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!