You 2.0

gladiator2016

One year ago today, I began getting up at 5:15 a.m. every weekday to run, journal, read, dream and scheme. I no longer do that because it served its purpose and ran its course (ha, ha) for the time being but, oh, the places it has taken/is taking me and the growth it catalyzed over the past year! 90 minutes for myself every weekday morning was an investment that paid dividends unimaginable 366 days ago. (Maybe it was Leap Day that made all the difference?)

My advice, for those curious–perhaps longing for something more, for life lived more deeply, for different days:

  • You need not know what you want to start moving toward it.
  • Just start moving.

Begin by giving yourself some time and space, and have the courage to see what emerges. You may encounter some dragons along the way, but do not back down. You may come to a great wall (maybe more than one), but it’s in your power to either climb it, go around, or even turn back and find a different path (don’t worry, you’re not behind; there is no “behind”). You will likely lose some friends because of your courage and your audacity, but those losses will become insignificant compared to the true allies you gain (and it could take some time so don’t lose heart–I mean that sincerely, don’t leave pieces of your heart with those who are not equipped to honor it). You will call in other souls who are drawn to your strength, creativity and integrity, not frightened by it.

Fires will blaze–first to cleanse, then to forge, then to signal, and finally to celebrate.

And then? Because of who you have become–the You 2.0 this journey formed–you will someday decide it is time once again to set the alarm for 5:15 a.m.

In Which Poison Helps Me Overcome Perfectionism

My name is Sandra and I am a Recovering Perfectionist.

Unlike drugs or alcohol, there is no hard-and-fast way for me to know when I’ve fallen off the wagon. There is no liquid I swallow or powder I snort and then know that I screwed up and blew it again.

I am grateful and proud at how far I’ve come since I first admitted and embraced my perfectionist tendencies and started loving them (and the little girl who created them as a way to try to maintain some sense of control over a life that often felt out of control). I have found that loving anything/anyone is always a better way to catalyze change than is resisting. I also rejoice at those moments when I catch myself about to “shoot up” and instead choose differently.

One of those moments was this morning.

I had decided to skip my run. I was feeling a little wobbly after a little whiskey last night (I’ve become a lightweight again). So I just showered, dressed, and started my day otherwise. After that, I was sitting on the couch, talking to a friend (that’s code for “having a session with my coach”). She had just begun to lead me into a meditation, and I was attempting to focus on my shame around a particular situation–what it looks like in physical form (wait, doesn’t everyone do that kind of thing on a Tuesday morning?)–when I stopped her and told her I’d just had an insight I needed to remember. In a split second, I’d felt this urge to go running and then immediately dismissed it because it was too late in the day and I had already showered. In the next split second, I realized how ridiculous it was to dismiss my want. My body felt an urge (the fact that I even realized my body felt an urge was notable) but I immediately went to the logistics of why it couldn’t have what it wanted.

Then I remembered that I am a grown woman, the owner of my own company, and the one who sets my schedule. If I feel like going for a run, I have the freedom to run–time of day and previous shower be damned.

So I did. Not only did I, I took a totally different route than any of my usual (which are starting to bore me). And rather than listening to my usual running playlist (which is starting to bore me), I tapped Poison Radio on Google Music (go ahead, judge me and my love for 80’s hair bands). I knew it needed to stream but I had previously cached enough songs to cover a longer time in the car, so I thought I’d be golden for at least 40 minutes.

The run started well. Nice to change up my route. Strange though, because although it was Poison Radio, not a single Poison song had played. Then I began dragging (perhaps because I had been denied any actual Poison). It got rough (see: whiskey last night). But then “Love on the Rocks” came on. Yes! One of my favorite Poison songs. I was energized and ready for more. I was curious to see what the next song was going to be–hopefully more Poison?! So much energy and anticipation! “Love on the Rocks” ended…and there was silence. I must have waited a good 30 seconds before accepting that there was no next song. My cache was empty; my tank was dry.

The boys from Poison left me hanging. Damn them.

I was forced to run the rest of the time with nothing to listen to…except my thoughts. That was the icing on my screw-perfectionism cake. The chance to be with my thoughts gave me the opportunity to integrate the incredible insights I had in my coaching session (my shame had some serious wisdom to lay down!) and then to recognize all that I had done to overcome perfectionism a bit more just by going for a run–on a different route, at a different time of day, after I had already showered, when I had a video call coming up, with different music than usual, and then with no music.

To many of you, I suppose this sounds ridiculous. You live your lives with a freedom you don’t even realize. Thinking only about this moment or maybe the next few. Me? I can look at any event on my calendar or task on my to-do list, look down the line forward into time, and envision every step along the way and how long each will take. From A to B to C to D. It’s how I make a living. It’s who I am. It’s how shit gets done.

And it’s exhausting. Despite my ability to see into the future, I rarely feel any anxiety about future events. But it’s exhausting to be trapped by the belief that A must come before B. Lately, however, I am putting B before A when it really counts. Sometimes I go totally off the rails and make up new rules for Big Things–like work, parenting, marriage, friendship. I question why things are the way they are, keep what works and discard what doesn’t, and see if I can co-create something more effective and satisfying than How Everyone Else Does It. Or in the timeless words of Poison, I get curious and start “Tearin’ Down the Walls.” (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I really do love them.)

Lighthouse II

Ever since this post and the events that inspired it, I have held in my mind’s eye a vision of a lighthouse. When I feel myself wanting to get into someone else’s business and “save” them from themselves, I pull myself back with that vision and refocus on my own growth. At some point in the last couple of months, I adopted this mantra:

I am a lighthouse.
I am not the Coast Guard.

It seems to have struck a chord. I can see why; it’s pretty awesome. (If I do say so myself.) So I’m posting it here to claim.

Carry on. Shine brightly. Stand tall.

Lighthouse

I was stabbed in the back recently.

When the time is right I’ll share the larger context but, until then, I can say that it was insult on top of injury. Worse still, it was by someone I thought of as a close friend and had trusted deeply. The visual I have of the experience is this: I am running and have been hit by a car. I’m on the road, hurt. Someone walks toward me and I see it’s my friend. “Thank God,” I think, “someone to help me!” Friend picks me up and helps me stand, brushes me off, points me forward to carry on…and then stabs me in the back.

I was ashamed. So ashamed. Ashamed that I had asked for help. Ashamed that I had trusted someone I thought I knew well enough and offering something that seemed too good to be true. So ashamed. I turned deeply inward for a week. I cried, a lot. I screamed, a lot. I cursed, a lot. I was no fun to live with. I was no fun to BE. Not until the end of the week did I realize that I had either intentionally or unintentionally kept myself from attending every single karate class that week and had not gone running once. (If you know how much I love karate and running, you know how far inward I had turned.) Then I even considered staying home from karate camp. I couldn’t bear the thought of being around so many people, pretending to be ok. It was bad, and I was punishing myself. Hard. So ashamed that I thought I deserved to suffer for the sin of being betrayed. (Not for betraying someone, but for being betrayed. How screwed up is that, right?! Flawed thinking–that’s how much I hurt.)

I’m not one to stay down…even when I’ve been hit by a car and stabbed in the back. But sometimes it takes me awhile to get up, and sometimes I start by crawling. So after and along with the crying and the screaming and the cursing, I worked with my coach, my husband, and truly trusted friends–who had proven themselves to me more than once–and put together a plan to crawl out of the hole I’d retreated into. I reached out for help to start shining the light on what I had been feeling, then to work up my courage to go to camp by letting a few of people know either what had happened or simply that I needed some support. It was scary to be that vulnerable and ask for more help when I had been betrayed. But I did it, and they came through beautifully for me. (Thank you, friends.)

Camp went well. There were definitely rough times but the plan I had put into place worked; it kept me feeling safe. It was my second camp and very different for me than last year. I was still turned inward but I let my light shine, in my own way. I went way out of my comfort zone as an introvert many times and never once regretted it. I listened to my intuition and I trusted it to keep me safe. It did. More than just keeping me safe, it helped me connect. And more than just connect, I was even able to sincerely support others facing their own challenges and to talk about things you just don’t expect to talk about at karate camp.

I have trusted my intuition for a long time, and not trusting it was what led to the betrayal. I had begun to have my doubts about this person–that perhaps what they were saying to my face wasn’t sincere–but multiple conversations had brought nothing but denial and declarations of even further support. And since I had been hit by a car and was disoriented, I didn’t trust my own judgment. Wow. So foolish of me. Then I quit trusting my gut, my intuition. Big mistake. Big lesson. (I am always grateful for lessons, no matter how painful, because they save me from even harder lessons in the future.)

I have paid the price for not trusting my intuition–a lost friendship, weeks of of heartache. Shame and then forgiving myself for wanting to trust so badly that I ignored the red flags. This post is the balm I needed, my confession. I screwed up. I didn’t trust myself. I knew better. And ignoring all of that hurt myself and my family in ways I never imagined possible, at a time when we can ill afford it. But now I know it is possible to be hurt that way, and that it could happen again regardless of how I might protect myself. The difference will be that I am no longer the same person; next time the knife won’t cut as deeply because my skin is thicker.

This is the time to write this post because it all shifted for me this morning–releasing the shame, forgiving myself, the insight. It actually started yesterday when I felt wronged by my son, who had made an innocent mistake by using something very precious to me and not meant to be shared. I set a very strong boundary (after calmly telling him what he had done wrong and then heading to the basement alone to punch out my anger on the bag rather than vomit my anger verbally on him), he learned a lesson, and we all worked through it as a family. We were honest and sincere with each other and it was resolved within a matter of hours. Looking back I can see that standing up for myself there with my husband and son who are sincere and have integrity (this is a 10-year-old, mind you!) allowed me to recognize that forgiving myself was the only option when I had been faced with such duplicity and insincerity in the betrayal. Thanks to my family, I experienced yesterday what it is like to speak openly of hurt and disappointment in a relationship with those mature enough to talk it through (have a mentioned he’s a 10-year-old boy?!?). That made me realize that the betrayal I had experienced was nothing to be ashamed of. I had tried. I had been honest and sincere. I can only control my own behavior.

The big shift came this morning after I had dropped my son off at day camp and was driving back home. For some reason, I started waving to every person I passed, whether driving, walking, running, or sitting in front of their house. Not everyone waved back, but I didn’t let that stop me from waving to the next person. And the next person. Because maybe the next person was someone who really needed it, really needed to be seen and acknowledged with a simple wave. Who maybe was facing their own challenge or had just pulled the knife out of their own back. Because that is who I am. I am a lighthouse. When I am at my best, I shine my light. I stay grounded. I stay centered. I stay in my own business. I might be surrounded by crashing boats and deadly waves…and I just keep shining my bright light. I know it’s too bright for some eyes. But there are a lot of boats in the darkness–my own included when I am not at my best–and I might help someone find their way home just by standing tall and shining.

A Few Dollars and a Year of Humiliation

Cade (and he now likes to be called) just started fourth grade, and the order form for recorders came home this week. $5 for your first school musical instrument–can’t beat that! I sent this to his music teacher in response:

It’s recorder time! 🙂

I sent Cade’s form and check back to school today and had an idea I wanted to share. You probably have something in place for this already, but if there are kids whose families have a hard time coming up with the $5, I’d like to help them out.

My family wasn’t poor by any measure, but my parents were Depression kids and my mom was a total tightwad. I remember when the time came in 4th grade. I was so excited to get a recorder, and then my mom informed me she didn’t want to spend the money since “we” already had one. I had to use my brother’s BROWN recorder which was already 9 years old. All the other kids had nice cream-colored ones with forest green vinyl cases. I made my own case out of flowered fabric, and the combo made me stick out like a sore thumb [I should have said “wrong note” here instead!]. It was humiliating. And I still have that recorder and case as a reminder not to sweat the small expenses when it comes to my own child. Now I’ll use that ugly brown thing to play along with him and flip it to the positive!

—-

I have been very fortunate to co-create and sustain work that feels like play to me and allows me to make a good living. I love giving money away to worthy causes and am thankful that I can do so whenever I feel called. Sometimes those calls come in the form of a formal ask, but the calls that are a little voice in my head are the most fun and, I think, create the biggest emotional bang for my buck.

Moments of Magical Alignment

I intended to write this on December 29, 2013. It was on my to-do list. It was on my calendar. But it wasn’t ready to be written until now, January 16, 2014. Sometimes life is funny that way:  we think it’s time for Something, but Something isn’t quite ready to show up in time.

I had the joy and privilege of meeting Boyd Varty today. Boyd is a storyteller, coach, and tracker, drawing upon his unconventional upbringing on and around a South African severely-overgrazed-cattle-ranch-transformed-into-nature-reserve. Because of mutual friends, my Facebook feed has been full of mentions of Boyd’s TED talk back in December. Boyd’s talk centers around the African value of ubuntu (if you’re not familiar with it, watch the video), and those who best embodied that concept in his life.

I can share those details of his talk now, because I finally watched it for the first time—over a month after it was posted. I had truly intended to watch it time and time again (and there was no shortage of of reminders in my Facebook feed), but I never made it past pure intention. I know that “busy” is a social disease these days, but my December was Busy. My mom’s health had been deteriorating over the summer and November brought a hospitalization and subsequent rehab in a nursing home. Though we hoped she’d be able to return to her assisted living apartment, that was not the outcome and she is now living at Bethany Manor permanently. It was a good move for both her and me (as my worries over her safety and care had grown considerably), and it also meant that I—and this certainly wasn’t something I had proactively blocked time for on my calendar—was charged with cleaning out her apartment by the end of December. Physically it was a blip on my radar; emotionally, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. More difficult even than the 10 days I spent at her side in the intensive care unit after her heart attack and surgery a couple of years ago.

December’s events and exploits alone could be a blog post, but the sincere highlight came on Christmas Eve when I attended the candlelight service with Mom in the chapel at Bethany Manor. We arrived just 5-10 minutes before it began, a perk of not having to worry about parking the car when you need just walk down the hallway. The chapel was full of people—a brigade of wheelchairs in the center section, flanked by pews and more wheelchairs on either side. Staff were assisting additional residents who entered. Chairs were brought for Mom and me, and we took our seats in the back of the room.

As I looked around, I noticed several pairs I assumed to be parent and adult child, like my mom and myself. I thought about how, so many years ago, she would get me settled for a nap after supper on Christmas Eve, covered by a blanket on top of the purple velvet spread that covered my parents’ bed. The nap was in preparation for the outing to Midnight Mass later that evening. Now here we were in that most poignant of role reversals, me making sure that she made it to church on Christmas Eve.

If I’m lucky each December 24th or 25th, Christmas Happens for me. Really Happens. This time, it Happened in the chapel at Bethany Manor as I sat behind the wheelchair brigade. It happened as I watched the staff take such loving care of the residents. Not simply pushing them into place and then leaving, but truly taking the time to make sure one was settled and satisfied, a loving touch on the arm, shoulder or neck before retreating to tend to the next in need. In particular, I watched one man—staff or volunteer, I’m not sure—who would have looked as at home coaching a university athletic event as he did caring for residents. In a role vastly dominated by women, he stood out to me. Not once did he attend to a resident without offering a reassuring, gentle touch on the arm as if to say, “I am here. You are seen.” He was an embodiment of the divine masculine, wearing khakis and an Iowa State Cyclones polo shirt.

In an environment where I might have been saddened by the lack of family members present with residents, or by the stark realization that Christmas Eve for many no longer means spending time with ones partner and children, I was touched by the realization that this was a family. Each one loved and cared for and cherished, though not that day by biological family members, but by staff who obviously served with the same level—if not more in many cases—of affection.

And so it was that experience of Christmas, of Love, of the coming of Light, I remembered when I watched Boyd’s TED talk tonight. He tells the story of Elvis, a female elephant born with terribly deformed back legs, and of the teenage elephant who took a moment to give her a push uphill so she could keep up with their herd, their family. And I realized that had I ever managed to remember to watch the video in December, during the month in which every day brought another 15 things to my to-do list and the worst short-term memory of my life thus far, I would have missed the precious moment of magical alignment in which to make the connection between Bethany Manor, ubuntu, and Elvis. That whether it’s a frail child of God in a wheelchair, or an elephant with bad hips, sometimes just a push is all we need.

It turned out that the moment of embarrassment I felt when I met Boyd today because I had forgotten last night—for probably the fifty-seventh time—to watch his TED talk, was completely overshadowed by the connections to my own life that I made once I watched it in perfect time. We are never too busy; sometimes the time just isn’t right. We are never too late. There is always another chance to be inspired and to inspire.

Hallelujah

Caden and I were watching CBS Sunday Morning together this week, as we do almost every week. We call it “the grown-up show,” and Saturday night usually includes making a date to watch together the next morning.

There was a story by MTV’s Bill Flanagan about music of solace, especially for this season and other times of darkness. He mentioned a book recently released–The Holy or the Broken by Alan Light–that tracks Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah from its early failures to launch to status as a secular hymn. Caden asked, “What does the word ‘Hallelujah’ mean?” Realizing this could be a big moment, I said I’d tell him as soon as the story was done. So the story ended and he asked again:  “What does ‘Hallelujah’ mean?”

I had no idea. Actually, I thought I had no idea.

I mean, I know what it means to me but I cannot put it into words. I know I’ve said it with all depth, sincerity, and longing at key moments in my life, all spontaneous. And I figured there was a true and biblical meaning of the word…though I had no interest at all that moment in what that might be. I wasn’t looking for dictionary definitions. I knew that this question was the open door and my answer was the chance to walk through and leave a gift on the table. So I thought for a moment, and I said this:

“Well, you know how sometimes when we’re just hanging out here at home, talking or playing, or maybe even arguing, and all of a sudden you just have to hug me? You can’t stop yourself; you just have to hug me? And I might look a little surprised, and then I hug you back and tell you that I love you?”

He nodded knowingly.

“That. That is a hallelujah. That feeling you have when you cannot stop yourself from hugging me. That, Caden, is a hallelujah. It’s a feeling.”

I exhaled. Thinking I’d either stuck the landing or blew my chance, I asked him if that made sense to him.

And he nodded his head, smiled and said, “Yep.” And then he snuggled up closer to me.

Hallelujah.