Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Whose voice matters?

Whose voice do you give power to? 

When you have a decision to make, or you put yourself out there in some way, and you can't quite make the leap or get there on your own━maybe you're afraid to make a mistake, the unknown feels too risky, that you might look foolish, or you want some kind of approval or validationhow do you get clarity or find support?  Who do you go to for help? 

Many of us look to those we respect or care aboutfamily, friends, mentors, etc.but what if what they tell you doesn't ring true for you? What if you find yourself angry? What if you suddenly know they're wrong, and you're right? They probably mean well, but clearly, they didn't get it. They don't get "you" or what you want to undertake or achieve. 

Do you consider their input, take their advice, or just go for it anyway?  

"I hear the voices..."

Maybe you don't want anyone else's opinion... but there's still another voice that factors inthe ghosts of people and situations past. Those voices in our head (and not the "I hear the voices..." type) that influence our decisions: our parents, teachers, previous bosses, or a myriad of others who in some way influenced us or got under our skin (and into our psyches). These often evolve into our inner critic, the voice I sometimes call my "inner mean girl" when the voice tells me I'm an idiot, or that my ideas have no basis. 

These stem from something we heard or experienced in childhood━we took someone's opinion of us, a situation, or our ideas, and gave it meaning. We carry these 'stories' with us━usually always negative━unless we actively work to reprogram our self talk.  

It's all information... 

The voices of others, and those in our heads, can be looked at as information. We can choose whether or not to give them deeper meaning. They help us shape our thinking━we can decide if what they say makes sense, or if it doesn't fit with what we think or believe. 

Opinions are just that; if it's an informed opinion expressed by someone who's been where you want to go or done what you want to do, take what you need and leave the rest. So often, though, it's not informed, and in fact, may be ill-informed and have the potential to be detrimental to your decision-making. 

Too often I give the opinions of others or my own repetitive story far too much weightoutweighing my own innate wisdom, my inner intelligence, even my own knowledge.  

Check in with your insides... 

How do you know when it's not your own true voice, or if someone's opinion isn't in your best interest? Check in with your body. If the voice is in your head and not your gut. If the opinion causes self-doubt but doesn't feel true. If either makes you question your capability. 

What do you really want to do? Say? Think? Do that. I hear a clich├ęd, disingenuous "you do you" but really, that's exactly what you need to do. Do you. Listen to your heart, your guts. That's your soul talking. The part of you that has to live in this world and not regret your time here in the end. 

Sure, it's important to consider the impact of your actions on others and on real responsibilities, if there is, indeed, an impact, but that's not what this post is about.

The voices in your head or other's well-meaning opinions may help you make a more informed decision, but they're not the decider.  Only you know innately what's best for you. 

Do that. 

Your voice━your authentic, gut-level, inner-soul-knowingis the voice that matters. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Time out

Time off, time out, downtime... these are all important for our health and well-being. And if we don't take time for ourselves voluntarily, our bodies will often let us know when we're overdue.

As mine has. 

Tybee Island, Georgia, looking toward dunes and the Atlantic
from just outside my perch on the beach house couch.  


Ideally, being at the beach, after four days with family and barely able to talk with them, will help me kick this cold and laryngitis out of my body.

There's nothing quite like spending time near water, particularly the ocean. I can hear the surf as I sit and type this, across from double doors that open to the boardwalk pictured above.

Here are a few photos from the Georgia coast.  

Near St. Simons, GA

Who doesn't love a good oyster roast, 
with a bushel or more of oysters. 

Near St. Simons, GA

Sunset from Tybee Island, a ship off in the distance. 

Our beach house for a few days.

Bird life along a canal

Our door to the beach

Factor's Walk, downtown Savannah

On River Street, downtown Savannah

Factor's Walk, downtown Savannah

Forsyth Park Saturday farmers market

Back at Tybee

PFDs at AJ's Eatery on the back river, Tybee

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

6 tips to find your flow when you're not feeling it

We all have days when life feels harder than it should be. 

Every moment feels clunky, projects are full of fits and starts, nothing quite comes together. Frustration might be a little high, patience a little thin. Creativity is stymied. We're discontent--our bodies heavy, our minds unclear.

There's no flow. 

You know it doesn't have to be this way... isn't usually this way. You know what "being in the flow" feels like, and ... sigh ... wouldn't it be nice if you could be there now? 

The 1990 bestseller, Flow, describes it as optimal experience, a state of consciousness producing genuine satisfaction. It's not what happens to us that shapes our experience, but instead it's how we respond, or what we make it mean (the stories we tell ourselves). Flow underscores our happiness. When we're in flow, time disappears. When we're not, the clock barely moves and it feels like we'll never find flow again. But we will, and with attention, we can get it back sooner rather than later.  

Here are a few steps to make it happen.  

1) Notice it and name it. If you can, identify what's causing it. Are you sleep deprived, angry, irritated, worried, sad, depressed? Spinning over an issue? Unsure what action to take next? Think through all the possibilities and see what fits. 

2) Take several deep breaths. Notice your posture and what's going on in your body. Where are you holding tension? Are you slouching? Is your breathing shallow? If you journal, take a few minutes to do some stream-of-consciousness writing and see what shows up. 

3) Do something different. Give yourself a time-out, go for a walk, work out, or try "forest bathing" in a nearby park. Shift your perspective by shifting your attention and flood your body with oxygen and feel-good endorphins. The natural environment can be a quick fix.  

4) Say no. Is there something you're saying yes to where you'd be better served by saying no? We say yes when we mean no more often than we're aware of. It's an important part of self-care easily forgotten. There's no guilt in saying no. 

5) Remember what's most important. Let go of what isn't. Think about those you love, your dreams, an upcoming vacation, a favorite pet, or new shoes, if that's your jam. Are you holding on to a resentment? A slight? A judgment? If you're spinning on something--a comment said in passing, a misguided email, an unsolicited opinion--acting on it could do more harm than good, so let it go. Not everything requires--or deserves--a response. Sometimes it's just not worth it. 

6) Practice gratitude (it always comes back to gratitude). Be grateful for the experience, the sensations... because without one, there's no other. Without pain, there's no joy. Without hate, love would feel different. Maybe the no-flow is a disguised blessing, causing you to rethink or shift gears.   

A bonus tip: forgiveness. Sometimes we have to forgive others and ourselves for being human, for allowing ourselves to stay stuck in whatever's keeping us from our flow. It can take time to truly identify the cause, sit with it, and then finally be willing to let it go. If you're lucky, it may just be a function of time, and the need for a good night's sleep. 

Whatever it is, if all else fails, repeat my mother's mantra: This too shall pass. You know it will; it always does. Flow comes and goes, and there are lessons to be gained from everything. 

So, take a deep breath, slow down, reflect, and give yourself permission to start again later. 

You've got this. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

When to say yes and when to say no

Lake Serene
Yes, I hear you. No, I don't agree. 

Yeah, no... Sometimes you need both yes and no at the same time. (And if you know me personally, you'll hear me say this frequently.)

The words are so simple, and yet, they're not. That's why I developed a few guiding principles about when to use each one.

1. When fear drives, say yes anyway. Years ago, during the throes of my divorce, I realized I said no a lot, and that I largely said it because I was afraid to do something, After a late-night drive, I landed at the Blaine Harbor Marina, writing in my journal, crying and feeling sorry for myself. Light bulb moment: That wasn't how I wanted to live my life, nor how I saw myself. The pact I made with myself in that moment still stands. When fear calls, I say yes unless there's a damn good reason--not excuses--to say no. We've all heard about the person on their deathbed regretting what they didn't do, not what they did. Life is short. Grab it! "Let's go do x." "Sure, I've never jumped off a cliff; happy to," I said when friends planned a hang gliding day in Rio. No regrets.

2. No is a complete sentence. A few years ago, I learned to say no without adding a why. This, however, takes practice if you're not used to it. You can say, "no thank you." Or, "I decline." Or "thank you for offering, and no thank you." And stand firm. We don't have to validate our no with a rationale. Women in particular do this because we learn early to justify ourselves. No, I'm not having kids. No, I'm not available. No, I'm not willing to do that. No, I'm not interested. Just no.

3. Commit to an absolute yes. A recently read self-care book prompted me to evaluate what I said yes to... seems there's a dark side to yes, too. How often do we say yes when we want to say no? We often confuse obligation with our need to be liked, approved of, accepted. We all want to do the right thing--but the right thing can be a trap because the thing might not be right for us. Sometimes, a yes is enabling; we deprive people of what they most need for their growth. So later, we regret that yes, when we're zapped of energy and resources. Food for thought: Unless you can answer with an absolute yes, say no.

Of course, we all have real-life obligations where yes is a must no matter what--work and children often come with exceptions. Relationships require compromise and sacrifice. What's important is to pay attention and know why you're saying yes. That absolute is always worth considering.

Yeah, no, yeah... 

Forrest and I went for a hike on Sunday. I said yes because I knew I needed it. Was it an 'absolute yes'? No. It was a yes with trepidation. The hike had a 2000 ft elevation gain in about four miles, with 23 switchbacks. I'm out of condition, sitting behind a desk all day, most days of the week. Honestly, I was scared of looking unfit, unsure of my own capability, and being judged (my stuff, not his). I recognize this, and I noticed no would have been the wrong answer because it came from fear.

I love being outside. I used to hike a lot. Winter hikes are great because there are fewer people on the trails. It's where I feel most in touch with something greater, more alive. I love the brisk chill on my skin, filling my lungs with fresh air, savoring the myriad shades of green, the shadows and panoramas, and ... quiet. But it's been a long time and scheduling keeps me tied to city walks in urban parks--rarely more than a 500 ft elevation gain.

The frozen lake in the background
The first two miles are relatively easy, but still a steady incline. The switchbacks are mostly stairs and rocks. Kudos go out to those trail builders. Dang. That's some work. We reached the snow level about 2.5 hours in, then stood to eat our salami and cheese sandwiches next to the frozen lake, the icy bench our table, listening to and watching avalanches fall steadily from Mt. Index.

Could not have been prettier.

So... what about yes, and what about no? 

Notice. Why do we say yes when we want to say no, and why don't we say no when it's for our greatest good?

We serve the world better when we take care of our own needs, when we stop trying to be nice and do the right thing for all the wrong reasons. We have more to give when we say yes when we mean it, and when no really means no. When we take a stand for ourselves to be truly who we are. When we don't hand over our power by justifying a choice. Fear has the potential to keep us safe, so what's important about not letting fear drive is knowing when we're actually in danger. Most of the time, fear keeps us 'playing' safe, rather than living our full, authentic lives.

In 2019, make a pact with yourself to be deliberate about yes and no. Practice! You'll be happier, healthier, more energetic, and have more to give when it matters.

Wishing you a very good year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The answer is gratitude

Sombrio Beach, BC
A fresh start, a clean slate, a new year... Don't we all have high hopes for the year ahead once the clock strikes midnight and the new year begins?

I do. At this moment in time, however, on this first day of this new year, the best I can do is be grateful in the moment.

Today I'm not comfortable being uncomfortable, a perspective I aspire to. As I've said in previous posts, it may seem new, yet, it's really just a continuation. And that's as true this year as ever.

Not all of us have an easy time during the holidays, which culminate on New Year's day for most of us. Some of us are missing family. Some struggle financially. Some are lonely, or are otherwise caught up by the burdens of life. Been there, all that.

Today, however, on this first day, I am using my creativity to worry, rather than focus on the good that's possible. Even though I know I have much to be thankful for, and the power to create even more good. After all, I believe consciousness is cause, and I've already created a life that's far more amazing than I could ever have imagined.

So what's up... ?

There's a lot of noise out there, and it's got my attention. What I don't want to do, but I am, is give my inner airtime to all the crud running in the background. Who's to say what's true; and even more, who's to say what's true for me? 

Yet, my worry playlist is on a continuous loop, repeating all the negatives from my digital and physical feeds: 
  • our currently precarious economy, a government shutdown, a potential wall and rampant isms
  • how those over 50 often don't leave jobs by choice
  • the increased property crime in my neighborhood, and how those tasked to protect and serve don't, won't, or can't
  • the hardships so many others are currently experiencing (and how my usual mantra, "I feel with loving compassion..." isn't appropriate for all circumstances right now)
  • a seeming lack of kindness, consideration, and civility
  • the certainty of relationships that are no longer certain
Nor do I need to give credence to how I currently feel, because with the exception of injustice noted, there's largely no there, there. And yet, I feel: 
  • undervalued at work
  • uncomfortable in my own relationship (with my partner and myself, frankly; perhaps a slight crisis of confidence)
  • financially challenged
  • angry about injustice, for me -- female and aging, the unfairness Forrest recently experienced at work, as well as exorbitant inequity everywhere
There's a low rumbling of anxiety at my core, which then weaves around and through my nervous system as I make assumptions and project. None of this serves me, and here I am, doing exactly what I know is unworthy of my energy. Making stuff up. Imagining the worst. 

Why is it so hard to imagine the best???  

Socially, we're largely conditioned to imagine the worst, but it's deeper than that. Our ancestral genetics were designed to protect us, so we naturally imagine and prepare for the worst -- even though the modern worst is rarely life threatening. (Still, there are cases where imagining the worst is in our best interest, as I know from reading The Gift of Fear and The Unthinkable -- books I highly recommend to everyone.) 

Intentional words

Words can guide us and help us stay on track, and having an annual word to represent a key focus area can be a shortcut to imagining the best. 

My word for 2016 was invest. And then, not long after the start of the year, I was laid off. Which meant investment looked very different than I'd initially intended. Still, I held that word close, and focused on investing in self -- in my internal growth, fixing my shit, finding new communities, and creating new levels of comfort where they didn't previously exist. 

In 2017, my words were expansiveness and spaciousness, and I see how these played out, although again, differently than initially intended. I started two new jobs, took on new challenges, drove cross-country, built new networks, furthered community, shifted more limiting beliefs, and developed practices to support positive change. 

Vancouver Island
In 2018, my word was deliberate -- focusing on experiences, not 'stuff', learning my new job, and practicing self-care. I tracked my spending, and in most ways, spent less. I changed my diet, lost 12 pounds, and at the end of the year, my blood work was the best its been in years. I went to more concerts, saw more shows, spent more time with friends, and mostly stayed true to my focus and beliefs. 

These words are my framework; they're part of my contribution to what Forrest and I have worked on for several, if not many, years. We've paid our proverbial dues and then some, planted a lot of seeds, done a lot of weeding, and added plenty of fertilizer. We've now built a solid foundation, moved the ball forward on dreams and ideals, gained clarity on what we want to create, separately and together, and deepened our commitment to each other and our future. 

Now it's time to reap the rewards of that work. So I'm leaning toward manifest or fruition as my word(s) for 2019.

But first... gratitude. Gratitude underpins every word, every time. It's the very essence from which I come, and is essential for managing life's curve balls. Because we may not achieve everything in 2019-- Forrest has to heal before getting his last 50 sea days and sitting for his third mate's license, and there's so much we can't control.  

Changing the dialogue...  

In addition to believing consciousness is cause, I also believe we're all capable and creative, me included. And it's up to me to direct my inner dialogue away from that which doesn't help. 

So, here goes. 2019 is the year I: 
  • deepen my belief that everything works in my favor, even if it doesn't always seem that way 
  • figure out the money thing -- how to make the little I have work better for me -- and actually work for me
  • get my house in order, literally and figuratively
  • own my worth--not just know it, but own it, and accept nothing less
  • write more
  • position myself for independent work and travel
  • better educate myself in areas of interest (including doing all the online courses I've paid for)

... and maybe believe in miracles... 

I recently heard the questions, "What miracles would you love to experience this year? What would be an outrageous good and transform your world?" I'm going to ponder these for the next week or so and see what shows up. 

What I know for sure is that the key to manifesting miracles is gratitude. To live in gratitude in the present moment makes every day look brighter and all things possible. Add in grace, compassion, and forgiveness, and it's a mixture for deeper satisfaction.  

I have so much -- I have a comfortable, warm, dry, safe home. I have a partner who's emotionally solid, loves me, is a staunch companion, friend, lover, and confidant, and is planning a future with me. I have a good job that provides a steady paycheck, largely working with good people, with skills that are useful in different ways and across industries. I have a handful of friends and relatives with whom I can be fully authentic and who I can count on if needed. I am generally healthy in mind, body, and spirit. 

That's a lot to be grateful for. And for now, that's really all I need to focus on. Because with gratitude, all things are possible.