What do a Gingerbread House, Footloose, and the Last Jedi have in common?

It’s a strange feeling when faced with evidence that contradicts how you [prefer to] perceive yourself.
I consider myself to be flexible and go-with-the-flow and while I embody that a lot of the time, I can also be inflexible and cling rigidly to my ideas about how things “should” be.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my beliefs and opinions this past week. This past week, a gingerbread house, Footloose, and the Last Jedi all showed me how fixed I can be in my thinking.
How come I can be flexible if we miss an exit on the highway, or if someone is running late to meet me, if we need to find a creative idea at work etc. Yet in other situations I feel a constriction inside my chest when I face new ideas from others, even my own children?  I certainly don’t want to be an obstacle to my kids’ or anyone else’s creativity and confidence in coming up with their own ideas.
Exhibit A (gingerbread house) – on Wednesday afternoon I was making our third (and final) gingerbread house with my 5 year old. I love decorating gingerbread houses and have such fond memories of doing so as a child! After taking a backseat role in the construction of the first two gingerbread houses, I saw my desire for control creep into the building of the third house. I had an idea to spread icing in the “backyard” of the gingerbread house and put green candies on it like a yard (I noticed how much I enjoy symmetry when decorating and creating patterns with the candy.) I’d spread icing on half of the backyard when my 5 year old swooped in with some tiny gingerbread icing people, laid them down and said they were “makin’ snow angels!” There was one split second where I felt myself clench up thinking to myself “Nooo, I was making a backyard!” and I observed that internal reaction and realized how attached I’d gotten to my own idea. Her idea was awesome and creative.  She was so cute and delighted to place the g-people on the icing. We had a ton of these little icing gingerbread men [I’d ordered on Amazon] and they did look adorable making snow angels in our icing snow.  In that moment, I chose to respond with openness and said “Wow, honey! What a great idea!”  I really meant it!  It was a great idea. It was fun and whimsical! My whole intention was to have fun and make happy memories in the process of decorating these gingerbread houses.  I felt how close I was to ruining it by clinging to my plan for a green candy backyard.
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Little ginger-people making snow angels. Look how happy they are? Notice my symmetrical color pattern of holiday “lights” on the edges of the roof. Who knew I had this inner control freak?

Exhibit B (The Last Jedi) – I saw the Last Jedi this past Sunday.  I loved it because I’m a super Star Wars fan and enjoy that imaginary world so much. Hans Solo was my first crush. I dressed up like Princess Leia playing pretend with my brother when we were kids. I have a Chewbacca keychain. My lovely friends gave me a beautiful scarf for my birthday recently with secret printed R2D2s on the fabric. You get the point! After reflecting on the movie, I became quite incensed by some choices that director Rian Johnson made with the story and the characters. I hadn’t been that fired up about the franchise since refusing to see the Hayden Christensen trilogy (Episodes I-III) for over a decade in protest of him playing Anakin Skywalker.  I don’t want to share spoilers with anyone about the Last Jedi. However, I went on a rant to my husband the night after about some of the jokes, sub-plots, and lines that were written for certain characters – taking issue with many of them.  That said, I also loved other pieces of the movie.  Although I felt “right” in my criticism and super smug about it, I experienced some low feelings in the days to follow wondering if I was clinging too tightly to my own vision of Star Wars “should” be.  There are millions of fans out there aside from myself (not all who will agree on anything either) so who am I to get all pissed off about Rian Johnson’s choices? Where else in my life am I clinging too tightly to things, ideas, or old beliefs?
Exhibit C (Footloose) – this is an oldie but it came to mind during my self-reflection about the Last Jedi.  The Footloose remake came out in 2011 starring Julianne Hough and some other guy named Kenny Wormald.  I was SO PISSED that Hollywood remade Footloose. “It is a classic! It cannot be redone” I said to anyone who would listen (or who was stuck listening to me say that). “Kevin Bacon is king!” I still haven’t seen the movie. I was also angered this past year to hear that Hollywood would be remaking the 1987 movie Overboard starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (which I recognize does have some problematic story elements that would not work nowadays). After a quick Google search, I see the remake is coming out next year starring Eva Longoria and Anna Faris. Maybe it will be funny!  Maybe it won’t!  Another piece of info from my googling the Overboard remake is that they are reversing the roles of the man and women. Hmm. Maybe I will see it as a curiosity excursion and alternative option to my ranting about movie remakes I never actually see because I am stubbornly clinging to my criticism.  [Just for the record, I have no issue with the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters and still want to see the all-female version directed by Paul Feig!  Since having kids, I lag way behind seeing movies in a timely manner.]
I want to open my mind more consistently to people remaking things from the past, accepting others’ ideas more readily, even in what may seem like the smallest moments. Taking improv classes is also helping me with this intention.  I’d sincerely like to change my current trajectory which is heading towards crotchety older woman who rants about how “everything was perfect as it was when I was young!”  What if my kids want to go to the movies with me 10-15 years from now (fingers crossed) and I start yelling about the latest reboot of let’s say The Big Lebowski and become indignant like “how dare they remake that movie?”   I imagine the effect would be that I’d bring the mood down and disconnect myself from my children in that moment. What if I choose openness and curiosity instead?  Fast forward to this imaginary conversation in 10-15 years: “Wow, so they’re remaking The Big Lebowski! What was one of my favorite movies when I was in college. I’m so curious to see how it comes out. Who’s that actor/actress playing the Dude’s role? I don’t recognize them. Oh wow, a robot? How ingenious!”
My kids are growing up way too fast. I am growing older. My friends are growing older. My parents are growing older. My grandmother is growing older (she’s amazing at 96!). Yes, this is part of life. On a rational level, I know that time marches on! Yet I’ve noticed a resistance and an undercurrent of struggle with change recently.  Last month, I cried in the car on the way back from visiting my 96-year old grandmother at her apartment just because it hit me that time is passing.  I’ve also been known to cry sometimes on my kids’ birthdays for the same reason. Is my struggle manifesting in odd ways such as my getting so cranky about movies? And feeling controlling about symmetrical candy-backyards for my kids’ gingerbread house?
Of course, I could have bought my own gingerbread house kit and decorated it to my liking and gotten all obsessive over it.  I probably would have enjoyed the process!
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Fa La La La La! Check out my perfect dream g-bread house with powdered sugar chimney smoke, ya’ll!

However, I may have missed the lesson and opportunity to take a look at what was really going on for me underneath.
While I am someone who often likes to change it up and experience variety, I also have a hard time in certain situations accepting that life, my loved ones, the world, and I are constantly changing.  Sometimes I embrace change and other times I resist it. I’m learning that sometimes sticking to our beliefs can serve us well and empower us. Other times, old beliefs or patterns may not serve us, our relationships, or what we are trying to create in our lives.
This holiday season, my intention is to be present. Only then will I set myself up to choose openness. I almost wrote “extra present” or “super present” but I believe that in regards to being present, you either are or you aren’t. It feels true to me right now so I’m going with it.
Maybe the only constant is that now is the only moment we have…
The only moment that matters…
The only moment where we are in control of how we want to show up…
Creating the kind of impact we are aiming for.
Wishing all of you joy, peace, your favorite things, quality time with loved ones, laughs, and a bit of magic over the holidays and into 2018!
What do you want to create?
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What If I Embraced My Inner Princess?

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Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

Those of you who know me might be thinking “WTF? Amy has an Inner Princess?” To be honest, I’ve had a real chip on my shoulder about princesses, mostly of the Disney variety, for as long as I can remember.  Unfortunately, when we are children and adolescents, the process of being okay with who you are, what activities you enjoy, what interests capture your attention, can sometimes mean making others wrong in an effort to feel better about yourself. I did this in relation to Princesses. Anything I thought was associated with being Princess-y like frills, the color pink, ballet, etc. I resisted.  I liked soccer, playing outdoors, preferred to be friends with boys and must have adopted some disdain for princesses and anything I deemed Princess-y as a defense mechanism.
Up until a few weeks ago, I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life resisting aspects of Princess-ness like the frilly dresses, tiaras, and the waiting to be saved/damsel in distress story lines.  Of course, that’s not all there is to being a princess. The only princess I admired as a kid was Princess Leia because she had adventures, a weapon, and hung out with a bunch of guys (and a Wookie).
Somewhere during my childhood, I lived my way into an Either/Or way of thinking about Princesses.  I chose to keep myself stuck in my negative viewpoint and was not open to reconsidering.  I can be quite stubborn.  I also did this with country music during college but that’s another story. Could I like playing sports and wearing fancy dresses at the same time?  I believed “no” to be the answer for a long time but as I’ve gotten older and started raising a daughter, I’ve felt compelled to shine a light on some of my old and outdated thinking.  Yes, some Princesses are depicted as vain, high-maintenance, and incapable of doing things for themselves.  However, that’s not all there is to being a princess.  The problem was my narrow view.
My 5 year old told me a few months ago within the same 24-hour period that she wanted to be a Queen and then a Ninja when she grew up.  She likes to play in the dirt and has worn her beautiful Wonder Woman themed nightgown to her Pre-K classroom. She can talk about weapons and Shopkins easily in the same sentence. She has taught me that everything doesn’t have to be an Either/Or. It can be a Both/And. She opened my mind to reconsidering princesses for their positive traits.  Before we went to Disney World in August, I smugly told a few co-workers that I was not going to wait in any hour-long line to see any princesses!  I was in a “Better-than” box about it for sure. Then a week before we left I changed my tune. I started to see how I have an Inner Princess.  Princesses like nice things. They are kind. They can use their personal power for good in the world. Aren’t these things that I want to embrace? Yes. Also, I do like dressing up at times.  I have many wish lists on Rent the Runway’s website and occasionally become addicted to adding dresses to those lists.  I also love shoes and while my high heel collection hit its peak during my 20s, I still love a good pair of heels. I also like wearing yoga pants and sneakers most of the time. I can be both.  I want my house to feel clean and orderly.  It doesn’t mean I’m “high-maintenance” if I want that.
I did end up waiting in line with my daughter to meet Princess Tiana and Princess Rapunzel at Disney World.  I was open to it and excited about it.  I was touched by how kind these women were to every single child and adult who passed through Princess Fairytale Hall.  The looks of pure joy on the kids’ faces reminded me of the impact that kindness can have and that it feels good to dress up sometimes (that goes for kids and adults).
I have learned that it’s unnecessarily exhausting to live your life:
a) trying to adhere to a label or
b) trying to avoid being defined by a label
I have a complicated relationship with labels.  I’ve never liked them. Honestly, I’m still getting over the troublesome reaction I have to the word “Princess” but I’m just going to keep noticing it and seeing what comes up for me.
What if we gave up labels and allowed ourselves to like whatever we like? Even if the things we like clash with one another or don’t “make sense” to anyone else?
I have been interested to learn that Disney has been working on redefining the whole Princess thing with empowering commercials along with tag lines like “Dream Big, Princess” which has made it more acceptable to me and broadened what it means to be a Princess.  I love seeing my 5 year old watch that commercial on Disney Junior (to the tune of The Script’s song “Hall of Fame”) and say things like “I’m a good swimmer like Ariel!”
Also, a friend of mine passed along this great article on Glamour.com highlighting the new #DreamBigPrincess photography campaign that Disney started.
“For the series Disney tapped 19 female photographers in 15 countries to create portraits of inspiring women and girls who live in the real world, not in Disneyland—everyone from park rangers in Kenya to a Chinese Paralympian to the author of a coding book for kids.”
Furthermore, Disney is utilizing this campaign to raise money to support girls all over the world.
“Disney has also teamed up with Girl Up, which works with the U.N. Foundation to support girls all over the world. From now until October 11, Disney will donate $1 for every public post of a photo tagged #DreamBigPrincess, or any like of one of those posts on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, up to $1 million.”
No, I am not sponsored by Disney!  I have just stumbled upon an area where my stubbornness backed me into a corner long ago that I’ve outgrown and no longer believe in anymore.
What labels do you resist?
How do those aspects live in you?

 

What If We Celebrated How Far We Have Come?

I continue to learn about and experience the nature of What If?
I envision it as a tree.  The questions are like leaves sprouting from branches in a non-linear and organic way. When I sit in the What If Tree and start thinking, it’s hard to stop new leaves from sprouting. Here is my imagined image of a What If tree:
What If Tree
What if we celebrated how far we have come?  This question does not assume that life has been all peaches n’ cream and easy street and happiness all the time.  That’s not usually how life works in my experience. I believe the beauty and the richness of life is in the inevitable contrasts. My question doesn’t necessarily point to material “success” either.  I want this question to honor the struggles and challenges we have faced in the past while being spacious enough to include the celebration of who we have become.
What if we stopped and breathed and thought back to 5 years ago and what’s happened since then, who you have become, who has come into your life, and so on.  What would you celebrate?
Write it down. Read it out loud to yourself.
What if we stopped and breathed and thought back to 10 years ago. What would you celebrate then?
Write it down. Read it out loud to yourself.
Now, go back 15 years and who you were then, what you were doing, what you were struggling with, who you were being.  What would you celebrate about who you are now?
Write it down. Read it out loud to yourself.
Who is avoiding writing it down and/or reading it out loud to yourself?  What’s underneath that?  I know something that’s true for me in certain moments is that I can have difficulty celebrating success or appreciating myself.  I tend to deflect attention by looking for areas of improvement vs. savoring what I feel good about.  Here goes the leaf-sprouted What If question:
What if we appreciated ourselves more right this very moment?
Self-acceptance popped into my head.  I wasn’t intending to go there when I started writing.   This may be a leaf on the celebration branch of the What if Tree.  I will ponder that over the coming weeks. For those who want to dive deeper on that topic here are 8 Techniques for Self-Acceptance.
If I think back 5 years ago and see how far I’ve come, one thing I’d celebrate is how I’m a more present and patient mother.  It took many difficult moments and failures on my part to move the dial in this area and today I’m celebrating it!  My 5 year old actually yelled at me during a recent tantrum “STOP BEING SO NICE TO ME!”  I thought to myself “Wow, there’s a silver lining in this moment!”
If I think back 10 years ago and see how far I’ve come, something I’d celebrate is that I’ve identified many things that energize me and I’m more intentional about how I spend my time on these things.  This doesn’t mean I’ve perfected it!  It means I’ve moved the needle in a big way vs. 10 years ago – enough to make an impact in my own life and those around me.  The clarity that comes from knowing my values and what energizes me makes decision-making that much easier for me.  I still stumble around at times with my decisions but I’ve accepted that is part of how I operate.
If I think back 15 years ago and see how far I’ve come, one thing I’d celebrate is how much better I know and accept myself.  15 years ago I was 23 years old.  I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I wanted, I was unsure of myself, I knew I could make other people happy but had no idea what made me tick.  Right now, I’m celebrating the goodness in my life like my loving husband, three spirited kiddos, and my commitment to living life to the fullest in a way that is authentic to me and who/what I care about.
It feels like I’m on a road trip where there have been great memories, painful memories, flat tires, hilarious encounters, detours, successes, delays, interesting characters and so on.  Right now,  I’ve pulled off the road to enjoy the scenic overlook.
scenic vista
What are you celebrating?

What if being grouchy pointed me in a better direction?

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Over the past month or so there have been moments I’ve felt really grouchy and edgy. Instead of being with it, I resisted it.  I didn’t want to feel grouchy!  I told myself “What’s wrong with you? You’re not being as pleasant as usual. Smile!” I wasn’t showing up how I wanted to and I was disappointed and annoyed at myself.  Have you ever felt like that? Where you see it happening and you resist and it persists?
I’ve heard the saying (or something like it) that a “complaint is just an unexpressed desire” and I believe it!  I just don’t remember it consistently in the moments I need it most.
What if the better question was “what do I need right now?”  When I rephrased it that way it created space for me to be imperfect and think about what I actually needed.  Turned out I needed sleep and I needed space to recharge and rest from so much doing.  I’d been living in the world of details (kid logistics, end of school year events, summer camp health forms, work, etc),  and too much activity.  Many of these activities were wonderful and I was excited about them but the pace was too fast, the spacing was too close together and I became depleted…and grouchy.  Thank goodness a well-timed vacation saved the day and I felt renewed.  I slept more.  Relaxed.  Spent time outdoors. Enjoyed being with family and reading books.  Took a break from email and technology. Now,  I want to incorporate some of that into daily life so I can renew myself on a more regular basis vs. waiting until I’m depleted or grouchy.
What if instead of criticizing our own bad moods we saw grouchiness as a signpost pointing us toward what we needed?  Allowing myself to just be and let go of the story that I should be in a different state had a magical effect on me. It felt like I finally had the key to a previously locked doorway which led me to a place where I could give myself what I needed.
What if we asked ourselves “What do I need right now? Today? In this moment?”

What if we asked “What if…?” (in bed)

I have memories of eating Chinese food with friends in college and in my early twenties and having everyone read their fortunes afterwards. We would then add the phrase “in bed” at the end of the fortune for laughs.  Yes, it was the pinnacle of maturity!  I couldn’t remember any exact fortunes so I looked some up on this fortune cookie website:
You are very talented in many ways…in bed
The greatest risk is not taking one…in bed
Today it’s up to you to create the peacefulness you long for…in bed
A new voyage will fill your life with untold memories…in bed
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…in bed

Let’s bring the question of What if? into the bedroom.  To be clear, I’m not proposing suggestions or hinting at anything about the answers to “What if?”  I’m merely offering up the question and seeing what opens up in the space.  I see the question as a way of opening a door to a new room where you can walk in, check it out, and stay as little or as long as you like.  Maybe there is even another door in that room to someplace else.
If we zoom out to, I’ve been asking “What if” questions recently about other areas of life. I believe it’s in service of us as human beings to point the question to areas of our lives that we don’t typically talk about very much.  Like aiming a flashlight at a shadowy corner!
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Hellooooooooo?

All parts of our lives deserve examination or re-examination to evaluate whether we are running on default settings or making conscious choices that serve us.  What have we accepted as “reality?”  I’m not making assumptions about change always being necessary. Change might feel right for some people and for others it’s an opportunity to re-choose the choices we’ve made.
So, back to “What if…(in bed)?” Who is uncomfortable already?
I usually only talk about these kinds of things with close trusted friends for fear of:
  • Seeming inappropriate
  • Making others uncomfortable
  • Embarrassing myself
  • Making myself look bad/weird/etc.

Also, my mom reads my blog!  Hi Mom!

Remember my life purpose I shared in my first blog post a few weeks ago?  Well, today I am the Wild Card who is kind of afraid my Mom will read this.  My inner critic or Gremlin if you will, is in my head like this:

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Shhh! I’m trying to save you from embarrassment!

I’m joking and possibly creating some awkwardness here.  Why?  Because I’m already anticipating reactions, thinking of censoring myself, and so on.  I’m also joking because it is a way I avoid conveying in a more serious way, something I care about, and think is an important question to ask.

Here are some fortunes I made up:

What if things changed…in bed?

What if you changed who you thought you were…in bed?

What if you asked for what you wanted…in bed?

What if you allowed your most authentic self to emerge…in bed?

If you do turn away from some of these questions out of discomfort my only request is to ask yourself what’s underneath that reaction.  Of course, you have every right to refuse that request.  I will not take it personally if you stop reading my blog or have a less-than-stellar opinion of me.

This space is about reclaiming the power of “What if” questions and pointing them towards possibility, exploration, re-examination of beliefs, and so on.  It’s not a place to fan the flames of catastrophic thinking or fear.  That said, I do acknowledge that fear often stands in the way of exploring possibilities.

We live life once.  I believe we should enjoy it as the fullest expression of our authentic selves.  I myself am still working on it and this blog is part of that exploration. How does holding back and censoring ourselves get in the way?

There is power in asking What If questions. This is not a blog with “10 Magical Steps To Bliss” or advice to give.  I ask a lot of questions and trust you readers to come up with your own answers because you are creative, capable and fully in charge of yourselves! Everyone’s life and journey are unique.

I strongly believe there is an empowering space of possibility that lies beyond any What If question and that includes questions that end with “in bed.”

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How Rob Lowe Helped Me Grow As A Human Being

I thought I’d experiment with a more narrow focus here after experiencing an explosion of What Ifs while writing my last post.  The school year is almost over.  Another year gone by!  I sent my husband an article recently called “Eighteen Summers: It’s All We Get” and keep reminding myself to slow down the pace of life with our kids so we can savor it.  All of this brought to mind an excerpt I read online last Fall about a father dropping his oldest son off at college.  It was called “Unprepared” and was featured on Slate.com.  I was so choked up when I read it.  I couldn’t believe it was written by Rob Lowe.  How could that be possible?  I had always despised Rob Lowe!  I fit him into a neat box in my mind next to Keira Knightley called “Celebrities I despise.”  In my opinion, Rob Lowe was just too smooth and pretty as an 80s heartthrob so I decided I didn’t like him and that was that.

too pretty

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Later in his career, I found him all too easy to despise in certain movies like Tommy Boy especially as a foil to one of my favorites, the comedic cherub, Chris Farley.  Of course, that was the point.

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I mean, how lovable is Chris Farley?

After feeling so touched after reading “Unprepared”, I realized I had made up some pretty big assumptions about Rob Lowe and carried them around for 30 years without once revisiting my stance.  After reading his book excerpt online, I felt compelled to immediately check out his memoir Love Life at the library to lift the veil and see where my assumptions might be wrong.  Ahhh, the celebrity memoir genre.  Mr. Lowe (it feels too personal referring to him as “Rob) tells entertaining stories about growing up, the Playboy mansion, cub scout field trips, and a saxophone gig after St. Elmo’s Fire.  He also shares touching snippets about love and parenting.  He wrote that Rashida Jones, his co-star on Parks and Rec, called him a “benevolent narcissist” and I found myself smiling.  I realized at some point in reading that I stopped despising him or thinking that I despised him. And what had I despised anyway?  His smarmy good looks and presumed celebrity shallowness?  How was I being shallow in my judgment of him? I’d made so many assumptions (he’s dumb/a jerk/self-absorbed/etc.) given that I don’t even know the guy personally.

I imagine some of you might be thinking “Whoa. Settle down! Why are you getting so serious about your judgments of a random celebrity?”

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Entertain me for a few more paragraphs! In reading his memoir, I saw some of his humanity.  Sure, it’s possible most of it was ghost-written by an intern who interviewed him in his trailer for a few days.  Despite looks and money and fame and all the rest of it, Rob Lowe is a real person with a life story.  It’s so easy to think we “despise” celebrities and forget they are human beings.  Rob Lowe is still not my favorite actor or person in the world.   After nearly finishing this post I finally decided to read his Wikipedia page last night and there are some controversial things on there that I wasn’t aware of. I’m not going to delve any deeper right now except to say that he is a three-dimensional human being who has been living his life and I’m sure making mistakes like anyone else. I’ll save topics like acceptance and forgiveness for future blog posts.

To be clear, this post is not really about celebrities or Rob Lowe.  Rob Lowe points me to many questions some of which are:

  • Who else in my own life have I made assumptions about and therefore written them off? 
  • In my own triggered moments, how have I failed to get curious about others? 

I’ve encountered people in my life who have triggered me where I felt angry, defensive, judgmental, “not enough”, ignored, and so on.  What if I didn’t take it personally? What if their behavior was not a reflection on me and who I am?  It’s easier to access compassion when we get curious about who someone is, what they’re going through and how they came to be that person.  After spending a few days tinkering with this post, I came across an article last night on my commute titled “Want to Connect With That Difficult Co-Worker? Try This 1 Sentence.”  The sentiment in the article goes beyond just co-workers and was:

We all fear something, love something, have lost something

Every person is a bundle of beliefs, personality, preferences, opinions, life experiences (positive and negative), etc.  What if we brought more compassion and curiosity to the people we thought we didn’t like?  Or who we assume don’t like us?  Or who live drastically different lives than we do?  Or to people we encounter in our daily lives who seem grumpy or withdrawn?  Maybe we will be surprised.  Maybe not.  Maybe more compassion and curiosity will bring more connection and understanding.  Or maybe we will learn enough so that we still decide to respectfully avoid that person.  We won’t know until we try.

 

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What if we all spent more time on things that made us feel ALIVE?

First off, I am so grateful for the friends and family members who have encouraged me over the past week in the wake of my starting a blog!  I admit, a part of me wanted to hide out and not talk about it after I hit “publish”….
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Me after I published my first blog post last week

What was that about?  Apparently, I lived my way into the answer.  I was lucky enough to see some friends live and in-person at a BBQ last weekend and a few asked me “So when’s the next post?” and I felt a familiar Gremlin voice say: “Ahhhh! the weight of expectation! What have I done!? It’s so much easier when no one expects anything from me!”  Yet at the same time I really wanted to write another post and do it regularly.  I told a handful of folks I’d like to post every 1-2 weeks.  I also explained how I don’t like routines and I’m “bad at” consistency and how “I’m going to play with that 1-2 week time frame and see what happens.”

What if these were stories I’ve been telling myself for years and not actual truths about how “good” or “bad” I am at something?  

If I consider my story about my distaste for consistency and routine, what about this particular story feels true? Well, to start, I don’t keep to routines when it comes to things I don’t think are super important like making my bed or making my kids do their homework  (oops).

What about the story is not true?  One example is that I do keep our kids on a bedtime routine because I think it is valuable and beneficial to them to get sleep. Another example is that I get myself to bed most nights between 9pm and 10pm (many of my friends know I have a nerdy iPhone reminder that says “Bedtime!” and goes off at 9pm) because I value how I feel more mentally sharp, energetic, healthy, and in a better mood when I get 7-8 hours of sleep.  If I break that routine, it is a conscious choice to stay up late like attending John Williams’ Film Night at the BSO this past week (which was incredible and listening to live music makes me feel alive!) or deciding to stay up until 11pm to watch a second episode of The Night Manager  as part of a multi-day binge of the series (watching Tom Hiddleston makes me feel alive!).

And another thing! As I said these things out loud to real actual people last weekend about being “bad at” consistency and routines, I heard how non-committal my voice and energy sounded.  My very smart friends must have picked up on this. These friends said something like “but you sounded so excited about starting the blog!” and I could feel my energy was inconsistent and low compared to the exhilarating, brave, and scary (like the top of a roller coaster) feelings I had when I hit “publish” last Friday.  A voice in my head said “You wanted to start a conversation! Remember? This is not a glass observation booth” and so I stepped forward out of the Mist of Avoidance and said “Yes, I am excited about it. I actually love writing and want to spend more time on it.”  It was helpful to say that out loud and felt true for me.  A friend said “Wow, You just said you want to spend time on it. How often do we actually make time for the things we want to be spending it on?”

Great question!

mist of avoidance

Avoid the Mist of Avoidance by stepping into a more powerful choice!

What if we all spent more time on things we wanted to spend time on? On things we deeply enjoyed and that made us feel alive?  I know I can easily get caught up in what I think I should be doing i.e “I should spend tonight signing the kids up for summer camp or in my free block of time I should take my car to get the headlight fixed.” I thought that’s what being an adult was all about. Somewhere along the way I attached myself to the belief that adults need to be responsible and do things for others all the time and should accept that there won’t be enough time for hobbies/interests.  In addition to the “shoulds”, this Responsible Adult persona saddles me with countless things I could be doing like “Well, I do have an hour before picking the kids up so I could possibly squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store or post office.”  What if I arranged my schedule so that I spent more time on what mattered most to me?  I don’t mean completely giving up on my TO DO list or neglecting to do basic things that take care of my family.  I am referring to making more conscious choices and creating time for what makes me feel alive.  The challenge is that it’s a constant balancing act. Spending time with my kids is wonderful and yet I also need alone time to recharge so that I’m a better mom when I’m with them. Many of us have competing priorities in life with work, home, family, to-do list,  self-care, sleep, health, exercise, etc.  One of my Gremlins looks like this:

 

cruella)

She tries to tell me it is “selfish” to do things for myself and that I don’t have time for it!

I love this “Secret of Adulthood” that writer/blogger Gretchen Rubin reveals:

Don’t wait until you have free time.  You may never have any free time. 

We all have choices with how we spend our time.  Over the past few years, I’ve really tried to stop saying “I was too busy to do XYZ” or “I didn’t have the time” and just get honest with myself and others that “I had other priorities” or “I made the choice to prioritize XYZ over that.” Often we feel victim to our schedules at times (I know I have and still do during some days/weeks.) Then I remember that I’m the one in charge of my life.  I’m the one in charge of what I say “yes” or “no” to.  I still struggle with it at times especially when I fear disappointing someone by saying “no.”  There are just times when the only thing I want to say “yes” to is going to bed at 8pm like I did last night.

sleepy

Me at 8pm last night

What if as a starting point, we spent more time on the things we cared enjoyed as kids?  Before we starting Adulting? I spent a lot of time writing, kicking my soccer ball against my futon, drawing, listening/dancing to music, being outside in the woods, and playing guitar or piano.  Currently, I don’t have a futon nor do I have an urge to kick the soccer ball repeatedly like I used to.  However, I do have the urge to write, get outside more, dance, and play my guitar.

What if when we felt envious of how others were spending their time if it was just a signpost for us to take a look at our own choices?  I know I’ve felt envious when I’ve heard of folks doing fun or interesting things and thought “I wish I had the time and/or guts to do that!”

I think that’s enough What Ifs for today.  Please let me know what happens for you (or has already happened prior to reading this post) as you play with time and how you spend it.  We need more aliveness in this world!  I’m going to go tinker with my time by spending 15 minutes outside before some afternoon calls and see how it feels.

doc brown

Time Tinkerer

 

 

 

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