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:
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?
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!
My friend Roseann has said for years that it’s the little things, like sharing dinner at the table with her husband, Mike, that make her life rich.
This view of life never resonated with me. For 14 years, I ate by myself on the couch while we each “did our own thing.”
I became the queen of the grand gesture.
The trip to Normandy…the lavish birthday parties…the Tag Heuer watch.
To me, it was a “go big or go home” approach to life. Little? Ha! That’s for losers.
Now that I look through the lens of lessons learned, I see that my grand gestures were desperate attempts to bring meaning and satisfaction to a life lacking in what mattered most.
Tenderness. Connection. Laughter.
My grand (and expensive) strokes were also my stabs and finally doing the great, big thing that would make my life WORK.
Do you remember when old cars took some work to “turn over” on a cold winter morning? You’d turn the key and pump the gas; the car gasping for life…
…yes, that’s how I see many of the years in my rear view window.
This is not a post about regret, however! No, no, no! This is a post about finally seeing the light!
It’s about really and truly and finally understanding that no external thing could fix something wrong on the INSIDE.
That no grand or lavish gesture can evoke love that isn’t there already. And that nothing you do can make other people happy if they choose to be miserable.
And most of all, if you are not happy, no one else and nothing else can make your motor run.
Finding peace within my heart and falling in love with ME has changed everything.
I beat this drum with everyone now, and I’m sure it is a bit annoying.
But can you really say that you’ve settled into a full-blown love affair with yourself?
Can you boldly say, “I’m wonderful!”
When you think of yourself, is it with the tenderness that you would offer an innocent baby?
This seismic shift changed everything for me. It took a trek to Costa Rica and a visit with a shaman to get there, but man was it worth the journey.
Now friends, you don’t have to go to Costa Rica or take a psycho-spiritual journey to get there, but whatever it takes, please get there!
Oh please forgive yourself! Oh please stop regretting the past! Oh please…because life is too short to put a band-aid on and we were never meant to be the walking wounded.
How tragic to get to the end of our days (and gee, we don’t know if that will be TOMORROW!) and consider that we wasted it all being unhappy and that unhappiness served NO purpose.
And how tragic to numb ourselves or empty our bank accounts in the attempt to compensate for a broken heart we never forgave.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of picking up Shasta for a play date. Mark and I wandered around until we ran into an arts and crafts festival. We meandered hand in hand. I bought a cheap anklet, we sampled kettle corn and Shasta was loved on by every passerby.
And I said to myself, “What a wonderful world.”
Louie Armstrong, I get it! Roseann, I get it!
In a lifetime of talk about having an expansive life, I realize just how BIG little is.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE sniffing the air at any Ritz-Carlton. I plan to visit Greece and publish a few books. And birthdays? Puh-leeze! I love an excuse to party plan!
But those things will all be the icing on a cake that is sweet already. And I wish the same for you, too.
Here are my closing thoughts on EXPANSIVENESS and a brand-new, never before received Word of the Weeks!
It’s a week to speak up! (And to listen…)
May these last two weeks of February bring riches to your heart.
For our entire lives, we’ve been working on a masterpiece.
We may not call ourselves creative and a paintbrush may never have graced our hands – still, we are artists.
On my 4+ hour drive to Jacksonville to spend Thanksgiving with my friend Anita and her family, I had good company. Joining me on the open road was the audio book of Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Voice of Knowledge.” A new friend had shared with me that Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements” deeply affected his life for good. He highly recommended the trilogy of Toltec Wisdom Books.
The word “Toltec” means “artist of the spirit.” In the Toltec tradition, every human is an artist, and the supreme art is the expression of the beauty of our spirit. To consider that we are artists (rather than mere humans), makes us creators – just like the One Who created us.
From page 47 of The Voice of Knowledge:
How do we live our life? This is our art; the art of living.
There are two kinds of artists. Those who create their story without awareness, and those recover awareness and create their story with truth and with love.
To think that I – that WE – hold the paintbrush to our lives is an awesome realization. Is there something that doesn’t fit into our vision of truth and love? Paint over it. Create something new. We have the power to do this.
We were BORN to write our own story and have everything we need to make it a work of art. Yes, people will come along who will try to impose on us what THEY think our lives should look like.
When I handed over the paintbrush to other people, I became something other than the authentic Brenda.
It has taken many years to get her back. As the song goes, “Reunited and It feels SO good!
This passage from page 68 excited my spirit so much I wanted to share it with you:
You are the only one who can change your story, and you do this by changing your relationship with yourself.
Every time you change the main character in your story, just like magic the whole story starts to change in order to adapt to the new main character.
I think of one of my favorite movies of all time, Frequency, in which the main character is able to connect to his long-deceased Father through a miraculous ham radio. At one point he mentions that “cigarettes will kill, you Dad…” as an off-handed comment.
Long story short, that suggestion led to a decision by his Father that resulted in him changing the course of his life…and his death. The script was rewritten.
I consider my decision four years ago to stop drinking. After years of wrestling with, “Do I have a problem?” I heard clearly in my spirit that if I kept it up, I would die prematurely. When tempted to sip a Cosmopolitan, I have reminded myself of that revelation to keep me from turning back.
The clarity of sobriety has graced me with so many gifts; most importantly, a clearness about what I want my life to be and who I want Brenda to be. It has afforded me a newfound ability to call a lie a lie and step away from pretense and performance. Being clear gave me the courage to walk away from those things that no longer “fit” the true me…and the health in mind, body and spirit to enjoy a new way of living.
It was the first domino in a series that led to removing Zoloft from my life, journeying to Costa Rica to get back in touch with my wounded soul and begin this journey to wholeness.
What a ripple effect!
I’m sure there will yet be many more changes to the main character of my story, but my point in writing is to encourage YOU to take that paintbrush and adjust your masterpiece accordingly.
Paint your beautiful life with broad strokes of love and truth, my friends.
And what a great word to follow up these thoughts on CREATIVITY:
What a wonderful assignment for all of us! It is NEVER too late to be who you “might have been.”
I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday to be celebrated year-round…and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for this life I get to live (and create!). I’m so blessed to share it with you.
For many years I struggled with the concept of success and “getting what’s mine.”
For much of my 20’s and 30’s, I enviously observed other people achieving results, living exciting lives full of travel and material wealth and I longed for the same.
It seemed that there was a glass partition that I just couldn’t break through, keeping me from accessing life from the driver’s seat of the limo. This wasn’t a question in the back of my mind – it was in the FOREFRONT: “Why can’t I connect the dots? What am I missing?”
For as long as I’ve been me, I’ve wanted to live life to the fullest. Along the way, I got sidetracked and convinced myself that I could settle into mediocrity and still be happy.
Here’s the thing: the definition of mediocre is different for everyone. My idea of living high might be settling for you (and vice versa).
At our core, though, we know what we are capable of and what will make us fulfilled. If we fall short, the question “Why?” is a worthy one.
One day I had my breakthrough. The time I actually got an ANSWER to the question was on an ordinary day as I was driving home from work.
In my spirit, I heard, “You don’t really believe that there’s plenty to go around. You believe in the idea of abundance, but not as a reality for YOU. Do you truly believe that there is unlimited success, wealth, potential, blessing, resources available to you? Then start acting like it.”
My prayer life changed. I started THANKING God for provision. I started EXPECTING favor.
And my life took a major shift from scarcity to abundance – not just materially, but mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Louis Vuitton handbags showed up in the mail (thank you, Shirlee.) I became an occasional guest at the Ritz-Carlton (thanks to my fairy godmother and father – you know who you are).
Yes, kindness and generosity flowed to me from amazing people.
And I even started to manifest some of my own miracles. Speaking engagements and freelance gigs flowed to me, including travel to places I’d always dreamed of going.
But the shining example of my new way of living life abundantly was my beautiful home in Sarasota. I’ve told you the story before, but it always held up as a high-water mark of proof that God loved me and wanted to give me the desires of my heart.
I wanted to live there forever. I would proclaim to anyone, “This is my dream house. I’ll spend the rest of my life here.”
Until faced with the decision to surrender it.
There was a critical point where I had to choose: Should I stay in the house of my dreams…or start living the LIFE of my dreams?
At my core I know that no matter how beautiful the home or breathtaking the pool and jacuzzi, I had no peace.
I once read a quote (paraphrased), “Your net worth will never be greater than your self-worth.” – Robin Sharma
Here’s a good one, too:
Once I “got” the lesson about abundance, the second round of revelation was wrapped around the question, “Would my STUFF define me?”
What we have can have US; it can lock us up in a prison (a very comfortable one, mind you), but it can suppress what should be an irrepressible spirit.
This is not to say that I have since renounced abundance. Hell no! Remember, I’m the girl who wore her false eyelashes to a spartan retreat in Costa Rica and who goes to the lobby of the RItz Carlton just to sniff it. (Really, it smells divine.)
But Brenda 2.0 is not beholden to any of the trappings of this life. Yes, they can be fun and the icing on the cake…but the cake is the peace in my heart, the love I have for myself and the respect I now give my tender soul.
I speak more about this in my closing thoughts on SURRENDER:
Here is what is so amazing and cool and miraculous about our new, never before received WOW, release: When I stood in those rushing waters in Costa Rica, I asked for a RELEASE of creativity. I asked for my laughter to be unleashed. (And a few other private things that also go along with this wonderful word.)
My friends, perhaps the universe is saying that on the other side of our surrender; if we’re willing to let go of what has held us captive; if we relinquish your fears and let the white flag wave on the life we THOUGHT was our dream come true – what awaits us all is RELEASE.
Woo-hoo! I’m doing a happy dance for all of us.
So now that I’ve told you mine, please tell me about your surrenders and releases. It makes this journey together all the more wonderful to share them.
Life is replete with rather dull moments; the comfortable hum-drum of morning coffee, work, gym, food – rinse and repeat.
Suddenly, epic moments arise when a portal opens in the universe. You can either muster up the courage to walk through or stand by, indecisively…and watch the window of opportunity close.
These moments are not so gentle, yet are still a part of the flow of life.
So how do you know if you should go with the flow and take the risk?
There’s an uncanny peace to the flow of life.
You’re not trying to make it happen; you aren’t freaked out or driven by it; yes, there are butterflies associated with the risk, but they are not born of desperation.
There is a quiet knowing within you that urges you forward.
Someday soon I will share what is happening in my own life; it’s still too fresh and raw to comment on because it doesn’t just involve me and I respect the privacy of those who are also involved.
But I liken it to the parting of the Red Sea.
It has been said that the waters didn’t part for Moses and the children of Israel to walk through until Moses took that first step of faith into the water.
The flow of life and the promise of his God was that he would lead the children of Israel into the promised land. He didn’t know how they would cross that sea, but he knew deep inside that the One who had promised would make a way.
So, risky as it was, he took that first step.
Swoosh! (Have you ever seen the movie that shows how the sea divided into water walls on the left and right? Powerful stuff.)
I wonder if some of the crew marveled at this wonder but said, “No way. I’m not walking through that!”
And who could blame them?
On the other hand, Pharaoh was checking out Moses and those who fled with a huge, “How DARE they!”
They dared, because they knew a better life awaited them – and the risk to remain was more painful than the risk to go.
Going with the flow of life is an act of obedience. It’s a decision to stop trying to shove a square peg in a round hole.
And it is entirely personal.
What is unconscionable to you may be someone else’s passport to freedom.
Judge not, lest you be judged.
If you can imagine your life happy WITHOUT going for it, don’t.
If you can only imagine yourself tormented by “What ifs” if you don’t take that step, please, take the path of peace and that first step. Watch the waters miraculously part.
Here’s my pre-recorded recollection of a professional risk that landed me in the emergency room and the new Word of the Week:
I sent this card recently to some key people:
There’s nothing like the people who rise up and support you when you need it most. Let love in this week – and if tempted to judge, consider that supporting a friend doesn’t have to mean you agree with them.
Every few months I treat myself to a little help collecting Shasta’s furballs and removing toothpaste splatters from the bathroom mirror.
It’s a splurge, but so helpful – and along the way, I met Ashley.
I don’t know her last name; she’s in my phone as “Ashley Cleaner” and I found her on Thumbtack.com when I moved to Florida. Her ratings were high, her prices were low and from the minute I met her, I liked her.
A twenty-something with the kind of natural beauty that doesn’t require makeup, she was here the day before we moved in to get us ready for the arrival of boxes and furniture. Sweet and kind (and boy, did she get that stainless steel to shine!)
As the months went on and my house became more of a home, we’d chat about life – and mostly, she talked about her little girl. We trusted Ashley and felt comfortable giving her free reign of the house, knowing she was a good person and would do right by us.
She was scheduled to come on Friday morning at 8:30 AM. When 9:00 came and went, I called. Her little girl was under the weather; she had tried to contact me…and asked if she could reschedule for the following week.
No problem! Hey, the important thing was being there for her little girl. We set a date for Monday (it is Monday as I write this) and went about our respective weekends.
When 8:30 became 9:30 today, I texted her, “Hey, are you coming?”
What I received back has left me numb yet brokenhearted; stunned and heartsick. Her mother texted me back: “Ashley was killed by a drunk driver this weekend…”
Her little girl was still under the weather, or she would likely have been in the car with her. The kids were home with dad while Ashley went out to the grocery store. And she never made it home.
A lovely life, snuffed out because someone felt invincible after some cocktails. A little girl, left to grow up without her Mommy…and a Dad, left to raise babies while dealing with his own devastating grief.
Life is precious. Life is precious. Life is precious.
Our tomorrows are not promised.
On Sunday after Duane and I went to our favorite diner, we stopped to pick up ink cartridges at Staples. The light turned green and, thankfully, Duane looked left before putting his foot on the gas. A car careened through the red light; had he not looked, it would surely have been the end of us.
My heart pounded out of my chest. Close calls are frightening…but the text I received today was even more jolting.
Hug your babies; kiss your husband; call your best friend; snuggle with your pet. Look both ways. Don’t drink and drive. Say “I love you.”
I resolve, yet again, not to sweat the small stuff. I have breath, I have life , I have love to give and receive – THAT is what matters.
Thank you for listening; it has helped me to write this.
When I find out any more details, I will pass them along to you in the hope that there is some small way to help this grieving family.