Days Like This

Good Morning!  I planned to write this blog post before any distractions clouded my mind.  I’ve already scrolled through Facebook, checked email, checked weather for today and Thanksgiving day in three different cities.  I’ve seen what Kim K wore to a party last night, #whocares, #cameltoe.  I texted a friend and drank two cups of coffee and here I go.

I sit cozy in my bed, looking at the clouds settle over the Rocky Mountain Range.  It’s a lovely cold, cloudy Saturday and I think snow is on the way.  I love these days.

I know what I want to write about today which is a true gift!  Everything I write is my honest experience and if can happen for me, it can happen for you.  I imagine a disclaimer typed atop each blog post, then I type it even though I cringe thinking about what my mother would say if she saw this.

If you have your shit together, this blog is not for you, but if you want to go somewhere different, jump on board!

The life you want is yours for the taking…..period!

I’ve worked intensively on what I really want in my life.  I’ve bounced around and lived small for a long time.  All of us carry baggage and it does take time to sort that history out and put it where it belongs…not in the driver’s seat.  Our sorted baggage belongs in a sacred place of wisdom which serves us as we move forward.

I know what I want.  I can list it off in ten seconds.  It’s memorized. I’ve visualized it, talked about it, yelled it out, prayed for it, and taken steps to get there.  I mean, I’m pretty clear about that.  I know what my gifts are and I want them to be used to enrich my life and the lives of others.

I know what I don’t want, that’s for darn sure.  My baggage is mostly sorted and some of that stuff, I wouldn’t keep in my wisdom place, I wouldn’t give it away, it goes in the trash.

So, I have all this knowledge and can not seem to get from here to there.  There’s this higher calling for me and I can’t quite grasp it.

Fake it till you make it only goes so far until what is comfortable for me lures me away.  For me, it has been alcohol, food, TV, sleeping, playing victim, and over dependence on others.  This includes, not keeping my promises to myself and cutting myself to shreds with my words, thoughts, and actions.

Underneath those beautiful dreams of who I want to be, lies a stronger emotion. A desire to checkout, shirk responsibility become a victim and swim in an ocean of self-pity.  I’ve heard it said that in a battle of emotions vs. intellect, emotions will always win.

So, here is what I do to cross the great divide.  I elevate my emotions to fuel the highest calling in my life; I feel what it will feel like if I am dignified and purposeful.  I create emotions around using my gifts to encourage others and bring joy to the world.   I hold an emotion of living healthy and active. I ask my self how I would feel if a diverse group of people were sitting around my dinner table laughing and enjoying intelligent conversation and good food?

What if I feel these emotions and start to  move in an intentional direction with very little baby steps?  What if I commit to the twelve step program that I know will arrest my addictions? What if I use a smidgen of discipline to start to let go of those deeply rooted escape mechanisms?

What if I just start doing what I know I’m meant to do and leave the rest up to the Universe or God, or my own higher power?

When my emotions around the better thing or the higher calling become powerful enough to align with my intellect and override the lower emotions…..doors fly open, teachers show up, the real me emerges and the angels dance with joy!

This is my experience and you can have it too.

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week.  I was very affected by the story of Freddie Mercury.  I grew up in the 70s and early 80s and loved the music but what struck me and what I can’t get out of my mind is that he KNEW he was born for the purpose of performing and writing music.  He knew to the core of his being—and he stepped out in that knowledge.  He couldn’t NOT do the thing he was born to do.  He impacted millions of people.  I believe the greatest height of living is represented in his life.   Even with all the turmoil, loneliness, and heartache.   We all have something to offer whether our reach is small and local or global.  What are we waiting for?  Now is the time!

Why You Gotta be so Mean….

So, here’s what I’m thinking about today.  I rolled out of bed, poured steaming hot coffee into my favorite mug, wrote my gratitude list and grabbed my computer.  My mind churned, I have to get a different job….my boss yelled at me and I need to find something else.  I’m being bullied at work…….again…..why does this always happen to me?

I spent about fifteen minutes perusing Indeed.com to look for a job as an escape from the one I have now.  A little more money, a list of job duties into which I could squeeze my skills and experience (fibbing just a little).  I ignore the things about it hat don’t fit, knock out a cover letter, and hit APPLY!  Thank God no-one that I currently work with reads my blog.  When I hit apply, my heart sinks a little….here I go again, making a change that doesn’t really get me closer to my dreams because I feel the heat at work.

The BULLY!  Strangely, the bully shows up in every job I take.  Have you ever had the same person show up in different forms in every place you work, or every group you join?  It’s so damn ironic.  Poor me….Poor Us!  It must be a universal problem.

Is there a lesson for me to learn here?  I can’t find the exact quote but Marianne Williamson and other spiritual teachers talk about the same challenge showing up until we learn the lesson.  I can testify that this is true for me.

The bully has consistently shown up for me throughout my life and has given me excuse after excuse for staying stuck or worse…..failing!  My ex-husband, my children, my mother, step-mother, bosses, co-workers, friends, teachers, aunts, uncles, all blocking me from my success.  I would like to thank all of you for your consistency and for not giving up on me….this is a lesson I want to learn now and move on from it.

It’s okay to look for a new job and to change jobs, but it’s not okay to escape the bully at the expense of my dreams only to find myself in another limiting situation with another bully to blame.

The problem is within me as is my solution!  Upon reflection, I see that I am my own worst bully.  I allow myself to be distracted by or overly dependent on people and their personalities.  It is by this distraction that I turn to food, alcohol, TV, or other escapism habits and neglect to take steps in the general direction of my biggest dreams, my highest calling.  I give my power away and then punish myself mercilessly for it.

Again, Marianne Williamson says the following in A Return to Love,

What is Hell:

  • We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now.
  • We’re always, even desperately, seeking a way out through growth or through escape.
  • We begin to realize that we ourselves are somehow the problem, but we don’t know what to do about it.
  • We’re not powerful enough to overrule ourselves.  We sabotage, abort everything:  our careers, our relationships, even our children.  We drink.  We do drugs.  We control.  We obsess.  We co depend.  We overeat.  We hide.  We attack.

Well, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be in Hell any more.  I know just enough to see that I myself have the power to deal with the bullies in my life once and for all.

First, I must stop bullying myself.  I believe that people generally treat us with the same love and respect with which we treat ourselves.  I can honor my thoughts, ideas, passions, dreams, AND work well in the “job” I currently have.  I can silently bow before my teacher – the bully – and mentally thank him for helping me learn a lesson.  I can be curious and empathetic while setting boundaries for how I expect to be treated.  All this power at my fingertips!

That feels so much betters and I can start taking baby steps toward my dreams, actively turning over stones and having fun on the journey!  Whew, now that I have this settled, I’ll go enjoy this beautiful day!  I hope you do too.

Surprise Visitors

Today, I feel awake to life, aware of the possibilities, awed in gratitude for everything showing up for me.  I did not get here easily.  I took the long way home, fueled by fatalistic thoughts and choices.  I wrote the below essay 9 years ago and I want to share it with you as a peek into part of the story of my life.  At the time, I thought I would die of fear, desperation, poverty and a broken heart, but here I am.  I sit at my kitchen table with a beautiful candle lit, a copy of my mock book cover in view, singing to the top of my voice……I’ve come a long way baby.

The day dawned gentle.  I secured a cork on the hook of my four-year old son’s red fishing pole.  Caleb and I stood on a wooden bridge that overlooked a beautiful lagoon on South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island.  Caleb smoothly cast his cork-baited line into the water. My nose twitched as the scent from the freshly cut grass wafted in the air.   Sweat gathered on my forehead and upper lip.  The lagoon permeated with warm serenity.  Massive oak trees draped in Spanish moss swayed gently.  Egrets, eagles and red tail hawks soared above us.

Nine curious turtles swam towards Caleb’s line.

snapping turtle

“Look mom, there’s Toady and Little Toady.”   Caleb found delight in assigning names to everything he encountered, including our chariot, a green golf cart named “Hunter,” which sat just a few feet away.  We cast a few times and then had to go.  My then-husband, had volunteered to deliver Meals on Wheels to four original Daufuskie residents twice a week but he was buried under work.  Once again, I would step in on his behalf.

Caleb and I loaded up the fishing gear, jumped in Hunter and took off toward the docks to pick up the meals.  Once the food was carefully placed between us, we drove towards Janie’s place.  Janie, well into her nineties, lived in a creaky hand built wooden house about 100 years old.  Chickens clucked and pecked in the front yard.  Clothes gently blew on the line and sheets dangled in front of windows for privacy.  The pungent smell of cow manure stung my nose on arrival.

Live_Oak_on_Daufuskie

Janie greeted us at the door and asked the same thing each time I came.

“How you folks like livin on `Fauskie?” she asked through a toothless smile.

Each time I hesitated in my response…

What could I say? Well, Janie, I moved from Washington, D.C. against my wishes to an island with a population of 200 and no bridge connecting it to the main land.  And no car.  I live with some of the wealthiest and some of the most impoverished people in America.  My children attend the new one room school house built near the “old school house” written about by Pat Conroy in ‘The Water Is Wide.’  PTA meetings deteriorate into strained discussions over the right to pack heat on the annual field trip to Sea World or are interrupted when a child discovers two giant poisonous snakes on the playground and the parents run out to kill them. Gee Janie, what could I say about living on Daufuskie Island?

I hated living there.

And I loved living there.  Who wouldn’t love living with daily views of breathtaking sunrises on one side and awe-inspiring sunsets over the marsh on the other?  And I’d grown to love Janie and the other islanders. Sweet friendships had been forged.

“I like it just fine,” I told Janie non-committally as I set her meal on the rickety kitchen table.

No, my problem was not engaging in life on Daufuskie, my problem was my husband!  He’d moved our family to Daufuskie Island and started a building and development business that was currently in a  downward trajectory due to the economy and unscrupulous business partners.  We’d sold our home in beautiful Alexandria, Virginia, and poured all of our money into the business.  I’d begged him not to try such a risky business but he’d turned a deaf ear. Days turned into months and then a year, and as our savings dwindled, I became increasingly scared and angry with him.

We’d fought the night before. Trying to protect the children from our argument, we went into the bedroom.

“Give it up, John.  We need to throw in the towel and do something else,” I’d cried.  My chest and neck muscles tightened as I fought back the tears.   “John, please.  This isn’t working. Why are you doing this to me and the children?  I can’t take this instability anymore.”

He replied calmly, almost condescendingly, “You’ve never trusted me, you don’t support me.  Just trust me, everything will be okay, I know what I am doing, this is going to work.”

I’d felt unheard and worse, unloved.  Truthfully, my marriage felt in the same downward trajectory as my husband’s business.

After delivering all the meals, Caleb and I drove home for nap and reading time.  We snuggled on the couch as I read Shell Silverstien’s, The Giving Tree.

“I have nothing left, I’m just an old stump,” said the tree” I read the words but my mind churned.

That’s me, always giving and always losing.  Yes, I can relate to that tree.  Why do I always have to give?  If I keep going like this, there will be nothing left of me!

Clunk, clunk, clunk.  The sound of footsteps on our covered front porch drew me out of my morose daydream.

            Who in the world could that be?  I wasn’t expecting anyone!

            I got up from our reading time to answer the knock at the door. Two women, dressed in navy blue business suits, stood, erect, unsmiling, at the door.  Something about their manner put me on guard.  When I opened the door, a wall of heat and humidity forced its way into my cool, air conditioned home.

“May I help you?” I asked.

The taller of the two, a trim brunette said coolly, “We are here to see your husband.”  The woman next to her held papers in her hand.

“Just a minute, I’ll get him.”  I left them standing on the porch and went to get my husband who was in his office.

My husband greeted his guests placidly and motioned for them to sit at a round table on the front porch.   I stood in the hallway inside the house and watched them through the front window.  My husband put his head in his hands.  He looked visibly shaken as he listened to whatever the visitors had to say.  The woman holding the papers pushed them at him and he took them. I rushed Caleb to bed and awaited my husband’s return.

What could they be talking about?  He was obviously upset.  Why is he shaking his head in disbelief?  Something is terribly wrong!

The visitors left. My husband entered the house with the papers in hand.

“What did those women want?” I demanded. He ignored me and went straight to his office.  I followed close behind.  He slumped into his chair, and put his head in his hands.  After a few moments he looked up and shoved the papers at me.  The words leapt off the page.

The United States Government vs. Your Husband (name omitted for privacy)

The papers in my hand made it clear that the U.S. Government had filed criminal charges against my husband for accepting football tickets from a lobbyist who had worked for the infamous Jack Abramoff, a man convicted of buying favors from Congressional staff members.  Evidently, the government was suing my husband because he had not disclosed the tickets as income on our financial forms.   John faced criminal charges.  He could even go to federal prison.

A train of thoughts raced through my mind.  Why hadn’t he declared those tickets?  Why hadn’t I known about this?  Were there other things he’d done, illegal, things that I didn’t know about? In his own state of shock, my husband couldn’t answer my numerous questions and accusations.  I floundered alone in a state of panic and unknowing. I muddled through the rest of the day trying to hold back tears in front of my three children.

Night time settled in.  He attempted to explain what had happened.   My husband  told me not to talk to anyone about this—that he was going to have to hire an attorney.  Tears flowed.  I couldn’t control myself. All that first night, I cried out to God for help. No answer came.  There was no communication, no comfort between me and my husband.  I felt betrayed, buried under the pressure of a business failure and a husband who wouldn’t hear or talk to me.

The burden of the U.S. Government was swift and sardonic.  Secrets, shame, hiding, fear engulfed my life and my marriage.

Were our phones being tapped? 

Would my husband go to jail?

How would we take care of our children?

How would our family and friends react to the news of these criminal charges?

Lawyers, trips to Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal and credit card debt piled up.  My marriage felt like it was dying.  Then, before I had a chance to talk to anyone about what I was going through, USA Today and The New York Times did it for me.  They proclaimed to the entire world that my husband was guilty.

He turned inward and I became a low functioning emotional wreck.  I thought to myself, this could not be happening to us—I must be living in a nightmare.  How can we stand up against the weight of the United States Justice Department?

We moved to a rental on the mainland and looked for work, but no one seemed willing to hire someone under criminal investigation.   Anger towards the government and rage towards my husband consumed me.  I went to a very dark place.  After paying attorneys we had no money for groceries or our household bills.  I recall the first of several instances when I’d left the grocery store in tears.  Debit or credit card wouldn’t go through. I left, three children in tow, with no food for our family. In my mind, we had become beggars.  Several months later we were indeed homeless.  Friends graciously offered to take us in.

The one thing I loved and that I could still do was to write.  I filled volumes of spiral bound notebooks with daily writings about what had happened—my feelings, prayers and thoughts—and my opinion of the political scandal based on my own work on Capitol Hill and the White House.  These journals became a sort of salvation for me.  I refused to read all the books people recommended to me on suffering because I did not believe anyone could relate to what I was going through.  Through my writing, truth and comfort came to me. There is no clear resolution or magical elucidation to my story.  I have not discovered a reason or balance for my suffering.  I make a decision daily to not be destroyed by this and my life isn’t over.   I will move forward with resolve!

Written today

Since this essay was written, life has changed drastically for me.  I am no longer married. My four year old Caleb is now 14 and I’m well….I’m getting older and happier.

My journey shows me that in essence the story is not really about what my husband did that hurt me but about my thought choices and actions.  I have no regret except the pain my children endured in the ensuing years.  My sense of victimization was not helpful and in fact hurt all of us greatly.  The good news is that I know now that I was never and will not be a victim.  I have choices, starting with thoughts, that lead to proper actions in distressing times.  More exciting than that, I have power of thoughts followed by actions that lead me now into much better circumstances.

I used to tell a friend periodically over email, “Still In the Storm”.  Those very words, that very thought, prolonged the agony and suffering that no longer needed to exist.  So very thankful I’ve learned and grown and I am happy now, no storm, no heartache…only love to carry me forward.

daufuski road

Naivety and Three Pecan Pies

In 1742, Thomas Gray (pictured below) coined the phrase, ignorance is bliss. I prefer to say a little naivety and three pecan pies will take you anywhere you want to go!

Image result    This week, I will get in my new Nissan Rogue warmly called the roller skate, drive an hour and a half to the Pepsi Center in Denver to be a guest at Michelle Obama’s presentation to the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.  That’s pretty cool.  The even cooler part of the story is that I will embrace my precious friend and former Washington D.C. roommate Melissa who I have not seen in twenty-five years.  It is a miracle!  Melissa worked for the Obama’s during the Obama administration and now works with Michelle Obama.

Melissa and I met during a summer college internship program.  It was love at first sight. She was unlike anyone I knew.  She was from a distinguished Chicago family, Jewish, well-educated and well-traveled.  Melissa was scheduled to work for a democratic congressman. I was from a distinguished family in rural Valdosta, Georgia and partially from a less distinguished, poor, country family in Moultrie, Georgia.  I worshipped in a Southern Baptist Church.  My education consisted of having fun in high school and going to the closest possible college to my home.  I obtained a position in the office of a republican congressman from Georgia.

I knew nothing of politics.  At the ripe young age of seventeen, I developed a crush on a young man from Valdosta who worked in Washington, D.C.  I  just had to get to D.C. to be near him.  That was the extent of my political drive.

I found and applied for an internship program for the summer of 1986. I mean, why not me?  At first, I was not accepted into the program due to inexperience and a nonsensical, rambling essay.  Hello, I knew nothing!  Not to be put off, I contacted the manager of the program, an energetic, handsome New Yorker, and begged to resubmit my essay. He had mercy on me and said these magic words,

“If you’ll bring me three homemade pecan pies from Georgia, I’ll let you into the program.”

Hell yeah!  That was a no-brainer for me. My cousin and I stayed up all night, the night before I my departure, and made three Georgia style pecan pies.  I proudly carried them onto the airplane in a brown Macy’s bag all the way to the U.S. Capitol.   That internship led me to Capitol Hill,the White House, and to so much more.

Melissa and I were roommates and dear friends.  I learned early on that Jewish people do not buy Christmas trees and have tree trimming parties but again, who knew?  We chose different paths in life and seeing her again this week will be a highlight for us both.  The beauty in this story is  at such a young age, I did not see a limitation and I did not receive a limitation.  I receieved freedom to do exactly what I wanted to do.  I did not see less-than. For me, privilege was not the only mechanism to success.

I showed up innocently, 100% myself in my yellow skirt and pink top, delivering pecan pies as a gateway to a wonderful life.

Washington-DC-Skyline-1-768x510

Mother May I?

Have you ever played the childhood game mother may I?  Several children stand side-by-side in a line with the “mother” standing 20 or so feet away.  The children ask questions in order to move forward and eventually be the first to reach mother and win.

Mother may I

Mother may I hop 3 times?

Mother may I run for 2 seconds?

Mother may I turn a cart-wheel?

Mother may I crawl?

And so it goes.  Mother says yes or no and provides an alternative activity.  It’s actually very fun.

As we grow into young adults, then middle age, and still further the afternoon in our lives, we find ourselves living the mother may I game.  Mother may be a boss at work, an editor, a professor, a real mother, father, friend, or anyone from whom we seek permission to move forward.

I want to live my dream— boss may I?

I want to write a book—editor may I?

I want to go on an all girls vacation— children may I?

I want to prosper—economy may I?

I want to be a loving friend— grouchy person may I?

I want to be prosperous—bank may I?

I want to live a different life—ego may I?

At times, I find myself seeking permission from others to thrive.  It is not appropriate as an adult to live this way.  The insecurity we feel weighs as heavy on others as our pride. Only we have the power to move confidently in the direction of our dreams as Henry David Thorough so elquently stated.

I recently wrote out my dream job and dream life.  As studied my writing, I realized, every single thing I dreamt is possible to me now.  I can begin to build my dreams without anyone’s permission.  People come into my life to help me along the way as I help others.  No more waiting, no more seeking, no more mother may I.

 

 

Freedom

small flagFourth of July is one of my favorite holidays.  Red, White, and Blue decorations, flags flying, barbecue, fireworks, family and friends make for an exciting day….even when the drive home from the fireworks take several hours and we have to go to work the next day!

If you are reading this, you probably live in America and experience a lot of personal freedom.  Freedom to speak, freedom to worship, freedom to choose to marry and have a family or to stay single, freedom to travel, and freedom to stay home!

Why do we sometimes feel bound?  We have so much freedom, so much opportunity and yet we Americans are increasingly bound.  Not by an external force, although politics of today is indeed scary, but bound by an internal restrictive force.  Our restrictors are not necessarily external as they were on that first Forth of July two hundred and forty-one years ago. Our restrictors are those of the mind and soul.  The identity of past negative experiences, fear, resentment, anger, jealousy and so on!  I think you get the point.

I suggest on this fourth of July, we let Freedom Ring.  We show our deeply felt appreciation for all our external freedoms, pray for, and do all we can for those who don’t have them AND sing this song of liberation to our soul, that we might be internally free as well!

Let Freedom Ring