Answering the Call of the Wild

Answering the Call of the Wild

I’ve been thinking a lot about joy lately. With it being a central theme during the Christmas season, one can’t help but at least give it a curtesy of acknowledgment. 

So often though, it’s just another word that gets floated around seasonally like peace or spirit, but we don’t really think about the essence of these words, what they really mean and what their energy is; at least I didn’t…until this season. 

As is usually the case with me, seemingly unrelated events, circumstances and activities in my life have a way of coalescing into an amalgam of beneficial insights and epiphanies for me. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were secretly conspiring and planning a surprise party where they get to control the moment of revelation. 

To back up just a bit, this year has been quite the transformational year for me. To start, for the first time in 27 years, I find myself a single woman. Frankly, I don’t even feel old enough to make a statement like that, but the chronological counting of age has always been a somewhat nebulous concept for me anyway, mostly because it never seems to reconcile. 

I mention this newfound singlehood as a significant factor in this year of transformation, well, because it is. I didn’t know it, but after a few decades, and then some, of almost constantly having a male companion, I’d completely lost sight of the dating game and all its seemingly strange eccentricities. After a few great episodes, some not-so-hot encounters, and a few started-out-interesting-but-quickly-went-south experiences, I realized I was not up to the task called dating, at least not for a while.

Besides, what the hell was I doing anyway? The truth is I became single by choice. I’d finally reached the point of having had so many serial relationships, one after the other, that one day (metaphorically, of course) I looked up and didn’t recognize myself. I’d left so many pieces and parts of myself strewn about like shrapnel, depositing one part here and picking up another part (of someone else) there that my life somewhat resembled a game of trading cards, except instead of trading cards, I was trading my interests, preferences, and desires for someone else’s. It’s funny how we can know we are doing something like this, realize it’s not working and still keep doing it anyway. But at some point, as in nature, everything has a way of reconciling itself, and recently I did just that; I reconciled myself. 

The second significant part of my transformational year was professionally. To put it mildly, I came completely unhinged. Looking back, it had been several years in the making, but it’s hard to recognize that is what is happening when you’re smack in the middle of the chaos and all you can see to do is keep the wheels on the bus. Round and round they must go.

Over the years, I’d become a professional automaton operating with an almost machine-like precision. I wasn’t a real person; I was simply masquerading as one. One might wonder how this played out in my relationships. Not well. Fortunately, though, I can say there was and are a small number of people, only one being a blood relative, that could see through all the exterior measurements and were there for me when parts started flying off, not to mention they stuck around for the aftermath to help pick up the broken pieces. For these individuals, I have a deep well of gratitude because frankly, it would have been easier to walk away, and they did not. 

A little more than 13 years ago, I launched into what became my current professional endeavor. It started out as one thing and evolved into something related, but very different. During this time, I’ve met people I would have never otherwise had a reason to meet, let alone have the privilege of working with and ultimately becoming close friends. Some of my deepest, most treasured relationships have been born from the womb of my work.

Braving the WildernessThrough all of this, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and do so much within the landscape of my current field of work, and yet there is so much terrain still to be explored. This is just to speak of professional endeavors; add to that an inquiry of sidelined personal pursuits and the world beckons me to answer the call of the wild.

This is what an unhinging will do for you. It brings you back to center. It reconciles you. It resolves the courage to let go of something that is hurting you and it fortifies in you the strength to move forth into new territory. It feels like falling apart at the outset, only to morph into falling together. It is equal parts catharsis and genesis. 

The third and final piece of my transformative year was moving, as in physically moving. More than once. In the span of three months, I moved both my office and my home. More specifically, I vacated my office, consolidated it into my home temporarily, and then moved from one apartment to a bigger one that could accommodate a home office somewhere other than in my living room. 

As is common knowledge, moving dredges up all manner of emotions and I was no exception. Moving forces you to look at things that have long since been stowed away and make a decision about them. Keep them. Discard them. Donate them. Repurpose them. Reutilize them. Hell, in some cases, just use them…for the first time. All that aside, though, moving also has the energy of beginning anew.

It’s not just about the newness of place, though. That quickly fades into the background of life. For me, this move was symbolic. Although I couldn’t necessarily pinpoint of WHAT exactly it was symbolic, I was aware that it WAS symbolic none the less. While I’ve certainly had moves before that had meaning, this is the first time that I really paused and took the opportunity to set an intention for the new space. It was my way of honoring the unnamed energy that this move was symbolizing. 

Before I moved even one single stitch into the new apartment, I ceremoniously cleared the space with sage, salts and incense, in that order. I was cognizant of feng shui placements. I stood in the empty space and loved it when it was only a blank canvas ready to be personalized with purpose. I had a conversation with it. I anointed it. 

As a result, my new apartment holds the energy of sacred space to which I can return and rejuvenate, and it holds the expanse of solitude for the joy of creating my best life.

Last night, a little more than a month in my new apartment, and with most things now having been in place for a while, I stood in a moment of awe and wonderment. I realized that every single time I walk into my new home, I feel like I am AT home and there is peace in that. Joy. 

As I stood in the heart of my home looking at the mostly original art donning its walls recalling the story that gives each one meaning, contemplating the still bare walls asking to be chosen for a story to bear, observing the lighting and how it gently casts its glow and hearing the soft hum of the dishwasher washing away the remnants of my culinary exploits, I brimmed over with gratitude. 

I realized I was braving the wilderness. I had left the safety of the familiar that was now in the rearview mirror and was marching forth vulnerably into areas unknown, both personally and professionally. 

I am discovering what I can do with the space and freedom of being single and reclaiming so many of those parts of me left behind. For instance, I’m reconnecting with writing. I have the quietness of space to indulge my love of reading and have found joy in cooking again, an interest I long ago abandoned.

Professionally, I feel like a phoenix rising out of the ashes. I’ve spent the last six months in contemplative inquiry to see if there was a way to continue my work without requiring me to be an indentured servant to it, which was the precipice of the problem. Fortunately, there is, and this new path is going to allow me to approach my work with an entirely new disposition that will afford me the privilege of working in my best and brightest areas of brilliance while still being surrounded by a team that uplifts and supports me, each operating in their own area of brilliance. 

And to stitch all this together, I have a new home, a new workspace. It’s not the new that is so important, as what the new symbolizes. My new apartment just feels right. It feels like a nest where I can rest and also a playground where I can create. I love the way the sunlight streams through the windows, the depth and layout of the floor plan. It’s not too big, but it’s big enough to be roomy and make it a home.

I call it Casa Prosperidad and to me it symbolizes both a physical space, the place where I live and work and rest, and a metaphysical space, the wellspring from which joy can flow prosperously and a place that can nurture creation and reinvention. It’s the place where I can accept the challenge of allowing myself joy without dress rehearsing tragedy. It’s the space from which I can dance gracefully into the turn of new opportunities, both personally and professionally. It is a space to cultivate mindfulness and where I can brave into the heart of the wilderness and truly live my best life.

This post was inspired by Brené Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness. I highly recommend this thought-provoking book. It is rich with relatable stories about the quest for belonging and answering the call of the wild. 

The Satya of My Agraha

The Satya of My Agraha

“Satyagraha” is the priceless gift of “focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way”; the art of restraint, of picking battles wisely, of discerning between bait and conviction.

I found this quote in a book by Susan Cain called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I’m finding it a fascinating read, I think mostly because I am innately curious about people and what makes them tick. But this quote above stopped me in my tracks; it was exactly the medicine I needed at exactly the right time.quite-book

The entire purpose of the book is to explore the quiet strength of introverts, something we often dismiss and overlook in a culture chock-full of extroverts. Having practiced being an extrovert most of my life, I have a tendency to think that I need to react to every criticism, defend every attack and fight every battle.

Over the years, though, I’ve been slowly learning to actively choose where I put my energy rather than impulsively getting drawn into a “skirmish” and then wondering how the hell I got into a mess. Apparently, this discernment is innately an introverted quality, meaning introverts do this much more naturally than extroverts.

To the extroverted side of me, these “skirmishes” are attractive, presenting me with opportunities to prevail and triumph; however, they are exhausting to the introverted side of me. And quite frankly, sometimes they are just bait. Not because the initiator is purposely trying to bait me (although sometimes that may be true), but more so because if I participate it will be less conducive to achieving my goal than if I don’t. It may appeal to my ego in the moment, but really it will be diverting energy away from ultimately achieving my goal.

In Sanskrit, “satya” means “truth” and “agraha” means “soul force”. As a self-sovereign being, I am wholly responsible for the “satya” of my “agraha”, or the truth of my soul force. I can choose to temporarily divert my energy and take the bait of the battle or I can choose to more thoughtfully pause and contemplate my response, which may or may not be audible (or visible).

Certainly, there is value is being able to make a quick decision (a primarily extroverted quality), but not every situation warrants a quick decision or reaction. And certainly not every encounter is bait; some circumstances do require being addressed head-on. It is being present in the moment, being in the flow and being fully conscious that determines whether I can make this distinction. Because let’s face it, life doesn’t come neatly wrapped in a box with nicely creased edges and a bow on top; rather it is full of hairpin turns, steep cliffs and curveballs. Situations that require making this distinction happen spur of the moment and often without notice.

So this means that presence of mind becomes all the more paramount to my success and to my ability to ultimately achieve my goal, whatever that may be.

Little Bee

Little Bee

bee_paperbackTold in the alternating voices of two very different women, Chris Cleave skillfully unveils a story of both tragedy and triumph in a way that only a master storyteller can. The plot is engaging all the way through and realistically reveals the nature of human foibles illustrating the inter-connectedness of all of our lives, even when it’s not seemingly apparent. The story is both thought-provoking and endearing.

Click HERE to preview this book.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a book that penetrates the deepest recesses of your soul. On the surface, it is a love story. But it is also a scientific inquiry, a drama, a comedy, a tragedy, a trashy novel, a page-turner, a tear-jerker.

You can’t read this book and not be changed forever in some way. It caused me to think deeply about the significance of my own life and the experience that it will leave in people’s memories long after I’m gone. It reminded me that time is so much of an illusion and that to ponder a 500-year plan is not unreasonable since our legacies live well beyond our years, good, bad or both.

The whole of this book, as it presents the concept of time travel, is a metaphor for surrender, forgiveness and unconditional love. A good read for both men and women.

Click HERE to preview this book.

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

The Ruinous Side of Virtues

I’ve often felt there exists an invisible boundary that tempers the goodness of virtues, a sort of diminishing returns when relied upon to the extreme.

I term this experience ‘running riot’ with the virtues. It starts out with a good, pure virtuous motive, but then very subtly our experience becomes something else–something not so virtuous.

Let’s take, for example, acceptance. Acceptance in its purity is about loving others in spite of their exasperating qualities, while at the same time having and honoring boundaries that prevent us from taking ownership of someone else’s poor behavior. But acceptance run riot to the nth degree becomes resignation. We resign ourselves that the world, our marriage, our kids, our jobs, (fill in the blank) are doomed, so why bother anymore. That’s just the way things are. So it’s not surprising when we find ourselves abruptly detaching with resentment and putting up a wall to cope. This is not acceptance; this is resignation.

Resignation is acceptance run riot. Acceptance is swathed in love; resignation is seeded with resentment. Let’s look at how this works with other virtues:

Honesty run riot becomes brutality;
Truth run riot becomes self-righteous;
Freedom run riot becomes lazy;
Kindness run riot becomes self-serving;
Ambition run riot becomes domination;
Adventure run riot becomes frivolity;
Strength run riot becomes caustic;
Humility run riot becomes self-sabotage;
Leadership run riot becomes controlling;
Willingness run riot becomes overcommitted;
Diligence run riot becomes dogged;
Assertive run riot becomes aggressive;
Tolerance run riot becomes self-neglect;
Patience run riot becomes procrastination;
Silence run riot becomes withholding;
Solace run riot becomes isolation;
Concern run riot becomes criticism; and
Love run riot becomes suffocation.

And, of course, this is just a sampling. The list could go on and on.

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

To the Aspiring Writer: The Job Requirements

I’ve been thinking lately about writers and the thought occurs to me that as writers, particularly aspiring writers who are not already getting paid for our work, we’ve really got it cush, yet we think we’ve got it tough.

As aspiring writers, we inadvertently sabotage ourselves, or at least hold our potential at bay, because we have both a wishful desire to get paid as a writer, and at the same time, we privately wonder why anybody would pay for our writing. What is profoundly insightful or insatiably intriguing to others, to us may seem commonplace. And we fall into the trap of thinking that if we thought of it, then anyone else can think of it too….so therefore our thoughts are not remarkable…and therefore our words are not worth money….and because they are not worth money, of course no one will pay for them. And voila! We’ve conveniently justified not writing. Because why bother anyway? Only people that are already getting paid for their writing, get paid for their writing, right? Wrong!

This is a classic case of a thought thread beginning with a statement of truth, but very quickly veering off track into a self-deluding lie, albeit one that tastes palatable and so therefore must be true. It’s too easy to assume because the seed of our thought started with a truth that the end conclusion will also be a truth. But that just isn’t the truth!

Herein lies the flaw: Just because anyone else can think of your same thought doesn’t mean they will, and even if they do, it doesn’t mean they will do anything with it, and even if they do do something with it, so what? Is your take on the same motif going to be EXACTLY the same as someone else’s? I hardly think so! But, by far, the biggest lie in this line of thinking is assuming that our thoughts are unremarkable and unworthy of monetary consideration because everyone else has the same thought potential as we do.

So that’s true: everyone else does have the same thought potential. But potential is where the truth ends. If we don’t turn that potential into writing that someone else can read, it remains just that–potential. And how much money do you think potential alone ever made anybody? Zero! Potential has to be turned into something. This is what distinguishes writers from thinkers. And the ‘something’ it gets turned into may or may not command money in the marketplace. But that doesn’t matter.

When you’re a writer (that’s not already getting paid for your writing), you can’t use whether or not your writing is going to get you paid as your impetus for starting to write in the first place. You just have to write and let your stuff get filtered thru the universal sieve of the marketplace. We all know that people get paid for crap writing all the time, but crap is subjective. If that crap is generating money for its author, then it is withstanding the test of the marketplace, period! The only difference is degree and as an aspiring writer, we can’t afford to concern ourselves with degrees; we should instead be concerned with breaking the barrier from not getting paid into getting paid, assuming of course that we are writing in the first place! And even after we break the barrier and start getting paid, degrees still really don’t matter, at least degrees relative to other writers. The only thing that matters is our results relative to our desires. And for promotion and marketing: they’re a numbers game. Promotion and marketing are a hedge, that’s it; nothing more, nothing less. We still have to write.

It’s like this: We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take, and as a writer we have to take the shots (i.e., write the stuff) regardless of what we think the outcome might be. One of two things is going to happen: We’re either going to produce stuff that people will pay for or we’re going to learn a hellava lot in the process, presumably about ourselves and about writing. And besides that, writing is an art and art works by working on its creator. The more we create (write), the better our (art) writing becomes. So who’s to stay that what we are writing now that no one is paying us for won’t pave the way for us to write something that someone will pay for?

The point is this: Write. Just write. Write regardless. Write with abandon. Whatever happens, it’s a win all the way around.

Money or no money, as writers, we have to be willing to put ourselves and our writing out there. It’s a requirement for the job!

P.S. Please excuse my several instances of prepositions at the end of sentences. If it makes you feel better, think of it as post-positioning instead of pre-positioning!

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

The Energy Signature of Acceptance

Acceptance of our limitations or circumstances does not mean that we will remain stuck in them forever. Interestingly enough, it is only by accepting them that we become able to grow beyond them. But let me caution that acceptance and resignation are not the same thing! Acceptance is a big lofty word that seems to be open to this wide chasm of interpretation. And, to some extent, I think this wide-openness precipitates confusion just as much as it allows for for freedom.

So what is acceptance and what is it not? Let’s first look at what it is not because most of us are guilty of practicing the ruinous side of this coin much more often than the virtuous side.

Acceptance is NOT

throwing a tantrum; pouting; judging or spreading ill about other people; plotting revenge; replaying or projecting conversations in your head; repeatedly telling everybody you talk to about an incident in which you were wronged; and accepting unacceptable behavior, just to name a few.

This last one is a biggie! There is a train-wreck at the end of accepting unacceptable behavior. How often do you allow someone to dictate your actions, either because they are overtly forcing it on you as if you’re their captive (and you buy into the idea that you deserve it) or because you are choosing to allow someone else to take up free rent space in your head? Their words permeate your actions, not because you want them to, but because they are already embedded deep in your thoughts. You find yourself doing or allowing the same thing over and over again and wondering why you can’t change that part about yourself or your life. And then you resign. You resign yourself into a deep abyss and call it acceptance.

Just as acceptance and resignation are not the same, acceptance and tolerance are not the same either.

It’s like this: Acceptance run riot becomes resignation. Tolerance run riot becomes self-loathing.

So what is tolerance, then?

Tolerance is temporary and external. It is allowing someone else the grace of poor behavior and not taking it personal or making it your personal quest to rake thru sorting it out with them. It is giving someone the dignity to take ownership of their own poor behavior by telling them the truth, by setting boundaries, and by not going back for more. It is honoring your own self-worth, while letting others to choose to destroy their’s.

Acceptance, on the other hand, is more about an internal state of being. It is a mental, emotional and spiritual resolve; an energy signature. Acceptance and tolerance (in its virtuous side) go hand-in-hand. Acceptance is what makes tolerance possible.

Striving for Failure

Striving for Failure

I wonder what would happen if we changed our idea about ‘failure’ to simply mean a milestone for having tried something big?

And if we try something big and fall short of the goal, does that really mean we failed? If failure means not having met the goal, then yes it does. But I’d offer that our definition of failure is flawed. Shouldn’t the objective always be to do something bigger than we believe ourselves capable? Isn’t life about stretching ourselves, taking risks, embarking on adventure?

Where did we get this idea that the point in life is to be comfortable? Seeking a comfortable, easy life is analogous to striving for planned complacency–and doing it on purpose!

We’ve been programmed to believe that failure is bad and should be avoided, but what if we strived for failure on purpose? And I don’t mean planning for failure; I mean striving for failure. There’s a difference!

Planning for failure is using this idea as a means of justifying and explaining your failures in some kind of twisted logic where failure becomes the new success. “Well, the point of the exercise was to fail, and there I failed, so I succeeded.” No!

Striving for failure, on the other hand, is deliberately choosing projects or goals that are bigger than you, that feel scary, that are beyond our capability to handle and that have an element of unknown. Of course, when we do this, we are likely to fall short of our goal; but more importantly, we will have tried something big. We will have stretched ourselves. We will have expanded our consciousness. And maybe, just maybe in the process of trying something bigger than ourselves, we can make a difference in the lives of people around us–in our families, our communities, villages, towns, cities, etc! ‘Bigger than ourselves’ by definition will have a ripple effect even into the lives of people we don’t know.

It’s like this: If it isn’t scary, it’s not worth doing. If at first, you don’t succeed, then you were not challenging yourself enough. No one ever achieves something big by being grandiose. We accomplish big things by being willing to risk failure, by not being afraid to put our heart and soul into something that just might not work, by being willing to try. Trying is not dying; trying is the opposite of hiding.

The Death of Idealism

The Death of Idealism

I read this today in Seth Godin’s book ‘Poke the Box’, which is a term he uses to describe innovating, initiating & starting something new. I thought these words very profound & worthy of sharing.

Sooner or later, many idealists transform themselves into disheartened realists who mistakenly believe that giving up is the same thing as being realistic.

When they start out, the idealists believe that doing something is far better than doing nothing. They understand the system, the process, the way it’s all set up to work. They want to fix it, change it, or least disturb it.

Over time, these politicians, entrepreneurs, or activists discover that as they get more leverage, they seem to give up the very thing that got them into this position in the first place. The people arguing on behalf of accepting the status quo are the ones who, years ago, set out to change it. For so many people, this transformation is preventable.

As disillusionment set in, people stop poking. They find themselves slowing down, dissuaded or disheartened, so they start to accept the status quo. The irony is that the act of creating and shipping  remarkable ideas is the very thing that can change the status quo.

Yelling at the cable TV anchor never changes anything. Yell long enough and you’ll merely end up hoarse.

Click HERE to read more inside the book.