The Characters We Love

I have many characters in my life. Some are as real as me, breathing and living out loud before me. Others are characters I get to create as a writer. They live in my head and my heart, visiting me in my dreams or during waking hours if only for the mind’s eye. Real or created, I receive joy from these characters. They all have a structure that is interesting to observe, learn from, and love. You must be willing to let your guard down and let them in.

Recently at work, I took the DiSC personality assessment. We did this as part of a retreat for the entire company. I am always resistant to being assigned a number, a color, a letter, or other designations with these tools, afraid I will be painted as something I’m not…or as something I am and would prefer not to be. That did not happen with this assessment though. Even though I was assigned a letter, two in fact (Si), I found myself in an open environment with caring people who simply wanted to understand each better as “characters” in a live-action play called Career. We let each other in! Technology increasingly widens our doorway, too.

How lucky are we to live in a time where the world has become smaller through technological advances, and we get exposed to more characters daily? We are also more mobile for work and pleasure, meeting characters at greater distances and then staying connected via social media. This post is not about the drawbacks of a smaller, more connected world. I’m an optimist. I’ll take the best of it and try to avoid participation in the worst (e.g. trolling). Maybe some version of these new characters will make it into what I write, lovingly and as a testament to their unique attributes. We are all characters, in the end, leaving behind a story. I’m making mine, real or imagined, good ones.

Pixie Hair. Don’t Care.

Sometimes you do things to make life simpler. For me, cutting my hair is one of those. If we were all the same, life would be boring. If we all had the same notion of beauty, nothing new would be created. Be you passionately. Don’t prescribe to standards. Set them.

On Writing

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Two weeks ago, after a two year absence from fiction writing, I decided it was time to try again. My head and heart are clear after a renovation of my body. I know how to make things work realistically in my busy life. Most importantly, I’ve carried a new story around for that long in my head, and it was time to let it out.

I will write on weekend mornings to work around my running, work, and people schedules. I have no expectations for what this book will become. I simply want to enjoy the process. There is a wisdom that comes with age. I did not believe it until I found myself at more advanced ages. I am smarter without the arrogance of youth. I hope this will come out in what I write.

Writing is about creating, and creating is fun. Somewhere along the way I forgot this. I’ve missed it. I’m happy to return. This time away has been a reminder not to forget why you do things in the first place: love.

 

On Running

I said I would never do it. I was a walker, a hiker. I liked an upbeat yet measured pace. I liked to make frequent stops and assess conditions around me. I am an asthmatic and allergic to Michigan. I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to do it. I would never run.

Life has a funny way of changing your mind. One, job loss. Two, declining health. Three, sadness. I liked wine too much, and I liked myself too little. I had a brief run-in with the C word. I woke up one morning and decided the only option I had was to run. I quit drinking, 100%, cold turkey. I went vegan. I bought my first running shoes, and I started to run.

I plan to share more of my journey to health, inside and out, here. I ran my first two 5Ks over the last several weeks, and I completed my second in 28 minutes. I have a simple outlook. It is never too late to be a new you.

Words to Live By

One of my favorite quotes is:

“You can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.”

I think many of us look for ourselves in the definitive moments of life. If we do that though, sometimes we miss the joy in discovering who we can become.

Life is messy. We are messy. We are art. We are a masterpiece on a limitless canvas which could always use more color and love. Our progress doesn’t need to end.

One Child at a Time

I am back. I have a new job, and a clear path forward in life. It has been a wild ride through life challenges we all face since I last posted here, and I was greeted with backed up comments from an anonymous troll, a very ugly one. Yet, I still want to show up and write because life is good if you let it be. It does not matter who you were yesterday. Today is a new one, and a good one to do something worthwhile. That is exactly what I did.

I have the privilege of working with special abilities athletes on many Saturdays at a cheer gym. My heart grows each moment I spend with them. My challenges seem so inconsequential to those faced by the athletes and their loved ones. I always feel like I walk away each Saturday learning more from them than they learn from me. And their excitement over learning a new skill could provide a new source of light for our sometimes dark world.

Imagine if we all focused on one child at a time, supporting them through challenges. We could teach them about the mistakes we made and how they could avoid them. We could show them unconditional love. We could be a person they deserve. Maybe they would then grow up to be better than we are, making the world a better, less mean place.

You can do this. I’m trying to do this. It’s making me a better person while maybe, just maybe, adding to an improved future where differences make us beautiful, and we want to help each other solve challenges. It may start with a cartwheel today on a gym floor, and with a butterfly effect, turn into more love and kindness tomorrow for all. One child at a time.

 

Finding The Other Side

Whenever I find myself in trouble or hear the woes of others, there is a unifying theme. Everyone is searching for what is on The Other Side of their current strife.

Is is health? Is it a new job? Is it love? Is it love undone? Is it wealth? Is it peace? Is it a trip? It seems for most as if The Other Side is one or two magic things that will make life seem beautiful, whole again. I am learning The Other Side is not that simple or concise.

If you imagine life as a circle you continue around, there really is no Other Side. You will always have closures, new beginnings, and in betweens. Going in circles is dizzying. Most of our world is forced into a linear progression where if we achieve #1, then we can continue on to #2. While I don’t want to go in circles, I know that I have done #1 on many occasions, and #2 never comes. Am I a failure? No, not at all. Maybe I am just not meant to have that #2. Life is not tidy enough to remain linear.

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So how do we pull ourselves out of circles or off endless, hurtful, linear paths?

I like to break down The Other Side into moments I live each day.  This past year, I did not deserve to lose my job. Today, I really don’t want to face oncoming health challenges. I’d love to see what is on The Other Side of these challenges. Also today, I looked in the mirror and realized I made the successful conversion to being a vegan. I am working steadily on my book and job search. I have volunteered and put so much good back into the world while I have

been out of work. And, most importantly, I have people who love me, get me. These things are Other Sides, too. They are not necessarily big moments or solutions to major issues. They make a difference though.

Other Sides can be the in betweens. They can be slides off of vicious cycles. They can be as simple as a glass of tea after a tough day or as complex as a cure for our disease. They can be what is in us waiting to come out or what is outside of us waiting to lift us to new heights. Appreciate them all. It’s how you keep living when life punches you

How I Cured The Funk

IMG_0357.jpgGoodness gravy, I was in The Funk for the last several months of 2018. With a job situation rolling roughly into a tough close and an overwhelming schedule, I felt like I was doing nothing well. I questioned myself, and I questioned others. I will stop sort of saying this was depression, but my trademark optimism and desire to rise in the mornings were absent.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Check. I am a compassionate, empathetic person. Check. So I’m going to share how I have blasted into 2019. First, let me share some truths about The Funk, particularly mine.

I was hitting the wine bottle too easily, especially as my job came to an end. I was sedentary and exhausted. I felt remarkably uncertain about what was coming next. I felt angry about working so hard to come to this place of uncertainty. I was also angry about how I had been treated, and at times, disappointed in how I treated others while under stress. I passed up opportunities to sing and dance, two of my favorite pastimes. Then I felt the guilt that comes with all of the above. I realized I might need help, but I also wanted to see if some changes would help because I did not feel was beyond my own repair.

Over the last four weeks, I did the following 5 things:

1) SAID NO: I learned to say no to activities that were not mandatory and potentially done out of a false sense of obligation. I was apologetic and pretty open with others about my need to focus on me and a pending job search. I found 99.8% of people were awesomely supportive.

2) SPOKE TRUTH: I spoke truth to my family and friends about where I was at mentally. I am a sugar coater. I am a practicing optimist. I want to help others. I don’t want to be helped. This was a tough step, but I now get why it is so important. Your brightest light to cut the darkness comes from those who love you FOR YOU. They want to be your champions. Let them.

3) CHANGED HEALTH STUFF. Yep, now I am going to get into the physical health stuff. It matters. It will look different for each of us. For me, I started to physically move more and more each day. From hiking in the snow to dusting off an elliptical at home to a short toning workout, I made myself move more every day. I’m not a fan of big workouts, yoga, running etc. Physical fitness needs to occupy a tight, well-defined portion of my day. Let me tell you even short workouts help.

I also went dry and started a whole food, almost vegan diet. This was pretty radical. I LOVE RED WINE. I was using it as medicine though. That’s not good, so I quit all alcohol. I found out that when I did,  I did not miss it. I can love it from afar in a still corked bottle. This is my second time in recent years going dry. I might keep it that way this time.

Changing my diet is still a learning process, but I am not hungry, and I have eaten some amazing things, including a delicious frozen treat from 4 ingredients: Organic frozen peaches, plain yogurt (vegan if you need), real lemon juice and agave nectar blended together. I ate an avocado with Sriracha and red grapefruit for breakfast this morning, and it was a simple energy infusion to continue the job search.

4) WROTE IT DOWN: I started my blog up again. Now we have come full circle. Here I am sharing with you how I came to be back here sharing. It’s a beautiful circle. I don’t think I would be here if I had not done #1-#3 above. I am also practicing my banjo and guitar more steadily and exploring writing some new songs and editing a novel which has missed my love.

5) EXPLORED: I am learning what you were does not have to be what you become. I’m exploring career shifts and casting a broad net. I am also trying to find a new balance between live, work and play. What I had was not working. It drove me into The Funk. It is so uplifting to simply admit this and start exploring a new course. I have forgiven myself.

I feel great coming into this new year. The job search and some good me time activities are fully operational. I am more emotionally available to family and friends. I have energy and The Funk has lifted. If it did not, my next step was to seek some medical help for it. There should never be shame in this. Whether on your own and/or with the help of others, you an get out of The Funk, too.

Final, Extremely Important Disclaimer: I did not have suicidal thoughts during my way down time. If you do, please, please, please reach out below:

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

Feeling The Quiet In Between

img_0249I am noisy. I am always working, engaging others, listening to music, moving, learning, reaching for new heights, and for the most part, growing. To say my life has been chaotic since my 20s might be an understatement. I knew nothing of The Quiet of which others speak. You know, those meditative types with an awesome balance between work, play and rest. That has never been me…until recently.

Life hands you changes, many changes. They can be good or bad, or something along that spectrum. The year of 2018 will deposit in my memory bank as a year of tough changes. It was also a year made of noise I did not like. Everything was loud from demands on my time to the spaces where I worked and lived. I could not find any quiet, even in sleep, and I suffered mentally and physically. I was sleepless on an early morning mid-December morning where I could hear every noise in the house, and I decided I would only find quiet and peace if I made it.

You cannot control everything that happens to you even though you have great power to make things happen.  I need to find a new career, raise a family, get healthy, write, make music, and most importantly, love my people. My noise is not going to disappear in 2019. In fact, it might get louder for a bit. This is where the In Between becomes critical.

I was hiking yesterday with my daughter. My life did not have space for a hike yesterday, but an unusually warm, sunny day in January in Michigan is a gift you don’t refuse. We hiked a wooded path along the Red Cedar River. It was beautifully silent as we made our way. We did talk to each other and stop to take photos. I had no demands during that time though, a time I made during a busy day: An In Between. I could feel The Quiet in me. The noise stopped, my pulse steadied. Everything was going to be okay even when I exited the trail of my In Between.

My life will never be completely quiet. I do not have the luxury of long stretches of nothingness, and I am pretty sure I designed my life this way. Changes will continue to happen, whether I make them or take them. There is still a quiet I can find during the In Between that will be the salve to heal and the glue to keep it together, an essential oil of peace.

 

Joy is Simple

Joy is freshly baked monkey bread, hot from the oven smelling of sugar and spice.

Joy is fresh mangoes, juicy and sweet, sunshine in a little dish on a rainy winter day.

Joy is a desk etched with the scratches of time where a tree grows inside while an old tree passes outside, completing the circle.

Joy is looking for one bird in the bush and finding many, nature’s symphony of life and potential.

Joy is simple. Joy is you.