Monday, July 15, 2019

Throwing out the Ancestor's Trash

I've long been a fan of Turkish Coffee. I'm not sure if it's the cardamom, the bit of sweetness (I usually drink coffee black) or the presentation, or a mix of all three. But something tells me it might just be the presentation. I'm an artist and a visual person, after all. After a friend sent me a Turkish coffee pot and two beautiful mugs with saucers, I set my mind to finding a metal platter to use when I served this coffee to guests. In the meantime, I made use of one of my favorite Christmas presents from last year, from one of my favorite people - a handmade wooden serving tray. But I still kept my eye out for a metal one.

When I say that I kept my eye out, I mean that I looked at second hand shops and the like. I let people know I was looking for one. This is generally how I go about acquiring things I want, but don't need at that immediate moment. It keeps me practicing the art of manifesting rather than simply buying. And it makes what I do acquire generally all the more special, for the reason that it came to me, with a story.

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out a shed on my parent's property. It was a huge and daunting task, dirty work that I had been putting off for, well, years. My parents were raised by parents who survived the Great Depression. They had been taught to save everything. Because no one anticipates major and debilitating medical issues or dying suddenly, nothing had been stored in a proper way. It was all stored with the idea that it would be gone through by them 'one day.' Letters, old photos, household items, clothes, cookware, etc. Opening the door to the shed was like stepping right into an episode of the television show, Hoarders. Only, this wasn't true hoarding, it was just holding on to things they thought they might need one day the fear of letting go of the familiar, and the difficult work of sorting through it all to make space for what they wanted to keep.

Yours truly, getting ready to roll.
And it was hot, sweaty, buggy, difficult work that took several days and still isn't 100% complete. What surprised me was, how much I enjoyed doing it. It felt great, and not just because of the physical exercise, there was something more. I was sharing this with a wise and wonderful friend and she summed it up in one sentence...

"You're throwing out the ancestor's trash,
 physically and emotionally." 

And that was it. In a nutshell. I was not only physically discarding junk that no longer served a purpose, but I was feeling emotionally unburdened as well. 

My parents never got around to going through the shed.They never got around to doing many things they intended to do. They became masters of procrastination, always waiting on a perfect moment of readiness. 

That moment never comes.

And I was haunted by all the things they never got to do.

The universe knows what you are ready for, and generally presents it to you when the time is right. The trick is knowing when to trust that is what's happening, and move forward in that knowing. In doing so, we can let go of what no longer serves us while making space for not only what's to come, but what we want to keep.

I found my tray in a box of dirty and rusted household items, stored for years without being covered properly, but I was able to clean it up with a bit of work. 

There were many more items that caught my eye, things that brought to mind a moment or memory from childhood, but the tray is the only thing I kept, the only thing I needed to keep. Most items, due to poor storage, sadly, were not salvageable, but I passed on a few that were to those who would appreciate them. 

What I learned from this experience is how much we hold on to out of fear,. how we put off the dirty work because that's what it is, dirty work. And how much junk can build up while we are waiting on that perfect moment of readiness. 

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Boldness of Saying No....

I have a friend who always inspires me because she's one of the most in-the-moment people I have ever known. She's never without a positive word, even when times were difficult and the situation she was in wasn't going exactly as she'd hoped. And having known her for over 20 years, I have born witness to how she made the best of  her circumstances, even when they seemed impossible. She might have vented about it a bit, but she didn't complain or expect others to step in and save her. She just saw it through in the best way she could imagine, always believing that things would work out. And now, she's in a new and amazing chapter of her life, and talking with her, it's so easy to see how all roads led to where she has arrived, even the darkest and loneliest ones.

She will tell you that she ended up on some of these dark and lonely roads because she was afraid to say yes a few times, when life presented something unexpected, because saying yes would mean change. It was easier to say no. No shuts doors. It closes avenues. It keeps things the same. Saying yes can mean an adventure, but saying no gets you home in time for your favorite television shows. 

In her mind, saying no would keep things from getting out of control. It would prevent drama. It would prevent failure. Only, it didn't, because the things she said no to weren't replaced by things meant for her...they were the things meant for her. And no is so often a default, a word we say out of fear, because we think something is going to be too difficult, too challenging, too much.

But sometimes, it takes a bit of boldness to say no. Because no can also mean no more
I'm done. 
I don't want this

It can be as bold a move as saying yes. 

**stock image, not generated by me**
Saying no can be one of the ultimate ways of setting healthy boundaries and caring for ourselves. It can also be how we honor our intuition and respect divine timing. 

I recently read an essay by a lady who makes her living primarily online. As business swelled, she had to hire more staff, but over the years, the work had taken too much from her personal life and the office environment she had created became toxic as the business grew. The money was pouring in, but everyone was stressed and overwhelmed. Her first initial thought was to hire more people, but then she realized, though it contradicted everything she had learned about running a business, that she needed to say no to this. She needed to say no to the life she was currently living, the toll it was taking on her health, her well-being, and the well-being of her family. So she restructured the business, let go of her entire staff, and went back to the level she had managed before. It was a difficult decision, as it wasn't what others wanted. But her staff found new jobs and her family is thrilled to have her back, the old her, the her that isn't always tense and on edge all the time from running a mega-business. Her smaller-scale business is now enough, her income is enough, and she finally feels like she is enough. And it all came from saying no.

I have said no to many things over the past couple of years, things I knew seemed like logical, rational choices, but in the end, weren't meant for me. Or they were things I had been doing for a long time, but they didn't bring me as much joy as they once had. It was time to step away, to say no, to clear a path for new things to come by releasing what was no longer serving me. Sometimes it was hard, because I knew my no was affecting the lives of others. However, in saying no to these things, these situations, these possible life paths, I cleared the way for change not only for myself, but for others as well. 

Saying no. It can be just as bold as saying yes, if not more so. 
Happy Monday!

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Power of Stating Our Intentions

I have been an avid knitter for almost 10 years now. It's more than a hobby. Might be bit of an obsession....
Still, there's many skills related to knitting that I had not yet attempted to tackle. And there's no real reason why. I had been knitting for a couple of years, making primarily simple scarves, wraps and such before I braved following a pattern. Even then, I didn't go beyond the comfort zone of basic. That took a while, but once I moved past the comfort zone of basic, I moved on to skills using multiple needles at once, following charts, complicated lacework, etc.

The comfort zone of basic. Basic is one of those words that's taken on new meaning in our society. And it's not one I want to define me.

As my skills and confidence in knitting grew, I took on more challenging projects. But despite my love of all things Nordic, I had never yet attempted the intricate colorwork that knitting style is known for.
From the book, Nordic Knits: 29 Stylish Small Projects. Link follows post. 
Colorwork of any kind was something that seemed so intimidating...the grand poohbah of knitting skills. Master level stuff....

...until I actually did it! Isn't that the way it goes? Things can seem so overwhelming, so out-of-reach, so impossible...until we just sit down one day and say, okay, I'm going to do this.

Not "I'm going to try to do it," but, "I'm going to do it."

The intention in our words matter.

I recently taught a healing art workshop and we discussed the importance of intention in our words. Not saying, "I hope to do this," or "I'm going to try to do this," but stating clearly "I want to do this," or "I'm going to do this." There's a power in words that affects to the wiring of our brains. There's something about stating an intention, through writing it down, saying it aloud to others, or just saying it to ourselves, that sets wheels into motion.

This summer, I was going to learn colorwork. I stated it to others. I put it on my list. I told myself.

Of course it takes more than stating an intention to accomplish something, but it's a powerful first step. We open a door. We move into accountability. We started planning. We begin visualizing.

Stating our intention in a clear, precise, definite way is one of the boldest things we can do because it  moves us forward, out of fear, into possibility.

Happy Monday!

**The Snowflake pattern I followed is in the book, Nordic Knts: 29 Stylish Small Projects and can be found here

***The second colorwork pattern is called Leaded Glass Mitts and is available here.

Monday, June 24, 2019

On Being In the Driver's Seat...

My last post, On Doing It Scared, talked about the amazing book I recently read, Do It Scared, by Ruth Soukup. I have been exploring this concept a lot the past few weeks, after seeing a quote that read, "Sometimes, you have to do it afraid."

In my 20s, I lived in Detroit, and I would regularly make long distance treks across the country to visit friends and family back in South Carolina. I didn't think too much about these drives. I just did it. I began to know the route like the back of my hand, and I had favorite places to stop, landmarks that helped me keep up with the time left in the drive. These were also the days before GPS, I might mention. My handy roadmap was always nearby, just in case I got tired and missed a key exit, or suddenly everything seemed unfamiliar. These long road trips to and from South Carolina, as well as other places in and around the Detroit area (including driving in Detroit itself!) just became part of my normal. 

But at some point over the last few years, I started telling myself the story that I was afraid to drive in heavy traffic. On Interstates. In big cities. 

I don't have an explanation for this, the closest thing I can come up with is the osmosis of  'group think.' I have noticed that driving outside of the general area where they live seems to be a 'last frontier' for many women. If they are married or in a serious relationship, they often don't do any long distance or heavy traffic driving. It's left to their husband or partner. I have had many even tell me directly, "I don't do any more driving than I have to."

I think, somewhere over the years, I began telling myself this was my story, too. But it isn't. I had to step out of this story and own the one that had been mine before, years ago - that I am a competent and capable driver. That I can navigate long distances, interstates and heavy metropolitan traffic now just as easily I did in my 20s, when I lived and drove in one of the biggest cities in the United States.

The result of this mindset shift was Summer Road Trip 2019! We took off to visit a place I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember - Amish Country in Pennsylvania. 

Lancaster County, I love you!!!
Lancaster County Yarns and Wools/Labadie Looms. Best yarn store ever! 
We also visited some friends who live in New Jersey, but very close to Philadelphia, so we were able to spend some time in Philly! It was great to see them and experience the city.  So many fun and happy memories made!

Philadelphia by sunset, from the Cooper River Bridge in Cherry Hill, NJ
These friends were kind enough to take us north a bit to visit another friend who lives right outside of New York City. I haven't seen her in over 10 years, and it was great to be together again, see her area of the world, have a chocolate raspberry coffee at the shop where she performs live several times a month.

It was such a great trip and amazing time there...I could easily digress and let this slip into a travel blog, so I will pause here to say, yes, I did it afraid. Totally. Afraid of getting lost. Afraid I would have car trouble and be stranded. Afraid of having an accident. Afraid of driving in heavy traffic. But none of these fears were founded in anything other than the abstract concept that these things can and do happen. Not just on long road trips, but also driving around our own towns and communities. And I will tell you a secret - there's an amazing sense of empowerment that comes from rewriting your story, changing your mindset, rephrasing your current dialogue. 
Yes, there were times the drive was scary. But not outside of Baltimore, MD, a city so big that the Interstate runs through a tunnel underneath it; not outside of Washington, DC, where there's exit signs for Pennsylvania Avenue; not outside Richmond, VA. It got scary outside of Charlotte, NC, a city I have driven in and around numerous times and is somewhat familiar to me. I would never have imagined that this was where things might get a bit hairy, but that was the reality. Thank goodness for GPS and roadmaps, and older highways that take a bit longer but can still get one home. 

I'm so glad I tackled this before "I don't drive more than I have to," became a permanent loop in my mind. And I'm sure that like so many others, I would hand over the wheel in an instant if there was someone else there to drive. It's much easier to be a passenger, after all. But being a passenger because someone else wants to drive is different than a fear of being in the driver's seat. Fear shouldn't hold us back if there's places we want to go and things we want to see and no other driver to take us there. We should be able to slip into the driver's seat, not only of our cars, but of our own lives, when the urge to see and do and be someplace new is the one we need to follow, and we are the only means of getting ourselves there.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

On Doing It Scared

What would you do if fear no longer stood in your way? 

This is the basis for Ruth Soukup's new book, do it scared.

I started this book the week my summer vacation began, after seeing it on a friend's social media feed. This friend recently made the bold move to up and purchase a building and open a business. Damn! So yeah, if she's reading stuff like this, then I wanted in, because obviously it packs a punch! And illustrates what is, to me, the best thing about social media - sharing the good stuff!

And let's face it, how often are we not doing what it is we really want to do because it's just too scary? Because we might not succeed. We might fall flat on our faces. Get hurt. Be laughed at. End up in debt. Or, have our entire life change in a much better way. Have it all work out. Watch everything we wanted come together in that beautiful, magical plan the universe always had for us, once we could let go of fear and allow it all to unfold. Because truth is, sometimes the fear of things working out, the fear of  how life might change as a result of that, the fear of just taking an unknown path, it can hold us back as much as the fear of failure... if not more. So we don't even try. We make other choices and tell ourselves this is happiness. We hover in the safe zone.
Until that blows up in our face too, because safe zones have expiration dates, but regret doesn't.

An excerpt from do it scared
Soukup addresses in the work the archetypes of fear, and I recognized myself in a couple. Namely 'The Excuse Maker," and I'm not proud of that, but I also saw bit of myself in a few other archetypes as well. You can take your own assessment here, and I do recommend doing it. There's so much to engage with on her site in addition to reading the book. But I must warn you, if you are a person who battles the grand demon of  "but what if...." then this book has the potential to be life changing. Because as Will Smith's character states in his famous After Earth speech, "Danger is very real. But fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story. And that day, mine changed."

Last week, my story changed. And it's not only from reading the book, it was that little force inside that drove me to ask my friend if I could borrow it. That little voice inside, that's courage. It's not always a bold roar. It's more often the quite little voice that leads us to embark on every single decision we make that carries with it even the tiniest bit of risk, risk that the end result won't meet our expectations. I could go off on another tangent here of the danger of expectations, how they take us out of the moment and prevent us from fully engaging in living...but I won't. Instead, I will end with this question...does always playing it safe really meet the expectations you have for your one and only life?

If your answer is yes, then this book may not be for you.
But if that little voice is speaking to you...
...if there's something you always wanted but have been afraid to really go after...
...if there's some dream still living inside you that you just know you need to try...
...if you handed your story over to fear at some point, and now you want to take back authorship...
then this just might be the book for you!

Happy Sunday!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Just Four Things....Reviving The Boldness Initiative Blog!

I'm an un-apologetically early riser. I make no excuses for this. By the time most people have stirred around in their beds on a Saturday morning, I have already had coffee, breakfast, made homemade bread, done the week's laundry, read a few chapters of whatever book I'm obsessed with at the time, written a letter (or two or three) and am ready to take a morning walk. This isn't, by the way, a thing that most who know me admire. It's more often met with, "What is your problem?" than it is any sense of respect. But I don't do it to be admired. I do it because I am a high-energy person who doesn't require a typical amount of sleep. Waking up early, getting a jump start on the day, being busy and active works for me. Lingering in bed for hours for no particular purpose just because it's the weekend doesn't work for me. But it's quite alright if it works for others. One of the beauties of life as an adult is, there are no rules, really, to our basic daily routines. Responsibilities, yes. Rules, no.

The other day I asked someone close to me if he recognized patterns in my behavior or his own. I was on the path of a truth, and seeking confirmation. I had recently watched Brene Brown's powerful, life-changing Call to Courage on Netflix, and was in a deeply reflective state of mind. His answer was vague and not at all what I was really asking about, but it was highly informative about the way he was feeling, what he was thinking, and what he needed in that moment. It created a whole new set of questions. Questions I could only ask myself.

There's no rules to conversation, either. But there are responsibilities. Listen. Pause. Think. Act.

It's not the acting that is the hard part. While I can easily get up before the sun rise and complete a full day's list of chores before sitting down with a second cup of coffee, it's more difficult to sit with a truth and listen to it on a soul level. To hear not only what was said, but what was left unsaid. But it always unfolds in 4 steps:

We listen.
We pause.
We think.
We act.

Four things.

I love Elephant Journal. If you don't already follow them by social media or email, 
I highly recommend!

When we put it in terms of a 3-year old's logic, it is just four things. That's easily doable, right?

Living in a bold way doesn't mean the same thing for everyone. The image that generally comes to mind is someone rushing out headfirst into to world, afraid of nothing, ready for adventures that involve a lot of risks and moving around (and generally some degree of financial security.) However, living boldy can just be about finally taking control of your life. Letting love in.  Making that career change. Moving to  your dream location with no idea what comes next. Wearing a bikini. Getting a tattoo. Giving up dairy. Driving across the country to see your family. Writing a letter to the editor and using your real name.
Or, it can be asking a question, getting a vague answer, and genuinely listening not only to the other person, but your own intuition as well. It can be taking the pause you need in order to do the thinking (and my personal favorite, the planning!) before acting. Sometimes the boldest thing we will ever do is pause. Give time, and space. For others, and for ourselves. Rushing and acting without listening, pausing or thinking isn't living boldly.
It's living foolishly.

Instagram insight from Elephant Journal again. I'm serious, find and follow!

And yeah, I've done it too, because the listening, pausing and thinking can at times be so damn difficult. For me, it's far easier to act. My living boldy at times looks like taking a time-out. Pausing. Which is so damned difficult and heart-wrenching and can look to others like I am doing nothing but eating chocolate and binge watching Netflix on the couch for 8 days straight. But it's okay.
Nothing evolves without a pause.
And I've learned two very important things about what others think of me:
1. It's none of my business.
2. They aren't thinking of me at all. They're looking at their phones.

I started this blog in 2011 to encourage myself, through through 30 days of daily writing and sharing, to overcome a soul-punching heartbreak by not retreating from the world as I was doing, but instead learning to embrace life in a bold, fierce way, incorporating more listening, pausing, thinking, and acting. I'm rebooting it, with the original posts from 2011 all in the archives, to continue sharing this message. Coming here to this space again feels like visiting an old friend, and I'm very excited about what is to come! I already have a list of post topics to share with you, including book reviews, interviews, and mind-body-wellness insights! It's my hope that through writing and sharing we can grow together, living life in a bolder way. Please comment, follow, and share. See you next week!

**Find out more about Elephant Journal here!