Sunday, October 15, 2017

10/16/17—Redefining Goals

Lately, while watching the sunset with Kizzie, I've been seeing a man and a little boy walking through the neighborhood. My guess is they are father and son.

The little boy might be around four years old. And he's very curious. They move slowly because he needs to inspect the bark on a tree. Or pick up an acorn. Or look at a plant. Or run his finger through the crack in the sidewalk. Or follow a passing squirrel to see where he's going. By my count, he stops an average of four times for each property. It's a long block, so it must take at least an hour to walk around.

And while that's all sweet and everything, what really catches my interest is the father. Because he is SO patient. And not only that, but he points stuff out for his son to stop and inspect. It's really nice to see a father spending that kind of quality time with his son, especially in a region where most people are workaholics and hire aupairs to deal with their progeny.

The dad's patience got me thinking. I could never be that dad. My god. If you're going for a walk, then go for a walk! This kid stops way more than my dogs do to sniff and whatnot, and sometimes I'm too impatient even for their sniffing.

To me, the goal of a walk is for you to get to the end efficiently. It wasn't always that way. When I was in better shape, the goal might have been sustained aerobic activity. Enjoyment. Or to see scenery on a hike. But now, I guess, it's just to get it done. Which makes me a little sad, but that's for a different blog post. This post is about patience. And goals. And it's also a little about "thank god Tierney never had children because she is definitely not suited for the reality of being a parent."

There are times I can muster patience. But I don't really need to practice it very often. Most goals in my life are met before patience comes into play. Or maybe that means I'm sufficiently patient enough to enable my goals. Looking at that man and his boy, however, I saw there were levels of patience way beyond what would be realistic for me. And don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking that. I admire his patience. I'm just saying I clearly am lacking because it would drive me batty. I could do one walk like that maybe, but they're out there a couple of times a week!

Still, I can see what a special time it is for both of them. My dad had no patience for his children, which is probably where I get my lack of patience for them from. And as a result, I grew up feeling like I wasn't worthy of that effort. That little boy will never forget how his dad took time for him, tried to see the world through his eyes, and was truly interested in whatever interested him. It's a very healthy and wonderful thing, assuming he's not similarly indulged at home. Then it could turn the kid into a monster. But from my front stoop, as I sit there with one around my boy, singing to him and whispering sweet nothings even though he's a dog, it's a beautiful thing to see.

This has also got me thinking about where I might be chasing the wrong goals. For me, on a walk with a child, my goal would be to get to the end. But look at all I'd be missing. Like my time on the stoop with Kizzie, this is probably the best time of that dad's day. (And, in my defense, plenty of people don't have the patience to watch a sunset, so I do have some patience in me.) It's like how my dieting goals are screwed up...my goal is to sufficiently deprive, rather than strategically nourish, for example. Or with exercise...the goal is clearly to torment myself with inaction, instead of strengthening my asthma addled lungs or some other more compelling reason. Up until recently the goal with my book writing was to power through, as if it is a chore. Instead, now I'm more inspired to serve the needs of people who want to form a one-on-one connection with spirit. It's a more fulfilling goal.

So it's a question worth considering, especially in places you're stuck or unable to move forward. Maybe instead of beating yourself up for not meeting a goal, maybe you're pursuing the wrong goal in the first place. That man's goal is not to take a walk with his son. It's to make special moments with his son so he doesn't miss out on anything. Both goals get you to the same finishing line, but one is more motivating and fulfilling. How might you apply this to your life?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

10/7/17—Enjoying the View

Here's a classic post...

I was giving a reading the other day and said something so wise I surprised even myself! :D I may not be the first to say it, but its worthy of repeating and reconsidering even if you've heard it before. Plus, I've been living it and considering it for a few days and it's a great thought to carry around... 

At this very moment, your dream has come true and your future dreams are coming true. Today was a day you dreamed of. 

Think about it. THIS was a moment you dreamed into fruition. And even though it may feel like a "flawed moment"...or not as perfect as the dream you envisioned...it is nonetheless the moment of manifestation for you. A moment to cherish and celebrate. 

Consider that everything that happened today and will happen tomorrow is in response to a prayer you put out. We're always making dreams of the future...always working toward a future dream that continually expands ever further into the future as we meet goals, take unexpected turns and live our daily lives. And because of this, it seems like today is just never good enough. But today is the answer to a dream you had not that long ago. Rejoice in the answer to a dream rather than poo poo it as not as good as the revised vision you have now. You couldn't even have that vision if you didn't once dream the dream you're living today. 

A year ago I dreamed I'd be more mentally clear and more physically capable. And I am. And yet it's not good enough. I want even more now. And a curse of being human is that we don't know how to exist without a dream of something more. So we're never satisfied with what we have. The thirst for more serves a purpose in moving us forward. But with all these mountains we climb, we really should take the time to enjoy the view. Living a life of purpose that doesn't account for appreciating the beauty of the process is missing the point, imo. 

Part of the challenge of taking personal responsibility for having dreamed this and every day of our lives—whether consciously or unconsciously—is realizing that the things we dreamed of, in the reality we actually live in, have upsides and downsides. For example, I dreamed of having dogs. So when I carry three sacks of poo with me for a mile on a walk, that's a day I dreamed of. Because that's part of the reality of dogs. 

Say that, years back, you dreamed of the day you'd be married to the spouse you have now. Or say you dreamed of getting the job you have now. And now you're unhappy with that situation, whatever it is. Dreams, when translated into reality, have upsides and downsides. So this is a day you dreamed of. 

And so imagine that today you're dreaming of being free of that job or marriage. Then, in reality, things are probably going to get worse before they get better, because most of us need to be pretty miserable to take on changes like that. Therefore, the miserable times are all days you dreamed would happen. And now imagine that you're free of that situation, at last. But you're feeling lonely on Friday night or are unemployed or maybe having trouble settling in to your new job. Those are all days you dreamed of, too. And if you want to change that, it's likely it will all get worse before it gets better, so those are the days you're dreaming of now when you dream of changing the situation. 

And the same goes for all the happy and neutral days we all have, too. I just didn't mention them, because it's easier to imagine the good days being days you dreamed of. We'll readily take credit for having brought those into fruition using our powerful dreaming abilities...haha. 

So consider taking your head out of all that you want to accomplish before next month, next year or the end of your life and spend some time appreciating the powerful fact that you created today. It is an answer to a prayer. You are that good. So good, in fact, that all the dreams you have for tomorrow are unfolding effortlessly as we speak, just as today unfolded from yesterday's dreams. 

By the time we fulfill our intentions and reach the places we dreamed of yesterday, it's too late to enjoy the process. And, besides, we already have a new dream in mind that we're focused on instead. The only time to really appreciate and enjoy the striving is not when we've reached our destination, because we never really do. It's day by day as we're experiencing it. 

Today is the day you once dreamed of. You are magic. You are literally living the dream. Celebrate the beauty of this moment.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

10/2/17—Winning

Lately I feel like I'm winning.

I've had two perfect, one-on-one, mommy-and-me dates with my dogs recently. I've been having good parkma. Work is doing ok. I've been doing some writing on my book. I lit the pictured fire with one match tonight.* The weather has finally realized it's fall. And I don't feel like killing myself lately. Perhaps my bar is set a little low, but I'll take it.

Anyway, some of this is due to circumstance, but I've also been using my One Better Decision method of getting out of ruts. Basically, it's this. We have all these bad or unproductive habits and we make unconscious decisions about them every day. So if we consciously replace one of those decisions with one different or better decision each day, it will shake us out of our rut. We just need to zig where we tend to habitually zag.

As an example, I wanted to work more on my book. For months, the only thing I've done about my book is feel guilty about not doing anything. So each day, I did something small, rather than do nothing at all. One day I attended a writing teleseminar. Another day I jotted down some notes when I had a thought, instead of telling myself I'd remember. I've written a few nights, instead of not writing. One day I came across two articles I could use to help shape some thoughts and bookmarked them. Tonight as I was watching the fire, I watched it through the eyes of me after I've met my goal...I visualized my dream. See, it doesn't have to be a big thing or a time-consuming thing. Just do something you're not doing now. Making progress at a snail's pace is better than making no progress at all. And progress begets more and better progress. It never fails me. I feel better after doing it for a week or two every time. The only flaw with it is that I tend to stop doing it once I'm feeling good and productive again.

But there are also cycles we go through. I am emerging from a long dormant cycle. And lately I've also been noticing progress that happened while I was in my pupa. So I'm bolstered by that. And I've had some positive vibes about the future. I've also had some very nice, satisfying days lately. Even if I'm just being lazy, I'm savoring more. I wish I'd been born someone who feels happy and hopeful and confident all the time. If that person even exists. But I don't get that often enough in my life...or haven't even really felt that way for years. At least not for any notable length of time.

But even with that, I'm feeling hopeful. Because my depression and other issues make me a virtual font of things to write about that help others who may be having my issue du jour. I have spent a lot of time feeling "broken" or put upon by my emotional happenings, both chemical/hormonal and self-made. And I've never really noticed or acknowledged that part of me as my special gift...my divine gift. 

For Van Gogh and Sylvia Plath and many others, it was the fuel behind their legendary expressions of art. Edvard Munch, the artist of The Scream, said, "My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder ... my sufferings are part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art."

Could it be possible that the very thing I've let debilitate and limit me throughout my life, is also my divine gift? Could its equivalent in you also be yours? For me, it's beginning to look that way. Little did I realize that I may have been winning all along.


*Just for funsies, open up the picture and see if you can see a woman's face in the smoke, just at the top edge of the bowl, immediately to the left of the flame. It is very faint, but very detailed in the faintness. I have captured a girl in the smoke in the same place twice before and tonight I asked if the girl was there when I took this pic. This looks more like a woman, but whatever. Also, over to the right, a little above the edge, there's very clear dog's head or horse head in an oddly manifested flame. It's in the flame and not the smoke.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

9/25/17—Letting Go Of Holding Myself Back

Starting when I was 16, my mom began dying from cancer. I lost her when I was 21. Then a few years later, my father was murdered by my stepmother—the woman he met after my mother died—for the insurance money. When I was 25, I was the only person I knew whose parents were both dead. And I wore that story for a very long time.

I also wore the story of an abusive boyfriend I was with for a couple of years. And the two exhausting years lost to anemia because a nurse forgot to tell me to take an iron pill. And the many more exhausting years lost to asthma because a doctor insisted on diagnosing me as merely fat.

For many years I wore these stories and more—partly because they proved my resiliency, partly because I learned so much from them that I could share with others and partly, frankly, because they allowed me to feel sorry for myself and remain stuck.

When I was in my 20s, my stories were big for someone so young. Now that I'm in my 50s, I realize everyone has a tragic story to tell. Sure, not all are as dramatic as having a black widow for a stepmother, but everyone has something that is just as traumatic for them. Some have even worse. Maybe they lost a child. Or lost a limb. Or maybe they had to battle cancer.

I love watching TV shows where people compete, whether it's something inane like Big Brother or something cool like American Ninja Warrior. Because of higher priority DVR conflicts, I only get to watch one or two episodes of Dancing With The Stars each year. But I saw the first episode recently. Debbie Gibson was on and talking about living with Lyme Disease and how she doesn't know from one day to the next how she will feel. But she presses on. She said that everyone has something, so she can't sit around feeling sorry for herself. Like Tierney Sadler does.

At least that's what I heard.

Then there was Victoria Arlen who, at 11, became paralyzed and was in a vegetative state for four years, aware of what was going on around her, but locked in a body that couldn't respond. She was paralyzed for 10 years, during which time she became a Paralympic athlete and an ESPN sportscaster. In her life, she has had to relearn EVERYTHING...talking, eating and even just making simple moves. Then she relearned how to walk. She can't feel her legs, but she can move them. And, a year after relearning to walk, she's on fricking Dancing With The Stars!

Which reminds me of Mandy Harvey. This woman was in college, studying voice, when she suddenly went deaf. Well, she is singing again and she is amazing. Really. If you haven't heard this, you must. And it's not like all the songs she writes and performs are about going deaf or overcoming tragedy. It's almost like a side note, because her voice and her messages are so beautiful. But there was one song with the lyric, "I have no one to blame, because the only one standing in my way is me. Did you hear that, Tierney Sadler?" Of course, I'm quoting those lyrics from memory so I could be a little off.

These shows always make me cry. I've even written about it before. And I'm beginning to think maybe I'm crying because I am letting my stories hold me back. And while these people have the courage to use their stories as a springboard for something greater, I'm letting mine excuse me from not doing the hard work they have done. I've become comfortable, complicit, and complacent in my stagnation and mediocrity. And I hate that about me. It's not what I want for myself.

Although I sometimes doubt it or fear it isn't true, I believe there is much more I'm meant to aspire to and achieve in my life. And hey, where I am right now is a blessing. Don't get me wrong. But I feel my calling is intended to be something beyond where I am right now. In fact, I was musing over that very thought tonight while gazing at a crescent moon in a clear sky when a firefly literally got all up in my face, flashed his butt at me once, then flew off. A firefly! In September! They are gone by or around July in these parts each year.

So I googled the spiritual significance of a firefly—because that's what you do when the last living firefly on earth makes a point of getting your attention—and the meaning I found likened it to The Hermit card in tarot. The seer, the sage...the spiritual teacher. The Illuminator. Which just happens to be the "greater calling" I was thinking about when the firefly showed up. (And The Hermit also happens to be either my birth or destiny card in the tarot. I can't remember which.)

More than that, I see bats most nights at dusk. But tonight they were especially prevalent, circling constantly over my head and home for the 15-20 minutes I sat outside watching it get dark. Symbolically speaking, bats guide us through darkness and ready us for something new and healing in our lives. My thoughts had been swirling around that, too, as the bats were swirling over my head. So I took this all as a sign, because duh.

I have held myself back for quite some time because it's safe. And I get by like this. I get to work for myself in my own home. Sometimes I just barely subsist, but I'm nonetheless subsisting. I have three constant sources of love and approval and adoration no further than 10 feet away from me at any given time. I have the world's most adorable home. I have like-minded friends. I have a peaceful and quiet life. There is nothing tragic here. Nothing to escape from. But I know there is more I could...should...be doing. And I've known this for some time. And once you become fully conscious of something like that, it becomes harder to ignore...harder to indulge and deny.

I'm always going to have my stories. I couldn't leave them behind if I wanted to. But I don't have to have a co-dependent relationship with them. I don't have to use them as an excuse for the unhealthy, stagnating choices in my life. And I don't need the voices of doubt and fear that hide out in the folds of my stagnation steering my ship, either. 

I may not feel ready to start right this minute. I won't make lofty claims or timelines. But I know this—once I'm aware of anything at a new level like this, change is inevitable. 

Which led me to one more thought as I gazed up at that crescent moon. The universe has always brought the right things into my life. Some of them delighted me, some challenged me, some broke my will for a while, some broke my heart. But they were all necessary to bring me to where I am. And despite my fears and doubts, the universe will bring me what's necessary to get me where I'm bound. I just need to face forward, do what I can to help, and otherwise get the hell out of its way.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

9/18/17—Cruising Into A New Phase

Kizzie and I went on a Canine Cruise today. Just a boy and his mommy on a one-on-one date (the girls will get their turns, too.) We had a blast. 

It was one of those days when everything went perfectly. There was a huge festival a block from the pier, but we slipped in early and got ideal parking just in time. There were a lot of dogs out for their morning walks so, since we got there early, we sat in the shade watching them trot by before the cruise boarded. Then the cruise went really smoothly. I'd guess there were 25-30 dogs and everyone got along very nicely. I had been feeling ooky the two days prior, and was worried I'd be miserable, but I felt good and had plenty of energy. The cruise was geared for tourists and we got a clear shot of the Washington Monument and other landmarks, albeit from a distance. Which was lovely. (For the record, I've lived within 10 miles of DC most of my life and the city's captivating beauty never gets old.) And the weather was beautiful. Everything was perfect. 

It's funny. I'm not around "normal" people very often at all...not where I have to interact in any way. I don't work in an office. I rarely go to parties. And when I get out to do something, I'm doing it with someone in my "tribe". Also, when I was sick, I got in the habit of isolating myself and I guess I really haven't broken that habit yet. I'm just a big hermit. With the exception of my late teens and 20s, I always have been.

But because I was focused on getting a plum parking spot, it hadn't occurred to me to get all anxious about being around mainstream humans. In fact, I actually think I forgot that I feel like I don't fit in to normal society. More than that, I think I no longer care. And more than THAT, I have begun to see everyone else as the weird ones...haha. So we interacted with others as was appropriate, but otherwise kept to our own little world of a one-on-one date with Mommy and Kizzie. It really felt like a newfound sense of freedom, devoid of social concerns.

I noticed something different about Kizzie, too. He has become quite comfortable in his role in our pack. He is the elder and he kind of holds court each day at home. He is a gracious leader. He only interjects if necessary. So he will sit back and observe as Magick and Mystic do their fisticuffs, but when things begin to escalate, he may choose to step forward and temper emotions with his presence. But most of the time he just sits back and watches, like a noble king surveying his court from a throne. Kizzie rules as a lover, not a fighter. He likes to maintain the peace.

The cute thing is that on the boat today, he just assumed all the dogs there understood who he was. So he sat back and observed his court, with all the pride and authority he shows at home. And when this one really big dog barked at something, he popped up to survey the situation and make sure it ended with that one bark. And it did. While most of the dogs didn't even notice him, he nonetheless seemed to think this was his cruise and the rest were merely passengers. 

I loved seeing this because the first time I met him he was so shy and scared of other dogs that, when they put me and his soon-to-be sister in a private room at the shelter to see how we'd get along, he circled us nervously for nearly an hour before he would interact with us. He had been abused and was afraid of people and dogs. The shelter people felt he and Passion, who was extremely alpha and badass, would be good for each other. And they were.

So I just thought it was interesting the ease both of us had today. I wasn't concerned with any of my neurotic crap about others or trying to be liked or accepted, and Kizzie wasn't worried about mean dogs or if he'd be accepted as pack elder. It was nice not to have all the noise in my head that was still there the last time I remember dipping my toe into light and breezy social interaction in the larger world. I even stopped taking the dogs to the local dog park because the other dog owners were kind of jerks...sort of dripping in their entitled egos. So it was also nice to know that, as an empathic person, I could go out into society and be around others and walk away without absorbing all their mess...that it was even possible to walk away blissful, at peace and untainted. 

See the flower at the bottom, separated
from the rest, but also of the rest?
That's how I feel.
I have felt like a fish out of water for as long as I can remember. Like part of society, but on the fringes. Not really connected. Maybe a little shunned. I only really fit with my group of similarly empathic, introspective and spiritual friends. And since I'm usually alone in any kind of social situations, I just feel awkward. I'm fine in professional situations, but otherwise I don't know what to talk to normal people about. I mean, self-employed single loners with no kids have different things to talk about than married, corporate types with kids. I have always been hyper aware that I don't have the best social tools. Which is why I have always sought quiet one-on-one interaction in favor of anything public.

But today, none of that mattered anymore. I feel like I have been lost in a long series of dark places for a long time...since even before I got sick. And each time I emerge from one of these places, I find myself utterly changed for the better. I find myself freer and more expansive. It would be nice to not spend so much time incubating. It would be nice, frankly, to be blissfully ignorant, if that really exists. I'm no stranger to making different choices in life, but even when you make and live and believe in those choices, there's always something or someone to push back or judge harshly. And as long as you're conscious of what others think, it can hurt. But each time I release one of those insecurities or beliefs that keeps me tethered to human conditions that expect us to all to march to a certain drum beat, I like myself more. I trust myself more. And I concern myself less with whether or not I fit anyone else's vision of how people should be.

Kizzie has amazed me at how much a creature can change and free himself over the course of a lifetime. And I'm beginning to amaze myself with the very same thing.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

9/11/17—Getting Out Of The Weeds

This is a classic post...

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 dramas 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. 


Saturday, September 2, 2017

9/3/17—Painting What's Inside And Out

My new house colors. One friend said the colors
looked like "a praying mantis in moonlight." Love that!
I recently got my house painted. It's interesting what that will do to people. 

I'll begin by saying my neighborhood is the embodiment of "location, location, location". It's a blue & white collar neighborhood snuggled between 100-year-old, multi-million dollar mansions and a neighborhood of architecturally historic homes, a few miles south of our nation's capital. In this wide tract of land flanking the Potomac River, my neighborhood is one of just a couple pockets of post-war homes affordably built for returning WWII soldiers. 

While all the neighborhoods around these pockets have Homeowner's Associations (HOAs) to make sure everything is neat and trim and perfect, as most neighborhoods do these days, my neighborhood has none. Which means me and my neighbors can do whatever the fuck we want. For the most part, despite not being threatened with terrible consequences, people do little to complain about in that regard. 

And, not for nothing, when complaining is fruitless, you tend not to even notice stuff that would cause an HOA to storm a home. We like the diverse expressions of personality displayed in our neighborhood, from people who literally plant plastic flowers in their gardens to those with impeccable curb appeal. We don't want or expect a pasteurized neighborhood. Which is a good thing because most of us can't afford one even if we did...haha. 

So anyway, I posted before and after pics on Nextdoor.com to promote my painter, who is a young, hard-working immigrant who did a great job for extremely reasonable rates. And instead of seeing the thread as a recommendation, as it was, some people used it as a forum to show just how uptight, conventional and boorishly unimaginative the people who live in the rich neighborhoods around me are.  

First, let me say, their opinions don't bother me. I have been expressing myself creatively in a very subjective industry for 30 years. I'm used to opinions about my creative choices. In fact, I find them valuable because those opinions, depending on what they are and how we address them, help both me and prospective clients either a) improve our outcomes or b) determine whether or not we'll be a good fit. When it comes to creative expression, opinions are both invaluable input about the person/organization I'm dealing with, and inconsequential to my confidence as a creative thinker. I'm not so confident when those opinions are directed at my appearance or whatever, but enough people see my value as a writer that I actually believe them.

What I am fascinated with is the...odd? inappropriate? telling?...comments that came from people...comments that had nothing to do with the painter I was recommending and everything to do with discomfort over my color choices and landscaping choices. One person made two comments, back-to-back, about how the HOA (we have none) and the neighbors wouldn't be happy about my color choices. And another person said I should get rid of all my "shrubs" up front because they take away from the home's architecture. Those shrubs are pinkish red azaleas. Just imagine how spectacular my home's architecture will look next spring. :D

The old colors with the "unsightly shrubs"
nearing full bloom. 

The funny thing is that the new paint job changed my house from MORE controversial colors (a brighter blue and yellow that was visible from space) to warmer and less attention-getting colors. AND I was torn between green and plum for the trim. A couple of neighbors were pushing for the plum, which would have been beautiful, but more overt. I decided on the warmer, more sedate colors because I had been living in a house that stopped traffic (nearly every other house on the block is either white or beige) for a decade and wanted something more "mature" and blendy for once. 

Which is to say, if someone can't abide color on a house, it could have been WAY worse! In my mind, I actually made the conservative choice. Which is why I find the comments so interesting. I mean, I've always been a bird of a different feather and I surround myself with like minds. I had almost forgotten people that uptight existed. As I told one of my friends, I had always wondered what an elitist was, and now I know. More than that, I finally know I'm not one of them...haha.

I will say, two of my neighbors swooped into the thread to give a thumb's up to my house and I received other compliments as well. (I think many on my block are probably just grateful the yellow is finally gone.) I just happen to live in a small clump of creativity, too. The two houses behind me are non-beige. The house next to me, while beige, has many artistic choices in the yard and exterior finishes. And the house in front of me, also beige, has artistically aesthetic landscaping they tend to religiously. 

To me, there is soul in a house and in a neighborhood. I have lived in this house longer than most of the neighbors I just mentioned. I know who lived in their houses before them, and in some cases, even before them. All have always been occupied by unconventional people, either in their exterior, interior or personal life choices. Same with my house. The couple who lived here before me was creative in the renovations they did on the inside. Isn't that interesting? It's like the energy of the individual home attracts the right people to it. It's like the home wants to express itself in some way. 

I have to admit when I changed my house from white to bright blue and yellow 10+ years ago, my motivations weren't entirely pure. My desire for color was pure, but I did kind of choose the colors with a bit of a middle finger raised to conventional standards. I got a good amount of push-back. It was polarizing—you either loved it or hated it. So there was some discomfort for me. I wasn't as confident then. 

But I don't know if it's age or the intention behind it—I mean, I really feel I tempered my iconoclastic urges this time around for something everyone can love—but any adverse opinions that come from this don't bother me this time around. I just find them fascinating. I was recommending a painter, not seeking approval for my paint job. And the fact that my truly adorable and expressive home troubled some people so much that they felt a need to throw stones just fascinates me. 

Do they feel suppressed in their own world and have to lash out at those who express themselves freely? Do they think their opinion holds any sway in my neighborhood (they were from surrounding neighborhoods)? Or do they just get off on being haughty? I mean most people keep their critical opinions to themselves, especially when opinions are not requested. So it's interesting to examine.

But it's also interesting in the context of how vocally polarized, opinionated and intolerant we are in the US these days. And I include myself in that mix. Our Racist-In-Chief is really bringing out a lot of internal struggles for pretty much everyone, his fans included. People are foregoing conventions, struggling with denial, fighting against truth, arguing for the sake of arguing, insisting on being heard, acting from fear and battling a host of other spiritual and personal demons—on both sides. (And there are many fine people on both sides, too...haha.)

The longer this goes on, the more I'm able to see the divine wisdom of it all. It's forcing us all to express and confront who we are, how tolerant we are, and what we are willing to accept and not accept of what is inside of us, as individuals, as communities and as a nation. From what I'm seeing, despite a president who believes otherwise, most of us support freedom of expression and a mind-your-own-fucking-business-and-stop-focusing-on-mine way of life. Some, while they feel that way for themselves, are having a hard time letting others feel the same way, too, right now. On both sides. And it is causing tension. And it is creating opportunities for self-reflection. And I am optimistic it will have a good resolution.

Freedom is not about homogenizing individual expression to acceptable levels. Perhaps it is when it comes to being a civilized society—we are rightly restrained by laws and defensible levels of behavior. Rather, freedom is about feeling safe to be who you are, whether that's living as a boy when you were born with ladyparts or giving the outside of your home some personality. The world is a better place when people have the freedom to express on the outside what is true to the person within. And I think all this turmoil going on around us and within us is bringing us around to a deeper appreciation of that. Painfully, perhaps. But I believe Americans will always choose freedom in the end.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

8/28/17—Sharing Five Things About Happiness

This is a classic post....

Odd piece of trivia: people tend to like enumerated lists of things. So if you get an email with a subject line that says "Five Things Weird People Do," you're more likely to open that than an email that just says "Stuff Weird People Do." 

Before you protest and tell me all about how you'll read any email with "stuff" in the subject line, there are, no doubt, exceptions. And you, a board-certified snowflake, may be one of them. But it's just one of those things the advertising industry does research on, then pumps into my head. So I thought I'd share it with you. Because tonight I'm really tired. And instead of writing a brand new post from scratch, I'm going to share a classic one with you—Five Things To Know About Happiness. 

1. Happiness Isn't All It's Cracked Up to Be. You very well may be happy right now and not even know it. It doesn't necessarily come with a balloon and streamers attached. It's not necessarily something you get in exchange for something good you've done. It's merely a feeling of remarkable wellbeing in body, mind, emotion, and/or soul. And by "remarkable", I'm not talking "rare". I'm talking, "hey, I'm remarking that I'm happy!" (Notice the lone exclamation point?) So it's not quite joy or bliss (which *do* come with streamers...AND a few extra exclamation points). Happiness is just a nice smile that comes from within. :) 

2. Happiness is Not a Destination. It's part of the journey. There's never going to come a day when you're "Happy. Period." We all have ups and downs. We may be happy in one area of our lives and less than happy in another. It's not a place to land and plant roots. Nor do you want it to be. Because happiness should never become mundane. If it's how you felt all the time, it wouldn't be such a gift. 

3. Happiness is a Choice. In most moments, you can choose to be happy. You can choose to see your situation as a gift. Sure, if the bad guys are chasing you with guns, it's hard to be happy. Unless you like that sort of thing. But most of us lead pretty tame lives. And we can choose to let some inconsiderate person, for example, ruin our day. Or we can choose to focus on the positives, see how good we've got it and let our bodies and minds flow with gratitude. Now, chemicals in our body can make our moods shift. But even those, we can choose to improve through exercise or pharmaceuticals or whatever. But still, we're all human, so there will be times it won't be a choice. But many times it is. And since I promised you only five things...

3a. Gratitude is a Direct Route to Happiness. Want to be happy? Count your blessings. We are all so incredibly blessed and we don't even realize it half the time because we're looking at all the areas where life has fallen short of our expectations. Well what about the vastly larger number of areas in which it has met and exceeded...or at the very least mirrored the effort we put forth?

4. You Can't Know Another Person's Happiness. So stop looking over the fence and thinking that person is happy! C'mon...think about all the times you walk around with a smile on, even though you're less than happy. Well, newsflash. Everyone else is doing that, too. In fact, some people are significantly better at looking happy than you are. The Dalai Lama is probably the happiest person on earth (that I know of, at least) and even his moods modulate. Besides, he's waited on hand and foot, worshipped far and wide and hugely respected. He was literally born to be a leader and a holy leader. But he was a leader in exile most of his life and his people were oppressed...all this happening to a very compassionate man. You want his problems? I didn't think so. So be careful what you're wishing for. 


5. Happiness Shouldn't Necessarily Be Your Goal. Contentment should. See, the ultimate goal in life is supposed to be balance, right? Well, happiness is weighted to one side of the spectrum. It's not in the center. And the things beyond center are harder to maintain. Not only that, but in order to have balance, things that are weighted to one end eventually have to be mirrored by things weighted at the other end. But contentment is at the center. It's satisfaction. It's upturned lips and a relaxed brow, but not quite a full-on smile. With contentment, there may be things in your life that are less than hunky dory, but you'll take it. Because it's pretty good overall...pretty good for a Wednesday. It's the wellbeing without the exclamation point. And it feels really nice. And, with the right mindset, you can maintain it longer.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

8/21/17—Sharing My Thoughts As A Southerner And A Liberal

I saw him as I walked into the drug store. He was a tall man, covered in sweat, hunched over his cart. Probably in his 60s, with an unkempt beard. Dressed in ratty shorts and a tank. I immediately thought a number of things. 





  1. He probably was doing yard work to get that sweaty. But why run to the drug store like that?
  2. He will probably judge the fat girl going on a candy run (I'd had a bad day and needed chocolate.)
  3. He looks like a racist/white nationalist. 
I live in a very sophisticated area of the country. Just outside of Washington, DC...in what we would call the "close-in" suburbs. I live in a working class neighborhood tucked between the rich people and the poor people. So while it's an area where you can't buy a lean-to shack for less than $400K, it's nonetheless diverse. And, not for nothing, DC or not, I live in Virginia. Which was a Confederate state. And there are a lot of people round these parts that are proud of that history. 

So at a glance, I thought I had this guy figured out. As I stood in line behind him, candy in hand, another register opened up. So I got his attention and let him know he was first in line for the new register. That's when he said to me, "no, you go first. I'm not in a hurry." So I went first. My total was $4.10, and I was paying with a $5. He gave the clerk 10 cents so I wouldn't have to manage all that change. 

Turns out, I was the one who harshly judged. Turns out I was wrong. I was the hater. This man was a kind man. As I walked out, I saw him kidding with the ethnic checker. He was apparently a regular. I kinda felt like crap. I saw what I was becoming in this difficult time in America.

I have been having a really hard time with all of this stuff going on. I can't even express how repulsed I am by white nationalists. I'm just as repulsed by our president. I was shocked at the pictures of clean cut young men with baseball bats and sticks attacking people. Racists are not just old men. It's a cancer in our culture that never seems to go away. 

But I am struggling with the monuments and history that seem inextricably intertwined with racism. See, in a country as large as the US, one state was host to 60% of the battles of the Civil War—Virginia. My state is rich in so much history. George Washington literally slept a couple of miles from my house (I live on land he once owned.) The homes of signers of the Declaration of Independence and framers of the Bill of Rights are all over the place. And so are Civil War battlefields—all of which are in Confederate territory and most of which hosted wins for the Confederacy. Tourism at those battlefields is big in this state. Those battlefields are sacred ground. 

Stonewall Jackson got his nickname at Manassas Battlefield—a battlefield named by the South (the North called it Bull Run. The South named their battles after nearby towns and the North named them after nearby landmarks and waterways. So the Battle of Manassas and the Battle of Bull Run are the same battle. The Battle of Antietam is also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg. Most of the battles have two names. And some of the battlefields still bear the Southern names, presumably because the South won there.) Behind Mount Vernon and the big Air and Space Museum, Manassas Battlefield is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Northern VA.

In fact, the first Battle of Manassas/Bull Run (there were two major battles fought there, a year apart) was one of the key battles in the war. The Confederates won that one. In fact, they won a lot of battles in Virginia and the South. It wasn't until they were able to press north into Maryland and Pennsylvania that the North gained a foothold and was able to eventually defeat the South. 

See, nobody expected the South to last two days in the war. In fact, the elite from DC packed picnic lunches and rode out to Manassas in their finery to sit upon a hill and watch the Federal Army make short work of the Rebels. That was the assumption...the war would be over as quickly as it started. But that's not what happened. General Jackson stood "like a stone wall" against the onslaught from the North and he pulled out a win. The war wouldn't end for another four years. 

And those tourists who came to see the battle? They ran, screaming for their lives, in the chaos that ensued as the North retreated. 

I'm not going to make any excuses for the impetus behind the Confederates. They wanted to keep their slaves and were willing to secede from the US and then attack us for that right. But there is a part of the Civil War story in the south that nobody ever articulates. It's that part that had the fortitude and savvy to hold their own against a more qualified army for four years. NOBODY expected them to last that long. And it wiped out a large percentage of the male population in the region. But they didn't give up. 

When a southerner celebrates Lee and Jackson and their Civil War history, sure, some of them are celebrating racism. But most of them are celebrating the never-give-up spirit of the south. I get that it's hard for most people to separate. It's hard for me to even articulate. But it's not all about racism. A lot of it is about pride in standing up to a force greater than them and holding their own. The spirit is very American. The racism, however, is not something we condone.

Please understand, I'm not defending the part about racism. I'm defending the parts of those southerners that weren't about racism...the courage, the sacrifice and, hey, I'll bet even Ulysses S. Grant would agree, Lee was a genius as a leader. Southerners who celebrate the war aren't necessarily celebrating racism. They're celebrating the spirit and moxie of the South. 

So, put that aside for now. I get that many of these statues were erected to intimidate black people. I know there are plenty of racists no matter where you go in the country. For example, there is absolutely no logical reason for a Confederate statue to be in Baltimore. None. The Confederates didn't win a single battle north of DC. They were not welcome there at any time. Ever. 

And before I say the next thing, I'm going to state this: If it makes African Americans feel uncomfortable, I defer to their needs, because theirs are more important than mine in regard to this. But I struggle with whether or not the statues should go. And I'm not alone. By a slim margin, even blacks in this country agree they should stay (44% keep vs. 40% remove). If you split it out by Dems and Republicans, Dems want them gone by a slim margin (44% keep vs 47% remove.) But Americans, in general, agree they should stay. I can't find the Washington Post article I'm quoting, but I found an email I sent to a friend with the numbers in it. 

I used to vacation at an old plantation in the Virginia countryside. The same family had lived in the house for 300 years. And during the war, one of them was a Confederate Colonel. There were black ladies who made the breakfast in the morning and kept the rooms clean at the B&B. Those ladies were descendants of the slaves that worked in that house. They could work anywhere...plenty of B&Bs in the countryside. But they chose this place because they considered it THEIR home. They were raised and lived on the land given to them after the war for reparations, just down the dirt road. They undoubtedly shared the same bloodlines. They loved the family that once kept their ancestors as slaves and the family loved them back. Was it difficult and complicated? Yep. Was it anything but respectful? No.

This blew my mind. You won't find this many places—where both families have that same longevity in a single location. It was a very interesting social study. One of the ladies was so old (80s-90s) that they were keeping her in money in her old age. The family suggested giving generous tips to her. The females in her family knew little other than working in that kitchen. She talks about being raised on that kitchen floor as a toddler. I will probably never understand it. It is an incredibly complicated dynamic that most of us will never understand. It doesn't apply to the larger population of whites and blacks. But it is an interesting study in a part of the VA countryside that hasn't changed much in 150 years. 

What this is all getting at is that I am 100% against racism. But as a Virginian (and someone who writes about the Civil War professionally on a regular basis), I might see the Civil War a little differently than many people. And I get why reenactors reenact. And I get why a person can look at those statues and not see racism. And I get why the south is proud of their heritage and doesn't consider their pride racism. There is a whole other thing that they identify with regarding the war. 

One more Civil War story. When Lincoln was assembling his army, he approached Robert. E. Lee to lead it. Lee was an American hero at the time and, truly the best we had. Yes, he had slaves, as did many in the north and south at the time. It was commonplace. The "Lee" name is huge in Virginia. They came here in 1639—more than 200 years before the Civil War. They were a founding family of Virginia and of this country. They fought in the Revolution. They are inextricably intertwined with Virginia and United States history. Lee was on board to lead the Union...until Virginia seceded. Then he had to choose between his country and the state that his family basically founded. His decision had NOTHING to do with slavery. 

At the time, he lived high upon a hill overlooking DC. He called his estate Arlington. When he chose to fight for his state, his land was immediately claimed by the Union...a valuable spot for defending the Federal capital (and, in fact, there is a narrow swath of Virginia that was never part of the Confederacy as it was immediately taken by the north to protect the capital. My house is maybe a half mile into the Confederacy. To say being a Virginian was complicated on the line between North and South is an understatement.) The animus at that point against Lee was such that Lincoln's administration turned Lee's magnificent estate into a cemetery so he'd never want to return. To this day, Arlington National Cemetery is where our nation's heroes (including my father and mother) are buried.

For the most part, the Civil War was about slavery. The South didn't like the country telling them they couldn't have slaves, so under threat of not having that "freedom", they rebelled. It was about slavery. And it was about principle. And it was, ironically, about their freedom. And they lost. But the closer you look at the dynamics in place, there was so much more going on beneath the surface. The rebels didn't wake up in their tents every morning saying "I'm gonna go kill me some Yankees so I can all have the slaves I want." They were fighting for their rights and for their ill-conceived honor. And while the atrocities of slavery are well documented, there is a piece of that story that we will never understand...the piece that keeps those ladies serving the same family 150 years later.

So, for me, those statues don't represent slavery. Lee and Jackson might have been on the wrong side of history, but they can't be dismissed as just traitors. Their genius, unfortunately, is why the war lasted four years. They were brilliant tacticians, both of whom had loyally fought for our nation before. They were fighting for what they thought were their freedoms. And yes, that was all effed up. But they are not one-dimensional men who are so easy to brush off. 

We've turned this whole statue thing into being just about race. But in the south, it's about way more. It's about our history and heritage (you literally can't go anywhere in VA and be more than 10 miles from a battleground...no other state was as ravaged as ours and no other state had as many "brothers fighting brothers"), the strength of our people, and the spirit of our region. Completely aside from race, there is a lot that the south connects to in that history. 

To borrow a cliche, this matter isn't so black and white. What I support is for communities to decide what they feel comfortable with. Charlottesville decided as a community to remove their statue. I commend them. If Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, were to remove theirs, I'd be sad. Nowhere else are those statues more appropriate to the history of the town. But if they choose to remove them, that is their thing. 

It's important to know that the South—the Confederate States of America—went to war with the USA. It's also important to know that we reunited. The men who fought for the south didn't hate their country. They hated laws they felt restricted, ironically, their freedoms. At the time, our country wasn't even 100 years old. We were still working out who we were and wanted to be. It is one of the many shameful times in our history. The ancestors of men on both sides of the Civil War slaughtered the American Indians to steal their land and murdered their own countrymen in the Revolutionary War. There is no purity lost on our forefathers, nor on our path to becoming the US. While I disagree with the false equivalency Trump drew, Washington was as much a traitor to his country (England) as Lee was to ours. The only difference is that Washington won. Which made it OK. Because now we exist as an independent nation. But make no mistake, we are nonetheless a nation founded by questionable morals, unmistakable greed, and senseless violence. 

If you are going to love this country, love it with eyes wide open. We may stand for some honorable things. But we did not get here in honorable ways. Having a lack of regard for those not like us and turning traitor on our own countrymen are, unfortunately, written into the American DNA. All of that happened before the Civil War. There is no South or North and no racist or angel about it. We wouldn't be here today if we weren't EXTREME assholes.

We can't fairly judge the Civil War from the context of 2017 and 150 years of progress under our belts. And we can't disown it. It's ours forever. It is American history. It is the history of ALL of us. It is as much who we are as our goal in WWII was. And while nobody wants a statue of Hitler, there are places statues of Lee and Jackson and Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, are appropriate. None of them was Hitler. Both may have been racists, but that's where the similarities end. And again...how are any of our forefathers different when they wiped out all the indigenous people of our country? Like it or not...we are many great things, but we are also everything we hate. We can't claim only half of who we are. And if your family, like many Americans, had no part in our wars, your family nonetheless chose a country with our history to settle in. (For the record, I am first generation on my mother's side and my father's side did not own slaves. That doesn't give me a pass, either.)

Moving on, the Memorial Bridge in DC spans the Potomac between Arlington National Cemetery (Lee's home) and the Lincoln Memorial. No mere coincidence, it was built there specifically to bridge our history...to represent the peaceful reunification of Americans after war tore us apart. That's the real headline about the Civil War, one that rarely gets mentioned amidst all the stuff about race. The South accepted their lot and moved forward as Americans. And yes, some of them spawned generations of haters. Their forefathers probably fought out of hate. But not everybody did. Hate can only last you so long when the earth is littered with the decaying bodies of people you considered friends. 

We have never lost as many men in our history as a country as we did in the Civil War. One one day alone at Antietam Battlefield, between dawn and dusk, 22,000 men ended up dead, injured or missing. One day in a war that lasted four years. The war might have been about slavery, but it held much more meaning for the men fighting it. It had to have. These guys wore uniforms made from wool and fought both battles of Manassas in the sweltering heat of a VA summer (the South winning both battles.) They went without food while marching great distances. Nearly 2/3 died of hunger and disease, not of injury. These guys may have had some wrong-minded ideals, but they put down their lives for those ideals and lost everything in the process and then came back home to the US and paid their dues responsibly, most giving land to their now free slaves as laws dictated. 

I struggle with the statue thing. I can't see the Civil War in simplistic straightforward terms. My heart aches that white nationalists exist and I will never defend them. What we continue to do to blacks in this country is wrong. Do not misunderstand me. But I can't hate Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I can't condone the removal or denigration of statues of them WHERE APPROPRIATE. And I can't put them in the same bucket as Nazis, though both groups had racist agendas. Unfortunately, my state is so riddled with tributes to these men that it's ridiculous. There are far more roads and schools and statues to these men than there are to Grant or Sherman, who were their equals in the Union. And that is just wrong. But I live in the south. And there is far more to this period of history here than meets the eye.

So going back to the start of this post, I think it's important we don't judge too quickly. And that we don't judge without proper understanding...without seeing these men who fought in that war as three-dimensional people who were propelled by thoughts other than racism in many cases. After all, seeing others as less than 3-dimensional humans is how hate takes hold. And we need to watch that, while we're hating the haters, we don't we don't turn into haters ourselves. Just because one side is wrong, it doesn't make us automatically right, regardless of how we approach it. 

Hate vs. hate will not heal this country. Yes, we should resist and protest. But we should also understand and not be so quick to judge. Some of the people you want to hate are haters. And some that we label as racists, frankly, just can't articulate what they stand for in regard to that war and those statues. Our job in all of this is to not lose our integrity as we rail against what's lacking in theirs. We don't have to like or approve of what people believe or feel. But if we are Americans and believe our country's founding ideals, we have to honor their right to things we wouldn't choose for ourselves.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

8/14/17—Clearing the Fields

A dozen or so years ago, I drove past a farmer's field that was smoking from a recent fire. I had never seen this before, so I thought something tragic had happened. But then a few miles down the road, I saw another burned out field. And another.

This was the first time I realized that farmers occasionally burn fields to kill all the old growth and weeds. Then, I suppose, they turn the soil and plant something new. It's like a clean slate. A field that used to grow soybeans can now grow corn. 

The same concept is used by nature. Forest fires, for example, are actually necessary to keeping the forest healthy. Too much vegetation can prevent seeds from germinating, stopping the growth of new trees—and thus endangering the generational growth cycle. Also, the denser the forest, the hotter it burns and the more destructive the fire becomes. So occasional fires in the forest are mother nature's form of self-care and even damage control.

Sometimes in my life, I have felt like there were fires burning all around me. Usually when that happens it feels like my life is falling apart and I have no idea how to put the pieces all back together again. But that's just it. Sometimes the pieces have to be destroyed so they can no longer be put back together quite same way again.

In the thick of things, we can't always see the wisdom of that. We just see everything falling apart and worry we'll never recover. But then when all the smoke clears, the path we seek to recovery—and even triumph—becomes visible. And as we take steps down that path, we can look back and see everything from a new perspective. We can see why it all had to be.

Throughout my life, I've experience a number of these fires. Some of them were even tragic. But they have all blessed my life with some sort of insight, wisdom or calling that brought me to a better place. And by calling, I mean some sort of change I had to adjust to and work with...some sort of loss within myself I had to fill or bridge with a new way of being. It might have been a new state of mind or new behavior I had to adopt to make forward motion possible. All I know is that there has never been a fire in my life that hasn't led to a more capable, evolved and wiser me.

Sometimes fires happen to you and you're compelled into change. And sometimes you set them yourself, clearing what no longer serves to make space for new growth and a more evolved life. Either way, the fire tempers us and makes us stronger, as it does with steel. And what once looked like the end of the world, ultimately gives way to a beautiful, new beginning.

Adapted from a post originally written on 5/4/12.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

8/6/17—Detaching From Trust

This is NOT my PT Cruiser. Mine was too dirty for a photo shoot and most
of the shots I found online sucked. So imagine this with a roof.
Like many of you here, I was manifestation before manifestation was cool.

It started for me with Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, a book written more than a decade before The Secret. In fact, I think of The Secret as a longer, inferior version of The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Chopra's book, along with Gary Zukav's Seat of the Soul, are the two most influential books (and probably the only two I've read cover to cover) informing my spiritual journey. Both are "hard" to read, in that a lot can go over your head if you're not actively paying to attention and thinking things through. Indeed, Zukav actually wrote a "dummies" version of his book because it was so dense. But those two books really resonated with me early on, and the Chopra book is one I've opened over and over during the past 20 years.

But just because I know something inside out doesn't mean I always practice it perfectly. And thus was the case when my car's check engine light went on over a month ago.

In Virginia, our cars have two inspections they have to go through—a yearly safety inspection and an emissions test you can either do yearly or every two years. I have my safety inspection every July. And almost every July, my check engine light comes on. It always happens on the first really hot day of the year. Most of the time it happens because the gas cap isn't on tight enough. If the gas cap isn't on right, it screws with the effectiveness of your emissions control system.

Many times, I just fill up my tank, make sure my cap is on tight and, after a handful of trips out and about, the light goes off. My car guy says you have to go at least 70 miles before it will go off. So I tightened the cap and drove a couple weeks (since I don't commute, I don't put a lot of miles on my car). But the light didn't go off. By this time, I'm getting worried...thinking of it a few times a day. If the light doesn't go off, that means it is not a loose gas cap and could cost upwards of $600 to fix. And I just don't have that to throw away right now.

So I decide that, because my car is 13 years old, maybe it's time for a new gas cap. So I order one online. And I wait. And I worry. Then it comes and I install it. And I wait. And I drive. And I worry. And now nearly a month has passed of going into into stress mode daily. I try to keep it at bay with a gut check. And I pull cards. And everything tells me everything is going to be OK. But still I worry. Then July 31 rolls around.

It was a stressful day. I had to find a way to put a good 50+ miles on the car, then when I'm out on the road, a client schedules a phone conference with me that starts in an hour. So I immediately go home before the 50 miles are up to take the call. Then when the call is over, I debate...should I just go and fail the inspection, which puts a two-week clock on fixing the car? Or should I evade the police as long as possible...haha?

Ultimately, I decide to just go and fail inspection. But then something happened. See, I once asked my inspection guy if they would ever inspect a car with a check engine light on and he said no. But either I didn't ask the question right or he misunderstood, because they actually don't care if your light is on during a safety inspection. They only care when you're testing emissions, which I don't need to do for another year. So, long story short, my car passed inspection. And all my worrying was for naught. In fact, all my worrying from many Julys past was for naught. 

See, I had forgotten Deepak's Law of Detachment. Not forgotten, really, but was ineffective when using it. And it's really one of the key laws...and the hardest to do. Because once you've put an intention out into the universe, you're supposed to detach from it. And trust. And by detachment, that means you don't worry about it (because worry sends out an intention of worry, sending nothing but more worry back your way) and you don't pathologically drive your car in hopes of effecting a result. You just let go and trust.

And once I got my car inspected, another thing happened. An intense exhaustion washed over me. It lasted all that night and all the next day. With the exception of one phone call I had to take the next day, I literally slept the day away. This was as bad, or worse than, my worst days back when I wasn't being treated for asthma. In fact, I hadn't felt that exhausted since I had been diagnosed. Then the next day I was fine. The only explanation I can think of is that the cumulative effects of a month of worry took their toll. All because I couldn't let go and trust.

For the post-menopausal woman, life never lets you get too far along without reminding you you're no longer as young and resilient as you once were. I guess this was one of those times. I believe I've had far more stressful things happen without having that kind of effect, but maybe having this on top of a general stress I've been having all year was too much. But it also reminded me to detach and trust. I do tend to try to control my environment too much. I'm good about trying not to control people, but I do like my life to be predictable and worry free. And when things fall apart, I take too much of that on, physically, psychically and emotionally. So reminder taken.

And if you're wondering about my gut check, I'll say that I think it's always correct. It's more reliable than tarot or a pendulum for me. It takes some practice to see how your gut talks to you, so give it some time and effort. Here you go:
Sit down and relax in a quiet place—no music or TV...no distractions. Once you're settled in, breathe deeply in and out a few times. Once you feel centered, quiet and still, then make a declarative statement to yourself quietly as you inhale. For example, "My car will pass inspection." Don't ask a question. Make a statement. Then, as you exhale, monitor your gut. If it feels relaxed and more expansive, you will pass inspection. If there is a slight, barely detectable sniggle in your gut, you'll probably pass, but with a small condition. And if you feel any sort of discomfort or butterflies, whether it comes at the beginning or the end of the exhale, you're probably going to fail inspection. Sometimes I will follow that by stating, "I will fail inspection." Then I'll see how that feels in my gut. That helps for times your first gut check is inconclusive. Or when you're super insecure. 
This is how it works for me and you will need to calibrate how it works for you over time. But it is a worthy tool to cultivate because, while I didn't listen well this time, it has helped me detach and trust more times than I can count. And, like I said, while I can remember times my fear got in the way of it, I can't remember it ever being wrong.