Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Think Therefore I Am

I have always been a positive person. I guess I was just born that way. My glass is always half full. There is always a silver lining. I'm always bopping around to theme music in my mind.

One thing that has been a facination for me is the human psyche. I'm always facinated by people's stories of hardship or depression. I'm obsessed with helping shift the perception that people have of their situations, to helping them see the potential within their reach, to stimulaing them to make the change! I love helping others to become happy, to believe in themselves, and to see a brighter tomorrow.

This month was a stressful month for us. It started off with a cancer scare with my husband and the joys of "hurry and wait" that comes along with all of the testing. Immediately after getting through that I'm admitted into the hospital for almost a week. I get out and then one of my husband's best friends who rides with us is in a motorcycle accident, air lifted in critical condition.

My husband's tests came back clear. I'm healthy, home, and feeling great. Our dear friend went from critical condition to being sent home with staples and a broken hand within hours.

My husband shot me a text today to pray for him because his nerves were shot. He didn't even know how he would function today at work.

My response? Glad you asked:

"The mind is such an amazing thing, and the power we give our thoughts over us. It's always astounding when you take a step back and realize how we let a simple thing, a thought, consume us. We stress, we fixate, and we physically suffer. Then... a simple shift of perception... and that stressful weight lifts off of our shoulders. We laugh. What you see as a brush with death for you, for your wife, and for your best friend... it could be a reminder of all the blessings we have in life. A reminder of how much we love... are loved. A reminder of how we shouldn't waste a second of this precious life worrying about what horrible thing could have happened. Now, quit stressing because at the end of the day... you don't get that time back! My nerves are gold, are you kidding?! In my book we were just blessed with three miracles in three weeks! Smile, Baby, I love you!"

Moral of the story:  Your situation is always as good, or as bad, as you think it is!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Death and Living

I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, "The only thing certain in life is death (and taxes)."  We all know that one day we will pass, and yet this logic doesn't make losing a loved one any easier.

Over the course of the past week I have had several people in my life lose an elderly parent. It's funny how death always takes us by surprise even though we know it's a part of life.

I remember when I lost my father. It was sudden and unexpected and there was so much I wished we had the opportunity to do, that I wished we had the opportunity to say...  I remember learning my daddy had passed. I was pregnant with my oldest son and it was Good Friday. I will never forget that call. I remember my sister, Melissa, on the line asking me to sit down and to remain calm. My gut fell and I just knew, I just knew my daddy was gone.  I had gotten a glimpse of the caller ID blinking that the Boone County Hospital had left a message. No words were needed. I knew.

That holiday was a blur to me. I prayed it wasn't real, I prayed that he too would rise on Easter morning. My daddy didn't rise. It wasn't fair. He was too young. He had a young son at home. He was too healthy. It was too sudden. It wasn't fair!

My sisters and I made photo collages of his life. That silly red Fiat convertible that never ran. Those rediculous tube socks he always wore. The lame jokes that we missed hearing. His writings. His voice. His wit. His charm. His humor. His fried egg sandwiches on Sunday mornings. His love for vintage military t-shirts. Our sadness he never got that bull dog. Our grief he would never see his grandbabies.

A couple of years ago my grandmother passed. I was particularly close with Grandma Love.

When she passed she had experienced her fair share of dementia, gerry chairs, and nursing homes. For years she hadn't been the granny I remembered. Alzheimer's had taken hold of her mind and her body. I KNEW she was in a better place. I KNEW she had gone home.

My granny was ill. Her body was shutting down and it was a matter of time before she would be gone and with God. I will never forget that call. I was in Manhattan with some co-workers on a beautiful July 13 evening. We were enjoying wine and tapas. My cell buzzed and I flushed. Once again, it was Melissa. She told me my granny had taken her last breath. I had been on edge for days waiting for this call, but it didn't matter how "prepared" I was.

I started bawling in that Manhattan restaurant with a table full of executives just staring at me. I walked for hours that night, dangerously I'm sure, crying on the phone and wandering Central Park.

Once again I found myself with my sisters making photo collages of her life. The kids she loved and nannied over the years. Her trip to Israel. Her undying love for our grandfather. Her home that was always open to anyone. Her love for her church. Her crazy diets. The time she was so mad at me that she wet her pants! Her Christmas card she signed, "Love, Crack Granny."

This past year I lost my daddy's sister, my aunt Peg. She had fought a long and hard battle with cancer. My aunt Joyce had emailed me and told me that Peg was in the hospital. It wasn't looking good. This time I was the one who called Melissa and Becky. There was no question, we were going to Memphis. We made it to see Peg one last time before she passed.

Aunt Peg was in pain and we knew she was ready. It didn't matter. We bawled in the hallway together with family. We sat in the parking lot and in the lobby talking with my aunts and my cousins telling rediculous stories of my aunt Peg's crazy adventures! RVing, holidays in New York, her horible sense of direction!

It wasn't long after returning home that we each got the text from our cousin Don. Aunt Peg had passed. We cried. We bartered with God. We hurt because of all the lost time. For months we knew death was close. For days we knew it was even closer. It didn't matter how "prepared" we were.

It's funny. No matter what we do (or don't) accomplish in life, in the end we have love and we have memories.

It's funny. No matter how "prepared" we are to lose a loved one it's not easy. It's sad. No matter how "ready" that loved one is to go home, we still hurt.

And yet, I remember deperately convincing myself that it was OKAY to be sad that my granny and my auntie Peg had passed. I felt guilty for it. I felt selfish. Why do we do this to ourselves?

What we have to remember is that tomorrow is never promised. Live each day to the fullest. Live each day like the last. Create some memories that will evoke a smile and a happy tear once you have taken your last breath. Live your life for something.

Should you lose someone close to you, no matter the cause, it is okay to cry. It is okay to be sad. It is okay to lose it and to break down. It is okay to be rediculous, to scream, and to laugh!

We only get one shot at living. Make it count.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Organized Chaos!

This week I went to my first city council meeting for my little town of Westlake, population 4600. It reminded me of my first experience flying Southwest Airlines:  organized chaos!

Let me elaborate for those of you that haven't had the priveledge of flying Southwest. There are no assigned seats, only pre-assigned groupings. You huddle in a mass and board the plane and seats are first come first serve. The entire process leaves me anxiety ridden and everything is a mere blur, but somehow you get to where you intended on going. You get wooed into flying with them again by free snacks and no carry-on fees, but the experience leaves much to be desired. Oh, and did I mention you won't find their flights on any of the fancy discount websites? Another note:  good luck finding a direct flight. Everything has a layover here and a transfer there.

My local government is a Southwest flight.

It's not just the wonderful city of Westlake either. I started writing this post on Monday evening and had to postphone my blogging. On Tuesday my boss frantically got off his conference call. He placed the phone down and looked at me with a panic look and muttered two words, "Organized chaos!"

Now, I laugh because this is a topic that had been heavily on my mind since Monday evening. What are the odds? Then, at that moment, I realize that there is organized chaos all around us:  traffic, schools, work, government, volunteer groups... it's everywhere! Why do we do this to ourselves?

One of my favorite Franklin Covey quotes is, "Fail to plan and you plan to fail."  The leaders of this organized chaos have to know the anxiety level of those who are trying to follow them. I mean, can't they feel it?

I really do value spontaneity, but it has it's place. I just don't think passing an ordinance to allow RV Parks within city limits is that place. This is something that requires thoughtful planning and regulations. You don't just pass an ordinance and then say, "Well, the good news is we have 30 days to figure this out!" But it happens, doesn't it?

What I can tell you is that I am going to do my part to put a stop to the organized chaos! If I jump into something it won't be with my eyes wide shut! I will do my part to lessen the anxiety level of those around me versus raise it!

If you are ever in charge of leading a meeting, I have some words of advice from my personal leadership experiences:

1) Have an agenda.
Now, this can be taken two ways and you should take it both ways! First, what do you want to accomplish? What is the end result? We all come together for a purpose, so what is it? Figure that out well ahead of time, and tell us at the start of the meeting exactly what that agenda is! Afterall, we are all aware that you have one. This takes the guesswork out and allows us to really focus during the meeting! Second, take it literally. Put an agenda together! During the meeting, how are we going to accomplish the goal you have set? What topic will be discussed? What can I expect? I'm investing my time to meet with you so please make it worthwhile. Make sure you invest some time to plan the conversation for each topic. Even if the meeting is intractive you must be prepared to steer the conversation in the direction you need to go.

2) Stick to the agenda.
If you have an expressive group that tends to bounce topics or to get off track use the agenda to stay on focus. Ask for ideas to be jotted down. Better yet, pass the agenda out early and ask people to come prepared to share their top two ideas when that topic is discussed! If a discussion point comes up that is not part of the agenda table it for the next meeting. It's okay to expect any discussion topics to be submitted prior to the meeting to incorporate them into the agenda. This should be an expectation!

3) Delegate and follow up.
Never end a meeting without a clear call to action of who committed to what and when you will follow up or will expect there to be follow up. Always have a plan regarding who you will assign responsibilities to in the event you do not have a volunteer. Sometimes people need to be voluntold! Send out a recap of meeting notes. Actually follow up!

I envision that one of these days we will have a world delicately balanced by both organization and chaos... but no longer the intermingled organized chaos! Until that day happens I will keep my antacid and my anxiety meds within arms reach!!!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Love is a Skill

I adore those moments when what you have always known suddenly culminates into words; those moments when your thoughts that you have been trying to project make linguistic magic. Tonight I experienced one of those moments. Some may call it reaching a higher level of learning or understanding. Others may call it an epiphany. Either way, I call it just plain damn exciting!

Tonight in my small group from church we dissected an old familiar verse:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 NIV

As we picked apart verse by verse, I had visions of myself and statements I would make in coaching conversations during my past life or of topics from my previous blogs. A smile came across my lips when it all simplified into one phrase for me:


A skill, simply put, is a behavior. This behavior is refined over time with knowledge and experience. To be really good at it we need to practice it. We need to make mistakes. We need to learn from them. 

No one is born knowing how to perfectly love. Love isn't a talent we inherently have. We learn it. We practice it. We get better at it. It becomes a strength. 

I've been working on refining my ability to love for a few years now. I should say, I have had a heightened  awareness of my skill level and my desire to improve it. 

All of my life I battled this perception of me that I was manipulative and that I was selfish. Now, I (of course) did not share this perception. To others I always had a motive. I always had an agenda. Nothing was ever face value. It made it difficult for others to fully trust me because trust evokes having someone else's best interest in mind. The best interest in mind was always my own, or so others thought. 

What I learned, in time, was that those other people were right. I didn't even see it. You see, I have high expectations. High expectations for myself and for those around me. Without realizing it I was always giving with an expectation of gaining something back. Maybe it was performance. Maybe it was time. Maybe it was taking my side in an argument. I allowed other people to disappoint me and leave me feeling taken advantage of. I wasn't acting in love. 

For years I practiced giving without expectations. I would look every day for an opportunity to help someone who didn't have the means to help me back. Strangers seemed to work the best for this! The more I did it the better I got at it. It was such an inconvenience at times, but that's why it was so rewarding. I chose to make the act a priority and in turn acted selflessly versus selfishly!

When it came to my co-workers, my friends, and my family I found that day by day it became easier to give without expectations. I finally was able to shake of that manipulative perception others had of me, but it took time and it took skill. I changed. 

Each and every day we come into contact with people who aren't as skilled as what we may be at loving, and that's how we need to look at it. We need to stop letting animosity breed in our hearts, in our minds, and in our mouths. We need to understand that these individuals need some practice, and maybe a mentor. These are our opportunities to show them what the behavior of love really looks like. 

The Golden Rule, "Treat others the way you would wish to be treated."

This really means we need to put ourselves in other people's shoes. If we were them, how would we want to be treated? This isn't literally treat everyone in a way that pleases you. Where is the selfless act in that?

Remember. It doesn't matter how smart you are, how accomplished, or what you say. If you don't have love you have nothing. It's a balance! It's a skill we all need to start perfecting today!