Tag Archives: openness

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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Saying Goodbye to What Doesn’t Serve You

Saying goodbye is never easy. I’m getting on a plane this week and know that every minute of every day, I’m going to miss my Mark, my bed, my morning coffee (made MY way) and my regular rhythm of life.

I will be moving soon (that’s ANOTHER blog post for another day) and I realize that pieces of furniture I’ve LOVED just don’t fit into the new place, so I have to say goodbye.

And my closet? It’s still got that gown from 20 years ago that PERHAPS my thigh could get into, but for pure nostalgia’s sake, I haven’t the wherewithal to say goodbye to it.

DISCLAIMER: I am DELIGHTED that I didn’t say goodbye to my black leather skirt from 2002. Because for the first time since then, I can wear it again! (Go me!)

Then there are the deep and profound goodbyes that are the signposts of moving on; growing into yourself – and settling into your own self worth.

I posted this meme this week and it was widely shared, but one comment struck me: “Easier said than done.”

No one said it would be easy.

Likely, this “getting rid of what doesn’t make you happy” kind of goodbye will rip your guts out. It will leave you heaving in sobs on the floor. It will cause you to question your sanity.

The comfortable ditch of misery will try to call you back – or at least call your judgment into question.

Seeming friends will call you selfish, or worse, cruel for saying goodbye.

Religious types will muse about your departure with head shakes and concerns about fulfilling your holy calling.

Drinking buddies will say, “You don’t have a problem! One glass won’t hurt…”

But you know you must go.

Whether it is a relationship, or a church, or a job, or anything with which (or whom) you have been entangled, there is a breaking point. And you know, for your own sanity; for your well being; for any hope of having a life of peace and joy, you MUST sever this tie.

Some of you are nodding your heads. You’ve been there and come out the other side. I applaud your bravery.

Some of you are teetering on the edge of the diving board, looking that long way down and terrified of jumping.

I get it.

On the three biggest goodbye decisions of my life I teetered for YEARS. I talked myself out of cutting bait because I kept assuming I was wrong; that I was the problem. So I kept working on me.

That’s not a bad thing. In all that working on me, I learned some great things and grew tremendously. (INSERT PRIVATE JOKE: My friend Cindy and I have coined a phrase, “I learned me something…” when we have an aha moment. It is horrible grammar but makes us giggle.)

There came a point where it became pointless to keep working on me.

The boat only goes around in circles if you’re the only one rowing.

Instead, it was time to do something FOR me.

Leaving is hard. But living a life that is unhappy is harder.

In every leaving, there is a rebirth.

You get to create the life you really want…if you are willing to say goodbye to that which no longer serves you.

More on this topic from our Word of the Week, “PURIFICATION” – and a brand new word to sink into for two more weeks:

I’m hopin’…that you’re open.

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Jumping, Writing, Fighting Malaise and Two WOWs

When my spirits are low, I can’t jump at Zumba.

I’m just made that way.

I remember distinctly when I got into a screaming, knockdown fight with one of my best friends (now several years ago but still fresh in my mind.)

Such conflicts, especially with my friends, aren’t the norm and totally rendered me off-kilter. So much so that even when I went to Zumba class, I couldn’t wiggle or shimmy, let alone jump. A weight of unseen gravity was like a ball and chain around my heart.

This went on for a couple of weeks until we had a true kiss and make-up reconnection.

And then I could jump again.

Actually, not only could I jump, I felt like Tigger.

Oh the freedom that comes from conflict resolution!  And the joy of reconciliation?  It’s better than winning the lottery.

I say THAT to say this:

The events of recent weeks – and it began in Orlando with the shootings at Pulse Nightclub – heightened racial tensions, the disheartening political landscape, police officers murdered in Dallas…and just this past week, Nice, France – well, I felt a sadness; a hopelessness that perhaps some of you have felt.

This crab (my astrological sign is Cancer) tends to retreat when her heart is heavy.  And just like my inability to jump, I couldn’t type a blog post last week.

First one I’ve ever missed since I started.

I was going to blame it on technical difficulties, but since we’re all about being honest with each other, I couldn’t pass it off that way.

There are no pithy quotes or simple solutions to these perilous times in which we live.

On the theme of WILLINGNESS and last week’s FLEXIBILITY, I have been working at not judging and hearing all sides of an argument.

And depending on who I’m listening to, I can be persuaded.

Is anyone else out there like this?

For my mental and spiritual health, I can’t keep on focusing on what I can’t change.  All I can do is what I can do.  And though there’s still a good part of me that wants to hole up in my shell and ask you all to wake me up when things are better…

…that’s not gonna help anyone.  Least of all, myself.

So I will plow ahead (and so will you) and know that these were recorded when a little bit of sun shone through the clouds (because not only can’t I write when I’m sad, I’m also pretty silent).  And don’t want to wear makeup.

To catch you up, here’s last week’s WORD:

And here’s THIS week’s, which is remarkable:

We’ve been at this quite a while, and to get three consecutive words that say pretty much the same thing?

I know there is a message here that is taking its sweet time to penetrate my heart.

I suppose I should be OPEN to it taking as long as needed.

But one thing I’m going to work on this week is being open to receive.  (Since I feel a bit unable to give, it’s not a stretch to make that my focus.)

I’m open to receiving all sorts of love this week.  Feel free to send some my way!

I know, I know.  The best time to GIVE is when you feel like ya got nuttin’.

So I’ll try some of that, too.

What are you hearing in these words WILLINGNESS, FLEXIBILITY, OPENNESS?

Because maybe you have an insight we ALL could use.

xoxoxox

Brenda

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Bad Hair vs. Dancing in the Rain

These WOWs (Words of the Week) truly challenge me, because when I pray and ask I really BELIEVE that the answer is something I need to apply in order to grow as a person.

To provide context so you know where I’m coming from, my former life was bathed in a toxic cocktail of self-criticism and abuse masqueraded as personal growth. Higher levels of spirituality were dangled in front of me like a carrot by others (whose ideas about my shortcomings were used to torment and control me.)  So happy was I to eventually be free from the scrutiny, I took a  sabbatical for almost a decade and declared (to myself) – ENOUGH!

“If I never change another thing about me, I’m going to love myself and start enjoying life.”

And I did! And I do!

But something happened along the way and, I realized I still yearned to grow. Now it’s a gentle, self-motivated and healthy exercise that serves to make my life happier and more fulfilled. I say all this to affirm:

My hope is that none of you reading my exhortations beat yourself up with criticisms and judgments but are rather inspired to bloom, like when the sun kisses a budding flower.

Lots of preamble to get to my personal experience with WILLINGNESS this week.

My husband surprised me by being willing to go to an oudoor concert featuring my favorite funky dance tunes. He’s not a guy who likes to dance, but he knows I am happy to boogie in my beach chair and sing along. So we did!

Finding a spot on the grass with hundreds of other Sarasotians on the grounds of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, the sun began to set on our water view. The sounds of Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” had me shimmying in my seat.

And then the clouds descended. And the sprinkles of rain turned into a steady stream, causing me to pick up my chair and seek the nearest shelter.

To my surprise, Duane stayed put.  At any moment I expected him to say, “Let’s get out of here.” Instead, he turned to me and beckoned me back to our spot on the grass. “It’s just a little rain.”

I had a momentary pause. My cute little tie-dyed sundress would get soaked, and my hair? I could already feel it expanding into Roseanne Roseannadanna territory.

And I literally asked myself,  “Are you willing?”

Out into the rain I went, bouncing to Uptown Funk and boogie-ing with abandon as my look went south.

But my heart soared. Especially when they broke into Marvin Gaye and the man I said “I do” to stood up and wrapped me into a slow dance as we were pelted by raindrops.

I would have missed all of this if I wasn’t willing:  IMG_1185

It doesn’t have to be a huge, life-altering willingness to tip your life into the happy zone. Just a decision to replace the customary “No” with a “Why not?”

Like when I went to Zumba and realized, “Oh no. New teacher. She’s Ariana Grande’s twin and I will be hopelessly inept for the next hour.”  Normally, I’d use this as an excuse to skip class and head to Starbuck’s for an iced skinny café mocha grande.

Instead, I asked myself, “Are you willing?”

Fifteen minutes later, I was deep into Fireball (and Uptown Funk, again!) and smiling. None of us knew the steps. And it didn’t matter. We were working up a sweat (and working off last night’s ravioli.)

I wonder what other treasures WILLINGNESS has in store this week?

My wish for you is like the song.  If you have the chance to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance.

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