Tag Archives: Heart

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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Niceville Opened My Heart

Niceville lived up to its name.

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.

My closing thoughts on openness:

https://youtu.be/yDSKcsOjiUY

A visit to Niceville will make even a toughened heart tender.

Have a beautiful couple of weeks!

Love,
Brenda

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Hard or Soft? The Choice is Ours

When TRUST has been broken, how do we avoid becoming hard and bitter?

I came face to face with this question this week as I suffered a disappointment regarding a new friendship.

Full disclosure, my friend was equally disappointed in me.

Two sides, neither willing to yield.

My stubbornness? Born of a newfound desire to not abdicate what I deem precious to make others’ comfortable.  To value my soul enough to give it voice and not dismiss my feelings is THE point of my current journey.

Perhaps as I find the balance and rhythm of my new life, I will be more willing to yield, but for now, it is critical that I not.

Here’s why: Because I know that in yielding that first important thing  can come a slippery slope of acquiescence; the path to losing myself again.

I refuse to.

And in my friend’s unwillingness to give my refusal space, there came a parting of the ways.

Here’s the kicker:  I have written about my carefulness to engage in new friendships.  When you have quality, beautiful people already in your life and you’re not needy, you have the luxury of being more discriminating about those whom you choose to spend time.

This person had checked off all the boxes that were important to me:  Depth, kindness, spirituality, humor, self-awareness…and I let them in.

Then, the great impasse.  The argument with no resolve.  The parting of the ways.

One side of me says, “Why even bother?  Who NEEDS this?!”

The other side knows that in each encounter are lessons to be learned.

That in the decision to “Get busy livin’ or get busy dyin'” comes the promise of disappointment,  hope, pain, joy – the entire kaleidoscope of feelings.

I’d rather live and feel…even if the feelings are sad for a season.

So back to the question, “How do you avoid becoming HARD?”

The freshness of the disappointment was wrapped in a sense of innocence lost.  Could I ever be so willing and open with someone new?  Had I lost my capacity to try again? Would I become hard – or stay soft?

The answer sank into my heart and was a soothing balm to my soul:

“You stay soft when you put your trust in God, not in people.”

If I put my trust in people, I will always be disappointed.  Because they are human!  They are as flawed as I am.  But to accept that the Universe is unfolding exactly as it ought; that some relationships are just for a season and that there are rich lessons to be gleaned from each one?  That comforts  me enough to put myself out there again.  And again.

Then I hear the words to Kesha’s song “Rainbow”: “What’s left of my heart’s still made of gold…”

But in the dark, I realized this life is short
And deep down, I’m still a child
Playful eyes, wide and wild
I can’t lose hope, what’s left of my heart’s still made of gold

You’ll find a rainbow, rainbow, baby
Trust me, I know life is scary
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and play along with me tonight
You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you
Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you
But just put those colors on, girl
Come and paint the world with me tonight.

You can hear it here:

The rainbow was God’s promise that he would never send another flood that would destroy the world.  Yes, there are floods…but they will not destroy you.

Keep living, my friends.  Take the hits – and stay soft.  What’s left of your heart’s still made of gold.

And now, my video take on the word TRUST and a new Word of the Week:

https://youtu.be/JrN1kMJoUns

Hmmmm….Sister/Brotherhood was a call to stop being lone rangers in life.  And now SUPPORT?

When we feel overwhelmed this week, let’s continue to reach out and get the support we need.  (Or, when we see a need, let’s jump in and be a support!)

Have a beautiful week –

Brenda

 

 

 

 

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Sisters and Brothers from Another Mother (and the New WOW)

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?

xoxoxox

Brenda

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