Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections on Being Single…and the Importance of a Clean Plate

Minges Pumpkin Festival with Pete

I am all about full disclosure and so I will say again, what I have said before, in my first book, in my life…to anyone who will listen. I suffer from the painful affliction of being human.  Imperfect, sometimes a hot mess, sometimes a train wreck…and every once in a while, a great big side of awesome!

I find life lessons to be the best way to learn and since we are all in this together, I like to share what I learn (or sometimes fail to notice and learn later).  I am writing my blog and thinking about my life, reflecting on changes over time and what it feels like to be single now as opposed to a much younger self.

You might think that writing about being single is synonymous with dating.  It’s not and this is in no way intended to be advice.  I’m not dating, nor would I consider myself an expert or role model to follow in any aspect of dating…my first instinct has been to avoid, avoid, avoid…well, with little exception, that’s been my first instinct for the first year living single after having lived as part of a married couple for about a decade and a half.

And I’m only half joking in my assessment…because I am a glass half full kind of gal, and I tend to lean towards Mary Poppins (when I’m not stuck on the tracks with another train coming).   But hey, it’s only the first year.  

This isn’t the level of sharing I imagined in my blog, but we’ve moved from 2015 to 2016 since I first talked about my "Civilized, 21st Century Divorce."

And I did promise to share a “to be continued.”  It’s just that my “to be continued” has not moved along as quickly as expected, and life has smacked me down a time or two, and well…to be honest, aside from extracting a spouse from the mix, I’m living pretty much the same way I did before…except…well except for everything.  

It’s an odd thing to try to explain. I feel completely different and yet completely the same.  Pre-divorce, I had the same aspirations and dreams as I have now.  And if I didn’t look closely, I could leave it at that.  But those aspirations and dreams were different through the lens of my previous life.  I’ve spent the past several months trying to pinpoint what feels so different.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a new level of anxiety…a little fear of the unknown.  But not for the reasons you might think.  Because regardless of my marital status, I have always been able to take care of myself and land on my feet in any situation.

No, this level of anxiety has more to do with a parting of the clouds and a clear blue sky I’m seeing overhead.  I’m overwhelmed by the unlimited opportunities and choices I now have in re-determining how I go after my dreams and goals. 

My past has left me with the impression of a rainy day.  Those kind of days when we are met by a sunless sky, covered in grey, and we feel like taking a nap, feeling a slight chill of agitation…or just a general sense or intuition that we are somehow off center. 

And now, back on my own, the sky still clouds over on bad days.  Increasingly, though, I am seeing sunny skies peeking through, with more good days than bad.  I know now that the future is what I decide and what I choose to make of it.  

I’ve lived this reflection of being single more than once in my lifetime.  And like I said before, I suffer from the same affliction we all share…the state of being human.  For me, being human is giving myself a little slack now and then, looking back and checking the distance traveled…instead of fretting about how much more ground I need to cover.

When I look back on my first reflection…as a twenty-something single mom, I remember a different level of fear and anxiety…for different reasons.  I was afraid of being alone.  I didn’t feel whole by myself.  I found myself in a constant struggle to forge a new life, while waiting for my life to feel complete.  And in looking at my reflection now, once again a single mom, there is way more than my age that stares back differently in my reflection in comparison to my younger self.

I try to learn and consider what changes in life and what is a constant…and how to avoid remaining stagnate and unchanging, without completely losing myself in the process.  I think I’m on the right path now.  Because the younger me was surrounded by friends, marking time until the right person came along.  The more seasoned version of me sees things completely in reverse.  Remember, I said I am not a dating expert.  So don’t take what I say as a formula for success.  But the way I see it now, in contrast to my former marriage, in my life today…there is more right than wrong.  I have learned that living your life the way it is in the here and now is way better than living it like you’re waiting for something better…and that you are the best person to keep company with.  You are the only person, who knows what makes you happy. 

I used to think that life required a little dash of romance to be interesting and exciting…to be worth living.  My former reflection has taught me this is a false truth.  Over time, I learned that everything in life can be interesting and exciting.  I believe you have to live life big and wide open, and without apology.

If happiness were a recipe we could all follow and get the same results every single time, that excitement and uncertainty would quickly become yet another routine household chore.  I have learned that every time you go in the kitchen and choose to get closer to the flame, the recipe never turns out the same.  It depends on what you put into it, how long you give it to simmer, and whether or not you want to add an extra placemat on your table in life. 

Said differently, I believe that you begin with a full plate…all things that make you uniquely you and the people and places, which make up your life.  And even at its fullest, the time to introduce that extra seasoning or spice largely depends on your appetite for living.  Are you ready to go back for second helpings?  Do you need to moves things around on your plate to make room for more?  Do you want to make room at all?  All great and valid questions…and all questions we all answer individually.

But my biggest learning of all is that regardless of where you find yourself seated at the table of life, you needn’t add a plus 1 to feel complete.  And when you are ready to add some company, chew slowly between meals, let your food settle, and clean your plate before you start cooking anything else.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Feeding Instructions for a Creative Mind...

For Pete...one of the most creative minds I know!  

1.              If you see passion, you must feed it.  Even if further clarification and direction is needed, listen and encourage further exploration.

2.              Nurture and cultivate…surround a creative mind with the tools necessary to grow.  Sometimes that may mean something as simple as a paintbrush or a power tool.

3.              When given the right environment, ideas, like seeds, will grow and develop into beautiful blooms.  And the right environment is not always the same for every individual.

4.              Give careful attention to watering and sunshine…you cannot over stimulate creativity.  Left unattended, it will still grow, but you’ll never know how much bigger it might have been with a little extra encouragement.

5.              Leave room for personal growth from within…equally important, remember to allow outside stimuli to ignite even bigger opportunities to challenge the creative mind.

6.              Never put fences around dreams; we all decide for ourselves “what’s possible.”  Fences, by design, are intended to keep something in…a creative mind in a contained area is like giving an artist a blank canvas and then limiting the space for use to a single corner.

7.               Given the chance to dream big, you may find that very few things in life are impossible!  


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Matter of Life or Death

People often talk about having near death experiences.  But I would like to suggest that the more important experiences have to do with near life…I mean we have clusters of near life experiences every day.  Where we’re almost living, but in reality, we’re only scratching the surface of what we could really be experiencing if we could see through a different filter or lens…one that reminds us and makes clear the fact that every day is a near death experience.  Because from the moment we are born, this cradle to grave mentality we all feel uncomfortable addressing…it’s there whether we choose to consciously acknowledge it or not.  We all face an unknown calendar and clock, carefully wound in advance, constantly changing and adjusting paths and patterns based on our own choices and paths taken.

Think about it.  Having a close call or near death experience can leave a person feeling grateful to be alive, breathing a big sigh of relief.  And perhaps some even commit to sustained change in making every moment count.  But over time, most slip back into that comfort cradle, the one that leaves us feeling swaddled in a false sense of security, enabling us to continue moving forward in a way that doesn’t terrify us with the knowledge that there is only so far we can go before we fulfill a different objective, counterintuitive to the one we started with. 

I would argue that being nearer to life on a daily basis is a focus we all need to pay attention to.  Why?  First, there is absolutely nothing we can do about being nearer to death.  And second, knowing upfront that we have a finite amount of time to live, why wouldn’t we do so in a way that is full on and non-stop?  Why wouldn’t we try to be nearer to life, living it to the fullest for as long as we possibly can…until we have no other choice on the sliding scale of time, which will eventually put us nearer to death.

Sound a little morose?  Perhaps, but I have chosen to be full on and non-stop, in a nearer to life kind of way…I am simply acknowledging life for the timepiece that it is…finite, temporary and pretty awesome to be a part of! 


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Courage is Perspective and Kids Really Do Know it All

(First Published Fall 2014)

If I were The Wizard of Oz for one day and I could hold court with all the troubled souls coming in and out of the Emerald City…oh what a day that would be.

Beginning with children, from all walks of life, all suffering from the same affliction…”know-it-all-ness.”  It’s the first sign of a healthy, confident individual coming of age and also a curse to those on the fringe, struggling to find their way.

At this juncture, I give you the Cowardly Lion as a metaphor.  Throughout Dorothy’s journey in Oz, he was her faithful companion, following her in the hopes of finding courage.

I would suggest that from the very beginning, the Lion represented a child.  Impetuous, unpredictable, and full of energy and potential not yet channeled.

It doesn’t matter how I arrived at this realization or who I’m writing about.  Because what I say could apply to just about any kid in the middle of growing up while trying to navigate the swift changes coming from every direction.

But I very much see this individual as more uncommon than common, with a penchant for having more depth of thought and raw emotion than that of his counterparts of similar age.  The very extraordinary gifts he has been blessed with are what make him both unique and different.  In time, unique gifts will be fully realized potential and the path will be a roadmap that clearly shows him why it was worth the journey.  But it doesn’t work in reverse.

Time is a funny thing.  Because in the meantime, the differentness is what makes this child’s life less bright as an old soul in a bright world waits for his peers to catch up with his depth of expression and emotion.  To catch up to the wonderment of the world he sees in each and every thing in life.  To curiously question new inventions, boldly express thoughts.  And no, his differentness is not his friend as he continues to grow during what we’ve all been told are the “best years of our life”.

As parents, we try to help guide the way, raise them up when there are bumps in the road…and listen seeking to understand.

We see the world as it is…big, full of life, unlimited potential and opportunities.  But our children, they already know it all.  That is to say they truly do know it all…as much as they can know a day before the next day of knowing, living in a smaller world of a small classroom, in a neighborhood school.  It’s all they know and sometimes the knowing is not enough.

The big picture comes later, past traditional learning.  It begins with the first step they take outside the line and make a conscious choice to be different.  It’s empowering, exhilarating and terrifying all at once.  But once you realize that the whole world is made up of people just like you and completely different all at once, you realize you’re not so different so much as you are someone gifted with a spirit destined to do more.

So back at Emerald City, where I am counseling kids and thinking about that Cowardly Lion, I think my final thought is this.  Our job is to give kids courage to keep going, keep trying…after failures and after successes.  We do it through words, actions, however we uniquely show love and support.

But at the end of the day, the one thing they desperately need the most…what we possess and can’t give them.  It’s perspective.  And it can’t be bought or given by someone else.  It can’t be taught in a classroom.  It happens every second of every day we live.  And our kids are on that path to perspective, but it’s going to take some time before they can see for their own eyes, what we want them to know when we already said they know everything they can right now.  Maybe kids are supposed to be know it alls and as they grow, just like the Cowardly Lion, they earn their stripes…get their courage…find the perspective we wanted to give them, not realizing it has to be earned.  In a heartbeat, like everything else, I would give it to you, my son.  But this one must be earned and you’ll be wiser for it as you move a little further down your journey. Truth be told, I know it all now too…until tomorrow, when I’ll have just a little more perspective.  Live in love, with a hunger for knowledge, and the courage of a lion’s heart.  And never, never, stop.  And you will learn just like you, perspective is uniquely owned and valued and when you get it, no one can take it away from you.  And with it, you’ll find the courage to do even more.