I’m learning that some lessons are like Groundhog’s Day. They don’t go away until they’ve done their work.
Have you hit your head against a familiar wall, time and time again?
Maybe it’s to stand up for yourself; embrace conflict and be assertive.
Perhaps your Achilles heel is to stop falling for the bad boys just because the chemistry rings your bell.
Or learning to say “No” to extra duties when your plate is completely full.
My Groundhog Day lesson? It always comes back to self-worth, ego, and the motivation for why I do what I do and want what I want.
Oh, my journey to Costa Rica settled many deep-rooted issues related to loving myself. There was no turning back from what was a uniquely healing experience. But, as life would have it, there are LAYERS of healing; layers of release; layers of understanding and, as was our Word of the Weeks, WISDOM.
When you feel less than, you have to produce MORE than.
Simple doesn’t cut it. Grand is required; success has to be super-sized.
Yes, I am a believer in abundance and that there’s plenty to go around, so yes, get me some! But lately there has been a shift to ask myself, “Why?”
Am I still trying to prove something to myself?
Or am I still that child seeking to finally win approval through my amazing performance?
Ugh. THAT performance word again.
Well, I’m letting it rise up and smack me (gently) in the head and heart, because sometimes things have to come up again and around another way before you get the richness of release.
Here’s what I do know: I am trying too hard when I’m stressed.
Some of the best gifts of my life had nothing to do with how hard I worked to make them happen.
I want more of THAT.
And, side note to myself (and to you, too, if it helps): Everything doesn’t have to happen TOMORROW.
I tend to feel quite sensitive to the passage of time, and find myself urgently attempting to fit everything in before I die.
Which is a lousy way to live. Today. In the now.
Because today is the only today you get.
So I’m thinking it is wise to walk away from the desperation of stress-fueled achievement (and taking a nice LONG weekend to visit my friend Anita in Jacksonville just to wiggle my toes in the sand and accomplish NOTHING for the next few days.)
Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!
More thoughts on WISDOM, and a brand new Word of the Weeks (WOW):
May none of our AWAKENINGS be rude ones…instead, may we sense the gentle nudge of SPIRIT and see with new eyes and a wide open 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.
Have you ever noticed how tension precedes release?
That’s probably why we shouldn’t freak out so much over stressful situations. They never last forever (though yes, it can FEEL like forever.)
Alternately, those moments in time where we sense liberty and benevolence from the universe? These, too, are fleeting little buggers.
In this week’s video, I talk about how completely sure I was that after my experience in Costa Rica, I would never feel tethered to the base feelings of life again. I was soaring! Floating!
And I was wrong.
Well, LIFE happens.
We don’t have the luxury (nor would we really want it) to escape to an island where other peoples’ drama can’t affect us; where the news reports can ‘t jolt us; where a bad tamale can’t give us indigestion.
Angst, upset, nausea and all the other feels are just part of the package of the human existence.
The key for me is what to DO with all those feels so they don’t bring me down for too long and I can get back to sweet release.
For me, the process involves sitting in my grandmother’s chair. I call it my thinking chair. Just the act of planting myself in that seat says, ‘It’s get real time, Brenda. Talk it out with yourself.”
And I do. And yes, I talk back.
I’ve learned that having regular conversations with my soul is not only not crazy, it helps keep the crazy at bay.
In these self-chats, I peel back the layers of falsehood that inevitably try to masquerade what’s REALLY going on.
Turns out, the Holy Spirit wasn’t just talking about my house.
My friend Anita joked with me that I’d come back from Costa Rica renouncing fine dining and eschewing my propensity for the Ritz Carlton, fake eyelashes and my tendencies for glamorous creature comforts. I emphatically countered that I was quite happy to savor the finer things in life and planned on continuing to do so. It’s how God made me. And, by the way, harrumph!
I protested too much.
Turns out, this week I was faced with an awareness that I had, indeed, become too focused on getting; that my psyche had been led down a path in which being “flush” equaled success. I bought the lie that I needed to “make up for lost time” and fill my coffers to ensure…that I was valid.
My circle only included people who could easily pick up the tab; who looked and sounded like me.
Then I met a man who has nothing. And I discovered that he is the richest person I know.
You’d never figure we’d make good friends. He is completely out of the mainstream and doesn’t even make small talk. He lives in senior affordable housing and has limited calling on his government-provided cell phone. We met in the airport on the way home from my Costa Rica trip, and I was struck by his jewelry, his colorful gypsy clothing, his self-possessed persona and aura of joy and peace.
Within moments of engaging in conversation, I discovered that he was a practicing Buddhist, and we engaged in a lovely conversation filled with the richness of spirit. I gave him my card, and he was kind enough to check that I made it home safely.
Over the course of just two weeks of texts and phone calls (limited, due to his limited minutes!) Roger Mayberry became an important person to me.
Then I got the call that he was in the hospital.
I visited my new friend and observed that within minutes of being admitted, he had charmed every person on his floor. Doctors, nurses, technicians, random passersby – they all couldn’t help but smile at his pure, childlike joy.
He says it himself, “I’m the richest poor man you’ll ever meet.”
When he first said that, I said, “Roger – stop defining yourself as a poor man!”
Yes, there is some truth to avoiding the sticky tape of speaking out words, for they have power.
However, it never occurred to me that being poor could ever be a good thing.
Stay with me on this, friends.
Roger is so not connected to the drumbeat of performance. He is not tethered to this life. He is an otherworldly creature; a student of the spirit who can talk and listen for hours…and you WANT to hear what he says. Further, when you speak, you feel HEARD.
Spending time with him has caused me to ask this question:
What ARE the true riches of life?
No, I’m not saying I’m taking a vow of poverty. However, I am conscious of a shift from the oh-so-seductive material world to the priceless beckoning of the Spirit.
These recent months have been, for me, devoted to not only self-discovery but also a quest for truth. Stripping away the veneer fear has built over the years has surprised me.
What a thing to realize that, at some point, I began to equate the car I drive and the bag I carry with my own self-worth.
Me! A self-professed spiritual person!
It broke my heart (in a good way) this week to see that I am being called to a new humility. Instead of the constant drumbeat to scale up and have more and better, I find myself drawn to a simpler life.
When I finally called it by name and acknowledged what was going on inside of me, I cried tears of release. Repentant is a turning from one thing to another. True repentance isn’t about beating yourself up; it’s simply an “Aha! I was wrong and now I can be right!”
This awakening to how I had veered on to a shallow path brought sweet release, because I know now I will not waste more time accumulating stuff.
The one with the most toys is NOT who wins.
People like Roger win. His bank account is overflowing where it matters most.
More on RELEASE and a beautiful new Word of the Week, coming right up:
By the way, the good news is Roger’s out of the hospital and on the mend.
Hooray! I intend to continue to plague him with questions and pick his brain and heart…all the while thanking him for shifting my view of life by his very existence.
This week, I want to ACCEPT people beyond face value. I want to ACCEPT what is and relax in the knowledge that the universe is unfolding exactly as it ought.
I ACCEPT that who I always thought I was may not be who I really am, and choose to release those old constructs born of fear and insecurity.
In my recent Toastmasters speech, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” I referred to the 80’s as my heyday of dance while acknowledging that my persona wasn’t a true reflection of Brenda.
The decade, for me, was all about image. Sky-high hair that defied gravity (thank you, Aqua Net) and four-inch Candies’ spike heels made me feel invincible when I entered the club. Combined with three layers of makeup and pronounced charcoal black-smudged raccoon eyes, I perfected my Philly tough-girl persona.
I wanted to look tough.
The victim of vicious bullying throughout my high school years, my reinvention intended to keep away those who would dare tread on my heart.
A dark haired Madonna, I looked like the Material Girl.
In truth, I was Like a Virgin.
The disconnect between that sassy chick on the dance floor, and the word-nerd, old-fashioned girl at my core led to a multitude of brief and failed romances.
The guys at the club dug the unattainable disco queen, but when the lights came on, they soon realized she was the kind of girl you take home to Mom. And skedaddled to the next conquest.
All those years of wishing and hoping someone would fall in love with the true ME, it never occurred to me to…well, BE me.
An exhausting and destructive pattern had been established. I went from the club girl Madonna to the church girl (aka Joyce Meyers or fill in your favorite Tammy Faye-ish) preacher.
DISCLAIMER: This is not to say I wasn’t sincere in my ministry, because I was. But the church became yet another stage on which to perform. Because of its toxic nature, on the rare occasions that I dared to allow my true self to emerge, the leaders brutally punished/counseled/scolded me.
Oh, and then I got married.
I think back to my wedding day and am so grateful that it happened. I always wanted the handsome man at the end of the aisle; a church full of people applauding my dream come true; the dance party scripted to my specifications.
I loved my wedding day.
Because of the toxic and backwards nature of the church, though, I rarely had alone time with my husband prior to the wedding. He often joked that our first “date” was the night we got engaged. And it wasn’t a joke.
We were two strangers who were crazy about each other and thought that would be enough to make it work.
And, to do so, I did what I do (or did) best. I performed the hell out of it.
A life-changing trip with my girlfriends in 2016 (and a mini-breakdown from emotional exhaustion – performing sucks the life out of you!) revealed that I was burning myself out while trying to be who everyone wanted me to be.
In the process, I had lost ME.
Mind you, if my performance-based approach to life had been working for me, I would have kept it up. It took 50+ years for me to realize that no matter how beautifully I performed, it didn’t make anyone else truly happy.
Least of all, me.
What follows is a bit vulgar and not language I normally use in my writings. To those who might be offended, I apologize in advance.
Concurrently, I’m not apologizing for using this photo. Because this is part of the TRUE me! I find this to be funny!:
I remember seeing this card and laughing out loud.
It’s true. Not so much the “F word” part, but the things I say and do today are far different from Brenda 1.0.
Discovering the true me – and the true you – is the quest of a lifetime. It takes honesty, bravery, and huge doses of unconditional self-love.
But this is my one shot to be Brenda Viola. For the first time since my early 20’s I finally have given myself permission to be her.
I hope you like her, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.
Sometimes I don’t like her!
But I always love her. And I hope you love the true YOU, too.
Parting thoughts on AUTHENTICITY and the new WOW, coming up!:
No one said that seeking to live a big life would be easy.
As I reflected on our Word of the Week, EXPANSIVENESS, so many of the memes that supported this theme spoke to the part of my heart that dreams of a limitless life.
A life where yes is the first response, not no.
A life where dreams are nurtured instead of dashed by negativity and where love can freely radiate from me, fueled by hope and effervescent belief.
This is who I am at my core. If I try to be anything else, it constrains me like an ill-fitting jacket.
As life slips into the years where every moment counts because only God knows how many I have left, I have chosen to surround myself with people whose energy gives life instead of taking my own.
How can you live a BIG, expansive life with weights around your ankles?
Oh, you can try…and almost die trying.
This is not to say that choosing to live big is easy but that choosing to be someone that you are not is much harder.
At some point you have to look at those shackles and decide to settle for their tether or to bravely cut ties and allow yourself to fly.
I used to think that such talk was selfish. Now I realize that taking care of me is long overdue and living my life to suit other peoples’ expectations is just another performance.
I don’t want to perform at living. I want to LIVE.
Which brings me to this week’s post, and the answer to the question “What’s going on with Brenda?”
Let me add this disclaimer: My choices are my own; they are not a reflection or judgement against anyone else. I refuse to stoke bitterness and judgement; I wish only love and happiness for everyone. Please know that my life decisions should not be viewed as a rejection or devaluing of another. Rather, they reflect me finally accepting and valuing MYSELF.
I have so many thoughts about our new WOW, let’s just jump right into it. And please forgive my momentary bursts into song.
It was just that kind of day:
Seriously gang, we’ve gotten the word RISK THREE TIMES since I started pulling a word of the week!
I have to say, too, that I always put the cards back in the bag sort of strategically (around the edges) because truthfully, I like getting NEW words.
So we make plans and God laughs.
And the universe is nudging.
I remember back in the 70’s I was hugely into roller skating. Every Saturday my Dad would drop me off for my beginner lesson followed by a “free skate” matinee. After the matinee an intermediate-level class was scheduled (They jumped! And spun!) that I LONGED to go to. My best friend, Chrissy Johnson was in that class, and on this particular Saturday I was staying through her super-cool kids class so I could go home with her for a sleepover that night.
I sat in one of the benches in the perimeter just WISHING I could be in the class with her.
After a few minutes passed, I got the brilliant idea that if the teachers could only see how Dorothy Hamill-ish I was (on wheels, not blades) they would surely stop everything, roll over to me and invite me to join in.
While those in the rink were practicing their turns and leaps, I began trying to do the same outside of the railing. I even had the hand movements down, flailing my arms in what I thought were artistic and inspired ways.
So I did a few jumps (a bit loudly) to show I wasn’t afraid of being airborne.
I positioned myself right in front of the windowed booth where the “DJ” and management were stationed and did a thrilling demonstration of an arched-back stop, directly blocking their entire view and ending with a head toss and blinding smile in their direction.
All that was missing was a “ta-da!” and wild applause.
As I waited for the inevitable “Where have you BEEN all our lives?” instead it was announced over the loudspeaker that if you were not a student in the intermediate class to please be seated as the perimeter was not intended for performances, which were distracting to the REAL skaters.
Okay, they didn’t say it exactly like that, but I got the point.
By now, how many of you are saying to yourself, “Where the heck is she going with this story?”
Well, I’ll tell ya.
It has occurred to me that much of my life I have been waiting to be DISCOVERED. Maybe you have, too.
Surely if we perform well enough, some benevolent soul will see what the world has been missing and give us a platform (or rink…or a stage with spotlights..or a raise…or permission to move…or a – well, fill in the blank for whatever you’ve been longing for).
What has struck me is that this is a very passive (aggressive), but weak approach to getting what you want out of life.
I don’t want OTHER people to hold the power for my destiny. Why should my sense of happiness and fulfillment be contingent on someone other than me believing in me?!
Instead of the theatrics or exhausting performances (which never got me much, how about you?) perhaps this RISK word is saying, “Um, why don’t YOU just go for what you want out of life?” Or (shockingly) just ask for it!
We fear putting ourselves out there because of the chance of rejection. But hearing the word no, last time I checked, wasn’t a fatal blow.
Had that nine-year-old girl risked it and just ASKED if she could participate in the class, who knows, they might have let me!
Or, they might have said no because of a very good reason.
Instead, my takeaway was that I just wasn’t good enough. Because in my little girl mind, had I been good enough they would have made an exception for me.
My 52-year old self knows how ridiculous that sounds. But if I transpose that experience into the present-day, I consider that some of my takeaways in life have been based on faulty premises; premises born of dancing around my desires because I was too afraid to claim them for my own and head squarely in their direction.
Even with this blogging venture, there has been this little part of me that has thought, “Maybe if Elizabeth Gilbert or Oprah would somehow see and like something I’ve written and share it with their respective 5 billion followers, I can…”
…I can what?
Hmmm…good question! After a moment’s fear about the answer, here goes:
I can fulfill my dream of encouraging people full-time, writing a book, speaking around the country about life lessons, helping people give themselves a break, make them laugh and in the process bring some joy into their lives.
Yep. That’s my dream. But I can’t pin my hopes on Liz or Oprah (though hey, ladies, if you’re out there…) riding in on a white Mercedes to make my dreams come true.
Here’s one thing I believe – our dreams are planted in our hearts from the time we are born. They are Divine. They were never deposited in our hearts to be a thorn or to frustrate us through life.
Your dreams, my dreams – they were meant to bloom.
So I say to all of us this week, don’t abdicate your dreams. Let’s not dance around our life’s vision.
Oh! And for some of you, please give yourselves permission to HAVE a dream…to want something. Whether it is your health, a husband, a new car or an artistic outlet…let it breathe this week.
Take the risk of admitting what you want. And with risk as our nudging WOW, maybe even ask for it.
One reader at a time, one day at a time, I’m practicing what I’m preaching.