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.

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/

 

 

 

 

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.

The Fish Will Tell You How to Fish Them

I signed up for the fly-fishing-for-women course through the local B&B because I needed to escape my everyday existence and learn something new. I had been drawn to the running trails near the Kinnickinnic, but had never stepped foot in the water.  Often times I found myself near the river, hypnotized by the sound of rushing water, and mesmerized by the beauty and rhythm of a fly fisherman’s technique.  I watched with fascination as the line was ripped from the water when the fisherman had one on.  Without fail, the fisherman displayed compassion for the fish and respect for the stream.  I lost myself in the scene and I allowed my worries to be carried away by the current.  The river was a magical place and I wanted to learn more about its depth.

I arrived at the class in a bright pink, short-sleeved top and khaki shorts, with a borrowed rod and reel.  I had a great little pack of flies that had been a birthday gift from a friend cinched around my waist.  I had spied this look on a pro while walking near the Rush River one day and boldly and ignorantly thought fly-fishing was about the flies and the gear. I learned later that day there was more to the sport than what met the eye.

The instructor was a fly fishing expert who worked for Cabellas and had fished streams all over the world.  She was dressed in waders and a fancy fly-fishing vest with lots of fishing gadgets hanging from the pockets and zippers.  She had a net hanging from her waist and under her vest she wore a pale green shirt with the sleeves rolled up to a three quarter length on her arm.  She wore a baseball cap that sported several interesting flies hooked to the bill.  She had a soft voice and an even temperament and her love and passion for the great outdoors was contagious.  I liked her instantly.

After a brief lesson on threading line and tying flies, she took us to nearby baseball fields and demonstrated the principles of the cast.  We practiced the snap of the line until she was satisfied none of us would hook another’s eyeball.

As we made our way to the bank of the river, she showed us how to carry our rods without breaking or snagging the tip.  As we sat and geared up, she explained the temperature and flow of the water, the speed of the current, and how and where the fish would sit.  She talked about the wisdom of the fish and how they can detect imbalances in their environment.  She told me my shirt was “too loud” to be natural and the fish would feel threatened by the color.  She handed me one of her soft blue fishing shirts that blended well with the sky.  Strangely, I felt more at peace, too.  She was almost poetic when she spoke of the natural balance and perfect ecological harmony that made the sport possible.

One by one she guided our slippery steps over rocks and set us up in the stream.  She told us exactly where to cast to catch a fish. Even with athletic genes, I found it to be a significant challenge to get the line to go exactly where I wanted it to go. It took finesse and patience, both of which I lacked at that particular moment in time.   I cast and dragged the line; cast and dragged the line.  Each time the snap of my line got louder and more forced and more times than not, would snag a tree branch or rock.  No trout hit my line and I was convinced it was due to the wrong kind of fly.

Sensing my frustration, the instructor waded her way over to my spot.  She secured her footing, grabbed my line, then reached down and picked up a fist-sized rock.  She flipped it over and pointed to the tiny creatures clutching the rock.

“See those little bugs?” she asked me.  They constantly change, but those are the bugs that are hatching naturally at this exact moment in this stream. That’s the size and kind of fly you want to use,” she said with a slow, soft voice.

“You see, Samantha, the fish will tell you how to fish them. You just need to slow down enough to look around and listen.”

I walked away from that day with a respect for the sport and a new appreciation for the stream and the perfection of nature. I didn’t catch a fish, but the lesson has never left me.  The fish will tell you how to fish them.

My son is not a fish, but I find this lesson to be true in parenting, as well.  He’s like a little wise trout that can detect harsh imbalances in his environment.  That may sound strange, but I believe it’s my job as his mother to create harmony in our environment, and protect him from harsh threats, whatever that looks like for him. Sometimes it’s a bully; other times it’s a school project or extracurricular deadline; but sometimes it’s the simple pressures of our fast-paced American life.

Like one-of-a-kind trout, children are unique and precious and require a place where they feel safe and can be their natural selves.  They may not use words or bugs under rocks, but if you slow down, look around, and listen, I guarantee, they’ll communicate what they need.

The fish will tell you how to fish them. And so it is with the children. They will tell you how to parent them.

 

Watch for my new e-book available September 1, 2011, titled, How I’m not Winning Mother of the Year: 8 Powerful Perspectives for Parents.  To reserve your copy, kindly contact me at Samantha@powerfulperspectives.net

 

 

 

 

Transforming Darkness into Light

We met at a function that called for business casual conversation.  He worked the room like a professional, making small talk and thoughtful introductions to colleagues.  It was clear to me this wasn’t his first networking event.

His hazel eyes were intense and deep, but I can’t say I was attracted to him at first glance. In fact, my first vibe was one of mistrust and deceit.  It wasn’t until he emailed me several weeks later that I was able to get a better read.  His energy, via email, was softer, kinder and inquisitive. He had read my work on-line and was curious which rivers I had fly-fished, a hobby he also enjoyed. I responded to his inquiry with an intrigue of my own and thus began a journey of discovery.

Hundreds of emails and several months later, we met for lunch. We talked about the industry, but other motivations took over and the conversation became more personal.  No longer did I see a man motivated by greed and power; but instead saw him for his soul.  He was a global thinker with big energy and I admired his perspectives on people, politics and process.  His life experiences vastly differed from my own, but he listened with intent when I spoke of my truth and history.  He loved good stories and reveled in the drama that was my specialty.

We found reasons to contact each other on a regular basis and our friendship and connection deepened.  We met for coffee, shared stories of our adventures, stole moments throughout our day and spoke of the desire for more time alone.  I lost track of time and space when we were together and basked in the first and last communication of each day. I found myself magnetized to a man who didn’t make sense to my mind, but seemed to make sense to my heart.

Our relationship had several factors working against us including what we valued, the trajectory of our careers, and our significant age difference. But because my heart was experiencing bliss, my mind dismissed my doubt. I broke my own relationship rules and made excuses to friends for reasons he said he was unavailable to meet.  What he called code names, I called flirtatious fun. When he didn’t respond to messages I sent while he was traveling, I chalked it up to him seeking adventure.

When I wasn’t a priority when he returned, I refused to believe it had anything to do with me.  Sadly, I ignored the glaring red flags.

It wasn’t one big thing, but a compilation of several small things that led me to face the reality that where I was headed wasn’t a shared path. It took tremendous courage to ask the questions I knew the answers to, but with resolve and support from friends, I found the strength to speak my truth and seek his.

I can’t explain why the obvious was surprising to me, but I found his truth difficult to reconcile with my own. Perhaps I was hoping he would see how his words had not aligned with his previous actions and intentions.  Or maybe in my fantasy world, I was hoping to be swept away by his sudden awareness of our potential possibility.

That didn’t happen and over the course of the following weeks, I found myself feeling used and misled. I went to a dark place of hatred and regret and wallowed in the self-pity of stupidity for many moons.

I took time to vent, then took the time to heal.  As a storyteller and believer in all things mystical, I wanted to believe in Disney’s depiction of the “once upon a time tales.” I now believe that true love is much more than fictional fantasy.  Love is what motivates the heart; logic is what motivates the mind. Relationships are a balance of both and call for an “and” to be successful. Dismissing one for the other is operating from a place of “or” that will eventually self-correct.

Balance is the natural consequence of time and nature, and if we wait long enough, anything can realize its potential. It wasn’t until a new relationship entered my world when I recognized my role in the former.

Odd as it may sound, through the heartbreak of other’s participation in my path, I transformed my relationship with self.  I’ve learned to follow my heart, but also trust my head. I’ve learned to stop expecting others to live up to their potential and instead accept them as they are and hope they see their own potential.  I’ve learned not to make somebody a priority when they only make me an option.

I’ve learned that transformation and powerful perspectives are not typically found through the everyday mundane. It’s inside of fear or love where the greatest possibilities exist.  These experiences give us strength, enrich our lives, and gain us access to wisdom only found in sadness and grief.

I wish I could say that life is meant to be joyful, but the truth is, I have no idea what is meant to be. I only have the power to recognize what is, and that is enough.  Inside of “what is” exists the power to create the potential of what will be.

What I learned about Business from a Fish

I once worked for a government agency as an intern running errands, delivering mail and typing letters and reports.

I was given projects by many and faced each assignment with energy and a “can-do” attitude. This approach ended up getting me into trouble because I was told it intimated some of the introverted old-timers who didn’t appreciate my spunk.  My supervisor told me to “stop being so happy” and work more slowly.

Stunned, I told one of the women I had befriended about my situation and she promised to show me the ropes.  She kept an interesting fish she had named Gerald in a fish bowl on her desk. She asked me to be in charge of feeding Gerald and keeping his little tank clean.

After classes, I headed to work and straight to my coworkers office to check on Gerald. I dropped fish treats into the bowl and would sometimes stick my pinky finger in to see if I could trick him into thinking it was a treat.  He would eat the treats and then suck on my finger. It became our ritual.

After several weeks, Gerald began to recognize me and would swim quickly back and forth in his tank when I entered my coworker’s cubicle.  Once when my coworker was out of the office, I taught Gerald to play hide and go seek.

I crouched down on my hands and knees and sneaked into my co-worker’s office to reach Gerald’s tank before he noticed.  I popped up in front of his bowl and surprised him. When he saw me, his swim pace quickened. I gave him treats and then stuck my pinky finger in the tank as a kind of human-to-fish acknowledgment of his keen observations.

Leaving her cubicle, I would peak around the corner to see if he was still swimming fast. He wasn’t. Sometimes he’d catch me looking back and as a sort of fish-to-human acknowledgment, make a quick lap to let me know he got it.

I entertained myself for hours by keeping company with the fish and cracked myself up at the absurdity of working slowly to cater to others insecurities.

Several weeks later, one particular commander who had been uncomfortable with my earlier energy asked me to assist with a “special” project perfect for somebody with spunk.

He had been saving newspapers that mentioned certain military projects and he wanted me to copy articles onto standard sized paper.  He was adamant each article contained the headline, reporter’s name, and name and date of the newspaper. He wanted each story to fit on one page so it was easier for him to read.

I attacked this project as if it were critical to national security. I stood at the copy machine for hours and manipulated the newspapers to fit the panel.  I experimented with the “shrink-to-reduce-size” options and fiddled with the paper input and hoped-like-heck the orientation would come out correct. It took me weeks and hundreds of dead trees to get everything perfect, but I became the master of media manipulation, all in name of becoming student-aid extraordinaire.  I had a vision of turning this commander into one of my biggest fans.

When I completed the project, I gave it to the Commander’s secretary with a handwritten note thanking him for the opportunity to make his life easier. I went back to my regular assignments and back to taking great care of Gerald.

The Commander never acknowledged the project and didn’t become my biggest fan, but he later gave me another “great” opportunity that surprisingly shifted the course of my career.  Gerald, on the other hand, let me know daily that my actions made a difference in his world.

I left that job with an important reminder to acknowledge and appreciate people who approach their jobs with spunk. Through my experience with that agency, I learned that people’s issues with spunk have nothing to do with spunk, or with me.  Their issues are about them. I learned that the words “thank you” are the two most powerful words in business and I learned that every contribution, regardless of how large or small, is a gift to the organization.

Later I learned that appreciation and acceptance are Powerful Perspectives – those qualities that begin with awareness and move upward toward love.

 

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Lessons of an Ordinary Life

I tend to think of my childhood as something I survived. It’s not to say my parents didn’t do their best, but unlike my siblings, I wasn’t born with obvious natural gifts, and I struggled to understand where I fit in.

My oldest sister, Tiffany, was highly intelligent and walked well before her first birthday. She took to reading early and consumed books whole.  She had a great memory and her energy seemed to flow best through the pages of books.  This gift served her well in school where she earned straight A’s with what seemed like little effort.

My sister Mardy was the family comedienne.  She was dramatic, quick-witted and a master at repeating jokes. She was a social butterfly and once won a look-alike contest for her physical resemblance to Reba McIntyre.  She could also captivate a room, Chelsea Handler-style. She was also born with outstanding rhythm and style and rivaled Prince with creative dance moves and attire. I still think she has a future in Hollywood.

Leslie was my parent’s undisputed favorite.  She was easy going and pleasant and didn’t inherit the drama-queen gene.  She had more athletic talent and intelligence than her three older sisters combined. She was confident and comfortable in her skin and could have conversations with teachers and coaches as easily as her classmates. If my sisters or I muttered or thought about using words like stupid or gay, my mom would wash our mouths out with soap.  If we talked back to our dad, we could expect the wrath of the Incredible Hulk. Leslie could throw a fit of profanity at my parents and they would embrace it as family entertainment. My sister’s and I still call her the golden child.

The youngest of this tribe was the only boy, my brother Timothy.  He was born with soft, focused, intense energy and was nicknamed TR.  We thought of him as a real-life doll and took turns dressing him up in little clothes.  Our mother announced that having a boy meant the end of the babies in our family, and I think we secretly appreciated TR for ending the streak. When he entered kindergarten, he politely, but firmly, changed his name from TR to Tim. He excelled in sports and had inherited the linear mind of my father, giving him an edge in math and engineering.  When he was thirteen, he scored so high on the ACT that he was invited to attend a military academy near Chicago.  The rules and curfews that applied to his older siblings didn’t apply to him and his full name has yet to be used in our house. In fact, we tease him and call him “baby boy” because he still has our mother wrapped around his little finger.

I was the second born and arrived six weeks early. I was a pigeon-legged preemie and needed leg braces and special shoes to learn to walk. My parents thought I had special needs because I didn’t speak until I was three. When I finally talked, I muttered the phrase, “more Jell-O please.”  I may have been a late bloomer, but at least I was polite and continue to enjoy talking. When I was six, I was in a terrible bike accident that changed the shape of my face and jaw, giving me a different appearance than my similar-looking siblings.  School didn’t come easy and I was told I would never be the student my sister was.  It was said to alleviate the pressure of living up to my sister’s academic accomplishments, but my mind translated it to mean I would never be as smart.  I played sports, but wasn’t the superstar my siblings were, and I was more comfortable standing on my head than on my feet.  I couldn’t tell a good joke to save my soul and a nun at my high school told me I should have a back-up skill because she couldn’t see my future writing career.

I rebelled through most of my late teens and early twenties, meandered through my mid-to-late twenties, and attempted to conform in my early-to-mid-thirties, all the while searching for my gifts and a place to fit in and feel normal.

It wasn’t until my life hit a dead-end that I decided to take the time to reflect on the values and messages shaping my life.

I went searching for the truth and realized that being different was my natural gift.  I didn’t know it then, but my quest for normal is what makes me normal.  The older I get, the more I understand that the quest is what life is all about.  I’ve also learned that fitting in is over-rated and comparing your life to others is futile.

I’ve learned spontaneity and unpredictability keep life interesting and I’ve learned a child-like perspective is creative and healthy.

I’ve learned the gifts of my childhood were rich and have learned judgment of self and others destroys the here and now.  I’ve learned life is a series of ordinary moments and to remove the word “should” and honor “what is.”

I’ve learned that Powerful Perspectives turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and begin with awareness and move upward toward acceptance and love.

The Kitchen Table Club

Contrary to what Disney or the storybook fairytales would have you believe, I’ve come to realize that most human relationships are not destined for forever.  I am not a pessimist and I don’t like to think of anyone as a lost cause, but sometimes taking a stand and walking away from a relationship that no longer empowers you is as difficult as choosing the familiar, yet uninspiring routine.

I was reminded of this kind of courage as I sat around a kitchen table drinking wine with women who were finding their way through life’s challenges; some of which they had chosen; some of which had chosen them.

Their stories were unique, but the principles of learning to trust another were commonplace. One of the women shared stories of betrayal and mixed messages of hope for reconciliation.  Another struggled with the exhilaration and exhaustion of entering the dating world; and the third wrestled with the guilt of her decision and the impact it had on her family.

My heart ached from missing important time with my son. He was with his father when I called to say goodnight. I learned another woman was reading him a goodnight story.  The thought she had the honor and privilege of holding my son and tucking him into bed nearly ripped my heart in two. I had prepared myself for this woman’s existence in my ex’s life, but hadn’t considered her role in my son’s; a reality I would be forced to reconcile from that moment forward.

Over the course of many months, this group gathered at various kitchen tables when the weight of the burden was too heavy to carry alone.  The kitchen table became the place where we shared our sorrows and encouraged each other to continue moving forward.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a man bashing pity party, because believe me when I say it was not. We challenged each other when the wallowing became more evident than the strength and we cried together when the loneliness and responsibilities overwhelmed. We discussed what it meant to maintain our power and debated when it became clear we were selling ourselves short.

At the time, those friendships were the most important people in my life. But like the marriages that ended to bring us together in that place, the relationships that formed around the kitchen table were never meant to be forever. Our informal meetings were intended to reveal the mystery of who we were becoming while we safely shed the skin of who we had been.

One by one, we found our new normal and the kitchen table club was no longer. My mind wanders back to those days and the lessons I learned and think that when we allow something to end as effortlessly as it began, we give it wings and set it free. Life and relationships are continually changing, and as long as we trust ourselves to recognize an ending as simply a new beginning, we live in a state of power instead of fear. We relinquish control and expectation and therefore dwell in the moment of now. We begin to see things as they are, instead of how we want them to be and we learn that we have access to everything we need. These gifts may be wrapped in unusual packages, but the ways of Divine are not ours to know.

The gifts of acceptance and awareness are Powerful Perspectives I learned from the kitchen table club, with gratitude and love.

Flight of the Bumblebee

When my son was 8-years-old, we turned off the television and spent the hour before bedtime journaling and reading together.  We each had a journal and our own box of colored pencils. 

In our journals we could doodle or draw, practice letters; write stories, or paste quotes or pictures. The journal was our place for processing our ideas or thoughts and the only rule we had was that there were no mistakes.

No matter what we wrote or drew in our journal was simply perfect. It would not be judged or labeled, only appreciated and accepted. There were days when I would scribble a picture of a funnel cloud to capture the energy of my day. Other days, I wrote about the meaning of life, drafted a poem, or drew a palm tree or flower. Whatever we put in our journal, we agreed it was “simply perfect.”

One night, my son spent a great deal of time on a picture of a garden filled with colorful flowers, bright sunshine and puffy clouds floating in the blue sky. It was meticulous and beautiful and he was proud of his work.

When he went to put the finishing touches on the page, his black pencil slipped and he made a squiggly slash mark across half the page.

Tears welled up in Cameron’s eyes because he thought the picture was ruined. He had worked so hard on the picture it nearly broke my heart. Then I pointed out to him that it was a “no mistakes” journal and reminded him that everything that happened was simply perfect.  I asked him to look at how the black squiggly line might make his picture better.

As he sat and cried and resisted this experiment, I bit my lip to hold myself back from speaking or suggesting ways to “fix” the picture.

I continued to journal, my lip nearly bloody as I forced myself to allow Cameron to solve his own dilemma. What happened next is a moment that has shaped our relationship and led him to powerful perspectives.  He released the judgment of his work, experienced a new view, and enjoyed a moment of personal empowerment.

He grabbed a black and yellow pencil and added a tiny yellow and black body bumblee with wings to the end of the scribble.

His face was now filled with pride and his body language proud and upright as he shared how the black slash across the page became the flight of the bumblebee.  My son thought the addition made the original more creative; his mistake made his picture better.  The greatest gift of that evening was watching my son work through his own emotion without the overlay of my thinking.  Had I fixed it for him, it would have reinforced that the picture was not good if it was not “perfect.” 

My son and I use the flight of the bumblebee philosophy in other areas of our lives to remind ourselves that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to make our pictures better.

Powerful Perspectives are those qualities that begin with awareness and move toward acceptance and love.