Sunday, August 30, 2015

9/1/15—Saving Yourself from Drowning

Recently, a friend told me a story about her life and it's just filled with so much of the kind of stuff this blog holds dear that I HAD to share it with you. For her own privacy, let's call my friend Hortense (or Hortie, as I would call her if that were actually her name.)

Hortie comes from a large family, like myself. And, also like myself, she grew up sensitive, both emotionally and psychically. When she was 8, an event took place that would punctuate the rest of her life. 

Hortie had taken some swimming lessons that summer and there was a water safety component in the lessons. In that, she learned how to save a drowning person. If you're not aware, drowning doesn't look like it does in the movies. People are less loud and flailing than you'd think. And they're also in a panic mode. Because of that, you're not supposed to just dive in and save them. If you do, chances are they'll pull you under and both of you will die. Rather than go through water safety rules here, view the video at 

So at the young age of 8, Hortie knew all of this. And one day when she was at a hotel pool with her family, she saw her younger brother showing the classic signs of drowning...quiet distress in the water. She knew she shouldn't just jump in and swim to him, but her instinct took over and that's what she did. Her brother pulled her under, as drowning people do. But she somehow managed to regain control and drag him to safety. 

If any of you are from a big family—especially if you're one of the younger members of said family—you know how even the good families can be cruel. Nobody, not even her parents, lauded her for her behavior. They brushed it off like business as usual and even mocked her for "believing she saved her brother from drowning." Meanwhile, she was terrified. Traumatized. She'd almost died, yet nobody in her family would affirm that. So the only thing left to do with her trauma was internalize it. As a result, she grew up believing she was small, unimportant and powerless. 

Flash forward 46 years to this past summer. Hortie, along with many other people, was invited to a client's country home for a weekend-long party. The home sat on hundreds of acres and the property included two lakes. After much debate, she felt called to go out to the party on Friday, even though most people would be arriving on Saturday. And before she left, she noticed a post on her Facebook wall about what to do if you see someone drowning. She glanced at it and thought, "thank God I won't ever have to go through that again!"

Also arriving early to the party was a 21-year-old named Pedro. Pedro's mom told him to stay away from the water. Mothers worry. But Pedro couldn't wait to get in. He and Hortie and another guy (who couldn't swim) went to the lake. Hortie waded in, getting her toes wet. And Pedro took a running leap and dive into the water—as young men do—while the other guy watched from a safe perch on shore. 

Within seconds, Pedro was in way over his head and in distress. In a flash, it crossed Hortie's mind to stay safe, but she knew that would not only result in killing the boy, but it would also kill her inside to stay safe, knowing she could have done something. She realized she was the only hope this young man had. So she swam out to him. He immediately pulled her under, using her body as a floatation device, too panicked to realize he was drowning her. She hit the lake's bottom and thought to herself, "this is not how I'm going to die." 

She somehow got off the lake bottom and back up and grabbed Pedro's hand with one of her hands. With her other hand, she tried to swim to shore, but Pedro's flailing was working against her. Exhausted and concerned for her own life, she called out to God, "please help me." A voice came back immediately, "put your foot down". She put her foot down and realized she had gotten close enough to shore to drag Pedro the rest of the way out. 

In the aftermath, all the repressed trauma she'd held back for decades came screaming to the surface. It took weeks of tears and conscious effort for her to process it all. Was God punishing her for something? Why did this keep happening to her? And why did she keep doing this the wrong way when she knew better? At the time, though she didn't know it, there were noodles on shore. Why didn't she see the noodles?

Here are just a few of the realizations she had in the weeks afterward:

  • Signs are all around us. Some call them "coincidences", but there are no coincidences. The Facebook post was just the tip of the iceberg. Fate had her careening to this moment her entire life. She's someone who has always had a passion for public speaking and two days before this incident she agreed to give a speech at a networking group, having no idea what she would talk about. Then this happened. Her speech was just this past week and it drew a record crowd and ended in a standing ovation, something nobody had seen before in this group. Also, in an odd twist, her nephew...the son of the brother whose life she saved...saved someone's life also. In the aftermath of that, she intervened with his parents and stressed the importance of honoring his heroism. He won't have to grow up unaffirmed in that regard himself, now. 
  • Compassion is a great equalizer. When Pedro pulled her under, she didn't judge him. She saw her own terror in his. And she recognized that there were times in her life that she had been "drowning" and someone had come to her rescue. This compassion helped keep her from fighting him and may have saved her life. 
  • Perfectionism can be deadly. My friend struggles with perfectionism, as many of us do. So she kicked herself for not knowing the noodles were there...for not rescuing Pedro "right". But upon further reflection, she realized she didn't have time to run to shore, get a noodle and swim out. Had she done it "perfectly" a mother would desolate right now, lamenting the fact that, had her son just listened to her, he'd still be alive. 
  • We need to own our own light. Like many of us, Hortie had walked through life feeling small and powerless. But after she processed her second act of heroism, she realized just how powerful she is. When she called to God, he answered. And it turns out she wasn't cursed, she was called. Events conspired to put her in that place at that time to save Pedro's life—and save her own life from a future of silencing her own power. 

And I'll add another observation...when you don't learn your lesson the first time, it will come back again and again. If you consider that "owning your own light" is the key lesson, it came to her when she was eight, but circumstances conspired to keep her from learning it then. She got the lesson the second time around, and it's important she learn it now because spirit has work for her to do. To reiterate something said above, she wasn't being punished, she was being called. 

Now, the lesson may not always come around as literally as this. It may look quite different from the first time around. But the lesson comes. And I'm willing to bet we all have something unresolved from our own childhoods that we need to attend to. If we keep putting it off, we may end up learning our lesson dramatically, too. 

When we hear stories like this, we often think of the person who was drowning. But the rescuers—and even that guy who sat on the shore and witnessed all of this—also go through trauma. The same is true for any tragedy you survive. It's important to acknowledge and honor your own trauma, even if someone had it worse or even if you were just sitting on the sidelines. But keep in mind, too, that every trauma has a silver lining. Find that and you'll find the wisdom in the harder parts of life. 

P. S. I want to thank Hortie for letting me share this story and for being brave enough to trust me with it. :) I'd also like to acknowledge that many of the words here are her words, both from her speech and as she told the story to me. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

8/24/15—Apologizing Gracefully

For some reason, I've been really depressed this weekend. As a result, nothing I can think to write about here would be uplifting and inspiring. I'm even having a hard time choosing a classic post to put up. It seems like every post I consider is something that I really need to hear right now, but not something I really want to put up for others to read. I guess I'm feeling kind of vulnerable. :)

So, as it turns out, a couple of days ago I commented on an apology thread on Facebook that went viral. One of the men caught up in that Ashley Madison leak of men looking to have affairs on their wives—Josh Duggar—made an actually decent apology, technically speaking...if it weren't for the fact that something seems to be discovered about his extensive collection of deviant behavior on a regular basis. Which means he's more sorry he got caught than he is about shaming (or exposing) his family, because his apologies don't seem to stop the behavior.

Anyway, I don't really want to write about him, nor do I want to start a conversation about his family. My comments on his thread have been pretty visible and well received, so I've spoken my peace there. But one thing we can all take away from this the art and necessity of apology. And also, not everyone is going to take an apology well, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't offer it. The apology isn't only for them, but for your own sense of integrity, too. 

In general, people just aren't very good at apologizing. It seems like saying "I'm sorry" is more difficult than living with the fact that you owe a person an apology and haven't given it to them. Which is kind of twisted. 

I'll admit there's plenty I've never apologized for myself, especially when I have no intention of ever seeing the person or speaking to them again. But the lack of apology still weighs on me, whether I'm the one who's failed to apologize or they are.

I confess there's a lot I've let slide in the past based on a muttered, half-assed apology from the offender. I've had fantasies of saying to offenders, "what exactly are you apologizing to me for?" in hopes of getting them to speak their crimes out loud. But in reality, I take the muttered generic/blanket apology and move forward because I know hard it can be to apologize. 

When people HAVE adequately apologized to me, though, I've immediately melted. In fact, one apology stands out and it's why I'm writing today. It stands out, in part, because like I said, it's so rare to receive a genuine apology. But it also stands out because it was voiced in such a way that it was clear my friendship to this person was more important to them than their need to be right.

What they did doesn't much matter. They thought they were doing something nice for me, but instead it was something that left me feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed and misunderstood. I was a little angry and frustrated when I asked them not to do it again, but I acknowledged that I understood they were trying to help me out. I don't even know that I expected them to apologize. All I wanted was for them to understand my side and promise not to do it again. But instead of justifying or explaining their actions, they said "I'm so sorry. You're totally right about that. I was wrong. Please forgive me." 

Frankly, it stunned and disarmed me. It also made me feel bad because I knew their intentions were good. But more than anything, the fact that they didn't try to argue their point, justify their actions or shift the blame to something else, combined with the humility it takes to accept full responsibility for something, made me feel very important to this person. And it taught me a valuable lesson about the things that are more important than being right. Things like friendship, integrity, self respect and, quite honestly, the inner peace of knowing you've done the mature thing. I believe I was right to confront them and define my boundaries, but I felt bad afterward because, in the absence of their need to be right, I saw my own need to hold on to my own "right" position.

The image/saying I posted today is known as the "Ho'oponopono Prayer". Hawaiians and those of the South Pacific believe that error and wrongness causes illness. So reconciliation and forgiveness are common rituals performed as part of daily life. Beyond that, they feel that taking responsibility for everything in your life is important, even if it's that someone misunderstood your intentions. Even if it involves war and starvation and other matters not directly impacting you that are "out of your control". If you feel bad about it, it's yours to heal. And healing happens through the prayer...I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

Think about some injustice in the world. Visualize it while saying those words. It will help you feel better. It will help release the burden you feel about your helplessness. Then think of something you've done to yourself and say the same words. It might move you as it moved me. Then think of how healing it would be for you to use those words with someone you know you've wronged.

I think we probably all underestimate the burden we carry at the hands of our own bad behavior, whether that bad behavior happens one to one or as part of your participation in a society or group that has hurt others, whether you've played a direct role or not. You don't even have to be in the same room with the person to recite the prayer to them. They might not even be alive. The energy will nonetheless benefit you and flow to them.

We've often spoken of forgiveness here, and how it's more for you than for the other person. While I think the best practice is to apologize directly to the other person, especially when it matters to you, the same could be said about asking for forgiveness. Acknowledging to the universe that you've done wrong and hope to be forgiven by someone you no longer maintain contact with can be just as powerful for you as if the apology had been timely and face-to-face. We've probably all given apologies that were less than graciously received or even, in some cases, made the other person angrier. Through a practice like this, you can learn to forgive yourself, regardless of whether the other person forgives or not. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

8/17/15—Becoming Peggy Olson

Everywhere I looked this past week, it seems I was being reminded of the story of how I became a freelance advertising copywriter. Like many things in life, it all began with a crippling rejection. 

But first things first. An advertising copywriter is the person who writes the ads, brochures, mailers, TV commercials, websites, etc. that you see all around you. Think Peggy Olson on MadMen. It's a really creative job, because you're not just writing, you're thinking up the big-picture concepts (usually in partnership with an artist.) It's also really strategic, because there are certain parameters you have to work within—what is the client trying to accomplish and say? Who is the target market and what are they about? And what is the brand personality you have to adhere to? You can't just come up with a creative idea and go for it. No matter how "out of the box" your idea is, it still has to fit in a box. 

I remember reading a book in my early 20s about how to get a "glamour career", and copywriter was one of these careers. In reality, it's not as easy breezy as you would think. For one thing, the creative department gets none of the glamour in advertising (if there even is any glamour in advertising at all.) For another, it's high pressure, with daily deadlines and terrifying, ever-present expectations of brilliance. And since "brilliant" is a subjective term, you have to know what brilliant means to the people in power—the clients and creative directors who edit and judge your work. Finally, you can't just be creative. You have to think about marketing strategy and communication strategy and psychology and budgets and selling your work in big meetings and all kinds of stuff. 

But hey, that's what I wanted. So it's what I went for. But it's not easy to get one of these jobs. Unless you're talking about the very largest big-city agencies, most agencies might only have one or two writers on staff. So the jobs are few and far between. In fact, it's easily the hardest job to get in advertising when you're just starting out. As a result, I began my career in the creative department, but not doing anything creative. I was a traffic person, which is an administrative position, moving work through the agency. 

I did that job for three years, trying to break into copywriting the entire time. In an odd twist of fate, something I wrote "on the side" back then ended up earning one of the most coveted awards in the industry—a One Show award

This accolade got me a job interview at a place called Britches. Britches was a hip, cool, growing retail brand. They had an in-house advertising department, instead of an advertising agency. And while the vast majority of in-house advertising departments feature soul-sucking jobs, a slave-driver culture and zero potential for creativity, Britches was different. They were every creative's dream, mine included. 

My vision at that time in my career was that I would eventually become a creative director. Having a place like Britches on my resume could help make that happen. It was, in my mind, the best job in all of Washington, DC for a writer at the time. It could open up doors at Richmond agencies, which, in the '80s, were some of the most creative and award-winning shops in the world. And from there, I could go anywhere, do anything. 

Everything was riding on this interview. 


Well, I didn't get the job. I was devastated. Devastated. I remember laying on the floor of my apartment, crying my eyes out the night the rejection letter came. My career was over! I'd have to leave town or, worse, become an account executive...or, gah!, a media buyer! ;)

I eventually got a job writing in-house at a lesser retail chain, and then another even lesser retail chain. Remember those soul-sucking jobs I was talking about? Well, the second of those two jobs definitely fit that bill. After that, I got a job at an advertising agency with a good, strong reputation in the marketplace. So that was good. Then one thing led to another and I got tired of being underpaid and under-appreciated. So I set out on my own, even though it meant I'd probably need to leave my dreams of being a creative director behind. 

The four jobs that I had in the first 10 years of my career each gave me valuable gifts, primarily in terms of contacts. Two of those jobs yielded my two biggest clients—clients I've maintained pretty much throughout my 20-year freelance career. The last job gave me rare (at the time) subject matter expertise in the technology industry, which I parlayed into to many lucrative years during the high-tech and dot-com booms. I'm now someone who is fairly compensated and well appreciated, a blessing I am constantly grateful for. I've certainly had some bad years along the way. I've also had some bad experiences. But both, thankfully, have been few and far between. 

Best of all, my lifestyle is such that I can pursue my spiritual path, blog, create card decks and, from time to time, play professional psychic. I spend each and every day in undistracted silence, surrounded by three adoring dogs. And I can write books and pursue my future career as a spiritual self-help guru anytime I want during the workday, so long as I'm responsive to clients and meet all my deadlines. I would not trade my life right now for anything else in the world. 

Had I gotten that job at Britches, however, I would not be where I am today. I would have gotten on an agency track quicker, hopping from job to job. I would have learned better politics in better places. I would probably have at least 10 years as a creative director under my belt. I'd command a hefty, six-figure salary at a good agency in some city somewhere. I'd work 10-12 hour days. I'd have a coiffed 'do and respectable clothes. And you know what? I'd be really good at it. I'd totally go all Peggy Olson on that shizzz. 

But had I gotten that job, I would absolutely be a different human being. Without a doubt. I would never have had the opportunity to delve so deeply into my spirituality. I would have never had the time to create fortune-telling decks. Or blog. Or become a published expert in an art as complex as tarot. I probably wouldn't have three dogs. There's a lot that would be different, because that kind of life comes with certain lifestyle and personality requirements, some of which would benefit today's me and some of which, after 30 years in the shark tank, would have turned me into someone that today's me probably wouldn't like very much. 

Back when I interviewed at Britches, I had a passion for making an impact on others through advertising. I still have that passion, but it has, admittedly, waned over the years. However, in its wake, it's leaving me something even greater than passion. It's leaving me a mission. A mission to write and make a more soul-affirming impact on the world. I think if my career had gone the other way, I'd be left with nothing more than that waning passion, a considerable sleep deficit and unsightly stress sores.  

Turns out that night I laid on the floor of my bedroom crying was the luckiest night of my life. 

And that soul-sucking job I had? It netted me not just a good friend, but a long-standing client with whom I've done some of the work I'm proudest of in my career. Because of her, I've had a hand in creating some of the most lauded brands in the higher education marketplace—Maryland's Fear The Turtle and American University's WONK. In fact, the Fear The Turtle campaign was instrumental in redefining the landscape of higher ed marketing altogether, more than a decade ago. No matter where you work, those kinds of opportunities don't come around often, if at all.

Sometimes, even when you're eating glitter, it's hard to spot the sparkles in the shit. And sometimes it takes nearly 30 years to see the wisdom in the very thing that devastates you. But the wisdom is always there. It's difficult to see why something so painful to the human is so right for the soul. But if you hold enough space in your heart for the answers, they will eventually come. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

8/10/15—Keeping Your Bad Choices To Yourself

Something happened to a friend recently that has me hopping mad. And fortunately she said I could write about it. ;)

Let's call my friend Laura. Laura is one of the kindest, most spiritually aware people I know. She is someone who really walks the walk and, in many ways, she has been a role model for me on my path for many years.

She has a workplace friend, Penny (also a fake name), who has been having trouble in her marriage and has sought out Laura for both a listening ear and advice.

Last week, Penny's husband (let's call him Dick) propositioned Laura! It was very clearly a come-on...not a well-intentioned, but misunderstood gesture. It was a come-on!

Now, this kind of thing really isn't shocking. I'm sure it happens daily. But think of the position my friend is now in. Does she tell Penny? Does she hide it from Penny? Does she put it back on Dick to tell Penny? And if she does that, will Dick twist the truth to make her look like the aggressor? This one, 15-second exchange has now put Laura in an impossible lose-lose situation!

It's the rare Penny that would thank Laura for exposing her cheating husband and keep her as a friend.  (Penny's previous complaints about Dick had nothing to do with cheating.) What's more likely is that it will anger Penny or, at the very least, make her feel very uncomfortable around Laura. And seeing as how she and Laura work together, this throws a wrench into every part of Laura's life. And she did nothing to court it!

What Dick did, essentially, was drag Laura into his drama with Penny. You could argue she was already there, as a confidante of Penny's. But this is a whole other level. He put Laura into the position of imploding their marriage, imploding her friendship and imploding her workplace environment. And he thought nothing of it! Too weak to take responsibility for his own marriage issues, he "recruited" Laura to do it for him. Either she exposes his antics or betrays her friendship.

The more I thought about this situation, the more I thought about the other ways people do this kind of thing. When divorcing parents confide in their children or expose private things about their spouse to their children, they're doing the same thing. They're putting the kids into a lose-lose situation that is completely unfair. They're placing the weight of their issues on another's shoulders.

We also do this when we hear—or share—certain heavy secrets. Or when we tell someone something very private—true or false—about a friend of theirs. Or when we give them a peek inside something in our life that puts them in an uncomfortable maybe we shoplift or shoot heroin something. You could call it a cry for help or intervention, but it's misplaced. There are people who take those secrets on as a course of their career...priests, psychologists and counselors, to name a few. Putting it on an innocent bystander is just thoughtless and irresponsible. 

Laura hasn't decided what to do yet. Her first instinct was to call Dick and tell him that he needs to tell Penny what he's put the hot potato back in his hands. But then she doesn't trust him to tell Penny the truth about how it all came to be. So she just sits, paralyzed. Which is how it usually ends up that the wife is the last to know. There just is no good solution. 

Sometimes our lives suck. And it's almost always from a situation we had a hand in. And, while none of us likes to clean up messes, we all have to clean up our own messes. We can't place that in the hands of friends or children or even strangers. IMO, the only chance Dick has of saving his marriage is to come clean. But maybe he doesn't want that. Who knows?

I have not been in a situation this bad, but I can't count the number of times I've known of friends engaging in "dangerous" relationship behavior around their children. Maybe they're bad talking the other spouse or maybe they're flirting with someone in front of their child. It always makes me feel uncomfortable and puts me in a situation where I wonder if I should say something or let it go. It almost always permanently damages my relationship with the other person, regardless of what I choose to do. 

As we go through the coming week, consider the kinds of things you place on the shoulders of others. Sure, everyone needs a sounding board. But if you're going to behave like an ass, don't be surprised if you either get called out on it or find your friends slipping away. 

Take responsibility for where you are in your life and if you do get called out, be responsible enough to not displace your anger on the friend or family member you confided in. Those people are not in your life to share the burden of your bad choices by taking your side in everything. Sometimes it's the better friend who tells you what an ass you're being so you can make the positive changes needed to put your life back on course. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

8/3/15—Finding Gratitude

Like you—like everyone—there are aspects of my life that suck. 

I don't voice these things often for a couple of reasons. The first is because I have the power to change most of the things I would complain about. I'll bet you do, too. Work issues...home have a ton of options, some you probably haven't thought of yet. The question is, are you willing to make the changes or do you just want to complain? Most of the time, people just want to get it off their chest.  

The second reason I don't like to give voice to those things is because I believe that voicing something imbues it with more power...affirms with the universe that it's a problem. And I've found that many of the things I would complain about have a hidden gift within them...usually something I really needed to learn. So complaining does a couple of things. It tells the universe that you don't want that problem (or the gift that goes with it) in your life. And if I'm not focusing on the gift, I may not see it, which means I won't learn the lesson and I will have to learn it another way. And who knows how pleasant or unpleasant that will be?

Anyway, I don't really have any BIG problems in my life. Just the same things everyone complains about...stuff at work, relationships, a difficult life phase I might be going through. But whether we complain or not, we tend to walk through life carrying the mantle of what we don't have, what we're working on having, what we need to work harder on and what's bugging us. Like a checklist of woes that, when resolved, will open the doors to that happiness we've been seeking all along. 

The only problem with that is that there will never be a time everything is perfect enough for us to put our checklist away and bask in happiness. At least not for long. Happiness is something we have to create space for from amidst all the other stuff going on. 

It's easy to get caught up in phases where our mind is focused on what needs fixing and doing. We get caught up in the busy-ness of life by way of trying to bring ourselves closer to happiness. And we never end up looking at all the beauty we've created and give that the same kind of attention as our to-do lists. We miss living in the moment and truly appreciating the fruits of our work. 

I recently had the gift of enough free space in my head that I was spontaneously thrust into overwhelming gratitude for my life. And the sad thing is that I didn't have to wait for an opportune moment to experience it. I can stop and feel gratitude at any time and for any reason. You can, too. 

A few things happen when you focus on gratitude. One is that all that stuff you worry about becomes kind of trivial in comparison to all you have to be grateful for. Another thing that happens is that your energy and mood lighten. And another thing that happens is that you shift from being someone with too much crap on their plate, to being someone who is so incredibly blessed that it's almost unbearable. The more you enumerate the many blessings you have, the more overwhelming it becomes and the more you realize that you're not "cursed" or "given the short end of the stick", but rather you're clearly one of God's favorites. :)

So, as you're going about the business of life this week, remember to stop and think about all the blessings you have. The more you do this, the more blessed it seems you become. All those moments of joy you work so hard to receive are just a thought away, whether you choose to stop and think about them or not. Training ourselves to take that time to stop could be both the easiest and hardest thing to do on the path to finding happiness. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

7/30/15—Turning My Rut Into A Groove

So, a lot has happened since I wrote the post about "making one better decision". If you haven't read it, scurry over to and check out the 7/20/15 post. While other posts in the past have probably gotten more hits, no post I remember has garnered the feedback and excitement that I got on Facebook about this super-easy way to get out of a rut. I'm well into week three of following this plan and a couple of big things have happened as a result. 

The first thing is that one of my goals was to move forward with diet and exercise goals. As part of that, one of the "better decisions" I made was to replace Crystal Light with infused water. I had already started that process prior to starting my one better decision plan, but had found that when I combine peach infused water WITH Crystal Light, it was pretty much the best thing I've ever tasted in my life. Which was not helping me with my goal. So, one "better decision" at a time, I managed to quit Crystal Light altogether. And something I didn't expect to happen happened. 

See, I had already known that Crystal Light contained artificial sweeteners. And I knew artificial sweeteners (aspartame in particular) were a big contributor to weight issues, diabetes, fatigue, depression and an uncontrollable sweet tooth, not to mention other stuff like cancer and headaches. And I joked about my "Crystal Light addiction." But imagine my surprise and dismay when I discovered I WAS ACTUALLY ADDICTED!!!

Yes, aspartame is addictive. And I found out when, after a few days without artificial sweeteners, I started suffering withdrawals—headaches, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, sleeplessness. I'd been having these unusual (for me) symptoms for a few days and wondering why, when I got the idea to google "aspartame addiction", and there it was. 

Which is probably why I didn't stop using it when I learned that it was making me fat and diabetic. Addiction has a way of altering your thinking to justify the continuation of your addiction. I learned this after I quit smoking and looked back on the ways I made it OK to continue smoking for 26 years. When you are addicted to something, you are literally not in your right mind. 

So there was that. And the second big thing is that, while sitting in a chair at Hair Cuttery one day, I pondered the possibilities of making one different decision, rather than one better decision. With a different decision, you don't know if it will be better or worse. So I threw caution to the wind and told a stylist at a chain-store, cut-rate hair salon that she could color my hair FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN MY LIFE!!! It's true. I've done a henna rinse before but have never dyed my hair a different color. And so now I'm blonder and more highlight-y than before and am happy with the result. 

This last experiment has been very interesting. I am literally forced to see myself differently because every time I look in the mirror, I look different! As it turns out I like the new look. But had it been a disaster, I would have benefited by appreciating my former self more...haha. So I like the way a "different decision" shakes things up and causes you to expand your view of your world. And it certainly wouldn't have to be this dramatic. Something as simple as taking a different route to work one day could render untold gifts. 

Three weeks into this experiment I can easily say I'm forever changed. I'm no longer someone who has never dyed their hair. And I'm no longer someone without a good plan for turning a rut into a groove. I can honestly say I'm feeling better and more positive about the future than I have for years. So what about you? Have you tried this "one better decision" thing out? If so, share your thoughts and results with me. If not, what could it hurt? I'd love to hear how it's working for you!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

7/27/15—Being The Ripple

If you're a regular at the Daily Draw, then you've probably seen this post in some version before. Usually when I do repeat posts, I try to choose one I've never repeated before. But this post is one of my all-time favorite posts, because I think my boy so perfectly illustrates an important tenet of life that we rarely stop to think of. If you don't feel like reading this, but missed last week's entry, then read that one instead. It was probably one of my best received posts ever. :) Or you can randomly pick any one of the more than 1000 posts I've written over the years at I'll be back with a live, original post sometime this week to make up for today's repeat. Now here's Kizzie's post....

The other day I saw something I've seen a million times. Only this time, I saw it in a completely different way. My dogs and I took a trip to the park and my boy, Kizzie, decided to go in the river for a dip. As I saw him standing there, I noticed all the ripples issuing out with him at the center. Each time he moved, a new set of ripples would form. And the ripple effect of each motion would continue out into the river, despite the current. Despite anything. Indefinitely.

His presence was recorded throughout the river that day—through the ripples in the water, the displacement of the air around his ripples, and by his ripples meeting the shore and bouncing back. In the same way, his presence was recorded throughout the universe. Beyond that, on land, the wag of his tail, his body temperature and the sound of his breath had a similar effect in the environment around him, sending forth kinetic, sonic and heat waves from his body.

According to Wikipedia, a wave is a "disturbance (an oscillation) that travels through space and time, accompanied by the transfer of energy." Einstein's famous equation, E=MC2, posits that everything in the universe is energy. So what we see in the water above is Kizzie's energetic body having an effect on the water's energetic body. And since energy is never created or destroyed—only transferred—the effect he has is eternal. Pervasive. Ubiquitous.

Our lives work the same way. You create a kind of ripple when you have children...a ripple that goes on way beyond your lifetime. But even if you don't have children, you create it through everyone you come into contact with...every life you touch. There is nothing about us—no thought, no emotion, no scent, no delicate resting of silk on skin—that doesn't cause a disturbance that travels through space and time. 

So imagine the kind of ripple effect even something as simple as a smile can create. You smile at someone and cause them them to smile and feel a little more part of this world. That changes them, even if ever so slightly in that moment, and that change is passed on to the others they encounter that day. The vibration they spread is just a smidge higher than it would have been. And the people they encounter are similarly raised. And so on. And so on. And it ripples around the world, back past the original smiler, indefinitely. 

Of course the same is true about being a grumpy gus.

But the point I'm making is that no matter how "small and insignificant" we are, the impact of our every breath and thought echoes out into the universe to create the "whole". And that impact continues long after our death. We're still benefiting from the simple work of the men who built the railroads, women who showed their independence and the early men and women who moved out of caves and built humanity's first communities. We're also still affected by the ripple created by those who never spoke up against Hitler, spread the belief that the earth was flat and sailed to Africa to grab people and make them slaves in the New World. 

If you've ever been to an emotionally charged historic site, you can still feel it in the air. Occasionally I drive through the Manassas battlefield where so many lost their lives during our Civil War. The air is different there. The "vibe" is palpable. Another place that comes to mind is Cape May, NJ, where the ripples of risque ladies in their swim dresses still echoes in the surf. 

For better or for worse, everything that has ever happened adds to the ripple of everything that ever will. As will your choices to recycle, eat meat, hate a particular race, reach out to the needy or make myriad other choices. We cannot have the foresight to see the impact of our choices in any given moment, but the energy we put out continues to ripple on indefinitely, even if it dissipates over time and is transferred into something else. 

The beautiful thing about this is that, regardless of what you believe about God and heaven, we live on in this very real way for eternity. We matter. No matter how normal and mundane our contributions. Do you think those railroad men, like my grandfather, felt like the kings of transportation, trade, information sharing, development and connection that they were? My mother was one of those women who paved the path for other women to hold "men's jobs". Look at what has come from that! That's not what she was doing—she just wanted to put her competence to good use—but look at what came of it. 

There is a reason for you being here. Even beyond our deaths, in the memories and minds of those we leave behind, we continue to send out ripples that, even for a moment, change the way our loved ones consider their lives. There is nothing we do, nothing we are, that doesn't have this import in the lives around us and the lives around all those people, etc. 

You are the ripple. Everything you say and do this week will be forever felt by the universe. How will you use your infinite power today?

*Today's entry was rewritten from the 5/10/13 version of this post.