Partaking In Joy Is Part Of Our Daily Grind

Wisdom food for thought:

Do we define joy by achieving a desired outcome? Or is the joy on the path itself?

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I don’t really feel like chewing on that, because like the rest of the human race, I just want to feel the joy whenever I want, which of course, is always. But it doesn’t work that way for the majority of us, so I’m trying to figure it out.

When Sir Husband received the news that he was getting his dream job a couple of months ago and we would be moving back home, we felt this burst of joy coming through us at light speed. Ironically, it was exhausting and we experienced some weird physical symptoms that are typically signs of distress. Bathroom issues…GERD…headaches…and both of us stopped sleeping.

It was weird because we were so excited that our path was finally changing for the better, so why were we so wiped out? Years of heavy stress finally lifting, and cloud nine was wearing us down. Oh we were definitely happy, we just didn’t expect the process of executing the joy to feel different than how we defined joy itself. It didn’t seem to make sense. Joy after all, is a feeling. Or is it?

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When I mentioned this to local guru Dr. Christiane Northrup, she laughed and said, “Correct – your body and mind don’t know what to do with all the toxic overload from the past now that it’s over.” As we know, emotional toxicity can cause physical symptoms from stress, and we’ve had plenty of that. So turns out feeling joy is actually a process. Who knew?

pathAfter a few weeks on our new path of joy we noticed something else. That joy doesn’t always override the daily stressors. Life still happens in all of its grit and glory no matter what. That also tripped us up. Hold on – we have joy now, why is sh*t still happening that feels stressful? First we’re joyful and tired, then we’re joyful, stressed and tired, doesn’t joy win out and erase life’s other junk? Easy answer, no.

Intellectually I guess we knew this, but when you get a taste of pure joy, you don’t want it to leave. So things had to become a matter of perspective.

We habitually went to feeling sad or bad when anything went “wrong,” but interestingly yin yangthe joy of our new path was still happening. Is it possible to experience both things at once?  Stress and joy linked in a yin yang circle bouncing like a super ball through our daily existence?

The goal I’m told, is to experience joy as the constant undercurrent that rises to the surface – and here’s the key – when we let it. So that begs the wisdom question again, is joy in the desired outcome or is it on the path? Only we can know.

 

no guts no glory

(Notes from the Universe)

Securing A Job Is Actually An Inside Job

I realized I have a little problem with confidence. On the outside I present as a strong, confident, accomplished person, but inside…totally different story.

burr poolWe were invited to a poolside gathering at our new condo complex last weekend, complete with cocktails, a beautiful spread of food and the perfect background jazz. It’s not a complex actually, it’s an old estate home that was renovated into about 20 two-story condo units. It sits on 23 acres of pristine land behind an old stone wall, so it’s quite intimate and equally elegant.

I didn’t really know anyone, except for burr backmy immediate neighbors, although we have seen others in passing, each of us waving hello. Last week when I had the great lost cat fiasco, I emailed the manager of the estate who emailed all of the residents to watch for our cat. Within minutes I not only had people outside looking for her, but I had several emails of support. I knew then that I was living with compatible people.

So when I met one of my email neighbors face-to-face, also a cat-lover, I thanked her profusely for her kindness, and we got to chatting. “What do you do?” she asked me. That’s a loaded question given my history.

I certainly couldn’t answer, “Well I am an abuse survivor who lives to tell about it…mother of a grown child formerly on the autism spectrum [what do you say when they grow up?]…and an independently employed lost professional soul when it comes to an official job title.”

writerSo instead, I told her I’m a writer – which I am – that is my cosmic gift or special purpose from which I’m trying desperately to make a living. “Oh how interesting and ironic,” she said. “I need to hire a writer!”

Turns out she works at one of the premiere medical facilities in our city, in fact, it’s known world-wide, and she works in Communications – my original degree and first job out of college. When I heard where she worked and that she was hiring a writer I proceeded to tell her the highlights of my resume as if I was amazing. I would like to think that on some level I was amazing, I used to work for the Kennedy family among other things, but I lost that loving feeling about myself quite some time ago when my life took a drastic turn of catastrophic proportion.

But that was then. And now, I suppose I could appear amazing on the outside, but feeling it on the inside? Not so much. After I had proclaimed my substantial credentials (which may very well be in the eyes of the externally confident beholder,) she asked for my resume. “I will send it tomorrow!” I proclaimed. Again – pretending to be awesome.

resumeInside I was a wreck. It was fairly intimidating that in her pile of perfectly-premiere applications that mine would be amongst them – the underdog who bases her credentials on life experience instead of work history. Oh sure, it’s listed, but almost as a sidebar. I have adopted my own resume format which talks about who I am and what I know, not necessarily what I have “done” in the working world.

So be it. After I hesitantly sent her my resume – she is my neighbor after all and I will have to see her possibly for years to come – I owned my individuality. Never mind I’m terrified about being able to sustain any job, let alone a full-time one, the stamina it takes of a day-in and day-out career, and living a “normal” life after years of trauma and drama with a body that feels chronic pain. But those are technicalities. Ones that I hope, will sort themselves out day-by-day.

In the meantime, maybe confidence is overrated. Maybe, being who we are – even as an underdog – has its benefits. Underdogs are flexible, able to be more innovative, aren’t tied by reputations and the pressure of being the best kid in the class. There’s a freedom to express ourselves without intense risk, and an opportunity to be more creative in how we showcase who we are. We can be our authentic selves, and that’s the gold-standard of existence. We just have to come to believe it.

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Take A Chance And Open The Door When Opportunity Knocks

moon dustWe can’t deny when life gives us opportunity after opportunity to evolve. It’s just do we listen, and if so, how do we proceed? That’s the theme of the day for a lot of people I know.

My artist friend called me in tears because she cannot stand one more day doing what she does for a living. It was her original calling, her passion, her purpose. And now more than 10 years in the creativity zone she is ready to strangle her entire business – or technically it’s strangling her.

Another friend – also productively exercising her innate talent, her passion-driven purpose – has finally reached the cliff’s edge on whether to teeter or leap. Burned out and feeling devalued, she’s tired of her depletion.

There are a couple more drained souls I know whose lives keep tapping them on the shoulder to consider other options – not just about work, but about all kinds of relevant aspects of their existence.

The question becomes how many opportunities (and we’ll call it opportunity) are we given by life to shift before we pay attention? When we are banging our heads against the wall with our jobs, our relationships, our circumstances, our inner demons – when do we take action to change our course? And more importantly, how.

candy landThat is the dilemma we face as humans. Life is hard, there’s no way around it, and sometimes feels like an obstacle course through Candy Land – that vintage children’s game. Instead of strategy you just play the game and the person who wins has the right colorful cards. Real life can so feel like that.

Every time I log onto the national blogging website that I gratefully was featured on twice, I see the same people getting their blogs premiered and introducing their freshly published books. It wears me out because I wonder how they actually live their life beyond knocking down their goals and stacking up their accomplishments. I can do a lot in a day but apparently not that.

LifeFortunately (or unfortunately, whichever applies,) nothing stays the same, ever – like the Game of Life. This one takes out some of the element of chance and lets players make choices, after spinning a wheel of course. It was more like checkers in its original form, and then was revamped through the years seven times. Even Life evolves.

changeIt’s navigating our external path while honoring our inner feelings that seems to trip us up. It’s not easy to take our “opportunities” seriously when the change they present is uncomfortable. We get the signs over and over but to make any change – especially a radical one like closing shop on a seasoned career – is so insanely hard. Our psyches and egos get in the way, our minds muddle our visions, our hopes, our dreams, our desires, it’s easy to be afraid, especially when the future isn’t tangible.

This is what it comes down to. How badly do we want to change our lives, and how uncomfortable are we willing to be to do it. It takes a whole lot of belief, courage, determination and self-dialogue to step out of our status-quo comfort zone and into the discomfort of we don’t yet know. It requires absolute trust in life and our path. It requires a whole lot of self-soothing when when we are up all night sweating what to do next.

We can start by honoring our feelings. Letting ourself off the hook. Lightening up. Laughing. Visualizing…Breathing. Really breathing. And paying attention to what beckons and calls. Because even though it’s real, it’s just the game of life.

 

old ways

Park The Car In Harvard Yard … or, Find The First Parking Spot

What goes around comes around, and that doesn’t always mean something bad. This concludes Sir Husband’s first official week of work at Harvard U, where information abounds and enlightenment reigns. IMG_2648 copy

He was fortunate to be working the Baccalaureate ceremony that took place in his building – so to speak. He manages communications for the Harvard Memorial Church, which is in an of itself an iconic building of pomp and circumstance for many ceremonious events.

Just a few weeks ago he covered Carrie Fisher receiving a lifetime achievement award on that very pulpit, and most recently listened to the President of Harvard give a Baccalaureate speech to this year’s graduating class. That’s where the going around comes around.

For as long as Sir Husband and I have been in the car together, I have encouraged him to please park in the first or closest spot to the door of wherever we are going. He’s doesn’t care where we park, and always parked as far away from the door as possible for no reason.

But I have parking karma – one of those built-in good luck mechanisms that allows me to pull into virtually any parking lot and get the first spot. Although this is still much to Sir Husband’s amazement, he does not always comply with my good karma, complaining about my silliness of utilizing the gift. It’s an ongoing marital debate, when on occasion I have watched him drive by the first spot – usually empty – saying he didn’t see it as we approached. It’s almost like a game of chess. IMG_2649 copy

As he meandered around the Baccalaureate ceremony working and taking photos of the event, he listened to Harvard’s president tell the graduates to always go for the first parking spot, and if it’s not available, drive around the lot again until it is. Never, ever settle for anything other than the first spot she said, in a parking lot, or in life. She calls it the Parking Space Theory of Life.

Now he was listening. And all of a sudden what for years sounded like nagging to him, just became a symbolic key to happiness and success. What goes around comes around.

I imagine this is only the beginning of many new ways of thinking that both Sir Husband and I will embrace as he experiences the experiences of Harvard. Steven Spielberg gave this year’s graduation ceremony speech, another event Sir Husband worked beginning at sunrise that day. But I will save that story for another post. In the meantime, he’s found the first spot.

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The Parking Space Theory of Life

For years I have been telling students: Find what you love. Do what matters to you….But don’t settle for Plot B, the safe story, the expected story, until you have tried Plot A, even if it might require a miracle. I call this the Parking Space Theory of Life. Don’t park 10 blocks away from your destination because you are afraid you won’t find a closer space. Don’t miss your spot—Don’t throw away your shot. Go to where you think you want to be. You can always circle back to where you have to be. This can require patience and determination. Steven Spielberg was, in fact, late to class his first day as a student at California State University, because, as he put it, “I had to park so far away.”

Excerpt from Harvard University Baccalaureate address, President Drew Faust, May 24, 2016

 

 

The Gap Between Reality And Relaxing Sometimes Can Feel Huge

FullSizeRenderWe take vacations to relax. But I failed at that last week when we were away, and I’m not alone. Why? Because we can’t always get away from ourselves. It took four days and a hand-in-hand barefoot stroll with my man on the surf-side dunes of the Cape to finally unwind. Relaxing wasn’t easy no matter how hard I tried.

I’ve caught myself a lot lately in the thick of a nervous-system buzz. It’s like a fast-moving electrical current that goes speeding through my body keeping me revved up even when I’m sitting down. It comes naturally, from a lifetime of trying to reach a better destination – only the destination in this case is comfort, contentment and peace.

The good news is, I’m shifting it. But until recently, for the last forever years I have been living in what we un-fondly refer to as The Gap. It’s not an easy place to live. gapIt’s that land between reality and desire. Despair and hope. Existence and belief. And it can be uncomfortable, even when we’re determined to come out of it.

The trouble is, when we live in the gap for a long time, we can get stuck there in a comfortable discomfort that keeps us treading water when we aren’t drowning or desperately swimming trying to get “there.” This almost-there land becomes our focus, all the while our nervous system maintains its buzz.

I know a few people living in the gap. It’s self-defined, but we know it when we’re in it. It can be when we’re in between jobs, or homes, or life circumstances. If only  fill in the blank …  When  fill in the blank … As soon as  fill in the blank … happens, I’ll be all set/good/happy/healthy/fine. It can be temporary, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to fill in those blanks.

Lately I’m realizing something huge that wise people already know. The destination is actually now.

jimcareyWe hear about living in the present moment, or peace and happiness come from the inside – there are a myriad of memes out there telling us how to feel good. They make sense in the moment and can feel like our Jacob’s ladder out of the gap. But it’s not until we recognize it that we can do it.

The to-do list is a perfect example. That list never ends, but I have continually believed if I get through my list all will be right with the world. Mundane tasks become massive priorities, so I stay revved-up as I’m running toward the finish line. I know I can make it…I can do it…I’m almost there…just one more thing…Keep.On.Going. It’s almost subconscious.

Workaholics live in that habitual space – in between here and there, then and tomorrow, busyness and bliss. The question is, when is it good enough? When are we satisfied? When can we relax? 

Call me crazy, but the answer is now. And we don’t even have to go on vacation.

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When Going With The Flow At Light Speed Don’t Forget To Breathe

life struggleWow. Is looking at our life from the outside as exhausting as it is to live it? Because we are in a swirl-wind so speedy that we can barely catch our breath. Only this time it’s all good.

My life has always been a little swirly. We don’t sign up for the lives we have, or maybe we actually do. But I don’t have time to debate where our life stories originate. Right now I’m so busy rewriting ours, I’m having trouble keeping up.

I can’t say it ALL started when Sir Husband secured a new job last week, ALL is a very long time. I’m talking about the latest chapter, that is revealing each page as we go.

His new job is in Boston, so we decided to move back. That decision alone opened up Pandora’s box. Where will we live when we get there, and more importantly how will we pay? Massachusetts is way high up in its cost of living ranks.

After accepting that reality, the search for a home could begin. We aren’t going to buy off the bat, it’s happening way too fast. We have to sell the house we’re in now and he starts his new job next week. We began looking online at rentals in the towns we might want to live. Fortunately I lived there for decades, so I’m familiar with the land.

Here is where “go with the flow” has become our most valuable tool. We’ve struggled with this notion before, but sometimes it’s not a choice, which we’re learning now. Every hour stardustof every day it’s like we’re being hustled by Divine Powers That Be. Doors are opening quickly and things are falling into place. This concept of things aligning with ease is often referred to as “flow.”

Flow is when things go smoothly, when we’re swimming with the tides and the current carries us along without us efforting our cause, worrying or stressing out. And as busy and tiring as it may seem in the moment, flow is life-change for good.

We’ve had to let go and surrender ourselves to allowing it all to work out. That is a big deal, as humans we want to be in control, and we try with all our might. We hear a lot about surrendering, some call it “Let go and let God.” Whatever words make it feel right, it doesn’t change the facts. If you trust in the Divine, yourself and in life, it will likely work out really well.

This a new way to function for sure, because trusting for us takes work. But ironically because it’s all working out, we’re learning quickly to trust.

It’s hard not to smile when we’re feeling the flow, in spite of the breathless fatigue. There’s a happy invigoration that shows to the outside world. When a dear friend noticed our flow first hand she wasn’t sure what to say.

“How do I learn to be your friend when you’re happy and everything’s fine?”

That was the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while, but honestly she was right. For years our life’s swirl was negative, crazy and hard but our new status quo is flow. Sounds a lot like balance to me. Kind of like breathing in and then out. First we’re receptive, then we let go. As sure as our breath our life flows.

 

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The Clothes Make the Man. Fashion Fiascos are Not Just For Women

 

In the early-morning rush of Sir Husband trying to make the train to Boston on marathon day – one of the busiest days of the year there – he had a clothing fiasco. He wasn’t going to run, or even celebrate local big deal Patriot’s Day. He was going to meet Princess Leia. Princess Leia1

That’s right. Star Wars Goddess and real human, on this very day Carrie Fisher was recipient of the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism at Harvard University.

Sir Husband’s role? He was the press for Harvard at this event. He covers all kinds of things for them, so it wasn’t like this time was different, except for the part about Princess Leia, which let’s be real, is a cool gig.

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So back to the clothing fiasco. It’s not that he didn’t know what to wear, although we joked for days about what the current Jedi attire might be. The problem is that what he hoped to wear turned out to be all wrong when he put it on. He thought he had figured it out the night before, but there were some hang ups at the last minute that caused a flurry and crunch.

IMG_1838What is the deal with men and their clothes? Either they don’t care at all, or they’re into the latest hip fashion like my stylish son, or they prefer classic function like my husband. His closet – full of Eddie Bauer-type tailored comfort – has three categories. Not right — Doesn’t fit — Too ratty.

Let me clarify. Not right includes the “too dressy” or “too schlumpy for this occasion” options. Doesn’t fit are the the too big or too small clothes from the ups and downs of the body’s fluctuating size. Too ratty needs to be dry cleaned or pressed, is worn out, faded, has holes or is coming unstitched.

I know for a fact women’s closets all have these categories to one degree or another, and even a few more. But women are more prepared for life’s sudden turn of events. We have one or two go-to outfits or pieces that will work in a pinch, or at the last minute. Why? Because we are smart shoppers.

fashion fairyWomen shop to buy and browse to buy. Men don’t. I don’t shop often, but if I find something on a great sale that I know I may need someday, or even want to have in the rotation, I buy it. But Sir Husband has a different m.o. Even if there’s a perfect something on sale for him, it’s always “I’ll get it later, I don’t need it today.” He even shoos me away from the rack.

Do men really just browse when browsing with their wives? More importantly, do they all ignore the special sale prices because they don’t need anything that day? Because I assure you the day will come that they wish it was there in their closet, ready to put on.

This was one of those days. Our bedroom looked like a man’s clothes hurricane at the crack of dawn. I didn’t realize that men even want the preparation process on an important day to be “get in and get out fast.”

He made it to the train on time, looking quite charming and good. But just between you and me, the clothes fairy is on her way.

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