All posts by brendaviola

About brendaviola

Brenda Viola is a "love evangelist" on a mission to connect fabulous people using life-learned truths, humor and all types of inspiration to encourage men and women to live life joyfully.

You’re Telling Me To RELAX?

RELAX???

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?

Crickets.

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!:

https://youtu.be/qIfqEX-sru0

Stay healthy. Know you are loved. And I hope to be with you next Friday!

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Tunnel Times and Waiting for a New Season

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.

Take a closer look…
It’s a baby avocado!

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.

Hope.

“…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.

Here’s our new WOW:

https://youtu.be/4Efzw2cs_Uo

Oooooooh…let’s all go and take a nap!

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Sometimes You Just Need a Nap

I love a good nap.

Friends have teased me because even on vacation I’d rather take a quiet little nap than snorkel or zip-line.

Hey, I live right near SIESTA KEY and doesn’t that very name evoke images of umbrellas, straw hats tilted over your face, and the ease of island time that moves ever more slowly than real life?

Siestas are a lovely comma in the sentence of a long day.

I don’t indulge as often as I’d like. Why is that when I’m sick as a dog I finally give myself permission to recline and unwind?

No, naps shouldn’t just be for sick days.

How about sick and tired days? They’re not a legitimate reason to call out of work, but when your body, mind, soul, and spirit are all saying “phooey!” – that’s a great time to nap.

I realize it’s not always convenient to snooze midday. But I’ve even found that sitting in a car for 15 minutes with my eyes closed is enough of a “Calgon, take me away” moment.

Meditation isn’t a nap, but it IS an intentional unplug. A siesta, of sorts. I put spa music on and listen to the sound of the fan whirring overhead.

My point in writing this is because INSPIRATION was our word these past two weeks, and for the most part, I’ve felt like I’m walking through quicksand.

Whether it’s the position of the moon, hormones, juggling a myriad of responsibilities or being plain dog tired, my get up and go got up and went.

And with it, so did my inspiration.

I’ve had a serious case of the blahs, despite having a wonderful boyfriend, a great job, beautiful friends and family, my health…blah, blah, blah.

I know! I know to count my blessings! I have used every tool in my toolbox to stoke the flames of inspiration.

But all I want is a nap.

So nap I shall! And I won’t feel guilty about it.

And neither should you.

Life is a series of ebbs and flows, highs and lows. Let’s not take the lows too seriously. These, too, shall pass.

The tide will go high again, and you’ll ride that wave. Until then? Take the path of least resistance.

Which could be…a nap!

https://youtu.be/ZqLR5uR_aoQ

Yep, confirmation that you should listen to your inner being and do what delights you!

Have a beautiful couple of weeks, friends.

Love,
Brenda

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Is Your Setback Actually a Setup?

My recent hair appointment resulted in a setback.

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.

https://youtu.be/T8fWbw6yo48

Hoping you find sources of inspiration around every corner.

With love,

Brenda

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Perspective and the Passage of Time

The passage of time offers clarity of perspective unimaginable when in the thick of distress.

This past week, I enjoyed a full circle experience and could savor with glee what once had been completely unsavory. More like gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.

In fact, if you looked at my life as if it were a stock market chart, the particular juncture I revisited would have equaled my greatest crash.

Ah…but the passage of time offers the gift of perspective. 

It’s not the time itself that heals all wounds, but what you DO with the time.

In a whirlwind of excitement, I’d beat out thousands to win a slot as one of QVC’s original show hosts. I moved from New Jersey to West Chester, PA, signed a lease for a new apartment, and settled in to be the star I knew I was born to be. Heady stuff for a twentysomething who’d been making $75 a week as a reporter for a local cable TV news show.

Then, out of nowhere (and after three months of being put on a diet, having my hair shorn so tight it looked like a boy cut, and my wardrobe dissected) I was unceremoniously laid off.

A moment that so sucker punched me, I burst into tears and begged them to at least give me a position in the control room. I had bills to pay!

They declined.

Determined to not go home with my tail between my legs, I did the only thing I knew how to do to survive.

I waited tables.

It was the breakfast/lunch shift at the Penn’s Table Diner in West Chester. Bleary eyed and dejected, each morning I arrived at 5 AM to fresh-squeeze the orange juice and try to remain sunny-side up when my life was so scrambled.

At the end of each shift, covered in syrup stains, I converted my dollar tips and change into larger bills to ensure I could keep my apartment for one more month.

My ego had taken a huge hit. My perspective at that point in time? Brenda, you’re a failure. One week I hosted a show reaching ten million viewers. The next, burning my hands on hot plates and only noticed when late providing coffee refills.

Still, it served as a testament to my resilience; to my desire to survive independently. Those nearly eight months sustained me until, finally, a position in communications was once again secured.

And, after 30 years, life brought me full circle.

This week, in town for a work conference in…you guessed it, West Chester, PA, I revisited the Penn’s Table Diner. As I sat at the counter with 30 years of life experience since my last visit. I savored my new perspective, sipping a steaming cup of coffee and waiting for my omelet to arrive. Tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes.

The night prior, at our annual awards dinner, to my shock and surprise, a table covered in copies of The Public Servants’ Survival Guide awaited me.

Steve and Renee Kantor, the best owners a company could ever have (and the best friends you could ever hope for) read the book and felt everyone in the Company would benefit from the keys it contains to restore joy in work and life. I spent the end of the evening signing books – a dream come true – and my heart warmed by their genuine and generous display of support.

Sitting at the same counter I had once served, I thought about the dreams of 27 year old me. Dreams that seemed so elusive in the midst of rejection and humiliation.

Oh, if I could have whispered in her ear, “Just you wait. It’s going to get so much better. And you will be so much better for the experiences that await you.”

For writers, it’s all material!

Some subplots we never would have chosen, but these experiences chipped away and sculpted the people we are today.

Of course, I left a lavish tip.

And wondered what dreams my waitress harbored.

If you are in a squeezing the OJ at 5 AM juncture in your life, I encourage you to hang in there. Keep believing, and whisper in your own ear, “Hang in there. The good part is coming.”

https://youtu.be/ak__tchFV94

To celebrating in advance! And whispering to our own hearts, “Your dreams have all come true.”

Love,

Brenda

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A Healing Vibe at…the Post Office?

It’s the wonderful time for a healing vibe…because it is especially a time of year when many people hurt.

The holidays can bring out the best in us. Opportunities to be generous abound! Honoring traditions and watching Clarissa bat her long eyelashes and sing “There’s Always Tomorrow” to Rudolph always warms my heart.

Alternately, there’s the snowbird going 10 mph in the passing lane that evokes a middle finger as you race to an appointment.

Where did all that anger come from?

When I’m honest, it’s the un-dealt with anger; the rolled eyes and swallowed retorts from a series of days in a row that explode at the first opportunity. Usually in the car, because it is “alone” time and the outburst is between me and me.

In the car we can find ourselves crying at the most inopportune times. Like at a red light when an old Christmas song brings back a memory, and the driver parallel to you stares at the display of tears.

This time of year, I say “let them flow, let them flow, let them flow.”

Tears can be a healing flow. And we must honor our feelings and feel them to ultimately get to clarity.

And then, sometimes, out of nowhere, your faith in humanity is restored…and you didn’t even know it was depleted.

It happened to me at the post office this past week, as I loaded up the car like the Beverly Hillbillies with eighteen boxes of raisin bread.

I parked and, three boxes in hand, made my way to the already long line of Christmas present-sending patrons. I asked the person at the back if my three boxes could hold my place while I made five more trips.

The outpouring of Christmas spirit was palpable. All of a sudden, I had elves coming out of the woodwork to help me unload the car. And move them all forward as the line progressed!

I felt badly for the unlucky postal worker who drew my number. Eighteen boxes would surely be a time drain for her.

Instead, her good humor and interest in my mom-mom’s raisin bread tradition made the time fly. She invited me back on the Saturday before Christmas, when they have a violin player working the lobby with holiday songs.

The healing vibe at this USPS outpost almost made me WANT to go back!

It is the Sunday before Christmas and so many people are harried, broke, lonely, tired, or otherwise verklempt.

Let’s bring a healing vibe wherever we go – even the post office – and sprinkle some holiday magic along the way.

Here are my parting thoughts on healing:

https://youtu.be/lp32Td_AMGQ

Wishing you and yours the merriest! And the happiest! Ever.

xoxoxo

Brenda

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Are You Open or Closed to Good Stuff?

The opposite of open is closed.

We might never view ourselves as those who are closed off to blessings. But sometimes self-defeating behaviors are so habitual, we don’t even realize we’re pinching ourselves off from good stuff.

Like deflecting when a compliment comes our way.

Or feeling despondent when comparing our progress against another person’s.

We see the dark clouds so predominantly, we can fail to see the silver linings.

There is a false drumbeat that drives us to focus on what’s wrong, as if worrying makes us worthy of good. This could be the last vestiges of religion or our cultural upbringing.

As if beating ourselves up when we fail is proof that we mean well.

(And to whom are we trying to prove that we mean well. Ourselves?)

Hyper-focusing on where we think we fall short is a faulty, preemptive strike to forestall the pain of others noticing our lack. Especially silly since most are too busy looking at their own to be bothered with ours!

Such a hefty price-tag we impose upon our imperfections! And all the while, grace and mercy and kindness and love surround us.

Just waiting for us to give ourselves a break and open our hearts.

And let the sunshine in.

Some thoughts on being open…and being closed…in this week’s video:

https://youtu.be/5hjkL84RyG8

I hope the thoughts you think these next two weeks are healing ones. As the scriptures say, “Thought of peace and not of evil…to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That passage refers to the way God (the Universe, Source – however you wish to call the Divine) thinks about us.

And if God thinks that way, shouldn’t we also?

In fact, the reason negative self-talk feels so horrible is because it is in direct conflict with the Almighty.

Let’s stop voting against our inner being, which always thinks thoughts of love about you.

(And everyone else, too.)

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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Waking Up to What’s Really Important

In my teens, it was really important to date a guy with a nice car who was popular enough to help me climb the social ladder.

In my twenties, he had to also have a good job/money, as well as be able to dance well. But he didn’t stand a chance against my career ambitions, which always took precedence over love.

In my thirties, I disappeared (perhaps from disappointment over my less than successful 20’s) into the false safety of what I believed to be my holy calling. What was important was doing God’s will and learning how to abandon my own. I detached from people, places, and things – including my own thoughts and feelings.

My forties ushered in with an abrupt realization that the previous decade had largely been a sham. It became important again to have fun. To try and make up for lost time. With zeal I launched back into my lost career and tried to take as many vacations as possible. Washed down with huge quantities of red wine.

Here we now are, past my mid-fifties. How can it be?

It was just yesterday I was hoping Randy Crowell would ask me to the prom. My QVC auditions feel like they occurred last month. My wedding…and subsequent divorce. Such landmarks, now ever diminishing with each passing day.

My fifties? These years awakened me to what is really important.

When you have little, it’s easy to think that having stuff will make all the difference.

Finally being able to pay the bills on time and not overdraft my checking account used to be really important. Now it’s a non-issue, thank God.

The next evolution involved being able to buy those Jimmy Choos. Or that baby blue car of my dreams.

What did I learn?

These are momentarily joyous, like the sugar rush flooding my bloodstream after downing a creme-filled donut.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love me some creme-filled donuts. White creme, not Boston cream, for those who care about the particulars.

But the rich stuff? The really important stuff?

I have discovered the deep and satisfying joy of sitting on the couch next to someone who holds my hand.

Cracking up over a stupid meme on Facebook and sharing it with a bestie.

Taking an impromptu trip to the beach to wiggle my toes in the sand and enjoy the setting of the sun.

Rubbing my mom’s feet at the end of a long day of her doctor’s visits.

How could I have been so blind to what was really important?

Hindsight offers perspective.

For me, it boiled down to settling my own worth. When I finally did that, I no longer needed to find it in cars, or boyfriends, or career wins, or designer shoes. I no longer needed to hide from life in a flurry of activity or spiritual pursuits.

Settling into our own worthiness is the great awakening.

And now, a brand, spanking new Word of the Week:

https://youtu.be/QG1sQZMbMk8

May our eyes be open to see…what is really important.

xoxoxoxo

Brenda

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When the Universe Says, “Stop!”

My personality is more like the Energizer Bunny, so signs to stop working, moving and shaking, and cease and desist from busy-ness are often ignored.

These past few weeks, we’ve been focusing on balance, and release. These words from on high have nudged my soul. But not enough to cause me to stop the insane merry-go-round of activity that is my current life.

So, in the infinite wisdom that is greater than my own ill-advised but seemingly good intentions, I was sucker punched by the universe.

No “to-do” list is more powerful than a knockout bout with an upper respiratory infection.

It started on Sunday, when waking up felt like emerging from quicksand. But I had a plane to catch! I stared at the check-in screen, as I have many times before, and couldn’t for the life of me find my record locator. Like a child in kindergarten, I gazed at the American Airlines representative, handed over my license and said, “Please help.”

She did, thankfully. Probably wondering if I’d had a few drinks to pre-game my flight.

I still didn’t catch on that I was sick, though.

I don’t have time to be sick! I have BIG meetings over the next two days, a calendar project that is on deadline, a mom in assisted living who depends on me, and godknowswhatelse.

When I arrived at Kamp Kantor (how I refer to the the lovely home away from home when in town for work meetings), my benefactors Renee and Steve took one look at me and said, “Go to bed.”

Too feeble to argue, I did.

And awoke, feeling as if hit by a dump truck of sick.

Since the soundtrack that usually plays in my head when faced with obstacles is Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” I proceeded. Armed with a bag of Ricola cough drops and a boatload of resolve, I plowed through day one of meetings.

And promptly returned to Kamp Kantor to collapse.

The benevolent couple changed my flight to ensure that after Tuesday’s meetings, I’d go directly home.

The joy of working from home is that working sick means you won’t infect anyone else.

The challenge of working from home is that, when you should take a sick day, you still work.

Until you simply can’t anymore.

By Friday, I couldn’t ignore this nasty bug any longer. There I sat in the doctor’s waiting room for almost TWO HOURS for them to spend five minutes to prescribe me the antibiotic I needed.

Friday…Saturday…Sunday…all spent horizontal, binge-watching Downton Abbey.

It was bliss.

If not sucker-punched by sickness, I’d NEVER have taken the time to stop and simply rest.

And you know what was remarkable?

The world didn’t end. My mom was fine without me. Mark ate meals I didn’t cook. No crucial deadlines were missed. And I got to sob through the final season of Downton. Better late than never.

If you are getting signs to “stop” and instead, you keep going? You may be asking for Universe-induced break.

When it comes, enjoy it.

Now about this word RELEASE, have you ever considered changing the channel? There’s a big difference between giving up…and letting go:

https://youtu.be/GhCYEKpTazI

To our awakenings! (And our sleepings, too.)

xoxoxo
Brenda

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Give Me Just a Little More Time

Time flies, even when you’re NOT having fun.

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?

https://youtu.be/f0A_Ouwzad4

I love how this new word perfectly aligns with the call to restore balance in our lives.

Wishing you wisdom and grace to say no – and let go…

Love,
Brenda

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