Friday, March 26, 2010

Why my parents are beautiful.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Today is my parent’s anniversary (yesterday by the time you read this post). I love them immensely. I want to celebrate them here with words, in a way I’m not always able to do out loud or in the moment.

I spoke to my mom in the morning and then my father around 5pm. I said, “Happy Anniversary! I love you and wish you lots of happiness and good health and ever growing love.” But I say that all the time. What I don’t say is this:

Dad. You are right.
You are right in the way you love.
You are right in the way you quietly go about taking care of us.
Fixing what we break.
Making something from nothing.
Letting us be girls and be happy.
Chit. Chat.

You are right about people.
As soon as you say, schmuck, it’s not long until I discover you’re right.
You are right about me.
Thank you for believing in me and seeing the rainbow above my head.

You are right that you chose mama and me.
And you are so courageous for it.
You are right in your heart even if it doesn’t always come out in the way I hear your words.
And that is all that matters.

You are brave.
You are a GOOD man.
You are STRONG human being.
I honor you.
I love you.
I’m grateful for you.

Mom. Sometimes I wonder if you realize just how amazing you are.
Sometimes I wonder whether you realize how meaningful your small gestures of care mean to me.
When you make me kasha when I’m in a rush.
When you stay up late with me, while I post on ebay.
When you remember my schedule better than I do, sometimes.
When you call me when I forget.
When you are strong for us, even when you feel weak.
When you love even through your anger and disappointment.
When you do what you are scared of.
Like swimming, skiing, trying parmesan cheese.
When you look stunning, everyday.
When you just do what needs to be done, with energy, joy, and life.

Mom and Dad. Thank you for all you do DO for us. And thank you for what you do not do for us. What I’m most grateful for from the both of you is the invisible stuff. The space you gave me to lead my life. When you chose not to say, or to question, or to get in the way. I know sometimes you may doubt whether you should have gotten in the way more. But because of your letting me grow, I am everything because of you.

I love you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Doing a split mid-air for the neighbors

Today was a beautiful day outside. Must have hit 70 degrees for the first time in 2010 in my neck of the woods. I only motivated to go outside by like 4pm. I was busy watching Ghost Busters and other worthy things to keep me from the glory of Spring (read the sarcasm).

I finally went outside for a jog (after mentally beating myself up for not doing anything all day - even though that was my goal - I still couldn't 100% savor it - I'm working on that).

Anihoo, I'm so not a runner/jogger, but I wanted to sweat, move my body, and enjoy the weather. 15 minutes into my jog, recuperating from some cramps, and listening to Beyonce, I suddenly felt inspired to LEAP! You know, like a ballet dancer does, prancing into a split mid-air.

So I did it. In fact, I did it three times. I noticed some looks. There was a guy rubbing his chin as I passed.

Can I just tell you - I got the most amazing rush from my leaps. I felt my mood lift INSTANTANEOUSLY. I noticed I immediately went from dragging energy huffing and puffing to a glorious smile and laughing. I felt silly, zestful, and for a few seconds, I thought I had a handle on what life was all about.

What would life be like if we insisted on doing more split leaps and skipping through out our day?

Much love,

PS I so did not come close to looking like this girl in the picture.

Our reality is created by the questions we ask...

The title is a quote by David Cooperrider, founder of Appreciate Inquiry, a change management process. For more on this, see my previous post "Hugging David Cooperrider."

Anyway, after watching Alice in Wonderland tonight I found myself asking some questions that opened up to different realities. I'm still figuring out the right question to ask. But the thinking goes like this..

First Question: How do you inspire the message that "anything is possible" if someone doesn't really care?

(Hmmm, this question already feels depressing and hopeless from the get-go).

Second stab: How do you have the patience and compassion to care to inspire that "anything is possible" to someone who hasn't ever really thought big for themselves?

(Hmmm, this is getting warmer. At least here the question assumes it's possible to inspire the idea that anything is possible, so long as you do it right.

Third shot: What is my responsibility?

Hmmming with love,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turd Encounter. The most disgusting post eva.

For my Positive Psychology homework we're supposed to have conversations with a partner to practice discussing what we're learning. Today the conversation was all about, pardon my Russian, kakashki.


For this assignment my partner is supposed to pick an event that activated some negative thoughts. My job is to walk her through a process where she can parse out the facts from her feelings from thinking traps from the consequences of all of the above.

For this session my friend shared a story about how the four guys in her office aren't really clean. After kindly asking them to take better care of the restroom, she walks into the bathroom with a big floater awaiting her.

The thoughts she had: "This is disgusting. I'm embarrassed - what if my clients were to find this? WTF? Are we not adults here? Assholes!"

She was enraged. She immediately snapped a shot with her iphone and wrote a very angry letter to the landlord. At that moment her phone died and it didn't get sent. Thankfully.

Upon reflection here's what we learned from the turd encounter:

1. Shit happens regardless, but it's how you react that matters.

2. Share with a friend.
Talking this event through with me took it from being something that was totally magnified in her mind to something she could laugh at.

3. Life doesn't happen TO you unless you let it. My friend realized this is not about "why me?" Not everything is about her.

4. Balance your attention.
She realized she was diminishing the good stuff, like how much she loved her office, and blowing up the bad stuff.

5. Chill out. It's best to just let at least some time pass for cool-down before reacting to anything that sets you off.

6. Don't mind read. Or like my 4th grade teacher taught: assuming makes an ass-out-of-u-and-me. She was assuming they didn't care. But who knows, maybe the toilet was broken?

7. Avoid overgeneralizing. When my friend met one of her office mates he happened to be eating a Twinkie and downing it with a Slurpie from the gas station. Immediately she generalized that this man doesn't care about anything and IS disgusting. But that was just one snapshot of his life. You can't overgeneralize one behavior to an entire character.

So next time you have a fight or are rubbed the wrong way, do a check-in. Have you examined the fact? Have you analyzed the evidence or jumped to conclusions? Do you need a sec to cool down?

With much love,

PS Resilience by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte provides plenty of insight and tips on how to keep yourself positive and in the game. Karen is one of my professors and is leading the entire US Army through resilience training.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How I Go to Bed and Wake Up

I recently shared this with some friends and they got a kick out of it, so I thought I'd share it with you. Just because.

Before I'm on the brink of falling asleep, the last thing I repeat to myself several times is:

"All the people and projects I am seeking are also seeking me. I give thanks to God for bringing us together in a perfect and graceful way." (Feel free to use the word "universe" if that's more comfortable).


"The perfect __________ (whatever I'm in need of) is on its way. And it will arrive with ease and joy."

I say the same thing before I get out of bed in the morning. By the way, a whole slew of what I'm grateful for usually proceeds this part. Going through these affirmations is like a shot of expresso for my sense of optimism and hope about the future. They ground me closer to hope vs. fear or uncertainty. I wish I could say I meditate everyday, but I don't. So this, in the least, is the mini mind-heart training I do.

Positive psychology dances around how focusing on what you want makes it happen. But I have read about "activating thoughts" and how the thoughts you focus on do expand...but I'll have to tie in the science appropriately another night. However, there are several studies that demonstrate how being optimistic helps you live longer, have better relationships, perform better at work, and so much more. So literally, optimism adds years to your life and is worthwhile.

I'm off to bed soon. By the way, getting enough sleep is something I'm really focusing on. If you're tired, you're less likely to enjoy the things that bring you joy which makes me feel shitty. Because in those moments I often forget it's exhaustion that's causing my sense of lacklusterness and then I blame myself or spiral into pity partydom. But really, I'm just tired. So to maximize my happy day, I'm honoring (as best I can) the rest my body needs to shine on.

With much love...goodnight.

P.S. I know a lot of you are much smarter about positive affirmations than I am. So please pitch in your tips or your own affirmations here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mother Nature and I are Chillin': How to Change Naturally

Today is the most glorious day outside. You can smell the Spring in the air. I'm so stirred by this weather I just want to sing!

In addition to loving today, this blog post is a celebration of organic change and everything in due time. It's not like Mother Nature says: "Yo, gestating buds, sprout out NOW and put some leaves on this dead lookin' cold tree." So why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we (or at least, I, and a few others I may know) expect full bloom overnight?

Yesterday I was coaching a former investment banker who quit her job because she wanted a different life. Three weeks into her new life she's feeling anxious. In a very gentle and empathetic way I recommended a chill pill. Here are the details of that prescription, which I've been taking myself, and yes, it's sometimes hard to swallow.

1. Everything is happening as it should. You're in the perfect place. Whether it's amazing or sucks. There's something you need to learn about your current situation and that's why you're there. Learn this lesson now so you can move on. Or else, you'll continue to be challenged until you pass. If you're currently in a delicious place, congratulations! All you have to do is be grateful for every drop. But even for those of you who are in a sucky place, you also need to be grateful for the lessons because that's how you grow.

2. Change is physical. Or neurological. Whether you're starting a new job, trying to lose 10lbs, or choosing to date people who are actually good for you, changing your behavior is not as simple as just making a decision. There's a lot of rewiring that has to go on up there (in your brain) in order to make the change you want feel like second nature. William James, the famous psychologist, talks about the plasticity of our neurological system. New habits force new neurological pathways while practicing old habits deepens existing pathways.

3. Take action. Go cold turkey. William James advises that if you really want to make something happen, you just have to do it. By not taking action on your desire to create change, you're hard-wiring yourself for failure.

4. The key is to take one small step in the direction you want to go and acknowledge your success.
For example, I told my banker friend to make a list of her priorities in the areas of wellness, relationships, fun, and work. I asked her to schedule the items that give her the most joy as if they were her most important business meetings. At the end of each day, she's going to write in her journal about how she delivered against her objectives to love life. William James says that action + experiencing success (even if small) is what insulates your resolve from the temptation of going back to your old habits.

5. Give yourself a break. We're all about productivity, efficiency, results, and logic in our society. So when our bodies and minds don't operate as quickly as our Apple, we think something is wrong with us. There's a gap of space and time between becoming aware of a change you want to make and actually making the change. Honor that gap. It takes time to cross through it and for the brain to rewire. The more elegantly you honor the rocky process of change by just being patient and accepting the fact that it might be messy, the easier the discomfort will pass. Remember, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Asian proverb.

Hope you like this mixed bag of metaphors...

Mustering patience with much love,

Monday, March 8, 2010

If my mom can do it, so can we.

Today was a very special day. For the first time in my entire life, I saw my mom swim. My mom is one spunky, brave, strong, fireball. But all her life she's carried an extreme fear of the water. Even putting her face directly into the shower was uncomfortable. For her birthday, my sister and I bought her swimming lessons. Here's what I learned from this experience:

1. Never give up on anyone or let them give up on themselves. It's just a matter of finding the right "in." My mom needed the assurance of a professional teacher, one-on-one. In positive psychology we know that not everything works for everybody - experiment until you find a strategy that works. Change is as much an art as it is a science.

2. Even those we look up to most still need us to say "great job!" My mom couldn't wait to show me how she swam today. It reminded me of when I was little and asked her to "watch me, watch me." My mom's desire to have me there as she swam exposed something beautifully tender to me. My giddy applause and "wow, I'm so impressed, mom, you're doing great," in the middle of Bally's Fitness Club pool was so important to her. While we all "know" how important praise is, sometimes, we, or at least, I, underestimate it, especially when it's going to "up" to someone I admire. I learned that everyone, no matter how amazing they already are, needs to be seen. We all have a duty to one another to rejoice and acknowledge each other's greatness.

3. Giving meaningful gifts feels SO good. I couldn't wait to give my mom this gift. I think this is the best gift I've ever given. Watching my mom in the Bally's gym pool doing something she never thought possible made me want to cry. This was so much better than jewelry and flowers. Studies show that giving can produce a physical high with similar benefits to a runner's high. You literally FEEL good.

4. "Anything is possible if you let it," Mary Poppins. By mastering this feat my mom is excited to see what else she can take on. It's truly contagious. Now no one in my family has an excuse that they "can't" do something.

5. It's never too late for anything! My mom (and my dad) learned how to ski at age 49 and to swim at age 52. And she's still adding to her list. I admire her courage and the fact that she's open for growth and trying new things. This makes me feel so excited about what new things I can learn and conquer with each year.

Thank you, mom. You've inspired me and I love you! Happy Woman's Day!

Much love to you all,