to do with this creative endeavor. The more I live though, I am convinced that as long as I am an expert learner and my mind stays open, the things I gather as a student of life give me great human credentials. No book is shut, no idea fully developed in my line of thinking. There is always room to improve, learn something new, even change an opinion or two if the right argument is presented. Raising four totally different humans beings, learning from love, loss, sports and everything else that each day of my life has brought forth is reason to celebrate, share and speak up…especially if its exactly what scares me most.
So as I was reminded tonight as I read the weekly newsletter, The Long Game,
written by Taylor Somerville, a guy I met when I took part in an XPT Life Experience in Malibu,
who is boldly carving his own path as well, I will focus on my process and my work and let the expectations, the thoughts of others, and even the results fall away. If I can achieve that in my head and heart, success is not just a potential but a guarantee.
A lot of my thinking these days includes concepts that seem to have levels of contradiction. As we move on in this life, it seems that so many experiences can’t be deemed all good, or all bad. There is a lot of truth in those shades of gray (and I’m not talking about the book, never read it.) Nothing has taught me this lesson more than experiencing the pain of divorce, but knowing that I have four children who are exactly who they are meant to be. Little by little, I let go of the idea of what I thought had to be right, and see what is healthy, satisfying, and free.
There was a time when I said that as long as I could make a difference around my own family dinner table, that was my highest and best use. Although I believe that the dinner table is a place where so many of the world’s troubles can be minimized, I think that was also a story I told myself because I knew that the more ambitious dreamer in me couldn’t be fully seen and still have a happy home life. There is so much that goes into building a platform like The Optimists Journal and, the more I am out there doing that, I see a world of people seizing the day and following their dreams…despite the questions, fear, and intimidating circumstances that anyone attempting to do something on their own will encounter. Everyday I push a line between a new big, strong minded world, filled with things and judgments that both scare and challenge me, and a small world filled with short term comfort, but that is followed by the let down that I feel when I choose not to challenge myself. When I have the courage to push my storytelling platform forward by asking for the interview, talking about my book, 365 Days of Optimism , shoot video (something that would bring tears to my eyes just months ago) or set up for a new speaking event, the exhilaration I feel is unparalleled. Along this path, there is always the sting of rejection, because my vision doesn’t always translate to everyone on the first meeting or conversation (or maybe ever) but I’m getting so much better at not letting that derail my belief in deciding what I feel is crucial to deliver with The Optimists Journal content.
I am so energized as my new endeavors cross over with my regular life, like today, when I got to play eight games of volleyball with friends, enjoy the sunshine and dolphins jumping just west of the courts at 16th St., and then shoot some video about gratitude, optimism and this beautiful life that is here for all of us to seize if we only have the courage to listen to our calling.
One of the ironies of the human condition is that we want so much to belong to a group, to fit in, but we are the most energized when we are being true to ourselves.
This is something I feel the pull of on a daily basis, but have come to learn that the only way forward for me is not to shrink back into comfort and look for approval from other people, but follow my vision, knowing that I am the same person I have always been, only stronger and more independent minded today…something I am grateful to have the strength to keep challenging.
I believe in my vision for The Optimists Journal because I know that our ability to tell our stories and self reflect has a direct effect on the quality of our relationships. Self reflection is brave, telling your story is scary. So many of our stories are marked by imperfection and we judge ourselves so harshly. I don’t believe that any choice is unforgivable, but that learning from those choices is invaluable to our growth and the patterns that we create in our relationship with ourselves and other people. As I wrestle with my own imperfections and missteps, and learn to have strong healthy boundaries, the compassion I feel for other people continues to grow, and from there I am open to learn so much more.
Our capacity for self reflection is also important because it gives us the ability to regulate our emotions. We learn that our experiences are fleeting, and pass so quickly, that not every emotion needs to be acted upon. When we learn to feel but not act, we reach a level of maturity that adds a freedom and calmness to our days and provides a grounded nature that no one can take away. I continue to hone that skill daily and, although far from perfect, I work on it because I have felt the satisfaction of not being knocked off course by the emotions that rise up within me.
As humans, each of our paths is unique, meant especially for us to walk. They are distinctly different and deserve to be honored. Don’t let the fear of judgment and the need to fit in pull you off of your path, the lesson is the same at 13, 44, and beyond. It can feel lonely at times to honor the path we were born to walk, but it has been my experience that just when that path is feeling especially dark and quiet, we find the right connections that help light our way.
Stay tuned for some exciting announcements next week about a partnership that will bring valuable information to The Optimists Journal to make your home a more healthy place in a seamless and easy way. It’s fun for me to bring relationships that I am grateful to have, despite the miles and experiences between us, into the growth I am experiencing here.
I’m processing a lot of learning in one short week. It started out at Brigadoon, a fantastic conference of 50-60 attendees in Sundance, Utah where I got to talk about optimism and my book, 365 Days of Optimism, alongside other topics like Artificial intelligence, living fearlessly, and U.S/China relations (variety is the spice of life) and, am ending it after a whirlwind 24 hours at Wisdom 2.0 in San Francisco with 4000+ attendees discussing the intersection of technology and matters of the heart, mind and human potential. Both environments were beyond welcoming and stimulating. There are so many amazing thinkers and doers out there making things happen that don’t always show up on the front page and I am feeling so connected and encouraged. I have more notes and content than I can possibly process in this short week, that I want a little more time to digest, but there is one easy takeaway from this amazing week…
We get to choose our the energy we spend and the energy we surround ourselves with, and how we do that makes such a difference. This week, I choose well, and am reaping the benefits as my heart and mind are full of the promise of what is possible in life.
As human beings, we are wired for connection. On almost a primal level, we want to be part of each others experiences and lives. Some of us are so sensitive to each other and our experiences it almost hurts. When we begin to understand our purpose, whether that’s at eight, 80 or somewhere in between, we encounter serendipitous moments with others and brand new connections. From there we can build relationships that run far deeper than that. We all want to be understood, and even look for others to come along side and support us in our life story, and that is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful feelings. What I have realized though, is that until we can stand squarely on our own two feet, feel different, even unaccepted, and still know that we are living our own unique truth, we can’t relax into the moment and know that we are ready to face whatever life throws at us. And then the best relationships and connections come after that.
Our lives create so many stories, sometimes they seem to just happen to us and we have to confront the question of why, or worse, why me? But as the saying goes, life is 10% what happened and 90% how we react to it. This has been an empowering statement for me because discovering my own resiliency has proven to be a major catalyst for growth in my life, but this week I am seeing another side to it.
There will be stories in our lives that we wish didn’t happen the way they did. There will be growth and healing that come from those stories. Often, there will be human interactions that wound us deeply, and our challenge is not only to recover, but learn to live with more passion and meaning because of it. When we live through these experiences though, we begin to uncover the beauty that is discovered when we boldly write our own life story and choose the energy we feel best around. We get to seek it and surround ourselves with that energy, and then make life a beautiful place again despite our struggles. This is something I work on everyday, because I understand the energy that makes me feel capable, valued and alive and my highest calling and best example flows from there.
This week, I am so excited to announce a partnership with a dear friend of mine, Lori Kirk, who has brought so much support and good energy into my life over the years in so many different ways. Lori has used the adversity she has encountered to discover her passion, transforming her health after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 52. Come visit the new Collaboration Corner at TheOptimistsJournal.com this week to hear more about Lori and see how we can make your life and home a healthier (and therefore happier) place to be!
I have two Instagram accounts, my personal one is called @faithinthejourney, I changed the name from something way more generic when my life shifted and it has become a family tag line…”oh watch out, you’re about to make faithinthejourney” one of my teenagers will joke. The truth is, those words mean a lot to me because my faith is what sustains me and fills me with the deepest sense of gratitude for all of the beauty in my life and always grounds me in the knowledge that things that happen are so much bigger and far reaching than my own experience. The other one, my “business account”, is @theoptimistsjournal. It’s intended to cast a bigger net into the blogosphere, definitely still the real me, but lacking on the more minute details of my life. It’s where my perspective meets the universal truth of this world and an outlet for my philosophical mind.
Today, a close friend of mine posed a question about The Optimists Journal, after I finished an interview that I can’t wait to post. I had the best time having this amazing conversation with Dene Logan Selkin, an absolutely golden yoga teacher and therapist. about relationships, being a mom, yoga…some of the best things in life. But back to the question my friend asked:
“What’s your goal [with The Optimists Journal] ” he asked.
As I pondered the answer to this, so many things ran through my mind; is it to spread a message, to help people, to make money, to have a voice and an outlet in this noisy world? There isn’t a right answer, but there is my answer.
What I have learned since I started this journey, is that it’s ok for answers to evolve as we grow and learn. There are so many human factors that fit into the equation of conceptualizing and achieving goals. For me, I want to tell stories and connect with people because I feel on such a deep level that it’s the reason I am here on this earth. I sense it in the moments of understanding I have with others everyday, especially when I take the time to slow down, ask questions and look people in the eye. But close behind are thoughts about self confidence, privacy, comparison, and freedom sift through my brain like those card shufflers in Vegas. I’ve done enough self reflection to realize where my hot button issues lie…and yet I also know that my issues aren’t much different than so many other people (back to that universal truth again) and so I move forward…some days with accents of my old trademark timidity. More often now, I move with growing confidence that I am here to hit a long ball, not achieve something overnight with one post, story or interview. But every word I write or conversation I get to have about knowing ourselves better so that we can be get the most out of our lives and be of service to others just raises my energy levels to higher heights.
My goal of creating more meaning in my life with each idea and endeavor and also a business are not at odds. It is going to take sustained confidence, discipline and patience though. The cool thing I know now, is that those qualities have been in growth mode for a long time, I just didn’t realize it.
As I push this passionate storytelling project that is The Optimists Journal down the road, I realize how lucky I am to be able to blend my passion for writing and connection with a beautiful and blessed life. On this journey, there have been some amazing takeaways that make me feel comfortable in my own skin in a way I never thought was possible. The feeling of connecting with your bravest, truest self, even just in glimpses, gives the greatest sense of freedom and discovery that I hope every human being gets to feel in their lifetime. It’s the concept of flow and knowing myself that I seek now on a daily basis, even as it draws tears, chills, struggles and then triumph. It presents it’s moments of truth that are challenging, but the rush of knowing that I get to spend each day of my life living this story, and that I get to write it with my own brand of optimism, hard work and discipline is more exhilarating than I ever thought possible. To press on towards my goal means I get to know myself honestly, to help others along the way and create a business doing what I enjoy. My brain is full, but it doesn’t feel like work. Maybe some learn this stuff at a much younger age (I do call myself a late bloomer) but in the end, I’m learning that even a day spent in this sweet spot is enlightening and once we feel it, it’s a pretty tough place to want to leave.
It’s only the second time I’ve ever saved a fortune—and the other one (prominently displayed on my bulletin board) says: “You will write a book.”
Tying those two together, I wanted to get some words down to continue to train my craft—and also to have something to reflect upon on a day when perhaps life isn’t looking quite so rosy.
1. I will slow down and be grateful. I have learned that even through hard times, I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude.
2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that leads to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost.
3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words, but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist. My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness.
4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect, and understanding. But, I will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked.
5. I will seek the place where my mind, body, and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts,books, articles, and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram—and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back. Adequate sleep, healthy food, and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these, I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself, which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness happened when I’ve silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.
5. Most importantly, it is no one else’s job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner, or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other. It takes courage to find that place—and I will seek it every day.
My second born, Luke, turned 17 this week, as the world sees it, the last year of childhood. The irony of being someone’s child is that you will never know how much you are loved until you aren’t that child anymore. As a kid, you don’t understand why your mom can remember the exact time of your birth, or how it caused such stress because you used to choke on everything she put in front of you. As with most any mom, it’s impossible for me to look at my 6’6 inch man-child without seeing my Thomas the Train obsessed little guy…the calmest, easiest kid. You could take him with you anywhere from day one, no problem. In his middle years, his favorite line for me has been
“How is stressing about it going to help mom?”
I think junior year may have altered his thinking just a little, but his blood pressure is still shockingly low.
It’s a heavy realization that I have a boy, who is almost a man. I have been thinking a lot about how a strong woman can raise an equally strong man, when strength is perceived and valued so much differently between the sexes. I don’t get lost in small things like who opens the door (even though I still teach him to do so, because I still value a gentleman) or who pays, because financial independence is crucial to anyone’s confidence and self sustainability no matter who you are. But, I do have a few ideas that I feel have positive impact that I hope don’t get lost in teenage translation and the business of everyday life…even if it gets me dubbed “philosopher mom” sometimes.
Understand that you were born into a power position in this world. Of course this is nothing to feel guilty about, but find gratitude and be wise and compassionate with what you have been given. From day one, you have had things that others work entire lifetimes for, and yet most may never have what you have today. You have already walked the halls of incredible educational establishments and I am confident that will continue. Allow that knowledge to build your perspective and connect you with those who have not had the same experience as you have. Don’t let it separate you or cause you to look down on anyone. Recognize the struggle that others experience that you have been spared just based on your birth, and try to put yourself in their shoes instead of just walking in your own…it will enrich your life in ways you can’t even imagine. Above all, be a leader who never abuses the power that sits naturally on your shoulders.
Feel all of your feelings. True peace comes when we know how to wrestle with our more difficult feelings because a stronger and better version of ourselves is on the other side. One of the best parts of life as we get older is to continue the learning process when it’s not a mandate. Be an observer, and even a believer, in life’s twists and turns. Even when they seem unpleasant, they are leading us to our destiny. Never turn to any substance that dulls your senses instead of feeling things, trust that you are strong enough to handle what comes at you in your God given natural state and you will be. When we work to know the root of any sadness that we encounter, we discover how to be simply and sustainably happy.
Learn how to manage conflict, not everything fits neatly in your plan. There is always struggle in a big life and moments of conflict give way to deeper relationships and understanding if we have the courage to navigate it with strength and respect. Great minds do not always think alike, and learning to value their differences brings so much beautiful contrast and more amazing ideas into this world. If you think you are right all the time, please start to wonder.
My favorite thing about the passing of this birthday was what I realized as I was searching for pictures I wanted to post to celebrate. Luke you are a natural protector, and it makes me so proud. The safety you can offer with your gentle spirit in this world is so deeply needed. My hope is that you always protect from a place of confidence and in a way that makes your world and that of those around you a bigger, brighter place. I love you to the moon and back, keep hugging, jumping and leading the way you do, you have an amazing ride ahead of you.
“We should have these conversations in front of people,” he said.
The first time I heard that statement, I 100% thought he was crazy.
“No pressure, just tell me when you are ready.”
And the talks would continue…about life, coaching, parenting, leadership, principles and reality, values and vision. From the first time we spoke at “The Way GRV” book booth in Dallas, Texas almost 3 years ago, Coach Chris’s and my perspectives, although very different, seemed to bounce back and forth with ease, which seems to be a rarity in this world today. Society, seems to find many ways to label and try to segment us off...age, race, gender, political party, sexuality and the list goes on. But I believe in the human ability to relate and learn, if we find the courage to listen and admit that we have the potential to be changed by another. We are so much more alike than different.
I have experienced a great deal of growth from both challenging my beliefs, and standing my ground. I can be equally inspired by what a chip on your shoulder can do for accomplishment, and yet believe so deeply in the ideas that I reserve headspace for, that I have the ability to speak up when I don’t agree; not too long ago that wasn’t the case. I know that being real is at the heart of my expression and that the better we understand ourselves and how our life experiences relate to universal truths like love, forgiveness, courage, and intuition, the easier it is for us to find sustained happiness and help others along the way. I operate from the premise that we are all works in progress doing the best we can. It’s optimistic for some, but it works for me. The more we focus on the way we play our hand, instead of whether the guy next to us is bluffing or has a royal flush, the better our days will be, and the greater ability we give ourselves to maximIze our potential.
These are some of my truths that come from a lot of soul searching since that Dallas meeting in 2016. My opinion and ability to challenge my comfort zone changed for the better since then as well. So last Tuesday night, The Optimists Journal, my generational learning, storytelling venture, held its first speaking event in my hometown, Fresno. Even though I’m a introvert, life for me is about the connection I feel with people and those moments when we are all feeling understood. One of the good things about getting older is feeling the gratitude i have for the relationships built with others who have helped strengthen and support me throughout my life. From the closest relationships like my parents, children’s godparents, and friends of 20 plus years who have taught me the meaning of loyalty and trust, to my high school coach who taught me about grinding and being tough, and even the pharmacists who would ease my mind with their knowledge (and home delivery, thanks Bullard Pharmacy!) when one of my kids was suffering from their 30th ear infection, Tuesday night filled my heart with so much joy for the connections we share.
There were so many high points to this conversational experience, my favorites among them were the questions asked by the audience and the engagement I felt with them, especially when they said they didn’t want an intermission! But, as with any first event, there are also things to learn from that I want to improve as we go.
Tuesday night was my first conversational experience with an audience, and, although Chris and I have a lot of words between us, there was little to no rehearsal because I want my talks to reflect the flow of life, and…
life is not a rehearsal.
My writing, and now my talks, are about greater universal truths...confidence, forgiveness, self love, and so many others. That being said, there is no single situation or experience that I am trying to shed light on through my conversation. One of the things I have learned is that we each create our own destiny and for me to have an opinion about what is anyone else to own, does very little to change anything. And the truth is that we rarely have enough information to make an accurate judgment anyway.
I have done hard work to understand why I stand where I do today. Themes of fear, unworthiness, and lack of self confidence are among the things I have worked on to improve my own story. With the growth i have made in these areas, they are among my favorite things to write and talk about in hopes that it can help someone else on their journey.
From the bottom of my heart, I can’t thank you enough for showing up, engaging, listening and helping me grow in my journey Fresno. You’ve always been there before, but it feels so good to know that nothing has changed. Best people, love of my roots.
I sit here with a cat lying on my computer, which is often the case, so I have taken to writing blogs on my IPhone, both because of the cat’s affinity for the keyboard and, because I can write and collect thoughts on the go.
The deeper I sink into this writing life, and my experiences become writing material, I’m trying hard to walk the line of being present and taking it all in, and remembering the feels from brief notes so I can take them deeper when I finally arrive to a quiet creative corner. I wake up in the night, jot down an edge of consciousness thought that snuck in before I fully awoke, and fall back asleep.
Writing has helped me in so many ways. It has built my confidence, helped me sort through deep feelings and, in short, given me deep gratitude for my life. Journals are my favorite way to go back and see how far I’ve come with my mindset and abilities, which keeps me striving forward when my energy is waning. I truly believe we never “arrive” and are meant to enjoy the ride, learn from it, and keep moving ourselves forward.
As I get ready to launch a Life Design Coaching business, I have been thinking a lot about how I went from:
“Life coaching? What the heck is that?”
“Using my story to help myself and other people sounds pretty cool.”
Even when I was younger, all the way back to hating nearly every day of junior high that didn’t have a game that would get me out of class early to play, I knew how to make my days better. It was always, music, alone time, sports, one or two good friends, and my cat that would bring me back to that place where I could say,
“tomorrow is going to be better.”
So basically, nothing has changed. I’ve just learned a few more lessons along the way that have made my life a much more sustainably happy place and it’s good to take inventory on some of my favorite realizations.
I am happier today because:
I stopped trying to fit in.
In this world, it’s common for any of us to judge a book by it’s cover, even though we never really know the full story. Maybe we go as far as to read others like a picture book, but rarely like a novel, which leaves us with huge gaps in knowledge, making assumptions and affecting the way we relate to each other. That’s why I’m thankful today to not be afraid of the work that it takes to truly know myself…flaws, triggers, and all the good stuff. Everyday, I use this knowledge to drive myself forward and then, the rest of the world, and what they think, do, or say fades away. Sometimes things still hurt, but I know they can’t change who I am unless I let them, so I just keep the focus on my own improvement and let the rest fall away as best I can, knowing that no one feeling or situation lasts forever. We all have different stories and, in the end, we earn connection with being real, not changing ourselves to fit in.
I learned to trust myself.
As humans, we all make mistakes, and for a long time, I would beat myself up pretty bad over even the little ones. This habit made me feel less than, and held me back by crushing my energy before I could set and accomplish big goals. This mindset kept me treading water instead of swimming forward, even though I knew there were greater places I wanted to go. When you don’t trust yourself, the other voices are louder and make those goals and places feel so far away. They can also make you question situations that make you happy. Today, I can take one step at a time, and avoid the overwhelm that comes with the opinions of others, because of the trust I have built in myself. I have a deeper understanding of what is best for me, and there is a much smaller circle that I allow to weigh in on that.
I breathed deeper, reacted slower and accomplished more.
Basically, this is my thank God for yoga point. Deep breathes literally stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and bring a state of calm to the body. I don’t think I had ever felt the depths of that calm before I started my yoga practice. In that place, urgency and overwhelm fade away, and I can slow down and know that not everything that crosses my path should get a reaction from me. What I learned on my mat, I have taken off, and the most amazing thing about it is that in this stillness, I accomplish more. No more running around, giant to do list, feeling frantic. Just fulfillment in what is accomplished, and a calm plan of how to work through what lays before me. With this understanding, I can roll with what comes at me and build confidence as I realize that I am far stronger than I once thought. This calmness leads to productivity and cuts away the anxiety that comes with second guessing and taking in too many other opinions. We are the writers of our own stories and need to experience both the joy and the responsibility of that fact.
My entire life, I have enjoyed being coached. I’ve used the wise words of others and their drive to inspire me and teach me toughness that I didn’t think I had in me. I’ve also learned a lot spending years listening and pushing other people forward to achieve their goals when I was afraid of the spotlight. We all have things everyday that we can work on to be better and inspire ourselves and those that we love. We all have times we need to ask for help or can be the one who lends the hand to someone else. More acceptance, less judgment…something I am focusing on every day. I am energized by the thought of a world that works like this.
If we do the work, and ask for help when we need it, this journey has no limits for any of us. What would add to your happiness? What stands in the way of that? I would love to help you answer these questions and more if you are feeling stuck. With solid listening, complete trust in your abilities to handle what comes at you and no drama, I have the ability to help you see life circumstances in new ways. In the end, learning and teaching are not so far apart and together, if we use our experiences to find our truth, we make our own story great.
Overwhelm: (v.) To bury or drown beneath a huge mass.
I looked up this definition because it’s a feeling I have been experiencing a lot this week and wanted to see what Webster had to say about it, and it ended up hitting pretty close to home. To drown, a sight and experience that I wish I didn’t have such an intimate and vivid picture of in my brain. Breath keeps us from drowning. I know what the absence of breath looks like, it’s very scary. I have learned on so many levels, whether it was seeing my youngest child deprived of it after pulling him out of our backyard pool almost 10 years ago, to the life I feel when I take it in on my yoga mat and know that I am not drowning under the pressures I put on myself, and simply need to slow it down and stay present. I have seen and experienced life at both it’s fullest and most fragile edges, and it has given me a perspective that benefits me every day.
Sometimes we have to walk through the worst to come to the
realization of what is great in life.
Nonetheless, overwhelm is a real feeling and one of the first signs of anxiety. When it hits you, even when we set goals with the greatest intentions, and action needs to be taken to get there (as is always the case), the feeling of where do I start or go next can be crippling. I used to mistake overwhelm for laziness because of that feeling of shutdown, but I understand now, that it’s time to break down things in small bite size pieces and attack them one at a time. I have found that multitasking is actually the killer of efficiency and quality work, and only adds to my feelings of chaos. Presence, rather than letting my mind think too far ahead, beats back the overwhelm.
The antidote for overwhelm…faith, presence and solitude.
I’m grateful that I learned from a young age that solitude was a great calmer of my spirit. I remember even when I was young, wanting to retreat to my room to be alone, not in a depressed way, but to slow things down and give me time to figure them out. I was also always the first one up at a slumber party as a kid, and had to be super quiet with slumbering roommates in college. But thankfully those situations sent me outside where it was quiet and I discovered the pink light, the peace of the morning, and the almost immediate relief of any feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Being outside also brings my mind back to a more awefilled, child like state, which is one of the quickest ways to shake off some of the heaviness we put on our adult lives. To me, there is no better feeling than when the world is still quiet. In the morning, anything is possible.
After I had my second child 17 years ago, I would wake with a racing heart, sure something bad had happened or was about to, and found myself walking the hallways, checking on my two little ones incessantly, until that pink light would come over the horizon and the feeling would almost instantly fade away. Morning brings on a newness and a peace that is different than the fullness of the rest of the day. It’s the time to get set, breath, and focus on what lies ahead. Morning routine for me is tea or coffee, fresh air, deep breathing/meditation/prayer and exercise. Then the day goes on from there, and I’m ready to take on whatever comes my way. Maybe this is why I’m flying through this new book The 5am Club by Robin Sharma I’m halfway through after buying the book after listening to the author on this podcast, and already consider it a must read for anyone interested in personal growth and improving the world around them.
Last but not least, last because it ties it all together, faith…my other great reliever of anxiety and overwhelm. My faith gives me the knowledge that there is something greater than my own experience, that wants me to seek and be fulfilled, and yet loves me just as I am today, gives me the freedom to swing for the fence and miss, or hit a home run and know that I am enough either way. As long as my intentions are good, and the work I put in is honest and diligent, I just need to be myself and go for it with my best judgment and the rest isn’t mine to hold. The world is full of variables that I can’t control, but I don’t have to because it’s being handled by a power far greater than me.
It’s Easter weekend, and I am so grateful for this faith that has brought me through painful moments and transformed me from my most afraid to a stronger and brighter person that can bring optimism and hope on every day, not just the shiny ones. I talk often about faith being different than religion. Faith is personal, between you and a higher power, based on your exposure and upbringing. I long ago stopped trying to answer the questions of who is going where and who is right, knowing it isn’t up to me to judge. I know that the judgment and imperfections of people can get in the way of how we experience our own faith, I’ve felt it firsthand so many times and it makes me momentarily uncomfortable. But the beauty, grace, and strength that my faith has given me comes from a source so much deeper than the imperfections that come with being human. My faith is the pink light on the horizon telling me, this world may not be perfect, but it’s yours…slow down, enjoy what I have created for you and help make it better one moment at a time. No need to feel overwhelmed, I’ve got it handled. Happy Easter!
I love singers and songwriters because their lyrics drift through my life on a daily basis. Music has a profound impact on our brain. It’s Prom, graduation AND birthday season in my house. My youngest will be 12 in less than two weeks and my oldest graduates from high school in less than a month. There has been one Prom and about to be another as my high schoolers go to different schools. I’m headed for a weekend at Stagecoach with one of my oldest and dearest friends and three 18 year olds, so I’m bouncing back and forth between Fast by Luke Bryan and Keep Yourself Alive by Queen.
There is a scene in my head that I flash back to frequently these days, the sky was on fire with one of those almost summer sunsets and I was riding around in the back of a truck around Woodward Park probably 10 days before I graduated from high school with a bunch of friends. It was as if God told me to time stamp this memory for later, a simple moment I would want to come back to, my old soul knowing for some reason that life wouldn’t be this easy again.
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t drink or smoke in high school, didn’t have sex, didn’t sneak out, or try to do any things that are so normal for the teenage brain to flirt with on a daily basis. It’s a time of exploration, of feeling grown up, but I wasn’t a risk taker, I was a pleaser and the idea of getting in trouble scared me to death. All of our brains are wired so differently, I don’t judge a single kid (or try really hard for not anyone), as humans we all have impulsive moments and are capable of the greatest triumphs and the worst choices. And then there’s the stuff that is just outside of our control...which is a lot.
Now I’m raising teenagers of my own and there is so much compassion in my heart for what goes on in their days and the choices they are faced with at every turn. I’m trying hard to be faithful, graceful, and not let it be such a scary place, knowing that this is their time to figure out so much about the freedoms that they feel, but wanting to hold tight to the boundaries that I have always put up for them as I still try to communicate those messages on a daily basis when they fly past me. I can see the time on the horizon where we will be friends, because they are capable of such amazing conversation, and I can remember being their age and feeling so grown up, but we aren’t there yet and my job isn’t done. I’ve got more than a few thoughts as I watch my kids take in these rites of passage that are still so fresh in my own mind that I can see my own graduation cap flying up into the air.
Like yourself, lead yourself.
Sometimes it’s a tall order at this age, especially today in the land of 24/7 likes, knowing what everyone else is doing (or at least thinking you do) and a lack of time to be by yourself unless you exert the extreme discipline it takes to make that a reality. It’s tough to know yourself, which is a must for liking yourself, and to start to get your feet set on your own path.
Know that you are enough, just as you are today, without trying to conform or impress.
Pushing limits is a hallmark of the teenage mind and heart. Even today, I’m a bit envious of that sense of freedom, unattached to our own numbered days...that feeling that life will go on forever that comes with being a teenager. Remembering that feeling makes it scary as hell on the parenting side. But it’s also a tough age to feel comfortable in your own skin, to be who you want to be for yourself, not to impress anyone on either end of your world, be it friends or parents…fitting in on one end, expectation on the other. It’s not about either, being true to yourself, is the key.
Don’t let the story you put out there separate too much from the from story behind the scenes. It’s a raged and exhausting race you don’t want to keep up with.
You can never go back and life gets complicated fast. Things like addiction, the dangers that lurk in this world, especially when your consciousness is altered, are a parent’s worst nightmare. Let sleeping dogs lie for as long as you can. Yes, experimentation is normal, but you will either find out that altered states get old pretty fast, or end up having to reverse course down a road you really never intended to go down. Scary things that can’t be taken back happen fast to the best of us...and yet teenage brains aren’t developed to feel these feels yet. It’s why we as parents sound like broken records. It’s never about judging “good kids” and “bad kids”, because we have the years to know that we are all one decision away from our next greatest or worst moment.
Trust that there is no judgment, the greatest thing about being a parent is knowing that you couldn’t love a being any more, no action required. There is no expectation of greatness, my most sincere wish is just to keep you breathing and safe and watch you take it from there. With all the love in my heart, finish this season strong, there is so much good ahead. And Matthew...I may want to stop you at 12 for awhile.
As an introvert, I like to hang out by myself...a lot. But the flip side of that coin is that I love human connection. I’m not one for small talk, I prefer deep conversation, or else silence between two people can be so calming and easy. Growing up, I was never in the “popular crowd”, my sister was three years younger than me and when she got to high school, people would ask me “Are you Andrea’s sister?”...I was a senior! Despite all of this, I get such joy from the relationships I have built over my lifetime because, the ones that stick, which by this point are adding up, make my days joyful and provide strength in the tough times.
A good friend of mine says I call these friendships “my people” quite frequently, and, although this isn’t meant to be an exclusive term, it got me thinking. What are the qualities that sustain those relationships, people I return to no matter the miles or experiences between us?
They create connection. Probably not a big surprise, but my people aren’t small talkers either. They ask the big questions, we don’t really talk about the weather, but about dreams (at this point for ourselves and our kids), goals, and how to solve the issues of the day...and there are lots of them, so one on one, we could go on forever. This doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we have the desire to sink in a little deeper on what makes the world go around…and that conversation is so much bigger than our own experience in our neighborhood.
My people love and encourage growth and change. I’ve discovered as I have gone through challenge and change that my people will provide support when I’m down, but the ones who are really special want to see me rise out of it...and my goal is always to do the same for them. I think most of us are wired to help when we see struggle, but to honestly help someone and then, when they rise, in part because of the help that you offered, be genuinely happy for them, is a testament to how we keep our own values and ego in check. There is comfort in knowing that someone is the same person you always knew, but the best life is always transforming us and my people support that beautiful change.
My people are feelers, and they use what they feel to figure out their passion and the meaning in their lives. They use what moves them to create change in this world on the myriad of challenges we face. You may never hear their names in the news, so many good people are out there every day teaching the next generation with action that will never be celebrated by society, but they are touching lives, healing hurts, and creating change where it’s needed. The people they do come into contact with have their days, and sometimes even their lives changed forever. From inclusion in schools, to raising up the next generation of leaders, to changing lives by expanding their families through adoption, to working on sustainable natural resource policies, they pick their issue and go at it with all of their heart and mind in a way that is so inspiring to me.
My people focus on themselves. They believe that the change they want to see in the world starts with them and their next right choice...and the example inspires a chain reaction. We support each others happiness and trust each other’s judgment. Like attracts like, no excuses.
As life continues to grow, flow and change, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people in my corner, loving me, encouraging me, and inspiring me with the way they live their days. My greatest hope is that I return the favor to them on a consistent basis. Thanks for being my people.
Matthew turned 12 this week. There’s not a birthday that goes by that I don’t thank God that he’s here with us and take more than a minute to celebrate how far he has come. We spent his birthday evening at his brothers volleyball game, but on the way there, through the always hellish LA traffic we watched, (I listened) to videos of him from when he was little. Even our Czech born au pair Tereza, who saved my sanity when she arrived after Matthew’s accident in 2009, literally to follow him around while I got the other three ready, and who is married with a baby of her own now, came with us to celebrate. Such amazing love and connection born out of so many simple memories, carpools, swim practices and snack bags. We laughed all the way to Loyola.
As i watch how far Matthew has come from that little guy that I worried so much about to the kid he is today, I am so proud of the progress he has made. So much speech, OT, PT, diet, doctors, supplements, all sought out with love, not because I believe he needs to be fixed, but because there aren’t many mom’s out there who don’t work to make their child’s day better…and judging by his days at school and even his report card, his are on the upswing. Some people would be frustrated because it’s impossible to know whether there was one thing that helped the most in his progress to date. What I know is that while there has been no silver bullet that completely alleviated all of his struggles, I won’t leave any stone unturned and, because of that, have meet some amazing world changing people that are a part of our tribe forever.
There are things about him growing up that I wish I could change, so I have to teach him by the way I live my own life, and nothing inspires me more to make good decisions than teaching my kids. Last week, I watched Matthew while he was in a volleyball lesson on the beach lose focus and begin to watch the guy walking toward him, and I saw his self consciousness take over. He’s still a beginner in the sport (watch out though, he’s supposed to be 6’8 so when he said he wanted to try beach volleyball, I wasn’t going to say no). During his lesson, he will say things like “I’m not good at this.” or even worse “why do I suck?” He’s just starting, and the thing that matters far more than the way he is passing or serving today, is the way he decides to work and his attitude about his game. The way we talk to ourselves is so important, it gets in so deep and affects the way we feel about ourselves. If that voice in our head isn’t kind, as in Matthew’s case on the beach, we can end up severely limiting our own potential…just with our thoughts. So it breaks my heart to hear him talk like that…on the never-ending to do list is to help him cultivate his own positive self talk.
The other thing that bothered me about Matthew’s moment that I noticed on the beach was how his focus and discipline were affected when he thought someone was observing him, maybe even watching him critically. It made me think: How aware are we of other people’s observations of us? If we are aware, are we right about what we think those observations may be? Do other people’s opinions and observations have a role in the way we make our decisions everyday? These are questions that I think about a lot, that I have coached myself through, as I work through the choices that this challenging and beautiful life presents me. Whenever I am choosing, I seek that calm feeling I get when I make a decision that is aligned with my true self. To paraphrase Daniel Amen from the On Purpose podcast by Jay Shetty I listened to this week,
“when we are 18 we make decisions based on what other people think, when we are 40 we decide we don’t care what other people think, and when we are 60 we realize that other people were never thinking about us that much anyway.”
What gives us the courage to not care about what other people think? To start with, I don’t like the words “not care” because I find it hard not to care about just about every person that crosses my path, so I prefer to say not let other’s opinions affect my decisions for my own life. What has changed in my thinking though, is my understanding that we are all operating from our own viewpoint, managing our own ego, and that our opinions are relative to our own situation. So, why should I make a decision based on anyone else’s opinion when it has little, if anything to do with my life, and is generally a function of what is going on in their life. I can have compassion and understanding without letting their opinion about my life be bigger than my own. With this decision, I have had the confidence to live my life as as the truest version of myself today and, instead of aiming to please everyone, which left me drained, I’ve learned to just be me and end up pleasing the right people, those meant for my life, on this day. This way of thinking comes with heavy responsibility. For success to happen we have to keep seeking the truest version of us, wrestle with and admit our struggles, and emerge stronger because we did the hard work. The more time we spend understanding ourselves, the more we understand what decisions are in our own best interest and the less time we spend feeling self conscious about our lives, our abilities and our choices. That battle can be tough, for me it’s come in the form of putting my voice out into the world, learning to set boundaries, and having the courage to show up as the truest version of myself. Not a day has gone by though, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, that I don’t get the deepest satisfaction from the growth I know I’m experiencing my putting my real self out there. Day in and day out, I hope with all of my heart that my example sinks in with my kiddos.
Which brings me lovingly back to my youngest boy. You are comparable to no one. You have proven how hard you can work, keep working for that consistency. Know that excuses and blame get you nowhere, I have so much hope and commitment that you will never see that from me. There are so many great waves, games and summer days ahead of you, however they present themselves…go after them with confidence and yes, there will always be a mom who has your back.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there…hardest and best job in the world.
Riding home from Luke’s game last night with my friend and volleyball partner, we got to talking about volleyball, and aging knees and how long we will get to play this game that we love to play so much. To be out on that beach, with dolphins jumping in the water, with other moms that have at least a dozen kids between us, it’s a feeling that is pretty hard to beat. It’s hard to imagine it not happening every week..multiple times..
“Do you ever have that thought, when you watch the pros playing next to us, ‘I’m never going to do that’? And it makes you feel kind of shocked.” Vanessa asked me.
“Yes.” I answered immediately, because I have had that feeling. “I call it the ‘I’m never going to win Wimbledon’ phenomenon.”
I coined this phrase many years ago, it’s not necessarily a sad feeling, I actually noticed it because I was trying to find my own thing…what it was that filled me up, my why…and, besides being a mom, I knew I hadn’t found it yet. In this search, I realized that as much as I loved sports and watching Wimbledon, I was never going to hoist that shiny trophy over my head, so I crossed it off the list and kept seeking, with the realization that I was looking for a level of greatness in my own right. I think this feeling is natural for passionate people to have as we observe our own lives, and realize how much we enjoy them, and how quickly time passes.
Every week I get a take away that sticks with me from one of the many podcasts I listen to. This week’s comes from Impact Theory’s interview with best selling author, Mark Manson. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
One concept that I found intriguing in this interview was how figuring out our why, our calling, or whatever you would like to call it, isn’t always easy because it comes naturally to us. We don’t recognize it because it’s just normal. We enjoy it so much, we get lost, and logging time towards our progress isn’t a conscious thought, we just flow. Now I get it, because when I’m writing or speaking to the next generation about the lessons I have learned, time just slips away.
This week, I was fortunate to speak to a group of female athletes in Fresno, my hometown. We talked about leadership, some of the challenges we face as female leaders, and what qualities are most important for us to have if we want to lead. If you would have said to me five years ago that I would be seeking out speaking opportunities I would have said you’re crazy. What I have come to understand though, is that generational wisdom, imparting the lessons I have learned through my experience to girls, who on one hand I still feel so much like it brings tears to my eyes, but then quickly realize all I have learned over this quick 44 years of life, it just flows. I could have talked for hours. After the event, to have one of my early mentors, a coach who taught my timid, soft hearted self, to be tough, tell me that people lean in and want to hear what I have to say, I’m humbled…and I’m hooked…because while not everyone’s opinion matters, there are a trusted few, people who have earned the right to weigh in, who mean a lot to my progress.
Although there are so many qualities that are important for a leader to possess, I am big on the concept that as leaders, we need to be self aware. Knowing ourselves, taking time to reflect, so that we know our strengths and weaknesses, when to listen to our own voice, and when to defer to another trusted voice that can possibly teach us more, all of these things are part of being effective as a leader. Self awareness also helps us discover our why.
The cool thing is that this world is in need of so many different whys, different missions, we don’t all have to solve every challenge that is out there, but a good life is definitely spent working on at least one of them. We need to know ourselves to know where our assets can best be put to use…and then we can lead.
As a female leader, I talked about the burden that women carry, the expectation that we can do it all, balance domestic and professional life, while staying in shape, making home cooked healthy meals, and emotionally supporting every family member, friend, child, and even animal in our life. That expectation can overwhelm and exhaust us, and I know that firsthand.
“You can have it all, just not all at once.” -Oprah Winfrey
These are wise words that teach us there is a season and a time for everything. When I was 27 and giving two babies dinner and baths every night, before my next two were even born, and my sister was working on Capitol Hill, I wondered what I could ever accomplish outside my four walls, not realizing that the answer was coming on a schedule that allowed me to immerse myself in the task at hand, being the mom of four amazing babies…all in good time. Today, I realize what a gift that was.
Enjoy where you are right now, do the job in front of you well, and the way forward presents itself.
What I also didn’t know at that time was that, more important than any book or article I read, the voice in my head was the loudest and most convincing voice out there. That voice is so influential, it shapes our thinking, and then our path. It tells us what is possible, what we can and can’t do, and for a long time I realize that my voice told me that there were certain things and levels of success that were reserved for a chosen few. What I thought was humility, was really insecurity and a fear of claiming what was available to me, and to anyone really willing to work consistently hard enough to claim it. So, I looked out at these hopeful young athletes, and told them about that voice.
“Make sure that voice, the one in your head, is your biggest fan, best coach and most loving mom all in one.”
It’s yours for the taking, it might not be Wimbledon, but it’s great and it’s meant to be shared with the world. We’re counting on you.
I sit writing under the comfort of my new weighted blanket. They are all the rage these days. They were recommended to me when Matthew was little to calm him and help him sleep, and now everyone is using them…and I must say, it does have quite a soothing effect. It seems I need this these days, big changes are brewing with Lauren graduating from high school and another, more permanent move on the horizon. I have already lost my keys and my wallet this week, I’ve pushed a little past zen and this blog is coming out a little raw.
Every day the tears come, and I have to sit with the bittersweet realization that my girl is going off to college. Through all of our change, the four of them are a unit and it’s hard to see that shift. I wake up in the night and picture our mornings, when I was pregnant with Matthew, Luke was in preschool, and Kate was still taking those blissful morning naps. Lauren was in what, at the time, I thought was cursed PM kindergarten, but now I know those mornings were such a blessing because that was our time. It feels like yesterday. As mom’s we are so often trying to carve out that moment to ourselves, but when I look back, there is nothing that I treasure more than those simple one on one conversations and activities with them, at any age. I feel so blessed today to know that those bonds that I have worked to build with them, starting with trips to the car wash, Target, and the zoo, have held strong. This week, as Lauren prepares to graduate, I sit and watch this beautiful, independent, and inspiring girl set the tone for her siblings, like she has from day one.
After everything we have been through as a family, watching them belong to each other is a silver lining of our struggle. They fit together in the most beautiful way, whether I am with them or not and it makes me so proud.
I work hard to reframe these milestones, that, in my gut, present me with a deep sadness because my life and family don’t look the way that I thought it would. There has been lots of time on my yoga mat and making the choice to slow down this week, in the midst of so much hustle and change, to take care of myself and honor the feelings (and tears) that keep flooding my system. While I am a huge believer in honoring what we feel, I still struggle sometimes to just let the tears fall. I’m so thankful to my people who remind me to just feel it and let it happen.
The challenges I have faced though have also improved my ability to reframe my experiences. It’s where that optimist’s lens really comes in handy, and, I think I have figured out the outlook that lifts the graduation fog.
It’s not an ending, it’s a beginning. Graduation and commencement, the words are interchangeable, but one is an ending, the other a great new beginning.
There is so much promise and excitement with beginnings. New experiences and things to learn, new friends, fresh paint, new views from your windows that have the ability to give a fresh perspective, if we have gathered the right tools from the road we have traveled so far.
Lauren, you have the tools, it seems like you always have.
Keep what is good, be honest with yourself so you can release the patterns that hold you back, and use what you have learned doing that to embrace the new.
My joke to people that you raised yourself is only partially in jest. You have always had the keenest sense for what you bring to this life and to other people. You have a way of being comfortable with your strength without being overbearing and your intrinsic motivation inspires me everyday. You have learned lessons at your age that have taken me half a lifetime to figure out. I watch as your siblings gravitate to you and learn from your leadership. You have made my job infinitely easier as a mom of four by setting such a strong example for them. They listen to your words that come in what seems like simple sibling banter but is full of so much wisdom. You know what works for you at this point in your life and have the confidence to go after it. I love to watch you beat back the absolutely natural feeling to conform. It’s a struggle for all of us, but always know that the right people will surround you when you are true to yourself.
So here this morning, we are off to watch you begin... I couldn’t be prouder of the person you are. You will always be the one that started me on this journey that I could not possibly love any more. Keep shining your light in this world, I am so blessed to have lived where it has been cast for the last 18 years and can’t wait to see the next fields that grow because of it. I love you more than you will ever know. Keep being you, it’s like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else.
Take a deep breath. It’s become a trademark phrase in my house. Until I had Matthew, and everything that I didn’t want to learn in high school biology actually became relevant to my life, I had no idea what breath actually did for us…besides keep us alive. I didn’t know that certain types of breath actually make a difference between surviving and thriving; that a breath, a hold, and a slow exhale actually tells our body that everything is ok. Boy, would that have been good for me to know earlier in life. Children teach us so much though, and I’m grateful for what I have learned about calming both of our systems.
Being the podcast fanatic that I am, THIS PODCAST, on trauma and healing was fascinating to me. My creative brain sees connection in so many things, and I’ve been wrestling with the irony that what we seek sometimes is sensory deprivation, because there is always so much stimulus around us (both human and technological), but what we actually need is breath to be able to take in life at our own pace.
As a child, my favorite sensation was to be deep underneath the water; no sound, no air, no weight…liquid heaven. Back then, I wished I didn’t need breath, I thought I would have stayed under forever. I love to glide through the water, I know how to push for the wall, not turn my head for air, and shave off a tenth of a second. I’ve always been proud of my ability to hold my breath, and see how far I could make it. But I’ll never forget that Wednesday morning swim, after I pulled Matthew out of the pool two days before. The feeling of needing a breath wracked me with guilt, the pool tried to swallow my tears, but I came up panicked and sobbing for the feeling that I imagined he had felt. Healing that trauma has taken a lot of work, and breath, to release, and there is still more to do, for both of us.
My healing process has sought out the expertise of so many different types of therapists...yogis, body work specialists, traditional therapy, even body work in the water. I can feel it when I am in the presence of a healer, it’s in their hands, their eyes, and their voice. When I think back over my life, I have always sought them out.
Healers are gentle seekers, never boastful or pretend to know it all. They are humble, hard workers with passion for what they do…truly my favorite humans to cross my path.
They are booked solid, doing what that love, and are healing the world, one appointment at a time…I love to shine light on their important work.
Trauma comes in many forms. and, because of my experience, it will never be belittled in my family. I’ve learned though, that it isn’t honored by hovering, shielding, or extra attention, as tempting as that can be for a parent, especially if you have seen your child in harms way, or even emotionally suffering. Healing from trauma asks for presence, a lack of judgment, and a listening ear. And then, if necessary, we can seek out the professionals to take it from there.
We are all living out our stories, and although we can be mindful with our choices, there are so many things spinning in and out of every day that we never anticipated, asked for, or could have avoided. So, as they say, it’s not what happens to us, it’s how we choose to react that makes the long term difference.
We can’t outrun trauma, it asks to be worked though to live our best life. From our earliest days, what happens to us stays with us, and has the ability to teach or torture.
If we try to ignore it, it will wake us in the night, reside in our bodies, and eventually, the numbing forces of addiction and self harm will take over and massively reduce our potential and our happiness. We were all meant to shine too bright than to not recover from what this world throws at us. No more holding my breath, back to my mat, I’m choosing to breathe and heal, and hoping to bring the next generation along with me.
Even though I consider myself a creature of habit, and changing those habits can be so hard, learning to thrive through life’s twists and turns has become one of my foundational and motivating goals. This week, as I moved again, for the second time in a year, I was tested mind, body and spirit. Old patterns have to give way to new outlooks if we want to keep challenging our limits and creating our best life, so, despite some discouraging moments, I pressed on, and I’m sitting in an (almost) organized new home.
Tough times are relative, but so many of our feelings are common, just delivered to each of us through different experiences. Whether I’m feeling lonely, discouraged, not enough, disorganized (man, moving is rough!) or scared, I have learned that by feeling and expressing, other people come along who understand. No feeling lasts forever, so I acknowledge, make a game plan, sleep or exercise (depending on time of day) and go again. I also know that our success depends on how well we can perform our routines despite our moods, because, let’s face it, there are just times we flat out don’t feel like it. To master any craft or life situation, we have to do it anyway.
Exercise goes a long way in getting me straightened out. Ironically, fitness became even more important to me after I was cut from the Cal Poly volleyball team after an ankle injury…a long time ago. It was then I discovered how much being physically fit influenced my mind, when I was faced with the reality that no one was going to make me show up for workouts, but that I felt so much better if I did it anyway. I learned that a long run would change my perspective on almost any problem, lifting weights made me feel strong and capable, and that recreational sports were a place to meet like minded people who enjoyed competition for the love of sport. In the past 20 years, I have run half marathons (finished one marathon - and decided that distance wasn’t for me), swam in Masters swim meets, and competed in indoor and beach volleyball tournaments all for the joy of competing and more importantly, to keep my brain chemistry in check.
The mind/body connection is real…and so are the lessons that we learn through it.
When we workout, the endorphins our body creates knock back brain fog and sadness and give us clarity to see how to move forward. Exercise and yoga give us so much body awareness that, for me, has translated to self awareness. Every time I step on my mat, I am reminded I have a weaker side. Too much trauma to my right foot and ankle, my root, has my right side full of scar tissue and my left side compensating for the weakness those injuries have caused. For me balance is a quest, I never really arrive there, but I keep trying so that I don’t lose more ground. We all have strengths and areas that we struggle in our lives, and most likely, they will never even out.
On most days, life feels a lot like my body, unbalanced. But for me, a full and beautiful life isn’t about balance, it’s finding presence in the imbalance that makes me breathe easier.
I was reminded this week, as I read this beautiful little book, Dear Her, our struggles become our strengths when we face them and allow ourselves to experience them head on, no shortcuts. Life can be hard at any stage. We are shaped by our trials as we walk through the fire and they create patterns, beliefs, aversions, and attractions based on what we allow ourselves to feel as we go through them.
Breakups, injuries, rejection, feeling like we don’t belong, being bullied, moving on, the ways we can have our hearts broken in this world seem endless sometimes and, just like our physical bodies after injury, these encounters with life create scar tissue around our hearts and minds just like physical injury.
At the site of an injury, scar tissue makes us stiffen up and reduces our mobility if we don’t make attempts to break it up. It can be the same way in life, because trying to avoid pain when it presents itself in our days, leads to a much smaller and less mobile existence. We have to be willing to risk the pain of failure and fatigue to gain the mobility that creates our best life. Often, that isn’t comfortable. When my PT goes after that nasty scar tissue in my foot and ankle it hurts like hell. But, when I walk out of there, I move more freely and create neurological patterns that make my game, and my day, better, more fluid, and stronger.
It works the same way for our hearts and minds. It’s all connected, don’t let your heart be hardened, the beauty of the experience often lies just beneath the pain, and through our example we can show the next generation that there is no shame in the struggle, and that embracing change, and even heart break, creates heart strength. A bigger and freer life stands just beyond our ability to break up that scar tissue and feel again, and we are all strong enough to endure it if we believe.
Happy Birthday Kate! Never be afraid to break up that scar tissue and feel. Life is a good place:)
Writing is bliss, social media, not so much. While I love keeping up with the kids and families I moved away from when we came south, I worry about the younger generations and whether their tie to social media will have an adverse effect on their self worth. I worry that they can’t live freely, taking in experiences, posting what they want to, and still know how to enjoy the present. How do they learn that likes are not tied to worth, and that while being kind is first on the good life list, we are all left knowing that the only feelings that we should and can manage are our own. Boundaries…what a lesson.
I have journaled for over 20 years to bring clarity and healing to my life so, it’s not like this writing thing was a hobby I picked up recently. Today though, I use social media to put my words out there, so I have had to spend some time with my relationship with likes and followers in my own head so that it doesn’t feel like the ASB election I lost as a junior in high school, or the one before that in 5th grade where I got beat by a 4th grader. Unlike my dad, I don’t think I’ve ever won an election in my life…so for me, likes need not become votes or I’m in trouble.
Lately, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out who it is I am writing to, besides myself, when I pen these blogs. I feel it in certain spaces, when women share their stories about their kids and we make an instant “me too” connection and leave with a hug after talking for less than 5 minutes. It’s in the graduation stories, life transitions, and the emails that come from far away about these rites of passage that seem so regular in American life, but shake us to our core. It’s in the conversations about broken relationships, and what we’ve learned from them, that gives way to healing and makes life a more real, and still beautiful place to be.
In the end, I want my words to make other people feel understood…because to me that is one of the best feelings in the world.
This week, I was standing on the beach getting ready for another game and my friend Heidi said:
“I love reading what you write, it’s like you are talking just to me. I almost ‘liked’ it, and I have never ‘liked’ anything in my whole life.”
Heidi gets my weekly email, she’s not even on Instagram. Her words gave me the chills. She is my person, my four kid mom who rolls with the chaos, raises good kids, and holds herself to an incredibly high standard, all while treating others with a tremendous amount of grace. If my words mean something to her, I’m hitting my mark. She shares the court with me every week and every inch of her 5’4 self can side out with the best of them with crazy cut shots and hard swinging deep middles. She can also stitch you up, write a prescription, and teach SRE classes (she was Matthew’s First Communion teacher). She does all of this… and you don’t even know her.
She is the humble warrior. She is a beautiful example of strength and submission to the ebbs and flows of life. She is who I am writing to.
Humble warriors come in many forms. They are the teachers I encountered at Open House last night at Kate and Matthew’s school, the doctors and nurses in the ER at 5am when I brought Lauren in because she couldn’t breath, the coaches who give confidence to my 5’8 inch 12 year old who is all knees and elbows at this point, but is starting to make more jump shots in the driveway, and the volunteer who goes into the classroom and helps a little girl with behavioral issues learn to read, because the powers that be have given up on her. Thank you humble warriors for being in my corner, writing this is making me realize how many of you there are in my life. Thank you for your causes, the jobs you do, your bravery, and the space you give other people to be who they are. Most of all, thank you humble warriors for sharing your wisdom and knowing your worth without fanfare, headlines or likes…you bring trust and connection to this world that the algorithm has yet to define.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there fighting the good fight. Enjoy your day and may your children be good to you today. Parenting didn’t come with a manual…take it one day at a time.
I still don’t like the word divorce. I still find the word itself hostile and angry and sad all at once. Just one little word, and I don’t know if that connotation will ever go away. What I do know though, it that the feelings change, the days change, and little by little your heart and mind begin to heal and your best life starts to show it’s way through. I often have people say to me when I tell them my story that they thought mine happened a lot longer ago than the just over two years that it has been. One thing I tell them is that for me, by the time the divorce happened, the healing had already planted it’s roots. It’s the years leading up to that fateful decision where the greatest heartache lies.
As I have said in more of my writing, I still believe in marriage, and the hard work it requires to choose someone every day and do the work that it takes to stay together. It’s not easy, and, for some reason, that wasn’t meant to be my story. So, if I can help people who find themselves in a similar situation to mine, that’s the next best thing I can do, because we are all capable of living amazing lives. One choice or event can never define us, and the best life lies on the other side of getting up, dusting ourselves off, and doing the hard work of mending a broken heart. In fact, whether it was a divorce or a break up, we’ve all been there, and it’s never easy. I started to think about what has helped me the most to move on with my life and came up with some practical steps that have lead me to a new level of peace and happiness.
Look Forward, Not Back. Get rid of the ideas in your head of how you “thought” life was going to look. Expectation can be so disappointing. Take what is today and learn to sit with it, in quiet, breathe and feel the sensation that you are ok. Exactly where you are, even in the sadness, you are living, you have talents and gifts, ones that you weren’t able to access when you were wrapped up in a dying relationship. Now is your time, what do YOU want to do for yourself and for the world. Identify the big goal, and set the small action steps that will get you there. Small victories put a little wind in our sails and lead us to the bigger ones. Where will you start? Allow these ideas to excite you, LOOK FORWARD.
Remember that you are the only one who grants yourself permission. I am a rule follower. I like to be coached and taught and learn from others. But those qualities set me up for a place in life where I was always looking for permission from other people as to how I should live my life. Being in a relationship, especially if it has some codependent tendencies, can foster that dynamic as well. Newsflash, you are a grown up. You have to pay your own bills, manage your own stress, raise your own children, so you better figure out that the decisions you make are yours. Quiet the outside voices and just listen to your mind and heart. Make small decisions at first, open your own bank account, make your own schedule, and through your choices allow the real you to be seen. Drastic change does not have to happen every day to make good progress.
Choose people who want to see you grow. Keep the opinions you take in to the trusted circle who wants to see you grow and not just survive, but thrive. The patterns you created in your past relationship have to change, those connections and conversations cannot stay the same if you expect to get over it. That doesn’t mean they won’t take a new form in the future, but give yourself the time and space that you need to heal. If you do this, life will look different, feel different, and that’s ok. Again, let go of the expectation and live with what is. If you are taking care of yourself, you will attract people who believe in your greatness, and your circle will change. You don’t need pity, you want to see progress, so choose the people who want to see that for you as much as you want to see that for yourself. Your growth will move some people out of your orbit, that’s ok. Some come in to our lives to teach us and aren’t meant to stay forever.
Learn the difference between power and control. We all have power within us to create, communicate, and design our lives the way we want to. There are different circumstances for all of us, but at the root is that beautiful God given freewill that gives us the ability to make our own choices. Notice I said our own choices, not anyone elses’s…that is where our power lies. Control is an illusion that takes away our power and makes us focus on the wrong things. Control is when we try to use our power to influence things outside of ourselves. Our power lies in our practice, not our results. Don’t spend your time trying to control outcomes, for you and especially not for your old relationship. Do your work, focus on your goals, and let your power fuel the fire to move you forward. Control is an illusion that steals our energy.
Practice Yoga. Yoga is breath, it is connection, and it creates the most beautiful free flow of energy I have ever experienced. It taught me to sit alone and truly feel instead of sitting alone and feeling numb. It taught me that I can do hard things, and that I am enough right where I stand today. Yoga is healing, and practiced by the most amazing community of non judging healers who accept without attachment to your story. It is a positive place to go when you need to get out and will do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. Enough said, just go.
Do not look at their social media. It may seem shallow, but in this day and age, it’s truth. It’s tempting at first, but I promise it will take you down the wrong rabbit hole that has nothing to do with your way forward. It doesn’t help you process pain or sadness. Basically, it’s an incredible waste of time and energy. Stay away, block them if you have to, not out of spite, but for your own emotional well being, it’s ok. Pretty soon you won’t even think about it anymore.
Forgive. I put this one last, it could be an entire blog topic in itself, and it takes time. Forgiveness happens in little moments, in realizing that we are all human, life is not perfect and that not one of us is defined by one choice that we have made in our lives. Forgiveness is the only healthy way forward. Being free is so much more important that being right, forgiveness comes easier when we realize that fact. Although we can learn from these painful experiences, eventually, forgiving has a lot to do with letting go of the ways you believe you were wronged. Use what you learned to set boundaries for next time, but know that most of the time, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, we hurt others from the place where we ourselves are hurting. That is not unique to a certain ‘type’ of person, it’s all of us. If you have ever wished to be forgiven, put your own forgiveness out into the world to heal.
In the end, the only thing that is finite is this life we have been given. The ups and downs and ebbs and flows teach us, but not a single one of them defines us. I sit here today, not ashamed of my story like I was two years ago, knowing that I make my own way forward, and confident that I have the skills to do that because of the work I have done. My highest hope is that I can break the cycle of generational pain that divorce, but more importantly the things that precede it create, by telling my story and helping other people process their own. If you are in the beginning of this process, know that no one feeling lasts forever, the tide will go in and out. Feel it, learn from it, and most importantly love yourself exactly where you are today, because that love is more important than the love that comes from any other person on this earth.
It has been said that we are only as happy as our least happy child, and there is some truth to that. Nothing prepares us for the love and devotion most of us feel when we become parents. As years go by, we have hopes and dreams for them, hopefully we learn to manage that process in a healthy way, and eventually we learn that the desire to control outcomes for them and protect them from distress and harms way is, in large part, an illusion. As a friend of mine said in his daughters bat mitzvah toast,
“I just want you to breathe.”
I found that to be such a beautiful and freeing sentiment, letting his daughter know that she could become whoever she wanted to be, that the dreams were hers, not his. He would play the supporting cast to her stardom, however that took shape. His words make me refocus often and realize that we have far less control over our children’s happiness and even, as they get older, their safety in this world than we would like. It makes me realize that as devastating as divorce is for children, life deals us blows at some point that the human spirit is capable of not just surviving but thriving beyond. This concept has been an evolution of my own mindset that continues each day because the memory of telling my four kids that their dad moved out is etched on my heart forever. It’s possibly the most painful thing I have experienced through this entire process. As I said last week, time moves on, and the task at hand of raising four strong, well adjusted kids who know they can withstand difficulty, learn from it, and become contributing members of society is, without a doubt, my greatest motivation in life. Being that my youngest is 12, we aren’t even close to done in the pursuit of that goal. Here are some principles that I have learned firsthand that are guiding me today:
You can’t physically do enough to make the heartache ok, so let yourself off the hook, and guide them through the emotional journey. Just after that fateful conversation about our split, I went into overproduction. They probably don’t even remember, because it didn’t last long, but for about six weeks, I was bound and determined to deliver them the best life experience they could get. We would road trip, I would have every last thing packed for them in their bags, make amazing meals when we were home, and basically try to anticipate their next need before they had even thought of it. My exhausted self quickly realized, probably out of necessity at that point, that it was not the way to go. I was working from a place of guilt, which, whatever the parenting circumstance, is never the place to make decisions. Not to mention, I was dead tired, and, although maybe a distraction for my own feelings, overproduction mode wasn’t helping anyone. One of the silver linings of split households, because yes, I make myself look for them, is that it gives kids the opportunity to learn to manage their own stuff, with real consequences. They are hugely capable if we teach, instead of do, and since I abandoned overproduction mode, I have watched little by little as they pick up the slack and learn to plan ahead, do pick ups and drop offs for me, use an alarm clock instead of me waking them up, manage their own bags and schedules, and I have time to go to yoga and make dinner.
Teach them to focus on who they want to become. We all have strengths and weaknesses that we can both capitalize on and work to improve. In split households, most likely there are different ways of doing things, mindsets, and habits that define each dwelling. I’ve seen it first hand, manipulation can come out quickly when discomfort rears its head.
“Dad wouldn’t make me do that.” or “Mom let’s me play that game.”
Anytime I have heard that terrible comeback in response to me laying down my law, I shoot back:
“When you play me against him, you are only cheating yourself.”
Example, “Do you think playing Call of Duty for six hours makes you a better human?” Usually I get an honest response.
“You have to decide who you want to be, and then work at that.”
Then I push the conversation to how he thinks he’s going to get there.
Let the other parent work from his or her strengths. This one has more to do with our own self esteem, but can end up doing harm to the relationship between parent and child. Don’t be territorial with things. If he wants to do something for your child, unless you see it as overtly harmful, be gracious and let it happen. Don’t let your ego get involved with ideas like, I wish I would have thought of that, or worry that there is going to be a favorite parent. Most likely that is going to ebb and flow based on experience and personality so don’t get hung up on winning the popularity contest on any given day. If it helps the bond between parent and child, just go with it. Always remember that their emotional needs are entirely different than yours and that other parent is a place for them to feel safe and loved, as long and there is not a reason to think those two things can’t be achieved, stay out of the way. In some situations, I have even found that whatever was being offered crossed something off my already long to do list, while giving one of the kids a positive experience, and I’ve learned to look at those as a win/win.
Be Strong, Be Vulnerable. Safety is a real need, no matter what age we are. Kids want to know that you have things from the top handled so that they can work on the building blocks of making it to adulthood. This doesn’t mean though that they should not see your feelings. I think one way we can help change the cycle of generational pain is to let our kids know that things are hard or less than ideal, and then let them be part of the process of conquering that obstacle. Let them know that, even when you are sad, you can still find laughter. Let them see you seek your outlets that give you joy, it will help them find theirs. Yoga, piano, sports, music playing in the kitchen, reading, outings and trips together, little inside jokes…there are all kids of things that we can find for ourselves that will turn the tables. Being both strong and vulnerable at the same time helps us get to the root of our issues, not just the symptom and I believe learning to do this is the real key to long term emotional well being.
Let Your Voice be so strong that they hear it even when you aren’t with them.
This is something I am always working on, speaking up isn’t something that has come naturally to me over this lifetime. This also isn’t an invitation to butt in, believe me, I’ve learned from experience that is bad form. It’s hard when we see our kids in some kind of emotional distress, because we want to solve the problem yesterday. The trick is figuring out if there is a way to help them process through what they are feeling versus trying to solve it for them (and most likely, you can’t anyway). Depending on the age of the child, the skills are different. Nonetheless, unless we are dealing with toddlers or younger, they have them, and honing them gives them an edge on self realization at a younger age. The message to them is that they know they can count on you in happiness and in distress 100% of the time, but then teach them that they have the power within them, despite their surroundings, to be present and happy wherever they are. In this day and age, we are a phone call or FaceTime away, we can even play video games with them when they aren’t with us. Let them know that you can meet them where they are, even if that’s not in person. I have found that just the idea of this can calm anxious feelings, especially my youngest.
In the end, parenting is an art, not a science. Despite some real hardship and heartbreak, I feel so much pride and joy when I watch my kids work as a team, to belong to each other and be a unit no matter where they are sleeping at night. The goal is always to give them access to emotional support, but let it look different depending on who lends it and give them the experience to see what works best for them. Raising kids in split households isn’t a competition, and, as long as it’s a safe environment, it’s their foundation and reality. I have found that even with it’s challenges, when we parent from our most authentic place, we get into a flow that helps us not to overthink. We just have to be brave enough to say what we know in our hearts to be true, and with good timing. I work hard to give my kids the deepest sense of who I am, even if they don’t fully grasp it today. Letting them see my emotions while providing them with safety and love is always a goal for me. I trust the bond I have built, and then I work hard to maintain it It looks different at every stage of this journey. Sometimes it’s talking, then it’s listening, then it’s holding on, then it’s letting go.
As I sit here at my oldest’s freshman orientation at TCU, the speed with which it passes it unbelievable. Don’t waste a minute fighting your ego and give them the opportunity to love and be loved by both parents…because what if, in the end, your child is only as happy as their least happy parent? Show them your joy, let them know they are safe and loved and the story can still have a very happy ending.
Apathy: (n) lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern
For the past few years, The Optimists Journal has been a place for me to reflect and build my writing (and who would have thought, speaking) skills, learning both vulnerability and strength by putting my voice out into the world. Through this self reflective process, I understand myself, and my lens on this world better. In using what I have learned, but moving beyond my own experience, that place where the my micro world meets the macro of society, my hope is that my content will engage and inspire people to think for themselves and engage as conscious citizens. Every week I read many articles, am always reading a fiction and a non fiction book (albeit slowly!), listening to podcasts and following the sporting events and even better the stories behind them (can we talk about Coco Gauff!). I believe that when we are engaging in the areas of our lives that we are passionate about we create a consciousness that is stimulates our own learning and is engaging to others and together we become a more energized and informed community.
Before I found this outlet, I had an unfilled desire to put my voice out there, but without the courage to execute, I developed apathy, a “stuckness” for lack of a better word, and at times I questioned whether I had the ability to fight through the feeling. Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head with the voices of “it’s already been done” and “what do you really know that’s noteworthy”. But in the consistency and determination that continues to rise up against the imposter, the clarity of my voice and vision has taken shape, day by day. When that self doubt kicks in I just remind myself that Arianna Huffington was a speaker in my first political science class of 30 college kids at Cal Poly SLO back in 1992, married to a local Congressman and raising two girls…look what she has done since.
We fight apathy by locking into what lights us up. Usually that spark shows up organically, but then it is up to us to follow that path and become conscious citizens. To do this we have to drill down, learn more, and discover the talents that our passions can bring to the world to make it better. That is my goal with The Optimists Journal, because the world doesn’t need our apathy, it needs our energy, and my energy is buoyed by an optimistic spirit and the ability to keep learning about the topics that light my fire. In learning and writing about them, I hope to fight the malaise that keeps us slightly comfortable, but with that voice in our head that tells us there is more we can do.
The key to American life is having a society of safe and informed citizens and lending my expertise and spreading that message is something that makes my conversations and days great. Having been a news junkie from a young age, being raised in a home where my dad held political office from the time I was seven until I was 27, the division caused by the intolerance of different opinions and the 24 hour news cycle have made it tough for me to maintain my usually positive outlook for the past few years. For awhile, I checked out completely, trading growth mindset podcasts for politics. But I missed being a part of the conversation, it’s in my blood. But what if I could blend the two? How do our individual mindsets help shape our society. I remember laying on the bed at the LAX Westin, pregnant with Luke when my dad lost the primary election for Governor in 2002, my young untested spirit thinking the world was coming to an end. Needless to say I’ve made some progress since then and, more than anything, recognize my dad’s ability to speak his truth and put himself out there no matter what other people thought or put up against him, but there is rarely a time I land at LAX and don’t look at the Westin and remember that feeling…you win some, you lose some. I still believe California missed out, but those who are lucky enough to be close to him certainly haven’t.
I am hard to pin down these days though, because my way forward has taught me so much about the unconventional, the mind/body connection, the mystics and Eastern traditions, and being real with the trauma that life brings us. All of these things mix with my roots in a unorthodox way and create my own unique point of view. I admire straight talkers, honest inquiry, and lack of pretense in the situations and people that cross my path. I cast a nonjudgmental eye on the happenings of the day, believing that I have a right to my opinion and experience as much as anyone else, and that the way forward is found in respectful dialogue, owning our individuality but always looking to add to the collective American experience.
This week, I begin to lay out my vision for The Optimists Journal, starting with mindset, because our mindset is the root of all possibility. In the coming weeks, I will unveil the other topics that spark my interest, and show you how these topics link to create a conscious place where great dialogue and the next deep conversation take place, something I am always in search of, whether that is here or in person. Follow along with me, let me know what you want to hear more about, you won’t be disappointed. Sign up for my weekly email, which always includes my blog, but also links to the articles, books, and podcasts that I take in every week. There is so much amazing learning out there to do to make us conscious citizens…so let’s get going on that.
The adrenaline rushes, even when you sit in the stands. But one thing I have learned is that once they take the court, there is nothing you as a parent can do about the outcome. The athlete in you might want to spring out of the seat, the coach in you might think you have the game winning knowledge, but, as a parent, besides the loud show of support, which may or may not have the outcome you desire, our job is done. We get the long ball, the years of down time, grind time, drives to and from practice before they get their license, maybe a little conversation in the hotel rooms or in the kitchen after practice as they grow. We get to teach them, and better yet model for them, that the process is more important that the result…and that the work put in will pay off in the long run, even when the ball hits the ground too many times on your side in one match.
But that didn’t happen yesterday, the focus that I thought I saw from the outset was real. Guys, even when you were down two, and five points from being ousted in the quarters, you kept your composure, locked in, and came home with a National Championship. As a mom, of course I think this team is special. I have watched four of them play together since they were 12, being the highlight of Luke’s days when he wasn’t as happy about our move to the beach as he is today. Five of them have been together since 13’s, and seven of them since they were 14…and the rest have been welcomed with open arms, adding levels of talent, discipline, and heart from both the court and the bench. Knowing how fast a year goes, and how quickly things can change, I wanted to take the ride home last night and this morning to sit with the feeling. These boys hold a special place in my heart and will for the rest of my life. Long after volleyball, this group will remember their triumphs and struggles together as a team, this is their first fraternity.
Way to get up and show up boys…not just the last four days, but on the days you didn’t feel like it, on the days when you felt like it wasn’t fair, or the ball didn’t do what you thought it should, or when you missed out on something fun going on outside the gym. Yes, there is a balance, but gold medals don’t come easy, with the vision and grit you have shown, you guys deserve this one. It’s both a privilege and a grind to play at this spectacular level.
With all the talent on display at this amazing tournament, mindset made the difference. I hope you guys are sitting back this morning, resting happily, knowing that you took your best out there and left it all on the court…boy was it golden in every way. Take a day or two, enjoy it, and then get back at it, whether that’s in volleyball or in life, because in the end, they aren’t really all that different.
The sounds and feels of summer…waves, crowds, traffic, and warmer water to jump in after volleyball. The ocean serves as the cheapest and most efficient ice bath for the aches and pains that have to be tended to to live to play another day. Then there is the sight of seeing Matthew paddling out or stand up on his board, something that the long wet winter had me wondering if we would ever see again. Summer also means tutoring for him. To stay sharp, he needs lots of repetition as we work to improve those frontal lobe executive functioning skills that came more naturally to his sisters and his brother. He’s aware of it, and he’s searching for what he is good at, and that process tugs at my heart strings when he gets frustrated. So much of the time I think his mind works differently than mine or my other kids, but hearing him articulate what he is searching for makes me realize that in many ways his path is the same as mine.
I overheard him chatting with his tutor the other day, they were working on math, but he knew a little bit about her schedule and asked her questions about her travels the week before. His questions were engaging and focused on her experience, not his, he was genuinely curious.
It’s actually moments like these, not when they are going through common denominators, but when he is engaged on an emotional level that I know we have a good learning connection.
I told her, if he is relaxed enough to ask you questions like that, then he can learn. Getting him out of fight or flight is the key to the educational stuff sinking in, it also makes me realize that I am far more concerned about raising a kid who cares about other people than how fast he can finish a math worksheet. Not to say I’m letting him off the hook on that, but the bonds he creates with other kind humans and learning how to connect with the goodness that comes from them is something that what will help him find his successful process in his life.
There are three things that have been at the center of my own path the last few years that have helped me define my process. The first thing was finding calm. I have learned, through lots of self reflection and yoga, that I spent way too much time in fight or flight mode. I called it “waiting for the shoe to drop”. When I think back to the jumpy feeling that was almost always with me, that I spent so much energy masking while I projected outward calm, while my insides were anything but, I realize now that I could never accomplish what I want to in this life in that state. Too much energy was going into just trying to survive. Fight or flight isn’t an age thing, it’s a human thing, and we have to train it. As I have learned to calm my own nervous system, I have new techniques for calming his.
Yoga brought my feet to a grounded path, and my mind to a still place where I could connect with the sensation of feeling safe in my surroundings, and then begin to trust that I could handle what was coming next without having to anticipate it.
I also have wrapped my head around the concept that it’s ok, and in fact maybe even better, for my path to look different that others.. Letting go of expectation has been one of the most freeing feelings in walking my own road. It has made me self reliant in a way that builds my strength and confidence, helped free me of guilt and shame, and quieted that voice of “I screwed up” so that I could have the energy to define and create my own success. Our uniqueness is what makes the world an interesting place, and success is not something that comes in one form. Free yourself of other peoples expectations and go after your dream in the present…it will lead you to the most beautiful moments of flow. And then we build on those.
As I have let go of expectations, I am also learning to let go of other people’s judgment and what they may (or may not) think of my path. As a recovering people pleaser, this one is the hardest. It’s an exercise both in not giving credence to other people’s judgment, which is definitely there, but also in realizing that they aren’t thinking about your path as much as I may have originally thought. We all have so much on our plates, most often, people are concentrating on that, and judging the next step you make really isn’t high on their priority list. Either way, the opinions of the masses are something we have to learn to set aside when we know the goals we have for ourselves, and are trying to crush them. If I let perceived judgment scare me, or slow me down, it produces the heaviest energy in my day, limiting the progress I make on the course I have set out for myself. Success is built on putting your head down and believing in yourself, no matter what other people are or aren’t thinking about you. So if you think about it, either way it doesn’t matter!
The gift of being a parent is that what I learn about myself in this beautiful and challenging life, I get to use to teach my kids as they learn to navigate their own life paths. It turns out, Matthew’s words to me about trying to find what he is good at aren’t any different than what I am looking for in my own days. I am helping him define his process, and I get to be the one who teaches him to find calm, realize that his path is unique, even beautifully unconventional, and that what the masses think about it really doesn’t factor into the discovery.
Life is life, and the process isn’t all that different at any age.
My job isn’t to worry, it’s to use what I have learned to teach him to be brave enough to wrestle with the questions life presents and develop a consistent process to get them answered. Then he can press forward on his path. Safety, love, and hard work…I am confident I can teach him what it feels like to feel all three, so that even if the waves toss us around a bit, we can learn to emerge standing on our own two feet.
Find calm in the chaos…these words go through my head multiple times per day. Text messages, emails, calls, voicemails, to do lists, goals, kids, social media, ideas, writing, so often it feels like it is all hitting at once and that everyone and everything needs an answer in 10 minutes or less. But, that expectation is a state of mind. Calm is learning to reframe, take things in on our own timing, not as the world gives them to us. We all used to have to wait a lot longer before the age of Amazon Prime same day delivery and insta everything…and we were ok. Sometimes I think that everything that is being done to speed up our process in the name of efficiency and time management is chipping away at our calm. Even ATM’s have order ahead service now!
If you have read any part of my blog before, you know that yoga has been a major game changer in my life. I like to think that sports toughened me up which, quite honestly, was necessary, but yoga taught me how to slow down and enjoy my life. As I unitask my way through my days (if you are wondering, unitask is the opposite of multitask) I encounter someone almost every day who, through some shared experience that we have, comments on my state of calm. Whether it’s finding out I have four kids, or having to wait a little extra time for an appointment, when we talk and exchange stories, they say
“But you’re so calm.”
It’s pretty ironic considering the way I started out in this life. Loud noises like the air brakes on a school bus, the compactor on the trash truck, sirens, or fireworks felt like they left an imprint on my soul. I think I wore ear plugs on the 4th of July until I was 10. I remember trying to anticipate what was coming next so that I didn’t get surprised by anything. I lived like that for a long time…anxious and waiting for the shoe to drop, and worse, trying to disguise that anxiousness under the mask of calm. The good thing now is that I can feel the difference between the mask and the real thing.
Real calm is slow, it’s present, it’s focused and sure. It’s comfortable in our own skin, even when the circumstances are uncomfortable. Calm allows us have our own place and know that it’s ok to take up as much space in this world as anyone else. Calm brings peace to our process and helps us let go of the need to control any outcomes. Calm silences the outside voices and helps us hear our own clearly. It lets us trust our gut and do the next right thing. It’s where we can drop the multitasking and settle into our routine, and trust that it all will get done in the best time with a sure and steady hand. It creates flow in the routine of regular life, and then we find success on whatever stage we seek.
Aside from our greater goals, it is stabilizing for my soul to encounter people who find calm and flow in regular life because regular life is my favorite. I find a lot of joy in the mundane, like choosing my coffee mug every morning or my favorite chamomile tea. As I stood on the beach in Santa Cruz this past weekend, there was calm in observing the joy that our hosts found in hospitality. Two grills, tons of meat, and such ease in the preparation and serving of a casual meal in a beautiful scene. Their choice to make it seem easy to haul everything down there and create this relaxed and gracious scene made a memory for me and my kids that we won’t forget. Nothing fancy, but there was legitimate work involved and there wasn’t an ounce of hardship expressed. I love people who find calm instead of complaint in the work…it radiates to everyone around and, in this case, we got to sit back, exchange stories, and take in the blue sky and surf and be taken care of by these wonderful friends. There aren’t many people in my life who give me this easy feeling, to feel the true appreciation I have for being taken care of, but this crew makes it so easy, it’s hard to imagine a way I can repay them.
The calm I feel today is real, and knowing what my nervous system feels like in this peaceful place is a blessing and a source of productive strength. When we know ourselves well, we can choose what feeds our soul. For some it’s excitement, crowds and the next big party but for me it is calm that allows me to find my flow…and I’m feeling more in the zone with every day that passes.
I sat on my striped towel, behind the scene, I even snapped a photo of the picture being taken. The kids all lined up for their annual summer shoot, the 15th summer in a row…mine weren’t in the line, I was there alone, and even though for the past two summers I couldn’t make this trip happily, this time I chose to come, alone, and I was ok. I was grateful. Grateful for downtime, bonds of friendship that have lasted 15 summers (actually longer), to see kids who were in infant seats together before they head off to college. I was grateful for a calm that I didn’t know existed, the ability I have to jump in the car and take a two day trip up the coast on a moments notice, and most of all my outlook…an optimistic one that in part comes naturally, but also that I have worked hard to make solid. It’s the best feeling to know that life has changed, something that most of us as humans have a pretty serious aversion to, and I’m ok.
Healing takes a lot of reflection, a lot of learning to work from what is, instead of what isn’t.
It’s not about ignoring feelings when they come up, like they did when I went to meet my two friends (who are married) for coffee on Sunday morning. When I got there they were already sitting down, but Kent quickly gave up his chair for me and went to stand in the long coffee line, asked me a couple of times for my order because he wanted my coffee to be right, and brought it back to me. The gesture brought tears to my eyes…it’s nice to be taken care of and I appreciated it to my core. But when I bring the optimist’s lens back into focus and let it pan out over the expanse that is my life, those little tugs at my heart strings are just that, because I know where I sit in the bigger picture, and I like it. The deep calm that comes from knowing I am capable of taking care of myself is so empowering and I rest easy knowing that even if I don’t get the luxury of having my coffee brought to me often, I know I’m worthy of it on any day…no guilt, no weakness, no strings attached. And most days I’m happy to choose my own mug anyway.
When we work from what is, and don’t give our energy to what isn’t, we find our way, little by little. This is our ticket out of ‘victimville’.
An optimist’s lens gives us the energy to have the discipline that it takes to keep going. It helps us see that what isn’t there today, may well be there tomorrow, or in a week, or a month, or even a year if we commit to our process. And, when we commit, we find our calling, our uniqueness that we were meant to bring to the world.
If we go along, wishing to be like or have what we think everyone else has, how would we ever discover what fills us up, what brings us joy, and what we can bring to the world to make it a better place?
So to bring it back around, it’s not that I didn’t want my kids with me last weekend, they were missed and I would choose them any day of the week. What matters is knowing that the difference I was most afraid of, not having them with me all of the time, has come to pass, and I’m alright. Knowing that, I can apply those feelings to other things that scare me on this crazy journey and be confident that as long as I fight to keep my optimist’s lens, my way forward presents itself. As my dad told me just this week, the kids will be ok if you are. There is a lot of change, angst, and unknown coming down the pipeline, it’s a hallmark of parenting teenagers no matter what your circumstance, and I’m poised and ready to handle it with my sleeves rolled up and some rose colored glasses…because one doesn’t work without the other.
As far as my look goes, I have always been a naturalist. I’ve never been particularly good with makeup or hairstyles, ask my kids…my boys had shaved heads from the time they were three and my girls learned to do their own hair at a young age, or look slightly on the ragamuffin side wherever we arrived. On dance recital day (a very short lived period in our house) I used to send them down the street to Mrs. Schuh to have hair and makeup handled. So the other day, as I sat at the med-spa (a combination of businesses that I have only recently discovered) with a needle in my arm drawing blood to check my hormone levels, out of nowhere, a doctor swung around the corner and asked me:
“When are you going to let me take care of this?” as she pointed to the crease in between my eyebrows.
“I’ve always been natural.” I replied. “I like my expressions.”
“Well, it’s so deep, I don’t think I could get it all out anyway.” she quipped nonchalantly. As she walked away, she practically instructed the nurse to get me scheduled.
Wow. Aging. Hormones, wrinkles, injuries, bodies that work differently than they used to…and we have to decide what works for us. I don’t fault anyone for the choices they make for themselves and how they figure out getting and staying comfortable in their own skin, it’s an individual and daily process. But, as I continue to peel back layers of myself and let my ego and true self banter back and forth, for me, the way I feel continues to win out over the way I look.
I enjoy exercise…volleyball, yoga, swimming, lifting weights, because they make me feel strong and happy. I’ve had to figure out healthy ways to manage how I feel because I feel every little thing. Life as an empath is a bit like the Princess and the Pea. My body stores tension from life’s challenges and experiences and movement is healing.
What struck me from that brief exchange with the doctor was how little her opinion affected me. Yes, I am aware of the deep wisdom line I have between my eyebrows. Yes, I am aware that I don’t look the way I did when I was 20. Yes, I have my own thoughts about what bothers me about my face and body changing on certain days. But what I know, is that the dialogue is between my two ears…what she had to say to me didn’t matter, even a little. As my friends on the court this morning told me as I relayed my funny story, boy was she barking up the wrong tree. What a blessing to spend time around people who get me.
As I celebrated my daughter’s 19th and my mom’s 70th birthday last Sunday, I sat smack in the middle of their two ages, in my very own backyard, in a relaxed setting, hosting my family and friends and calm enough to just observe.
There is so much grace and beauty at any age if we live from the inside out with faith and consciousness. The good life starts in our soul, and our souls don’t wrinkle.
They strengthen when they learn from a challenge, when they choose to feel, instead of numb, they deepen with positive relationships based on mutual attraction, love, and respect. Our health and vitality is unified with our true self, our vanity is our ego. And ego always leaves us chasing something that is just beyond our reach. Being at the stage of life where you realize that life doesn’t all of the sudden start reversing itself, that there is no going back, can be scary some days. But forward with calm and conviction is turning out to be a beautifully imperfect, even wrinkled road…so we work from what is, and go with it.
And for now…I’m not scheduling that appointment.
Just a few years back someone asked me:
“If you could live anywhere, where would it be?”
Even by this point in my life, I had traveled the world, but I quickly answered,
“Fresno. I love it here.”
I loved my home, my family, my friends, my church, my kid’s schools, my routine...complete with friends to have coffee and wine with, a Masters swim team, and a coach that put his heart and soul into our workouts as though we were training for the Olympics.
The thing about sports in my life, is that they have been a great outlet, and also a huge source of regulation. I got the nickname Turbo from my marathon running friend Michael the day I showed up at a Saturday morning swim practice, mad as hell about something, and, at the end of a 3500 yard workout swam 20 100’s on the 1:05. Not bad for a 35 year old recreational swimmer - and I left all my rage in the pool. The first time I was able to recognize flow state was when we swam a race 100 at the end of practice, no dive, just a wall start, and it felt like i was gliding above the water and I finished with a 1:02. The thing is, all of these significant and meaningful memories to me, even dating back to high school all tournament teams, Valley Championship losses that no one except the players and the coach remember, and chalk full of goofball injuries like torn thumb ligaments and severely sprained ankles that have left me with almost no dorsiflexion in my right foot come without any fanfare or major championships. But it doesn’t mean that they didn’t help train a championship mentality.
The growth comes with the process, not the result.
Life teaches us the lessons that we are ready to learn. I wish I had the mindset that I have gained through my yoga practice in my younger athletic days. Yoga has taught me not to run from discomfort, like the kind you face when you want another breath racing for the wall but shouldn’t take. It teaches me not to attach to outcome, and let it define who the world thinks I am. Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to calm my overstimulated nervous system with my breath. I am not one of those athletes where nerves work in my favor. The calmer I am, the better the focus and the vision, and that comes with breath work. Wish I knew that fact a little younger.
Now, I’m raising my own athletes, and I get to use what I have learned to train them. There is a big difference between using my hard earned knowledge to parent and living vicariously through my kids athletic experiences and I check myself on it frequently. I consider myself lucky to still get so much joy from the sports I get to play at 44 and can separate that from any success or challenge my kids my face. Today, this idea of process over result mentality doesn’t always hold true in the world of single sport club athletes, scholarships, and coveted championships. I have nothing against winning...I actually like to win a lot, but, I know that the bigger lessons I have learned have come in the face of adversity, in learning to trust my own gut because of my ability to process life on a highly sensitive level, and feel comfortable in my skin. These are the things I want the younger generations to learn from their athletic careers, no matter where they take them.
My athletic journey has two distinct periods of time, the first was one of a timid, tall, athletic kid who was literally afraid to stand out. The second chapter of sports in my life started when I got cut from the Cal Poly Women’s Volleyball team.. As a late walk on at Cal Poly, I had very little leash to get injured. I had already missed my entire high school senior season because of that torn thumb ligament and was significantly behind in skill from my Southern California counterparts. Then that typical and terrible volley injury when someone comes under the net and I was the lucky one to come down from a block and land on her foot sidelined me...and ended my career. But, I got just enough college level experience before that fateful cut to feel how much I loved to work hard, get better, and feel the blissful endorphin payoff. So, I let that ankle heel and pretty much never missed a workout for the rest of my college days. Self motivated, I lifted weights, could run 10 miles with ease...I still miss those SLO backroads, and came to understand what exercise did for my body. I went on to run half marathons, one marathon (checked that one off the list) and swim in Masters swim meets and open water races, the latter while raising four little ones. And now I’m lucky enough to get to play beach volleyball multiple times a week.
Our bodies hold on to the stories of our life and we have to find healthy ways to release them. Four pregnancies, a near drowning for my youngest, autism, divorce, these are just some of the stories that my body has harnessed and I have learned to release through swimming fast, breathing deeply on my mat, and pounding volleyballs into the sand. They each serve a freeing and secure purpose in my life because I have learned that I am my only competition. I win when I find calm, trust my gut, and beat back fear by doing what I’m scared of. And I use my mind body connection to keep it all clear.
So, as I get ready to take my first born back to start her college athletic journey as a athlete on the TCU women’s beach volleyball team, and my second born goes through the recruiting process and I will drop him off at school in just a year’s time, the way I have learned to process and shape my experiences is paying off for the kids I have the honor and joy to raise. Our journeys are all connected, they don’t begin and end solely on our terms. We are meant to use our trials and hard fought wins and losses to help others find their own best story.
This is why I write, and speak. Sports has taught me a lot about how to live my life, but in recent years life has taught me how to get better at the sports that I still love to play. Today, the game is life…and I will settle for nothing less than my own championship.
I’m coming back on September 17, to my favorite neighborhood, at Fig Garden Swim and Raquet Club, a place that holds a special place in my heart, to talk about “The Game of Life”. Come join me in this conversation about how we build confidence, find flow, and live our best life on and off the court. Tickets are available at www.theoptimistsjournal.com
It’s hard to believe I’m done filling out permission slips for you. When I stare down the fact that we are leaving Tuesday…two tickets out, one ticket home, I can’t get rid of my chills. I’ve been so excited for you, I still am…you are about to experience one of the greatest privileges on this earth, a college education backed up by parents who love and have the ability to support you through it. It’s a gift, a protected world with the freedoms of adulthood but with a protected and safe place to land. It’s still one of the things I am most grateful to have had in my own life. Although you are about to be out on your own, making your way, I thought I would write you one more permission slip to take with you on this journey.
Date: 8/19 - 6/23
I give permission for Lauren Turner to have the time of her life
on (date) 8/19 to 6/23.
Wendy Jones (Mom)
Comments & Notes
Give it time. It may not feel like this new environment fits like a glove right away. It may be uncomfortable, you will get homesick for your bed, home cooked meals, easier ways to do laundry, your siblings and your parents, and the routine that you have done such a beautiful job building. Give this new routine a chance, when we learn to sink into the uncomfortable, we grow, learn, and develop a broad perspective. There are so many ways to make life beautiful, give yourself time to find it there.
Make friends with people with different points of view than your own. This world is begging for tolerance and understanding. We all come from different upbringings and traditions of thought. Learn to share yours humbly and more importantly sit back and listen to what other people have experienced. Give them a space to speak their mind, you never know what you will learn that will add to your own experience and perspective.
Seek solitude and breathe. Find an empty church, a yoga class, or somewhere out in nature to be by yourself with your own thoughts. Dorm life, team life, full classes, and busy schedules are the bulk of your routine, but the younger you master the art of quieting your mind, the sooner you will realize that you are in charge of your own destiny. Solitude connects us to the present moment, settles anxiety, and reconnects us to our mind, body, and spirit. Then we learn to bring that peace into the busyness of our life.
Change your mind. You can be good at a thousand different things. You are young and the farthest thing from locked into a path. You don’t have to define that path today, just pay attention to what you attract. To quote my beautiful little card from yoga this morning, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it’s happens for you.” You have the skills to figure out where you want to go, whatever you treat with consistency and commitment will become your life, so take the time to choose that path and let it wander to match your heart and mind.
Help yourself first. There will be many requests, from friends, roommates & people along the way, but we are more useful to others when we have learned to take care of ourselves first. It’s not selfish. It allows us to give from a place of abundance and shows us the balance of what we truly have to give without burning out.
Define who you are away from your family. Have those conversations that go way into the night with roommates and friends that become your second family. Be vulnerable, share what you think about the world and life, and you will form bonds that you will have for the rest of your days. The friends I made in these times of my life I can call anytime, ask them anything, and they have my back. The power of those friendships is possibly greater than even the degree I received.
Work through fear, shame, and doubt. I wish I had known earlier in life that these are normal feelings for every human being. There isn’t a perfect one among us, we all make mistakes, we all have things we wish we would have done differently or better. So fear, shame, and doubt are not things that are meant to hold us back and make our lives small. They are merely things that connect us as human beings. Although these emotions are always present in our lives, when we learn to wrestle with them, we break through, assign them their proper place in our mind and heart and, only then, are we able to use our intuition and see life through the lens of love, truth, and connection. This is the kind of maturity that will make your life joyously full.
Take care of your body. You are young and your body will forgive you, but the habits you create now will lead you forward. You already know the power of endorphins, but sleep, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body on a daily basis is important in the years to come. It’s so much easier later if you get a jump on it now.
Don’t be afraid of attention, you are so worthy of it. You are amazing, and you will attract attention because of the joy and kindness you express when you are going after life. Be confident, don’t shy away from it. Keep being you and be comfortable with the attention that you draw from that. Surround yourself with people who want to see you shine, and your light will burn brighter and brighter and light your path forward.
Master the disappearing act. People will want you to stay, but only you know when it’s time to go home. Establish a buddy system, share your Uber log in with a trusted friend and get home safely. But when it’s time to go, don’t be afraid to pull the ripcord. You’ll thank yourself for it in the morning.
Use your jiujitsu if you must, you learned it for a reason. You are the strongest girl I know, mentally and physically, and you are your own first line of defense. God willing, you will never have to use these skills, but, in the event that you do, don’t be afraid to fight back the way that you were taught. You are a precious commodity that deserves every protection, starting with the knowledge and physical skill you earned yourself. You are my 2.0 in toughness for sure.
You no longer need permission, the greatest responsibility of your life is to know yourself so well that you can understand the choices to make to optimize this beautiful thing we call a lifetime. Autonomy comes with responsibility and you are ready. It’s been my greatest joy to get you to this moment, so, while you no longer need my permission slip, you will always have my heart, no matter where your path may take you. Now, go have the time of your life.
There’s an article about me from 1988 in the Fresno Bee in my file. The headline reads:
“Shy, demure Jones can’t help but draw attention.”
I remember being embarrassed as I read it. It’s always been hard for me to take a compliment, and I see the same tendency in my youngest. I attribute that to spending a lot of my life not feeling I lived up to what other people saw in me. I didn’t recognize my own gifts and attributes from an early age. As I reflect on what I’ve learned, I realize that this lack of confidence left me looking for validation or permission to live my life according to my own plan. And now I’m writing a book about it; reflections on what has worked to help me find calm, and confidence, and get closer to making my insides match my outsides…always a work in progress. Although there is no timeline on accomplishment, there are rites of passage (like sitting and writing in your daughter’s dorm room!) that make me realize my own mortality and know that there is no time like the present when it comes to accomplishing goals.
“Does bringing me here make you feel old mom?” she asked as we navigated the streets of Fort Worth between Target and The Container Store.
“Kind of…but I don’t have the mindset to feel old because there is still so much I want to do.” I said. And this book is at the top of that list.
Born a rule follower and people pleaser, I didn’t know the power of autonomy and the truth that if we are willing to work consistently at something, then what we want is ours to create. I didn’t know that I would have to get over other people’s expectations, my own insecurity, jealousy (which stems from another’s insecurities), fear of failure, imposter syndrome…the list goes on and on. And yet, when I sat back and thought about it, the way around all of these roadblocks to grant yourself permission to follow your own path. And if we don’t, we lose that connection with our true self, and start showing up quieter and more subdued in our own life…not good for ourselves or the people around us.
For quite awhile, I have been interested in generational learning, how we use our own memories and self awareness to pass down our stories to teach and hopefully make life more beautiful because of what we learn through that process. We could avoid so many patterns of abuse and addiction if we understood our worth and attachment styles that correlate with our family stories. No right or wrong, just indelible marks left on little human spirits that we had no control over but that we have to learn to work with so we don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause pain for ourselves and the people we love. How we process these stories and life patterns matters for our own happiness and the little people (that turn into big people) that we get to raise.
Starting 19 years ago (man, that sounds crazy) and over a seven year span, I was blessed with four beautiful children. As I went through those formative years, I put my heart and soul into raising good humans. My goal with these four little lives wasn’t to turn them into scholars or athletes or some version of perfect that I wanted them to be. I had found my calling because these little people had my heart and I felt so lucky to be able to teach them my secrets of life, before I had the courage to talk about what I thought to the world. I wanted to teach them to have confidence that I didn’t even have for myself. Confidence is interesting, it can show up in certain settings, come and go with circumstances, and definitely disappear at the most inopportune times. And although I have lacked it in some places, I felt it from day one as a mom, I was only 25 and I’m not even close to done yet!
Maybe the days passed slowly for awhile as I changed their diapers and took them to Target, but as they say, the days go slow and the years move fast and looking back, even in those early days, the patterns and philosophies were taking shape. From early on, I looked for the value I was trying to teach with any specific scenario that arose, whether it was kindness, honesty, bravery, or many other important virtues that make strong character, I saw both what was facing me in the moment and the bigger picture that was the training ground of life for them. I believed in teaching them black and white, right and wrong young to give them a stable base so when the shades of gray creep in later in life, they have the grounding principles to see the way through, the attachment to know that they are valued and enough, and the grace and forgiveness that is needed to evolve when things don’t go the way you planned.
These days, because I have come through an evolution of my own, they can’t quite pin me down on the black and white “rules”. Because I have the confidence today to know I am grounded in strong faith and principles, I hold much looser to the expectation of what “should be”, work from what is, and know that although I have learned so much, I have also taught a few things in this life. I know my intentions, how I want to be treated, and treat others the same way.
As I leave Lauren in Texas, I realize sometimes it’s not the deepest thoughts that make the impression by this age, it’s our actions that they watch and the simple things that have been sinking in for years that make a lasting impact. She packed all of her own bags to get here and, as we organized in her new dorm room, we set up a bin full of exercise bands and rollers, an essential oils diffuser and lavender oil, and her first request for groceries was oatmeal and peanut butter - because she knows that any meal can be happily replaced with those two things. We had conversations about mental strength, what we can become, introversion, extroversion, and validation, that surpassed anything I knew at her age, and talked about where she would find a church (there are plenty around here). She knows how to care for her mind, body, and spirit and has the confidence to be herself. And knowing I raised a kid who knows these things gives me confidence that the goal I set almost 20 years ago has been attained. No more shy and demure…the process of raising her, and seeing what she has become, inspires me to be what more of what I want to be and today I have the confidence to do it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
True and both such good things. Height carries status that I will train you to feel worthy of. Stand tall and be proud. The best thing that comes from hard work is the confidence you build in yourself. No comparisons, just commit to your process and your hard work will lead you where you are supposed to go.
I wonder what I will be when I grow up.
You are looking for where your passion and talents lie. Don’t be afraid to try and fail, it helps us check things off the list that weren’t meant for us, and we build strength through the process of trial and error. I promise I will continue to nurture your interests and guide you on the path to find your calling.
I hear my mom encouraging me.
I’m glad you do Bubs, it comes naturally to me, and it’s a gift to be here to guide you. My greatest hope is that you believe me and use my encouragement to know what you are capable of on your own.
I see an amazing beach.
You are so blessed to live where you do. It’s a dream, don’t take it for granted. Get into that ocean every chance you get. Nothing calms the mind better than the water.
I want to be a pro surfer.
Don’t be afraid to set goals, but know that the action plan to attain them falls on you. I can support you, but in the end, it’s your action that will make your dreams come true.
I am tall, smart.
You will be the tallest in our family. No small feat and pretty cool. Don’t be afraid to take up that space. You are smart, but more importantly, you are wise. Wise comes with intuition, with allowing what you take in to move, mold, and change you. Keep doing that, don’t play it safe when it comes to feeling things. Acknowledge and express, that’s the smartest thing you can do.
I pretend to be the pro surfer of the world.
Visualize. It’s so powerful and helps create a space to belong in your grandest vision. Use your imagination to create your reality. Sink into it and believe, then back it up with your game plan.
I feel worried when I do something wrong.
Oh Bubs, I’m sorry, I think you got this one from me. I get it, but I’ve learned. Shift your focus to what you do right, focus on your “enoughness”. As long as we learn and survive them, there are no mistakes. Don’t let the guilt or shame take over and rob you of the energy you need to grow. We are made of so much goodness, it’s only when we fail to reflect do we miss what a mistake was supposed to teach us.
I worry when I get bad grades.
Work hard and don’t quit. The rest will figure itself out. Sometimes we don’t bloom the first place we are planted, but if we are smart, like you are, we figure out why. And there are so many ways to measure what we learn, grades are just one of them.
I cry when I do something wrong.
My biggest goal is to help you feel safe in this world. It’s the basis of all learning and connection, things I want you to experience that make life beautiful. When you don’t feel safe, it’s hard to regulate your emotions, that’s why I try to teach you to breath and slow down…then those impulses won’t jump up on you the way they sometimes do.
I am tall and hardworking.
Stand tall and work to connect. I know it’s hard, I know people can be unkind but your intuition is nails and always tells you when it’s worth it, so trust that. The best people take the time to understand, and it only takes a few to form the tightest circle. You already have that with your family and you get to choose who gets in from there.
I understand my parents well.
I’m sure you do. You are a mystical creature and far more observant that most people notice. Always use your understanding to find compassion for difficult situations, but let me help you build the boundaries so that you know what to give energy to, and when it is best to just let go.
I say I dream that my mom and dad will get along.
Don’t worry Bubs, you are not responsible, and I am just choosing my energy. What you interpret as conflict, is just me knowing how to fill myself up so that real healing takes place. Surround yourself with what fills you up, live inspired, not obligated, and your energy will not fall short. Then you can inspire, forgive, and help others from a place of abundance.
I dream that I will do something amazing one day.
You don’t recognize yet that you do amazing things every day. You tackle things that scare you and have learned to breathe through the overwhelm that life can bring. You have gone from the bottom of the pool to surfing in the Pacific Ocean. You are a miracle.
I try to do my best in school.
And your teachers see it every day. It is the thread that runs through every conversation I have with any of your them. Work hard, don’t compare yourself. Remember we all have different brains and yours is beautiful.
I hope I get really famous one day.
Follow your heart and you’ll be famous with the right people. That’s all that matters in the end. Fame does not equal fulfillment or even happiness, just ask Elton John. Everyone wants acknowledgment at some point, I am here to give it to you. Keep talking to me.
I am tall, hardworking
Be proud of who you are and keep working. The way we speak to ourselves defines our path. Keep telling yourself, stand tall, work hard. Your life is going to be more than good. I understand you Bubs, and you inspire me.
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.
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.
* 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 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.
Most memories these days feel like they happened a lifetime ago and then in the next moment, like it was last week. That’s what living on campus in married housing (what?) at Stanford University feels like to me. I hadn’t thought about it in so long, but the news that I have a kid that will be playing volleyball there next year has brought back more than a few thoughts. Mad About You and Seinfeld were mainstays, as was Marie Callendar’s and Mr. Chow’s Chinese food (neither of which I would choose today) and early Sunday morning trips to do laundry when the laundromat wasn’t crowded were my thing. Even though I pretty much hated my job and missed my college life at Cal Poly SLO like crazy, now I look back on those days with nostalgia, because silver linings are even easier to find with the benefit of hindsight. Early morning runs around Lake Lagunita and hikes to the dish are among my favorite memories. Years later, we added to these memories taking the kids to football games as they learned the value that traditions bring to higher education and planted this dream of going to Stanford in Luke’s mind.
When my marriage ended, those friendships I made with people from that era were something that I mourned. It’s just a normal part of moving on, no hard feelings, just the way hers and his relationships work. But the idea that the next generation of my family will create their own memories allows me to build a new relationship with a place that still holds a special place in my heart.
We don’t have to hold tightly to things, relationships, and places in time that were important to us because if they are meant to be in our lives, they will find their way back.
As parents, the experiences of our children are not our own, but they have such an intimate relationship with our own lives. Last night, I saw Luke in person for the first time since he got the call from the coach. As I stood in my driveway and hugged his giant 6’5 inch frame, all the memories connected like magnets on his Thomas the Train sets he played with for hours when he was little. How did we get to this moment? A lot of toughness, patience, learning, hard work, and optimism…and trusting in the infinite wisdom that these values add to life.
The challenges build our strength, but moments like these are what we hang onto to breathe energy into our lives.
Luke I’m so proud of you. You earned every bit of this opportunity and now the test is to double down on the hard work and find joy in the journey. Everything in me tells me you will. Thank you for helping me expand and evolve my relationship with my memories of old and always creating new things that bring so much joy and meaning to this road that looks different, but is still so beautiful. Glad I get to visit you on the west coast.
I guess I’m a little preoccupied with time these days, how I spend it, where it goes, how to get the most out of every minute. As I stood watching Lauren’s beach practice this morning, I counted my blessings that I still get to do what she’s doing, in some form, with a few more aches and a lot more warm up necessary. Sometimes I’m hard on myself as I try to grow my writing and coaching business but instead I am headed out to play. I should be writing, learning, looking for new coaching opportunities. I stop myself though. Volleyball brings me so many things… joy, connection, new neural pathways, challenge, and all of this equals sustainable growth and energy to stay consistent with the work it takes to find the next step to deep meaning in life, and then the vocation comes from there.
Lauren introduced me to the grad assistant/player on their team… a real human, newly engaged, 25 year old athlete, and we chatted about her major and what she wants to do in this life. As she walked away, I glanced at Lauren, looking almost as mature and the same as this player…
“I was her age when I had you.” I said, filled with disbelief.
At that age, I was filled with so much naive optimism, and looking back on it, so much desire to control outcomes. I lived carefully thinking I could keep it all on track with my good deeds and carefully assessed plan of action. I didn’t know at that age that the freedom I was looking for lies in surrendering to the outcome in any situation and committing relentlessly to my process.
And now we’re sitting here, twenty years passed in a flash and my life looking so different than I had envisioned at 25. It blows my mind. My confidence has wavered over the years and my sense of urgency has been challenged as I build a business realizing I have spent the better part of these last 20 years being “just a mom”. But then, in this moment, sitting here with her, I am filled with the biggest sense of meaning and accomplishment. She’s confident, coachable, real, and has a strong sense of herself. She makes mistakes but doesn’t let them define her, we talk about them openly, she has empathy for the situations going on around her, and she trusts her gut first.
One of the greatest gifts of parenting is to see qualities in your kids emerge that took you a little longer to figure out.
After spending a day in Seattle on Friday with Compete to Create, I’m chewing on the wisdom that I have gained over the past five years listening to the Finding Mastery podcast and seeing the threads of that podcast be stitched together over this amazing eight hour conversation how the best version of ourselves is grounded in a mindful life .
Awareness is the double edge sword of tragedy and challenge. We learn much more about ourselves when the going gets tough than when everything is coming up roses.
The mindful life is full of reframing, and one of the silver linings I have found is that as much as we don’t want to see people in pain, especially our own children, there is a genuine reality that comes through a person’s eyes when they have been tested and emerged stronger. I spent most of my young life, definitely the part when I was Lauren’s age, thinking I wasn’t tough enough to handle hard, waiting for the shoe to drop, maybe even looking for someone to take care of me because I wasn’t so sure I would be able to do it myself. I’ve worked through a lot of guilt having put my kids through a divorce and watching them navigate pain, of course with guidance, but it’s difficult nonetheless. What I see emerging, from my optimists perspective, especially out of my two oldest who are so close to adulthood, is an empathetic understanding that people struggle and yet are also capable of so much. They see what it takes to surrender what they can’t control, acknowledge their feelings even when it’s hard, and work from what is. Although they are still teenagers, the capacity I have seen them gain to meet people where they are will serve them for the rest of their lives.
I’ve said it before, I wish there was something that inspires growth the way pain does, but to date I haven’t found it. So even though I fight loneliness on this road that I’m on, and the fear that I won’t find the deepest connection that I am looking for, the real meaning, and the example I want to live is found in the surrender to my story, trusting my gut and seeing where it leads, and knowing that through pain, I am proud of what has emerged. So today I resolve to keep spending my time the way I have been and stay committed to my process, I’m proud of what I see.
Life is messy, but so good in so many moments. Be present, lean in, and trust the process.
Flow State: “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.” - positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi
As soon as I knelt down and looked into her sweet, squishy little face, I realized how long it had been since I had to do this with my own, but how natural it still felt. One of my favorite yogis of all time, Jeri, was standing at the Strand wall, watching us play volleyball, and being exactly the grandma I knew she would be with her darling little Krikit girl. Jeri weaves the concept of flow into her awesome stories as she teaches yoga and the connection I have found in her class and with her is deep and magical, just like she is. It’s amazing how easy connection can be found in the eyes of a child, especially one who is being infused with Jeri’s brand of presence, as her smart little toddler self commented on the color of my bathing suit and pointed out the awesomeness of the tractors pushing sand all over the beach. Intuitively, I knew this the first time I looked into my baby’s eyes, when I was still a baby myself, and Krikit took me back to those moments. There have been so many things over my life that have made me shake with nervousness and feel unsure of who I was, but for some reason being a parent was never one of them. Call it the naivety of youth, or a true calling, and even though the job has more ups and downs than the streets of San Francisco, I wouldn’t trade it for anything…and why I’m so grateful I have four of them.
All around me, people are still having babies…some my age, some much younger, and I have already sent one off to college, and I’ll send another one next year. I will still have two at home for a couple more years and then it will be down to just one. Any way I look at it, in less than seven years I will have four kids out in the world. When they were tiny, and they physically needed me so much of the time, and I had to invent things to do everyday to bridge the gap between nap times, the days passed slower.
The older they get though, parent years are like the reverse of dog years, so seven years is really like one.
All of these memories, and the reality of both what has passed and what lies ahead, has me thinking about creating flow in my parenting and breaking down in my mind what was important at each stage to get to where we are today. I think like this because I am proud of where we are, but also to be mindful and focus on what lies ahead.
I can feel it in my heart and deep into the marrow of my bones that there are challenges ahead that press on the edges of the most difficult realities of this life. What gives our lives value is how we challenge the depths of our potential and wrestle with intimacy and vulnerability in a way that brings our healthiest and fullest selves forward, with pride and conviction about the way we live and who we are.
Teaching this to them is my path and it that will take all of my strength, faith, and presence to navigate it. Still, parenting has given me moments of flow that I have never felt on any other stage, and these moments have built my confidence and optimism to handle what will come.
It started young, when I had to get down on their level, look them in the eye and take the time to see what they cared about, and then show them I cared too. The later years are all about building on that.
As I reflect on the last 20 years that started with that extra pink line on the test, the years begin to fall into three categories:
The early, physical years (one to seven)
The focus is building what I call the base…safety, love, and connection. This is the foundation of everything that creates those moments of flow, even when you are sleep deprived, and in up to your eyeballs in the monotony of schedule and routine. I remember sinking into the solitude at 3am as I sat nursing Kate, my third, because I could attend to just one thing, feeding her, without any other distraction, knowing that the other two were sleeping soundly. Unitasking is paramount in parenting and also a cornerstone of the mindful life, even if it’s just for brief moments because there are always more things that can be done…but my best moments were, and still are, one on one.
The Wonder Years (eight to seventeen)
As the years passed and the social and emotional picture got more complex, I realized that we have to possess the skills that we want to teach them, so the work we do on ourselves, and letting them see that work, is important. Parenting is so much more about what we do than what we say. I’ve challenged myself to sink into the imperfect, the realness of life. If something is wounded, let it bleed, and then show them how to heal it by doing what we love to do, staying present, and doing the hard work on ourselves that growth requires. Teach them that consciously out is better than holding it in…because eventually it always comes out somehow and I would hope that it doesn’t take the form of passive-aggressive words or a pessimistic outlook on what can be a beautiful life. I work to inspire health through each deep breath that I take and pray that they will feel the calm that it brings. I am teaching them to ride that line between contentment in the present, and striving to achieve what we know is ours to have in this life if we are willing to do the work.
That doesn’t look like attending to their every need at this point, sometimes it looks more like me peeling off and doing what fills me up while they support each other. It’s giving them time to figure out a solution before I give them mine, and asking them to consider each other, because we all get lonely or need a hand sometimes and that’s what deep connection is all about.
We also use music to connect. I’ve used my speaker more than once to pull one of my introverts out of their room with their favorite song or Broadway musical. If you listen to what they choose, it can tell you a lot about what’s going on in their head without them having to say it. Just this week, as I was being schooled on the talents of Drake by my 12 year old Matthew, he changed course and queued a song I wasn’t expecting as he, his sister, and I cruised on the freeway. Lauren Daigle, You Say…
one of my favorites when I’m not feeling all of myself. With his choice, I got further confirmation, of how he’s feeling, the challenges he faces, and the hope he is beginning to know is there on his hardest days. He has the sense to let the good stuff sink in and that’s what optimism in the face of adversity is all about.
Growing Into Friendship - college until forever
I’ve only been at this stage for two months, it’s definitely not a point of arrival, but I think that is true of most places we go in life. These conversations, mostly over the phone, sometimes on FaceTime or in person, are where I’ve had the chance to see what has sunk in. Seeing the conviction she has, not to get it all right, but to live her life and make an impact, when she has so much freedom inspires me with what I want to stay with for the younger ones. I want to bottle up the words that come out of her mouth as inspiration for my own life and writing, and then I see my influence in what she says . There is no exam, but I know she gets it. I know it because of the songs she sends me, her ability to charge forward and fight a little harder for herself when things get tough, and most importantly her understanding of who she is…strong, optimistic, independent, coachable, and most importantly confident. As much as I like to say she raised herself, and I just fed her and drove her around, I know today that these qualities were nurtured in those moments of flow, when I took the time to get down on her level and care about what she cared about.
Parenting is never underestimating the power of the simple moment to create flow. I no longer have to kneel down to connect with them, today it’s in a hug where I am reaching up or across a booth in a favorite restaurant. Even though the position has changed they know that I care about what they care about and the flow will always come from there.
“Loam Soils - Loam can be found in valleys and flat areas, such as flood plains surrounding rivers and streams. The term loam refers to soil with a favorable mix of sand and clay. It is relatively fertile and holds moisture well, but loam soils may require the addition of organic matter.”
My family farms in the Central Valley of California, in some heavy clay soils, and has for three generations. Although I wasn’t much into learning these soil properties in school, I have been researching them again lately with a distinct metaphor in my head. Yesterday, I googled ‘soil characteristics’ and clicked on California and ‘loam soil’ was the first definition tot come up. Soil Science was my least favorite class as an Agribusiness major at Cal Poly SLO, but some of it has stuck with me nonetheless. When I read this description, it made me laugh, because it’s pretty much sums up my human goal in soil science terms:
To be versatile, and encourage growth based on what I can hold onto , let go of,
and share, with the environment that is growing around me.
On a down day, I fight the feeling that my life has been such a random path for a traditional person like me, and I struggle to see the connections that brought a Agribusiness major, with a bigger passion for growing people instead of plants (but really, who knows this at 20) to the ocean, to become a writer. And while there is a lot more to soil science than this one definition, my writer self sees soil types - the clays, loams, and sands, in the qualities of the people that live with that soil under their feet…like a direct transfer of properties from the earth underneath us.
Clay holds tight to what is put into it, in its case water and nutrients, but sometimes too tight, not allowing it to drain and the root gets suffocated. Sand retains the least amount of water, is also easily replenished, but often what is important to growth leaches out very quickly, so it needs additions and attention in a very steady supply.
Agriculture is a tough but beautiful life. I have a deep admiration for the people who sustain it year in and year out. The risks are high, and it takes a rugged, even entrenched personality, to survive for generations. The people that run these businesses that feed the world have learned generation after generation to hold tight to their principles, sometimes even to their own detriment, for the value of the greater good. They don’t give in, ever. Tradition, loyalty, and optimism are at the heart of their core values, and getting them to change course is an extremely slow, arduous process, because they always believe that the best is yet to come, and they build deep sustaining energy from that place. Consultants have made entire careers out of getting these heavy clay folks to evolve to a new plan. What they do is who they are, it’s one identity. Being a farmer isn’t just a job where you clock in and clock out. It’s 24/7 live it, breathe it, work it…consistency at all costs.
For the past seven years, I’ve lived among the beach people, and would say in so many ways have become one of them. I am pulled into the ocean to swim and let the salt water wash away whatever is ailing me. Since the first time I smelled the briny ocean air as a kid, it has been a part of me. The closer I get to it, the calmer I become…it heals me mind, body, and soul. Since I became a full time beach person, the days pass quickly, and change is a constant. Things that I held so dear slipped through my fingers like the sand I get to play in everyday.
There is a beauty to this life though, because I have learned to let go, and not hang on to everything, like the heavy clay, because sometimes what we hang on to is curbing our growth and our destiny. For most of the beach people I know, their job is a means to an end, and the end is to live this beautiful life on the sand…and it’s hard to for me to knock that, because it’s working for me too.
I think the challenge as we progress through life is to figure out what to learn from the ebb and flow of holding on and letting go. I am so grateful to have had a life with my feet in both of these soils and my dream is to use these parts of me to create a beautiful loamy ribbon that produces fruit.. I’ve been blessed to have deep roots in heavy soil that taught me the values that I hold onto, and the lightness of the sand that gives me the freedom to be who I am today. And there is another non scientific four letter word for that “organic matter” that loam soils often need added to make their growing capacity ideal, and that is exactly how I look at what some might call misfortunes in my life. They have changed my structure and my ability to hold more in a healthy way, making everything around me grow stronger too. I am right where I am supposed to be, with roots that run deep and my feet in the sand, and for now, I don’t think it gets any better than that.
I had a freeze frame moment as I drove to pick up Lauren and her friend when they came home from college for Fall Break a few weeks ago. The chills rose on my arms as I realized that so much of my life feels like it did 20 plus years ago when I would drive myself home from college. My thoughts would wander, my eyes were open to possibilities and ideas of what the future would look like, and I had so much gratitude for what I had been given to me over the course of my life. I feel all of those things today and, through the conversations I get to have with her, I know she does too…but now I have four kids to teach and bring along with me on this journey.
The more I put my story out there, so many of my conversations with other people center around finding the energy to start over and find confidence. For all of my talk about embracing pain and building resilience, this week I’m thinking that comfort zones have gotten a bad rap and serve a purpose in helping us sustain our energy. Yes, I believe in challenging new territory and ways to grow, breaking old patterns, and charging forward despite fear. But what of the other side of comfort, the kind we feel when we find ourselves in our sweet spot, the kind that rests easy in solitude, or quiet, or even on a stage in front of people because we are right where we are supposed to be, doing exactly what we should be doing? I have felt all of those moments and also realize how my insides still fight against them sometimes based on old patterns. I am teaching myself how to ease the tension and feel the calm in every moment…a lofty goal given my historically nervous nature.
How do we tell the difference between lazy comfort that keeps our life small, and the ease we feel when we find ourselves in alignment? When we do find that moment, how do we stop ourselves from looking for what’s wrong, because old patterns have told us that comfort or calm is boring or not worthy, and our subconscious is actually seeking that old tension. I’m staring down the fact that there doesn’t need to be electricity in every moment to make me feel alive.
The ease of the present moment is not a lazy shortcut, it comes when we do the work to know ourselves, our inherent worth, and then have the courage to trust that feeling above any of the other noise out there. Real comfort is found when we learn to trust the moment above the expectation of the long term plan.
Then we can let each moment of alignment build on itself and we find our real comfort zone. We can embrace what makes us happy, grow our knowledge in that space, and then use it to help other people. From this place we can gently sustain growth, follow our own intrinsically motivated path, and feel the calm from the inside out. Small habits add up to bigger moments of success, today I trust myself that I will stay with the building blocks, even on the days that I don’t feel like it, and my confidence is built from there. The less our mood has an effect on the course of our day, the more stable and productive we become and alignment follows.
One thing I have both felt myself and realized that others struggle with is forgiving ourselves. We can never find our comfort zone from a place of denial or shame. I’ve said it before, healing is an inside job, it requires us embrace and make peace with our past missteps, and, when we do, those struggles become the steps that move us forward on our path. Whatever the struggle, a failed marriage, a DUI, an addiction that we haven’t been able to kick, the human list goes on and on, until we own it, and view it as a stepping stone instead of a road block to our future, there is no comfort zone, only numbing or running away. When we are in this space, trying to forgive ourselves, one of the hardest things to do is quiet the outside voices and opinions so you can let go of the shame. People will talk, no matter what you are doing, so don’t let those voices keep you from finding the comfort in your own skin. It’s your story, let them fight their own battles, and keep your mind focused on yours. No one knows the battles you have fought and their judgment and words have everything to do with their own battle and nothing to do with yours. If we don’t find our own peace, we won’t be able to stop repeating the pattern and our self confidence takes a definite hit.
Bottom line, nobody’s opinion of you matters more than the one you hold of yourself. So work on that and forget the rest.
Today I know that the best life has a safe space with a supportive circle…but that starts from the calm we create in ourselves. It’s never too late to start supporting this space within yourself. Slow down, trust yourself, do the work, and embrace the comfort that comes with the alignment that is found when we learn that the greatest success comes when we create our own comfort zone.
Why do we look for comfort in sameness? I’ve been asking myself this question a lot this week. I hear myself say, "she’s one of my people”, or “she’s like me” and the moment it comes out of my mouth, I groan a little bit inside. As a kid I felt different, I wanted to be older, I didn’t always relate to my surroundings the way I wanted to, and often felt out of my element. I felt both timid and shy, but then also like I understood more about what was going on around me than anyone knew.
The power of observation and listening instead of talking should never be underestimated.
I still can’t say where my sweet spot was, I just knew that life kept getting better as I got older, and what held it all together was that I expected each day to be a little better than the last. I learned to be kind, listen, and pay attention to what other people were feeling and seemed to need.
We have to come a ways through childhood before EQ, instead of just IQ is recognized as important.
All of these things were good, but the trouble, at that point of my life, was my definition of better. Was I going to wake up more popular, feeling smarter in school, or a stonger athlete? That is certainly what gets you recognized in the world’s eyes. Well, ironically, as I grew, those worldly markers actually seemed to fall into place for me well enough…I always say college was four years of no bad days, and aside from a gnarly ankle injury, it was pretty much the truth. Things stayed on the up and up for awhile but little by little, as life tends to do, adulthood caught up with me, and reminded me what I felt like I knew when I was young;
What is great about each of us is what is different, not the same.
Parenting is an amazing journey, one I have been on for almost 20 years now, stretched across four awesome kids. The last 12 have tested my strength and intuition as the gut feeling I had when Matthew was only six weeks old created its path to an Asperger’s diagnosis when he was six. Ironically, Asperger’s isn’t even in the DSM anymore (does that mean he doesn’t have a diagnosis?). I bring this all back to Matthew because when he struggles, our whole family struggles, because that’s how families work. And these challenges are a pretty daily fixture lately. Some of the things he struggles with, like making friends and eye contact, aren’t easy on any day, but it becomes particularly difficult with the onset and awareness we gain with adolescence, and he is standing on the edge of it and staring it down. I think it’s hard to learn to honor our uniqueness at this age, under any circumstances, but gaining understanding of a diagnosis gives it an extra rough edge. I can see the reality of something being “incurable” in his 12 year old brain hitting him hard, and I have to remind him that he is the same kid he has always been, before his awareness of doctors and diagnosis peaked, and that even more, he doesn't realize how far he has come, because up until just recently, showing up for speech or OT or neurofeedback was just normal to him.
The message that keeps coming back to me loud and clear the more we talk is how can I teach him to work from his uniqueness if I am not doing that myself? I can’t teach him to embrace his different, if I can’t accept what is different about me. No striving to be the same, looking around to see what everyone else thinks or does. I have to teach him it’s ok to take the long way around, as long as you are listening to your own heart. It’s ok not to want the same things or do the same work as the others. Every story and path looks different.
We find connection not in our sameness, but when we have the courage to share with the world what is different about us and let them learn from it and see what they can add to it.
The vulnerability lies in giving people a chance to show compassion, kindness, or understanding because sometimes they won’t, and it hurts like hell, no matter who you are. But resilience is built by being knocked down and getting back up, even if we need a hand in the process…and mine will be here outstretched and waiting to grab his and pull him up, because he has proven that he capable of walking solidly on his own two feet. He is not a diagnosis, he is one of the most emotionally intelligent human beings I have ever met and I drew the lucky hand of guiding him because I have been training for this stuff my entire life.
Sh#t happens. It was an explanation given to my youngest son (not by me) when he asked an adult in his life about divorce one time. The words hurt me pretty bad at the time because I didn’t like the ending of a 20 year relationship being summed up that way, it of course sounded insensitive and made our marriage sound so insignificant to me at the time. Healing happens though, and today I would say and maybe there is an ounce of truth to the crass and simplistic statement. What I would add to it though is
“Sh#t happens…but that isn’t the end of the story.”
Sh#t happens for a reason, and it’s up to us if we want to follow the trail and figure out why, or if we want to keep stepping in our mess over and over again. I haven’t met anyone who’s family has been spared some generational trauma, so why do we feel so ashamed, or like no one else will understand and then end up trying to hide behind a facade of perfection? I had to figure this out through divorce, but there are so many areas of life that can teach us if we let our struggles, and overcoming them, make us more self aware.
I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with a group of high school friends who illustrate this point beautifully in thought and action. There isn’t one of us that hasn’t been challenged by the serious issues this world can throw our way. Relationship struggles, addiction, parenting through difficult circumstances, bonus kids, finding the courage to be who we were born to be - whether that has made us struggle with the expectations of others, how we show up and love in this world or being able to free ourselves from the judgment of others enough to find that beautiful space where we can find our own alignment. It’s always good to get together and reminisce because had we known in high school what life was going to bring, it would have scared us to death, and its always good to travel back and remember the more carefree days we were afforded back then. Even the minor rebellion at that age had the advantage of strengthening us and today, we have all done the work, weathered the storms, set the boundaries, and asked the tough questions. Although we are all still works in progress, the conversations are real and offer the support that encourages living the authentic life. When I get on this side of those talks, I am filled up, even when the surrounding circumstances are difficult and I wonder why we as humans fight against ourselves so much when the freedom on the other side is so blissful. My best conversations are with people who will open up…better out than in I always tell my kids. So daily, I pay attention to the reasons that keep me seeking higher levels of self awareness and they give me inspiration to keep doing the work to fight off more sh#t happening, even on the down days. If you need some practical reasons to stop hiding and adopt this transparent lifestyle, where we get to talk about what really irks us, hurts us, and also makes us jump for joy, I have some ideas.
End the shadow talk (i.e. gossip). When we haven’t answered the questions for ourselves about what we are about, where we are headed and what makes us happy, we turn our emptiness on others. We throw shade at anyone we perceive is ahead of us, happier than us, or possesses something we want, and try to take them down a notch with our words. These conversations never lead us to our higher self. We have forgotten that our journey is not a race, and our perception of what others are experiencing in life is oversimplified. It’s rare that we know the whole story and we are better off spending time figuring out our purpose and charting our course than worrying about what anyone else is doing. When we hide behind the image of perfection we are scared to death of anything else being the case. We lose our capacity to be empathic to the situations around us that would benefit from our care, and end up building more superficial and small minded relationships that are stifling and lonely. Learning to show up for other people in a supportive way can teach us a lot about ourselves, and our strengths, and allow us to build off our those but validation of our own path is an inside job. No amount of trying to knock others paths will make your own path straight so build yourself up by working on you instead of trying to bring others down…it never works anyway.
Raise Your Vibration. Have you ever felt the difference in how you respond to the world and how the world responds to you when you are joyful instead of burdened? When our vibration is high, opportunities show up in the form of relationships and experiences that make life a genuinely happy and productive place. When we are living in the shadows of fear, guilt, and shame, we have a lower vibration and cannot access our highest self. We can raise our vibration when we find purpose, things that make us laugh, and spend the time and effort to take care of ourselves through exercise, diet & a mindfulness practice. Vibrations can’t be faked, it’s only through doing the work of self awareness that we can find the free feeling of showing up in the world as ourselves and keep working towards our personal best. Once we get started, the small victories build on themselves and motivate us to move down that path.
The script repeats itself over and over again. Maybe the best reason to figure out why sh#t happens is that if we don’t, patterns continue to repeat themselves. They are part of our subconscious and so much of our activity stems from that place that place below the surface. We have to do the work to move from a fear based thought process to one that embraces optimism and potential. If we are willing to be honest and look at the patterns that have brought us to today and then identify what we want to change, one small change begins the shift. It doesn’t have to be done overnight, but it does have to be done…or guess what, the same sh#t will just happen, over and over again.
Everyday, I challenge myself to wrestle with my old patterns and flip the script. Sometimes the fear still creeps in or the unworthiness surfaces but I recognize it for what it is, send it to the backseat and keep driving. So today, even if sh#t happens, I’m confident that it’s going to be different sh#t and I’m going to learn from that too.
Life slowed down a bit for me this week, like when my kids were little and someone woule get a fever and you had to stay home. I remember secretly enjoying the excuse to stay in and cuddle whoever was sick, as long as I didn’t have other healthy toddlers that had to be kept alive at the same time. At this point I don’t have that problem, I just had to recruit my own mom to move in and do the driving for the ones I left behind when I went to Texas. This time, it was my college freshman, Lauren, who, after being diagnosed with mono almost two weeks ago, called on Sunday and needed some extra care to get this nasty virus turned around...so off I went. Regardless of circumstances, good things and experiences always come out of the time we spend together and once some of the meds they gave her started to give her some relief, this time was no different. Besides a great Monday night game between the Seahawks and 49ers (Lauren has been able to talk football with any group of dad’s since she was 12), we binged on a little Modern Love, Gray’s Anatomy, and Big Little Lies. I’m still way behind the rest of the world on these shows, but TV drama, like a good novel, always illustrates some human truths that make for good conversation for us and keep me thinking afterward.
One of these thoughts came when we were watching Big Little Lies and Lauren, observing the relationship between Ed (Adam Scott) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) said
“There is a low maintenance person out there for for every high maintenance one.”
I knew what she meant, she was talking about “opposites attract” or the “yin and yang” theories where partners balance each other and create a harmonious relationship. In Big Little Lies, Ed is such a chill guy to have chosen Madeline to be “the one”, it’s hard to imagine the relationship could actually be a fit, but I see the romantic beauty in her thought. The couple of decades of life experience I have on her had me answering back quick though.
“It doesn’t necessarily work that way. I don’t want to be the low maintenance one, chasing high maintenance or the high maintenance one expecting to be balanced out by the low maintenance, I want to be one of two low maintenance people who support each other.”
She got what I was saying, her comment wasn’t meant to be a deep one, just some banter back as forth as we watched this overly dramatic show. But of course, my mind kept breaking it down further as I thought about the nature of my experience with human relationships and the life that surrounds them.
These days, I’m thankful for my low maintenance ways even more because of life’s often high maintenance circumstances, because although life is full of simple pleasures, a lot of days it doesn’t feel so simple and the people that we choose to spend our days with need to add more connection and less complication to the flow.
Despite what Jerry McGuire had to say back in 1996, connection, not completion, is what the best relationships are about. Connection isn’t either complicated or simple, it’s just conscious. Consciousness allows us to think of the other person without obsessing, and helps us understand that expecting all of our needs to be met by someone else is bound to create some drama, and robs us of our own freedom. Interdependence over codependence.. Expecting someone else to make us happy or fulfilled, or having them try and fail to create that place for us is not how trust, longevity, and stability is built. Healthy relationships are only available to us when we first have a strong sense of our own worth and the ability to soothe ourselves. From this place, we can build and have fun together, knowing that we always have our own autonomy as the source of our strength. This keeps us from falling into controlling patterns and allowing us, and our partner, to move freely through the world. Love is a choice, when we learn to love ourselves, we give others the choice to love us without strings attached.
With the right person, mundane and calm feel like a gift in this crazy life. But if we have been used to too much chaos in our life, or are trying to numb some unresolved feelings or trauma, calm doesn’t feel right to our system. We have to be able to sit quietly with ourselves and sort out our feelings and thoughts, or we will always look for the big events to sweep those uncomfortable feelings under the mat. Don’t get me wrong, trips and tickets to great events are fun, but the best relationships enjoy the simple things, anywhere, anytime, because simple is never boring together.
The best writing, even fictional, like Liane Moriarty’s, who wrote the book Big Little Lies, which I loved long before it was turned into a TV series (although good for her), is grounded in universal human truth. I’m realizing the reason I don’t watch much TV is because life’s drama is enough for me on most days, so a lot of the time I am just seeking quiet. Today, I aim to be the low maintenance to life’s high maintenance, and although that partnership is working out pretty well, it’s a partnership that I’m not looking to replicate.
P.S. - I’m happy to report that Lauren is doing so much better. Thank you to all of the people who reached out with good vibes and prayers for her. She’s hit the not so miserable stage of mono where she just needs to sleep it off:)
Matthew asked me for ear plugs the other day before heading into school. The strange thing is I actually had a whole package of them in my car, my sensitive ears like to be prepared, but it was full because I haven’t needed them in quite some time. I passed my noise sensitivity on to at least a couple of my children, and he is most definitely one of them. It’s turning out that this overly conscious sense of hearing reaches to other areas of my life. Maybe it comes with age, or getting more clear on our own goals, but I have an overwhelming urge to cut out the noise and keep things simple these days. Noise that used to create so much friction in my mind passes through quickly now. There is peace of mind and a braver response to my life when I choose to reflect, respond, or walk away from a thought or situation. The difference in being able to do that, or react too quickly, comes from a steady state of calm. Calm is clarifying. It’s taken me the better part of 40 years to learn how to chill out and access that zen feeling, my nervous system was on high alert for a long time. But it may have happened just in time to be able to teach my kids a few of the things I’ve learned about what does, and doesn’t matter in this life.
Being the creature of habit that I am, I find some concentrated wisdom in the Finding Mastery podcast that I listen to every week. This week’s was with Mick Fanning, a World Champion surfer who has survived a shark attack, on camera nonetheless, during a competition in South Africa. My favorite question in a great interview came at the end, when Dr. Mike went through a list of World Champion surfers, including Mick, and his friends like Kelly Slater and the late Andy Irons, and asked what made them the best. Mick’s answers to what made each of them rise to the peak of their sport ware different for each one of them, from more steady states of flow, competing at all costs, and accessing his inner underdog, each of these greats had a different mentality that equated championship skills. The answer was fascinating to me. .
We connect with others through our common experiences but it is our ability to recognize and hone our uniqueness that allows us to reach the greatest heights in whatever our pursuits are in this life. There isn’t one way to win or achieve success, but self awareness is always a cornerstone.
The biggest piece of the success puzzle for me is finding calm. The more often my mind can find stillness, the quicker it can reset from one of the crazy twists that life throws at me. There are a few rules of thumb that help keep life on the quieter, more peaceful track, even when one of the spokes on my wheel is out of whack.
Don’t give too much thought to what other people may think. The key word here is “may” because really we have no idea. Our own minds can get away from us, cooking up ideas, when really people are much more concerned with their own circumstances. But let’s say we are right, and someone is thinking the worst thing about us, stop and consider if an outside opinion, from someone that doesn’t have the benefit of knowing you or your story, should change your trajectory? Again, the better we understand ourselves, our motivations, and our goals, the easier it is to silence the noise and go with our own instincts. Judgment usually has far more to do the personal circumstances of the person judging, not the one being judged.
Don’t criticize other people. I work hard on this one because judgment seems to be a natural state for us as humans. But this rule is the flip side of the coin for not internalizing what other people think or say. Looking for, and pointing out the flaws in other people, takes energy away from our own journey so why spend time there? If I notice I’m hanging out in that place, I know now to ask myself if what I’m observing is trying to tell me something about my own life. It’s often an area of my own insecurity that I need to get a handle on.
Work on myself instead of trying to fix someone else. There is so much in this life that is outside of our control but if we don’t stop to identify that, it creates a lot of unnecessary noise. The filter I use for this also comes from Finding Mastery - there are only three things we can train - our mind, our body, and our craft- so these days I try to keep my efforts focused there and let other people make their own way. Real connection is never gained through controlling means, so this process has actually strengthened my relationships and cut out the noise created when we try to handle other peoples business for them.
Make sure my priorities and my actions match up. Getting clear about what we want out of our days is a very empowering process. Once we know that, looking at the way we spend our minutes is what makes our goals become reality. Besides parenting, writing, and exercise are my first two priorities in order to move my life forward and fulfill my potential…so I do them first. This also helps me see what to say yes and no too, a very valuable lesson in owning your own life story. There is so much noise that can distract us from our priorities if we let it…mindlessly scrolling social media, binge watching your favorite TV series, saying yes to things out of guilt rather than purpose, you know the drill. Prioritize your progress and then schedule your recovery time and things start falling into place.
Solitude and self awareness are uniquely connected and If we can string together moments of quiet, intuition has a chance to speak and the path becomes clear. When I feel the calm that comes from that experience, it’s as if time slows down and my mind and body are in tune to respond to any situation. These are the skills that have allowed me to stop using the ear plugs that Matthew still thinks he needs…so I guess I better keep teaching.
I’m really trying to nail down my own story these days, because it is so intimately related to the message that I want to deliver. But when I see the picture like the one above, I know I’m exactly where I am supposed to be, following the path that is mine to walk. Every week I am reminded about how interconnected we are by text messages filled with real stories of vulnerability and strength that don’t show up on social media that inspire me to keep writing, talking, and coaching the optimists outlook in life. I often ask people the question:
“Optimist or pessimist?”
And although it’s not one of the choices, one of the popular answers is ‘realist’. Sometimes I think that’s because claiming to be an optimist has a naive quality to it, or seems too exposed, because when you are expecting the best, it’s easy to be taken advantage of. Although I believe that we are all born with different outlooks, I also know that our lens on life is a process of both nature and nurture.
The more I work to define what creates optimism in my life, the more I am convinced that a self professed realist is actually an optimist with a work ethic and some life experience to back it up.
So lately I’ve been analyzing my practice of how I have grown my optimism, especially through difficult life experiences. It’s in the little habits and brain games that I play with myself everyday. It’s knowing how to recognize feelings without sinking all the way into them and letting them rule the day, and the mood, and mastering the art of reframing the problem at hand into an opportunity. In short, we have to do the work to be able to keep our ‘rose colored glasses’ and this is what it looks like for me, pretty much every day.
O - Optimists OBSERVE what works. It’s not about following the path of least resistance or grinding inefficiently against the grain. Optimists create energy for positive outcomes by observing what works and what doesn’t and then following their instincts that stem from that. Deep connection, first with ourselves, and then in other relationships, are grounded in consistency and trust, and a real optimist will shoot to create a space like this in their life. When we are able to sit in this place, we find both an ease and an excitement that everything is possible.
P - Optimists find their PURPOSE. Without a purpose in this life, our actions feel aimless or floundering, and that certainly isn’t going to leave you feeling optimistic about your path. Take the time and give energy to what excites you…your interests are never random, they are what make you uniquely you and lead you to your purpose that brings more light to the world.
I - Optimists aim to INSPIRE. Smile, share your story, and take time to listen to someone else’s. When we do this, we both inspire other people with our real life humanness and gain insight and learn from others. Optimists are openminded and can inspire with both words and actions, strengths and struggles. I focus on real connection with real people and when it happens it’s the greatest feeling of flow.
M - Optimists are MINDFUL about their own lives and their surroundings. It’s not possible to stay optimistic if we don’t take the time to slow down, quiet the noise, and give ourselves the time to clear our minds. The demands of life can be high and the impact of decisions that we make are great. Meditation and solitude buoys my optimistic spirit and holds the anxiety and overwhelm at bay. This is a new and life changing habit that has brought focus to my path that I never knew was possible.
I - Optimists are INCLUSIVE. Optimists know there is something to learn from everyone and every experience regardless of strength, ability, challenge, or worldly status. This mindset makes the world an exciting and inviting place to lay out our own story and connect with the people that resonate with it. That doesn’t mean that everyone will, and we do have to be mindful about setting our boundaries, but it I try hard to connect and not shut anyone out.
S - Optimists know their own STRENGTH. This is a big one for me because self confidence and doubt are areas that I have worked on a lot over the past few years. We have to be able to harness and utilize our inner strength to be able to create healthy environments and relationships that keep life on an optimistic path. Yes, we can learn from the challenges and grow stronger but more than anything, when I make decisions based on my belief in myself, the people who surround me help me live out my story in the best and most supportive way. Which leads me to my next and, I believe, very important point.
T - Optimists have TRIBES that further support their mindset. The habits and beliefs of the people we are around most are contagious. Our tribes will celebrate with us when things are humming along, and be a source of support and encouragement when life gets difficult. When we have the confidence to be ourselves, and shed the tendencies that cause us to struggle, like people pleasing, being avoidant for fear of getting hurt, or other crutches and addictions that keep us from our best life, we live in alignment and connect with the people who are meant for us.
The gift of self awareness is always worth the work put in, even if the process is scary at first. I see it in the simples moments, like when I’m locked in a battle with my twelve year old over going to practice, or how much video game time he should get that day, and the best thing he can throw back at me is
“Well, that’s just because you are optimistic.”
Yes, I am. Even if it seems unrelated and off topic in that moment, my message is getting through. And it’s real optimism that has taken a lot of work to solidify to make it my go to platform. We only get to do this life once, so why not make it great…no matter what challenges get thrown in the path, I believe in my ability to adapt, find gratitude, and the silver lining. The world needs real optimists, may we be them, find them, raise them, and connect with them every chance we get.
P.S. - Next Sunday, December 8, just in time for my birthday on December 10, I will publish my 100th blog at The Optimists Journal. Will you help me share that blog 100 times? Comment below and let me know you will help me by sharing my blog on your social media platforms and by forwarding the TOJ email to someone who doesn’t already receive it. If you would include a little story of our connection, big or small, that would make it really special. Thank you for reading and sharing your stories, these connections mean the world to me.