Yearly Archives: 2014

Joy. And how to use both faucets

A couple of months ago, my friend Misha asked me to write a guest post on J.O.Y.

So it’s been in the forefront of my mind, each day, since then.  Looking for it. Feeling it.

And since then, life has happened. Some little pleasures. Some little sadness’s. Some big delights and thrills. And some deep sorrows and heartache too. And, in between, all the beige when life is just ordinary.

I used to think that joy would pour into, or out of, me (not sure how that works) like British water taps (faucets).

ALL.  Or,  NONE.

Hot and scalding joy on the left.

Or FREEZING to the point of numbing whatever body part was unfortunate enough to be under the spout, from the negative emotions out of the tap on the right.

But in my life’s journey, joy isn’t usually that all-encompassing.  Like mixed taps in the rest of the world, I find joy usually blends in with whatever else is going on, across a whole range of my emotions.

 And although the Brits are probably right that separate taps are character building, I don’t find it particularly pleasant. And, I’d much rather my life, and its impact on others, lean towards the pleasant!

 When Misha asked me to write on joy, all sorts of examples jumped into my mind, immediately.  Most of them small, everyday delights. Much of mine felt through my senses, as though sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste, are receptors of joy.  There’s a physical component, whether it’s savoring a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon on my patio, sensing the Divine as I watch the sun set in a cacophony of orange and red, making love on a lazy Saturday morning, catching sight of my kids sleeping peacefully in the twilight, or the rush of seeing my ‘sent’ folder ping with the deliverable I just completed. My senses help me realize when joy is happening.

I think joy can quickly turn from the warm glow of pleasure as you visit with a friend, to all-encompassing ecstasy, when that visit turns into laughing from so deep within, for so hard and so long, that someone ends up wetting themselves. And then you laugh even harder as your joy somehow expands even a little more (especially if it’s not you that did the wetting. That might have the opposite effect.) And finally there’s tears streaming down your cheeks and no room for much of any emotion, but blissful joy. (Of course the memory might have a touch of embarrassment too. For their sake.)

But, even when it’s a milestone JOY, like delivering your first speech as a Vice President, the emotions can be mixed. After all, we really are complicated creatures.  What if the technology failed on you?  Or your boss, or spouse, didn’t make it?  But, I venture a guess that your overarching feeling on that day, and the memories afterwards, are painted with big, wide, brush strokes of joy, with only smaller strokes of irritation or sadness.

The opposite extreme is true too.  I’ve sat with friends whose precious six-month-old has died. And with friends whose parents are gone, much, much, too soon. The sadness is almost unbearable. And the grief palpable. But, there is still a trace of joy. From sharing sweet memories. From silly pictures. From simply showing up–being together and helping to shoulder the pain.  From the shared love.

I guess what I’m saying is, there is room for joy in the mundane, to extreme pain.  Joy can be found each day. In the routine. In the grey.  Our job is to look for it. Acknowledge it.

But I also think that for both faucets to operate together, you have to allow it. No, even stronger, you have to WILL it.

For some unknown reason, which I find sad, we humans see the pain quite easily.  That faucets seems to always work well. All the time.

But, in the extreme moments of pain, I have to make a choice that the event doesn’t, and won’t, define me.  That I am more than the event of my suffering. Sometimes good days are hard to come by, and I have to look for the joy.

I am not the victim of abuse. I am not the spouse who was cheated on. I am not the mother of boy who was hit by a women who had been drinking, and forever changed the trajectory of his life. And the list could go on, of events that have happened in my past. Not one of which defines me. And honestly, none of which I carry with me.  I have chosen to turn on my joy-faucet.

The same is true in the everyday, where joy is not obvious. Where sometimes it is harder to remember to turn on the joy-faucet.  When I’m heads-down, lost in Excel-induced torture, and under the gun for a deadline, there is joy in my accomplishment and expertise.  Joy in the logic and organization of each formula I finally get right (believe me, I celebrate each one).  Or how about when it’s grey and rainy, with nothing but organizing and cleaning on the day’s agenda?  I find joy in the completed accomplishments as I check of my to-do list, but I also revel in my health and physical abilities while decimating spider-webs in those hard to reach places.  And then I celebrate the day is done with a glass of robust, red, wine. That tickles my tongue.

Happiness and joy are not inherently found in my job. No corporation or boss is going to give me joy. Even if it’s the company I founded.  Joy is found, or rather, made, by who I am. By my passions.  This  has been a new revelation for me. I thought this year of travel and experiences we’ve just completed would translate into THE job.  The dream job. The one that would help to change the world.

It hasn’t.

And I’ve had to re-evaluate why I work, and how to find joy in what I do. Because I’m not doing my dream job (and one day, hopefully soon, when I am that fortunate, it won’t bring me joy either). So, I look for joy in things that bring me fulfillment–like the joy I give others when I fix what was driving them crazy. When I create process where there was chaos. I find joy in the skills that I use. In the quality of my work. In the expertise I share. And of course, in seeing the paycheck hit my account.

Many of us intuitively look for, and experience, joy. For others, it is a learned experience. I think joy can be a favorite viewpoint, a way of life, a habit that becomes a discipline.

Because you know what, joy builds a foundation for me to be strong. For me to have hope. For me to dream big. For me to love well.

Here are some steps I follow, to awaken my life, and turn my joy-faucet on full-force:

  1. Know myself. Stick to it. Don’t let someone else’s behavior (or poor choice) make me feel inept or get lost in self-doubt.
  2. Make a conscious choice about what matters to me, things or experiences, without apologizing for it. And then spend my time and money there. And find others with the same values.
  3. Be honest. Life is hard. It’s not all rainbows. Admit how I’m feeling. Both positive and negative. Don’t live in denial. Personal and professional transformation happens when I look inside and ask the hard questions and face up to what I’m feeling.
  4. Be a friend. To myself. To my  Dreamboat. To my friends. Not just when there’s drama. When things are ‘normal’/beige/boring.  Have a conversation with someone who really knows me, when there is NOTHING to      catch up on. That’s when I get to the good stuff. When we have to share from the heart. Or sit in silence. Either way.  Be. Together.  Just show up.
  5. Be brave. Trust my heart. Change the atmosphere around me by stepping out. Bravery is contagious.
  6. Be vulnerable. (Read anything by Brene Brown on joy and vulnerability.)

So I challenge myself, and each of you, to turn on the joy-faucet and make it a habit, to infuse our lives’ paintings with joy. And therefore not make others’ interactions with us, an opportunity to build their character :-)

BE joyful!

 

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Filed under July 2014

I’m fine. Really.

For the last few weeks, my Peanut has been gagging with each bite.  For a week straight, he’s thrown up every, single, meal.

He’s almost five, so it is pretty gross (as compared to the sweet little spit up of newborns that actually smells kind-of-nice), but it’s quite an improvement from the screaming. Bloody. MURDER. That he was doing while we stayed with my parents over Christmas. For weeks on end. (Doesn’t that make you want to invite us over?!)

And, Dreamboat and I are getting pretty good at catching the vomit. So the cleanup is really minimal.

So, I left Dreamboat to pick up the older kiddo’s, and took the little guy to Whole Foods between a myriad of other “to-do’s” on my list. (I’m totally being honest here.  This day didn’t include a single guilty pleasure. Really. Not even a Starbucks stop. Or walking through Z Gallerie to be amazed by all the shiny, sparkly things.  Or browsing Target aisles to get some quiet. Just C.H.O.R.E.S.)

After a whole two minutes of being patient while Peanut drove the shopping cart into elaborate displays (no doubt also very expensive displays, as this was Whole Foods, or as some friends call it, “Whole Paycheck”), I forcefully stuck Peanut in the seat of the cart. For a moment I was grateful that he is small enough, barely, to fit there. Even if I have to make it work by bending his ankles in directions that look wholly unnatural. (He’s never mentioned it hurting. The fact that he doesn’t speak is irrelevant).  And we headed inside with my list of dairy-free, high calorie, foods, that he can eat to gain weight. Hopefully. And not throw up on me. Or the new carpet.

We found some Hemp Milk. And some more Z Bars. And pieces of dates small enough that he can chew. And, I let him sample every single thing he pointed at, without paying for them first. Which I NEVER would let my other kids do. Ever. (Don’t judge. He’s my third child. And they’ve worn me down.)

And, I got distracted, (but there’s no need to mention it was inevitable) and started salivating over the fresh salad bars (which were NOT on my list as I’ve not received a paycheck in over 18 months). Yep, four rows of organic, local, fresh, salad bars.

I started filling the cart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a mama, just like me, with her daughter.

She was patient. She was encouraging. She was supportive. I could tell she was fierce. A warrior. In her own world.

I heard her speaking kind words to her daughter. For MORE than two minutes even.

But, she wasn’t making eye contact with the other shoppers.

And, without thinking, I spoke to her, “We had a walker just like that!”

Peanut walker

I had to say it twice.

Eventually, my words broke through her protective bubble. And she sort-of-smiled, unbelieving, up at me, “really?”

She asked, and waited, while her daughter, Grace, introduced herself. (I had to wait for the Mama to translate her daughter’s sweet, but mostly incoherent, sounds.)

She was beautiful.

And a year older than my Peanut. Helping her Mama pick out a nutritious salad. They asked about him, and I answered. Giving them his name and age. While he smiled.

And said nothing.

But, the Mama nodded. Understanding. Accepting.

Grace turned in her walker and looked at me. I congratulated her on being such a great helper.

She beamed. And waved goodbye, shaking her arm emphatically.

And Peanut and I moved on to the next aisle to continue our search for high-calorie, non-dairy, foods.

But then my eyes started leaking. Badly. And, I had to wait it out in the refrigerated section.  And I folded my body forward protectively, over Peanut, and let the tears fall. For a long time, unable to hide that there is a place deep inside. That is broken. Still.

Trying to pull myself together was like trying to sew up a seam that’s been ripped open. When the garment is two sizes too small. (FYI – That’s never happened to me.)

And, like Grace’s Mama avoided eye contact with me, I’m afraid I gave the same treatment to the cashier. Which of course fooled him into thinking I was fine.

I’m sorry I didn’t get Grace’s Mama’s name.

I’m sorry I didn’t give her mine.  It would have been good for me, and hopefully for her, to have a friend in the area. Someone who understands being a special needs family.

But the pain took me by surprise and overwhelmed me.

I guess there’s part of me that isn’t fine.

Just like all those other blogs, where women are grateful, and happy even, for their little ones, regardless of whether they can’t yet call their names.

I guess I’m still hurting. Or hurting again. Either way, it’s the same thing….

Having this little one, my child, is a gift.

But it’s a gift that hurts.

I can’t protect him.

And, he can’t protect me.

But, we can be vulnerable together, which brings great joy. And we can be grateful, for the beauty that fills our lives. Grateful for the amazing memories we share, and the love we infuse into each other’s lives.

You may not have seen the news last week about a car crashing into a daycare in Florida on Wednesday. But I can’t speak about it yet.

I watched the short news clip, taken from a helicopter circling above and was immediately reliving the overwhelming panic of that day, four years ago, when a car drove through Peanut’s daycare, forever changing our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’ that day. And it somehow triggered the sorrow of each day since.

My heart is broken for the family of the little girl who died. For several of the twelve injured children who are still in critical care. For the day-care worker, suffering with pain, sorrow, and irrational guilt, for being unable to protect her sweet charges.

I can identify with what they are facing.  I can glimpse what they may continue to face for their lifetimes. After the hospitalizations are, hopefully, behind them. After the external healing has long since taken place, and their bodies are well. But the post-traumatic stress from overwhelming, prolonged fear, made worse by the news helicopters hovering above their heads.  And the daily therapies. And the walkers and communication devices. And developmental delays. That are here to stay.

I can say to these families that life will be hard. Brutal even.

But, life together will also be precious.

Each hug, each milestone accomplished will be celebrated that much more for all the months and years of work required to achieve it.

And as last Sunday was Easter, I’ve been thinking about Jesus. (Did you know that only 18% of the people in our world don’t believe in God? Most of the world’s religions do believe in God, and believe Jesus was either God or a Prophet.)

I’ve been thinking about how he gave up his life to carry love.

And that on Easter Sunday, if it was me (we can all thank God it wasn’t), I would have come back to KICK. Some. Ass.

He didn’t. He came back to love. Again.

So I can carry my heart, filled with pain and love, and ask God to rain down on me, please, to try and grow the love part.

And I read this morning that “The broken places heal first.” So, there’s that. And I’m holding to it.

 

Look Mom, no hands!

Look Mom, no hands!

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Filed under March 2013

Fierce and Clueless – My Messy Beautiful

I’m fierce.

I know that. Maybe not Beyoncé’s “Sasha Fierce”. But, fierce nonetheless. That’s who I am inside. I feel like my world is big. BIG. I feel like the impact I’m called to have on the world is big. BIG. I feel summoned.

But to WHAT????

The doors just keep closing. I’ve read all those helpful sayings, or not so helpful in my case, about rejection simply being a way to push us in a new and better direction. Or that when a door closes, a window opens. I’m looking. I’m watching. Believe me, I am. But, no apparent window or new direction has surfaced. Yet. Just more rejections. And ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails. And phone calls saying they’re sure I’ll do great wherever else I land.

The temptation is to lower my ideals, reduce my dreams, so there’s less gap between them and my reality.

This isn’t where I thought I’d be. After getting rid of all our ‘stuff’, quitting our jobs, and taking just over a year to travel and volunteer, I thought we’d land somehow different. Better. I thought this year of intentional discovery and challenge and growth would be like a magic-carpet-ride. Transporting us to a magical place in our lives.

And for a while, with three amazing, different, jobs, it almost did.

Where I could help change the world.

But it didn’t.

And, I’m still at a crossroads.

But you know what? If I hadn’t taken this time ‘off’, I’d live with regrets. Big ones. And that’s NOT. ACCEPTABLE. Not to me.

And I know that it took huge courage to step out and make this dream happen. To rid ourselves of the things that kept us busy and scheduled and focused on things that weren’t the most important to us. And to take the kids out of school, against the wishes of Peanut’s therapists. And to spend our savings. And to go. And to do. And to see. To really see.

Seeing the Eifel Tower. For the first time.

And I know that I bring all those learnings and the amazing experiences with me. I know that Dreamboat, myself, and our three kiddo’s are forever changed, in a multitude of ways, from this year.

In addition to our new skills of surfing and Spanish, and our love of Ceviche, we have taught the kids how to love those who were unloved. (Now that we’re back, I have to admit, I’ve regretted this a teensy bit. I’m just a tad nervous, but proud too, as I watch them befriend those who are lonely, and odd, and without friends.)

How to give generously of our time, skills, and resources.

We’ve all learned to be more flexible (some of us more so than others, but nonetheless, I, oops, I mean ‘we’ have improved…at least a bit).

How to focus on others, while not losing sight of who we are. (For me, this one is hard. Unfortunately, it’s still a daily lesson.)

To appreciate the beauty of things being unique and different. And to not be frightened by them. Or to judge.

So, I’m reminding myself of these and all the other gifts we’ve received from this year. (And of course the two gorgeous bags I had made in Marrakech. I’m pretty grateful for those as well.)

And I’m trying to drown out my fears with my gratitude.

I remind myself that I would chose this path again. And I’m taking to those lessons and insights into who I am.

And I’m refusing to lower my faith in myself.

As a wise friend of mine said to me this morning, “Being uncomfortable is OK. Necessary even, to move forward and grow.”

And, she’s right. Of course. (Thank goodness. ‘Cause I AM uncomfortable. That’s a very benign word for the angst that comes in waves. Big, scary waves.)

But, I’m choosing today. Again. Not. To. Lower. My. Dreams. To continue to find a way to make my reality reach the seemingly impossible. To see the invisible and hear the inaudible and then make those things a reality. (That last sentence is shamelessly stolen from Scott Aughtmon’s FB page this morning. I love it.)

And, I’m giving myself a not-so-little pep talk, to suck it up and keep looking. Keep trusting. Keep doing life, even though I’m afraid.

We can be fierce, AND afraid. Right?

——This post and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Filed under April 2014

Vulnerability

I’ve not posted in quite a while. Not because I’ve been without things to say, but because what I have to say isn’t pretty. It’s not certain. It’s not joyful.

I’ve decided to let myself be seen. To not be alone. To choose not to be numb. But, to release my worthiness, creativity, joy, & tenderness by being open.

The last five months have been filled with job searching, visiting and revisiting friends and family across the US. And then doing it again. With more job searching.  And then doing the whole thing over. Again. Really. We’ve put 26,000 miles on the car.  And in more than one home, they have started calling their guest room, “our” room.  We should be paying rent.

There have been some great job leads along the way. (And, I finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up.) And some opportunities we turned down (back when we were looking for the Perfect Job). But, currently there’s nothing. Not one thing. Not for me and not for Dreamboat.

There was budget for twelve months of amazing travel and exploration (and, it really was amazing). But, that was over five months ago. The budget is gone. The extra cushion is gone. The money is gone. And of course, the patience is gone as well.

I know that one call will change everything. Just one job and my world will turn right side up again. There are great, even amazing opportunities out there. I still have hope—which is what our souls long for anyway, right?

But, yesterday, things took a turn for the worst.

We’re driving, again, across the country.

On the road again…

 

Headed home to Seattle and planning to get the kiddos back in school while we consult and look for work. In addition to joyfully anticipating reconnecting with my friends, I am most excited about Peanut starting preschool at an amazing developmental place we had all set up before leaving on this adventure. But, I hadn’t heard back from them on my inquiries as to a start date.

So, yesterday, I called.

Due to several red-tape, governementalish reasons (none of which are for the benefit of my little guy), Peanut can’t begin any time soon. In fact, it will be summer break before all the paperwork and processes are completed.

There will be no school for him until next September.

There will be no speech therapy to help him form the new words he so desperately wants to say.

There will be no occupational therapy to help him learn to feed himself the food he so desperately needs to nourish his body and help him grow.

And, no potty training that his mama was counting on the peer pressure, and a trained specialist, to take on for her!

So, all those lovely inspirational quotes and sayings that are filling up my FB feed today (and every day really) about ‘step out of your comfort zone,’ or, ‘look forward prayerfully, and live in the present gratefully’–I am trying. I am trying really, really hard.

I rotate my prayers between variations of ‘please…’, ‘help…..’, and ‘thank you…’ throughout each day, and am conscientiously practicing gratitude. And requiring it of the kids. And, let’s be really honest here, I have a LOT to be grateful for.

I know this year has been a once-in-a-lifetime gift that will continue to benefit each of us throughout our lifetimes.  And, I don’t regret the decision to quit our jobs, get rid of our stuff, and introduce the kids to volunteering, surfing, Spanish, ceviche, the mysteries of Africa, and countless other experiences. Yet. But, I don’t know how long it will be before I begin battling the regret. I’m guessing it will have a direct relationship to mounting debt.

But right now, the platitudes aren’t helping. In reality, they add an element of shame for me. As though I could do more, or differently, to get different results.

But, hearing of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death this week, as he chose drugs to numb his pain, I decided to be brave. To be open. To be known. To not numb my pain.

As a society, we are the most in debt, addicted, obese, and medicated adults in history. Today, that won’t be me :-)

 

 

 

 

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Filed under February 2014