The Fire and the Fuel

Fire QuoteThe relationship was deteriorating. We spent more time apart than we did together. We no longer shared the same interests. His obsession was with cold weather activities – I preferred the sunshine and warmth. I valued activities that required my body to generate energy through movement. His activities involved a motor generating speed. Not only did he detest my favorite sport (MLB), but he didn’t understand my love for the game.

We didn’t trust each other and therefore lacked respect. His actions reflected his highest values and those directly conflicted with mine. Every interaction became a heated battle and the quirks that may have once been endearing or tolerable became the seed for the next fight.

I realize now that a solid foundation was never built, but that didn’t make the inevitable any easier to embrace. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know — until I knew it.

It wasn’t difficult to see that our relationship wasn’t working. That was one thing that we agreed upon. I didn’t want to hate him, but the nature of our relationship had become so toxic that I found it hard to breathe. When he mentioned couples counseling, I felt compelled to agree. To be honest, I didn’t see a future with this person, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t figure out a way to put our differences aside and get along.

I was encouraged that he had taken the bull by the horns and made the appointment for our counseling session. It was scheduled for the afternoon and he told me he wanted to ride together. I thought it unusual that he would want to make a special trip, but I decided to let it go.

It was a quiet car ride to the appointment – we didn’t have much to say. We arrived, parked and entered the professional building. We checked in and completed the paperwork.

The lobby was decorated in bright hues and natural light shone through the windows. It was clean and spacious, but something about it felt off. There was a heavy wood door that separated the waiting area from the counseling area and the chairs were arranged in rigid, tight lines. Inspirational quotes in black frames were evenly spaced and hung on the walls. The room felt sterile and the colors forced. To describe the physical didn’t do justice to how it felt energetically. I don’t know if it was the cookie cutter feel of the space, but the longer I sat there, the more uncomfortable I became.

I closed my eyes and tried to settle my thoughts. I could feel the sunshine on my neck and I imagined myself sitting peacefully in a lush garden with flowers and tall whimsy grass blowing in the wind.

My thoughts were interrupted when a woman pushed open the heavy wood door. She had short dark hair, and an average build. She was holding a clipboard and held the door open with her hip when she called my name. I thought it odd that she didn’t call both of our names, but I stood and walked toward her, expecting him to follow suit. Then he announced that he would be back in an hour to pick me up after the appointment. Dumbfounded, I asked how this could be a couples counseling session if only one person attended. That’s when the counselor said that the appointment was made for me.

I walked over to him and asked what was going on. He said that our relationship could be repaired if I got my head straightened out. He told me I had changed and implied that our problems were all mine. But if I was willing to “get fixed” there might be hope. Blood boiling, I loudly and strongly suggested that he was part of the problem and needed more than counseling– he would benefit from a freaking lobotomy. Furious, I turned and walked toward the counselor. He looked at the counselor as if my reaction was evidence to his plight. His expression seemed to say, “see how she is.”

It was clear that the counselor was in over her head as we walked toward her office. I could hardly contain my anger. For the next 45 minutes I spilled everything that infuriated me about that man. I had reached my breaking point and nothing was sacred anymore.

It was cathartic.

I left that office with the realization that I no longer wanted to be in a relationship that forced me to behave in a way that didn’t honor me. I wasn’t willing to be with somebody who lit metaphorical matches, poured fuel on the fire and then blamed the heat on the person ablaze.

I take my share of the blame. My energy is such that I burn hotter than many, but that doesn’t make my fire wrong. It just means it’s best to steer clear of unhealthy fuel.

Golden Gift of Losing

Win or LearnI’ve watched with intrigue as the Little League International stripped Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League of the 2014 United States title for falsifying boundary districts and using ineligible players.

I’ve read myriad perspectives on this story including those that claim the decision to expose the “cheat” was racially motivated; or stemmed from jealousy.

Most fascinating were the thoughts that came from Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder and former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, who offered that “youth baseball has become a rich kid’s sport, and though the Jackie Robinson West kids can no longer boast a championship, some of the adults that we argue took advantage of them actually provided them a too-rare opportunity to showcase their skills for a broader audience.”

In Minnesota, the class AAA high kick competition became controversial when competitors claimed the Faribault Emerald dance team allegedly copied a dance from an out-of-state team and should be disqualified. The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) investigated the allegations and allowed the dance. Faribault was awarded first place.

Coaches and athletes from five of the opposing dance teams protested the awards ceremony and instead stood, hand-in-hand, apart from the Emeralds dance team. They attributed their actions to ethical and moral codes and stood united in their victimhood to “do the right thing.”

In Wisconsin, an elementary school decided to turn “Olympic Day” into “Winner’s Day.” I’m told the decision was made to help raise the self-esteem of all students by making everybody a winner.

What I’ve noticed about all three stories is they share a pattern of delusional thinking that has led to dysfunctional behaviors and systems. The delusion is that life is fair; the dysfunction begins when we create and enforce structures that promulgate this delusion.

The root of the problem is clear. When we operate inside a delusion, reality becomes skewed and expectations flawed. We are operating from a principle that is not aligned with truth.

Kids understand that we are all different. They embrace this fact. They become confused when we are lumped together and told we are all the same. Spend any amount of time with children and you’ll realize they make no qualms about somebody’s differences. They’ll question why somebody needs a wheelchair or why Molly has two mommies; but their questions stem from curiosity, not judgment. When we arbitrarily remove the differences, we subconsciously communicate our fear around the differences. This teaches them to label, fear and judge differences and to value what their leader’s value. If being fast is valued; than being slow is bad. If winning is valued, then losing is bad. If being the same is valued, then being different is bad. This is not truth.

In the case of the little league manipulation, the offending leaders justified their behaviors because they convinced themselves that they provided a rare opportunity for their kids. Worse, they justified the lie by suggesting that those who called it out were racists. Not only did they cheat, but now they are being victimized. The underlying issue may be the system, but behaving like a victim will teach children to behave like victims; and cheating to win will teach them that winning is all that matters.

I can appreciate the point Andrew McCuthen was trying to make, but he plays major league baseball because he is incredibly talented and hard-working. I find it difficult to believe that the MLB is filled with athletes fortunate to have a privileged youth.

In Minnesota, the five teams who protested not only disrespected the governing body and their sport; but they chose to dishonor their opponents. They justified their victimhood in the name of “doing the right thing.”

In what world do we consider disrespect and dishonor doing the right thing?

When did the goal of youth competition become about winning rather than providing opportunities to cultivate character and develop leaders?

In schools across the country, our students are being taught that everybody wins. This might hold more water for me if distinctions were made about what it means to be a winner. Coming in last place is not awful until it is labeled as bad by the leaders. How does removing competition and honoring sameness teach us what winning behavior looks like? And let’s be honest, the kids know who is fast, strong, and smart so let’s give them some credit and speak our truth. Let’s remove the fear around losing and let kids learn to win and lose with grace. Instead of pretending everybody is the same, why not create an event or environment that celebrates differences and provides opportunities to see the value in all people? What if we provided the tools to deal with the reality that life is not fair? Operating from that truth may give kids the perspective to honor each other, instead of hating or fearing somebody for their privilege, skill, or difference.

The concept that life is fair is creating entitled victims. You can win without being a winner and lose without being a loser.

The distinction is clear. Winning and losing are adjectives: winners and losers are nouns. Somewhere along the way, we have collapsed them and blurred the lines between the act of winning and the behaviors attributed to winners. Bad behavior is bad behavior. Cheating, lying and disrespect are unbecoming behaviors never associated with winners – regardless of the outcome.

The sooner we embrace the reality that life is not fair and systems and structures are not perfect, the sooner we can stop hiding from our differences and teach our children about truth, grace and the golden gift of losing.

Losing is an opportunity to learn dignity, which is an attribute of a winner.

Love Advice

I will never pretend to be an expert when it comes to love. If experience dictates expertise, what I know well is that matters of the heart can cloud our vision and skew our judgment.

I once had a crush on a guy who was horrible for me. I couldn’t see his shortcomings, only his charm and wit. He wasn’t an honest man, but he was gregarious and had confidence I wish I possessed.

When a dear friend questioned what I liked most about this guy, I listed his attributes.  He was well educated, confident and funny. When she asked how he made me feel; I realized that I mostly felt anxious and unworthy. This led me to question my attraction and I came to recognize my thoughts as delusional and my attraction as addiction (as defined by “wanting something that is not healthy for you.”)

My heart wanted to feel something and my brain twisted the truth to oblige. That’s how addiction works. The addicted piece of your world will find a way to deliver that thing that you’ve told yourself you need. In my case, I thought I needed love. What was delivered was anything but.

What I know now is that we have everything we need inside of ourselves to feel what we want to feel, but it takes commitment to do the work necessary to arrive at a healthier place. That journey begins with self-awareness and moves upward toward forgiveness and love.

With the upcoming celebration of Valentine’s Day, my wish is that the powerful perspectives reach a soul who may need to be reminded of his or her greatness. If I could, I would share with my younger self the following.

My hope is that above all else, you understand that you are lovable and loved. Love is not something you need to earn or prove.

My wish is that you engage with the world form a place of worthiness– of knowing that you matter. Live the truth of worthiness by practicing self-compassion and by embracing imperfection. Practice courage by showing up, letting yourself be seen, and honoring differences. Share your stories of struggle and strength and always make room in your life for both.

Teach compassion by practicing compassion with yourself first. Set and respect boundaries; honor hard work, hope and perseverance; and tolerate differences of thought, appearance, and world views.

Learn accountability and respect by allowing yourself to make mistakes — and make amends.

Be self-aware by seeking to understand, rather than judge. Surround yourself with people who appreciate every part of you.

To know joy, practice gratitude. To feel joy, learn how to be vulnerable and move through fear.

I don’t wish for you pain, but accept that it is a part of life. Celebrate those who will allow you the gift of finding your own way through it so you may know your own strength. Because you are stronger than you think.

Be yourself. Life is a gift and is filled with perfect imperfections. Live with authenticity and speak your truth (even if others disagree) so that you may know trust.

The Crack in the Strategy

In my early twenties, my approach to life was bitter. I trusted nobody and believed the world was filled with more evil than good. All I needed to validate this belief was to watch the nightly news.

Then I turned my television off for nearly two years; and shielded myself from main stream media and negative people.

Circumstances changed and my life perspective pendulum shifted to the opposite extreme where I viewed the world as a magical place.

Inside of that timeframe, I was delusional enough to believe that if I demonstrated kindness and compassion and loved others enough, they would come to see the world as a magical place, too, and perhaps begin a kindness campaign of their own. My perspective was that the only thing the world needed was enough love to help it heal.

Unfortunately, there were cracks in this strategy. The first crack was the belief that I could change another person’s behavior; the second crack was that the world is only a positive, loving place.

The truth is this: people are going to behave how they choose to behave and the world is a mix of good and bad; light and dark. That is the nature of our planet and it is in perfect alignment with how it was created.

Without bad, we cannot experience or understand the definition of good. Without poverty, we cannot understand wealth.  Without war, we cannot relate to the power of peace. We need both. Contrast helps give meaning to its opposite.

I am not a pessimist. In fact, I am an obnoxious optimist. But what I believe is never going to change the structure of how it was created. If a piece of fruit contains the genetic code of an apple, but I believe it to be an orange, it will not magically turn into an orange.  That would require a genetic engineer.

The same is true of people.  But we are not genetically engineered to be bad or good.

We are genetically engineered to be human. We get to choose our path and what meaning we give to it.

I believe all people have the potential to be great and powerful. By power, I do not mean title, money or influence.

We are created with the same amount of awesomeness available to us, but unfortunately, some choose to dwell in fear, greed and entitlement and make decisions for themselves (and their families or organizations) based on those belief systems.

Belief systems can change and adjustments made to how we define good and bad. Power is not found in denial. True power comes from our ability to recognize and choose.

We can choose to be a victim, or we can choose to be empowered. We can choose to judge or we can choose to accept. We can choose to believe what we believe, but our beliefs do not render its opposite untrue.

We can shift our perspective to a powerful perspective of forgiveness, acceptance and love, but that doesn’t mean that those energies of our ego (fear, entitlement and greed) no longer exist. They must exist.

But because something exists, does not mean it is powerful.

Power is Choice.

Powerful Perspectives are found when we seek to understand what motivates our choices.

Are your choices motivated by fear, greed, and entitlement or are they powered by your ability to accept, forgive, and love?

You can’t do both at the same time. Choose wisely.

What real beauty looks like

As part of my day job, I choose to participate in our company wellness program. That membership requires me to complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), which measures things such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep and stress factors; and biometric testing that measures blood pressure, blood sugars, BMI and triglycerides.

My results determined that my health is relatively good. But I left the screening feeling horrible about the one number that mattered most to me – the number on the scale. It wasn’t a mystery that I had gained weight. It happens. So what motivated me to choose that number to measure myself against, instead of the other twelve that had “proven” I was healthy?

I recognize the phenomenon is not unique to me. Many women judge themselves harshly because of a number on a scale. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not the number that matters, it’s how we feel about the number – do we feel thin, fat or fit?

The truth is, that number only means what we make it mean. For one it could mean success, for another it could mean falling off the wagon.  Whatever judgment we put around it, it essentially means, “do we feel beautiful?”

I’d like to think that real beauty can be defined as the kind of energy we see and feel when we are privileged to see the depths of somebody’s soul. When they share their experience with us and we connect to that part of their being that is Divine. But my truth is that beauty is mostly defined by, “it depends upon your perspective.”

Real beauty is not a number. But it’s also not necessarily a lyrical ideal that suggests you mustn’t TRY so hard either. Please know that I love the message Colbie Callait is spreading, but being lovable and feeling lovable are not necessarily the same. The truth is found somewhere in between.

For a cancer survivor, beauty can be defined by the soft hair that grows back when the chemo has stopped. For a woman who has survived an abusive relationship, beauty can be found in gaining a few extra pounds without guilt from her controlling partner. For a veteran who has lost limbs, beauty can be found in the restored faith in mankind.

We are beautiful when we BELIEVE we are beautiful. For some of us, what makes us feel beautiful is a filter or the Facebook pose we use to portray ourselves on social media. For others, it IS the number on the scale or a certain color of eye shadow. It’s what we make it mean.

I’ve learned that we have the power to change the meaning. To change it means we need to change our minds about it. That isn’t always easy. That takes work. Not work for approval or acceptance outside yourself; rather work toward self-love.  It can mean working toward a number on the scale and it could mean working up to having the courage to show your authentic self to a stranger. Whatever the work – do it for yourself, because that work is beautiful.

Beauty can’t always be measured or judged. It’s a view from the inside that can only be felt when we’re paying attention to what’s real for us.

 

Social Validation and The Inauthentic Brag: Humblebrag

I scrolled through my social media feed and stopped to read what I thought was a positive post. It began with “feeling blessed” but the content that followed made it clear that this person was struggling and having a tough time with life. Truth is, it sounded rough. I could relate to the frustration, but what I didn’t understand were the blessings this person referred to because none of those were mentioned. Worse, people commented on the grief with responses such as, “I survived something as horrible or far worse than what you’re going through, so you can make it, too. Hang in there. #bestrong.”

Other posts included:

“Only I can rock a $700 handbag and $100 t-shirt and still manage to look homeless;”

or

“I did this great giving and selfless thing for people way less fortunate than me, and was humbled to hear how much I changed the other person’s life.” I don’t need the thanks, it just felt so good to give, #karma. #blessed”

By design, social media is intended to be social, but is it always honest?

With the exception of the “blessings”, it turns out there is a term for these types of posts. It’s called the humblebrag. Harris Wittels, stand-up comic and writer for the television show Parks and Recreation, has coined this term and calls these kinds of posts ‘false humility’.

The urban dictionary defines the humblebrag as a brag shrouded in a transparent form of humility.

From the, “It’s not a brag, I’m just complaining” humble brag to the, “this isn’t a brag I’m just being self-deprecating” humble brag, the number of offenders is limitless. These offences are all captured on Wittels’ Twitter handle, @humblebrag, an account that has quickly amassed an enormous following.

Whatever it’s being called, I understand the resistance to brag as well as the longing to be socially validated. I grew up in the Catholic Church where we studied the seven virtues that taught us to be “good” people. One of those virtues is to be humble over being prideful. Maybe a humblebrag, although misguided, is the result of attempting to be both validated and humble.

What I don’t understand is the motivation to be inauthentic instead of proud; or the hunger to be validated for pretending to be something we are not. The humblebrag is one example; the “blessings” is another. They have different approaches and content; but similar intentions. They are saying one thing, but feeling another.

Webster’s dictionary defines proud and pride in the same context, but there is a distinct difference. It may not always be obvious, but you know it when you see it. 

Discerning between them depends on a deep-rooted understanding of what is motivating the content of the post.

Being prideful is a “high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority; whereas being proud is: “someone or something cherished, valued, or enjoyed.”

Elementary school may have taught me to be humble, but adulthood has taught me to embrace the powerful. By powerful, I don’t mean title, money, stature or fame, but the kind of power that makes being human awesome.

There is nothing powerful about being inauthentic or expecting to be validated by others. True power comes from knowing who you are, what you stand for and what difference that makes to the world.

Being human isn’t always glamorous or easy; nor is it always a struggle.

Humblebrags, one-sided views or positive posts that are diluted in half-truths suggest your hiding something or pretending to be something you’re not. Truth, not fake humility, makes you trustworthy, powerful – and more interesting than the images you’ve posted about your generosity or success. Life is not one-sided and sharing a struggle allows us to help celebrate a success.

The range of experience and perspectives is what makes connections meaningful — in life and on social media. Share the moments that make you laugh, cry or think. Share photos of your family gatherings or your exotic travels. Share your thoughts on politics or politicians. Ask for prayers. Ask for opinions. Share your joy and success. Be proud. Avoid being prideful. Share your struggle. Be REAL.

But please do so AUTHENTICALLY because those are the moments that make life worth sharing.

When I began to write on this topic, I did so from a place of judgment and irritation that stemmed from social media offenses, some of which can be found on this fabulous story about posts that should cease. But as I worked through this article, I’ve come to believe that the world – and the world of social media — has the potential to be a better place. It begins with self-awareness and moves upward toward higher energies of acceptance, gratitude and love.

Consider the following tips:

Become Self-Aware

  • What is motivating me to publish this thought or image? Is it to boast or brag? Am I seeking approval? Is it to draw attention to myself or my success? Or is it to honor my success and share an interesting and powerful moment with friends? Will my response to this person’s struggle be helpful, or am I simply drawing attention to myself?
  • Is my post authentic? Is it staged or is it an image that captures what is real and important in my life?
  • How often do my posts brag or self-promote? Bragging and self- promotion should be a small percentage of what you post.

Consider your Audience

  • Who is the post targeted to? Think about who is reading your posts and how they might react. If your social media posts are typically about your business, consider starting another page for those messages. If your posts are painfully personal or inappropriate for your entire audience, send an email or private message to those in a position to help you.

What Difference or Impact Will Your Message Make?

  • In 2 years, will this post hold the same importance it does today? Will it alter the way my audience may see me forever or is it the same post and pose as the previous 100 posts?
  • Is the post kind and compassionate or filled with hatred, envy or rage?
  • Can I survive reading one more humblebrag or political post? Will the serial humblebragger ever change? Let’s face it, some people will never stop. So delete them, or take it for what it’s worth – an entertaining ramble. But, the fact that someone named the phenomenon makes it fun for everyone. So sit back and laugh.

 Please share your favorite humblebrag in the comments section. Or better yet, create your own humblebrag by using this humblebrag generator: http://www.dontbesomodest.com/

 

 

 

 

What you wish for

I sat by my fireplace and meditated on my financial health for the upcoming new year.  My goals were to honor my financial commitments, take care of my young son, and have the ability to save a specific amount of money. I also wanted this to happen by doing what I loved to do. The amount I wished to save was a stretch, but not necessarily what I would call a miracle. I wrote my goal in the form of an intention into my journal, clearly specified the amount, gave thanks to the universe for it being so, and went about the business of my life.

As a single mother, my priority was to be present for my young son and build a business that could sustain us through the highs and lows.  My goal to be self-employed was important because I felt it would allow me to do what I was born to do while also being flexible enough for my son’s needs. I couldn’t visualize how a commute would work for my family situation and I didn’t spy many classified ads in my small-town paper seeking my specialized skills.

Six months passed and business was steady, but my financial obligations were such that I wasn’t making progress in the savings department. I didn’t give it too much thought until the day I was asked to submit a proposal to a larger company seeking my services. I interviewed the primary contacts to learn more about their project needs.  One of the interviews didn’t go as well as anticipated and I found myself put off by the energy of the potential client. That didn’t stop me from submitting the proposal but it did prompt me to increase my hourly rate.

I was selected as the vendor, but had mixed emotions about accepting the project. I contemplated the pros and cons and found myself frozen inside of the decision. I feared that the negative person would put a damper on my work and perhaps hinder the outcome of the project. On the other hand, the income would provide a financial cushion. The ego was motivated by money, but my spirit was motivated by contribution. I didn’t want to make a work decision based solely on financial gain. Confounded, I turned to meditation.

It was in the quiet of that time when an overwhelming sense of calm came over me. It was then that a small voice inside my head whispered to “approach your work as if working for the Divine and not for man.”

I decided to accept the contract and approach it with an open heart rather than a judgmental one. With contract signed and deposit it in hand, I realized that the project income would allow me to exceed my savings expectation by exactly $100. I giggled at this because it became clear to me that the Divine had a sense of humor; as if it to say, “perhaps you should have taken a bigger leap because I am able to do so much more. I make miracles happen every day.”

That project became one of the benchmarks of my career — in more ways than one. The person I had judged as “difficult” became a respected colleague who taught me more than they could ever know; and the outcome led me to become a certified life coach — a role that brings joy and purpose to my life nearly every day.

I carry the lessons of that project with me and every year make a “wish list” that far exceeds what my mind can justify or rationalize. I get into trouble when I attempt to control how, but they typically come true, particularly when I let go and “let them happen” in ways that will surprise me.

I write this message today to remind you to dream big and believe in the power of your intentions and wishes. Approach the year and your life with powerful perspectives and trust me when I say that what you want can and will come true. Not in the timeframe or necessarily in the package you expect, but what your heart desires will arrive and it will be powerful.

For tips to help your new year’s resolution stick, read more here: http://www.vibranthealthclinics.com/resolutions/

Strength of Spider Webs

When my five-year-old old son woke up that morning, he insisted I call him Peter Parker.  It was the time in his young life when he was mesmerized by the adventures of Spiderman so I assumed his request was made because he was fantasizing about being a superhero.   During breakfast, I forgot about his morph and accidentally called him Cameron. He refused to respond or make eye contact. When I asked Peter Parker to take his empty oatmeal bowl to the sink, he smiled, stood and proceeded to the kitchen.

When he arrived at school, he announced to his kindergarten teacher and class that he wanted to be called Peter Parker.  The kids giggled and honored his request. Mrs. Larsen agreed, but told him he needed to morph back into himself that afternoon before the kindergarten concert.

Parents filled the bleachers in the gym that had become the makeshift auditorium. The music teacher had arranged a variety of noise-makers on the gym floor and was preparing to showcase the songs the small voices had been practicing all year. The kindergartners stood single-file in the hallway waiting to make their grand entrance.

I could see my son at the front of the line. He appeared to be distracted as the music teacher gave the signal to enter.  As the kids began their march into the gym, my son dropped to his hands and knees and began to slink across the floor in Spiderman-like fashion, accentuating each arm movement with his fingers spread as if they were webbed.  From the bleachers I could hear the snickers from the kindergartners behind him.  When he got to the spot on the line where he was supposed to stand, he turned on all fours, raised his forearm, put his fingers into position and began to shoot imaginary webs in the direction of the bleachers.  Some of the parents began to whisper and glance my way to watch my reaction. As his parent, I was half mortified, half entertained by the unfolding drama. I was mortified only because I wanted my son to be the kind of child who respects the wishes of his teacher; and entertained because it was hilarious.

He sang the songs he remembered, sat quietly when some of the students stepped out front to use the noise-makers; but mostly looked around and kept watch for potential bad guys. When the concert ended, the students were free to go with their parents. Cameron walked over and I sensed he was still in Peter Parker mode.  We gathered up his back pack and headed for home.

For the next few days, he answered only to the name of Peter, but in the evening, I insisted I would only read a nighttime story to Cameron.  We eventually returned to our normal and the episode faded without mention.

Years later I asked my son if he remembered the Spiderman concert and he finally shared his thoughts.  The kindergarten concert was the first time he would have performed in front of a large group and he said he had been terrified. To manage his fear leading up to the show, he morphed into the brave Peter Parker.  When he saw the large crowd of parents, his fears heightened and he needed the superhero to conquer it. He shot a magic web every time he felt like he wanted to cry.

He has since learned that stage fright is normal and that there is nothing to fear.  In fact, he’s extremely comfortable talking to crowds and has a way of cracking himself up.

Thinking about it now, I believe his plan was brilliant. The size of the fear relegated the size of the tool.  If he were slightly scared, he needed only to morph.  If the fear hit him in the face unexpectedly, it called for superhero powers. Each time the fear reared its head, he summoned a magical web.

Recently, I was asked to speak to a crowd.  As I prepared for my introduction, I thought of my son’s courageous superhero and started to smile. I didn’t morph into Peter Parker, or drop to the floor like Spiderman, but I was able to muster the appropriate amount of courage it took to conquer my fear.

I think the key is to find the fear-fighting tool that feels right to you. Maybe it’s a superhero, or perhaps it’s a ritual, rock or lucky charm.  All I know is that fear is like those parents in the bleachers.  They can paralyze us with fear, or teach us to create miraculous webs.

 

Forgiveness Found in Unusual Places

Walking into the dental office that morning was more difficult than running a marathon.  My palms were wet with sweat, my legs felt heavy as lead, and my breathing was quick and strained.  As I reached for the door, I braced myself for the smell of anesthesia and the sound of drills grinding teeth. The thought sent a wave of nausea over me.  The next steps were blurred as I entered the waiting room and approached the registration desk.  I was greeted by warm, smiling faces who immediately escorted me to the chair of impending doom. They knew I was “one of those patients.”

I was slightly dazed as the assistant secured the dental bib around my neck and asked if I wanted headphones. We agreed the noise would help drown out the sound of the drill.

As the chair reclined, my body tightened as if life-sustaining oxygen was being squeezed out of my lungs by a boa constrictor. Regardless of the nitrous oxide being pumped through my body through a small masked funnel across my face, my anxiety level was at an all-time high.  Inhaling deeply, I attempted to relax my mind and my muscles to endure a routine dental procedure.

Without warning, my sobbing began.  When the assistant left me to gather my thoughts, I scolded myself and questioned why I was reacting like a child.  As the nitrous drunkenness took hold, memories flooded my brain.  I was under the lights of an ER strapped to a table.

I was six years old and my mom and dad had scheduled a night out, leaving us with a high school-aged neighbor girl.  My parents had given us specific instructions to stay in the house and obey the sitter, but the weather was warm and I was aching to be outside. I lied to the sitter and convinced her to let me go for a bike ride.

My bike was sweet. It sported a yellow banana seat, chopper-style handlebars and glittered string confetti hanging from the handles. My dad added reflective lights to the spokes and mounted a fancy orange flag on the end of a white stick to the back of my seat.  When I peddled fast, the flag would whip in the wind and make a whistling sound.  I pretended to be Evil Knievel soaring across Grand Canyon when I jumped curbs. I felt daring and free.

The alley behind our house had a storm water run-off drain that was covered by a metal grate with bars about two inches apart.  I had cycled past it a dozen times before, but that day I decided to ride over the top of it going top speed.

Unfortunately, the tires on my bike were smaller than the distance between the bars on the grate and when my front tire hit the grate, it slide between the bars and locked up.  The intertia continued to propel me forward and threw me onto the concrete.  With my hands on the bars, I landed directly on my face. Then I blacked out.

When I regained consciousness, I was in a frightening room with bright lights, muffled voices, white coats, and the realization that I couldn’t move my arms.  They had been strapped down to a table so the doctors and nurses could do their work.  My mom stood nearby watching them stitch me up. Beyond the physical wounds, my heart hurt the worst. I told myself I was a terrible, horrible, awful kid for having ruined my parent’s night out. I thought the accident was God’s way of punishing me for lying to the sitter.

I didn’t realize it then, but that moment shifted my entire existence. I had appointments with doctors and weekly appointments with the dentist. Not only was each visit a reminder of my offense, but the accident also changed the shape of my mouth and jaw.  My smile was never the same.  I once resembled my sisters, but was never again confused as a twin or triplet when we went out.  I felt like an outsider in my own family.

In the dental chair that day, I realized why I was subconsciously – and consciously — terrified by the dental chair. It wasn’t the smells or the sounds, while still unpleasant, it was the reminder of the negative messages I told myself as a six year old.

After my appointment, I stopped at a state park and gave those messages back to the universe.  Odd as it sounds, I forgave the little girl for being human and adventurous and thanked her for being courageous in a frightening place.  The little girl with the broken mouth and face was finally at peace. I put her to rest inside my heart.

Driving home that day, I questioned how many other negative messages I had inadvertently carried into adulthood and decided to recycle them, too. I chose to re-shape my belief system and dwell from a place of power.

When we operate from a place of awareness and pay attention to the messages of our soul, it gives us an opportunity to dwell in possibility and live in a Powerful Perspective.

To learn more about the Powerful Perspectives coaching process, or schedule an introductory coaching appointment, kindly email: SamanthaBluhm@icloud.com

Crayon Stained Stories

My favorite slacks were a well-worn pair of khaki capri’s purchased on sale at the Gap. They were casual and comfortable and often became my default weekend-wear.

One weekend when my son and I enjoyed breakfast at a greasy spoon, the black crayon he used to play tic, tac, toe ended up in his pocket, and eventually found its way into my dryer.  In the heat, it melted into chunks of black gunk.  The lovely black glue adhered itself to every piece of clothing in that load, including my favorite khaki capri’s.

When I discovered my khakis covered with melted black crayon, I had a melt down of my own.  I threw an adult-sized temper tantrum and yelled at Cameron for being irresponsible and spoiled. I stomped around the house, carried on about the tragedy and ranted about how impossible it would be to replace them.

Cameron apologized for the crayon, but I was too upset to notice his grief and regret until his sobbing jolted me back to reality. I saw the reflection of my rage in his eyes and realized how my words were impacting his world.  I felt awful. I scooped him up, hugged him, and apologized for being mean spirited.  I asked him to forgive me for my temper.  I was still upset, but promised to find another way to express my anger. We agreed to look for a solution together.

We scrubbed, soaked, bleached and purchased every creative concoction that promised to remove challenging stains, but nothing worked. Every failed attempt sunk Cameron’s hopes and sparked guilt for my human, but horrible reaction.  When we exhausted our resources, we acknowledged defeat.  My favorite pants had become black-wax khakis and were destined for the dump.

With the heart and wisdom of a child, Cameron timidly told me he liked my khakis better covered with black gunk. He thought they made them look interesting and unique. He’s a sweetheart optimist, but I recognized it was his attempt to make everything ok and realized the distinctive flair of our hand-made pants provided a unique opportunity for me to be a better mom.

Later that week I volunteered at Cameron’s school and showed up in his classroom wearing black-wax pants. When I walked in, Cameron noticed my pants and instantly smiled his precious smile. Later I overheard him whisper to his buddies that my outfit was unique and hand-made. He said they made me look pretty. I secretly celebrated our crayon-stained story had a better ending than its beginning.

A regrettable reaction gave me the opportunity to create a new and powerful perspective with my son.  I don’t wear them anymore, but I’ve kept the crayon-stained pants to remind me that some things are more important than pants and story endings can be re-written.