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If You’re Comfortable, You May Be Doing Something Wrong

Let’s face it, life is hard. Being an adult? Sometimes not all it’s crack ed up to be. Aside from the fact that we get to eat dessert first, there are a lot of responsibilities of being an adult. There’s a lot of pressure. Just when when we survive adolescence, with all the awkwardness, body parts, hormones, zits, voice changes and growing spurts, we get a dose of reality called adulthood. Really, who was the genius who thought that up?

But we made it through being a teenager, and we can make it through being an adult too. What’s the secret? I don’t know, but I think that if you’re comfortable, you are probably doing something wrong.

That may sound counter-intuitive. Go ahead and read it again, I’ll wait…

What that means, at least to me, is that when you stay in your comfort zone, you are not learning, not growing. If you want to be successful, if you want to follow your dreams, get used to being uncomfortable. Because stepping out of your comfort zone, is by it’s very nature, uncomfortable. And it also means taking risks.

There is a saying that well behaved women never make history. Its very true, for men and women. You have to be a little bit of a rebel to be successful, you have to not be afraid of discomfort. It’s kind of like exercising: If you feel the burn, you know it’s working. You also can’t be afraid of anyone else opinion of you. People may call you crazy, silly, stupid, whatever. But as long as you have the vision, then you’re OK. Don;t worry about what “they” think. “They” don’t know anything.

Take a look at the most successful people in the world – Steve jobs, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, JK Roland, Richard Branson, even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson…they were all willing to stretch themselves, take risks, gamble a little and get out of there comfort zone. Now where they concerned about what other people thought.

Success isn’t just monetary, it could being a singer in a band, starting your own business, going back to school, making a career change, leaving your spouse, or whatever it is that would make you happy. Get uncomfortable. Nothing great ever happened to people who just sat watching TV wondering “what if.”

Those risks may require making sacrifices, and that may make you feel even more uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. It may mean taking that job that you really don’t want so you can save up enough money to take that trip, or start your own business. It may mean leaving everything you know, it may mean losing a bit of money and it will definably mean making a lot of mistakes. But so what? As long as you learn something, that’s what’s important.

And really what do you have to loose? You already haven’t accomplished whatever it is…so if you fail, so what? At least you tried. And you’ll learn something, meet new people, have some new experiences and maybe even a few new stories to tell along the way.

I have been blessed to be a successful writer. That meant being poor for quite a while. That meant leaving my comfy job to strike out on my own and do freelance work. That also meant taking many jobs I didn’t like in order to pay the bills. And it took a hellava lot of hard work. But here I am. And how do I know which writing projects to take on next? Which ever ones will make me the most uncomfortable, which ever ones make me a little scared and make me wonder if I can really do it.

Never stop growing, never stop learning, and always be willing to be uncomfortable. You’ll be amazed at how great it can be.

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What Real Means

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?””Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.”Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”  “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – The Velveteen Rabbit

“What is real?” asked the Rabbit.  One of my favorite questions of one of my favorite stories.  And a very good question.  In this day and age of bigger is better, plastic rules and superficial is best…does Real exist?  Yes, At least I think so. To me to be real means our experiences have made us deep enough people to understand what is truly important in life.

The problem, I think, is that by the time we are real, we have lived, been loved, unloved, hurt and roughed up to the point where we are a bit shabby.  We’re not new and shiny any more.  Sometimes we feel that we have lost our worth – after all, how could anyone love a worn out little rabbit? And someone may have to look past all the roughness to see what Real really means.

I think it means that you have a real heart, you have been through enough to know, through experience, what is right, wrong and in between.  Living through those experiences teaches us compassion, empathy, how to love and so much more.  It makes us a better, deeper person.

What about the shabby parts?  Well, I guess that depends on your definition of shabby.  To me it’s nothing on the outside.  It’s a heart that is so closed it can no longer let love and light in.  Maybe we all get a little shabby…but just like the Skin Horse said, you can only be ugly to those who do not understand.

So, the key is to find someone who can see through our shabbyness, our weary-ness to see the beauty of our Realness.  Someone that can loves us anyway.  But being shabby and a little worn is ok. I have often said that it is our scars and flaws that make us our most human, most beautiful…and most Real.

The Belly Dance of Life

Tonight my sister and I went to belly dance classes. It’s a great, fun and sexy way to exercise and it is a very hard workout. Sweat pours off of you while you are barely moving because it is such extreme muscle isolation. You must drink a lot of water before, during and after the lesson. Now, put two women over the age of 40, who are not very coordinated to begin with…and you have quite an adventure. And as we bent down in our belly dance stance position, looking straight ahead in the mirrors to see what our bodies were doing, I noticed a trend. A trend not only with my body, but with others in the class as well.

I noticed the subtleties of what the instructor was doing with her hips, her arms, her legs, her chest as we danced. And I  noticed what we were all doing. And the two did not look the same at all. While the instructor’s movements were very contained, controlled and subtle, most students, including myself, had jerky overdone movements. Our movements were so very exaggerated from what they should have been, what the instructor’s were. But we are all learning in this class, getting the hang of the positions and movements. We have tired arms and burning legs. We need to rest sometimes, catch our breathe before the next movement.

And isn’t it the same in life? Sometimes, when we are first learning a new skill, our movements are unsure and uncoordinated, jerky. And while learning, we sometimes over do things to make sure we actually have the movement down. And then, in time and practice, we slowly become more sure of ourselves, our movements more fluid and our thoughts take over other areas, as it becomes natural. But in the meantime, we may overcompensate and miss the subtleties of certain situation which we are trying to master.

Indeed that is the case in my life. I try to handle things with Grace, and while my movements have become a bit more fluid, I still do have a bit more coordination to work on. It is easy to have grace when all is going well in life. It is harder when things do not go as planned, or when you are exceptionally angry at someone. And then I overcompensate, and go to the other direction of not having a spine in an attempt to have Grace. Having Grace still means having a spine. And somewhere, there is that balance.

When we over compensate and miss the subtleties in dance class, we miss the small beautiful movements that truly make it an art. We get off balance, our arms and legs flail around (or maybe that’s just me?), we loose our rhythm, we loose count, and we have to stop, take a breath and start back at square one. The we try again, and again, and again.

The same is true in life.

Sometimes, I over do things. Sometimes, out of insecurity, I go overboard. I am afraid that I will not be understood, so I say the same things over and over, to stress what is important. The result is driving people away, instead of drawing them closer. Or because I am so very hurt by someone, I lash out at them, hurting them worse, when all I wanted was for them to just understand.

And somewhere, there is my balance where I don’t fall when trying to do a hip shimmie.

Why do we over compensate in life? Why do we go overboard in our reactions or intentions sometimes? Why is that balance so hard to find, between where we are and were we want to be? Sometimes it seems as if we are wars apart from our goals. Maybe the secret is to just relax and stop trying so hard. Keep at it, as practice makes perfect, and know that with enough repetition and perseverance, we will indeed find our rhythm and Grace.

I guess I should pray for physical grace as well. And maybe, one day, with enough practice, I’ll get them both right.

Last Winter’s Night

It is that time of year where it is on the cusp of the seasons – winter to Spring. And indeed Spring is in the air, along with the ever so slight start of pollen. The days are getting longer and warmer, the nights cool but not cold. Look close and you will see the beginning of new life on the trees and in the bushes. Listen and you will hear the sound of a few birds, see the squirrels playing. In the last few weeks, winter has loosed up his grip so that Spring may enter the room.

The last few weeks have also been a whirlwind of activity, both personal and professional. I have been immersed in family as my parents visit for Dad’s chemo treatment and my sister moves in to start her new life. The last few weeks has seen the definate end of an old relationship, and the very new start of another. Work is sprouting in different directions, and friends have been everywhere too. Yes, I have felt like a vine growing in all different directions, stretching thin looking for the warmth of the sun. 

But tonight, it seems, is the last winter’s night. The weekend will be warm and full of spring air, pregnant with the promise of possibilities. The season of heavy coats will be past of this weekend. And so I put on my favorite coat and walking shoes, and walk around the neighborhood. And asa I walked around, looking at the stars, breathing the cool night air, seeing the few neighbors who came outside to retrieve things from their yard or car, I pondered the last few weeks.

Now with my sister here, I am learning how nice it is to not be alone, to have someone I know and trust around, to have interdependance, to be OK to cry in front of someone, to hear someone else around the house, and not need to grab a gun because someone broke in. It’s nice to come home and have someone happily cooking food, have the hosue smell great, and not have me doing all the cooking. It’s nice to have help folding the laudry and that I do not have to face Dad’s health by myself. It’s just so nice.

And there was a sense of peace that came over me, because now that have this, now that I know what it is and what it feels like, I know that I want to have this in my life – with my friends, continued with my family, and with my lovers. And this heart of mine warms up, from the inside out, and I know that this is the start of a new phase of my life. And it is indeed that last winter’s night.

Life is good and I am happy.

How to Respect Yourself in a Relationship

Madonna sang about it and made it famous. Respect Yourself. Go for what you want and need in a relationship and don’t settle. Pop songs can rarely be applied to real life, but maybe the singer was onto something. When you are in a relationship, how do you respect yourself enough to not loose yourself? How do you know where that line is that should not be crossed?

Aside from the obvious – no physical abuse, no criminal activity – sometimes defining just how to do this can be a bit tricky, even for a feisty red-head like me. And when you really care about someone, it can be easier said than done. But basically it comes down to this: Respect yourself.

If you don;t respect yourself, then why would anyone else. No one will respect you any more than you respect yourself. Have standards. Love should not hurt and someone who loves you will not do anything to hurt you intentionally. Have pride in yourself and walk away from anyone who tears you down, makes you feel bad for wanting to be treated well, or makes you think that you do not deserve to be respected. A person who loves you will not disrespect you.

If you are in a relationship, you are going to hurt each other at some point, that is par for the course and part of the deal. Respecting yourself though is not about the occasional spat or even cross word. It is not about who left whose dirty socks on the floor or squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle. It has to do with being treated at a certain level – as a human being. Girls, if the man you are with lies about something (like when his divorce is final), he will lie to you about other things.Respect yourself enough to not allow him to lie to you this way. Hold him accountable for not only his actions but his words, and walk.  

Forget about second and third, and 100th chances. and ut’s not your job to try to understand them or why they are mistreating you. It’s not your place to make excuses for them. You are not the jerk whisperer. Nor would you ever want to be.

If he says he loves you, then you find out that he is seeing other women, he doesn’t love you. Respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better. Don’t settle. Walk out the door and know that nice people, normal people, do not treat others in such a cruel and damaging way. If he balks at the fact that you have called him out on his bad behavior, if he doesn’t like you knocking on the door when you catch him cheating when another car is in his driveway or you find messages on his phone or such, then walk. You deserve better and there are too many wonderful, kind and amazing men out there to settle for someone who is so uncaring that he would let others suffer.

And some people think that if you care about or love someone, that that gives them the right to mistreat you. No it does not. No matter how much I love someone, I will not let them mistreat me. Period. And if they try to mistreat me, they will quickly see this little red-headed girl put down the law in a matter of seconds.

So chin up, and respect yourself to know that you deserve someone who treats you with kindness and caring, someone who means it when they say I love you, someone who doesn’t cherishes you and makes you feel like you are the only girl in the room. And know that, just like Calvin says, normal people do not destroy other human beings.

So what does Madonna have in common with Calvin and Hobbs? Now you know.

Mercury in Retrograde

About three times a yar, a little planet called Mercurty goes into retrograde. Even those who do not beleive in Atrology cannot deny that things just seems to go haywire during this time. Typically, life just goes awry. If it mechanical or electrical, it will break or malfunction – computer, phones, machines, cars, equipment, garbage disposals, whatever.

Communication typically breaks down and a lot of misunderstanding happen, betweeen family members, lovers, spouces, students, teachers, bosses, etc. Tavel plans will noty work out, schedules will be botched and missed with wrong times, dates and events. And if you are w writer, you may have a hard time getting your thoughts down in any kind of understandbale way. Thinking is less clear during this time, bad decisions are made, disagreemetn happen, misunderstandings and mis communication.

Appointments will be missed, delayed, postponed and rescheduled  Life seems to come to a standstill, nothing moves. If you are in the transportation industry, you will notice a lot of problems. And typicall it is well known not to sign any important documents and start new projects during this time, as they will be riddled with issues. You can read about the affects here,  here and here.

My poor sister was even a victim of Mercury Retrograde: As she was starting an great job interview after passing a test, the data center had a complete power outage and the interview had to be rescheduled. It has Mercury in retrograde written all over it.

So what can you do, other than hide under someting big and heavy while Mercury laughs at the lot of us?

Because to move forward it is sometimes necessary to backtrack and reconfigure our paths in life. It is important to reconsider, repair, reflect, and reconnect. Mercury forces us to slow down and fix what’s broken, and in so doing, rethink things. It also gives us time to get to projects we have put on the back-burner.

Yes, just like it says, it is a great time to clean out the past, burry the hatchet, clean out the closet, repair relationships and just reflect. Many times we will run into old friends we have not seen in yeears, more people find lost relatives during this time and it’s also a grat time to do all those projects that have been put on the back burner. Clean out the closet, or clear off that desk. Go through all those aold magazines and letter you have been meaning to throw out.

Mercury in Retrograde forces us to slow down, reflect, take care and clean up. And in life, can’t we all do a little emotional housework? Deal with those old issues and get the ghosts out, finally once and for all. And that is why Mercury in Retrograde can be a good thing. If you understand how this time works, you can work woth it, not against it. Handled properly, mercury in Retrograde can be a period of recharging and renewal, because we get the old out to make room for all the good thngs that are coming our way.

After Your Dreams Come True

We work hard, all of our lives to reach our goals. We set them, we have dreams, we do what we can to make them come true. And certainly that is the case with me. I have worked, so hard, sacrificed, fought tooth and nail, set goals, burned both candles at the end, struggled and tired, failed and succeeded. And here I am, standing at the red rimmed edge of my dreams. They are right here, right before, right within reach, I can see them, feel them, smell them.  I have accomplished my dreams.

But now, as I look around, I wonder…now what? What do you do when you accomplish what you set out to do? What do you do when you have attained your dreams? It is truly magnificent, and I am happy. Life is wonderful and good, and I have to pinch myself evetry day to make sure I am not dreaming. I have accomplished it. Finally!

Now what?

Well, for certain I shall enjoy all the fruits of my labor, years long. And there is still work to be done, but the hard stuff is over. all that is left is to enjoy all the seeds I have sewn. But yet I cannot help but wonder what shall I do next?

OFr some of us, we never stop learning, never stop reaching, never stop growing and discovering. I want to always be doing something, always have a goal. So next is to set new goals, new heights which to soar. I am my family to keep settled, as right now they need me. And I will be there for them. Nothing bad will come to them, not on my watch. But beyond that, what do I want?

That is one of the keys in life – define what you want and go after it. And asI look around I have all that I want except one thing: Love. That four letter word that has illuded me all these years. That is what I want.  And I have so much of it already, in my family, in my friends, in everyone around me. But I want that best love, that last love of my life. I want someone with which to share this wonderful life I have been blessed enough to have. Someone who will be my best friend and confedant, and I theirs.

I want someone who needs me, and someone who will be OK with me needing them. It is a unuversal need, to be needed. To know that what we have to offer is beneficial to those we love.

And so it is, that I start my wonderful, magical journey to find that love. I am seeing a wonderufl man already…will he be it? I dom’t know, but I sure intend to find out. Wish me luck!