Time

Time has slipped through my fingertips. It shifts from one moment to the next as erratically and quickly as the sand grains in the waves along the beach.

Time is this untouchable concept and yet it touches every part of our existence. We fear it. We want it to slow down, speed up, stop, never stop. But just like the waves, time keeps moving.

The only power we have over time is to fill it full of memories so that time is not forever lost. That is the only way to not lose it, to slow it down, to hold on to time.

And yet we are constantly missing this, losing time forever with our kids, our loved ones, ourselves. Stop the clock, fill each moment of life with a memory and don’t let time shift with the waves and be lost forever.

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Another Person’s Shoe

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Humaneness,

Benevolence,

Compassion…

All these words can be found as part of the definition of humanity.Humanity, empathy, vulnerability seem to be qualities that are missing, or disappearing altogether, in today’s society. But why?

Allegiant passengers clapped as a dying father and his son were escorted off a plane after the son suffered an allergy attack; happy apparently that they would no longer be delayed. Images are omnipresent of people killing other people, at homes, at schools, and in the workplace, no longer just in war. Rage is increasing all around us -road rage, standing in line rage, rage at the teachers, rage at the parents, rage at the boss, rage at the colleagues….we are at war.

The warrior or soldier is trained to be in stressful situations by blocking, through training, some of the feelings that make them vulnerable. Soldiers are still human and have these feelings, but they are trained to put their training first and these feelings second. They cannot be an effective soldier in a dangerous place if they are debating the good and evil of things, places, and people while shots are being fired over their head. In those combat situations they are in high stress mode and trained to do what they are directed for the good of the team and the country they serve.

Unfortunately, people in this era of media showing one catastrophic event after another are, in a sense, in a state of constant combat, at war in every day situations. People are feeling as if everyone is the potential enemy.

We need to remember to empathize, to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.Several years ago we had a death in our family and it involved a motorcycle. I know for months I had a really hard time driving, and would panic if a motorcycle was anywhere near me. I was that slow driver, probably annoying everyone around me. All I could think is that “I am sorry. I know I am doing this but if you only knew what we just went through….” Now that time has healed some of that pain, and the fear has subsided, I still try to put myself in the other person’s shoes when a car is going too slow in front of me. I think are they on their way to the hospital, did they just have a really bad day and my decision to honk and tailgate them could make it worse. I try to think this way. I am not always successful, but I try.

We can transpose this situation to any number of day to day situations: the grocery store, the gas station, the doctor’s office, school, work. Too often we just think of ourselves, our family, our immediate need. Anyone beyond that is the outside, in some cases the enemy. We do not put on the other person’s shoes, see the situation from his/her perspective, and suddenly the mundane annoyance turns into a battle. Our stress elevates, we say or do things that we later see as being “over the top.” Like the Allegiant passengers who now know what idiots they were because media has “put them in Giovanni’s shoes” by letting them know what he was going through.

If life is going to be enjoyable, we need to make connections and feel fulfilled. In order to do that we must break down the barriers, pull back from the combat zone and put yourself in your neighbors’ shoes. You have to be vulnerable. Next time you feel yourself getting irritated at the old lady in front of you at the grocery store, the young clerk at the DMV, or the assistant at work  think about what they may be going through before you act or speak. Once you start thinking of all the possible scenarios for the other person’s actions you begin to soften, your patience returns, your warrior side breaks down, and you become a little more human.

 

 

How to tell if you are adapting or giving up?

Daddy and panos at the beach 8.10

To ADAPT is to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose.

To GIVE UP is to concede or relinquish.

Life is full of many choices and we would like to believe that the choices we make fall in line with our beliefs and goals. However, there are many times in life where the choice we make seems to neither follow our beliefs nor our goals. At that point in time we sit and wonder did we give up or did we simply adapt. The answer to that question defines us, solidifies our moral code and our confidence in ourselves. So if the choice between adapting and giving up is so important to our well being we must always be aware of the difference, right?

If only it were that simple.

There are times where the choice could be clearly on the side of adapting or on the side of giving up, but I fear the vast majority of the time these types of choices live in a very murky grey area, where it is almost impossible to see the line that divides the two. Having gone through some recent adapt or give up situations I tried to figure out how to determine which choice was which.

STEP 1 – Know the core of your goals and beliefs.

You might have told yourself, and your friends and family, that your goal is to travel, to run your own business, to be a National Geographic Photographer… Dig down to the core of that goal, the kernel from which the goal erupted and took form. If you said you wanted to travel all your life, for fun or for work, dig deeper to understand what it is about that goal that really excites you. Perhaps you like learning about other cultures, testing your own limits, seeing people and places different from yours, tasting other foods, learning languages and the list goes on. Only you can pull apart the layers of what you state is your goal to determine the real heart of it.

You will never know for certain if you are simply giving up or adapting if you do not do this deep dive analysis of your goals and beliefs.

STEP 2 – View the choices like a CEO.

Once you know your real goals and beliefs, you can analyze the choices being presented clearly. The CEO is interested in profits, adding value, efficiency, and the image of his or her company. Put the emotional attachment, the ego aside, and look objectively at the choices.

  1. Is the choice you are facing taking you on a more efficient, or a value added, path to your end goal, your profits?
  2. Does the path contradict any of your beliefs?

If the answers are 1-yes and 2-no, than you can stop here. You did not give up, you simply adapted. For example, say you always planned to run your own business and the next career step was to start one. However, you were given a great job offer that would give you needed skills to ultimately run your own business. After accepting you might have given yourself a hard time saying you had given up on your goal of starting your business right now, when you actually adapted to the situation gaining both efficiency and value to apply to your end goal. You could have stuck to your goal and jumped to start your own business immediately without the skills. You might have found success without the additional job experience, but you probably would have gone through some tough challenges causing you unnecessary pain along the way.

If you answered 1 -yes and 2-yes or 1- no and 2 -no or yes, you could be giving up and you need to skip to STEP 3.

STEP 3 – Determine if your beliefs or goals have changed over time.

Has anything major changed in your life? Did you just go from being single to having a significant other, a husband, a wife? Did you just have a child, another child, a pet? Did you or someone close to you go through a major health or other life changing experience?

Suddenly that goal to travel for a living is not so strong anymore, after getting married, having a kid, getting sick. At one point your goals were your own, career oriented or other, now your goals look like a Venn diagram gone berserk with about 10 intersecting circles of interests and goals and needs of others, along with yours.

Imagine a single flower in a flower pot. The water, the food, the sun the love is focused solely on that flower. Eventually the flower gets bigger and stronger and the owner plants it outside in the garden. Now the bees and other bugs depend on the flower for food. The flower competes with the other flowers and vegetables to get food, water and sunlight. In this new environment all grown up, the flower’s goal is not simply to exist for its own sake, but to survive, to compete, to support the environment it is living in. Sometimes a choice in life will come along to take us in a new direction that our environment is directing us toward. Don’t feel that you have given up, you are adapting to life, the circles in the Venn Diagram, the other flowers.

STEP 4 – What does your gut tell you?

After you have figured out the core of your goals and beliefs and determined if the choice is taking you in a more efficient direction or not, supporting fundamental changes happening in your environment, you have arrived at the final, most scientific step of all….what does your gut say? At this point if you have done the analysis above and been brutally honest with yourself, your gut should be backing you up. If it is not you might want to go to step one and try again.

 

 

4 STEPS to your PLACE in this world

XTi_D620_011713Everyone craves a “place in this world”. Finding a place is really that constant pursuit of purpose, fitting in, and finding the meaning of your life. Lost souls are the people without purpose, who don’t fit in, who cannot seem to find meaning in their everyday lives.

So often I hear this as an end goal, this finding of purpose. Everyone has a role to play and if I just find my role and stick to it I will be great, and I will be content. This idea is put into our heads early in life. As a child you are told if you do well in school and focus on a specific subject, career or sport you are praised for your focus and determination; you are expected to do well in life. The ones we worry about and fear for their future are the kids without focus, without a passion, without an end goal.

This seems to play out in real life. Sports teams that have the best players for each position, the ones that have been training for most of their life to play a certain role, are usually the best.  Same goes for any company, organization etc., the players that are the best prepared and are successfully fulfilling their role allow the great machine to work, and all is well with the world.

What happens though as soon as a player’s role loses definition? This could happen because of a bad manager, or coach, on board who cannot identify the player’s strengths and/or cannot define the player’s role clearly; or the player him/herself loses certainty about this being THE role. Listening to the people around me, I believe both these scenarios happen far too often. When this happens the person feels a sense of loss; fear at not knowing what to do or what their purpose is in life; self doubt that they aren’t focused. Self doubt and fear magnify as they get older, since with age should come focus and clarity. You should know what you want to do with your life by now. There must be something wrong with you!!!!!

I listened to a great speech by Elizabeth Gilbert Flight of the hummingbird – the curiosity driven life. In this speech she pulls away from her past pushing of a passion driven life. She asks us to embrace the fact that we may be hummingbirds, going from flower to flower, spreading our talents and hard work here and there but not settling on any one flower for the rest of our life. We may look back and see an actual path through our life  and discover that the path itself was our purpose.

STEPS to finding your place in life:

  1. Stop beating yourself up for not knowing what you should do with your life.
  2. Look back and see the path you are on.
  3. Engage and be FULLY present wherever you are on that path.
  4. If something starts to pull you in a different direction, put your seat belt on, and enjoy the ride to something new.

 

Uniquely YOU

IMG_9144Last night I had what one might call an “Ah Ha” moment. I was surfing possible shows to watch with our new Fire T.V. Stick, looking through the Amazon Prime content on T.V., and picked a newly produced Jane Austin-like period movie. After reading the summary and deciding it did not sound that interesting, I clicked the down button to the row of suggested movies that were similar to the one I had chosen. There were SO many similar movies, several that were the same movie just produced and acted by different individuals, in different locations, at different times. These smart, rich, popular producers and actors continue to produce the same or similar movies over and over again. Such thinking conflicts with my business basics, the need for new and unique, never been done before. I thought “Why do they do it?” Then it dawned on me that they feel that what they bring to the table is unique, unique enough to entice a large enough group of people to part with their money and see and like their film.

My thoughts immediately took me back to my Peace Corps days where so many of my life lessons took place. During my time in Benin as a Small Business Development Peace Corps volunteer, my role was to help the people of Benin improve their business skills. One big business problem I saw that I could not convince them to fix was the proliferation of hair dressers. It felt like there was a woman’s hair shop every other doorway in the main city and multiple ones in small villages. I told them you need to diversify to make money; don’t you understand the supply-demand models I am showing you???? They would look at me with that look of “this white girl is crazy if she thinks I am changing my trade, but I better smile cause I don’t know what she is capable of.” Then she might ask if I wanted my hair braided.

What I did not understand then was these women had a unique sense of self, just like the producers. Yes, many probably did not know any other trade and they had to do this to make any money at all. However, I think many really believed that what they could do with the hair was unique enough from their sister two doors down that they needed to have their own shop.

It is a powerful concept to realize that there is NO ONE on earth that is a carbon copy of you. First of all your DNA makes you unique physically, mentally, and emotionally right from birth. Then add in parents, friends, environments, education, classes, work, hobbies, sports and so much more and you become uniquely you. Your voice cannot be copied. Someone, somewhere will find what you have to say or do inspiring in a way that no one else can inspire. Don’t let fear stop you, the fear that your concept, movie, writing, recipe, photo, artwork, paper….is not good enough or unique enough or worth anyone’s time. Whatever you do is unique from the minute you think of it. Rihana might have millions of followers who hang on her every word. On the other hand I bet I have at least one follower who could not care about anything she says, and feels inspired to do something positive in their life because of what I have to say.

So please for the sake of those that need you write one more lifestyle or cooking blog; sing Frozen’s Let it Go one more time; bake one more chocolate chip cookie; create one more Jane Austin movie and set up another hair salon. It is a lie to tell yourself what you do is not good enough to put out there. By whose standards? There are billions of people out there and I can guarantee something you say or do will affect at least one. Isn’t that person, or those people worth it, however many and whomever they might be?  Let your uniqueness shine for someone to see.

 

ReBoot and switch to Wide-Angle

XTi_D620_005971I woke up yesterday feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated. It didn’t hit all of a sudden. It crept up on me slowly and things were on the tip of going bad when I finally realized what was happening.

The rat race was catching up with me – wall paper peeling and staring at me every day for years, dog hair (newly adopted dog) covering everything, working, house work, chauffeuring the kids to their many activities, and the holidays. Throw in the ominous feel in the air from the recent Paris and Beirut attacks and things were turning dark. Although not the most important thing to happen, but the most important thing affecting me, was the fact that I had been indoors for almost 3 days straight, tending to our daughter who had been home with a fever for several days.

The sun was shining outside and it felt cold and dark inside. My gut said “get outside”. If a gut could push that is exactly what it was doing to me. So out I went. I took my daughter too.

With the sun’s warmth on our face and arms, things automatically started to look and feel better. It was like I was getting a reboot to my system.

As the reboot to my system was taking place, I realized too that I had inadvertently switched to a telephoto lens. If you like photography at all you totally understand. I was zooming in on the small things, obsessing, magnifying and forgetting the big picture.  Switching my lens to wide angle allows life to be seen in its fullest sense.

If you find you are obsessing, and feeling overwhelmed, step outside into the light and look at the whole picture with your widest lens. Sometimes the simplest “fixes” in life can provide the biggest change.

Be the person you want your child to be

A couple of months ago I was turning down a negative path in my life about a lot of things, my job and my health in particular. This colored the rest of my interactions and emotions in a negative way. My thoughts, the comments I spouted, and my overall demeanor leaned toward the negative end of the spectrum. It was almost impossible to give a positive comment about something; there was always a critique underlying anything I was saying, because everything needed improvement, and to be “happy” about any of it would be equal to settling for less than I should.

One morning I woke up and reflected on my interactions with my children the night before.  I realized I had a choice at that very moment.  My choice was to continue with the self-defeating negativity, or choose to be the person I want my children to be. I want them to look at things in a positive light, be kind, take responsibility for mistakes, but also forgive themselves quickly and move on. I want them to take challenges and risks to go in the direction in life that they will feel most fulfilled. I want them to see the good, the “happy” moments in everything they do.

I try not to use the word “happy” as something to be achieved when describing what I want for my child, because I think sometimes it is a misunderstood word. Too many people end up seeing therapists, taking drugs, and worse, to find ‘happiness’ because they are un”happy”. Happy connotes a state of giddiness, laughter and everything “coming up roses”; it is a mistakenly labeled as a singular state of happiness, you either are or you are not happy. If you can’t reach that state you have to believe you are not happy or at least that is what the media and society leads us to believe.

It has taken many, many years to realize this pinnacle of movie-inspired happiness is not the only level of happy. Happiness lives on a spectrum and, for the average human being, is not a continuous state. Happiness can be at all levels from the mundane to the extraordinary. It can be there for a moment in time, or last for days.

Of course I want my children to be happy more than anything in the world.  But I want them to understand what “happy” is.  My wish is that my children do not waste their lifetime chasing some limited version of “happy” becoming unhappy in the process.  I want to give them the eyes I did not have until late in life, that can see through the clouds of the mundane, the sad, the failures and see all the good – all the levels of “happy” that underlie it all.