Month: February 2016

Hindsight: Look Before You Leap

Yesterday was leap day. Not spring forward – which is just around the corner when we change our clocks – but the one extra day we have on the calendar every four years. Since it won’t come around again until 2020, I want to back up to yesterday just for a minute.

For all practical purposes, having one extra day on the calendar every four years matters relative to the earth’s rotation around the sun and the exact amount of time that actually takes. Leap day buys time for the seasonal calendar to stay steady over the course of a century.

I enjoy leap day for its metaphorical etymology. Leaping. As in, look before you leap. These words have a lot of meaning after I spent leap day feeling disappointed in some of my own leaps.

We can go to the store, buy a top, change our mind, and return it. We can return unopened food to the grocery or meals we don’t like in a restaurant. The return-policy scale edges up, electronics – sometimes. A car – maybe. But how about a decision? We can’t return a decision.

Do we make the best decisions we can at the time of making them? Sometimes, but not always. It’s those times when we may not look before we leap that hurt us. Whether we don’t think things through, or feel pressure, or just want be done with something, that leap can have consequences.

I have made a lot of decisions in my life with the intention to find relief. Relief is a big deal when life is difficult, complicated, when circumstances are unbearable, we are at our wits end, or when we just don’t know what to do. So we react. If our decision then feels regrettable, it’s easy to beat ourselves up.

Why did we do-think-say-decide that…I should have known better…now I’ve got to figure out what to do all over again…re-think my direction…adjust my periscope.

Sure, this is just part of life’s journey. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or feels good even though feeling good was the original goal when leaping.

I recently drove by my former forever house that is a couple of hours away in the neighboring state. I loved that house. Deciding to buy it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was proud of it, and knew that no matter what, I had something that mattered for my children, and for me.

But I didn’t live there forever, just three years. Three glorious, wonderful years that were snatched away by my husband-at-the time’s circumstances. We sold the house and moved for his job, now one of biggest mistakes I have ever made.

Yes, it was just a house. But it wasn’t just a house, it was part of me. We can tell ourselves all kinds of things to make our decisions more palatable, soften regrets, fuzz the perspective, dilute the reality, or try to push the feelings aside. But when a decision comes back to haunt us, “I made the best decision at the time” is not always a soothing elixir.

We can’t truly jump back to yesterday. I always wonder what my life would look like today if I had not sold my house – leapt – in that moment out of haste, fear, and trying to meet someone else’s needs, which then changed my life, and my children’s, forever.

There’s no class that teaches us how to look before we leap. But there’s a day that can remind us to slow down. The earth will still be spinning tomorrow, why not take some time on the edge.

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It’s Never Too Late for a Fairy Tale

Oh no. I missed National Tell A Fairy Tale Day. It was three days ago. This feels like a big deal to me, given my brand is centered around the whole fairy tale concept. It was also National Pistachio Day, which is probably quite valuable to the players over at getcrackin.com.

I see national blah blah blah day on Facebook posts almost every day. Turns out there’s actually a website called National Day Calendar that literally finds important trivial facts about each day and recognizes them, turning them into national blah blah blah day. Their hashtag is #CelebrateEveryDay. I get that. Why not find a reason to celebrate something every day, that’s the power of gratitude at its best.

I checked out the story behind National Tell A Fairy Tale Day and learned some interesting facts.

einstein fairy talesFairy tales are oral histories, myths, and legends retold around the fire or by traveling storytellers, with the intention to teach a lesson, especially to children. They were often grim and gruesome, and liken to ghost stories around the fire today.

fairy tale book

However, since there is always some truth in fiction, fairy tales can be based on the lives of real people. (Ahem. Myself included.)

Turns out Snow White is really Margarete von Waldeck, daughter of the 16th century Count of Waldeck. The dwarfs in the tale were actually children who worked the mines at the time since adults could not fit in the tunnels. But interestingly, Margarete truly did have a stepmother who sent her away and she did fall in love with a prince and she did die mysteriously before she could live happily ever after. Hmmm.

grimmsJakob and Wilhelm Grimm collected allegedly true stories like that of Margarete von Waldeck, and published them in their own book in 1812, one not intended for children. Rumplestiltskin may have been a real nomad who went by different names throughout Europe, and the three little pigs may be three 14th century Jewish men. This tale has been studied by Jewish scholars for centuries.  hans christian anderson

Preferring a lighter tone, in 1829 Hans Christian Anderson changed the grim Grimm fairy tale perspective by publishing the happily-ever-after stories we revere today.

Who doesn’t like a good fairy tale. They are timeless, magical stories containing fantastical forces such as fairies, wizards and goblins, designed to mislead or trick people, and having improbable events that often lead to a happy ending.

fairy tale

It’s no mystery that I believe in fairy tales, magic wands, sparkly dust, and happy endings, despite my own life’s gruesome and grim. Sir Husband, he does too. Throw in a few cracked nuts and you’ve got quite a good read.

Once upon a time…blah blah blah.

ps. Happy National Leap Day.

 

The Image Captures the Words

A Man’s Virtue Is Not Measured By His Chickens

Another round of chicken-sitting has passed. Sir Husband never thought he would be the caretaker of people’s farm animals while they travelled – dragging him out of bed with the rooster’s crow, and pulling him from the dinner table when the sun begins to set.

ImageIt’s a manageable – even enjoyable – task, he unlocks the coop at dawn, they file out with an unspoken “thank you,” and start to peck around. He puts down their feed, freshens their water, collects the day’s eggs then heads out to begin his own day. At dusk they file back into their house, and the chicken man goes back to lock the door.

Word is getting out that he’s the chicken man. He’s more of a whisperer of sorts, and finds it curious that this is a calling – but not one he called on his own. He kindly tends to the farm while the farmers enjoy time away, and his heart likes paying it forward. But he also wants to soar in his true purpose, one that pays well, and pays him back.

Sir Husband is an incredibly talented, valuable human. But his virtues often go unnoticed. Not by the chickens or their rightful owners, but in his daily job. It’s not not uncommon in the media industry, or many others I assume. Regardless of our virtues, it’s the mindset of the powers-that-be that make or break our career and future thus impacting our daily life.

We have to believe his fate and fortune await, he has a small but sweet spotlight on the job of his dreams. He’s a multimedia contractor for a prestigious university, where he’d like to settle permanently. It’s been a quiet, part-time mainstay for the last couple of years, but it’s time that he claim his destiny and we keep hoping that now is the time. It must not be though, which we keep learning with massive disappointment.

He’s ready for the stars to align, he believes with heart and tries with spirit. But it’s easy to get bogged down by rote circumstances, or ruts, or unplanned detours.  Add an unfulfilling job and a financial struggle, it’s hard to get out of the funk. The world needs what we all have to offer, it’s just trusting our dreams and desires will happen, and allowing the details to unfold.

So he hits the ball day in and day out, hoping this time he will hit the home run. The field is lined with both chickens and soul, but he deserves the prime time show. I sit on the sidelines and cheer him on, with lots of blown kisses from the front row. But I wonder about my role too. Is it just sitting there watching and waiting? I’m as discouraged as he is, and feel some responsibility helping his dreams come true.

As far as the chickens are concerned, I stay outside the fence. But I enjoy seeing the chicken man lovingly care for these creatures whose purpose is easily met. I carefully take their eggs from his hands, the cracked and broken ones too. Life is sustained by the small things, and tending to the farm.

 

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How Do You Protect Your Identity If You Don’t Even Know What It Is?

computer timeI wasn’t expecting a rise-n-shine email from Skype alerting me that my account password was changed. Uh oh. I have only used Skype once and that was more than five years ago. Hacked? Now what?

If you did not authorize this change, please contact Skype customer service by logging on and clicking the ‘contact us’ link.

Of course I couldn’t log on, my password had been changed – by someone else. I was nervous. There’s not a whole lot of cyber safety these days, and phishing messages look quite real. What should I do? I tried to get to Skype customer service without logging in, but they’ve got ‘contact us’ on lockdown – no phone number, no email, no way to reach them without signing in to your account. This was not boding well.

Frustrated and blood pressure rising, I clicked ‘forgot my password’ and received a code via email. I logged in, changed my password and headed right to the customer service link.

Suspect fraudulent activity on your account? Click here.

Ah, there’s hope, I will provide the information then close my account. But the questions to verify my identity were crazy, and I could not answer most of them. Exact month, day and year I opened my account…type of computer used…first five (YES FIVE) people I Skyped with their specific Skype names? You’ve got to be kidding me.

I tried, but I didn’t know the answers to some of the questions that pertain to a lifetime ago. Since then I remarried, moved six times, even to another state, changed email addresses, had health scares, and that’s not the half of it. A lot can happen in five years. The exact day I signed up and the names of the people I Skyped? I didn’t even Skype five people, let alone remember their names.

How do you protect your identity if you don’t even know what it is?

skype guideI finally just sent in the form with what I hoped was the right information, along with a message explaining the dilemma in the little box that allows 500 characters. Within minutes I received an email.

We are sorry to learn your account has been compromised, but unfortunately we cannot verify your identity with the information you provided. To proceed please fill out the verification form again.

Two days, six forms and 28 emails later, Skype still refused to address the fraud alert.

We understand how frustrating this must be, but since we cannot verify your identity we cannot address the issue. 

Did I mention my blood pressure was rising? It got to the point of anger and tears. Life is hectic enough as it is, the last thing I need is to be hacked without help to get it resolved.

I logged on one more time and decided to do a live chat. I didn’t have much hope but had to give it a try. What is your new password? she asked, to verify your account. SkypeIsHorrible I typed. Now please delete the account! I don’t understand why Skype doesn’t give a hoot about fraud.

It took the better part of an hour, but the matter was finally resolved. She assured me my account was now closed, although that takes a full 30 days.

It’s not the most settling thing to know you’re at risk in the world, but learning you’re all alone if you’ve been hacked is even more alarming. The moral beyond user beware? Always remember who you are, your life may one day depend on it.

skype vintage

Everybody says it, Let go. Just let go. Easier said than done.

let it go meme

When stuff in our life hangs on – from way in the past or even the present – and we’re tired of being easily triggered, why don’t we just let it go? Seriously. Why not just forget about it or them and move forward? Can’t? Why? Because what happened hurts, or the consequences are too much, or the situation just won’t change?

Yesterday I mused about how we tend to hang on, to whatever it is that lingers inside our psyches and souls, and remains a part of our life. Do you know how many years I have heard the words, let it go, just let it all go?  Don’t you think I would if I could? Hanging on to b.s. sucks, I’ve got the battle wounds to prove it. So I’m going to attempt to finally let go by sharing ‘how to’ in this post.

First, identify exactly what the IT is, in the simplified phrase let it go. Whatever it is, it’s usually deep in the bones, might be tricky to simply “let go.”

That’s okay. Some things are easy to ditch, and there are plenty of feelings and memories stored that opt out of being released. People who hurt us, unresolved issues, situations without closure, ongoing debris – over time these shape our perspective, bringing on stress, anger, grief and unhealthy cellular poison.

A good friend recently packed up and moved her family a thousand miles away to start over, a painstaking path I knew well. The times I changed my life in search of a way to let it all go – belongings, people, location – are too numerous to count. Sometimes we want to let go of the life we have, which undeniably makes us who we are. That’s huge.

But when we try to reinvent ourselves or our circumstances change, it isn’t always easy to let go. When we are left hanging without resolution or understanding, of course we want to know why. We think if we just could answer that question, we could finally do it.

Truth? We can’t always get the answers we want, or even let go if we do.

There are only two things that can effectively help us let go: willingness and action.

Turns out the desire to let go and how we act on it is what helps us to do it. How badly do we want to untie the internal knots? Is it possible? Are we willing to let go without resolution, answers, even understanding? And do we want to do it without drastic measures, like packing up and crossing state lines? That’s fine, as long as we know our baggage will come with us until we figure it out.IMG_1861

My friend made a “goodbye list” to help her more easily let go. The three-page list included everything from certain people to material goods to favorite foods. First she declared the losses, then she said goodbye. When she identified all of her residue, it made it easier to release. IMG_1860

There are plenty of action plans we can take to learn how to really let go – like a list, or exercise, meditation, join a group, take a class, take up knitting, be creative. Pick your healthy anecdote. It’s about changing our focus in the moment from what feels bad to what feels good – over and over, until we feel quite done. Imprinted feelings don’t always just go away, but totally new experiences can help replace the draining thoughts, and the action diminishes the sting.

So identify the IT, pick your plan of action, then just do it. Oh, and believe that it will work. It will. Remember? Willingness and action. It might just change your life.

                  Happiness is always available        ~        Habitual thinking can change

                  Optimism shifts our perspective      ~       Openness lets in light

                  Willingness makes anything possible  ~   Welcome the comfort that comes

 

free

 

The Past Just Sometimes Hangs On

For a week we watched hearty men bundled up in winter work clothes take snow off of our neighbor’s roof and put a new roof on. Who does that in the winter, and amidst a few snow squalls.

The worst things seem to happen at the worst times, even when you know they’re coming. That roof has been disintegrating for two years. Every day more shingles fell off, exposing the 20-year-old worn structure underneath. If that were my roof I would be worried sick, and try to fix it fast.

It’s not a mystery that people hold on to things until the last dying gasp. Sometimes it’s a tattered, old shirt, sometimes it’s an unhealthy relationship, sometimes even a roof. It’s for reasons beyond the known, that we tend to hang on to the death – letting go can be quite hard.

But what about when what we’re hanging onto isn’t tangible, and we can’t just throw it away. What if it’s microcosms of invisible history that’s settled in our cells, altering our chemistry and even DNA. We don’t really want to hang onto them, but short of not being alive, these imprints are always there.

Sir Husband and I were in a favorite lunch spot, where Euro-style bakery meets New England cafe. Happy as a clam, I was enjoying a lovely lobster sandwich on this rare opportunity outing for the two of us. We had just dropped off my boy with his father, so we were celebrating the beginning of an empty-nest few days.

Then I received a text from my child, telling me that his dad had just unrolled a thousand dollars cash at a store where they were shopping. Without words I held the phone up to show Sir Husband the text. Sure, it was the dollar sign that took me back, Mr. Ex secretly gambled the children’s and my former lives away and broke more than just our bank. Being on the receiving end of someone else’s torment doesn’t always leave us, no matter how hard we try to let go.

I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies room. A BeeGees song was piping in, one I didn’t recall but knew. The Bee Gees are a Mr. Ex favorite, it was if the music was cued. I tried to stop the rush of my cells just popping alive. Can I really help this upset I wondered, in spite of his refusal to pay us back, I have moved on. But the rush of painful happenings just sprung right back to life, triggered and unresolved. Time, health and money are mysterious things, and when they’re taken it’s hard to forget.

I looked in the mirror and watched the tears stream down my face. I don’t want to live with this imprint anymore but it’s part of who I am. We can’t just erase our life in the face of who we are because of it – or the people who helped form it.

So I pulled myself together and got on with my day. Some stuff simply hangs on and maybe can’t be fixed at this exact moment in time. When the shingles fall, sometimes there’s nothing we can do except notice, and trust that we are just fine.

cat roof

TGIF ~ Today’s Guest Is Fab!

A big thank you to a dear friend and my first guest blogger! Her comments highlight some fairy tale musings about the half-way point of life. Please enjoy these beautiful thoughts by a lovely soul who is finding her way through her own entangled adventure.

***

I like the concept begin life…at any age, at any stage. But here we are midlife. It kind of makes us stop and think, is this the life we imagined? Are we doing what we were meant to do? Where is this life going?

We can have a new beginning at this stage – as kids grow and start their own lives – or at any stage, as we embark on the next phase. But it makes us wonder deep inside, “What do I want? What do I really want?” There was a time we could not even begin to ask those questions. Now as they surface, we embrace them.

We must keep searching for what we want. We may not know what it is, or maybe it doesn’t seem possible. We will know it’s right when we find it. But we can’t think about all of the barriers, the house, the money, the job…we just dream. As we imagine anything is possible, we open doors. What we are meant to do will emerge, even if it’s something wonderful we weren’t even looking for.

There is always another chapter, always a new beginning, never an ending. A beginning brings hope, possibilities, and a yet-to-be imagined future. Keep dreaming. Keep believing. That’s where we’ll find the joy.

***

night quiet

Even A Life Coach Needs A Lifeline

Noooooo don’t quit! I woke up in the middle of the night feeling jolted. I had a dream that my longtime life coach/therapist was leaving her 20-plus-year post to become an administrative assistant. Actually it wasn’t a dream, it was sort-of real for a few minutes, it just took a while to sink in.

A few days earlier she had mentioned that she was in the market for new work, after feeling some burnout. Not uncommon for healers of any sort, I just prefer it not happen to mine. Truth be told, I’m fine. I already crossed the line from client-coach attachment to flying on my own quite some time ago, I just wanted to retain her safe net. God forbid my life falls again, who would help me heal?

Her news definitely got me thinking about the way we lock onto lifelines when we are in the thick of hard times. It makes perfect sense, we plug into whatever feels soothing. Her support was medicinal, and helped me land back on my feet. We all need support in our lives, it’s just a matter of when.

But it’s also a matter of who, it takes a long time to find the right match with a healer you trust with your soul. So I pondered the relationship change to come, which brought up a whole bunch of stuff. When any relationship we come to rely on shifts, it can feel like a pretty big deal.

My higher self totally respected her personal path. She is a life coach after all, she must know what she’s doing with her own life. Those words “it’s a journey” are real, and sometimes the road hits a fork. So I cheered her on in her pursuance of something that felt good to her.

But my human self was different and had some thoughts of its own. Seriously? You are giving up your successful practice, the one you spent so long building? And what about all of your clients – the ones whose lives you save? Not only are you helping them, you are changing the world for the better. That’s a serious gift.

So when I woke up in the middle of the night, I decided in my half-awake state to telepathically communicate some thoughts to her. There are still mysteries in the ether, who knows if she could hear what I said.

The people who depend on you for solace, you are soothing to their souls…I get your need for change and reconsidering your life’s purpose, but don’t forget the extent of your worth…your role as a lifeline saves lives…yea, people hand over their power to healers, but sometimes that’s the only way we can get back on our feet….nothing in life is forever, but a change like you’re considering…well…

I felt like a voice for the masses in the wee hours. And maybe a little bit for me. Change isn’t easy ever, especially when it’s someone else’s idea. There’s nothing to do but accept it, and trust that it’s good for us too.

I think she heard me. Because the next morning she called to tell me about her decision to stay in the game. I know I had nothing to do with it, but maybe on some level I did. We all need support in our lives. It’s just a matter of when.

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How Do You Knock Down A First Career In Midlife

It’s more than desire, it’s more than thinking about it, more than the “thoughts become real” philosophy. It’s about entering a land I know nothing about beyond my experience with a keyboard, a knack for writing, and a whole lot of life skills.

What do I want to do when I grow up? More importantly, how do I do it? It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s a midlife beginning.

I never launched a career, or founded a future, instead I raised three boys, nurtured a very wrong relationship, survived abuse, and saved a few lives including my own. That’s a pretty big deal. I was an unpaid special needs advocate, which I learned the hard way with a son on the autism spectrum. I was skilled at guiding three boys through the trenches as their father was in the throes of his gambling addiction. I had a career in survival and healing – which should earn me a CEO-status.

But nope. That’s not a career, not as it’s defined by the real world anyway. So my resume doesn’t cut it, because real-life experience doesn’t count. And I need a job. But more than that, I need a passion-driven income because I have more than paid my dues. If I had to put one word on my resume to describe my status in a nutshell, it would be Super Overcomer and In-Spite-Of Achiever.

Ok that’s six words. But the word that really defines my history and me, is struggle. When will the struggle be over, and the passion-meets-income pay off? Aren’t we supposed to want to do what we love and get paid handsomely to do it?

I loved raising my family and did that for free. I tended to the checkbook with frugality and respect, despite the husband’s knack for gambling it all away. I worked diligently hard to create a future for myself…to build my life and resume with intentions to transfer the skills and the know-how to the outside world when time.

It’s time. But a hard life and intention isn’t enough, it seems to be about luck and who you know. So I sit in this midlife beginning and wonder now what? I kind of don’t know a seekingsoul…except of course…my own.  And maybe that’s the answer. The key to succeed is within.

“The cosmic portal to your limitless potential is now open,” a friend emailed me. The timely message was for her but I jumped on it for the ride. Because I think it’s about more than hoping we’ve got what it takes, or trusting what’s yet to come, or dreaming about what is on the other side of potential. In order to receive we have to believe, and I keep forgetting to believe in me.

Of course there’s a lot of work involved in that – first confidence then direction and then the great big leap. Jumping off the cliff and seeing where we land is not always easy to do without someone holding our hand. Feels scary to forge a new path when we aren’t even sure where we’re going, let alone know how to get there. But looking back I realize my entire life led me to here, and now it’s time to launch.

Beginnings begin without barriers or resistance, I’ll start by unlocking the door.

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