Friday, December 30, 2011

Five Minute Friday : Open

Open might be my word for 2012.  Reading the definitions and synonyms made me realize that I need to be more. . .open.

Open can be overwhelming, but ultimately, open is. . .

Open can be scary
and make us feel
small and defensive. . .

Open helps us deal respectfully with one another because being open means that we are. . .


When we really become open, we are then. . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Look. Give. Laud. Outlove

In July, I posted a few thoughts (you can find those thoughts here) that were sparked by my friend and fellow blogger who was inspired by one of our favorite singer/songwriters: 

. . . to look for the light in people (and things!), to give them the benefit of the doubt, to laud their beauty, to outlove unloveliness. ~Andrew Peterson

I condensed these thoughts into four words that have become my personal mantra:  Look.  Give.  Laud.  Outlove.  These four words and what they mean were not just a passing thought; they have changed the way I handle situations: increased my compassion, steadied my reactions, and given me a new way to understand people around me.

Unfortunately, I am not perfect and I fall very, very short most of the time.  I fall short especially when I know I need to Outlove unloveliness.  Sometimes it seems there's too much unloveliness.  In those situations, I have learned that practice makes perfect and there are times when my unloveliness needs to be Outloved, too.

This is my New Year's resolution of sorts.  Not the type of resolution where I charge forward with an unreachable goal and fail by February, but one where I carefully consider and implement Looking, Giving, Lauding, and Outloving into my daily life. 

An excerpt from the original post:
To look for the light in people. That means ALL people.

To give the the benefit of the doubt. Gah! That's difficult, but when I receive the benefit of the doubt from others, it's magnificent!

To laud their beauty. I looked up the word laud. It is not just another word for praise but the definition also says to sing praise. To laud someone's beauty is to really appreciate it and make it known to them on a deeper tell them they are worthy. My Grandpa L-F does this. Everytime I see him, he walks toward me, undistracted and takes my face into his hands. He looks, really looks at my face, into my eyes and tells me that I'm beautiful or sweet or he just smiles and says, "I love you." And I believe it. There's no distraction in this exchange, no agenda, just a grandfather telling his granddaughter that she's beautiful and worthy from the inside out. What if we treated more people like this?

To outlove unloveliness. This is the part of the statement that struck me the most. What a lovely thing to outlove unloveliness, there sure is a lot of unloveliness in this world.

Look. Give. Laud. Outlove

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blessed Are You. . .

I realized after posting this picture that I performed the menorah lighting "dyslexically" on the fourth night.  The candles should be placed from right to left and lit from left to right.  I did the exact opposite!
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah.
Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, she’asah nisim l’avoteinu, b’yamim haheim bazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who made miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam, shehekheyanu, v’kiyamanu vehegianu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, O Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season.

On the fourth night of Hanukkah, I received great news about my health and was very thankful. "Blessed are You. . .Who has kept me alive, sustained me and brought me to this season. . ."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Spider Webs: Realizing Connection

I'm taking part in The Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday.  The topic issued was "Connected".  So, for 5 minutes I am going to write about whatever comes to mind (perfect for Mind of Me) regarding "Connected."  Here goes. . .

There are moments when you realize just how connected you are to the people around you whether by choice or by accident, and how even the smallest connection(s) can change your life.  I had this realization on Wednesday when I was lying on the floor of my office, my head resting on a backpack, ice packs on my hands and behind my neck.  The office was dark, my laptop closed, piles of paperwork on my desk.  I layed there, trying to catch my breath, staring out the window above me pretending I was in the cloudy, grey sky, flying. 

A few moments before I had barged into my boss's office.  He said something funny and normally I would have laughed. Instead I sat down and croaked, "I think I need to go to a hospital."  He shut his laptop and seriousness entered the room.  For hours I had been struggling to breathe and my chest was growing tighter and tighter until finally I went to the one person who would understand what was happening to me.  The one person who wouldn't think I was crazy or dying, who knew what anxiety can do to a person.  He knew because he had been in the same situation three years ago.  Except that when he went through it, we all freaked out and called an ambulance, which was probably best, but the doctor's ended up giving him a shot of something, told him he has terrible anxiety and to try to de-stress his life. 

My boss, I will call him West for purposes of anonymity, started talking me down, made sure I was taking deep, slow breaths, and was calm.  He quickly brought me ice packs, scrounged up an empty backpack as a make-shift pillow, and created a place on my office floor where I could lay back and relax.  He shut my phone and computer off, turned a fan near where I was laying and calmly told me not to worry about work, just to allow myself to calm down.  He sat, in a suit, next to me on the floor for a few minutes, I assume making sure I was steadily breathing.  We were connected. Connected not just in that moment, but in the shared experiences with anxiety and the realization that work is not everything.  Even during the busiest of days or when faced with deadlines, it the person who matters and ultimately his or her health.

In the hours followed, West scheduled a massage appointment for me (and paid for it!) with a mutual acquanitance of ours.  I went to the appointment the following day and felt nearly 100% better afterward.  As it turns out the massage therapist is married to our financial advisor, who is best friends with one of our owners (the brother of West), who's wife is my best friend and who is also West's sister in law.  Deep connections and small connections collided and I had the help I needed when I needed it.

There is nothing quite so humbling as finding yourself on the floor, in a dress, at work trying to recover from an anxiety attack except for when you find that people really care and will pull strings to help you.  I like envisioning my many connections in this world as a spider web:  symmetrical, delicate, beautiful and purposeful.

We're all connected.  We can use our spider webs for personal gain or we can use them to support and lift one another up in a time of need.  I choose the latter.  I'm glad my connections did too.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Portion of the Sky

We were no different from the doves above us.  We could not speak or cry, but when there was no choice we discovered we could fly.  If you want a reason, take this:  We yearned for our portion of the sky.
-from The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I received a bike for my fifth birthday.  It was purple and I remember excitedly picking it out at the store.  I had so much fun riding my training-wheels-clad bike with my older brother at the playground behind our elementary school. However, my fun was always ruined when my dad wanted to teach me how to balance without training wheels.  He would hold the back of the bicycle seat and I would pedal along miserably, knowing he was going to let go. At the first feeling of instability I would freak out and jump off!  After a few forced attempts of riding without training wheels I had finally had enough. 

"I just want to ride my bike!  I don't care if I still have training wheels!" 

End of discussion.  Every once in a while, over the course of weeks or months, my brother or my parents would ask, "So, you want to have training wheels forever?"  Well, no, I didn't but I would retort with, "Yes; I don't care." 

The truth was and still is that I hate to fail.  Sometimes the fear of failure, and especially of other people witnessing my failure, causes me to quit before I ever start.  I second guess myself, I magnify all of my flaws and shortcomings, imagine every worst case scenario and then I let my dreams die.  The death is completely justified, in my mind, and I try to convince myself that I prefer my current circumstances when really I hate them. 

One summer day, my right foot on the pedal of my bike and the left foot on the ground, I was positioned at the edge of the sidewalk in front of our duplex.  Moments prior, I had found my dad's tools and removed my training wheels. It was all or nothing. After having verbally and mentally defeated myself and coming to terms with the fact that I was going to depend on training wheels until I turned 30, I was ready to prove myself wrong.  I had prepared for this moment by spending countless hours watching my brother and our neighborhood friends ride their bikes, memorizing how they positioned themselves sitting or standing on the bike, how they leaned forward or to the side.  I memorized when their calf muscles flexed and envisioned myself making all the same balanced, fluid movements. 

Before launching myself forward, off of the sidewalk and down the "hill", I set a goal.  If I could just balance on my bike, without pedaling, and make it to the fence at the back of the yard, I would attempt the ride again, pedaling.  I took an exaggerated deep breath in, pulled myself up onto the bike and off I went toward the fence.  Wind blew my hair back, a bug collided with my cheek, and I felt a freedom that I can only compare to the first time I flew a plane years and years later.   It was like being stuck between two worlds:  one full of status quo and the other full of possibilities. 

I let the fence stop the bike and I toppled to the side but I had succeeded!  I ran my bike back up to the top of the yard and made the trip again, this time pedaling.  I gained speed and instead of riding into the fence I decided to try turning as I had watched my brother do so gracefully on his bike.  I turned the handlebars, leaned ever so slightly to the left and pedaled back the distance of the yard to the sidewalk.  I yelled for my mom, who came out of the house with my baby brother to watch me ride all around the yard.  "Watch me!  Watch how fast I can go!"  I discovered I could fly.

My life is like this.  I've learned enough about myself to know that I succeed at things when and how I want to succeed at them.  I evaluate and analyze and then, in the quiet by myself, I take what I have learned about what I want to conquer and I develop a process for it and then I own it.  I own the face off of it! This is true in any job I've ever held, hobbies, singing in public, leading and teaching, traveling, college, boxing.  It's a much quicker and less rebellious process than when I was five and learning to ride a bike.  In fact, it looks and smells a lot like confidence.  Apprehension is what catapults me into flight.  The first feeling of fear is what makes me leap and the assurance that I've done my research is what carries me through.

I am in between two worlds lately.  I am leaving the current world of status quo and leaping toward my goals in the world full of possibilities armed with research, observation and experience. I have prepared for this.  If you want a reason, take this:  I am yearning for my portion of the sky.