This is what silence feels like

Sitting on the bed in my 18th floor Dallas hotel room with the window open, sun shining through and in the moment. The moment is solitary but soothing, and silence is recognizable in this space.

Silence showed itself like a long-lost friend. It was refreshing and revealing. I liked it and wanted to stay in it. When will I see you again and I can’t wait are the themes that resonate after I ruminate.

Driven to Silence

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Today is the day, the start of a 5-day adventure into silence. What am I doing?!?!

This crazy idea started back in May when talking to my therapist who shared with me that he had recently come back from a 7-day silent retreat out in Big Sur. He was sharing his retreat with me after I told him that there is simply too much noise in my life and it was making it hard for me to figure out what comes next. I was on the cusp of my 50th birthday and he told me to try it. What ultimately sold me was his confidence that if I removed all of the noise the answers I was looking for would appear.

I immediately BOOKED IT! I found a retreat center that was a little less “extreme” than the one my doctor had attended, one that was more approachable for someone that is just starting to explore this world. The first session they were offering was in October and I booked it before my mind had time to contemplate it.

The five months that stood between me and silence went on as “normal”. Ironically enough that normal was the build-up to a much needed break but as the months went on I barely thought about the impending retreat. As September came and went I realized that I was two weeks out from my retreat and travel plans needed to be secured. I booked a flight, then canceled, then booked another flight and then canceled. Wavering on commitments to myself is my “MO” and this retreat was proving no different. My life is full of escape hatches and as the days loomed closer I was coming up with them; work is too busy, my family needs me here, my son is coming to town that weekend, you name it, I have an escape hatch. Not this time, there would be no escape hatch because deep inside I knew I needed the retreat more than all of those reasons combined. I decided I would take the 9+ hour drive to North Carolina from Florida.

On the morning the retreat was due to start I woke at 4:00am and set out on my day long journey driving to the retreat center, driving myself to silence. My sweet, and totally opposite-of-me husband, woke early with me to help with my luggage and offer his final words of advice, “don’t join a cult”…and that my friends is what we call moral support!

The drive as it would turn out would be a journey unto itself. As I was driving from Florida to Savannah, my audiobook was playing, traffic was as expected and anticipation was mounting. At the point that I crossed the state line from Georgia into South Carolina things started to feel a bit different. I could feel a melancholy come over me and then I realized, the last time I had driven this trek was to go to my mother’s funeral in Virginia three years ago, only preceded by the many trips to Virginia during her final year. This trek had always been driven with dread, subconscious as it may have been I always knew that this drive up would always deliver heartache and the drive back was wrought in despair. As thoughts of her came flooding in, I found myself reaching for the songs that bonded she in life and now in death. I Put on one of her favorites and a car concert was in full-session, that has only been better performed when she was in the passengers seat. I was strong but lamenting singing my heart out and then searching for the next song and the next like a fiend. As the drive continued into North Carolina and up into the mountains the view became eerily familiar. Again these mountains, these homes, these roads; they are what I remember of my many trips to Virginia, only this time my arrival would not be met with her coming out on the porch to welcome me.

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View from my porch. My Mom is surely with me…breathtaking in more ways that one.

As I reached the retreat center I was in awe of the beauty. I could feel peace wash over me and immediately knew that I was where I was meant to be…today. In the present moment and ready and willing to take silence on, all-in.

The drive into silence had been a journey unto itself. It was not planned and once I was in it there was no escape hatch. As happens with feelings, when they come to the surface, shoving them back in is nearly impossible. As I park my car I feel like a champion. I have conquered half of my greatest fear; going back to her home. I did not make it up her mountain but I faced the music, literally and figuratively.

She is always “with me”, of course, and this certainly makes other people feel better to say to someone who has lost someone when they have nothing else to say…however today I am one-step closer to the place we last held hands.

As for my heart, she has always had it and still does.

Silence…so far…is not so bad.

13 hours in – 🙂

Life as I Live it – L.

Take it back!

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Here we are post-pandemic and forever changed by so much more than a virus. We are changed by how we interact, who we interact with and when we interact. We have found yet another “line in the sand” as a country where “we decide” for ourselves. I will decide if I vaccinate; the most obvious of all decisions in this moment. How about all of those decisions that we are making quietly, personally, publicly without a declaration?

We are deciding:

  • Who we will spend our time, how and when. Long gone are the days of social pressures that forced us to be with people we don’t want to spend our time with or working for companies that made decisions for us. We are deciding; collectively and independently. We are no longer driven by the pressure of having to make social “appearances” for the fear of ____________.

I find this revealing and refreshing. It is revealing for us all to see who chooses us and who we choose. Who has “written us off” using the pandemic as the acceptable “Exit Door” on a friendship that had long seen its end? Who have we “moved on” past using “self-isolation” as an acceptable reason to end it? It is refreshing (after the sting) to be left with true quality relationships that are “worth the risk”. Relationships on our terms.

We are deciding:

  • Who we will work for, with and where. I am inspired by those that are taking back their freedom to decide and take the risk (while it is low) to move on from an employer that does not align with their values. The test of independence will be to see how those making the change own it when the roles reverse and employers are able to pushback again. Do you stand on your morals? Are you holding true to you when the ball is not in your court and you have to take the risk of holding the line?

It is refreshing to see people live their lives the way they decide; choosing for themselves. In order to make this stick, make sure you set it up for the long haul and not as supplemented temporarily.

Last but never least are those that inspire us to take notice of the freedom to “Take it Back” when we don’t notice that we have given too much. I was inspired by a conversation first with a dear friend that helped me to understand the power afforded if I would just exercise the value I have recognized but not afforded myself. This was further reinforced by one of “The Aunts” that reminded me to define it, protect it and DO IT.

I am “paying it forward” by reminding you that this is the season to “Take it back!” as there are “hall passes” and “escape hatches” everywhere. Open your eyes and your mind to the new possibility to redefine what is not working of you.

Life as I “Take it back!” – L.

Moving to Moderation

HBR article “In Praise of Extreme Moderation” spoke to me this morning. This is an article that will resonate with every one of us regardless of where we fall; moderate or extreme. It calls out the new norm of practicing extremism in all that we do. It calls out the “new” need to do everything to a level of excess. Earning badges of courage and worthiness is where we find our value in today’s society. A society that reveres everyone as “something” whatever the label or title. A new world where competitiveness is a label that has become the norm and when lacking it speaks to ones drive, or lack thereof.

We are swept up in extremism so easily as companies push their products and services as only best consumed in excess. The tell us to:

  • Only write if you have an audience and are working on a bestseller.
  • Only run if you can get a PR every time and not only win a medal but rank.
  • Only eat what you are prescribed via a specific diet and track to prove you are doing it.
  • Post everything you do publicly as proof that you are doing what you say you are and therefore validating.

It is so easy to sucked into this way of living, or at least attempted living. It is maddening when we are in it and it is reckless when we are not.

The article brings us back to what is “enough”. When is enough enough. That is as personal a decision as it is public. It is when one-by-one we start removing the value assigned to extremes. It stops when we applaud those living in the middle and calm the accolades around those that are pushing the bar so far that reaching for it threatens everything you are if you don’t land on top.

The best way to conclude is to quote the author who sums it up perfectly.

But I have spent a lifetime honing my daily practice, worshipping at the altar of “good enough.” Today, I am neither superrich nor superfit nor supersuccessful. But I have just enough of each to qualify in my own personal marathon, the race for a balanced life. In the end, maybe this only really matters to me and my dog, who does get a lot of good walks out of it. To me, that’s enough. – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

https://hbr.org/2018/06/in-praise-of-extreme-moderation

Live as I live it – L.

Obsessive-Compulsive Script Flipped

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This is where I find myself, often…bringing it back or taking it all back. Longing to simplify. I overcomplicate things in my life on all levels; personally, professionally, mentally, physically, for the sake of… – vision? – success? I continue to add more things on my proverbial plate until I am overwhelmed and stuffed so full of “things” that I truly cannot see the forest for the trees. In my life I have always been black and white; everything has to be done to the max or not at all and finding the gray…well that is simply a color in my wardrobe. Examples of this character trait or flaw is in everything I do. Reading, ah yes I love reading. But when I place a goal to read one book a week, it makes reading unenjoyable, it becomes the task as it is defined. Eating, ah yes I LOVE eating. But when I calculate every single calorie I eat, I am miserable. What is it that makes a person want for more than is humanly possible? What is it that makes obsession and compulsivity choose the same brain?

The compulsion to do more feeds the obsession to do it all and perfectly. This combination is as fruitful as eating ice cream and working out; the two simply do not go together. To find order in an obsessive-compulsive brain you have to flip the script on those thoughts that drive the disorder to find order. You use the compulsive thoughts to serve as energy or drive and the obsession to create order and routine. To do this you must first simplify by quickly defining all that is black and/or white and putting them in that gray space that gives room for everything. In this gray world everything has a place, and there is a place for everything.

I think it is worth defining it scientifically first to understand what this “OCD” truly is, and then taking it apart to give respect to what it is not.

ObsessiveCompulsive Disorder (OCD) is a common, chronic, and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions)​ 

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/

“OCD” is a term that is regularly described along with “ADD” and “Type A” by people that are self-gratifying a place of perfectionism. It is overused in today’s society as a quasi-compliment when the reality of these disorders is exactly that; “dis-order” or the lack of order. My first opinions formed on the use of these disorders as a self-diagnosis of perfection was when my child was diagnosed with ADHD. It was not a compliment by any stretch of the imagination and flipped our families calm on its head. ADHD in my middle-child showed itself in an inability to turn off those secondary sounds that the rest of us simply do not hear nor acknowledge. For them the cacophony of life was like being at a county fair 24/7. Sirens, voices, clicks, wind…it mattered not how loud or minute, the sounds would take over all focus and leave my child in a panic. For this reason you will never, never hear me define myself by such diagnosis. Instead the acknowledgement of “like” symptoms are worthy without owning the diagnosis of something much more serious.

What I am familiar with is a brain that is overactive. A brain that has a strong desire to learn, to forge new paths, and to lead. A brain that rarely quiets. A blessing and a curse on every given day. I wake with the strongest resolve to take on the day and make a difference and go to bed exhausted by the defeat of the day that simply does not beat to the same drum. This is where simplifying and meeting yourself where you are is the best option or treatment if one were needed.

I have done this so many times before and yet isn’t that the obsessive side of this illness, that we do it again and again and again? Yes. I think and think and think of the same things all day, every day, 100 times a day. The difference in what I experience is that it is still within my control. The pursuit of simple is what calms it all down and gives order. Here is how I exercise simplicity in my life with the hopes that you can deploy it in yours:

  • Write it all down – put it all on paper, every single thing that is taking thought. List it!
  • Schedule it – to start to remove it from the list you have to find a place for it in the day. Put it in your schedule and not just on your To Do list.
  • Finish it – to be able to let it go and move on! There is nothing better for resolve then to truly finish something.

These three things are powerful when put to use. The reality is that those that are obsessive-compulsive will sit and contemplate each of these three things for days, week, even years on end and never get to doing. I know, I have, and I still do. This is where we flip the script and take the best traits of obsession; adherence to rules and order and compulsion; heightened creativity to resolve to solve for the very thing that leaves us disordered and unresolved.

Today do it. Write it all down, or find the list that you have previously written. Decide on the one thing that you are going to do and do it to completion. Cross it off the list with the boldest red pen you can find and get on to the next. The simply act of doing that one thing will lift the weight of the overall load and get you one-step closer to resolve.

I conclude with the proof that I am taking my own advice. As I sat to write today I realized that there were 25 blog entries that had been started and never finished. In concluding on this piece I have completed three today. Three that will not be waiting for me tomorrow. Three pages that had the weight of thirty that leave room for new blogs tomorrow.

Script flipped, living life as I live it – L.

Unresolved Midyear?

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Who’s to say what is right for you? I am learning that all of these lessons we learn along the way are simply ingredients to a classic recipe that we bake to represent our lives. The brands that work for us. The regimens that give us wellness. The jobs that bring satisfaction and reward. The friends that give as much as they take. Respect for our wants, likes, and dislikes is a way to define our lives.

With so many “rules for life” on the shelves and in our ears it is important to remember that what works for us is simply that “about us”. All of those “rules”, recommendations and regimes are not a “one size fits all” and it is our attention to pay to bring with us what works and leave the rest.

As relative as the choice is the time in making those decisions. Time is inevitably what we cannot get back. Time is ticking and wasted in every “second” thought. When you know what works, work it. Don’t contemplate it. Don’t do “it” again and again and again to simply return to the place where you knew it all along. Don’t let others’ contemplation of the “thing” you have already resolved to pressure you into re-contemplation. It steals away the time you should be practicing what you know or learning something entirely new.

Equally important is before starting something new make sure you have gotten everything out of the current effort with full resolve. We start new when the current path is taking too long or seems too hard, knowing that we will have to return to it. That path now looms over us as unfinished business taking the joy away from the new venture, path, or effort. Resolve it, don’t return to it.

What are your mid-year resolutions? Are you resolving to finish your New Years Resolutions? What is the unfinished business and what has already been deemed as “resolved”? Define it and allow those decisions that need to be made to be given the focus deserved by saving time on all that has already been decided. Resolve to leave resolved the decisions already made; that is true respect of your time.

Life as I resolve it — L.

Who am I…now

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What a question. Who am I? No better yet, who am I…now? 50. Married 25 years. Three grown children. “Always Starting” and trying to stop. “The Art of Never Giving Up” but I should. Who am I? That is is going to take a long time to define. Who am I now…in this minute, in this decade, at this time.

This question was posed to me to ponder. If truly understanding the question at hand it is not about who you think you are or who you are defined but more who are you now at this time in your life. It is then followed by “What do you want in your life?”.

It is an interesting intersection to be turning 50 a week before the youngest of your three kids graduates from high school. So much change in such a short period of time leads to hours of contemplation. I was contemplating long before the day came and still contemplating now.

So rather than run down the track of contemplation, let me answer the question, “Who am I?”

  • I am 50 years of age. That number as defined by me is wisdom to know what you know and more importantly, trust what you know.
  • I am in a solid career. Solid meaning both the career is a stable one and my place in it is as well.
  • I am in a strong marriage. This has truly been tested in the last four years. The death of my mother, the threat of my own health, and the transition of our son have taught me that we can handle anything.
  • I am well. I contemplate (there is that word again) if I “am” well or “have” wellness. I know how to be well. I don’t always do those things that promote wellness.

This is who I am “today” and now know that this will change every single day and sometimes within the day. I always wake up as a Captain of the day setting my course with great discipline and by the afternoon I am a drunken soldier stumbling through the remaining hours with reckless abandon for all I thought I wanted on the course of that day.

I AM…

Is this really a question to answer or a reminder that there is no final answer. The question itself is the journey.

Life as I live it. L.