“…if we want to direct our lives…”

In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.

~Tony Robbins

On this Wisdom Wednesday (my first in quite a while), this thing about consistency is brought to my awareness again. A few years ago, I was posting regularly. I peppered in photography and quotes weekly to break the monotony and ease my writing load. I gradually got out of the habit and quit writing altogether, with a few exceptions here and there.

As we begin a new year, I am recommitting myself to writing regularly. My goal isn’t perfection but consistency. (Until I get ahead on some content, I may be posting later than I’d like… like today.) Until then, enjoy the last few hours of your Wisdom Wednesday!

It Was a Pretty Good Year… and I’m Gonna “Crush It” in 2017!

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I bought a glass like this yesterday, and dropped it before I even got it out of the protective paper wrapping. It didn’t simply break… it shattered. My internal committee immediately began a dialogue about what had transpired. Eternal optimist that I am, I chose to look at it as I sign that I am going to “crush it” in 2017!  (Note, there is nothing in this glass. Alas, that is another post for another day.)

Looking back on 2016, I’d have to say it was a pretty good year. There were some lessons along the way, and some heartbreak too. I made some mistakes. Okay, probably lots of mistakes, but I learned from them.

I took on too many things (which I have been known to do). But when I felt overwhelmed, I quit putting new things on my plate and started saying no once in a awhile. I also put other people’s needs before my own. But I began putting my own needs, if not first, at least higher on my list of priorities. Fortunately, I didn’t have any large lessons to learn in 2016… at least none on which I was tested. ( I learned an abundance of lessons in previous years and hope that I am finished with that for a while now.)

No complaints here.

Cookie, my protector and faithful companion of fourteen years, lost her battle with cancer. When I picked her from that litter (in the back of a pickup truck in a Walmart parking lot), I had no clue she would see me through two divorces, a traumatic injury accident, and that in her old age I would get to comfort her through her illness. My heart was broken, yet it was only because of the immense love she brought into my life.

A poignant part of life.

Now, looking toward 2017, I am grateful for another trip around the sun. I know this year will be even better than the one past. I will spend more time with friends and family. I will meet goals and realize dreams. I will accept change and pain if (when) they come. Above all, I will cherish love and life.

Grateful I have both.

What a Difference a Day Makes

I met with a colleague yesterday to discuss logistics of an upcoming event. The discussion took twists and turns as conversations with friends do. We more deeply explored some possibilities we had initially only grazed in other talks. Aha moments, ideas, and a list of action items abounded.

As we concluded our meeting, my associate remarked, “What a difference a day makes!” Although we had planned to talk, neither of us foresaw the direction we would head on this day. Synergy brought out the best in both of us and we created a new possibility.

As I drove home, I questioned the familiar phrase resounding in my head. What about the day made a difference?

One thing. Our thoughts. The thoughts we entertained, individually and collectively, were all that changed.

When I am not creating the results I desire in my life, I can create dramatic change by changing my thoughts. The immediate circumstances of my life may change gradually (or rapidly, if I am open to it), yet improvement in my inner world can be immediate (if I allow it). In this moment of shift, nothing has changed, yet everything is different. Better.

I know this.

But it is moments like these that grab my attention and catapult me into action. I was grateful for the reminder.

When you desire a different result, change the thinking that got you to this point. And what a difference a day will make, indeed!

On Writing

Writing is therapeutic.

I poured my hormonal teenage heart out on the pages of my Creative Writing notebook in high school. I voiced my complaints in my Comp I journal in college. And in my forties, I expressed my fears and resentments, as well as my gratitude, by blogging. Although my blog has been essentially dark the past year or so, I have been getting my therapy. Last November, I completed the first draft of a book, which I am in the process of editing.

The transitions I have made in the past year astound me. I have taken back my maiden name (again, and for the last time). I am fully self-employed for the first time in my life (after being out of work on worker’s comp for two years). I now edit a newsletter for a professional organization, coordinate a group of volunteers at a spiritual center, and sing regularly (at a coffeehouse where I also MC). And throughout all of this, I wrote.

I wrote essays for classes I took. I wrote copy for a personal growth organization. I wrote affirmative prayers. I wrote 750 words (Morning Pages) of daily brain drain. I wrote poetry. I wrote handwritten notes and cards to friends and family. I wrote lyrics. I wrote personal inventories as part of a 12-step program. I wrote gratitude lists. I wrote letters to God. I wrote “to do” lists. I wrote a book.

All of it therapeutic.

Sorting out my thoughts and feelings on paper is healing… choosing the words with just the right tone… creating a certain mood… poring over the subtle nuances of each synonym… hearing the ring of a well-chosen phrase. These are the things that have helped me create order in chaotic times, make sense of (or peace with) the events that make up my life, and simply get things off my chest.

Regardless of the reams of paper I have filled, I have only recently accepted the title, Writer. Now that the dust has settled (for the time being anyway), the latest catharsis complete, I have come to the realization that I am a writer — not because I have a certain number of words under my belt, not because I have been paid to write, nor because I have something unique to say.

I am a writer because I write.

“Sing with me, just for today…”

Yeah, sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

~Steven Tyler

Today, I resume my Wisdom Wednesday quotes. (I first began in January of 2014… the 22nd to be specific, and stopped in July of the same year.) As I was thinking about which quote I would use today, I thought about all the Wisdom I’ve found in songs.

Dream On, “very possibly the best song ever written” (as my kids often heard me say) has been a favorite of mine since I put endless quarters in the juke box at Pizza Hut to hear it over and over again.

It is now the music on my alarm to wake me up in the morning. Tyler wrote these lyrics when he was young. I suspect they are more true for him now, than they were back then. I know they are for me. Now is all we have, so sing for whatever is going on in your life. It goes by “like dusk to dawn.”

“Just for today…” Happy Wisdom Wednesday!

Moving On

Today I said “buh-bye” to some more things that no longer serve me. I attended a Burning Bowl Ceremony at the spiritual center I attend. I was reminded once again that things I once cherished were the very things I needed to release.

Letting go of the past allows me to step into a new possibility, often one I had not yet imagined. Hurdles may slow me down, and change the trajectory of my life, but they do not have to stop me. I have found that it is my thoughts about events, rather than the circumstances themselves that get in my way.

Today I will release, forgive, and move on once more.

 

Keep Getting Up

IMG_3718 (1)At a coaching luncheon I attended a couple of months ago, the speaker discussed storytelling as a coaching technique. I found a particular exercise he facilitated of great benefit to me, personally. We wrote about our lives, eventually condensing our life story down to six words. Upon completion, we meandered around the room, each of us silently holding up our story on an index card. The stories I read touched me, and the expressions on others’ faces told me that I conveyed my own story well.

Mine read, “Got knocked down. Kept getting up.”

Two years ago today, I got out of bed, meditated, and bounced on my rebounder for an hour. I taught 7th graders math all day, then attended a faculty meeting after school. A fellow teacher reminded me of something I said as we packed up our belongings to go home after that meeting.

“This job is killing me.”

As I left the building that afternoon, the trajectory of my life drastically changed. Without going into a lot of detail surrounding the accident and subsequent physical recovery, I am happy to say I survived.

The psychological fallout is another story. I admit, I didn’t understand why people with PTSD hung on to it. Living with it now, my experience is that PTSD shows up, often uninvited. I don’t think I am aware of the anniversary of the incident, yet my body reminds me. The nightmares start up again. Hypervigilance creeps back into my psyche. Then I am looking up something on the calendar, and BOOM! No wonder! It’s almost November 5th.

So back to my life story… Just as that chapter came to resolution, the surprise twist jerked me back into chaos.

Divorce.

Again.

Many dark days followed. Then I remembered…

Get up.

Get the hell up!

Now!

So I got up.

I moved into an apartment with my son. I found a tutoring student… and another… and another. I resolved not to run to the false sense of security provided by a job that would kill me, kill my spirit. I refuse to allow my business plan to die because the circumstances of my life changed. So I only take work that will support me as I grow my coaching practice.

MaryS- Logo Concept 1

I joined my local professional coaching organization. In twelve weeks,
I authored my first non-fiction book, which I am now editing. A digital artist took my concept and created a logo for my business, and because she wanted to use it in her portfolio, it cost me nothing. A budding photographer did headshots for me.

Slowly but surely, I move forward.

Not only am I taking care of business, I am also taking care of my soul. I am continuing my practitioner classes at my spiritual center. I am singing again and writing lyrics. I am participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. And Tuesdays are blocked off for my grandbabies. Life is good.

Am I going to have more difficult times? Maybe.

Am I going to get knocked down again? Probably.

Am I going to keep getting up? No doubt about it!

Letting Go

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As I was dusting the furniture in my bedroom the other day, I decided it was time to let go of the white roses I had been holding onto since my dad’s memorial service. I was thinking about how the preacher that officiated over that service has passed away, as well as the florist who provided the flowers that my siblings and I had placed on the altar table. They both lived shorter lives than my dad.

I thought back on a story I wrote for a newsletter once. I had recently divorced, for the second time, and I had decided I needed to clear the clutter from my life. Although some of the clutter was in the form of trinkets, much of it was paper — old bills, legal documents, addresses from corners of envelopes, greeting cards and letters, and school work (my kids’ and my own).

As I moved to my first house as a single parent of four children, I decided I would tackle the clutter once and for all. I had a friend support me through the process and he was relentless. I agreed that I would not take anything into my new rental without first determining whether it served a purpose or not. So I moved in the furniture and appliances, as well as clothing, kitchenware and bathroom items. When I had all the basics moved into the house, I placed all of the boxes full of “stuff” on the covered patio. It was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes from the outside wall of the house to the driveway on the larger side.

I was teaching at the time and part of the way through this process was my spring break. So my friend encouraged me to take the week to finish the job I had started. I immediately went into all the reasons I couldn’t do it. I had things I wanted to do during the break. It wasn’t fair to my kids. There’s no way I could complete the task in one week. And besides, I had agreed to finish it by the end of the month. Did I mention my friend was relentless?

He argued that I might as well take the time now, then I would be finished. Yes, I might miss out on spring break, and how good would it feel to have this job complete? No matter my argument he had a logical, compelling rebuttal. Disgruntled, I agreed to do it. I would go through every box left by the end of spring break.

Initially it went well. Although I was angry, the progress I made early on provided momentum and gave me hope. And midweek I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.  As the week came to a close, however, I began to feel tired and stuck. It seemed like it was taking longer to go through the boxes. Decisions about little things seemed harder to make. I was losing steam.

As Sunday rolled around, I realized I did not want my whole spring break to be wasted on a goal I did not achieve. So I committed to complete the task, no matter what it took. On a chilly March evening, I sat on the patio in the dark, sorting through the last few boxes. I decided what would be donated, what would go to the dump, and what would go into the house (and where it would go if it did make it inside). By 10:30PM, I had broken down the last cardboard box, thrown the last few items of clothing into the Goodwill box, and tied up the last bag of trash. It felt incredible to have this gargantuan task off my back.

I went back to school with a sense of accomplishment, and to this day do not regret using up my time off in this way. But the real reward came later. During the following week, I made trips to drop off the items that were still too good to trash and then I took everything else to the local solid waste facility. I had never been to a dump before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.

My son loaned me his pickup truck, which I filled with cardboard boxes. When I checked in at the facility, the attendant informed me that I must empty the boxes first and then break them down and deposit them in the cardboard bin. So I backed the teal S-10 up to the rim of the dumpster I was told to use. I got out and put down the tailgate. I stepped into the bed of the truck, which was level with the top of the immense container. For a brief moment, I didn’t know where to start. Then I simply chose the box closest to me and I opened it.

At first, I felt a pang of guilt for throwing anything away. Then I lifted the box and began pouring out its contents. I noticed that it looked like a waterfall. As I watched the contents of the box cascade into the giant metal box, I felt the box lighten. And I noticed I felt lighter too. I folded the empty box and set it aside so I could empty the next. As I watched its contents flow into the river of garbage, I felt freer than I had felt in a long time — free of two failed marriages, free of past mistakes, free of people who had hurt me, things I didn’t feel good about, and things that didn’t serve me anymore.  Free.

I realized in that moment that nobody had been holding me back. The person that had kept me in bondage was me. I was free now, not because I had broken through chains of oppression, or because I had run away from some evil, but because I had let go. Simply let go. A trip to the dump opened my eyes to the fact that I had been holding onto my past so tightly that there wasn’t room for anything new – anything better – to enter into my experience.

Today, I still struggle with clutter and letting go, but now I am aware. When I notice I am letting the mail pile up on the kitchen table, I consciously choose to mindfully attend to the issue. I recently made an agreement with some friends to clear off my kitchen table when I am finished working for the day, and they held me accountable. Letting go is a skill I am continually practicing.

When I am hanging onto an object like dead, dry roses, I ask myself, “How long are you going to hang onto this? Is it useful to hang onto it? What will happen if I let it go? Is there some other way I can hang onto it?” In the case of the roses, they were crumbling and I couldn’t imagine keeping them much longer; They weren’t useful in any real way; If I let them go, I would be losing a reminder of my dad’s memorial service; I could hang onto them by taking a photograph of them… and by writing this blog post. So I reverently threw them into the trash, feeling a touch of sadness followed by a sense of relief.

My father’s memorial was a tiny sliver in the scheme of what I want to hold onto regarding him. By letting go of the memory jogging roses, I am able to focus on other memories – the times he made me laugh, the times he let me cry, and his unconditional love. I remember him chastising me once for paying for a storage unit. (I am almost ashamed to admit I had two units at that time.) He said with what I was paying for storage, I could buy all new things. He was right. There is no point in holding onto “stuff,” whether it’s physical, mental, emotional. Save the storage fee and get new stuff!

Letting Go - Pins

I’m Baa… aack!

It’s funny how quickly things can change.  August 21st I wrote my last blog post until tonight.  I had only missed a few days of posting in 8 months and then, one day, I stopped.

I don’t quite know why. I just did.

So here it is, more than 2 months later, and I begin… again.

A lot has happened since my last post, and I will get to all of it soon enough.  I have been doing a lot of writing, although it hasn’t been here.  I am writing a Newsletter, doing some copy writing, and am embarking on a creative writing endeavor as well.  In addition, I am journaling (partly for a book study I am leading, and partly as a component of my PTSD treatment).

I am not going back to my hard-core commitment to post every day, simply because I am doing so much writing.  Ironically, I may just become habituated to daily posting anyway.  I do miss the phoneography challenge in which I participated on Mondays, as well as my Wisdom Wednesday quotes.  So, who knows…?  I just know that I have missed my diary-gone-public.

And I’m baa… aack!