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.
View all posts by brendaviola →
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.
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.
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!)
Even if the destination isn’t exciting, and sometimes that’s the case for work or a speaking engagement, I’m still going SOMEWHERE.
This was always something I loved. But five years ago when I started working from home (and I’ve had four different homes since then!) getting AWAY from my desk is a joy to me.
Since “EXPLORATION” has been our word these last two weeks. I take time in this week’s video (and the most recent post) to talk about exploring and unpacking the baggage from our past.
But today, as I sit enjoying tuna poke and looking out over a feast of people, I’m relishing airports and the anticipation of exploration.
This particular flight is out of Tampa, because through the Sarasota/Bradenton (SRQ) airport is growing in stature, sometimes it just makes sense to Uber for an hour to fly out of Tampa.
It’s a quick trip – two cities in two days, so no checked baggage is needed.
For the next 1.5 hours until my flight boards, I am not required to do anything… but wait.
Oh, I eat. And yes, I people watch! When the flight is delayed (or a layover is long), I get a neck/back massage. Or shop.
This may surprise you, but I am rarely chatty. I dig being alone! Only those magical, serendipitous, “Wow, the universe set this up!” encounters compel me to engage.
Oh, airports are ME time.
And writing time.
There’s nothing I love more than hearing the drone of public address system announcements behind me and the chatter of passersby while I type type type type type on my laptop.
Sometimes I look up and wonder about the stories around me.
I say a prayer for the haggard mom handling three kids while rolling three carry-ons. And marvel at the makeup-less beauty of youth in sweat pants as she waits, completely unaware of the stares that follow her. Ear pods block out her attention to the world she attracts.
Airports are both a beginning and an ending (depending on if you’re coming or going.)
Before we leave, we anticipate. When we prepare for our return, we reminisce.
Mark knows I like to explore airports, so he’s fine with relaxing while I wander around and grab those last-minute souvenirs. He is unfailingly interested in my conquests and observations, which makes me love him more.
And the times when I am not with him, I make sure to leave little post-it notes of love around the house. He knows I love taking off – with or without him. (Though with him is better.) But I never want him to think that life is better without him.
Oh, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
This was supposed to be a post about airports.
But instead, I am in love. With a sweet man who cares about my every need. Who will not let me carry the groceries from the car to the house.
My me time in the airport has caused my heart to swell with appreciation for a man who loves me.
I am loved.
And for the first time in 56 years, I am settled into this feeling of bliss.
Which makes leaving, and coming home again, so wonderful.
I love having a life I don’t need to escape. Yet a life that gives me all the freedom in the world to explore.
So yes, I love airports. But I love Mark Roach more.
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.
When you think of peaceful places, what comes to mind?
Maybe it’s the waves gently lapping on the shore at the beach; staring at a fire pit while roasting marshmallows – or sitting in a pew, listening to music as you wait for church to begin.
An unlikely spot for refuge is your local dry cleaners…unless, of course, you’re going to Bob’s.
When I moved from downtown to the Gulf Gate area of Sarasota, one of my first delightful realizations was that it would once again be convenient for me to take my dry cleaning to Bob’s! I MISSED going there.
Why? Because the minute you walk through the door, you feel zen.
Any place can slap some peaceful quotes on the wall; that doesn’t determine the vibe. A vibe is always about the people and the energy they bring to a situation.
Enter the guy I always referred to as Bob. (But he’s not.)
When we moved to the neighborhood, I was SO excited to introduce Mark to Bob’s Cleaners. (You might have thought I was taking him to a new restaurant or a sporting event.) We walked in and there he was, smiling from ear to ear and acting like he’d seen an old friend.
I wanted to make the introduction, but realized I only assumed his name was Bob. He sweetly clarified, “I don’t mind what you call me, but my name is really Craig.”
Craig’s very presence makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a soft blankie.
It’s impossible to imagine him getting all worked up about something.
He exudes calm, which has a calming effect on everyone he encounters.
On a recent visit, another smiling gentleman and I entered around the same time and began chatting. He drives out of his way from another TOWN, just to get up and close with the peaceful vibe at Bob’s Cleaners.
You know, people will forget what you said…but they always remember the way you make them feel (paraphrased Maya Angelou.) Businesses that make me feel peaceful, like Bob’s, will always earn my loyalty.
More on stepping away from drama and embracing peace!:
This week’s post honors those who have mastered the art of showing up for the people they care about.
It may be inconvenient, uncomfortable, risky, and completely beyond the call of duty, but they show up.
Remember that co-worker who gave you a ride to work when your car was in the shop? Or that twenty dollar bill stuck in your pocket when you ran out of cash before the next paycheck? These angels among us never “ghost” you in times of crisis.
Perhaps it is that listening, non-judgmental ear when you tell the SAME story for the 84th time, or the gentle encouragement after you break a promise to yourself that says “tomorrow is a chance to start fresh.”
Showing up is an art because we don’t get hatched being kind, selfless, compassionate or caring.
Our baby cries are all about US – what we want and need and must have NOW. I’m an advocate for loving yourself enough to take care of you, and I’ve written volumes on that subject.
But those beautiful souls who, despite their own drama and pain; despite their harried schedules and limited resources, who dig deep and give when you need it the most…
They make life not just bearable; they add joy where sorrow lived.
So adept at showing up (even when you don’t have the courage to ask), these beautiful people are the catalyst for everyday miracles.
When my marriage ended, I experienced those who had mastered the art of showing up. Renee, Cynthia, Anita, my sister, Shirlee, Roseann, Karen…I could have never survived without you.
There were nights that I would call Anita and have nothing to say and it was okay. She’d just listen to me breathe on the other end of the line – sometimes for hours – until I could handle the aloneness enough to hang up.
Back in my Bible college days when I scrounged up change to put gas in my car, my cousin Kimmy would drive up from South Jersey and slip a $20 bill in my pocket.
I tell a few more stories in this week’s video, but my heart is full of gratitude for the tender, generous hearts who have mastered the art of showing up.
They have schooled me in true love, and it has been a healing balm.
More stories from my “showing up” files – and a lovely new WOW here: