Thursday, March 6, 2014

3/7/14—Taking Five Minutes

While the sun sets in my front yard, I sometimes like to watch from the back yard. You can see why in the picture. As the sun dips low, it reflects on the trees in shades of red and yellow. You can see this effect move through the surrounding neighborhood like a custodian switching off lights at the end of the day...first on the branches in the foreground, then the ones taller or further away.

The night I took this picture, I was sitting outside and the entire tree was lit up bright red. It was breathtaking. So I ran inside to get my camera. By the time I got back outside, possibly a minute later, half the red was gone from the trees. Shortly after the picture was taken, the moment had passed. With the speed at which the tree buds and the sun sets, it may never look quite this way again.

The great thing about nature, though, is that the next night there will be a different beauty, albeit again quite fleeting. But if you blink, you'll miss that one, too. One of the many lessons the sunset teaches us is the impermanence of things.

We probably have a million moments like that in every day. We can't stop and appreciate them all. But most people start their days like a cannonball out of a cannon and don't stop until they collapse. Instead of admiring the 10th flower your daughter drew for you today, you say "that's enough. I'm busy with something." Instead of stopping to watch a family of ducklings swim at the park, you walk by, hurried. Instead of watching the light move across the trees, you run inside for your camera and miss the show...haha.

My dogs help me appreciate stuff more than I might normally. If you do something a dog enjoys once, they will never let you forget. Sometimes I go outside with coffee in the morning and just sit with them as they watch the yard. So now, every day, rain or shine, they come in from their morning constitutional, eat their breakfast and then stare at me expectantly. I could break their hearts. Or I could take 15 minutes and go outside and sit with them....while they ignore me, btw. They need me out there so I can beg for kisses, only to be repeatedly rejected, because that shows the squirrels that NOBODY is the boss of them!

What it all comes down to is that we're all guilty of missing the light as it leaves the trees. But one of the lessons I'm trying to learn this year is that there's really very little that can't wait 5 minutes. Work, groceries, can all wait 5 minutes. Those aren't the things that feed the heart and fuel the soul. The special moments that go unappreciated are...being present for your children, the beauty of a flower, the unbridled fun of taking a spin on the merry go round. These things all fill you up and you end up being more productive because you feel less like an ox tethered to a plow all day. So what will you take five minutes for today?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3/5/14—Learning From My Reality TV Show Addiction

On Monday we talked about my weekly confessional and today I have something to confess: I'm addicted to reality shows that involve singing and/or dance. Sometimes schedules conflict to the point my DVR can't handle it, but if I could watch them all, I would. I'm neither proud, nor ashamed of this fact.

Generally, these shows make me very emotional. I remember when I was a little girl and we'd watch Miss America or something like that and my dad would get misty and say, "her parents must be so proud of her." 

I didn't get it then, but I get it now. I cry when someone does a good job. I cry at proud parents. I cry at back stories. I cry because it's beautiful to see someone channeling a force greater than themselves. And I suppose I cry a little for all of my own triumphs my parents weren't here to be proud of. (Oddly, though, I don't cry when they fail...haha. I have little sympathy for them when they screw up.) :D

Anyway, last night I was watching the Voice and was rooting for a guy named Robert Lee who didn't end up getting a chair turn. I couldn't find video to post so you could judge for yourself (but I do have a link to this audition from Idol that I'm still bitter about. Even Ellen is pissed.) He was a mailman and desperate to break out of that life to create a better life for his wife and children. But that won't happen this year. His audition wasn't perfect, but better than some people they let through. All the potential was there. He just needed to be coached. It always disappoints me when the judges get it "wrong".

My entire career has been a series of rejections...haha. More often than not, I'll send samples of my work to people and never hear from them again. That's part of being in a creative career and it's part of being a consultant. But sometimes, when you really want it or need it, that silence can hurt. 

If I weren't certain I'm a good, strategic writer, I never would have made it this far. You don't last 27 years in an industry as competitive as advertising without being your own best fan. It's less of an ego thing than it is a survival thing. Some of the rejections and comments I've gotten in my career still sting. I won't lie. But if I filed the rejections in my head using the information I have now, rather than the sensitivities I had then, I might have had just the added bit of confidence I would need to shine a little brighter. But would it have been worth bypassing the turns that rejection brought me? I don't think so. 

What do I know now that I didn't know then? Well, back then I realized it's all about opinion, plus a ton of other factors I have no control over. Maybe the person who got the work had better contacts at the agency or was more proactive in their approach or answered a question better or whatever. So I always knew not to take it personally. But deep in your darker reaches, you kind of do anyway.

What I know now, however, I owe to American Idol and its counterparts. And that is that rejection doesn't make me "less than" in any way. Sometimes the best talent is passed over simply because the picker has a lack of vision. Or they're in a mood. Or you don't fit their profile. Or, as I've always reminded myself, because they're an asshole you don't want to work for anyway...haha. Sometimes there's so much "rough" that it's hard to see the diamond in its midst.

Rejection doesn't mean you're not good enough or that someone's better. It just means the universe has you set on a different trajectory than the one in front of you. All the jobs I didn't get inspired me to freelance. Had I gotten those jobs, I'd probably be a creative director somewhere today working 5x harder for twice the pay, and afraid to walk away from the money to become an author. I wouldn't have had time to create my Amazon bestseller. I wouldn't spend so much time blogging and creating fodder for future books. 

In fact, I might be on a different path altogether—one where I don't watch sunsets every night with my Kizzie by my side. One where I have to worry more about what people think... where I have to hide my tarot cards, run from my flaws or deny my psychic friends in order to fit in. 

So Robert Lee is probably back at work today as a mailman with a hidden talent. That doesn't mean he won't make it or have a gratifying life. He'll probably have more time to spend with his kids this way. And Jessica Basset from Idol got her self-written song on iTunes, backed by Ellen. She might become a song writer or singer. Or something else entirely. 

What we end up getting in life is partly about what we put out, true. You have to be prepared to greet your opportunities. But more than that, what we end up getting in life is what fits the trajectory we came here to ride. Sometimes that looks like rejection, but ends up turning into a blog that's healing for its readers and writer. :) 

If you can keep your mind open long enough to get past the disappointments and all the preparation you have to do to greet your opportunity, you'll end up seeing the incredible wisdom and suitability of this life you created. You'll see how a hand much greater than your own guided you here. And you'll cry because it's beautiful. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

3/3/14—Looking for Trouble

Today I've been thinking about something I do on a regular basis that I don't think I've shared here before. To give some background, a few years back I set the intention to stop taking my spiritual lessons just when they come and, instead, create situations that would push me past my comfort zone. I wanted to accelerate my growth. 

Now, I think we can create all our situations, good and bad, with intention alone. I had specific goals—releasing my need for drama, improving my forgiveness muscles, learning to be more vulnerable and letting go of things more easily, among others. And in the stealth way the universe tends to work, I was presented with opportunities to address all those things. 

So, while I didn't quite realize it at the time, this blog, for example, ended up destined to help me learn to be more vulnerable. While I still hold plenty of "secrets"...haha...I've really let down my guard over the 3 1/2 years I've been doing this. There are times it really scares me to hit "publish" when I release something I'm sensitive about. And, invariably, those posts are met with thanks and affirmation from you guys. I'm so proud of—and grateful to—the community of people who read this blog, because you have been nothing but supportive. 

And so here comes the thing I haven't shared. Another one of those things that pushes me past my comfort zone sometimes is a post I make every Friday on my Facebook page called Friday Night Confessions. Now, first off, I confess that it's partly a tongue-in-cheek poke at fundamentalist fears about sin and the Devil. I also confess it's partly for some Friday night fun with friends. But from the very first day I made it clear that this thread was sacred and anyone with something to lift off their shoulders was welcome to contact me publicly or privately for "forgiveness" (by the authority of my mail order reverendship that, while I joke about it sometimes, I also take seriously.)

A good 95% of the posts on the Friday Night Confessions thread are along the order of "I confess to being gluttonous with chocolate," "I confess I lost my temper" or even "I confess I love my husband." All of those things are easy to forgive and, when I can, I affirm that they're not alone. I, too, like chocolate. :D

But then there are the 5% of posts that are serious confessions. A couple of them are things that have been really hard for me to forgive, but of course I have. And I don't just say the words "you're forgiven". I do a gut check and push past any boundaries I might have to forgiveness. I also try to talk to the person some to make sure they're OK in that moment and know they are OK and loved in the world...that they are not defined by whatever it is that they've asked forgiveness for. And, of course, I encourage them to seek professional help when that seems to be needed. And, while I do wonder about what progress they're making as to their confession, I never ask because confession should free you from guilt, rather than remind you of it. 

I am not, of course, a priest. I do now understand some of what they hold on their shoulders. They get way more serious stuff confessed to them, so their forgiveness practice is well honed. And they learn, I'm sure, to lift it up to God because its not theirs to carry. That insight has taken some of the tongue out of the cheek of doing this and has made it something truly sacred to me, even in those many weeks when the confessions don't move past "I confess I stubbed my toe and it hurt". 

To keep moving forward and growing and expanding, we have to push against our comfort zones. Of course, it doesn't require exposing yourself on a blog or taking peoples' confessions. You don't have to go looking for trouble when each day you're faced with a new opportunity to change your judgments about someone you work with, open your heart to a stranger, solve an old problem a new way, confront a bad habit or just take the higher road. None of us will do this perfectly or even fully consistently. I can forgive a stranger much easier than a disloyal friend, for example. But the more strangers I forgive, the easier it is to make peace with things closer to me. 

So what opportunities might this week hold for you to push past your comfort zone and expand your love into the world? To begin with, you have to see the opportunities as opportunities, instead of annoyances or shocks or everyday weirdness. Then you have to take a beat and think about how you can exchange your usual response for something more loving. What you'll probably find is that something you think you're doing for "them" is something you've actually done for yourself. You'll feel lighter, walk prouder. And you will have just become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.