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.
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With my enthusiasm level running on empty this week, and since I’m learning to take cues from my feelings, I encouraged myself to disengage from my regularly scheduled life.
My office looks out over the apartment pool, and I love seeing the palm trees sway and hearing the soothing drip of the water spray.
I look, but I never venture OUT there during the week.
I’m something of a machine when I’m in work mode, and I don’t take kindly to interruptions when the highlight for me is crossing off items from my “to-do” list.
It was lunch time, though, and I was weary. Nothing on that “to-do” list beckoned me.
So I broke from tradition, put on a swimsuit, grabbed a towel and sunglasses, and gave myself a half-hour to refresh.
Within five minutes, I was sound asleep.
Those of you who know me understand that I am a world-class napper, and can zonk out in even an upright position.
After what was about 15 minutes, I felt a tickle on my foot.
It was as gentle as a feather, and I didn’t awake with a start. No, it was more like a sleepy eye-opening that revealed the culprit.
The most adorable three year old boy in the history of forever.
I actually thought HE was a SHE at first, because his hair was halfway down his back, all black and curly. He was trying to get from his mom’s chaise lounge to his dad in the pool, and I was in the way.
So he held on to my foot to find his own footing.
When I looked at him, he just grinned.
I was in love.
I then observed him splashing with abandon, and I couldn’t help but smile.
Next, a family with four little blonde babies came strolling in. Three were little girls with bows in their hair to match their swimsuits…and Jack.
Jack was ALL boy.
Once he was fully entrenched in his safety gear, he proceed to jump. Up and down. And up and down again. Then into the pool, squealing with joy.
There was no second-guessing or self-conscious “Who’s looking at me and do I look/jump/sound okay?”
This was pure, childlike enthusiasm.
Jack flirted with me as he splashed around the pool, knowing he had me at hello with the mischievous glint in his eyes.
But he didn’t know how he affected my heart.
Oh, to return to that place of childlike glee!
Did I ever even have it?
I remember being so self-aware of my 100-pound self as a child, I don’t think I ever HAD a moment that I wasn’t self-conscious.
But my word of the weeks – and my word for the entire YEAR is ENTHUSIASM.
And by George…or, by Jack – I want to be like a child in my approach to life.
Children were my teachers this week, as you can see and hear from this week’s video:
In the spirit of authenticity and NOT being self-conscious, I am less than a week away from my first-ever open-to-the-public event in Sarasota. I have 80 seats to fill and think that three tickets have been sold.
Just to put you all on notice, I’m expecting an amazing year.
For years, I’ve said, “Watch out. When I turn 55 my world is going to explode (in a good way.)”
And today, I turn 55.
For years I’ve been setting myself up for a rip-roaring year and I believe that outrageously wonderful things are ahead for me!
No, I’m not “psyching” myself up.
I’m just AM up.
There’s a real reason why I can so boldly say that 55 is going to be one for the record books.
I believe that my world is surrounded by well-being, underpinned by love, and fueled by a Divine love that is FOR me.
And you are too, by the way (but we’re talking about me right now. ‘Cause it’s my birthday.)
I believe that any and everything I ever wanted shows up like a series of birthday presents, because God/Source is not stingy. There’s plenty of blessings to go around for everyone, and when you are loved unconditionally, you get rescued when you fall.
God breaks the fall every time. I count on it.
Further, like a magnet, everything good is coming my way and even if things appear to be “off” they ultimately work out for my good.
I love how bold this is! It’s invigorating to bask in a good feeling and to choose to live EVERY day expecting great stuff.
Now, you might be reading this and feel truly annoyed.
What about all the BAD stuff, Brenda?
Annoyed people, my head is not in the sand.
But really, when did focusing on the bad ever help anyone?
C’mon! You know my story! We could mention all the low-lights here, but when I look over my shoulder, they all led me RIGHT HERE. To this amazing point of happiness in my life.
And I’m not turning back.
Nor am I looking back, ’cause that’s not where I’m headed.
And I wrote and felt all of this BEFORE I picked the new WOW, which I also selected intending it to be my word of the YEAR. And even though all of the words that preceded this video were about my approach to life, I so hope the same for you.
That would be the best birthday present of all. For all of you lovely people to fall madly in love with yourselves, to boldly believe that you deserve good, and by expecting it, to attract so much good stuff that you feel like you’re living in heaven on earth.
That’s what I’m going to wish for when I blow out the candles later today.
In the meantime:
Oh yes – now THAT’s a word I can sink my heart into this year.
I should have anticipated that, upon picking the word Celebrate that the next two weeks would provide opportunities to grumble, complain, moan and groan.
It’s always that way with the WOW; it challenges me (and some of you, too) to embrace a positive in the midst of the speedbumps of life.
Enter edition 5.0 of Adventures in Airports.
Each quarter, I fly to Philly and participate in work meetings. Whenever possible, I try to fly out of Sarasota, because the local airport is literally five minutes from my home. There are never direct flights (yet, I’m praying that will change) to PHL from SRQ, but the hour drive time to and from Tampa usually makes up the difference.
So SRQ it was, and a mid-afternoon flight stopping in Atlanta. Let me begin by telling you everything that went wrong.
Once settled at the gate, the thunderbolts came, and with them, the first of 3 delays.
At the first announced delay, some fellow passengers began grumbling. One woman started to freak out a bit. A seasoned traveler, I thought to myself, “Chill lady. You’ll get there…eventually.”
You know that scripture, “Judge not, lest you be judged?” By the third announced delay I WAS that hyperventilating woman, and it was clear that no Sarasota flight would get me to Philly by the next morning.
A quick search revealed a Tampa flight leaving in two hours. Scurrying to retrieve my bag (carry-on size, but holding a huge hairspray, therefore checked), I hailed a cab and said, “Get me to Tampa ASAP.”
There would be just enough time to arrive, check in, get through security and make the flight.
Except after 20 minutes of smooth sailing, traffic halted to a standstill.
As the minutes ticked off, I began Googling OTHER flights. My only other options were revealed to be connections to Newark rather than Philly, and an earliest arrival time of around 11 AM. Two and a half hours AFTER the start of the meeting.
Yes, it occurred to me during this tense standstill that CELEBRATE was the just-revealed Word of the Weeks. Which I found utterly annoying.
Then my phone battery died. I had no USB charger, only one that would fit an electrical outlet. And my taxi driver’s phone was a Samsung, not an Apple.
Did I mention that the thunderstorms followed me during the entire route?
When, just a little over a half an hour before the flight was to board, I arrived at the American Airlines terminal, the check-in screen informed me that it was too late to check my bag.
Goodbye $15 can of hair spray.
Trudging through security, I beelined it for the gate. As I found myself starting to relax and even celebrate making the flight, the monitors announced that those of us attempting to get to Philly would be delayed. First an hour. Then almost two.
I’d get to my destination around 1 AM.
Did I mention that to fill the void and the sheer boredom of waiting in airports for a total of 5 hours I ingested every unhealthy, carb and sugar laden option available to me?
By the time I arrived, I was exhausted, bloated, grumpy and…grateful.
Because here is everything that went RIGHT:
I never pack a carry-on sized bag. NEVER. I love having several shoe and clothing options, my makeup case is almost the size of a carry-on itself, and I HATE hoisting a carry-on and flailing to shove it in the overhead.
But for some odd reason, I DID pack my smaller luggage. Had I not, when I finally checked in at Tampa, I could have gotten on the flight – but with no luggage. Which would have been my particular idea of hell on earth.
Did I mention when I booked that last minute flight from Tampa that first-class one way was actually CHEAPER than the main cabin?
When I went to board, the flight attendant looked at my maximum sized carry-on and quite large computer case and said, “Ma’am, you can’t board with both of those items…”
You should have seen the look on my face.
Until she said, “Unless you are in first-class.”
A cause to celebrate. I nodded, numbly, thanking my lucky stars that by some sheer twist of fate, I was indeed in first class.
Which enabled me to plug in my phone.
So I could find out that my wonderful brother/friend, Steve, would personally pick me up from the airport in the wee hours of the morning.
And take me to his home where the most comforting person on earth, Renee, would have my pillows fluffed and soft music playing when I arrived.
So many things went wrong, yes. But so many things went RIGHT.
It’s all how you look at a thing. (Which was ultimately the correct conclusion I came to, after kvetching and moaning and grumbling.)
The scriptures say that complaining overwhelms your spirit. I would add that celebrating buoys your spirit.
Our days are full of plot twists. We can’t control what happens to us, but we sure can choose how we RESPOND to what happens to us. So why not celebrate?
And sometimes, that’s what makes all the difference.
It seems like the universe is continuing with this theme of positivity. I blapped out a word during my closing thoughts on CELEBRATION…and wouldn’t you know, it was a precursor to the new WOW. Here we go!
By the way, for my SW Florida area friends, I am conducting my first open-to-the-public workshop on August 11th at 11 AM at Davis Hall (Sarasota Center of Light). It’s all about how to raise your vibration when you’re “Running on Empty.”
We’ll laugh ALOT and learn, too…and the point is to spend time on YOU so you can course correct and get that happy tank full again. Click on the above photo or here to link to the event and buy a ticket. (Best $25 you’ll ever spend.) Please share with a friend (and I hope to see you there!)
This past couple of weeks I’ve been studying a subject about which I truly need knowledge.
I liken to process to pulling a thread from a sweater and watching it unravel. Just when I complete one webinar on the topic, it ends up raising ten other questions needing answers. Which results in signing up for another five webinars, all of which end in a sales pitch with the goal to get my credit card out and sign up for their advanced courses.
I’m gaining knowledge, yes.
But I want to make the leap to UNDERSTANDING. Until that bridge is crossed, information is simply overwhelming.
When facts and knowledge overload my mind, I stop feeling the joy and excitement of the original idea. It doesn’t feel good.
My original idea (brilliant, but requiring knowledge to execute) literally descended on me as I was walking on the pretty Ringling Bridge on Memorial Day morning. It dropped into my mind like a gift. Without angst! Without even trying! Inspiration filled my heart and ideas flowed. Doors opened; resources came to me like a moth to a flame.
You know that feeling when you know you’re on to something? At that beautiful stage when you haven’t tried to figure out HOW it’ll get done – you just have a clear vision of its awesomeness upon completion?
Maintaining that initial vibe while filling in the gaps of knowledge has been the challenge.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE to learn. But even more, I love to ACT. And until understanding comes, I don’t have a green light in my heart to take action.
Understanding is the green light in your heart that says, “Aha! You’ve got it. Go for it.”
Understanding is also the red light in your heart that whispers, “Don’t you dare get out that credit card.”
This past year has all been about allowing myself to feel my feelings and learning to NEVER underestimate them. Our feelings are guideposts, indicating our connection (or lack of) connection to SOURCE (God, Spirit, The Force – however you wish to refer to the Divine.)
Or as they said in the 60’s, “If it feels good, do it.”
The completed vision? Feels amazing.
It’s the ruminating on the gaps between start and finish that try to trip us up.
Many of us dream dreams, but we focus on how far from manifesting they seem.
We seek relationships or financial freedom or weight loss, and we mull over how elusive these desires appear to be.
All of which only focuses on the LACK. And what you focus on is what you (and I) ATTRACT.
In other words, keep complaining about it, and you’ll keep having it (or not having it.)
So what do we do because we DO need to fill in those gaps?
What’s working for me is to stay on the path of least resistance.
When it stops flowing, I stop going.
When I hit a brick wall in progress, I distract myself with something entirely different – something that reignites my joy level. It could be an episode of Shark Tank (I’m obsessed) or watching Amy Sedaris’ Instagram videos (also obsessed). America’s Got Talent never fails to bring a heartfelt tear to my eyes. And a good mani/pedi is another great distraction.
The dream WILL be accomplished; the gaps filled in. But I refuse to worry about the HOW.
Why? Because my overriding UNDERSTANDING is this: God does not put a dream in our heart for it to be frustrated. It is a seed that we must tend to with love. And for it to spring forth and bear fruit, we must nurture OURSELVES.
If you feel overwhelmed or sad or just a little off about your particular dream, wish, or want, distract yourself with something lovely. Conjure up in your imagination the feelings of how wonderful that elusive thing will be while counting your blessings about the right here right now.
Stay in a happy place.
Doing so will keep you in a receptive mode for more serendipitous encounters with creativity, people and other miracles.
More thoughts on UNDERSTANDING, provoked by the recent and tragic suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain…and the new WOW, comin’ right up!
OMG – that just confirms it. Keep that vibe high! Celebrate like it’s already happened. Don’t apologize for your joyful exuberance!
I’m excited for all of us to delight in this wonderful word that invites us to fan the flame of every happy feeling.
Dates on the calendar can be such emotional triggers, can’t they?
Now that I FEEL my feelings rather than stuffing them into a dark crevice of my soul to be more easily ignored, I “get gotten” regularly.
Instead of skipping along in merry oblivion, life and its memories stop me dead in my tracks and instead of plowing through, I stop. And I feel those feelings, as messy and soppy as they may be.
A “memorial day” of sorts just passed; it would have been my 15th wedding anniversary. I know, I’ve mentioned it before, but for an entire week I felt like I was walking through emotional quicksand.
Another is right around the corner: The one year anniversary of when I left.
Every memory can be weighed on a scale, balancing all of the reasons why and, alternately, why not.
Ask ten other people to view the same set of circumstances and their judgments rendered will run the gamut. They bring their own biases and projections as they view the evidence, which is why I am not a fan of judging.
To one observer, we are heroines of our own stories.
In other versions, we are the villains.
Some days, I see myself as both.
Because I am well aware of my imperfections. And I refuse to try to pretend that I am without fault (though I became QUITE adept at pretending happiness and have since given that up for good.)
Someone recently chastised me – not intending cruelty – but these words plucked at my heart: “You could have done it differently.” (This was in reference to how I left my marriage.)
My reply? Yes, perhaps I could. But at the time, I couldn’t see any other way.
And maybe it WAS the only way.
None of us will ever know because it went down as it did and it can’t be undone.
Which leads me to another “memorial day.”
September 9th marks the day I finally let go of all of the trappings of pretension; looked my soul square in my heart and said, “I love you.”
Yep, I am aware of all of my stuff – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And I love you.
I forgive you.
Now let’s get on with this thing called life and start feeling again, start living again, and let love start winning.
Our word these past two weeks has been flexibility, and sometimes it is painful to dislodge from our fixed position of how we see things. Or to entertain someone else’s view of the choices made.
I can see your point of view. Perhaps it could have been done differently.
These close encounters of the heart are all part of the bumps and bruises of life. From my current vantage point, I believe a life unmarred by such wounds reflects a life not fully lived.
I could have died, long before my physical death, by not rocking the boat. And I could have existed the rest of my days without really living, only to get to the end of it all and find I missed the point.
May I always be flexible enough to admit when I’m wrong. To leave – anything – when it is time to move on. To own up and apologize, but most of all and always, to forgive. Everyone. And especially, me.
After all, I’m the ONE person I’m definitely stuck with for the rest of my life. So I might as well make it a love affair!
And I hope you will, too.
On a lighter note, some less profound matters can easily make us anguished, irritable, emotional, and altogether flummoxed. I talk about them in these closing thoughts on FLEXIBILITY (and ushering in a new WOW):
Ah, finding joy in the right here, right now.
Wishing you all boatloads of contentment these coming two weeks!
It’s the faith that can move mountains, because the love is so fierce.
It is faith shockingly unafraid to walk through the valley of death if the trek can make certain their son or daughter stays alive.
Mothers go without to ensure that their children never do.
And while they know better than anyone else how to go for the jugular, over their dead body will they ever let someone ELSE cut you to the quick.
No, there is NOTHING so powerful as a mother’s love.
It is Mothers Day and I think of all the moms who are both mom AND dad (like my mom had to be.) I wonder what it must have been like for my mom to realize her daughter had a dream to go to college (no one in our family ever had) and to muster up the faith to say yes.
My heart pains for those mothers who have lost babies…or any child of any age.
And I think of those of us who never had the privilege of being a mom.
Funny, I never really gave it a thought in my twenties and thirties or even my forties. But now that that ship has TRULY sailed, I sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had been someone’s mom.
What a privilege!
And what potential heartache.
There’s just no guarantee how it is all going to turn out, is there? Which is yet another example of the faith involved with this most holy calling.
When I lost my Toastmaster’s speech competition a few weeks ago, I was honored to watch my friend, Bryan Courtenay, win. He delivered his personal redemption story, which began in a dirty bathroom. The main character was slumped over the toilet bowl after securing his fix. In the next scene, he paints the picture of his mother banging on the window of a car, trying to revive that young man who had overdosed. It ends in prison, and the photo of a dead-eyed man’s mug shot.
As he unveiled the mug shot, to the gasps of the audience (who didn’t realize he was speaking about himself the whole time), my eyes were on his mother. She wept through the entire presentation.
Even as I type this, my eyes well with tears for the pain she endured…
…but I bet she’d endure every second of that pain again for the beautiful outcome she now enjoys.
The faith of our mothers, or those who have been like mothers to us, has likely sustained each of us in ways we’d be overwhelmed to see.
Perhaps in heaven a video reel will play showing the number of times their prayers, and tears, tipped the balances, empowered angels on our behalf, and forestalled tragedy.
Moms who taxied us to rehearsals or sporting events. Who dug deep and shelled out for those designer jeans or sneakers we HAD to have.
They made us eat our vegetables, say our prayers, clean our rooms and write thank you notes.
They cried with us, then cried some more on their own when our hearts were breaking.
For the nurture that comforted us and for all the maddening times as teenagers when we screamed “I hate you!” For the treasure of another Mothers Day spent in your presence…thank you for the gift of YOU.
And for the faith, which so beautifully worked by love, to bring us to this very day.
Happy Mothers Day to all! Here are my non-Mothers Day closing thoughts on FAITH, and a wonderful new WOW:
Ah! So yes, keep the faith – but don’t be stuck on HOW it is going to manifest.
Lately my eyes have been tearing up over the simplest things.
Like the photo of my cousin’s daughter, Veronica, who was just inducted into the Junior National Honor Society. She is so young, and lovely, and smart – with a future full of promise ahead of her.
Hand me the Kleenex.
On the plane ride to California, I finished the book A Man Called Ove to heaving sobs, snot and the quizzical looks of surrounding seatmates.
On the flight home, once again Mark handed me tissues as I whimpered and cried off my makeup through the movie Wonder.
What is going on with me?
As I pondered the word ACCEPTANCE these past two weeks, the common denominator in all of my recent tenderness relates to accepting the fragility; the fleeting and temporal nature of life.
Does this happen to everyone when they hit a certain age?
The creases around my eyes and sagging jowl belie the years gone by. However, my spirits perk up when a new friend, in her 40’s, says, “I thought we were the same age.”
Still, time IS marching on.
We all have an expiration date unknown to us, but its reality beckons us to make the most of right now.
That closing scene of the Thornton Wilder play Our Town always slays me. Here, let me just play it for you:
By the way, the film Wonder features this scene, making it a double-whammy emotional gut punch.
Could my tenderness relate to the landmarks of time? This very week would have marked my 15th anniversary. Instead, in another month I will mark one year since my marriage ended.
I accept the passage of time and that creating a new version of happily-ever-after is up to me.
As I embrace this tender truth, I find myself looking at people directly in their eyes to make a true connection. Calling people and having long-overdue, hour-long conversations. Buying Hallmark cards in bulk to let the people I love know that I deeply love them.
For in the final analysis, what will matter?
My answer: How much did I learn, and how much did I love.
At church, we recite the Aramaic “Prayer of Our Father” that touches me deeply, especially:
“…detach the fetters of faults that bind us, like we let go the guilt of others.
Let us not be lost in superficial things, but let us be freed from that which keeps us off our true purpose.
From You comes all working will; the lively strength to act; the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age. Amen.”
“Let us not be lost in superficial things” massages my heart.
There are a few songs that bring out the fight in me when I’m feeling down.
The theme from Rocky always does it for me. Bill Conti’s horns always make we want to jump up and down on the couch with my arms raised in the victory pose.
Then there’s that “I get knocked down, but I get up again” song by Chumbawamba. Its actual title is Tubthumping, but I never understood that (or most of the other words.) However, that fighter’s chorus just gets my blood thumping. (Or rather, “tubthumping?)
Our Word of the Week was WILLINGNESS and the truth is, sometimes I get knocked down and I DO NOT WANT to get up again.
I want to slink into the bedroom with a vat of pistachio gelato, curl under the covers and hibernate for at least a few days. No phone calls; no texts: I “vant to be alone” in full-on Greta Garbo mode.
That’s how I felt when I lost the final round of my Toastmaster’s Humorous Speech competition last fall. I had won the club, area, and district competitions and gave what I felt was my best-ever performance at the BIG finale.
And I didn’t even place.
I smiled through the excruciatingly long awards ceremony, wanting to appear to be the good sport that I hoped I would be.
But I was mad. And I felt robbed.
I swore I would never grace another Toastmasters’ speech competition with my presence and even considered quitting the organization altogether.
No, I am not 9 years old, but I was acting as if.
When the dust settled, I remembered why I got involved with Toastmasters in the first place. I wanted to compete and perfect my craft; I wanted feedback and a track to run on to pursue my dreams.
When you feel like quitting, friends, go back to your “Why?”
Your why is the fuel that will take your legs up to the top of the Art Museum.
Your why makes you willing to try again.
As I write this, I am preparing for a Saturday competition in which I will deliver “How To Fertilize Your Life” – the speech I wrote about a few weeks ago.
Yes, I want to win. But more than that – I want to inspire the crowd assembling at the Gulf Gate Library on a Saturday afternoon. I want to give them something to take with them that will encourage them to kiss their spouses, say thank you to a co-worker or compliment a stranger.
Oh, and yes, I want to win.
My dream is HUGE. I want to be the Toastmasters International Public Speaking Champion. Which means, if I am fortunate enough to win at Gulf Gate this Saturday, I’ve got several layers of the candy cane forest to travel through to get to my destination.
One step at a time, right?
Here’s the thing: We all get hurt. Some wounds are minor bumps and bruises, like losing a speech competition.
Some are more profound, like finding out a church was really a cult and saying, “I’ll never darken the door of another church again.”
My nevers, however, are usually wrapped up in fear. Today I find myself attending a sweet little Center of Light with Mark every Sunday morning and finding joy in the ritual of a spiritual community.
Willingness is not only a trademark of resilience but also of saying YES to life itself.
Let’s not let our failed marriages keep us from being open to love.
Let us try yet again when we fall flat on our faces…
…and not let the past dictate our futures.
We so often wall ourselves up to protect from future disappointments, but then I remember that with every disappointment has come loving comfort by friends who have wooed me back to health. And whattya know, I’m up again and back in the fight.
More on willingness here…and I’ll keep you posted on Facebook about the competition!
Hefty doses of self-acceptance to all of us (no matter HOW the judges rule.)