Nobody Told Me (There’d Be Days Like These)

Let me tell you something that no one told me about summertime. For working moms (and maybe stay at home moms too – I am the former, so that is all I know).

SUMMER SUCKS.

I used to love summers. The slower pace, unstructured days/weeks, vacation travel…

These things that I used to love are now my enemies. I have a shit-ton to do. Who has time to relax and go with the flow??? NOT ME! Well – that’s what I thought until I HIT THE WALL on Monday.

On Monday, I was guilty of doing what I do best:

  1. Having unrealistic expectations
  2. Taking on too much
  3. Trying to control uncontrollable situations

Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? Well – no one got hurt, my partner Jerry dealt with my drama, and I practiced some self-care and realized I needed some alone time to do some “work” on myself. I went for a long walk on the beach, and played my favorite play list REAL LOUD. I finally allowed myself to FEEL some things that I have been avoiding. If anyone out there saw a fast-walking woman crying and then laughing on the Isle of Palms on Monday night – well, you maybe you thought you saw a crazy lady, but really you just witnessed me having the “feels”.

Have you ever fought a nagging feeling? Trying to just “power through” without really getting to the root of the issue? I do this all the time! Then I realize how exhausting it is to play “Whack a Mole” with my emotions – because just like that dang game, that mole pops up somewhere else no matter how hard I hit it. It’s like playing through the pain – I think I can overcome it by just buckling down, by trying harder…working harder. Oh, doesn’t it just sound exhausting??

I have learned some good lessons over the years – and I recognize when my wiring gets me into trouble. I literally can feel it in my body. I am a giver and a doer, and am self-reliant – these are qualities I really like about myself, but too much of a good thing is…not a good thing.

My walk helped me to release that nagging feeling – to finally FEEL it, own it, and start to move through it. At first it felt a little ugly to admit to myself what I was feeling… which is this: I finally realized that on days like Monday, I miss my more simple, carefree life that I had before becoming a full-time mom. In doing so, I brought that darkness out into the light and saw it for what it was – fear. Once I did that, I felt a release – which was followed up with a renewed sense of myself, and something I can only describe as forgiveness – a feeling that helped me to be kinder to myself, and that resulted in some self-confidence and hope that all was going to be ok.

I am pretty sure that every parent feels this way at times. I think is natural and healthy for parents to feel this way – and it felt liberating to realize I can feel this fear while at the same time loving my stepson Eric unconditionally.

My lessons learned:

  1. Expectations: Expecting myself to be a super hero is setting myself up for failure. I felt like a failure on Monday. As much as I admire Wonder Woman – I am not her. I am human, and I need to cut myself some freaking slack. And if you are reading this and nodding your head – you probably could benefit from doing the same thing! Failure is not a kind word. I value kindness, and I value myself – so I am purging the word failure from my vocabulary. I value my ability to do a lot – but I also value myself and my sanity! I can fail (the word fail is totally fine) – I can fail – I have and I will again – and that helps me to learn – but I am not a FAILURE. Nope. Let’s just not use that word to describe ourselves anymore – got it?
  2.  Taking on too much. I have a few remedies for taking on too much:
    • Say “NO.” Without explanation.  “NO” is a one-word sentence. When I feel the need to explain myself, I see the people-pleaser coming out – that person who doesn’t want to disappoint someone, that co-dependent Laurie that takes care of other people at the expense of my own feelings. “No” helps me practice self-care and to continue to break those old habits that did not serve me well.
    • Delegating to someone else. The trick is to allow that person to do it differently and maybe not as well as what you would have done. Because let’s be honest – I know there are a lot of us out there that can get a LOT of shit done, and done pretty well I might add! LOL – see how we can ourselves into trouble?? My friend once said, “I know if I got hit by a bus, my husband would probably feed my kids popcorn for dinner every night, but you know what – he would keep them happy and alive, and that is what matters.” That sentence has stayed with me for years – and helps me keep things in perspective. I know some incredible women who raise the bar HIGH. Expecting their partners, or really anyone else, to be as amazing as they are is… well…see #1!
    • PAUSE. Take a minute to pause and get present. A quick exercise to get present is to go through your 5 senses – what do you see, smell, taste, feel, and hear in this moment? Pausing helps to get perspective – and often when I do, I can catch myself and realize that just because I am busy and “doing” does not mean I am accomplishing something that is meaningful. Pausing helps me connect to the bigger picture – my purpose. If the list of tasks I am trying to work through doesn’t serve that, I can let some things go.

      IMG_7370
       I just had to buy this shirt for Eric a few days ago – and now I realize it has some deeper meaning. “Slow Jam” is my new name to taking a few minutes to pause, slow down and get present to what’s happening – just look how happy that sloth is! And how happy Eric is! Lessons to be learned here!!

 

  • Ask for help. Self-explanatory, but usually not top of mind for me. That’s what I did on Monday, and guess what – Tuesday and Wednesday have been a whole lot better!

3. For trying to control uncontrollable situations – this one is tough. For me, recognizing what I am doing is a huge help. If I catch myself, I can sometimes redirect my energy. It sounds corny – but I use music a lot to help me relax and let go of control. Let it Be, Let it Go – whatever it takes!! I literally wear a ring that says, “Let it Be.” I need the constant reminder! Laughter, fun – anything I can do to help me lighten up also helps me to let go of control. Thankfully I have a partner that really helps me with this. Somehow Jerry can make me laugh during these episodes – there’s probably a survival instinct on his part, but hey – if it works, it works. Pausing to help someone else also helps me to gain perspective – and serves as a reminder that the world does not revolve around me. Taking some time to myself to do the “work” – to get to the root of my feelings, and to move through them rather than avoid them – that helps a lot.

 

 

Not quite sure how to sum up – besides to say that I am going to “slow jam” the rest of my week. And I hope you do too!

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The Unforgettable Fire

January 10, 2016

To be sure my head and heart are firmly planted in 2016, I decided to try my “burning ritual” with Jerry this week in order to let go of what weighed me down last year.

Jerry and I sat down to brainstorm about what to burn…it wasn’t too hard to come up with a good list! I am pretty good at figuring out what we need to work on (Jerry is used to this by now – and he’s happy to be along for the ride). It’s doing something about it that is the hard part – that is work.

Here’s the thing. I know that I will continue to struggle with these things this year like I did last year – that is because of my wiring, because of past painful experiences (i.e. baggage), and mostly because I am an actual human being that is most definitely not perfect. And I am certain that more stuff is going to happen in 2016 – and I am sure some of it will be hard – and that some of it will be painful.

Just because I decide that I don’t WANT to feel a certain way doesn’t mean that I can say “poof” and make that feeling disappear. It takes work to process feelings. It takes practice. It takes raising my awareness – getting curious, noticing, acknowledging, and feeling, processing, re-framing, and understanding of my choices – to cope when I am triggered. This is work – and it is work I recommend to anyone who finds oneself constantly negatively reacting to triggers.

This is why I decided on a ritual…I know I can, if only for a moment, remember the feeling of letting go. Combine that with the physical exercise of seeing that trigger turn from a solid piece of paper to ashes in a matter of seconds, and now I have a powerful visual when I need more help.

The hope is that once one of us is triggered, we will remember the paper turning to ash, that we will remember our intention, and channel the “letting go” feeling.

fire
Burning my “co-dependent” & over-fixing tendencies

We are off to a decent start. I found myself triggered almost immediately after publishing my post a few days ago. It was a great test to see if I meant what I said wrote about in that post. Jerry and I were in the car a few days ago when he caught himself – I was delighted when I heard him say – “wait a second – I burned that!” We high-fived each other and moved on with our day instead of getting bogged down in the muck. It won’t always be that easy – but that is why we need to practice. It’s like exercising muscles you never use.

My wise and wonderful friend Kelly recommended The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz to me back in December.

From the Four Agreements:

“Everything we do is based on agreements we have made – agreements with ourselves, with other people, with God, with life. But the most important agreements are the ones we make with ourselves. In these agreements we tell ourselves who we are, how to behave, what is possible, what is impossible. One single agreement is not such a problem, but we have many agreements that come from fear, deplete our energy, and diminish our self-worth.”

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

I already know #2 and #3 are HUGE challenges to me. They appeared on those pieces of paper that were burned into ash a few days ago.

I am about to dig into this book in hopes that it will help me in my efforts to let things go. More to come!

 

#MakeItHappen

Today is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is #makeithappen. I haven’t blogged in a long time – and today I felt inspired to put my thoughts on “paper” (aka cyberspace) for the first time in a while.

To celebrate the day, I want to recognize some pretty fabulous women who inspire me with their wisdom and with their actions to help make the world a better place.

1. Maya Angelou

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”  – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s beautiful prose describes the Golden Rule in a new way, making this my favorite quote all of time. It’s such a powerful reminder to not get stuck in the “he said/she said” – and to really focus on the bigger picture. It’s a tool to help me communicate in a healthy way with my friends, family, and coworkers.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I can’t hear this one enough – and I can’t share it enough with others. This quote was above my chalkboard all year when I was a middle school teacher, hoping that all of my students would absorb these words into the fiber of their beings by seeing them every day. This quote reminds me that not only am I in control of how I feel about myself, I am also responsible for how I feel about myself. No one else is. It is entirely up to me. This doesn’t mean it is easy to do – it’s not…but when I fall into self-pity, martyrdom and blaming, I try to remember to be accountable to myself…and to do the work that it takes to feel better.

3. Mother Theresa

“In this life, we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”- Mother Theresa

These words remind me be intentional with my actions…to stop being so “busy” that I forget why I am doing what I am doing. It also reminds me that I can make a difference in someone’s life with one act of kindness, one phone call, one word, one hug…one whatever – no matter how small it is!

4. Brené Brown

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to and embracing who we are.” – Brené Brown

This quote is front and center on my vision board this year (check it out here on Pinterest if you are interested: https://www.pinterest.com/lauriet93/2015-vision-board/) Authenticity has become so important to me that I now call it one of core values. I went through many years not being true to myself, not taking care of myself, and living with a lot of shame because of it. Brené reminds me that I need to do the work – if I practice, I will improve.

5. Ellen Degeneres:

“I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. That’s what I stand for. I also believe in dance.” – Ellen Degeneres

Here’s another authentic rendition of the Golden Rule, along with a reminder to have fun. Earlier this year, I started recording Ellen every day, and I have enjoyed watching immensely! She makes me laugh, cry and think with each episode (shout out to Jimmy V even though it’s International Women’s Day).

6. Oprah Winfrey

Here’s another one from my 2015 Vision Board – because I can’t have a Vision Board or a blog about International Women’s Day without an Oprah mention:

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.”- Oprah Winfrey

Rather than biology – being a mother encompasses all the things I mention already…authenticity, action with intention, making someone else feel loved…these things make me a “Mom” to my significant other’s beautiful children. I don’t need a DNA test, a wedding ring or any other proof for what is in my heart.

And finally I want to mention Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars this year. I know I wasn’t the only one to be completely surprised that her moments on stage were by far the most memorable of the evening. Her shout out for wage equality for women touched a nerve in me. I have heard some pretty frightening stories from my female friends in the workplace lately that have made me burn with rage…usually burning rage is a sign that I care about something deeply and need to do some work to figure out what it is.

In this case, here it is: there are more women than men in the workforce, yet women are paid less than men in all 50 states. I am not suggesting that there should be as many female CEO’s as male (well…maybe as many as male CEO’s named John if you happened to see that crazy story on Facebook that went viral a few weeks ago..If not, check it out here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/02/1368049/-More-CEOs-are-men-named-John-than-are-women#).

I AM suggesting that women should be paid the same as men who do the same work. Is there really anything to be argued here? A woman should not be punished in measuring her quota attainment in a sales job because she was on maternity leave. A woman should not be told she can’t be considered for a certain sales territory that requires travel because she has children at home. It is 2015 people. Let’s demand what we deserve. Let’s be authentic, intentional, loving and accountable. Let’s be examples to the children we are raising or helping raise. Let’s #makeithappen.

Survive and Advance

Remember the 1983 National Champion NCState Wo...
Remember the 1983 National Champion NCState Wolfpack (Photo credit: E. A. Sanabria)

It’s almost the end of April, and March Madness is now well behind us. I was so inspired by watching “Survive and Advance” on ESPN last month that I can’t resist writing about it. I watched it again today, and now I am ready to put my thoughts into words.

“Survive and Advance” is one episode in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series, and it is about NC State’s NCAA basketball 1983 championship season led by Jimmy Valvano. While some may say I am not exactly a “true” basketball fan, I AM a fan of a great story, and the 1983 season was exactly that. Some say it is one of the greatest sports stories of all time.

Growing up in Charlotte, NC in the 70’s and 80’s, I couldn’t help but become a fan of ACC basketball. This was the era of Michael Jordan & Dean Smith at UNC, Jimmy Valvano at NC State, Coach K at Duke…a time when players stayed in school until graduation. This was the most amazing era of college basketball in my lifetime, and it was taking place all around me in North Carolina.

Watching “Survive and Advance” was both nostalgic and inspiring for me. When I was in fifth grade in 1983, I had no idea of the significance of what happened…but watching this documentary helped me to realize the impact of that season. Even the title alone, “Survive and Advance,” is inspiring. In those three little words, he summarized everything I was trying to say in my post “Onward,” about forward progress.

Here are some of my musings after watching “Survive and Advance” for the second time.

The power of having a dream:

On Day 1 of Jimmy Valvano’s time at NC State, he told his team “I know I am going to win a national championship.” It took him a few years before he did exactly that. His 1983 team spoke of him as a dreamer, a dreamer with a real vision of what he wanted to achieve, and the ability to paint the picture for the rest them so that they felt it was achievable.

“How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it.” – Jim Valvano

The importance of practice:

Each season, Valvano would have his team practice cutting down the net as if they had won the National Championship. Over and over again. This is not a normal kind of practice. This is beyond practicing the fundamentals. This is practicing being a WINNER, being a CHAMPION…so that when the team ended up on the brink, they could shake off their nerves because they already knew what it felt like to win.

The love of family:

If you have ever seen even a 30 second video of Jimmy Valvano, you know he was a passionate, Italian, family man with a large, passionate, Italian family. He credited his father for his success, saying:

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

The power of emotion:

I don’t know any man or woman that has watched Jimmy Valvano’s ESPY acceptance speech without shedding a few tears. If you haven’t seen it, please take a few minutes to click this link and watch it start to finish. If you have seen it, watch it again. It is worth it. My favorite Jimmy V quote is from this speech, and since seeing it again recently, I think about this almost every day. While battling terminal cancer with just a very short time to live, Jimmy V expressed himself as passionately and eloquently as ever before. I want to feel things as deeply and passionately about my life that Jimmy V felt about his, and his speech inspires me to this day.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” – Jim Valvano

So, “survive and advance” everyone.

Keep moving forward.

Laugh, think and cry. Every day.

Dream big.

Practice.

Love your family, and hold them close to your hearts.

Unbroken

I do my best thinking when I am running or writing. Or maybe I do my best feeling when I am running or writing – I am not quite sure. I think it’s both – it’s all about the mind/body connection, so I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to get off the couch or out of bed and get moving each time.

In any case, I just got back from a 3 mile run, trying to work off my vacation calories, and I found myself thinking about my friends Jane and John, and their 7 year old daughter Sophia who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in April of this year.

This is Sophia!

Jane writes a journal on Caring Bridge that not only keeps her friends and family updated about Sophia’s treatments, but also provides us with inspiration and laughter. Talk about vulnerability (see my last post) – Jane shares her fears, her hopes, and funny stories about their journey, and when Sophia writes, her sassiness shines right through.

I was thinking about them because I recently read Jane’s post that was titled “Unbroken.” Jane is reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a book that I just happened to finish reading a few weeks ago, and she wrote about the parallels between Sophia and the POWs in the book. I enjoyed the book – and was definitely inspired by Louis Zamperini’s amazing story. It is hard to imagine how a person could overcome what he did – but that is not what this blog post is about.

This post is about my amazing friends, John and Jane, whom I have known for almost 20 years, and their increbile family who inspire me on a daily basis with their strength, their vulnerability, their humor, and their overall outlook on life, sickness, family and spirituality.

When I read Jane’s post about how Sophia is getting through her toughest week of treatment, it cut straight to my heart. In Jane’s words, “This kid has toxic poison flowing through her veins and she is still kicking butt.” Like Louis, Sophia has an incredibly strong will, which Jane says keeps them strong as a family.

This child is only 7 years old, and yet she already seems to know who she is, what she is made of, and consistently musters the strength to battle this serious disease. It is truly inspiring to me, and moves me to tears on a regular basis. Sometimes happy tears, sometimes sad tears. Sometimes both at the same time like what is happening to me now as I write this. Sometimes I am sad that they have to experience the pain of what is happening to them. But then, I think it’s because of this sadness that I am so moved by their strength and vulnerability as I realize how much we can learn from them.

Jane uses the word grace on her Light the Night fundraising page to describe how Sophia is enduring her illness and treatment. It is apparent to me that grace is present in their entire family – and shared with their friends and family. There is a higher power at work here – I know this because I can see it and I can feel it.

Their spirit is truly unbroken…and in fact seems stronger to me than ever before, because whether they realize it of not, I feel strengthened each time I read Jane’s journal, each time I see a photograph of Sophia and her siblings, Jack and Christina, each time I read about something funny Sophia did or said, and each time I hear the latest about the Anonymous Monkey Sender (AMS) and his/her antics.

Christina, Jack, Jane, Sophia & John

Their family and friends are walking in the Annapolis, MD Light the Night Walk to raise money for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on October 27th Use this hyperlink if you would like to support Team Sophia: http://pages.lightthenight.org/md/Annapoli12/TeamSophiaMcCaul.

While I can’t be there in person, my heart and spirit will be with them.

Home is Where the Art Is

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.
-Thomas Merton

Tonight my new house feels like home. My Dad, an engineer that happens to be very talented at placing art and furniture, came over last night to hang my pictures and rearrange furniture in exchange for Sunday dinner (remember – I love to cook for people who help me. My short to-do list includes minor toilet repair, storm door installation, or digging up/moving a crepe myrtle. If you have any of these skills, contact me! Good wine, good food, and good company in exchange for your labor!).

Tonight as I sit in my sun room, I feel connected to my space in a new, very good way. From my comfy couch, I can see a lot of my art in my purview. Having these pieces in place in my new home grounds me in a way that I didn’t realize until tonight. Just like my taste in music, movies and books – my taste in art is eclectic. I like variety – oil, watercolor, glass, acrylic, mixed media, pottery, photography, jewelry…you name it. The only thing in common in all of my art is that I have emotionally connected with each piece in some way, and that ties them together – and to me of course.

Prior to buying my house last month, I had been in a state of transition – moving three times in three years. Somewhere along that part of my journey, I made a conscious decision to acquire “real” art, and to purge my prints or pictures purchased at places like Home Goods or Bed Bath and Beyond.  Maybe I started in an attempt to connect to the space I was living in – to make that space feel like home, even though it was temporary. Maybe I did so in an attempt to feel grown up and independent. Maybe I did so in an attempt to express myself artistically as I starting living on my own for the first time. Maybe it was retail therapy – just to have a little fun splurging on somethng special. Likely a combination of all of these things were at play!

Here are some of the highlights in my “collection.”

This painting of my dog Derby is in the place of honor over my fireplace.

Derby as painted by Greg Hart

I consider it to be one of my first pieces of “real” art – painted by my friend and artist Greg Hart. Greg is a super talented portrait artist (see his website: http://greg-hart.com/home.html), and has been featured in a shows at the City Gallery in downtown Charleston, and online at “Buy Some Damn Art.” Greg found my dog Derby two years ago when Derby was a stray – emaciated, sick, and abandoned on the side of the road. This portrait of Derby is doubly special since it is painted by his rescuer. Very cool.

My next “real” painting is by another friend – Karen Myers (http://karenannmyers.com/). Karen was a coaching client of mine last year while she was the Executive Director at Redux Contemporary Art Center. Karen is known for her patterns and exact detail in her painting – and while she normally paints women in bedroom scenes, she painted this lovely piece of a penguin for a Antarctica-themed exhibit at her former studio, Scoop.

Penguin painted by Karen Ann Myers

I don’t know why – but penguins are one of my absolute favorite things in the world. I think it’s a combination of how silly they look, how unique they are as birds who can’t fly, how they mate for life, how the dad takes care of the egg while the mom goes for food – clearly there are many things to adore about penguins. My girlfriends who know me well surprised me with this painting as a gift for my 40th birthday last year. I treasure this painting as a reminder of Karen, and of my incredibly fun and crazy birthday celebration with my friends at the Grove Park Inn last year.

These next two pieces I bought together at the foot of the Duomo in Florence, Italy, last fall. Reeling from my claustrophia fit after climbing the bell tower, I tried to relax by walking in the courtyard, browsing through the street artists’ watercolors.

Street Artist in Florence, Italy

These watercolors of the Tuscan landscape will forever remind me of the most beautiful place on Earth that I have ever seen.

These are my poppy paintings. I bought them from a gallery around the corner. I don’t know the artist, and I didn’t buy them on a trip anywhere special. They make me smile. Sometimes it is just that simple.

Poppies

I like to say that I am a jewerly artist – that is a medium where I may have some talent. That said, I am not an art expert by any means. I never took Art History in college – and I can’t paint, draw, or sculpt. Though I know very little about art, I now know what I like, and I have enjoyed starting my “collection.”

I like collecting…memories, art, people… Each of my pieces are part of who I am, and as I sit and relax in my new space, I feel joy and contentment. I have a lot of walls to fill up – and I can’t wait to find more artists and art to collect – to have more adventures and to make lasting memories along the way.

Help!

Help! I can’t seem to get out of my death spiral. If you have been reading a while, you may remember that what I call the death spiral is when I lose it. Like what happened on the 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th phone calls of the day to AT&T yesterday about my cable/internet outage. It was like I was living in the movie Ground Hog Day – caught in an endless cycle of insanity as the same thing kept happening over and over again. My service had been down for days.  It all started during the massive lightning storm last Saturday night.  It was the most wicked lightning storm in my recent memory. Click this hyperlink to see an amazing photo my friends Clay and Susan took of the lightning over Shem Creek.

My sister Jacquie, and my niece and nephew were visiting last weekend. When the storm hit, we quickly moved away from the windows, grabbed the wine, iPads and iPhones and gathered in my bedroom to wait out the storm. You can imagine our alarm when we heard fire trucks arrive, and saw the fireman hooking up their hose to the hydrant in my front yard. Pretty exciting for Day 5 in the new house!

After the storm, we met the firemen (see below), and learned that lightning had struck my neighbor’s house, and they put out a small fire.

Me and the Firemen

Thankfully no one was hurt, and amazingly we still had power, but, alas, no cable or internet.  So we spent the rest of the weekend playing board games and watching movies – no big deal. AT&T restored my service Monday, but everything went out again the next day for some reason. Now things were getting frustrating.

The “inside” technician (Len) who arrived the next day explained that the outage was happening somewhere “outside”, which meant an “outside” technician had to be scheduled.  So the next day, AT&T called to confirm my appointment for an “inside” technician – and had my old address. What?? So after calling several times to be CERTAIN they had the right information…guess what happened. Not only did they still send me an inside tech by mistake – it was Len again! So despite every effort I made to avoid it – the exact same thing happened.

So today, I know I am in the death spiral – at least I can say I am a little self aware. I love my new house, but Week 1 has been full of challenges. The HVAC is only cooling to 79 degrees, and after a battle with my home warranty company – that should be fixed in “3-5 business days”…and a fire across the street…seriously? I know my cable/wireless outage is not the end of the world. Through in a service call on the fridge, and you would start to question your decision too!

I know it could be so much worse. I am TRYING to regain perspective. But I am struggling to stop the spiral. I just COULDN’T resist calling AT&T one more time this morning thinking that I may be able to make a difference – and not surprisingly – I ended up more upset in the process.

Haven’t you been there too? When you think that you can change something – but you can’t, and you just end up banging your head against the wall?

I know I am in a classic example of Stephen Covey’s paradigm of the Circle of Concern/Influence, and I can’t seem to stop the insanity. Also I am forgetting Covey’s 90/10 Principle – and I seem to have completely forgotten that while I can’t control what AT&T is doing (or not doing) – I can control my reaction. With the pressure of so many things (or triggers), I have been blind to the choices in front of me – and I am back to being a pinball in something like the Plinko machine I had as a kid. And it’s not that simple to “chillax” as my nephew would say.

Here is my attempt to re-create the paradigm:

Laurie’s Circle of Concern/Influence

Can’t you feel the negative energy pushing the circle of influence smaller?

What I always loved about Covey was his ability to make his concepts visual. Creating this is a great reminder that I am colossally wasting my energy, and the more I keep at it – the worse it is getting.  

As usual, writing is helping me to clear out the cobwebs in my head. That and Donald, the “outside technician” knocked on my door as I was writing. I almost hugged him upon his arrival. He promised to get things fixed in an hour – and guess what, I am now back online! He was just a little sweaty – so it wasn’t too hard to resist hugging him goodbye.

Tonight I am finally going to chillax and watch the Olympics.

Dog Days of Summer

It’s hot. Everywhere. A Reuters release a few hours ago indicated that the Continental U.S. broke the heat record in the first half of 2012, so I am certain I am not crazy. At least not about that.

I have lived in paradise here in the Lowcountry for more than eight years, but I still haven’t gotten used to dealing with the heat, humidity and bugs that make me want to stay cooped up inside in the air conditioning in July and August. Pools are too warm to be refreshing. The beach is too hot, muggy and crowded to enjoy. It’s too hot to run, my favorite exercise…wah wah wah…I used to have a coffee mug that said “No Whining” but I accidentally broke it. Clearly I need to replace it.

For the last few weeks, I haven’t been writing at all, I am out of my exercise routine, and I wound up with a wicked summer cold. The last few days have found me particularly lethargic… Even Derby isn’t feeling well – as I write this he is taking a nap in my closet. Poor guy has a double ear infection, and is clearly not himself. We are quite a pair!

Derby napping in my closet

After a trip to the emergency vet yesterday to figure out what was wrong with Derby, I finally sat down to write and think about my state of mind and my state (and Derby’s!) of physical being. I was tired of feeling tired. I had crossed the line into self pity and general “mopeyness” (not really a word but still says it best)…and I knew I needed to work a few things out in my head and get a grip.

I asked myself – where is the fine line between rest and lethargy? Between healing and moping? Between relaxation and rumination?

For sure sometimes we need to allow ourselves the time and space to rest and heal – whether from illness, heartbreak or the like. But sometimes we wallow. Sometimes we mope. Sometimes we cross that line into inertia and don’t realize it…I was definitely there, and started to see things a little more clearly. Do you know what I mean? It’s the simple difference between taking a nap and waking up refreshed versus clicking through TV stations for two hours feeling tired and listless. Except on a grander scale.

As I thought about the questions, some answers started to percolate. I started to realize that the key for me is awareness, purpose, and intention. I realized that If I am aware of how I am feeling and why, I can clearly think about what I need, and I can start to take purposeful steps to meet those needs. If I need to rest, I can take a nap to take care of myself rather than feel guilty that I am restless on the couch channel surfing rather than being productive.

It’s as simple as being mindful rather than mindless. I can be mindful and be in a state of rest and healing…or I can be mindless and feel idle and lethargic. One gives me energy. The other zaps it.

Can it really be that simple??

Uh, no. So what gets in the way? Get ready for the list. I sat and literally wrote a list of what I labeled:

“Energy Suckers”

  1. Self doubt disguised as voices in my head that say “you can’t” or “you’re not good enough” or “you don’t deserve it.”
  2. Giving too much – not saying no.
  3. Resentments that I haven’t let go. Just like Florence sings… “I’m always dragging that horse around.”
  4. Fear paralysis. What if? What’s next?
  5. Self pity.
  6. Looking for validation from others – rather than from within.
  7. Unhealthy eating and/or drinking.
  8. Ignoring my feelings by brushing off any negative emotion rather than becoming aware of what it is and where it comes from.
  9. Doing too much – focusing on doing rather than being.
  10. Inertia – doing nothing yet not resting.
  11. Not engaging my brain – mindlessness v. mindfulness.

What zaps YOUR energy? Who and what are your energy suckers?

If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you know I like to flip things around, so…

Here is a list of my energy remedies, aka…

“Energizers”

  1. Getting a good night’s sleep. Or a great nap. I can learn from Derby – who by the way is still napping, but has now moved to the couch. He doesn’t seem to be feeling guilty – he is resting and healing.
  2. Writing. Nothing clears my head like writing does.
  3. Asking a friend for help. Or going to the doctor for a diagnosis and some medicine.
  4. Helping someone in need…and re-gaining perspective.
  5. Reflecting on my growth and lessons learned.
  6. Listening to music. Recent favorite song includes Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine and my newest Pandora addition, George Michael…
  7. Reading a book. Recent favorite, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown.
  8. Exercising – yes, even in this terrible heat. Who says walking isn’t exercise? Derby and I went for a walk this morning, and I think we both feel a little better as a result.
  9. Creating something – by cooking something fresh and healthy or making jewelry.
  10. Laughter (remember my Belly Laugh post…).

What is on your list? What energizes you?

Redefining The Wall

My brother Geoff, his wife Catherine, and I “competed” in the “Warrior Dash” in Huntersville, NC this Saturday. I am not sure how I got involved in doing this with them…I think I’ll blame Groupon. And maybe my friend Janet, my running buddy, because she has been trying to convince me to do something like this for a while. So when Catherine sent me the Groupon for the race (so she may have some culpability in this as well), I had to decide quickly because that is how Groupon gets you. Half price to risk my life – what a bargain! In the spirit of my journey to take more risks in 2012, I signed up.

The Warrior Dash is the world’s largest foot race with obstacles…which included a fire pit, a muddy pond, a rope bridge, tires, beat-up cars, and a long crawl through mud covered in barbed wire as well as many walls with varying heights, angles, aids, and treachery. All of these things we ran over, under, through or around for 3.08 miles to get to the finish line. To get a feel of what we did, check out this out. A guy with some kind of camera/helmet thingy, carrying an American flag, made this 3 minute video of our race from Saturday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfNISwztIEY

In preparing for the race, I tried not to stress out about how I was going to handle the obstacles. I knew I could always skip ones that were too hard – I wasn’t running to win anything. And I knew I would get a medal just for crossing the finish line…and a free beer!  I just wanted to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and knew we would have a lot of laughs. So I concentrated on what I was going to wear and how I was going to style my hair given how dirty I was likely to get. No other training besides my regular running routine took place.

What happened on race day exceeded my expectations in so many ways. First, some of the obstacles were a LOT harder than I expected. After a trek through a few disgustingly muddy obstacles in the woods, we found ourselves facing a 20+ ft rock climbing wall. If you don’t know what this is, please let me explain. It is a vertical wall with little tiny ledges you use for your hands and feet to climb. There are no harnesses or safety nets. This is probably why we each had to sign the waiver about 30 times with our names and initials. Anyway, my point is that our shoes were caked with mud and we were to climb this thing and not fall off. Add the fact that I am pigeon-toed and you have a recipe for disaster. Geoff and Catherine were like spider monkeys…I was so impressed! So I gave it a shot and up I went.

What I didn’t realize is that after about 6 feet up, it became much scarier to think about coming down from whence I came than it was to continue…so I kept going up and tried not to think about anything. I got to the top with a little nudge from the guy below me and a kinda crazy tuck and roll move onto the platform. Whew!! Then, as if that isn’t enough, when I got to the top of this thing, I had to leap out about 4 feet and grab a fireman’s pole to slide down. And then about 6 more obstacles to go after this…

Another thing that exceed my expectations is that I got a lot dirtier and wetter than I ever imagined.

There was no way around the muddy pond obstacle except through it…and the water was over our heads. Ick!!! We came out of it covered in what Geoff called pond seaweed…but I called pond scum. Ugh. It was at least as awful as it looks in that video.

By the time we got to the end, we no longer cared about how gross we were. Well, maybe I did, because I scratched up my elbows and hands pretty good trying to not immerse myself in mud in the final mud crawl under the barbed wire obstacle…

In the end, I completed more of the obstacles than I thought that I would (11 out of 12). Geoff and Catherine did ALL of them – I am in awe. I always have a goal for each race I enter… sometimes it is about time, sometimes distance, and sometimes it is about simply finishing. For the Warrior Dash, my goal was to have fun with Geoff and Catherine and to not hurt myself. Minus a few scrapes, blisters and bruises, I did what I set out to do and then some. Geoff, Catherine and I have stories that will last us a lifetime, and hilarious pictures for our Christmas cards.

But – this story can’t be a true blog post without my comments on my lessons learned.

So I got to thinking about something I have heard my dad say about me and my siblings many times. He says if there was a wall, my older sister Jacquie would bust through to the other side, that I would find a way to “dance” around the wall to get to the other side, and that Geoff would choose stay on his side of the wall. Let me tell you he was right that I did run around (not exactly dance) one wall that I just couldn’t get over. But – I saw my brother in action, and he was fearless conquering the multitude of walls that we encountered on Saturday, and I know he has conquered many other kinds of “walls” in his life as well.

So here is what I think. The idea of “The Wall” can mean different things to different people. And it can mean different things to us at different times of our lives. It can represent risk, and it can represent boundaries. The “wall” can mean it’s time to rest, and it can mean it’s time to push through. The wall can conjure danger, opportunity, obstacles, and safety. The key is to increase our awareness of the walls that exist in our lives so that the walls don’t control us. It’s not that we control them either. Rather, we recognize the walls – understand them, define them, and figure out what they means to us – and then we can make conscious choices with our actions, thoughts and feelings about how we cope with these walls in our lives.

Also, as a side note, I learned at the rock climbing wall that sometimes the risk of moving ahead is worth it compared to the pain of going backwards. What a metaphor, right? On the same said wall, and in the pond scum obstacle, I learned that help from a friend or a stranger is there if you ask and are willing to accept the help.

Will I do the Warrior Dash again next year – absolutely! As long as Catherine and Geoff are there to help me, and maybe we can get Jacquie out there too.

Wonder Women

I bought this mug a few days ago in an adorable shop in Georgetown in between business meetings.

I have a special talent…give me an extra 15 minutes before I need to be somewhere, and I will not only find a great shop, I’ll find several things that I don’t need but must have (for me or for someone else), and I will somehow find room for all of it in my suitcase. This Wonder Woman mug is the second in what I guess is now my Wonder Woman coffee mug collection. I am not exactly sure why I started this collection. I found the first one during a walk in downtown Charleston with my friend Janet last year. We stopped in at the Moon Pie store (yes you read that correctly – a Moon Pie store) where I found the mug and knew I had to have it. Here is the original:

I suppose it has something to do with being inspired with the phrase: “As lovely as Aphrodite, as wise as Athena” which is printed on on the back both of my mugs. Beauty and brains with braun mixed in – an attractive combination of qualities, don’t you think?

Each morning, the very first thing I do is let my dog Derby out and then immediately turn on my Keurig machine to make my cup of coffee. I turn on the Today Show, sit on my couch, and contemplate the day ahead. I am pretty sure I can face whatever the day brings when I take this time for myself – especially if my Wonder Woman mug is clean!

Well, today is Mother’s Day, and as I reflected during my morning ritual this morning, I started thinking about the “Wonder Women” in my life.

A few weekends ago, I got together with five of my college roommates for a mini-vacation in Florida. We shared stories with each other that would rival any chick lit novel out there! But alas, I (and they) are sworn to secrecy, so you won’t be reading our stories here or in any pending novel that I may or may not have up my sleeve.

That said, as I sat and thought about the six of us, I thought about how incredible it would be if we happened to have any of Wonder Woman’s powers, and decided to start writing to see where my thoughts would lead.

First of all, I thought about how I could REALLY use an invisible plane – one that I could  pilot the way that Wonder Woman does. It would be amazing to be able to go anywhere I wanted to go in complete stealth mode – and to be able to bring my Super Friends with me would be an added bonus! No more worrying about stuffing my clothes and purchases into my carry on…there would be room for my hot rollers too, and I could avoid having to be polite to strangers.

Second, I know the six of us could use the golden lasso of truth. Imagine the power we would have over children, spouses, significant others, bosses and colleagues if we could force them to always tell the truth! To know what the other person is thinking and feeling – no fears, no games – how refreshing that would be!

Third, I know all of us could put the indestructible bracelets to use on a daily basis. Wonder Woman always seemed to need hers to deflect bullets. I don’t think any of us have been shot at…but we could use the bracelets in a different way – to deflect all negative things that come our way – no energy suckers, no negativity, no angst, no self-doubt, no fears…no sickness, no sadness…I wish that were possible.

But – alas, we are mere mortals. We are human just like everyone else…vulnerable to the ups and downs that life brings to each of us. And as we get older, I realize that life throws a lot at all of us, and we all cope in different ways.

What makes these “wonder women” special is how they have the beauty, brains and braun to cope from within – no super powers necessary! These ladies – as many others in my life, emanate grace in the face of both the highs and the lows that life brings to all of us. They are mothers, wives, daughters and friends who don’t hesitate to put their loved ones first.

Today I celebrate these special women, as well as the other Wonder Women in my life – you know who you are! You are all as beautiful as Aphrodite and as wise as Athena in my book.