Friday, December 25, 2015

#26 - Beginning again (7/7)

I learn a lot of lessons in life. 

I try to figure them out. I work hard at it.

And I'm still a beginner. I still have so much to learn.

Like this blog, I still feel new at it. But at least I've started. And restarted. It's taken so much just to keep writing. To practice, and learn how to just put it down. And then, most importantly, hit "publish."

But I'm on the road. I've come so far and yet have so much to go. 

Next year will be a year of new beginnings. Of continuing to learn and grow. It really does take just one step. Keep moving forward, inch by inch. Keep showing up. 

This week I showed up. Seven out of seven times. For the second time this year. That's a nice way to end the year.

My plan is to keep posting every two weeks. It's already a reoccurring event on my calendar. And so we'll try again another year. 

Mastery, I'm learning, takes lots of practice, and even more patience. So I'll keep going and keep writing. 

I'd love for you to join me in 2016.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

#25 - A Time for Make-Believe (6/7)

Many children live in a world of make believe. 


Santa Claus is on his way to your house, right now. 

It's a fun game, and for them, it's completely real. That is what is happening tonight.  

As adults, we grow up. Or at least we think we do.  

I was just watching a TV show, and I noticed that I get attached to the characters. The storyline. The romance. The adventure. 

I think, yeah, my life could be like that. See? It all worked out for them. 

I have to remind myself that they're just characters. Actors reciting lines that writers created. It's all make believe.  

We watch Christmas movies and listen to the music. After listening to "Let It Snow" and "White Christmas" on heavy rotation, I walk outside in a T-shirt to 60-degree weather (here on the West Coast at least).

We seem to believe what we want to. We enter a different world. 

A fantasy land. 

What happens when that fantasy comes crashing down? When we have to stare reality in the face?

I suppose we have the opportunity to meet the full honest truth. 

Authentic. Real. 

True and Honest.

The make believe is nice. We all spend time there.

But like Santa Claus' visit and the nostalgia of Christmas music, it serves its purpose for a time.

It can feel sad when, in the coming weeks, we take down the lights and haul away the Christmas tree. The fantasy gets packed up in a box until next time. 

But we trade it for spring. For a new year, and a new perspective. 

Instead of missing the snow and pretending it's there, we can enjoy the weather that is there. 

Instead of waiting for Santa Claus to bring us joy through the chimney, we can create it with one another. 

Just us. Maybe that's all we need. No make-believe required.

#24 - Stuffed Elephants & Why I sit in my car (5/7)

I'm sitting in my car right now. Writing this entry on my phone.

Earlier today, I needed to do some reading, and I ended up bringing it to my car and reading there for about 45 minutes.

It's this odd quirk I have. I've noticed recently how much time I spend in my car. I gravitate toward it.

But what a place to read: there's natural sunlight. A comfortable seat (which reclines). Privacy and security (it locks). No wind or noise. A cupholder.

I think it makes sense.  

And yet I admit it's kind of weird. Why do I do it?

Why do I like sitting in my car so much? 

Then it dawned on me.  

I feel safe here. Comfortable. It's familiar. 

In fact, it may be the only place that has stayed consistent in my life over the last 8.5 years. 

I've moved houses at least 5 times. Rooms. Jobs. Careers. States. At my teaching job I sat in the same chair (essentially) for 5 years. That's changed. I had the same comfortable mattress that I loved for most of that time. Just got rid of that. 

And when I saw it from that perspective, I thought: 

Wow. No wonder. 

It feels safe and familiar. I feel protected, almost like a cave or cocoon. 

So in everything I've gone through this past nearly 10 years, I could always retreat to my car. 

And read.
Listen to music.
Get lost in social media.
Have long text conversations. 
Meditate and breathe. 

And it would feel like home. 

It's been the thread that ties everything together.

It makes me think of material possessions and how silly we humans can get with them. They're just things, after all.

Little kids with their blankeys and stuffed elephants. 

Necklaces and jewelry - maybe a family heirloom.

Teenagers and that hoodie sweatshirt they wear every day of sophomore year. 

But maybe they are more than that. Maybe they represent some thread that connects us to our past, brings us back home. 

What are the threads in your life? What things do you find always by your side? Where are the places you find yourself retreating to? 

I would guess that it's not by accident. 

You might find it interesting to explore these questions. See what turns up. What you find may surprise you. I certainly never thought of my car as that significant. But I guess it is. 

Next time you see someone attached to some object, instead of judging, what if you wonder what the story is? What if we actually ask the person? 

As for me, you can always ask. I'll do my best to answer. 

Besides, you already know where to find me. :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#23 - Just one (4/7)

Is one enough? 

This questions came to my mind today. It was in relation to this blog. A friend commented that she had read it, and liked it, and wanted to give some other feedback. 

And I thought, wow, cool. I reached one person. that enough?

To be honest, many of the times I blogged this year I didn't share it anywhere, so it was possible that no one read. 

I was OK with zero readers. I was just writing to keep the practice, not for any audience.

So if I'm OK with zero, then I should be happy with one. Right?

I remember when I was younger, I felt inspired to change the world. I wanted to help so many people. Like in the MILLIONS, or at least, ya know. A ton. 

But what if one person is enough?

If you're talking about completely changing or saving someone's life, is one enough for a lifetime? Most news outlets would call someone a hero for saving just one life. 

How about just making someone's day? Making him or her smile. Is once per life enough? I think most of us would agree it should be something like one person per day. Or is that selling ourselves short? Maybe it should be like 3 per day. 10 seems too many. That's just setting us up for failure. 

Going back to this blog, I still wonder whether one person feeling inspired is enough to make me feel like I'm having an impact. 

In today's day and age, we are told to value quantity over quality. More, more, more.

I wonder what happens if we reduce our expectations down...down...down until we get to one. 

Imagine writing or making these statements: 
I'm going to do one push-up today.
I'm going to make one person smile. 
I'm going to write one blog post this month. 
I'm going to eat one vegetable per day. 
I'm going to write one thank-you note to a friend.
You can make a list of your own. ("I'm going to get one like on this blog post.")

If we're honest with ourselves - actually, I'll speak personally, if I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that I feel like one is beneath me. 

I'm better than one. I can do way more than that. 

I'm not going to settle. 

I scoff.

One 'like'? Ew.  

And then consider: how many days have I gone where I can't make any of the above statements?

I didn't even eat one fresh vegetable.

I did zero push-ups. 

I didn't intentionally make one person laugh or smile. 

There are a lot of days where I haven't even done one. 

In fact, I've gone years without writing a thank-you note. 

It's difficult not to get caught up in the numbers. To want to reach more people. To do more reps. To sell more products. To have more of an impact. 

But maybe, just maybe, one is enough. 

I'll take the day I actually made one person laugh over the time I dreamed of filling an auditorium, or planned to inspire a million. 


Monday, December 21, 2015

#22 - Around the bend (3/7)

It's nice to remember that things can turn around pretty quickly. 

In an instant, I find that my whole outlook can change. 

Today I went to work feeling in a crummy mood. I had been feeling that way for a couple of days. I had taken some steps to ameliorate my condition, but my negative perspective would not go away. All I could see was cloudy and frowny.

And pretty soon after coming to work, I was around people, and I felt great again. My mood and outlook changed dramatically without anything specific happening.  

What's weird is that for all that time before that, I couldn't see any other possibility than to be sad and forlorn. As hard as a tried, from that vantage point I couldn't imagine that things were about to get better.

When that feeling is there, it's so strong that it convinces me that I'm going to feel like that forever. It becomes the Truth, that there will be no end to the suffering. This is it, and I have no choice but to accept that. I know in my head that that's not true, but that's still the feeling. 

A few months ago, I spent some time in Colorado, and I remember driving through the mountains. And there's that moment when, after winding around the rocky corners, and through the thick brush of forest, in an almost claustrophic tunnel of trees and rock, you turn a corner and BAM! - you see it. The View. Everything opens up for miles and miles: entire mountain ranges, and a great big sky with enormous clouds, and a shining lake with cabins and probably birdhouses that are too small to see but you imagine they're there with little hopping, chirping birds. And this whole breathtaking view unfolds in an instant and you can see why you've come all this way, what wondrous things lie ahead. And if you think in that moment to just 10 seconds earlier, you realize that there's no way you could have imagined that that was around the corner. 

Because the previous 50 corners were just more trees, and more mountain, and more trees. So why would this turn be any different?

I remember other moments like that while traveling. In New York City for the first time, I was walking for miles, enjoying everything I saw. But I was looking out for the Empire State Building. So for mile after mile I'm overshadowed by steel and glass giants that tower over me, and I'm stuck walking through this monotony of gray sidewalk and office buildings, and then suddenly I turn the corner of some street, peer up, and BAM! There it is, straight ahead, the Empire State Building.

I find it comforting to remember this lesson in life. That yes, the feeling - whatever feeling - is there, but it probably won't be forever. That things can improve dramatically, and that it can even happen rapidly. 

If you've been winding on the road of life for awhile, and it's discouraging, and there is no destination in sight; if each new turn reveals a seemingly endless string of disappointments, remember that a beautiful, magnificent landscape may be just around the bend. 

It may be difficult to hope, but hope is what keeps us going; and when you finally see the View, you might know right then that your small, stubborn hope was worth it.     

#21 - Ready or not (2/7)

A friend of mine - "James" - is on the leadership team of a large organization.

There has been turmoil there recently and James was subsequently asked to step up to be interim leader. He wasn't expecting it. He didn't want to be in charge. But everyone was asking him to do it.

"At 5 years with this job, I actually have some of the most experience, and they see me as the most qualified. Kind of scary, isn't it?"

I found that question to be funny.

Inherent in it is another question that I can relate to:

"Who, me??"

It conveys self-doubt and the presumption that many other people are more qualified than us.

I see James as a strong leader, capable, intelligent, wise, great with people and a good heart. He's exactly the person I would want in the lead of an organization.

But he doesn't feel that sure of himself. Not yet. Not now.

It made me wonder how many other great leaders throughout history felt what he was feeling.

Do U.S. Presidents ever wake up on some morning and realize they have no one to look to for leadership? Does panic ever set in? Overwhelm? We don't see these moments, but I'm sure they happen.

Did Napoleon question himself before making key military decisions?

I wonder how often movie directors of large, long-term projects doubt their creative direction and decision. I wonder if they ever want to just hit "escape" and run away from the pressure.

I'm almost positive that most of the leaders we admire and respect went through this.

Even Jesus, leading right up to the Crucifixion, knelt in anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed, "Father, if You are willing, take away this cup from me."

This is a person considered by many people as God in the flesh, the perfect human whom they trust completely. His disciples left everything to follow him. And yet, even Jesus before his defining hour didn't feel ready. 

It must be a heavy burden to bear. It's human nature to want to run away. We ask, "Does it really have to be me??"

The answer is, in many cases, yes. It's up to you.

You're the best one to lead. You're the best one to speak up. No one else has your particular talent and voice.

I shared some of these thoughts with James, and remarked that maybe he's the same as all the "greats" that came before. That his self-doubt may be a sign that he is ready, not that he's not.

I hope that my friend begins to trust himself a little more, that he will be patient when he makes mistakes, and know that he's more capable than he realizes.

I hope this for James because I have the same hope for myself.

The next time I am overcome with self-doubt, I hope I remember my words of encouragement to him, so I can look at the leader in the mirror and say, "I got this."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

#20 - The New Year is already here (1/7)

It's nearing the end of December, so I'm going to celebrate the New Year.

No, not 2016. 


At the beginning of this year, I jumped on the #yourturn challenge, which was to write a blog post every day for 7 days. From January 19 to January 25, I blogged for 7 days. And it stuck. I finally began writing regularly and keeping this blog. 

First once a day, then once a week for all of February, and then settled into once a month. 

March, April, May.

June, July, August, and September. 

Then came October, and I stopped. 

The calendar had rolled to November 1, and I missed it. 

My 9-month streak was gone. And so was any motivation and momentum. There was nothing there. I haven't written a post since. 

Now it's December, and I'm about to end last year's "New Year." I figure it's not too late to get something done, so I'm going to start writing again. 

You see, the New Year is still a full year. It's not new for 3 months, and then it becomes an old year. It's a year for the full year. 

365 days that are all new. Every single one of them. (And an extra one on leap years, like the one coming up).

365 sunrises. 365 sunsets.

365 chances to do something because you can. Because you want to. Because you failed and you don't want that to be the end of the story. 

This will be the first post of another #yourturn challenge. A challenge to myself. Seven posts in seven days, ending on Christmas. That 7 month streak between March and September? This will match that in one week. 

So, here's to 2015. Before I start pondering next year, I'm going to finish this one strong, like I started it. 

And as you look forward to the beginning of 2016, remember that it's a full year you're celebrating. Another year we get to spend living and breathing and loving others. So enjoy all of it. 

Every day. Starting with this one.