Sunday, October 11, 2015

10/12/15—Aging Ironically

It's ironic that, at a time in my life when I'm the most confident, capable and secure, I seem to be having little anxiety attacks more and more. Over nothing or nothing much. And completely out of the blue. 

I don't really have a history with this. I had one full blown panic attack in my 30s and, since I'd never had one before, I called 911 because I thought I might be dying. I couldn't breathe I wasn't getting enough oxygen. Anyway, the paramedics did their checks and I was perfectly normal (albeit very embarrassed.) I remember they told me to drink a glass of milk and go out for a walk. So there was that one, isolated incident and I've never had one since. 

But in the past year or two, I find I've been getting anxiety attacks more and one every couple of months or so. And I don't see that they're triggered by anything in particular, so they must just be part of the joy of getting older. 

Fortunately, another part of getting older is that I'm also wiser. And I know how to stop a thought in my mind and redirect it. Most of the time. It seems like these anxiety attacks feed on thought and attention. If I catch it at the beginning, become conscious of the moment, reset my thoughts and breathe it out of my body, I can stop it before it grows. 

I'm noticing a lot of interesting dichotomies like this with aging. I have lines on my face that are too significant for skincare products to smooth and plump. And I have jiggles no amount of diet and exercise can fix at this point. But I no longer have the insecurity or vanity required to visit a medspa or plastic surgeon to fix these things. Maybe if I were rolling in dough, but even then, I'm not sure I'd sufficiently care. So while my "beauty" may be fading, the importance I place on it has subsided. 

The list could go on and on. I feel more stress, but have better ways to deal with it. I see more pain in the world, but feel less pain within myself. I'm more forgetful, but care about the kinds of memories I forget less and less. My body is limited by aches and pain, but my mind is freed by letting go of a lot of pain and anguish. What it comes down to is a kind of shift in the way I see the world and operate within it. 

It's a lot like the early bird menu for senior citizens...someone changed both life's menu and the prices you have to pay. :D And while all these changes may be striking to me as I'm just now noticing and experiencing them, soon it will just be the way I roll. Which means that so much of what vexed me the first 50 years of my life, won't even be worthy of mention in the second 50. 

The key with all of this aging stuff is the same key to the anxiety—to accept I have no control over it. You'd think that would make things worse, but it makes things better. The older I get, the more I see just how much of life's slings and arrows are out of my control. So I'm quicker to lift stuff up and trust. And that makes life so much easier. It's a trick I've known for a while, but is so much more valuable now. 

When you're young, your superpower is having the spit, fire and energy to swim upstream and fight the tide. But then one day you lose those superpowers and gain another—the power to see the wisdom in the flows and tides of life and let them wash over you, knowing you have the tools to handle whatever comes your way. 

They say youth is wasted on the young. There are so many opportunities wasted by fear, immaturity, the need for control, a lack of preparation/readiness and a somewhat false sense of thinking you know what you want and what's good for you. We always looked at growing older as an unfavorable thing, to be avoided at all costs. And I'll be honest, it's not all rainbows and unicorns, but I'm nowhere near as put upon by life as I was 20 years ago. 

So for my final submission into the notebook of ironies about aging, I offer this. I feel like I'm just getting to all the good stuff and am ready and willing to enjoy it. But first, I need to take a really long nap. :D

Sunday, October 4, 2015

10/5/15—Feeling Uncomfortable

Each year I choose a theme for the year. It's kind of like a resolution. This year I chose healing, with a side of "hold yourself to a higher standard."

The healing I was talking about was not only physical, but emotional/social/ Since July, I've been practicing my One Better Decision plan and that has been key to making the forward motion in my life needed to heal. What it really comes down to is, if you want to make any sort of change in your life, you have to do something different. You have to stretch past your usual comfort zone. 

If you're like me, you not only like your comfort zones, you cling to them for dear life. In some ways, my year of healing could also be called the Year of Living Dangerously, because I've done a number of things that make me feel nervous and vulnerable by way of trying to heal. But I also feel alive, which is more than I can say about the past few years of my life spent in the "comfort" of my usual, sometimes "toxic", behaviors. 

For example, I can't believe I've flown to Florida four times this year on business. To begin with, it's extremely rare that I even take a professional meeting that isn't conducted over the phone or internet. But to go to Florida means leaving my dogs, which I avoid doing. But I recently made the trip and, for the first time ever, left my dogs to sleep alone at night...and I actually looked forward to the trip and didn't really freak out! Well, I did get choked up when I heard Magick was sad without me, but who wouldn't? So now that barrier is knocked down, I can think of maybe taking a personal trip without them—something I did frequently before I had dogs. 

Not surprisingly, this fresh energy has opened new avenues for me. I've gotten three new clients so far this year, which is three more than I got last year. And they have interesting projects for me to work on, which is even better. I've been planning more social engagements. I had a friend (other than long-time friend, Katie) over to my house to hang out for the first time in years. And I've also agreed to teach a class for the first time in a couple of years. I'm saying yes to a lot of new and "uncomfortable" experiences and I'm also saying "never again" to some of the old ones. Plus, I'm placing more attention and energy on the people who are rooting for me in life, and giving those who either don't care or are rooting against me the proper place in my life. That's big. 

Just a few months ago, I felt down in the dumps and in a rut so deep and abiding that I had no idea how to get out. From there, I could have never imagined the choices I just listed above. And now I'm feeling pretty good. When you think of it logically, a rut is being stuck in a repetitive cycle so long that it dampens your desire and/or mental and physical energy stores needed to get out. So the only way out is to break the cycle. And the only way to break the cycle is to start making different or uncomfortable choices. There's no way around it. You won't get out unless you do something different and uncomfortable. 

And the same goes for things you might not identify as a rut. It can just be an area of life you're unhappy with. Or a goal you want to achieve. 

If you're a spiritual seeker and you want, say, stop gossiping, you're not going to reach that goal without doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If your usual behavior is to talk about others, it will be very uncomfortable to keep your mouth closed and your nose clean. It will be very uncomfortable to indicate to your friends that you're no longer open for that kind of discourse. And, in a case like this, they may even pull away from you because of it. You could actually lose friends. It could be *that* uncomfortable. But on the other side of it will be advancement along your path, a cleaner feeling in your soul and you'll attract new people who have already been through what you have to get there. 

It sounds weird to say, but the path to greater comfort with yourself and in life in general, is the path of discomfort. Of course, that path is temporary. You're not on it all the time. And it may (or may not) be strewn with destruction and the bodies of those who stand in your way...haha. But it's really the only way. And the more you make it a practice, the more consistently you feel the joy of emergence. 

Since I started following my One Better Decision plan in July, everything is different. I'm not necessarily making new or better or different decisions every day now, but I did it daily long enough to remain conscious of it and do it frequently. And there are times I slip back into the "dark comfort" of the unconstructive behaviors of my rut, but I'm only there for a visit...a rest between surges forward. And the good thing is that those dark places of laziness and napping and avoidance feel less and less like me every time I visit. 

One of the things about gliding through life happy and carefree is that it's never a permanent thing. As humans, we're either in a rut or being called to grow when the happiness turns routine and loses its shimmer. And then it's time to get uncomfortable again. So are you ready to get uncomfortable? What can you say yes to this week that you wouldn't otherwise? How far might you stretch if you knew you'd feel good about yourself afterward, regardless of whether you succeed or fail?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

9/28/15—Making Quiche

The perfect quiche? Getting there. 
This is a classic post, but to update it for you, this year is all about making curry—recreating my mother's curry and/or finding a recipe I love. I found a great recipe. It's not my mother's curry, but it's a good recipe. And I was down in FL this past week and had a really good ahi sauce, or Peruvian green sauce. The waitress said it contained mayonnaise, "two different kinds of pepper and black mint. That's all!" So I got a variety of pepper pastes, the black mint and some Hispanic mayo (probably no different than Hellman's, but just in case) and I won't stop until I duplicate it. It tasted an awful lot like there was cilantro and cucumber (or something cooling) in it to me. Many recipes call for lots of Romaine and cilantro, but I'm going to start with the clues I got from the waitress and see where that leads me first. Now on to this week's post....

One of the things I rarely mention in these posts is that I like to cook. I might only cook once, maybe twice, a week. But I do enjoy it. And since I'm all about the cooking from scratch, I put a lot of thought and planning into it so I'm fully prepared come "go time".

I'm probably more of a "good cook" than a fabulous or impressive cook. If I have anything to brag about, it's impeccable timing. Everything is ready to serve at the same time. I never gave myself much credit for this until I found out that others have an issue with it. I'm good at multitasking in the kitchen. I get into a zone. 

Anyway, one of the things I like to do is "perfect" dishes. To my own palate, of course. So for, say, six months, most of what I cook will be risotto. Or garlic mashed potatoes. Or brownies. Or chicken marsala. Basically, I cook something over and over again until I'm using the best ingredients, best proportions and best techniques to satisfy my tastebuds. Then I move on to the next thing. 

If you can't tell by the picture I posted, right now it's quiche. Currently I'm just working on the fillings. As it turns out, you can put too much cheese in quiche. That's what I've learned so far. I'd rather eyeball than measure when I cook, which kind of inhibits the perfection process. But really it's all for fun. When I get the nice custardy filling down, I'll start working on perfecting the crusts. Right now I'm ashamed to admit I use a refrigerated Pillsbury crust. 

A month ago. Ugly overcooked crust and too much cheese. 
Cooking the same thing over and over again is not just a Zen process, it also mirrors our spiritual
pursuits—we'll often cook the same issue over and over again until it's cooked right. Sometimes we put in too much cheese. Sometimes we cheat on the crust until we get the filling just right. Sometimes we can't figure out what we did wrong, so we just do whatever. With cooking I'll generally follow a recipe closely the first time and then start improvising. Same with when I'm working through spiritual lessons. I'll try to do it "the right way" (whatever that is) the first time to get a baseline, then I'll tailor to my individual needs. 

When I first made chicken marsala, it was perfect the first time. I didn't have to work hard on that. Some lessons just come to us and some don't. But then again, sometimes you think you're done exploring a recipe and once you get into the groove with it, you find it's still missing something. Then there are the dishes that give us indigestion or are inedible. If I were to keep following that same recipe over and over again thinking it would eventually taste better, I wouldn't be a very effective cook. And then there's the garlic mashed potatoes. I can't honestly claim I ever quite perfected that (though roasted garlic got me the closest to what I wanted). But I doubt anyone else would complain. Sometimes you just have to accept your limitations and let good enough be good enough. 

Outside of "stretch" and "persist", there really aren't any set ingredients—or even a recipe—for spiritual or personal growth. Pushing past your comfort zone (stretching) and continuing to try different ways (persisting) are like the salt and pepper of the spiritual world. They're good in everything. As long as you remain stocked up on those two, pretty much any dish you want to try will be the better for it. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

9/21/15—Accepting Apologies Gracefully

Today I have no words of wisdom to impart, rather I'm looking to you guys to help me understand something.

Many years ago, I was part of a very dysfunctional online community run by a man with a sensitive ego and a nasty streak. He and I didn't get along, so he made it his #1 mission to come after me. This caused a lot of stress and pain and I reached out to the few friends that didn't ditch me out of fear of reprisal. He kept this up for over a year—long after I stopped responding—and I would turn to these friends to vent. And, frankly, I over-vented.

So once I began to heal from all of this, I started thinking about what a drain I'd been on my friends. So I drafted a letter of apology to the core group along the lines of "after much thought, I realize what a drain I was and I'm sorry for all of that. I really appreciate you sticking with me and hope I can be a listening ear for you when you have a problem." After sending that letter, a curious thing happened. Some of them basically never spoke to me again. Some got very angry at me. And, essentially, this spelled the beginning of the end for me in this particular group of friends. I remember saying to one of them, "I don't get why everyone is so mad. It was an apology." And she replied, "well, what did you expect?"

Over the years, I just shrugged this off to the particular dysfunction of that group. Nobody accused me of being insincere, but maybe that's what they thought. Or maybe my apology dredged up old anger for them. Or maybe by affirming my own bad behavior, I set something off in they were allowed to say I was a drain, but if I admitted it, it somehow meant I did it knowingly and on purpose. I don't think it was because I wrote a letter instead of calling or doing it some other way, because these were online friends and I had never communicated with them in any other way prior to that moment. So I never figured it out and wrote it off as an anomaly. 

But then a few years back, I saw a woman make a public apology to everyone in a particular Facebook group I was in. And she'd hurt a lot of people and acknowledged her inappropriate behavior and apologized for it. I wasn't one of the people who were hurt and when I read her apology, I thought it was genuine and brave. I actually had compassion for her, because she had lost so many friends over the incident. But her apology nonetheless sent people into a froth. They said it was insincere. She was trying to manipulate them. She wasn't really sorry, etc. I don't remember seeing one person say "thank you, that means a lot." Years have passed and still to this day, nobody would accept an apology from this lady. There is literally nothing she can do to make amends. 

And just in the past few days, I've seen people go off on others for making an apology. There was a woman from The Talk who made a disparaging comment about black hair (she is black herself) two years ago. The backlash from two years ago stayed with her. She searched her soul. And though people had long moved on, she wanted to apologize, so she did. Honestly, it was one of the better apologies I've seen. But black women (and I know this from their profile pictures) went OFF on her on Facebook, calling her the kinds of racist names nobody, black or white, should call a black person. It hurt my heart to read the words they were throwing out. For an apology! 

In the second example, two women from The View made fun of a Miss America contestant's talent. The woman was a nurse and was dressed in scrubs and performed a poorly conceived monologue about how she was not "just a nurse." She delivered the monologue with all the warmth most people give to a Powerpoint presentation. And while the ladies from the The View were mocking her for her "talent", one referred to the "doctor's stethoscope" she wore. 

Now, I can see how nurses would appreciate this woman's monologue. It was something that probably empowered them. But it was the talent portion of a national competition and, while I think we all value the service of nurses, her talent...her monologue...was lacking. Their comments had nothing to do with nurses, rather with this one contestant's choice of talent. But nurses banded together and went on the attack, focusing on how the woman said "doctor's stethoscope" when clearly nurses use them too, and twisting what they said so it suggested they were making fun of nurses. 

So the next day, the ladies from The View issued an apology. The one said she wasn't paying full attention and thought it was someone in a costume (as in, not a nurse) and made an ignorant choice of words when she said "doctor's stethoscope." The other talked
about how much she appreciates nurses and how it was all misunderstood...they were commenting on Miss Colorado's talent, not on nurses. And you could see it on their faces. They were confused as to how this all got twisted, because they didn't intend it the way it was taken. Well, the nurses got even angrier and, get this, Johnson & Johnson and multiple other advertisers pulled all their advertising from The View as a result! 

So here's the thing...I get that I was a drain on people and it was hard for them. I get that the one woman hurt people. I get that black hair is a sensitive subject in that community. I get that nurses are second only to telemarketers in the abuse they receive. And I understand that when you are the person who is hurt, it might affect the way you see or hear an apology. But WTF? And the names the apologizers were called! I mean, really. And none of the apologies I'm talking about here were of the lame "I'm sorry you got mad" or "I'm sorry you're such an asshole that you couldn't see my point" variety. They were all situations where someone took responsibility for their actions and apologized. So, WTF?

Why do people sometimes seem to get angrier when you apologize? In my case, all those ladies were fine with me being part of their group WITHOUT me indicating that I felt bad about what I put them through. But the second I showed what I thought was respect, and apologized, it was game over! So readers, I ask...what is it about an apology that would make someone so angry?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

9/13/15—Getting Out Of The Weeds

I was going to write about how, lately, I've been tackling issues head-on, instead of my usual run, burrow my head and avoid strategy. But fate conspired against me. So I found this post from a year ago that is loosely related. Enjoy. 

A few nights ago when I was meditating, I asked for some insight. What I heard was very relevant and something I thought I'd share, because I'm certain I'm not alone. 

"You've gotten yourself too far down into the weeds." That's what I heard. And it sounded kind of like my father saying it. Regardless of where it came from, though, I knew what it meant. I'm putting too much thought and energy into things that have no bearing on my purpose and goals in life. I'm wasting my water and sunlight on things that won't grow and I don't want to grow. 

The more I thought of it, the more I saw all the ways I do this. I: 
  • Engage in issues with people who have no bearing on my life.
  • Ruminate over things I don't do as well I've done in the past.
  • Think about things I wish I could have done better. 
  • Think about things I wish I could have said, but didn't.
  • Linger over things that have already been dealt with. 
  • Worry about things that haven't happened yet. 
  • Think about things rather than just do them. 
  • Fear doing things that haven't been done yet. 

None of that stuff is moving me toward my goals. Meanwhile, seemingly unrelated things do, in my opinion. Like a retail therapy trip took earlier in the week. It distracted me from energy-sucking thoughts and refueled my energy. In fact, I've done a number of things in the past week that have helped me push my reset button. 

I think I've probably been in the weeds for a long time. I mean, the goals and the move toward them is ever-present, if not always successful. But they're wrapped in a fog of insignificance and distraction, which, frankly has just added stress to the situation. While distraction can lighten the load, especially if you're overly focused, some types of distraction just add weight to your backpack that is not needed. 

The first step toward recovery is recognizing there's a problem. While I knew I wasn't as focused as I could be, I never saw it this way before. If you imagine a cross section of earth, you don't want to be stuck in the thatch of weeds. You want to be up above them where you can navigate the big picture. But then you don't want to be so high that integral parts of the picture are out of sight. 

Now that I recognize this, I need to retrain myself to slough what doesn't matter and not let it distract me. It's a habit that needs to be broken. I think it's important to balance things, so nothing of value gets neglected along the way. When you consider that most of our goals touch many areas of our life, we have to pay attention to the whole tamale. 

So we have to think about where we want to be. What does life look like with your goal met? What does it look like spiritually? How does it impact your health and relationships? If an activity or relationship or way of thinking doesn't align with that vision, part of reaching your goal will have to be letting that go. 

And while you're getting yourself out of the weeds and moving toward your goal, surround yourself with people who not only support your path, but can handle your success. I learned a long time ago that there are people who, for whatever reason, hold a smaller vision for you and your world than you have for yourself. That is their issue. Don't make it yours. Anything you try to pull out of the weeds with you will just weigh you down. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

9/7/15—Being Millie

Growing up in a military family and moving every two years, a lot of people breeze in and out of your life. But one of those people, in the short time we knew her, made an indelible impression on me. 

She was a friend of my mother's. My mother didn't really count many people as a friend in the 21 years I knew her. And of the friends she did have, none of them were people that particularly interested me. But then there was Millie. 

We came across Millie in St. Louis. Nobody's really sure how my mom met her, but it was probably at an event that they both attended. My dad and her husband were in the same industry, but her husband wasn't currently in the military. And, since when you live on a military base your life is kind of insular, and seeing as how half the people on base worked for my father, Millie was probably the only person my mother could be really candid with at the time. 

Another thing that set Millie apart was that, when my mom hung out with her, she frequently brought me along. Sometimes my siblings would come, too. With most of the people we would encounter over the years, our job was to "make an appearance", then disappear as if we didn't exist. My parents entertained a lot, so there was a lot of "appearance making". But not with Millie. We were there because we wanted to be and because she wanted us there. 

What really set her apart, though, was that she was wacky—and completely unselfconscious about her wackiness. "Colorful" is too dull a word for Millie. But it's a good word, because when you were with her, you lived in color. 

The story is that Millie was one of the country's first weather girls—pretty girls they put on TV to read the weather. By the time we knew Millie, though, she was pretty round and had aged somewhat. She dressed eccentrically in designer eccentric designers. She was also very rich. The story's not clear, but she apparently owned radio stations and beauty supply stores. So she lived in a big house in a very nice part of St. Louis. One of my sisters remembers that she had a runway in her basement and she would get all these designer samples and make my sister put them on and walk the runway. 

My mom told me a story that Millie, who didn't "look rich", once went into a tony store downtown—the kind where the salespeople work on commission—and nobody would wait on her. When someone finally came over to her and was nice, she bought 24 place settings of expensive silverware and, for good measure, had them wrap up the store display she waited next to for so long. She thought it was cute. A few salespeople learned some lessons about profiling prospects that day, I imagine. 

Another Millie story is a painting I have hanging in my house, and which is featured above. My mom admired it, thinking Millie painted it. After all, Millie had SAID she had painted it. So the next thing you know, the painting arrives at our house and, down at the bottom, the real artist's name was scratched out and, on top, in paint that doesn't even really match the painting, you see Millie's signature. The painting never matched the decor of our home, but it always hung in a prominent location. It made me smile. And I'm guessing it did the same for my mom. 

As a young teenager, I was, at once, intimidated by Millie's eccentricity and drawn to it. There was probably a part of me that knew I was gravitating toward oddness myself, so Millie was a role model, of sorts. Part of me also thinks my mom knew this and brought me along for all the "ladies lunches" with Millie because of it. My mom was pretty open minded and creative, but much of my life I've kind of oozed extra right-brainedness...enough that I wasn't going to blend innocuously into society. So Millie, while beyond my own comfort zone in that arena, was nonetheless an example of someone who was "out there" that was still endearing to someone creatively conservative like my mom. 

When I think back on my upbringing, much of it renders in black and white. But when Millie was around, things were vibrant. I googled her recently to find she died in her sleep two years ago at the age of 87. Her husband and all 12 of her siblings pre-deceased her. Her obituary reads, "Millie truly had a passion for life and was an accomplished TV anchor woman, fashion designer, hair stylist and host of the International Beauty Show in NYC. Besides professional accomplishments, Millie loved to host dinner parties and she was a wonderful cook."

The other day I found myself thinking about Millie and how our brief encounter with her influenced my life. I don't have Millie's money, but I know I go around looking like someone with far more money woes than I actually have...haha. I often think about how I wouldn't fit into my parent's world, with all its social mores and protocol. I don't even fit into mainstream society very well. And then the energy of Millie washes over me and I remember I don't have to fit into a mold in order to "be". 

I'm not sure there's a moral to today's story or not. I suppose it could be that Millie never had any idea what an influence she had on my life, nor that my siblings would always remember her. Because she stood out. I'm always afraid people never remember me, but I've got a weird name and I stand out. So maybe I'm not so forgettable, after all. And maybe I've inspired some young girl to feel OK about being a little eccentric. 

But there's also the thing about all the loss she's had in her life and how she kept shining her light. I didn't know it then, but I know now...not everyone loves "an original". In the conservative government circles her husband walked in, she was likely a topic of discussion. And yet she never stopped being Millie. So many of the ladies of that time and place pulled back on who they were to fit into the mold. I saw my mother gravitate toward things outside of the mold from time to time...not enough to arouse suspicion, but enough for a friend like Millie to seem uncharacteristic. 

I think both paths are hard...homogenizing yourself and letting yourself run free. But I'll bet pretty much everyone struggles with that on some level from time to time. The older I get, the more like Millie I become. And I kind of like the thought of that. 

To see a picture of Millie from her broadcasting days, visit this post at

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.