Billy Joel famously sang “Leave a Tender Moment” alone back in the 80’s and I thought about that phrase this week as I tried to push feelings away.
Hey! I’m busy! I don’t have time to get all misty right now…
Ah, but I am alive. And so are you.
We are not machines, though it can feel like it sometimes. Especially when you realize hours have passed by and your to-do list isn’t any shorter than when your day started.
We zero in on “get it done” mode and pay no attention to those pesky feelings behind the curtain.
Despite trying to ignore the interruption, sometimes a feeling visits you. One that is tender and swathed in lovingkindness. It nudges your soul, penetrating your stonehearted busyness so inconveniently.
So easy to push it away.
My Google mini takes one song suggestion and regales me with a day’s worth of music; some are songs I haven’t heard or thought about in years.
I plug away at my computer making work happen, largely ignoring the background noise.
Then, involuntarily, I felt my heart squeeze. A tender moment interrupted “machine-mode.”
It was this song by Stevie Wonder:
It’s a tender song, evoking all the feelings of the love we have for family and friends. And since Aunt Mary’s transition, the need to say these three words while we can is top of mind.
When you stop and let a tender moment breathe, your heart swells. Tears can spill. But oh, how alive you feel!
And then you make the phone calls. Or texts. The “these three words” messages that let someone know they starred in your tender moment.
I’m with Billy Joel.
Leave a tender moment alone.
Thank you, Mark (and so many of you) who “hold up the light.”
And if you’re experiencing a setback, don’t forget to consider the comeback!
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’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:
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.
Don’t you love when friends turn into sisters and brothers?
This week I was reminded of how my circle of friends has widened since moving to Sarasota. My first six months were spent in tears of loneliness. Would I ever find my tribe?
I’d go to get my nails done and actually look around for potential friends. (You know, like in the children’s book, “Are You My Mother?” only the “Are you My Future Friend?” version.)
Thank GOD for my main posse, who were my anchors during those stormy (and lonely) months. Renee the kind comforter; Anita the soulful listener; Cynthia the sassy sophisticate. They never failed to “show up” for me. Because they are so GOOD at being sister friends, I made the mistake of comparing everyone new that I met to them. Who could measure up?
Then there’s my sister sister, Shirlee, who is an earth angel. I won the sister lottery when I was born, and she’s a gift that keeps on giving me tidings of comfort and joy.
There are the friends you hardly see at ALL (unfortunately)…but they are THERE. If I needed Cindy or Roseann, Judy, Linda, Hilary or Antoinette, at a moment’s notice they’d drop everything on a dime to lend their wisdom or kindness without judgment.
When I finally began to relax (and stop whining), a new bouquet of budding friendships emerged. Five-foot-nothing, southern belle Kyle instantly became a huge connector and cheerleader who never fails to make me smile. Karen, who I always introduce as my “two-time-published author” friend has proven to be a true go-to for impromptu adventures and rich conversations. My new across-the-street neighbor Darcy looks like Blake Lively (and I won’t hold that against her) because she makes me feel like her most favorite person in the world (and who doesn’t love feeling like THAT?)
I’ve got two Kim’s – my cousin as well as a long-lost friend from ages ago who came back into my life this year. You couldn’t find two bigger hearts so full of love.
There’s all of you out there that I’ve never met, but you have become my sisters. Suzan Alexander, can you feel the love?
I can’t forget the guys. John, my brother, sings Sinatra to me and no matter what my week is like, it heals or lifts my heart. Eric, my favorite collaborator, is always learning new things and sharing them with me, while being a genuinely kind man. Doug, who calls me “lass”, notices new shoes and hairdos (and, along with the other Sarasota Lounge Lizards made Sarasota finally feel like home.)
That really is what our sisters and brothers of the heart do for us. They make us feel at home in this world.
We go back with them…and we go forward.
I say all of this with a heart full of gratitude and love along with a little fear and trepidation that I have certainly left someone out who should be named. If you were omitted, part of the reason I love you is because you are so wonderfully forgiving.
I count on that breath of kindness from my sisters and brothers. No matter how much is in your bank account as you read this, if you have at least one sibling of the heart, you (and I) are rich.
Now for the new Word of the Week!
Hmmmmmm! I’ll admit to a teeny buzz-kill when I pulled the word OBEDIENCE. However, if history continues to repeat itself, I’ll find some nuggets in the week ahead for which I’ll end up being grateful.
Who are your sisters and brothers of the heart? And how have they impacted your life?
As I mention in the video this week, I pre-recorded this week’s WOW so I could completely unplug and be inspired on vacation.
I hope as you are reading this that you are surrounding yourself with inspiring things and people. I read somewhere that whatever you have in your home that doesn’t bring you joy should GO.
Imagine de-cluttering our lives of anything that doesn’t make us happy?
That’s not totally realistic since on a bad day, I feel like kicking some good things (and people) to the curb. And those less-than-inspiring parts of our lives are marvelous tools for growth, aren’t they?
But filling our lives with more that inspires us is a very good thing. Sunsets, John Russo’s singing, a good chat with my sister or one of my besties and that strong cup of coffee first thing in the morning? I’m smiling just thinking about them.
So getting back to life after vacation is always a bit jolting – and so is the new Word of the Week!:
Now, I’m not suggesting that we become those who look sideways at everyone and everything. (I’ve got my husband to do that for me!)
Maybe it’s simply a matter of a second opinion.
DISCERNMENT is a team sport.
May we call on reinforcements where necessary this week and make wise decisions; not ignoring our respective guts, but getting all the facts and insights at our disposal before taking a leap.