My interpretation? Our dreams sustain us through difficult times. They are unsinkable corks, bouncing up as lifesavers (sometimes despite our best efforts to drown in our sorrows.)
Like flowers yearning to break through the cracks of cement, these resilient buggers called dreams stretch onward and upward.
“A dream deferred makes the heart sick…”
Oh, boy (or oy vey!) I’ve had some sick hearts over the course of 56 years. From not getting the part of Dorothy in the 4th-grade play (and instead, cast as the Lion) to watching my younger friends marry during my single 20’s and 30’s, life dumped some #$%^@ on some of my dreams.
“…but desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12
Beating out thousands to land a job as one of the original QVC Show Hosts! Finally walking down the aisle to a packed church cheering the end of my single days!
Some of you quizzically read those last two lines, knowing that I was unceremoniously dumped by the shopping network and cut bait on an unfulfilling marriage after 14 years.
Hey, weren’t those dreams fulfilled supposed to be trees of life?
Well, they were. For a season.
My tears dried after losing the part of Dorothy. Life went on. Life marches on! What mattered SO much once is just (as my friend Roseann likes to say) a pimple on an elephant’s ass.
Gotta love my spicy Roseann-isms.
Thoughts of dreams stirred my soul this week when immersed in a Sex and the City marathon. The show begins in their twenties with invincibility fueled by cosmopolitans and a fabulous foursome of friends. Over the course of a decade we watch breakups, losses, cancer, babies and so much more that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte could never have imagined.
Had they a crystal ball, they might have avoided most of their adventures to avoid pain.
And so might have I, as I pondered this photo from my past:
This photo captures the moment in time when I prepared to graduate from college. Already working in my chosen field, there was no doubt in my mind I would be the next Diane Sawyer.
It was my dream to write and speak words. To use them skillfully to inspire and inform.
Also, to be fabulously wealthy and famous. (Look, I’ve never claimed to be Mother Theresa.)
Oh, had I a crystal ball I would have definitely bypassed that QVC audition, kept driving past the church (that ended up being a cult)…
…but in the choices made to avoid pain, I would have lost some of my best stories. And my best friends.
I may not be Diane Sawyer, but I’m really glad to be Brenda Viola.
Yes, Viola. I loved my ex, still hold affection for him, and love that last name. It fits!
Just as I have changed over the years (my taste for pitch black, sky-high hair replaced by golden highlights), my dreams also evolved. Some have come true! (Published author, anyone?) Some remain to be fulfilled.
But that’s the beauty of life.
I believe the dreams of our hearts are Divinely planted. And they must grow! They will materialize in perfect form when the gestation period has ended.
But aren’t we supposed to learn lessons from disappointments?
And once learned, we move forward. To think that life is meant to be a constant string of lessons learned from heartbreaks runs counter to the idea that God (Source, the Divine, All That Is) is good and life should be happy.
I believe life should be happy.
Perhaps my message today is if you are pregnant with a dream, don’t abort it.
Turning your back on your dream is to turn away from your very self.
Your dreams are intertwined with your gifts and answer the question, “Who am I?”
They light you up. You feel most alive when expressing from that deep, holy part within you where the dream lives.
This is what you were made for!
John Russo croons a standard from the Rat Pack. My sister, Shirlee, acts on a moment of inspiration and whips up a calligraphy masterpiece. Artists are brave souls!
I have friends who claim they don’t have dreams. Oh, but when they express their gifts, they so beautifully live their purpose.
Maybe that’s a better word…purpose.
But I’ll stick with dreams. And I hope you stick with them, too.
On this topic of how what we want evolves over time and how when WE change, everything changes, here’s this week’s video:
This week, I got all worked up. For nothing. A few times!
When I realized just HOW nothing these matters were (and how wrong I was in each case!) I had to kind of giggle. Really glad that I didn’t complain publicly or tell anyone off, I filed my misstep in the back of my mind for future reference.
Before you have a cow, make sure it’s worth having.
My first “Never mind” involved an appointment with a contractor. “I’ll be there between 12 and 12:30,” said the text.
At 12:45 I was harrumphing! The nerve!
When dear old Sam arrived, Mark said, “Yeah…I saw him driving around in front of our house for fifteen minutes, but figured it couldn’t be the contractor because he kept driving past our house.”
Sam meekly said, “You texted me 6852 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.”
I replied, “Yes! 6852 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.”
Mark looked at me like I had two heads.
“Honey, that’s not our address.”
Oh my God! It’s NOT!
Now, back in 1990 I lived at 6852 Clover Lane in Upper Darby, PA. But that was 30 years ago!
This is a classic example of mental-pause, but for the life of me, I don’t know why I would conjure up that old address.
Sam went from being on my #$#%@ list to being the recipient of several mea culpas.
Next, I got into a fight with Google.
I’d been humming the song “Sweet Life” all day and finally asked my Google Mini, “Hey Google – play Sweet Life by Paul Stewart.”
It said, “Okay. Here’s a playlist from the 70’s of lite rock hits.”
I don’t want lite rock hits. I want a very specific lite rock hit!
Maybe if I say the artist first.
“Hey Google! Play Paul Stewart’s Sweet Life.”
Some godawful song that was CLEARLY not Sweet Life began playing.
I thought if I said it more forcefully, Google would finally obey.
HEY GOOGLE!!!! PLAY SWEET LIFE BY PAUL STEWART!!!!
My blood pressure rose. The lovely lyrics and the melody that made my heart smile all morning was GONE.
I was pissed off at Google.
A good twenty minutes passed before it even occurred to me that maybe I might be wrong.
I shifted from my verbal orders to an online search of the song “Sweet Life.”
By Paul Davis.
When I finally said it correctly, Google began playing to perfection.
I went from being all worked up to chair dancing and singing loudly:
This old world seems to be in a hurry But darlin’ we’ll just keep on takin’ our time ‘Cause we’re livin’ such a sweet life Oh what a neat life Sharin’ my love with you We’re livin’ such a sweet life Oh what a neat life Makin’ our dreams come true We’re makin’ our dreams come true
– PAUL DAVIS (NOT STEWART)
As Mark Twain so perfectly stated: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
This quickness to frustration, even anger – it’s not my normal way of responding to life. It likely is somehow related to this eternal pause button we’re ALL on right now, in the midst of a pandemic that has disrupted every plan once held for 2020.
What can you do when you get all worked up?
Take that little step away from the instigating event and think (sooner than I did) that perhaps YOU may be at fault.
And if you are, laugh at it. Apologize. (Though Google doesn’t really care, Sam sure did.)
Getting worked up is a choice. I want to expend precious energy on things that later don’t make me say, “Never mind.”
Our WOW was “relaxation” and there I was, getting all worked up! How did I resolve it? Well, the story is to be continued, but here’s a start:
When the Word of the Week is adventure, it conjures up places to go, things to do and people to see. But when the world is on pause and the only adventures to be had are within the walls of your home, it forces a different kind of adventure.
See, you can’t escape yourself.
There you are. All the time.
If you’re fortunate enough to live with a saint like Mark, you don’t mind being hunkered down together.
But perhaps you, like me, are going a lil’ bit stir crazy?
My personal quarantine story is amplified by a thrilling new twist: weaning myself off of hormone replacement therapy.
Some people are going grey during COVID-19.
I may grow a beard!
Okay, that’s a poor attempt at humor (but I hope you laughed.)
My goal for 2020 was to be completely pharmaceutical-free. This journey began in 2017 when I quit Zoloft. The only drugs remaining in my system were low doses of estrogen and progesterone. And I fully intended to say goodbye to them, too…
…then COVID-19 hit.
When the pills ran out, I called my doctor and fully expected the refill to go through without a visit to her office. After all, the world is social distancing and if the situation isn’t dire, who should leave home to sit amongst sick people, right?
Told that I needed blood work to get my refill, I did what any hormonally-challenged woman would do. I burst into slobbering tears. Heaving, gulping tears.
The sloppy wailing held no sway with my doctor’s gatekeeper.
And I had no peace about venturing out for blood work. This stalemate, I knew, was a sign from the universe to stick it out and cold turkey the detox.
Kind Mark looked at my tear-streaked face (the third in as many days) and said, “Are you sure?”
He’s no fool. He’s got to LIVE with this wrecking ball of inflamed human emotion, wrapped in a bow of irrational thoughts, suspicions, dread and overwhelm.
I fully understand why he thought getting me some drugs might be a good idea!
However, the FLIPSIDE of this adventure in detoxing is the depth of emotion I’m feeling.
It’s not all happy emotions; some are so empathetic I can hardly bear all the feels…
…but at least I am fully ALIVE.
And for that, I’m incredibly grateful. First of all, I consider all of the poor souls suffering in sickness right now. The many who have died a victim to this deadly virus and who have sadly made their transition in the solitude social distancing demands.
I may be a bit of a hot mess right now. But I am healthy and alive.
Second, stuff that normally gets a pass or rolls off my back now instigates a full-blown experience. This amplified state of emotions REQUIRES examination. There’s no ignoring the rage, depression, anxiety, or vitriol. It must be inspected because ain’t no way I want those ugly tenants hanging out in my psyche.
So, being at home with me and my hormones has been an adventure of epic proportions.
We’re two weeks in and the science says it’ll take six to eight to be free.
Please send Mark your prayers and well-wishes.
His path to sainthood is almost assured as he quietly and calmly observes this circus of a roommate as she mines the depths of despair. Only to be perfectly fine minutes later when distracted by a ludicrous episode of Tiger King.
More on adventures and an interesting new Word of the Weeks!
It is the dark tunnel known as snowbird season in Sarasota. We snobby native transplants hate it. Traffic is tripled and it takes forever to get from point A to B (or to snag a table at your favorite restaurant.)
This is the price we pay for living in paradise, but the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing snowbird season doesn’t last forever.
So, too, with the tunnels of our lives. The dark seasons of our souls are just that – seasons.
Where I get off track (and maybe where you do, too) is when I take the tunnels all too seriously. Instead of distracting myself with a better-feeling thought, I build monuments to the dark ones and envision my future around their bleak paintings.
As if the tunnel times are the end-all story of my life.
When they’re just seasons.
These, too, shall pass.
Oh…but when you’re IN the midst of a tunnel time? Let’s belt out a rousing chorus of “Ain’t No Sunshine…”? Only Bill Withers’ soulful voice perfectly captures the depths of despair. Wailing is apropos.
Milk that darkness for a day or two and it can spin into weeks of not wanting to leave the bed and face the world.
Oh, you do. Because you HAVE to. The lottery tickets haven’t paid off yet and there are people, places, and things requiring our attention.
Have you ever felt like you were walking through quicksand?
Such has been my experience for about a month now. I tried to pin my mood on the new moon, which is supposed to influence the emotions of sensitive people.
But the new moon wasn’t so new anymore. So how to explain this malaise?
And in trying to figure it all out, it seemed I dug a deeper hole.
And then it dawned on me.
This is just a season.
When you’re in the frost of winter in your soul, it can feel like the buds will never sprout again.
Friends, don’t be so hard on yourself. (It never makes matters better.)
Faithful Mark, my loving partner, always wants to make things better. When he sees the dark storm clouds hovering over me, unlike some who would run for cover, he seeks ways to offer light. And I hope the story I am about to tell you sheds light on any darkness you might be feeling.
When I thought I couldn’t even remember how to feel happy again, he said, “Come outside for a minute.”
Still in my bathrobe, with Phyllis Diller hair sticking out and sleep in my eyes, I mustered enough oomph to shuffle out to the lanai.
And there was our avocado plant. Purchased as a housewarming gift nearly a year ago, it always looked healthy, but never offered hope that it would ever bear fruit.
At first, I didn’t see it. But I looked again, and there was not just one, but a whole family of baby avocado buds.
Just like when the Grinch’s heart melted because of Cindy Lou Who, mine stirred with a lately-unfamiliar feeling.
“…and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!”
Sometimes, it feels like NOTHING is happening. You’ve planted the seeds, watered, fertilized, and weeded them. And nada.
As if it’s Groundhog Day and it’s the same ‘ole same ‘ole and it’ll always be the same ‘ole same ‘ole.
You can feel like all of your effort is for naught. That all of your believing was just a pipe dream. That you should just settle for ordinary since CLEARLY this season of discontent is on an endless loop of auto-replay.
But take heart.
You may not see progress, but something’s getting ready to sprout.
I promise you, it’s getting ready to sprout.
Because there is an end to every season. Even a dark season of the soul.
The treasures you will mine in this fertilizer of darkness will richly serve you when the fruit arrives.
Keep looking for the sprout. It’s coming.
And celebrate the coming change. Because seasons always do.
After three years spent growing out the bangs my ex-husband loved, I made the grave error of arriving at my appointment in a “do whatever you want” mood.
Alan wanted bangs.
Craving some immediate and measurable improvement in my appearance, I threw caution to the wind (despite a nagging no on the inside) and said, “Go for it!”
At the first snip, I knew they were too short.
I groaned internally. This was not my first bang rodeo.
Six-months of hair angst would ensue before I could return to my former bang-less glory.
The only comfort? Looking over my shoulder at previous bang travesties and knowing that, eventually, they always grow back.
Which is a great metaphor for any setback in life.
Think of something that pained you in the past. Do you now think of it differently?
Being laid off from QVC? Now I say THANK GOD I didn’t spend my career selling gold chains (though I am happy for those that do.)
The one that got away? I’ve seen his Facebook photos, and he didn’t age well.
Then, there are the more deeply stinging setbacks. Like the 17 years spent in a church that turned out to be a cult.
Sure, I could waste my energy bemoaning the “lost” years, but were they really lost?
The harshest, most painful setbacks in life (and there were plenty at that place) give us crystal clear clarity on what we don’t want and what we do want.
Never shall I allow my voice to be silenced in the face of injustice again. I will not allow others to assign my worth, nor will I be controlled by someone else’s “vision” for my life.
Just as the scriptures say, I had to lose my life to find it.
The experience set me back to set me up for who I am today.
The loss of my father at age ten still befuddles me. But that setback birthed in me a keen understanding that life is precious…and fleeting. That you should end conversations with a heartfelt “I love you” because you don’t know when or if you’ll get another chance to do so in this life.
A recent post talked about how time offers perspective unavailable when in the midst of turmoil. The 56 -year-old version of me now feels my father’s presence at key moments and I have an unshakable knowing that he is ever-present, offering emotional support.
A very present help in time of trouble.
The immortality of his beautiful soul offered small comfort to a little girl who just wanted a big hand to hold. Forty-six years later, I understand his transition to non-physical as a new way to know him.
Our word these past two weeks has been celebration.
My interpretation has been to embrace celebration as appreciation, yes, even for the setbacks in life.
They unfailingly become setups for good if we’ll choose to see them that way.
I love the old song Give Me Just a Little More Time. Though the rest of the sentence is “…and our love will surely grow…” you could just stop it at the time part for me.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just supersize your day and tack on an extra three hours when needed?
Three extra hours!
I’d nap, for sure. I’d get that long overdue pedicure. Write some notes to people I love. Maybe even wander downtown or hit the gym far more often.
You know your life is out of balance when the reminder postcard from your dentist is three months old.
Seriously, how did life get so busy that I can’t make time to get my teeth cleaned!
This was one of my most-liked posts these past two weeks, and I know it strikes a chord with many of us:
I hear you! “How can I sit and so nothing when there is so much to DO???”
But to paraphrase the great writer Anne Lamott: “Everything works better after you unplug it. Including you.”
One of the drawbacks of being an optimist is that I think I can keep adding stuff to my plate. Which is now a Thanksgiving-turkey-sized platter. And soon I’ll need a trough if I don’t start saying NO.
By the way, no one is forcing me to do anything. I get excited and I volunteer myself for all kinds of endeavors.
So how do I know when I’m out of balance? When I’m too busy to hear my inner guidance system.
If I don’t check in with myself on a regular basis, I easily lose my way. I forget that I am pure positive energy with limitless potential, creating my life, one thought at a time. Instead, I react to life as if playing whack-a-mole instead of being intentional about it.
And when I’m all caught up in the time suck tizzy of projects, plans, deadlines, and obligations, I’m out of sync with the REAL me.
Pulling this word “balance” has been a real wake-up call for me.
The greatest truth? No one can get me back into balance but ME. Just like I can’t blame anyone else for getting me OUT of balance.
So it’s time to start saying no to some things. Time to cancel some plans. And un-supersize my plate. You, too?
If you were a child of the 60’s and 70’s like me, we had plenty of unrealistic pop culture icons.
Like the Brady Bunch. All those groovy kids in a big house with parents that never fought – and a housekeeper to boot!
I wanted to be That Girl, living in the big city like Marlo Thomas and with a boyfriend handsome as Donald Hollinger. Oh, and with hair that flipped up at the bottom and never looked out of place.
Even outside of TV (and Instagram), we see how people present themselves on the surface, and it all looks so PERFECT.
Or we find out how much someone much younger and less experienced earns and disappointment (or jealousy) kicks in.
Comparison truly is the thief of joy.
Our expectations can be dashed at ever turn. No one ever goes into a marriage thinking it will ever end. Few people take on jobs or make a career move that they think won’t pay off. You plan a vacation and don’t expect to get the flu!
We soon learn that there’s no crystal ball and there are no guarantees.
Which could be quite scary unless you believed that everything is always working out for you (and me.)
Lately I’ve been thinking about how many times my expectations have led to unnecessary disappointments.
Is everyone required to march to the beat of MY drum?
When I impose MY idea of how people should be on them, I miss out on enjoying how THEY dance to their own rhythm of life.
My inner critic is LOUD, and the only thing that shuts it up is huge doses of empathy.
Putting myself in the other guy’s shoes for a minute silences the voice of judgment.
The good news is, we can always find our way back to love. The Four Agreements helps me with this:
Be impeccable with your word (Speak kindly and in truth to yourself and others)
Don’t take things personally (Oy! The hardest for me.)
Don’t make assumptions (Another biggie.)
Always do your best.
Our biggest mistake when dealing with people not following OUR script? Trying to change them.
Honey, you’ll wear yourself OUT.
I’ve decided to wave the white flag and trade my expectations for acceptance.
When I accept people, just as they are, the energy between us is completely different. It no longer drains or disappoints me to be with them. And oh how good it feels to spend time with someone who accepts me (more than expects from me.)
My friend Renee is a “no expectations” sister. She always lets me stay at her house when I’m traveling for work to Philadelphia. It may have been months since I’ve seen her, but she’ll take one look at me when I arrive and say, “Go straight to bed.”
She might have been looking forward to sister time and a long talk – but I don’t have to perform for her. I don’t have to dance around my exhaustion to make her feel our time together is worthwhile. For her, it’s enough that we are in the same house at the same time. And there will always be coffee time in the morning.
And coffee time means her husband Steve, who is a brother to me, will be at that table.
Double doses of love and acceptance.
Renee is the one who introduced me to Angel Cards (the genesis of our Word of the Week tradition). We start every morning together picking a word for the day. There is a sweetness to the ritual that is amplified by Renee’s palpable hope that, for me, the day ahead will be the best day ever.
I can’t let Renee down, because she loves so purely and completely.
Everyone needs a Renee. And I am trying to be more like her.
More on that and a plea for help with the new Word of the Week! (The universe knows I need to work on this area, pronto!)
If you’re in the middle of what seems to be a breakdown, hang on – your breakthrough is coming. If you seek it, you’ll find it.
That’s the beauty of wisdom. It’s there, sometimes hidden behind a bunch of hurts and painful memories. Perhaps it is shrouded by a busy life. So busy you can’t see the forest for the trees.
Wisdom is waiting for you, and with it is the clarity that comes from a breakthrough.
If you’re in need of a breakthrough and have used all the tools in your toolbox (talking to good friends, meditation, listening to You Tube videos on the topic, yada yada yada) maybe it’s time to bring in reinforcements.
Funny sidebar: I often get private messages from Facebook friends asking for advice on our Word of the Week messages. I always preface any answer with, “Please keep in mind I am not a licensed therapist…”
While I’ve learned a bunch from the school of hard knocks and good books, I’m not qualified to give counsel to anyone.
I have great regard for those whose love for people and genuine desire to impact lives for good resulted in their pursuit of professional counseling as their life’s work. One of my most favorite people in the world is Anna Coker, who has one of the biggest hearts known to man and uses her sensitivity, kindness, skill, and insight to help people heal.
From my past experience, finding a good therapist is often like going on a series of bad dates until you meet “the one.”
There was the guy whose first instinct was to write me a prescription for Zoloft, which may be helpful for some, but simply numbed me to what was REALLY needing attention. And the woman who was so rigidly religious in her world view she couldn’t hear anything outside of it. Not to mention the toxic horror stories from my past church/cult life, where my deepest hurts were manipulated to control my life and rob me of my individuality.
And yes, some unqualified victims like myself were “made” counselors. I’ve already done that apology tour.
Church/cult experience aside, the other detours into less than helpful therapy still had some value.
Kissing the frogs helps you identify the prince (or princess) when he or she comes along.
Just like finding the best restaurant in town and wanting everyone to taste that particular, pillowy gnocchi, so too, when you find a great therapist, you (I) want people to know about them.
Sanna Carapellotti came to me miraculously through my writing coach, who recognized I had hit a creative wall. And he was sensitive enough to realize it had nothing to do with the book I was writing.
I followed this link to arrange a free, fifteen-minute consultation to see if we both felt she could help me. I knew within one minute that this was a “no BS” yet non-traditional therapist who could guide me to the answers. Her philosophy? You have everything you need inside of you. The answers lie within you. Sometimes you just need a little help to reveal them.
I went into the session thinking I knew exactly what the problem was. Which was, of course, someone else. THEY were the problem.
The tricky think about problems involving other people? You can’t change THEM. You can only change YOU and how you respond to life (and them).
Through a combination of skillful questions, interrupted by breathing exercises, guided meditation, tapping – you name it – we got there.
Oh boy, we GOT there.
My revelation came and it was truly like a light-bulb going off.
Just as profound as my Costa Rica Iboga journey, during which I saw myself shut down after my father’s death – unable to express or even be in touch with my feelings – this time I went further back.
To the incubator.
Born one month premature, I went immediately to isolation, hooked up on tubes and fighting for my life. Isolation separated me from human touch and the nurturing comfort a baby craves when entering this world.
I cried in…isolation.
Long after I finally made weight and could finally join my family, this deep-seated fight for survival stayed with me.
A pit-bull like fear ready to pounce on perceived threats and consuming endless energy has been my companion for these 56 years. This pit bull served me well, mind you. I appreciate its fighting spirit at the start and also at various junctures of my life when I truly fought for survival.
It’s such a relief to realize I don’t need to fight for something I already have.
My life is mine. I made it. I am fine.
No longer do I seek something I didn’t get those first few weeks of life from people or organizations or even my profession.
Unpacking childhood trauma makes the baggage of life much lighter.
And that’s the Reader’s Digest version.
Dear readers, I feel so free! So unplugged from negative energy!
It’s such a release to have clarity about why I have felt certain things and responded so extremely to perceived threats all of my life.
Remarkably, I’m not so touchy anymore!
Those same people who bugged the #$%@ out of me? I now feel empathy for them; even love.
Everyone’s story is different. This happens to be mine. What I can say is that help is available. And I hope you, too, love yourself enough to head off your breakdown and head toward your own breakthrough.
Interestingly, I recorded this week’s message BEFORE my session with Sanna. I think you will see a different, more relaxed face in upcoming video messages. How prophetic the new Word of the Week turned out to be!
Please DO milk the good stuff in life. Make the most of a hearty laugh, savor that cold, creamy gelato, and allow a compliment to penetrate deeply into your soul.
The trap? It’s so easy to just fast forward through life, or push aside a tender moment as we move on to the next thing.
Life isn’t a race to the finish line.
Smelling the roses and chasing butterflies along the way make the journey rich. And the long way is often the scenic route!
However, should you scrape your hand on a thorn, or a frenemy slights you, or a seagull takes a #$%@ on your head, don’t milk THAT.
Moaning about what went wrong only amplifies it, underscores it, and energizes more of the same.
Just. Stop. It. (Preaching to myself, here.)
Sometimes it’s a habit. We get caught up in the drama of the thing gone wrong. We enjoy telling the story to the gasps and collective groans of our audiences. (Have you ever noticed that, just like the fish caught gets bigger with each re-telling, the drama around your negative story only grows every time you tell it?)
Those of us that believe in the law of attraction have learned it’s not what you WANT that you get – it’s what you FOCUS on that you get.
If you want more instability at work, keep milking it. Talk to all of your co-workers about how unsettled you feel. Play out your negative imaginations, leading to paranoia. Read into every possible slight and anticipate the worst possible outcome.
If you want a better work life, use that amazing imagination of yours and envision your best-case scenario. Play out that conversation with your boss until it’s pitch perfect. Take every positive encounter and fertilize your desired outcome.
Our word these past weeks has been honesty, and I’m all for calling things as what they are. To a point.
There comes a point where it’s far more effective to conceive of what is NOT as though it is.
That’s where you go from living under the circumstances to being truly meta-physical. On top of the physical; over it.
Milk the good stuff and more will come your way.
Naysayers might criticize and say you make too much of a thing.
Can you ever have too much of a good thing?
My musings on honesty and a new WOW, coming right up:
You’ve got all of the qualifications, abilities, talents, and instincts to do you incredibly well.
In fact, no one can do you better than you.
Further, no one has a CLUE how to do or be you better than you.
So stick with your instincts.
In my youth, I so easily and willingly abdicated my free will to the will (and whims) of others. So hungry for approval and so unsure of how to make my way in this world, a mere suggestion would change my course.
These were not usually fatal or egregious turns in the road, but they did make life more like a crazy dotted line in a Family Circle cartoon.
The problem with so easily deferring? When you encounter toxic people who do not have your best interests at heart (only their own).
You end up silencing your beautiful intuition. Courses of action are chosen that actually hurt you on the inside. You decide that your own feelings must be liars, rendering you out of touch with your emotional guidance system.
How grateful I am for the day when I said, “Enough!”
The great thing about life is that the truth always rises to the top, even though sometimes it has to hit you over the head to wake you out of the fog.
You will always hear whispers that question your dreams and capabilities. Most times, these voices aren’t from the peanut gallery. They’re your worst, familiar fears rising up to choke your creativity and stop you in your tracks.
Don’t waste time and energy wrestling them to the ground.
Ignore them long enough and they’ll dissipate, just like the Wicked Witch of the West when splashed with water in the Wizard of Oz.
I know, the temptation is to dig deep and try and figure out what’s wrong with you.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You are exactly right. You are perfect, as is. And you are more than enough for any task or wish your heart could hope for.
Now stop questioning yourself and get back to believing.
I’m back from my adventures in Santorini, Greece, and it was fabulous. I could talk to you about the historical sites, the amazing vistas of the Aegean sea, the kindness of the Greek people or the holiness of Good Friday’s lantern ceremony, but today I’ve got one thing on my mind.
I’d been on a special eating plan since November. I called it my “Santorini Bikini” mission, and by avoiding sugar and carbs I lost 25 pounds.
I was ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille, and planned to say YES to every sugary and decadent opportunity that came my way from London to Pyrgos.
After all, this was vacation – and for someone who enjoys food like me, I wasn’t about to deny myself gastronomic adventures on a trip of a lifetime.
Each morning, a breakfast tray of pastries – both sweet and savory – were delivered to our little villa, with dips of honey and chocolate and jam. Like the Cookie Monster, I devoured them; crumbs flying over the bedsheets.
In America, there’s a Wawa or CVS on every corner. In Santorini, there’s a bakery.
I made Mark stop at EVERY SINGLE ONE, from Pyrgos to Kamari, to Fira and Oia. Sticky, gooey, flaky treats abounded. These Greeks love their sweets, and coupled with rich, dark coffee – oh my!
Aside from the pastry shops, dinner was never complete without dessert. They have a traditional “orange pie” which is really more like a cake; warm and covered with ice cream. Oy! Mark’s favorite was cream cheese baked in phyllo that literally had us groaning out loud.
I came. I saw. I ate.
Upon my return, I said, “Brenda, don’t get on the scale. Give yourself a week or so to eat normally so you don’t have scale-shock and its accompanying depression.”
But I couldn’t help myself.
Eyes winced, I stepped on, prepared for the worst. I was braced to see that eight or so pounds had been packed on during my eating adventures.
Just one pound!
How in the world?????? I ate everything! I ate Mark’s leftovers!
But I walked EVERYWHERE.
We walked up to the Parthenon. We hiked to the top of the Akrotiri lighthouse. We trekked the entire stretch of waterfront in Oia, Fira, and Kamari. Once we parked our car, there was no option but to tackle the terrain one step at a time.
It didn’t feel like exercise. It felt like…an adventure.
Most days I sit at my computer for a minimum of eight hours, and too often (when it’s not a Zumba night) I go right to the dinner table or settle in for the American Idol results.
Methinks moving more will be part of my daily routine. Especially if it means I can eat cake!
More on adventures and the new WOW, coming right up!
When the Okaloosa County Public Library System asked me to present the keynote address at their staff education day, I looked the area up on the map and said, “There’s no way I’m driving to this one!” A good 5+ hours away, the Niceville Community Center was sort of in the middle of nowhere, between Destin and Ft. Walton. In no way would I turn this into a mini-vacation; it would be a quick “in and out” flight.
Still, I wasn’t willing to risk being late for the engagement, so I took a later afternoon flight out of Sarasota and booked a room at the Niceville Holiday Inn Express. All I needed was wifi and a place to rest my head before hitting the ground running in the AM.
No expectations. Certainly no great expectations. This was, pure and simple, a quick gig for which I was grateful.
But Niceville opened my heart with their…well, niceness.
Who shows up to a hotel greeted by a desk agent saying, “Well hello, Miss Brenda! We’ve been expecting you!”?
Victoria seemed genuinely delighted to welcome me, and in the process, charmed me. As we went through the normal ritual of checking in, she smiled and said, “Now have I got a TREAT for you!”
Her glee in delivering the news was drum roll worthy! This woman was so excited to tell me that she was upgrading me to a suite, she actually paused before the big reveal.
All I needed; all I wanted was a bed and wifi. Instead, I got a TREAT. And the treat wasn’t’ actually the suite. It was Victoria’s enthusiasm to be, well…nice.
I smiled as I unpacked my overnight bag, finished some work, and caught up on e-mails. My stomach growled. Wow, it HAD been a long day, and I was hungry — but my options didn’t seem promising.
There was only one option within walking distance – a Ruby Tuesday. I haven’t been to Ruby Tuesday in years! I had vague memories of a good salad bar, but in the recent decade I’ve become a chain restaurant snob. Give me a little, independent, family-owned joint. I eschewed franchises, but hunger prevailed.
As I entered the door, I waited for perhaps 30 seconds for someone to greet me. She did as if seeing a long lost family member returned to the roost. “Oh honey I am SOOOOO sorry you had to wait! Let me get you a nice seat…”
Of course it was a nice seat. I was in Niceville, and it seems EVERYTHING in NIceville is…well, nice.
Food snob – ha! That was the yummiest salad bar, sirloin and sweetest sweet potato I’ve devoured had in AGES. Was it the food? Or was it that everything was so surprisingly…NICE?
The walls came down. This was not going to be a “get in and get out” experience. From the waitress who I observed hugging her regular customers to the bartender who treated the gang assembled as family, Ruby Tuesdays was THE place to be. Because everyone embodied NICE. And Niceville warmed my cold traveler’s heart.
Which was the perfect lead-in to a rousing keynote speech, delivered with heartfelt appreciation for the NICEness of the people of Niceville.
I was nicer because of them.
Reluctant to leave after my second session, Dealing with Difficult People, (are there any difficult people in Niceville?) I waited for my Uber. While the librarians enjoyed the sunshine and dined alfresco on boxed lunches, we told each other our stories of how we ended up in the Sunshine State. I waved goodbye to my new friends, convinced that my driver would also be…NICE.
Yep, an array of candies and toiletries (!) awaited me in his white Dodge Caravan. Doug told me his life story on the way to the airport; a story of leaving his high-paying corporate job to tend to his elderly mom’s health. A decision, he said, he’d never regret.
I agreed. And considered just how big a tip I would give him.
The nice-ness I experienced in my Niceville experience opened my heart. Nice will do that far more than any fancy restaurant or big city shindig.
Real time update: Writing gloriously interrupted by the sound of cheers as the entire airport stops what they are doing to applaud soldiers just returned home from Afghanistan.
Sheesh! My heart swells!
Fun side note: In the middle of my first presentation, it felt like a jet soared right outside of the Community Center and the sound almost made the building quiver. I asked the audience, “What was that?”
“Oh, that’s just the sound of freedom flying.”
The Kauffman EOD Training Complex and EOD Memorial are close by, in Walton County, Florida at the Eglin Air Force Base.
Let freedom ring! And may nice-ness prevail, not just in Niceville, but everywhere.
Saying goodbye is never easy. I’m getting on a plane this week and know that every minute of every day, I’m going to miss my Mark, my bed, my morning coffee (made MY way) and my regular rhythm of life.
I will be moving soon (that’s ANOTHER blog post for another day) and I realize that pieces of furniture I’ve LOVED just don’t fit into the new place, so I have to say goodbye.
And my closet? It’s still got that gown from 20 years ago that PERHAPS my thigh could get into, but for pure nostalgia’s sake, I haven’t the wherewithal to say goodbye to it.
DISCLAIMER: I am DELIGHTED that I didn’t say goodbye to my black leather skirt from 2002. Because for the first time since then, I can wear it again! (Go me!)
Then there are the deep and profound goodbyes that are the signposts of moving on; growing into yourself – and settling into your own self worth.
I posted this meme this week and it was widely shared, but one comment struck me: “Easier said than done.”
No one said it would be easy.
Likely, this “getting rid of what doesn’t make you happy” kind of goodbye will rip your guts out. It will leave you heaving in sobs on the floor. It will cause you to question your sanity.
The comfortable ditch of misery will try to call you back – or at least call your judgment into question.
Seeming friends will call you selfish, or worse, cruel for saying goodbye.
Religious types will muse about your departure with head shakes and concerns about fulfilling your holy calling.
Drinking buddies will say, “You don’t have a problem! One glass won’t hurt…”
But you know you must go.
Whether it is a relationship, or a church, or a job, or anything with which (or whom) you have been entangled, there is a breaking point. And you know, for your own sanity; for your well being; for any hope of having a life of peace and joy, you MUST sever this tie.
Some of you are nodding your heads. You’ve been there and come out the other side. I applaud your bravery.
Some of you are teetering on the edge of the diving board, looking that long way down and terrified of jumping.
I get it.
On the three biggest goodbye decisions of my life I teetered for YEARS. I talked myself out of cutting bait because I kept assuming I was wrong; that I was the problem. So I kept working on me.
That’s not a bad thing. In all that working on me, I learned some great things and grew tremendously. (INSERT PRIVATE JOKE: My friend Cindy and I have coined a phrase, “I learned me something…” when we have an aha moment. It is horrible grammar but makes us giggle.)
There came a point where it became pointless to keep working on me.
The boat only goes around in circles if you’re the only one rowing.
Instead, it was time to do something FOR me.
Leaving is hard. But living a life that is unhappy is harder.
In every leaving, there is a rebirth.
You get to create the life you really want…if you are willing to say goodbye to that which no longer serves you.
More on this topic from our Word of the Week, “PURIFICATION” – and a brand new word to sink into for two more weeks:
My annual attempt to spread Christmas cheer through sugar and carbs has drawn to a close.
I have a huge burn mark on my right arm (tended to lovingly by Mark, with antiseptic and aloe.)
Sometimes you have to be burned to realize how loved you are.
The list of people who receive this gesture of love seems to grow each year as my heart grows bigger and the list of people I love gets longer. I wish I could leap out of every box opened and encourage the recipient to toast first, then SLATHER with butter, ’cause if you’re going to break your diet, you might as well do it right.
But most people know by now the raisin bread ritual and how to savor it well.
I think about my grandmother, whose kitchen was pretty much covered in flour by the time she finished her annual bread-making.
Edna Hartsell made a deep impact on my life…from the way she knelt by her bed at night (literally!) and prayed out loud for everyone (literally!) she knew to the way every car ride with her was a rousing chorale of gospel songs. We learned, as Elf affirmed, that “The best way to spread Christmas cheer was singing loud for all to hear.”
Each loaf of bread is a tribute to my Mom-mom, who inspired me to a spiritual life.
We each have our own ways of expressing and embracing our individual faith. Some like to cheer, clap their hands and shout “Hallelujah!” and other prefer to quietly meditate and center their souls on Source.
Though my own spiritual path has been a bit like a Family Circus cartoon, full of twists, turns, detours, valleys, and mountaintops – I am so very very very very very glad to be a believer, not just during the holiday season, but all year long.
My heart is full of appreciation for the Loving Presence that has sustained me through dark times and carried me to better days.
Perhaps the greatest lesson of my past year has been that this Presence is not like a butterfly that descends and departs (based on how good, bad, or tuned in I am) but that it is EVERPRESENT.
I can call upon the Power that created worlds at any time, for it resides in me (and I in it.) There’s no penance to pay for a misstep, only a moment’s acknowledgment to get back into alignment once again.
Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.”
I get that now, Jesus.
I believe the One we celebrate this time of year would, if He were here, take us each gently by the shoulders and say, “You’ve got the Power! It’s all right there – use it!”
In my fantasy conversation with Jesus I think He’d also say, “Sheesh! Stop wrestling with your own worthiness once and for all. You are LOVED – unconditionally!”
What a Christmas gift.
Wouldn’t that be the best gift for all of us?
I came face to face with this once again over the past two weeks when I realized how CONDITIONAL (still) my own love was for myself…
Oh my! Isn’t it interesting that POWER ends up being our new WOW?
Wouldn’t that be the best Christmas miracle of all – to realize our POWER and walk in it?
I look forward to delving into this with you over the next two weeks. And if you’ve never visited my other website, www.MEseminars.com, I’ve love you to download my e-book on the topic of my own journey to self-love. My gift to you!
In the meantime, even if you didn’t receive a loaf of raisin bread this year, my heart is sending you Christmas cheer and heartfelt wishes for the FULLNESS of love to inhabit your heart, now and forever.
When we are hard on ourselves, is it because we think going soft lets us off the hook too easily? Do we brutally hold ourselves accountable to validate our goodness?
We’re not parking cars, here. We need no validation.
We must be kinder. To ourselves.
There are plenty of critics, naysayers, judges, and frenemies who won’t hesitate to point out our shortcomings or pounce on even an unintended slight.
Let’s not join their chorus. Life is already kinda hard.
At a recent (virtual) workshop, I began teaching on one of my favorite chapters in The Public Servants’ Survival Guide. All about how perfectionism is our foe and that yes, we are flawed, but we are awesome.
We’re flawsome – and should embrace our flawsomeness!
I felt the audience’s eye-rolling and inner protestations even though I was the only one on camera. Which stoked a little fire and brimstone message from this normally perky uplifter.
Some of you talk to yourselves like you wouldn’t talk to your worst enemy! Your inner voice is MEAN!
If those thoughts you allow yourself to think about you evoke tears or despair, here’s one thing I know for sure: You’re NOT voting with your inner being. You’re letting your human being win.
Now, your human being can be kinda fun. It can be bought new shoes or bake in the sun. It loves a good, dense cheesecake and a rich rerun of Empire. But in the deep and spiritual matters of life, it’s a bust. Your human being is easily cranky from lack of sleep or traffic or that intermittent fasting you’re trying 16 hours out of each day.
The struggle is real for your human being.
But your inner being? It’s ALWAYS love. Loving you and others is its constant state. It bears all things, believes and hopes and is constantly rooting for well-being, which is your natural state,
To often we vote with the unnatural states of confusion, frustration, self-degradation, and other lesser feelings.
When I reflect on the times when I raked myself over the coals for a mistake made, it NEVER made things better. My self-inflicted suffering didn’t change what was wrong, it just made me feel worse. No amount of tears, nausea, or sleeplessness could change my screw up.
Several come to mind. Like not proofreading a calendar project well enough and going to press with two August 13ths. Or slinging a sharp retort to an undeserving and kind partner. Oh, the pain of words spoken that should rather have been swallowed!
We all miss the boat. But must we drown ourselves to prove our sincerity?
Unfortunately, unless you choose to truly become a student of feeling good who believes well-being is everpresent, voting with your inner-being feels like hard work.
Until it becomes a habit.
Then, thinking kindly toward yourself and others is the happy flow of life. It is the path of ease and least resistance. And when you live there, life is easier (and you’re definitely not so hard on yourself.)
Screwed up? Join the club.
No one came forth for a perfect ride, but to enjoy it – bumps and all.
Stop making a mountain out of that molehill. Feeling terrible doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself.
You don’t need to prove your sincerity or good heart to anyone.
And it’s beautiful.
Now start acting like you love yourself. Or even better, get to that most-important business in this life journey and really fall in love…with YOU.
Integrity (to be truthful) isn’t what causes me to whip out my credit card.
No, it’s usually a vision of a new, improved me. Insert the word “serum” and I’m a goner. Show me that Lori Greiner from Shark Tank gave it a thumbs up, and I say sign me up. Before and after photos? They’re eye candy to me and I look for the PayPal prompt.
I love buying hope.
Who knew my love of seductive advertising would collide with our Word of the Week (WOW), integrity, this past week?
It’s usually easy-peasy to find some inspirational quotes that resonate with our WOW. But integrity?
Look, I’ve got a glaring half-inch of gray hair at my temples. My toenails are an unkempt, chipped, sick blue color. You can now pinch way more than an inch (if you dare try) and my fingernail-less hands now fly unhindered over my keyboard.
The truth? I’m thinking about my next meal or series to binge-watch.
Even though it being the word of the week nudged at me. I should get some inspiration on this, right?
Then my sister called.
Shirlee is the perfect example of integrity and I’ll give you two of boatloads of examples I could share. These are just from THIS week.
I belong to Backstage, an online portal for voiceover artists, actors, and all types of performers. We see gigs that appeal to us and submit auditions. It’s fun! And voiceover work always provided shoe money for me since my early twenties.
Now that my sister is building quite a reputation as a gifted actress, I sometimes see ads for jobs she’d be perfect for. And I sent her one, this week:
WOMAN WHO IS SIXTY; MUST LOOK FORTY.
Well of course, that’s Shirlee!
I read further. The commercial promoted a skin cream. And it was a paying gig, non-union. Perfect!
So I sent it to her, already planning how we’d record her audition and spend the booty.
Not so fast, Brenda.
We’re heading into a showdown with INTEGRITY.
She graciously thanked me, then sweetly said, “But wouldn’t that be lying? I mean, I’ve never used the cream…”
“It’s a paying gig! Who cares!”
Had any of the thousands of models hawking serum possessed an OUNCE of integrity, I may have saved THOUSANDS of hard-earned dollars.
She’s one in a million.
Example number two: While coexisting on lockdown at home, she and Tony have made fabulous meals, watched wonderful movies, created art with pasta…
…and she also taught Tony – for the first time in his life – to play Solitaire.
As she completed the deck, which resulted in a “no win” Tony said, “So now what?”
“What do you mean, ‘what’?”
“I mean, that’s IT?”
“Yes. When the deck is done, you either win or lose.”
“No! Don’t you shuffle what’s left and try to win?”
Shirlee had never cheated at Solitaire.
Perhaps the memories of Mom-Mom’s favorite admonition: “Thou God See-est Me” ingrained on her heart from youth kept Shirlee’s sinful nature at bay.
Or maybe she simply doesn’t HAVE one.
Who knows? I say thank you, Shirlee. You gave me something to write about during a week when all I wanted to do was eat cheesecake.
Sheltering in place has spurred a tug toward cooking and cleaning.
Office closets, filled so haphazardly their contents would bonk me on the head when opening the door, are now pristine. A pile of unworn clothes is packed for donation to Goodwill. The whir of the vacuum and the smell of Fabuloso make more regular appearances on Lockwood Ridge Road.
Or should I say “Lockdown Ridge Road?”
Yes, I’m going stir crazy. I’d much rather be shopping, dining out, and otherwise frolicking than cooking and cleaning.
But the harsh reality? I should well appreciate the privilege of sheltering in place when others must work outside of the home. A million thank you’s to the healthcare workers and grocery store cashiers who carry on in the midst of a scary, insidious, invisible threat.
Nope, I’m not leaving the house. The one time I had to? It involved picking up a prescription for my mom (who I still can’t visit). I wore plastic gloves and a mask, and handed the meds (along with her favorite, People magazine) to an attendant who wouldn’t let me traverse the doorway.
PS – I am SO GRATEFUL Mom is at Atria Assisted Living. They bring her meals, deliver wine for happy hour, and protect her health like it’s Fort Knox.
So back to the domestic arts. When cleaning one of the aforementioned closets, out popped a recipe. This is not unusual. I’ve spent a lifetime collecting recipes for dishes I’ll never make.
Ah, but THIS was for Cassia’s flan.
More than the memory of the richest, creamiest, most delectible desert EVER, I remembered Cassia.
I met her back in the church days, and she was the light (and fire) of every room she entered. Gorgeously Brazilian, she was an elegant, refined lady who would surprise with her sassy comments. Everyone was darling – or rather, “dah-link” – but she did not suffer fools. Oh, but if she liked you? Or loved you?
Well, Cassia’s love was a force to be reckoned with.
She was ready to leave the church/cult when I was getting married but kept silent about her intentions because she didn’t want to put a damper on my party.
Soon after, she left. When I finally had MY awakening to leave, she was the first person I called.
“You were right! Cassia, you were right!”
She loved me enough to give me the space to come to my own conclusion. But was right there to comfort and love me back from the brink of despair when the place I had given my life to was revealed to be a sham.
Cassia loved passionately, and it always showed up at her dinner table. When she invited you to dinner, you dropped everything to be there for a veritable feast that would always end with her life-changing flan.
After almost 20 years of storing the recipe, I finally decided this week to make it.
But here’s where the story gives me goosies. The day that recipe reemerged from the dark corner of my closet was Cassia’s birthday.
I had forgotten the date! Only later that day when I scrolled through Facebook did I see her adoring widower, Luis, post a tribute to his beloved wife.
On her birthday, Cassia gave me a gift. A tap on the shoulder from beyond and a resurgence of happy memories.
I am probably the age of Cassia when we met. A woman could only hope to aspire to her unique beauty and the quality of her love.
And to the deliciousness of her flan. Of course, you want the recipe! Here you go (by the way, I doubled the ingredients to make the version you see above):
With patience our recent Word of the Week, it made sense that I’d try something out of my wheelhouse that required a little bit of the WOW. Here are my parting thoughts on patience, and a zippy new reveal!
When your word of the week says, “Relax!” and the world as you’ve known it becomes completely upended, it’s like a bad joke.
You want me to relax when I can’t leave the house?
It’s a bit counterintuitive. You’d think not being able to leave the house; not fulfilling obligations; not even being able to go to the gym would offer abundant opportunities to relax, right?
Ah…but relaxation is a mindset.
I wish I could uninstall my rampant thoughts as easily as a computer USB.
Remembering that every fearful thought begins with “What if?” has helped me to stop negative momentum.
And, if the thoughts we are thinking don’t feel good? Stop milking them.
Further, if the news we listen to heightens our anxiety? Power down that device.
I’m not suggesting to stick our heads in the sand. But I am saying as the CEO of our lives, we need to (more than ever) listen to our internal, emotional gauges. When we feel information overload, take a step back.
Wash your hands.
Then watch something funny or play catch with the dog.
Social distancing needs to be offset by healthy doses of laughter, virtual connection, and generosity.
Rather than focusing on lack, I’ve been considering how I can give. And some of you have been inspiring me greatly!
My friend, the amazingly talented John Russo, has been crooning on Facebook live. What a joy! (I’d pay to subscribe, John, if you had that option…)
The Main Line’s Martha Stewart, Pat Nogar, does live cooking demonstrations on her page (seasoned with big doses of inspiration.)
And I considered, “What can I do?”
Ages ago I bought a software subscription to offer live webinars and it collected dust because of my busy life. Plus, my favorite thing to do is to speak live and in person!
But who’s doing that now?
However, behind my desire to encourage groups in person is not what I’m paid to do, but what I’m made to do.
And that is to be an uplifter.
Nothing else makes me feel more alive. So I’m hosting my first virtual book club webinar on Friday, March 27th at Noon. Pat Nogar is co-hosting with me, it’s free, and will focus on one of the chapters of The Public Servants’ Survival Guide: REST.
We’ll be chatting about how REST is more than getting a good night’s sleep, and that those who master resting in peace have become adept at sidestepping drama. Please register by clicking here.
(Breaking news: There’s always drama. Always will be! )
Long after this pandemic is a memory, there will be drama among in-laws, frenemies, cubicle-sharers, and the real housewives of any community.
I read where the Spanish Flu in 1918 resulted in 50-100 million deaths, but also ushered in a wave of unprecedented self-reflection and personal growth among the populace. King Lear was written when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague!
What beauty will come from these ashes? Let’s find it together.
And boy, the cards don’t lie. Wait’ll you hear what the new Word of the Weeks is!: