Category Archives: Life

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

I have known many people who have been forced to take a path less traveled through betrayal, illness, loss, or injury. When I saw their lives being derailed I felt a strong

traffic-signs

Life is Easy Just Follow the Signs

empathetic reaction and tried to provide any support I could. However, there is no lesson better learned than the one you experience first hand.  And this is where I was taught the most profound and painful lesson of my life. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough, depending on your opinion, to experience a drastic unexpected turn that shook the foundation of my life.  How did I get here? I took a very mundane trip on a hotel elevator one beautiful sunny day that ended with me in a coma with a traumatic brain and spine injury and my family being told to make necessary arrangements because this may not end well for me. As you may suspect since you are reading these words, the worst did not happen, I survived. The path since that time has been both heartbreaking and heartwarming. The heartwarming moments were the friends and family that mobilized to help me and my family through my rehabilitation and recovery. The heartbreaking moments are the debilitating pain I have suffered from since the accident, the loss of pleasurable pastimes and the drastic change in my career trajectory. I owned my own company, I was a runner and ran several times a week with a group of marvelous women who had become more than running buddies they were my emotional support system. I was a lover of food, my guilty addiction was binge-watching the food network. I own a BMW motorcycle and loved to go for rides with my brother and friends. Not only did I suffer brain trauma but I also suffered spine trauma that has required two surgeries to repair the damage. I have not been able to run since the accident, I have been told by the medical experts I should not ride a motorcycle again, according to the doctors I cannot afford another head injury. I have completely lost my sense of smell which has affected the flavors I experience. So the foods and drinks I enjoyed before do not hold the same pleasure now. I sold my company, my recovery demanded my focus and required an abrupt career path change.

These adjustments due to my unexpected turn, while regrettable, are trivial when all is said and done. But the adjustment I did not anticipate is the shifting sands of my support system. Two friends that were my stalwarts through this whole event both relocated out-of-state. Their sudden absence was difficult for me and my family. That coupled with the more subtle shifting sands of friends connected to specific pastimes and activities I can no longer participate in has been disorienting and disquieting.  As a result, I have come to understand the inherent voluntary nature of friendship that makes it subject to life’s whims and unexpected turns. This path was unforeseen and has required me to release expectations of myself and others, which admittedly is a work in process. I have friends who have put me up on a tenuous pedestal as an inspiration and I have friends who have chastised me for infractions of judgment. Both are uncomfortable realities of my new path. Change is generally distressing for all, those riding out the storm as well as the onlookers. My ask for you dear reader –  be gentle with yourself and others embroiled in change. There are many people traveling unexpected paths and they no longer fit in the box they have been dutifully building for themselves. Therefore to view or deduce them from your own constructed framework or ethos will prove frustrating for all.

I refer to us “unexpected path pilgrims” as phoenixes. A phoenix attains new life by arising from the ashes of its forebearer. There are many of us out there, for those who love the phoenixes in your life, understand the phoenix no longer has their rigid framework, it was obliterated. There is a blessing in that glorious cacophony as well as turmoil. So relating to your phoenix with your own rigid framework will be disappointing. You can both grow from this experience and peek outside your own cage and search for connections in unlikely places not previously explored. If you are only drawn to people who see and experience the world as you do, and one of those conformists suddenly takes you out of your comfortable allegory, it’s scary. Your phoenix may no longer fit in the story you have created. I encourage you to explore a new narrative. I have always loved mosaics, the beautiful randomness of divergent colors, shapes, sizes, and flow that come together to paint a beautiful image is a wonderful example that a change in path or perspective can lead you to an unexpected and powerful result.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading ~ Gautama Buddha

The Sacred Clown

There is a belief among the Lakota people, of a very powerful and important person called the heyoka or as they were called by early European anthropologists, “clowns,” who misunderstood their contrary behavior and role.

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 Because they use their powers to help their people, they are held in great reverence. The heyoka is a lightning bolt that cuts to the truth in an uncomfortable way by inspiring confusion or anger by not following the rules and asking difficult questions. Ultimately their role is to inspire others to a higher place. Being a heyoka is not an easy path, and someone does not “become” a heyoka but is so from birth, they are essential to the sustainable functioning of a tribe.

Essentially by doing the opposite of what is accepted behavior, it teaches the tribe moral behavior by achieving a better understanding of their own foolishness, hypocrisy, and ignorance.

I have been thinking about the heyoka a lot lately, and their role to help us confront our own demons so we may reach a higher calling. I see so many people in disbelief that we are in such a confusing time in our world. Where the social norms we used to follow no longer seem to have a place in our society. People are focusing on what divides us, particularly by using labels. In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” Alice walked through the wood of no names, where there are no individual names and no awareness of qualities that set them apart from others. Alice loses her identity and meets a fawn who also forgets its identity and accepts Alice completely and fearlessly. There are no distinctions in this place between human and animal, self and other.  The eradication of distinction allows their universe to expand.

Rather than apply labels to dehumanize others’ unconventional behavior, or to make us feel “right” wouldn’t it be magnificent if we used this wisdom to recognize our connectedness. Recognize what we are feeling when we see, read or hear a message by another and how it relates to our own fears, beliefs, and misunderstandings. Labeling is extremely divisive and distancing. Instead of our tendency to separate from each other by applying labels, what if we listen to each other and our unique perspectives. Labels smear your glasses so you will never be able to see the person or their perspective clearly. When we label or base our opinion of a group based on religion, race, gender, sexual identity or political affiliation we have merely stunted our own growth which stunts our collective growth. It is powerful when we can discuss ideas or approaches without labeling or deciding the worthiness of the person in the discussion.

We are barraged with messages of what to think and believe. What is true. Who is good or bad. May I suggest instead listen to your intuition, your gut so we can learn to trust our instincts again rather than seeking from others what is true. And our truth may not conform to others and may have aspects that conform to those who despise each other. Heyoka’s are a powerful teacher and while they taught through contradiction and satire they were honored because of the value they brought the tribe.

“I am a fierce combination of confusing contradictions that add up to magical possibilities.” ― Unknown Author

If I diminish you, I diminish myself and humanity.

My wish for humanity this year and moving forward is the ability to gracefully

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Photo Credit: Onenessmission.com

and respectfully address, challenge or confront ideas, NOT people. Many people engaged in discussions with a compelling argument on opposing sides, rather than a thoughtful discourse on ideas use the statement “you are……, he/she is………they are………” which is frequently followed by a label, insult or disrespectful moniker. We determine the worth of the ideas by the moniker or label we attach to the person. The judgement we use determines the value we assign to the idea. How limiting and suffocating! We are all let down by the potential power of the moment when people are attacked and diminished rather than a healthy vetting of the idea or philosophy. Unfortunately the recent election in America has seemingly given permission to this manner of communication. Please be aware that assigning blame to any particular person, party or persuasion, is not important and ill advised, a wise elder I know says, stay focused on the signal not the noise. Focusing on the  noise, which our ego will compel us to do, will entangle us in a quagmire of stagnation and drudgery. So let us focus on the signal instead and ascend to a more satisfying and expansive world by concentrating on possibility, potential, courage and abundance.

We all have an important decision to make henceforth to truly affect what kind of world we want to manifest for each other; our children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters. We have to resist becoming idle in our comfort zone or paralyzed by our fears. So this year dear readers consider as part of a New Year’s resolution to fly towards a life of exhilaration and authenticity. Let us be mindful in all our interactions and observations to advance each other. Remember this simple approach in our communications both written and verbal; is it true, is it necessary, it is kind, and will it improve humanity.

We all have the ability and power to create our own journey and in turn impact the journey of others. So it is up to us how our journey will be, we can choose a rugged or a flowing path. Things will happen that effect us, but how we perceive these events and take action from there is our choice. Speak up when doing so advances our humanity. When engaged in a challenging discussion scrutinize the idea not the person. Try to avoid “I” or “You” statements, remember the vision of humanity is to focus on we and us. Look for common ground when areas of conflict appear remember the strong foundation we share first and then work through the conflicts. When we see injustice or unkindness be courageous speak up for our vision of humanity. Let us celebrate and spend time with what is refreshing and rejuvenating in our community and lives. Let us encourage fellowship and kindness. Each day focus on what supports this vision, the signal, rather than what doesn’t, the noise. We all seek belongingness and to sustain a peaceful and thriving existence we have to find ways to advance the feelings of acceptance to each other while also advancing our cleverness.

Let us all transform and break out of our cocoons of fear and spread our wings to create a humanity of oneness!

If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other ~ Mother Teresa

Can you see the picture through the pixels?

I read an articlepixel online of the top 20 fake news stories in 2016 and how they out performed real news stories. As I read through the list I recognized several stories I recognized from social media postings. I thought about how I am wired with regard to this type of situation. I treat everything I see or read as a single data point then I look for more data so I can develop a hypothesis or conclusion. It’s how we are trained as engineers, we have to look at all the data available to provide a practical approach to solve a problem.  Ergo each story I read is just one pixel in a picture made up of millions of pixels. If you look at one pixel you really cannot tell what the picture is and that pixel may mislead you to believe the picture is something vastly different from the reality.

I feel there is a considerable amount of distortion going on through social media. We see these titillating pixels and even though it is just one teeny pixel we decide we know the picture. This approach lacks curiosity!  The great accomplishments and innovations over the millennia are thanks to curiosity. Curiosity is engaged innocent observation. Curiosity is fun! When we are curious and seeking solutions it’s a powerful and delightful quest. There is no ego attached to curiosity, we have to be present and open when we are engaged in a curiosity crusade. When we are curious and not attached to ego the search and observation is for edification or problem solving not proving you right or someone else wrong. Curiosity allows room for discussion of differing ideas without the need for hateful communication or insults. Curiosity can make the most ordinary task exciting and a potentially cantankerous subject intriguing and enjoyable.

I recommend that we all engage and exercise our curiosity muscle, it will enhance our well-being, our humanity and our happiness. So remember the next pixel you see is just a wee bit of the big picture that awaits you.

Curiosity is one of the greatest secrets to happiness ~ Bryant H. McGill

The “Us versus Them” Effect

Recent events in our world have left me wondering what happened to the shades of gray in our world. Everything is, pun intended, black and white. It leaves many of us, like me, who live in shades of gray wondering where do I belong in this new paradigm, do I belong? There is a strong message being perpetrated that if you believe in one thing you are obviously against another. For example: you either support law enforcement or you support batman_slapping_robinblack lives matter, you can’t support both; you either support the Standing Rock tribal interests or you support US supplied oil pipelines; you cannot support Donald Trump if you support women, Latinos or Muslims; if you support Hillary Clinton then you do not support the Military; you either support immigration reform or support a great wall construction. I have faith in our humanity that we can dig a little deeper and we are more complex than the Us versus Them Effect allows us to explore.

The list goes on and on but the most important point in my humble opinion is that we have lost our ability to look for what connects us as human brothers and sisters, and instead we are encouraged to focus and judge each other on our differences. Fear has eroded our sense of social empathy, instant gratification has compelled us to judge and react without consideration and contemplation. I am one of those irritating people who have to think about everything. I am open to listen to everyone’s ideas and experience. However, when people give me data that needs to be confirmed I am compelled to check the facts before I form an opinion. It’s the geotechnical engineer in me, I get the soil data and that tells me the information in a small location but not necessarily what is present throughout the entire site. So I use other methods and experience to determine does that small piece of data represent the conditions for the whole site.

I am very concerned about this climate where we encourage people to react quickly, accept information without confirming its validity, judge motives instantly. Where we criticize each other so disrespectfully. I have watched adults criticizing young people harshly for sharing their beliefs because they do not coincide with their own beliefs. So the message that young person receives is “my thoughts are somehow wrong and should not be shared.” That’s not the world I want to foster. I want compassion, kindness, innovation, love and peace. A world where we are encouraged to think for ourselves.

I want to encourage the sharing of information and respectful challenging of ideas. There is an anti-intellectual, anti-science trend I am seeing and quite disturbed about in America. Many members of Congress deny the validity of climate change despite the findings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Our culture no longer values education as many other countries do and it is going to have devastating effects for our children and our children’s children. Schools and college’s primary mission used to be to foster understanding and to educate and more and more I see the trend towards training student to pass tests or for jobs. We can do better!!!

I encourage everyone reading this to engage in encouraging reading and discussion about issues and ideas, not online but in person at a coffee shop or the dinner table. Encourage everyone to read challenging books with ideas that may oppose their own, turn off – the computer, the smart phone, the TV. Go for a walk and discuss world events and ideas to improve the human condition. Reach out to someone who doesn’t look like you, does not practice the same religion as you, or subscribe to the same political ideas as you. See where you connect and what you have in common. It’s always easier to criticize or hate a group when you have no personal attachment. Let’s reach out to each other and recognize what connects us where we have mutual goals, dreams and desires to make this world a better place for all. Smile at strangers, bless those you do not agree with. The next time someone says something that causes an unpleasant reaction in your body reflect on that, think about why that is and then think about one redeeming attribute that person or group has, you will be begin your path to a higher place, a place of dignity and truth.

Rather than being with me or against me let’s start a movement ~ let’s find out where we compliment each other, where our combined energy can create good and raise the tide for all.

We had people of all backgrounds coming together – all races, all creeds, all colors, all status in life. And coming together there was a kind of quiet dignity and a kind of sense of caring and a feeling of joint responsibility. ~ Dorothy Height

 

 

What you think, you become – so bubble those negative vibes.

From a very early age I have always been fascinated by the human condition. Why some people can face incredible hardship and come out stronger more centered and at peace while others literally self destruct. What is the secret?
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I believe it all comes down to what you tell yourself. Those little voices in your head. I have become very mindful of the tapes I play in my head, and notice when they are not helpful. I want to succeed but many times my thoughts are feeding fear and failure. My cousin told me, you have to put a bubble around negative thinking. Now I will admit this sounds crazy, but I get it! Putting a bubble around negative thoughts is not burying your head in the sand, it’s actually like applying sunscreen at the beach. The damaging rays are beating down so you apply a barrier. I need to develop a barrier to those damaging thoughts.

It’s interesting how hurt I am when someone else says or does something I feel is negative. Yet internally I will “take myself out to the wood shed” constantly without reproach. Unfortunately I am my most ruthless critic. I am very quick to forgive others and move on but I do not give myself the same forgiveness.

I know when the voice in my head attacks me or anyone else it is not my highest self. When I am aligned with my highest self and live in alignment with grace, love and compassion the path is gentle. We can use our power of choice to choose our thoughts, to choose our path, to choose our reality.

I see so much self-induced misery in this world. Be mindful of your thoughts what are they telling you? Have you become captive to your negative thoughts? When you listen to those negative thoughts what manifests in your life? Watch the people you choose to surround yourself with, do they facilitate alignment with your highest self?  Are you drawn to discussions about people or ideas? Do you focus on gratitude or grievances?

Try an experiment for one week pay close attention to your internal tapes, when your thoughts become negative gently interrupt those thoughts and think of one thing you are grateful for, it can be as simple as being grateful you are alive. Continue each time to replace your negative thought or grievance with an acknowledgement of gratitude. See what happens and share your experience here.

Take tender loving care of your thoughts, they will guide your life and your experience in this world. You have dreams to manifest let your thoughts lead the way.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Albert Einstein

I am in a winter state of mind

winter state of mind

From one flake to another…I love you winter.

I am the type of person who, as they say, does not let grass grow under my feet. During the winter my tempo or pace of constant movement is in stark contrast to the dormant cues from nature. I think about why that is so, I see the animals slowing down, hibernating, even my girlfriends joke about being summer friends because they hole up during the winter.

This particular day as I buzzed to yoga, picked up a gift and delivered it to a neighbor’s house, drove my daughter to her friend’s house, stopped by a dear elderly friend’s house to check on her and then returned home to butcher two whole free range, pasture raised chickens to make my mother’s famous fried chicken recipe, I began to wonder what IS wrong with me, exactly. Why can’t I follow the cues of nature and slow down, hibernate a little? But I feel so alive when I am helping, doing, experiencing. I can’t help it, it’s MY natural instinct to be out in the world, living life.

In the recent past I had an unexpected year-long hiatus from my career. I had the romantic notion that I would take long meditative strolls, read more, relax, stay close to home and clean out closets, that sort of thing, however, what did I actually do? I took numerous trips to see family and friends, ran a marathon, volunteered in my community, wrote  a book, and then started the business plan for my latest entrepreneurial adventure. I can honestly say I was busier than when I had a job to go to everyday. While it wasn’t what I originally intended it was an amazing year, although I am still a little bitter about not getting those closets cleaned out!

I sometimes wonder maybe I am intended to live in a climate where, even though the calendar says it’s winter, the weather says…hey baby it’s summer all day every day!!! Perhaps then I would feel more in sync with my environment. I love the seasons though, I love when it’s crisp outside and get I get to put that big bulky sweater and boots on.  I believe, even though it may not look like it, I am slowing down in the winter, when I compare my summer self to my winter self it is very apparent to me that I am less active. Everything is about perspective, isn’t it?  So to my summer friends holed up and hibernating enjoy, I will see you after the Spring thaw, in the meantime I gotta go, I have some winter adventures to tend to.

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. ~ Albert Camus 

Be honest, Be Kind, Be Patient, Be Brave and Be Silly!

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Being an entrepreneur in the business of consulting engineering has always been an incredible  journey for me. The freedom to choose a particular path, the creative energy devoted to developing a great team, the excitement of watching exceptional people rise to the occasion. These are the aspects of the business that have always held the highest appeal for me. However, there is a side to the business that is a slippery slope for me and I find myself disenchanted each time I encounter it, I call it the “hobnob façade”. We’ve all seen it and to be honest I have participated in it in the past, and each time I experienced a very unsatisfactory feeling afterward. So what is the hobnob façade? It goes something like this:

“So how is business going?” Says Dean Goldberry, CEO of Initech Corp.

“Fantastic, we are blazing new trails, can’t seem to count the money fast enough it’s pouring in so quickly.”  Says Earl Lee Riser, President of  Dunder Mifflin, Corp.

“We are too, this level of success was really inconceivable to me,” Dean adds enthusiastically.

Earl responds, “we should get together and see how we can join forces and conquer the world of paper and data.”

“Absolutely, I will get in touch with you in the next couple of weeks and we will formulate a plan to seal our deal,” Dean says.

“Well….(as Earl awkwardly fumbles with his phone) I need to get going my wife just text me and our dog desperately needs a flea bath I am the only one who can do it. Let’s get together over a grande sugar-free vanilla latte soon, I’ll call you.” Earl declares as he hastily power walks to the door.

This is a dramatization of real events, the names were changed to malign the guilty, no lattes were actually harmed in the making of this dialog.

All silliness aside, this is a very real, albeit heavily embellished, side of the business that is not consistent with my way of being in this world. I feel the most powerful, the most in sync in this world when I am being honest, kind, patient and brave. I also like to have fun, so I will go along with Ralph Waldo Emerson and add silly to that list. I try to measure my words and actions by those benchmarks. It’s so interesting as I have become more successful in the realization of my intent, life simplifies and my relationships have transformed. I find myself  attracting like-minded souls. The hobnob façade, which used to repulse me, has become a practice of observation and presence. The presence to know I am up to something else, and the compassion to recognize others are on their own journey which has nothing to do with what I am up to. In other words I’m OK and they are OK.

I notice, particularly on social media, this overwhelming need by many to engage in the repulsion of others, I get it, I have done the same in business. I invite us all to consider a new thought, a new way of looking at it, and recognize what bothers you, be present to it and make your choices from there. These moments of repulsion are not an invitation to lay down and roll in that same mud puddle, they are an invitation to be present, to recognize where you are being pulled or repelled from and make a choice from that place. Always, always, always go back to intent and harmonize your thoughts AND your actions, your intention AND your words. Peace out.

 

 “Great intentions become tragic actions when delivered without careful thought” ~ Michael Dooley The author of, Infinite Possibilities: The Art of Living Your Dreams.

Perfect Imperfection – 5 Common Lies We Tell Ourselves

salvador-dali-famous-quote-perfection-art-creativity15 Common Lies We Tell Ourselves – My life would be so much better if………

  1. My friends were perfect – As the saying goes we choose our friends, not our family. So the pressure is really on here to get it right. Trust me imperfection among your friends is a hell of lot more fun and enriching. I love mixing my groups of friends the more conventional gals with the avant-garde. It’s great to see the affect they have on each other. If I want someone who thinks and acts just like me I’ll go in the bathroom and talk to the mirror.
  2. My kids were perfect – Ugh!!! Kids need to be able to fail, yes I said it, they do. We need to teach our kids to do the best they can, period. Sometimes there will be trophies and sometimes there will be disappointment but the goal is to learn discipline. Most wildly successful people are like the legendary Phoenix climbing out of the ashes of their failures to start again. In our house laughing at your imperfections is not only encouraged, its mandatory!
  3. My  body was perfect – Your body is a mass of tissue, fat, bones and muscles, its function is to protect your vital organs. Feed it well and if you are blessed and can, exercise it, to keep it HEALTHY.  Your body is not a measure of your worthiness as a human being, your body is unique like your personality. We live in an amazingly diverse society our bodies should reflect that, not some airbrushed version spoon fed to us on the pages of a magazine.
  4. My partner was perfect – This myopic view is missing half the of the story, it’s more about the partnership than a partner. When my hubby is really falling short on the perfection meter, I engage in a practice I call “fact-finding.”  You know, pointing out his imperfections to support my judgement to help him, of course. Sure enough when I am looking for warts they are everywhere! When I told my life coach my husband was not taking step to improve himself at all, after all this helpful feedback I’ve given. She asked me to try another approach, only comment on things my hubby did that I appreciated or liked, for one week. Anything I disliked or disapproved of I needed to let go. I was suspicious of this approach and my husband was totally confused, but I have to say it worked. I saw more of the things I like and appreciated because that is what I was looking for!
  5. My job was perfect – It would be great if we all had perfect jobs, our dream job, whatever that means! Some jobs just suck, if you’ve seen the TV show Dirty Jobs you know what I am talking about. In a book called Fish! they talk about four principles that can energize your work environment: 1) Choose your attitude. 2) Find ways to play. 3) Be present. 4) Make their day. Your job may not be perfect but take responsibility for your experience there, focus on what you have control over. Change your perspective and change your life!

To Control or Not Control, IS that the Question or the Answer?

heart_water_handsA friend asked me to watch her kids while she was out-of-town and I was thrilled, it felt so good to provide that help that after my shift was up, my ego decided I should call her to highlight my greatness in carrying out this neighborly good deed. However, I did not completely follow her prescribed instructions on the commission of this kindly act. In my mind the end result was achieved, so the response I got…….well let’s just say I was bucked off my high horse. Read the rest of this entry

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