Tenderness

 

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On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are how fragile we are – Sting

The other day as I drove in my car, a feeling of contentment washed over me. Nothing extraordinary had happened, but it was this sweet simplicity I tasted on my lips that brought me such great pleasure. I had just gone to Target and purchased some birthday gifts, all my other errands were done, my papers were written, and my kids were safely at home with my mother-in-law, their “Nanny.” I had recently read somewhere that when people reported being happy that it was not the kind of fleeting ecstatic moments in our lives that created lasting happiness but the kind of happiness found in our very real and tender awareness of the present.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I felt the terrifying, heart palpitating fear of losing my daughter. We were in a toy store we had been in many times before. Never had she strayed too far from my side. Usually she played with something like a doll house, a play kitchen, or a toy cash register, but this day she was not near any of those toys when I frantically searched for her. I froze in fear. I took my eyes off of her, and it was my fault that she was gone. Someone took her, I thought. She was not in the stock room or the bathroom. The clerks helped me look for her to no avail. Then I ran out of the store and in panic mode yelled for everyone to look for my little girl. Finally someone yelled that she was by my car. She had walked out of the store to my car. It was a matter of moments before I saw her again, but it felt like an eternity. We both cried as I collapsed on the floor. In my gut I felt such raw emotion pouring out of me as I thought about every mother who had been in similar situations that didn’t turn out so well.

I am in awe at the fragility of our lives…that we can carry on feeling joy and gratitude for all that we have at our fingertips and simultaneously feel complete terror that it can all be gone in a second. With this vulnerability and fear tugging at my heart, I remembered a book I read years ago called Devotion by Dani Shapiro. She writes:

“I didn’t know that there was a third way of being. Life was unpredictable, yes. A speeding car, a slip on the ice, a ringing phone, and suddenly everything changes forever. To deny that is to deny life – but to be consumed by it is also to deny life. The third way – inaccessible to me as I slunk down the halls – had to do with holding this paradox lightly in one’s own hands. To think: It is true, the speeding car, the slip on the ice, the ringing phone. It is true, and yet here I am listening to my boy sing as we walk down the corridor. Here I am giving him a hug. Here we are – together in this, our only moment.”

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Baseball Ready

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“Another name for God is surprise.” – Brother David Steindl-Rast

Less then a month ago I stood at my kitchen sink wondering what I was going to wear to the Tampa Bay Rays opening day game. And to think that just less than a year ago I still referred to my son’s baseball uniform as his “costume.”

But going to little league games, feeling inspired by my son’s enthusiasm for the sport, and watching our professional local team, the Rays, I have become a true fan of the game. Last year, when at the beach with a group of friends, I even got up from the table multiple times to check the score of the playoff game. My friends were as surprised as I was about my new found love of baseball.

My “thing” for a long time was that “I wasn’t that into sports.” And truthfully there are still many I can do without. Instead, I preferred music, movies, art, and dance as if the two were mutually exclusive. It’s like I was playing the part of a high school student in an 80’s movie. I mean what table do I belong at after all? The answer is probably none of them and all of them. (I just hope a senior from the football team doesn’t yell, “Incoming!” as he hocks a half-eaten doughnut in my direction.)

As a kid I didn’t really pay attention to the games my dad watched on television, though I always liked hearing the sound of the baseball bat hitting the ball. There is something so promising and nostalgic about that sound…

Last weekend on “CBS Sunday Morning” there was a story about a man who suffered from a stroke at the age of 36. What got him off of the couch was what he referred to as the “ping” of the swinging bat making contact with the ball. He asked his wife to take him across the street in his wheelchair so he could watch batting practice at the local high school. He soon became an assistant coach. He then learned to walk again. And now he is back in school and sharing his love of the game with kids who have disabilities. Baseball gave him a sense of purpose, and it gave him hope to keep on living.

Sometimes the things that cause us to wake up and feel alive are not what we ever would have expected. We are often asked by life to open up to the risk of making mistakes, failing, looking like a fool, or maybe even getting hit in the face with a ball, so we can finally unearth what we have been looking for all along. And often times it takes the unexpected, and sometimes even the undesirable, to find our purpose.

Baseball reminds me that it can be as simple as smelling the fresh cut grass and staying open to whatever comes one’s way.

Here’s the link to the “CBS Sunday Morning” story: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/baseball-gives-california-man-a-new-life-after-stroke/

Clearing the air

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“Anything that removes what grows between our hearts and the day is spiritual.” Mark Nepo

Do you ever get the feeling that there is something that needs to be said, but you don’t know how to say it? Maybe you are fearful of causing further damage to an already strained relationship. Maybe you feel you don’t possess enough courage because “you are not good at that kind of thing.” Perhaps you feel as if you were the one who was wronged and that it is the other person’s responsibility to extend the olive branch. Maybe you feel it is not that big of a deal.

I felt all of the above recently as I contemplated the reasons why a good friend and I had lost touch. It was a gradual distancing and it was getting more awkward and more painful as time went on. I tried telling myself that it was natural for relationships to wax and wane and that often people move on. I told myself that we were different people. But this logic didn’t work.

In the past, instead of confronting her on what was bothering me, I kept my mouth closed wanting to believe it was better this way. There were a number of times I could have called, sent a text, or emailed, but instead I came up with all sorts of excuses not to. The uneasiness just festered making the emptiness emptier, the confusion more confusing, and the space between us too wide to make amends.

I knew it was time to reach into my hurting heart and speak my truth. Because nothing good was coming from being silent, and nothing could grow in this place of heartbreak, fear, and imaginary walls.

I recall that after my father died, a therapist I was seeing told me to write my father a letter to tell him the things I didn’t get to say. I thought it was the stupidest suggestion I had ever heard. Now I get it. Of course it was never about his response. It was about me being honest and open. It was about me sorting through the mixed emotions…separating truth from fiction, anger from sadness, and guilt from fear. Until I “got it off of my chest,” I would remained scared, on edge, and powerless as I gave away all of my life force to an external event completely out of my control.

I now realize that we can’t attach ourselves to the outcome of such conversations. Instead we need to focus on being honest with what is happening in the present moment. When we talk about how we feel with authenticity and honesty, there is nothing to disagree with or argue about, it just is what it is.

Just like the example with my dad, it may be impossible to talk with the person with whom you need to clear the air. And maybe it is wisest not to have direct communication due to issues concerned with our safety and stability. Perhaps this is when writing, singing, moving, creating artwork, or getting engrossed in a project helps give voice to what is troubling us.

But we must clear the air, and it takes practicing sitting in fiery discomfort and having difficult conversations so we can breathe more deeply and calmly. Whenever I doubt whether communication is truly what is needed, I ask myself how I would feel if the person I am distanced from were to die tomorrow.

So last week when my old friend and I had coffee, we exposed our fears, our flaws, our hurts, the misunderstandings, the expectations…all of it. It was time for me to forgive her for wrongs she didn’t even know she had committed. It was also time for me to forgive myself.

Mind games and not wanting to appear needy, dorky, or wrong have gotten in my way before. But I am dorky and needy and wrong a lot.

The ego will always tempt us to think that the breakdown of a relationship has to do with what they did wrong, or what they’re not seeing, or what they need to learn. The focus must remain on ourselves. We’re affected by other peoples’ lovelessness only to the extent to which we judge them for it,” writes Mary Ann Williamson in A Return to Love. She adds, “It is our failure to accept people exactly as they are that gives us pain in a relationship.” I’ve given thought to how hard I have worked on accepting and feeling compassion for my flaws and how much I need to extend that very same effort to others.

I hear too many stories about people and their strained relationships with family members and friends. Often times the parties involved don’t even know what happened. It just got weird and the air got thick. Understandably, most of us avoid discomfort as a form of protection. But when we deal with what is unsaid, we free ourselves, and we liberate the other person too.

In an article written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, published in “Spirituality and Health” magazine, he wrote,“If your own well-being – your physical, emotional, and mental health – is not enough, if your life and your future are not enough, then perhaps you will forgive for the benefit of those you love, the family that is precious to you. Anger and bitterness do not just poison you, they poison all your relationships, including those with your children.”

We owe it to the next generation to clear the air that is thick with what is unspoken.

At the end of our chat last week, I felt like my friend and I had moved mountains. It was hard, but we walked through the obstacles standing in our way. By acknowledging what went wrong, we laid the foundation for a new, more understanding, and loving relationship to grow. And now there are open windows were there were once imaginary walls.

Beautiful, just beautiful

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“The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” Audrey Hepburn

I don’t like billboards. I find them distracting especially when they are advertising Brazilian butt lifts. And they invade the space where the tops of trees and sky should be.

There is one particular billboard in town with a woman lying on her stomach that is especially cringe worthy. Standing in front of her curvaceous body is a plastic surgeon. With his arms crossed, a wide smile revealing teeth so white they seem to make an audible ting, is his prideful message: “Beautiful, just beautiful.”

Nauseating, just nauseating.

Last week I went to the dermatologist to make sure I didn’t have any ominous looking moles. Thankfully she didn’t see anything suspicious. This is a relief since I am fair skinned and grew up running around the desert and swimming in pools not wearing sun block. But she did recommend that I get expensive laser treatments to get rid of “my rosy glow”.

I felt like Rudolph being shunned for his bright and shiny nose. I hope I will still be allowed to play in all their reindeer games.

As I drove home, I thought to myself, “Do women not use blush to look rosy?” (I, in fact, happen to have an illuminating blush I purchased, and it’s actually called “Orgasm.”) And doesn’t everyone appear healthier and happier with cheeks colored from blood pumping physical exertion?

Then last week I went to the makeup counter to purchase my favorite moisturizer. There is probably no place that makes me feel more terrible about myself then a make up counter. The bright lights and illusionary perfection in the faces of the sales people are enough to make me run. The man that helped me was incredibly nice. But then he too commented on the redness of my complexion. I didn’t ask, but I guess that is what I get for purchasing overpriced lotion at a nice department store.

All of this attention on our appearances has always felt incredibly uncomfortable to me. I can’t help but think about how freeing it would be to live in a world where we aren’t constantly bombarded by messages telling us that we need to be something different than we are.

What if we exerted the same energy on accepting our physical flaws instead of trying to change them?

When I look in my rear view mirror and see the sweet face of my daughter, I wonder what beauty will mean to her as she grows up. I relish the fact that right now the glass slippers on her little feet and her “waterfall” hairstyle (Thanks Sal) are enough to make her feel beautiful. I pray that she never feels like she needs to change her appearance just to be accepted, validated, and loved. And I hope she never believes the far-fetched lie that if we spend enough money and devote enough time to our appearances that we will finally feel good enough about ourselves. The truth is we have to go inward for that.

At the end of the week on my way to a dance class, I contemplated what kind of money I wanted to spend on changing my skin tone. At the end of the high impact part of the class, the instructor told us that our workout was done and that it was now time for our work in.

When we work in, we may find we need different things to make us feel beautiful. And maybe in the future I too will start spending more money on procedures. (Heck 15 years ago I never thought I would spend so much on tinted moisturizers.) But I hope for us all that our definition of beauty comes from our own making and not from a male doctor on a billboard or a video or a magazine.

I also hope my daughter knows (and that I too can remember as I continue to get more wrinkles, more broken blood vessels, and gain weight in places I never knew was possible) that what is really beautiful is doing what we love; helping others with a sincere and earnest heart; learning new things; sitting with the light of a sunrise, sunset, moonrise or moonset lighting our faces; and the way our eyes sparkle when dining with a person we love in the warm glow from the flame of a candle.

We are beautiful when our souls dance to the music that moves us. We are beautiful when our hair is standing on end and our heart is pounding out of our chest.

Because this is when we are part of and not separate from the nature all around us. This is when we are most alive.

And this kind of beauty doesn’t cost a cent, and it never ever fades. To me this is truly what is beautiful, just beautiful.

Goals We Can Stick To

sunsets

 

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.”  – Louisa May Alcott

Monday morning rolls around, and I am full of great ideas like no coffee this week, just tea! Kale smoothies for dessert! Spin class, dance, yoga and barre! Ride my bike everywhere! Don’t spend any money! No wine! Only thought provoking television!

But somewhere around mid-week I am tired, and a glass of wine sounds delicious. And then I flip through the channels and see a show called “Extreme Cougars.”  And Hattie at age 76 is flirting with young boys in a pool and putting her legs behind her head in a lounge chair…and I can’t stop watching. I am not proud of this fact.

As I begin a new career as a life coach, I spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes an attainable goal and what is the best way to achieve it. How do we set realistic goals that nurture us, inspire us, and propel us in the right direction? How do we stay motivated enough to achieve these goals?

For me the most important part of goal setting is the initial step of creating smart and inspired goals true to my heart.

It is also helpful to decipher whether we want or feel we should accomplish a certain goal. Goals are dreams from the depths of our soul, ideally we feel impassioned by them, not tied to them. The right goals lift us up not weigh us down.

Focus on stating what you want, not what you don’t want. For example, “My new employer will be kind and treat me with respect” rather than “I do not want a jerky boss.”

Making sure our goals are in fact related to our dreams and not those of someone else is also of great importance. Basing our goals on pleasing others leads to dissatisfaction and potential resentment later on.

To keep goals going it helps, first and foremost, to prioritize them, insuring we are working towards the ones that are most important to us. 

We keep the momentum flowing when we visualize meeting our goals. For instance, if going back to school is part of a lifelong dream, see yourself with a hard-earned diploma in hand and a smile on your face. See it and believe it. Or if you are more motivated by sound, say your goal out loud as much as possible. And say it like you mean it!

Speak in the affirmative about your goals such as “When I graduate” not “If I graduate.” The more specific, the better.

Another way to achieve our goals is to write them somewhere we can see them. Whether it is your desk, refrigerator or mirror, keep sight of your goal. Similarly, keeping a journal and writing down daily successes and challenges can also keep you on track.

If your goals are about creating a new habit such as daily meditation, be patient and diligent knowing it takes about 21 days for a new habit to take hold.

And know that sometimes adhering to our goals can be a bit like playing a game with our own will power. I’ll never forget talking to a good friend of mine 15 years ago on the eve before he stopped smoking. We discussed feeling the craving instead of using distractions to ward off the thought. Observing the desire fully and then watching it pass.

I asked him if he was going to give in to every craving. If we took every thought that pops into our head seriously, many of us would be living unsavory and unsustainable existences. So when the desire is strong, we can learn to wait, filling up the space with a mindful pause and three deep breaths, instead of giving into whatever desire is calling our name. Pausing and breathing gets us out of our heads and into our bodies while helping us to avoid sabotaging our efforts.

Accountability also keeps us connected to our goals. When we are accountable to a coach or exercise partner it is easier to stay true to our word. It is about being responsible, showing integrity and simply, showing up.

Goals are generated and realized when our hearts are aligned with our heads. Goals are not just created from our thinking minds but are put in motion by an inspired and divine energy moving within us.

While I am not an extreme cougar – though I was called a cougar when I was at my cousin’s wedding five years ago, and I was a little devastated – I am an extreme believer. I am passionate about what goals offer us…most remarkably liberation from the past and creation of the present and future of our wildest, most heartfelt dreams.

 

 

 

 

Judge Not

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Only when we feel comfortable with our own choices – and embrace our own imperfections – will we stop feeling the driving need to criticize others.” – Brene Brown.

On Saturday night while out with friends at a crowded bar, I got unintentionally jabbed a couple times in the rib by a youngish man sitting behind me. As he greeted his friends, his large embraces in our congested corner resulted in what felt like constant poking at my sides.

It jolted me out of conversation and took me from fun party mode Lindsay to what the F do you think you are doing…you owe me an apology Lindsay. I do not like that Lindsay very much but this angry bitter part does in fact reside within me. She appears in my car when people shake their heads at me behind their steering wheel. Or when the person in front of me refrains from holding the door long enough for me to walk through just as it is about to wallop me in the face. SLAM! I see this feisty part of me as a little old lady in a robin egg blue suit with a cane and pantyhose bunched at the ankles, shouting, “Kids these days, where are all the gentlemen?”

Judging, whether it is parts of ourselves we don’t particularly like or another persons’ behavior, takes us away from our own hearts and into the illusionary and false story-creating mind.

But gently acknowledging the judgmental mind, and dancing with our own way worn shadowy parts allows us to settle into the mystery of life providing us with clean, clear, freedom.

Daily, I am bombarded by the pain in the world. And often I am reminded that there is no escaping or hiding, we are all responsible for this suffering. And there is something we can do about it.

We can avoid judging and choose compassion. We can opt to hold the person pissing us off in a place of kindness instead of talking to the air like I did to the rib-prodding hugger. Instead of “shoulding on ourselves” as my husband likes to say, we can practice being kind and gentle with our imperfect self.

Compassion, as author Karen Armstrong discusses, is not about feeling sorry for the other, it is about acknowledging our own suffering and treating others as we wish to be treated.

And as Buddhist teacher and author, Pema Chodron, writes, “If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound.”

 

See Stars

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“We have this amazing capacity to be reborn everyday and say who do I want to be today?” – Jack Kornfield

Today the heavy rain and dismal sky outside matches how I feel on the inside. My mom called to tell me her oldest and closest friend died. “Cheerleader,” as I called her, has been part of the fabric of my life since I was a baby.

Today feels worlds away from last Friday when I strolled along a quiet beach completely consumed by the beauty of all the treasures washed ashore. There, between the lapping waves and soft blanket of sand, lay a variety of pastel colored shells, sponges, coral, bleached white sand dollars, and lastly, something I have never seen before in nature, sea stars. Also known as starfish, these little creatures were soft, malleable and alive unlike the hard lifeless ones I have touched in tourist shops.

Holding the little sea star in my hand was exquisite. I stared at it amazed by the intricate design. Then I took a picture and threw it back into the water. A part of one of the arms was missing, but I had heard before that sea stars grow their arms back.

I went home to make sure I wasn’t mistaken, and sure enough, I read online that as long as part of the sea stars’ central disc remains, it can in fact regenerate.

It made me think of all the losses we endure in a lifetime and how losing people close to us can feel like we, too, are missing an essential part of ourselves. But maybe like the sea star, if we can keep our central discs intact, we too will grow anew. We are resilient beyond belief…we break and grow, break and grow, over and over again. And when we live life from our center, we too are capable of majestic and infinite growth.