Everything Means Something…

I was pushed recently about why I think everything needs to mean something.  Why can’t something just “be” what it is without having meaning.  I have explored this thought for many months now since it was originally asked of me.  I find that life with meaning is far more valuable, at least to me, and makes sense of the unfortunate things that happen to make them feel like there was fortune despite what seems random.

Better explained, giving value to all things, is simply my way of getting through this life.  I prefer optimism and in order to stay positive, I have to believe that things that happen, that would otherwise be defined as bad, have meaning.  I also like to believe that there is more to life than simple misfortunes.  My most recent application of meaning includes two thoughts I had this week.

  • Recent surgeries have left me with a literal cross on my abdomen.  While there are so many things that these scars represent the visual from my perspective is a cross.  I choose to believe that this cross on my abdomen is a reminder of how blessed I am to have gone through these surgeries and come out better on the other side.  I have healed remarkably and have only been left with these scars.

This is a perfect example of my perspective in finding meaning. It would be too easy to be distressed by the literal disaster that my abdomen has become however I have no control over it, never did and never will, and hence can do nothing about it. Would it be better to lament about the physical disfigurement or simply embrace it as the blessing that it is? I choose blessings over curses every single day.

Another example:

  • I have a cross that I wear daily that reminds me of my mom.  My husband gave it to me after her passing and I typically don’t take it off.  As this month is the month of her passing two years ago I always find August to be the most difficult month. While I try to stay busy I am triggered by many things that occur in the month.  This August has not been as difficult, yet I still find myself searching for that cross around my neck.  The other night when getting out of the shower, the necklace broke.  As I took it off it immediately occurred to me that this was God’s way of letting me know that I no longer need it because I am okay.  Anyone else might have just been upset that the necklace broke yet I refuse to allow such simple or unfortunate explanation and instead choose to believe it is a sign.  A sign that I am moving on stronger.

Again my thought about the cross could simply have been to be upset that this month when I need it most my most frequent reminder of her is broken. Not in my world, there is enough wrong in this world without me allowing my own journey to be a part of that sentiment. The sweetest part of this story is that my husband noticed that the necklace had broke and without me asking he took it to get it repaired for me. That is LOVE.

Everything means something to me. Everyone means something to me. I believe that this life is a journey and the stops along the way enrich the journey. We are taught by those people and experiences around us, if only we choose to see it that way. Ultimately like I have reminded so many times before “YOU decide” everything in your life. I decide to see things with meaning because a life without it is simply not worth living, in my opinion.

Live as define it – L.

P.s. To the person that made me ultimately think hard enough about this topic that I made it a blog post you should know that YOU have elicited “this” in me in knowing and loving you. Everything indeed means something as you have taught me there is more to life than what you see on the surface.

Seeking Normal – Day 24

Day 24 prompt:

My husband’s favorite saying is, “nothing ever goes smooth.” That’s his response to things outside his normal.

What is your response to a disruption in your normal?

My answer:

I try to think through why something is not going right and the way to accept that fate is to believe in fate overall. This is confirmed for me when I am late getting somewhere only to realize that if I had been on time I would have been involved in an accident that I am now passing on my route. Yesterday I was sharing this reasoning as I forgot an important ingredient to a recipe at the store and had to drive back. As we were driving back to the store I said out loud, “I wonder why we are fated to be back on the road? What is going to happen?”. As it turned out the “reason” was not going to be as obvious and therefore it was just an extra errand…and that was just fine.

The difference between my husband and I is that he frequently feels a victim of his circumstance while I don’t feel as affected. Instead I am always looking for meaning and that search for meaning allows me to accept the deviations in life without harm.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 20

Day 20 prompt:

At what point in your life are you in striving and how far away is being content?

Entire prompt:

Joel Osteen notes, “We spent all this time striving and and now can’t be content where we are or with what we have achieved. Enjoy where you are right now.”

My answer:

We are certainly challenged to sit back and take-in all that we have achieved and who we are in this pandemic. Do you find yourself content with your observation? I am although it has been hard to see the forest for the trees at times due to the nature of our current state of being in a place we have never forced to be in. In my case, I look at the home that we have created and I am grateful for it because regardless of stay-at-home orders there is no place I would rather be today and always.

I watched a sermon on Sunday and the pastor said, “the normal you are praying for today, is the same normal you were pray away (yesterday)”. May this time remind us all to be grateful for what we have and who we are in this moment.

Closer to content – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 11

Day 11 prompt:

How many variations of normal do you have in your life? For example today you may be happy or sad or ill – are they all “normal”?

My answer:

Interesting topic as it may be it about what is YOUR normal and my normal is obsession over diet and exercise and anxiety about things that others don’t even think about. This is MY normal. It is not what I embrace but it is what is true.

My normal makes me crazy as I just want to be free of a mindset that is always counting a calorie and pushing to be more disciplined but I am grateful deep down as it is what keeps me healthy. My normal also overthinks everything all the time. This has its pros and cons. It doesn’t allow for time to relax but it does force change.

I do check for “normal” in other areas of my life as I see conditions recurring I worry that those conditions look, from the outside, to be my normal. In the last year I have had a number of health problems and while I know they are not the norm, I worry that from someone else’s perspective it may appear that I am “not well” as a norm.

Last and worth mentioning is much like noted above in what my normal looks like from the outside, I like to be held accountable to “my normal” and find that when I share my intention, I create accountability to become my new norm. This is important as you decide to change your life. It takes work and time to make a habit a norm but by representing it as your normal; you have already pushed beyond a “want” as now it appears to be a need and so it is.

What is your norm? Be honest. Look from the inside and define normal but more importantly take the time to look from the outside. What does your normal look like from someone else’s perspective?

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 9

Day 9 prompt:

People talk about the “new” normal. What was the “old” normal?

Did that label ever fit you?

My answer:

Well once again I could not have known when I wrote this prompt that I would one day be answering it in a world where the “new” normal is a daily condition. My “new” normal is working from home, seeing my grand-babies every single day or better yet as my husband reminded me today, spending more time with my spouse now than in the 24 years we have been married! Ha!

So what was the “old” normal; well the obvious answer would be the world as we knew it. Working weekdays, lounging weekends, socializing with friends and family and sometimes so routine that it felt like a dreadmill that we called “life”. Now I get the benefit of looking back and wishing for that “dreadmill” of “life”. There is something about deprivation that makes you want back what you took for granted so easily before.

If I am being honest with myself the “new” normal has become the “old” normal that I did not like. I always preferred weekdays as I found my life more routine and my habits more disciplined. Weekends lacked structure and a sense of urgency and now my “new” normal is like a never-ending weekend. I mean, it is different, it is more chaotic, it is more, simply put it is “more”. There is no break, because the environment stays the same 24/7. I am less health-conscious which is so ironic because I certainly have the time to do more; exercising is doable, eating right is accessible and yet I am doing neither. Why?

“New” normal, “old” normal; what does it really matter? Well it does because normal is truly defined as, “the usual, average, or typical state or condition” and in this world nothing is usual, nothing is average, nothing is typical and the only state we are in at this point is a state of stillness to the point of stupor. Those that are truly among the disciplined maintain their “normal” despite the environment and that is what I now long for; that is my new goal. Better said, I choose to create a normal that is neither “new” or “old” but expected despite the environment.

Wishful thinking for a “new” normal – L. (HA!)

Seeking Normal – Day 8

Day 8 prompt:

Is wanting control in every single aspect of our life normal? Control over every emotion, person, stressors, etc. that are in my life…

My answer:

I could not have known a year ago when writing this prompt journal that it would be put to the test in a pandemic that has taken our entire idea of normal and turned it upside down. Control is what we do not have right now and it is truly showing the character of a nation. We cannot go outside of our homes, or shouldn’t, and that is where the control in our lives exists. Controlling our exposure to the virus means doing our part to stay isolated.

I don’t know if “wanting control” is normal but it creates comfort because when you are “in control” you are not a victim of other environments. Having the choice is a pivotal characteristic of control. When you can choose, you have control. It is where we don’t have choice that we find ourselves victimized. I don’t want to be anyone’s victim and that has as much to do with how I react to those things that I do not have control over as having control. I guess it is fair then to say that having or wanting control over all things is “normal” because ultimately no one can take away your control.

Ironically outside of this time in our lives where everything is about the virus that is holding us prisoner as a nation you always ultimately have control. Taking control is about responsibility. Where do you assume responsibility? Where do you surrender? Ultimately you decide and that is control regardless of environment.

Life as I control it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 7

Day 7 prompt:

Is your normal the same as someone else’s? Why? How do you separate the expectation? How does someone else’s normal inspire, intimidate or disappoint you?

My answer:

I like this prompt as much of what makes something normal is that it is what everyone else has, does or is. The very act of getting up every morning, going to school or work, coming home having dinner and adhering to a bedtime is “normal” because it is what most people do. That routine is what has set the expectation for normal for most of us. If others don’t do these things that we see as commonplace then they or it is “not normal”.

When we shift the conversation to how someone else’s normal inspires, intimidates or disappoints us it requires the acknowledgement that their normal is NOT ours but we see it as “theirs” because it is something they do routinely. I am inspired by others that create their normal around things that I realize take huge discipline. Waking up at 4 am to get a workout in, is inspiring because it takes discipline beyond what I choose because of comfort-level. Conversely I am disappointed only by those whose normal does not serve them, and those around them, positively. When we see those that are living a life that causes them or others around them “harm” it is disappointing.

I have seen more social media posts in the last weekend about “what is normal” as we were all faced with our first holiday during this pandemic. Easter was not at all what most considered “normal” because we were not supposed to go to church or gather for family dinners. However it is/was still possible to create an alternative holiday that inevitably will create a new normal or a fond memory. We will always look back and remember “that” Easter we were in our homes and not able to get out to do those things that we consider holiday protocol.

For now I hope that as you are exploring this “new normal” that you are finding the parts of it that you appreciate, enjoy or are finding a refreshing change to carry-on with long after life returns to “normal”. This time would be wasted if we did not pay attention to those things that we are learning along this journey.

Life as I live it – L.

The Angst that is Anxiety…

I like so many others are dealing in anxiety daily. It creates an angst that makes you want to run but what exactly is stirring inside of you and where you want to run cannot be identified. It is a whir of nervous energy that unlike excitement breeds a feeling of doom. It feels like the world is going to crash down around you. Angst as it is defined is…

…which is exactly as I have described. So now that we know the feeling, what do we do about it. What I find is that while I KNOW what to do when the anxiety hits I rarely do what I know. I instead sit in it which compounds until the point that it can make you feel like shutting down. It is for this reason that today I bring you the “list” that you can turn to when you feel that angst and in doing this I am serving myself as well as this list I need to be reminded to turn to as well.

Here are some of the things that I know work:

  • Don’t predict the future! You have no idea what is coming and cannot control it so focus on what you can control. Prophesizing what might happen does not serve anyone.
  • Don’t “sit in it”! This is about moving on from the thing that is causing the anxiety. In our case at this time and place that equates to getting stuck in front of the news that is reporting 24 hours a day the doom and the gloom that is paralyzing us! Limit the information stream.
  • Create routines. We are a species that thrives in routine. Where we have routines we have resolve. This is what is causing the most anxiety at this time is that everything that we know is upside down. We are no longer following a routine that we know so well we sometimes do it without thinking. We have to think about everything right now because nothing is routine. The most mundane of routines like going to the store or leaving the house requires thought. Create a new routine and follow it.
  • Get moving. Exercise solves anxiety in a HUGE way. Take a walk, turn on music and dance, do yoga, or just do anything that gets your body moving which helps your mind process. Personally I have to push myself to start but once I am in motion, I feel better almost immediately.
  • Call a friend. As we find ourselves isolated reaching out and talking to others creates a fellowship that reminds us that we are not alone. Even better is to utilize technology and have a video call so you can see the smile on the faces of those that you cherish.
  • Create your own peace. Turn on music, practice breathing exercises, sit in nature (even if that is in your backyard); create peace around you. Meditation can create that peace and there are numerous resources online to use if you are unsure how to meditate on your own.

Like everything in our lives anxiety comes down to a lack of control or indecision. We cannot control everything around us and ultimately that is affecting us. We have to identify what we CAN control and exercise our ability to DECIDE. You decide what you will do and ultimately you can ease the angst. You may not be able to totally remove the anxiety but relieving it is a start. Do what you can by first identifying the feeling and then deciding to do something.

We are in this together as a globe! Never have we been reminded how equal we all are as in this moment as titles, roles and identities will not remove us from this reality. Coming together and realizing that we are more alike than we are different is the resolution we have always needed. Embrace who we are…

…one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Life as I live it…anxious – L.

Who are you…really?

This moment in our lives when everything we thought “was” “is” we are faced with many questions about life and who we are. We walk around in this world in “roles” as defined:

the function assumed or part played by a person or thing in a particular situation

When that assumed function or part is no longer relevant because the situation no longer exists who are you? The situational roles cannot “define” you as they are only relevant in those situations however those roles that are truly defined are who we are regardless of situation. Mom is a role we play regardless of situation, if you are a Mom you are and will always be a Mom. “Director of ______” is a title that becomes a role you play in a situation. That “title” does not have relevance in all situations.

Why do I go into all of this? Well because I think it is easy to identify with these titles that truly cannot define us however when we lack definition of who we are we claim these titles as identity. The issue in a time like this when we are stripped of those titles, roles or fantasies of who we tell ourselves we are or better who others think we are, is that we are forced to face what is left…who are you? Who are you…really???

This is the time to look inward, reflect, revisit your plan and start over again. As Swizz Beatz, an American hip hop recording artist, DJ and record producer said, “everyone should have a 2.0 version of their game-plan. If you don’t use this time you never will. How many times have you heard people say, “only if I had time to do…”. This is the TIME.”

He is right, the time is now to define who you REALLY are and then decide who you want to be and make the game-plan.

I want to offer you an exercise to try-out as you are exploring “what’s next” in this journey, building your 2.0 version of who you and who you want to be. This was offered by Tim Ferris in a 2015 TED Talk and can be very revealing if you just give it the time, the idea is not goal-setting but FEAR-setting…let’s explore.

  • Fear-Setting – 
    • Ask yourself the following “What if I…?” and then do the work to “Define”, “Prevent” and “Repair”.
      • Define – write all of the worst things that will happen if you take that step. Write at least 10 things that you fear will happen.
      • Prevent – write down the answer to prevent each of these from happening or decrease the likelihood. 
      • Repair – what can you do to repair the damage if the worst thing happens.
    • What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success in your “What if I…” scenario?
      • You could build confidence and/or develop skills and ultimately everything is a learning experience. 
    • What is the cost of inaction (emotionally, physically, financially, etc.) in 6 mos, 1 yr or 3 yrs? 
      • If I avoid this action or decision what might my life look like?

I like this exercise because it forces us to face the reasons why we don’t act on those things we say we want. It is more revealing than goal-setting because goals can at times become ethereal and allowing a sort of “hall-pass” if we don’t reach them. Fear-setting requires you to face IT, reveal IT and solve IT.

Who is it that you WANT to BE, what is it that you WANT to DO, what is IT? We are all at a proverbial START LINE, we are ALL starting over at some place and now is the time. If not now, when? Are you staying where you are because _______________ (fill in the blank)? How does that serve you today and how will it motivate you tomorrow?

Who you really are is here and now. You are no longer the titles that are bestowed upon you but are faced with who you are in “real” life. You are Mom, you are sister, you are friend or you are not. Only you know what you and who you really are and ultimately how much it matters to you to be that person or want for something more or different.

A close friend and mentor of mine called me the other night and as we were reminiscing over 21 years of friendship she reminded me of who I was when she first met me. She recounted, “You had no confidence and doubted yourself because of an education that at the time you did not have…” but in her eyes an education I did not need. She went on to recall that she could never understand why I thought so little of myself and thought so much of college/education as the person she saw before her already had the knowledge. You see it was not enough what someone else thought of me if I could not see it myself. I had to do the work, I had to define it and decide on it. She was right, I put so much weight in education that not having it discounted everything I DID know, everything I WAS. Three college degrees later I AM confident, I AM educated however I know now that I always WAS. It took time working on me, believing and proving it to myself because it was important to ME despite it not having relevance to anyone else.

I tell you this story because it is imperative that you decide for YOURSELF as you define yourself. Not as others see you, not as you are titled in the outside world, not based on your reputation. Who are you…really?

John Wooden, famous UCLA basketball coach, says, “Your reputation is what you are perceived to be and your character is who you really are”…I leave you with this thought, this exercise and best off I offer all of this to you in a time that I KNOW you have the time to do something about it. Whether you do or you don’t, well that is yours to decide because ultimately it always comes back to that simple point of control…decision or indecision…ultimately you always DECIDE.

Who are you…really? Me? I am still working on it, every day…Always Starting…The Art of Never Giving Up – L.

Something Sacred is at Stake

I have sat silent out of respect for the massive amount of loss all around us. Sickness, death, solitude, and desperation are everywhere. We are scared, tired, hopeless and terrified.

Time has lost all meaning; when does it end, how does it end…there are no answers. We have been given no choice but to sit, raw and vulnerable.
As I sat here tonight gutted from what I will one day remember as the hardest day in my career I found myself watching an at-home concert by one of my favorite musical artists of all time and there at exactly 25:00 minutes into his 32:49 minute set, there were the words; that I needed to hear. This is what I was supposed to offer to YOU my friends, family, and followers. My universe always delivers what I need exactly at the moment I need it and here were those words:

“All time is precious no matter where you are at; every moment something sacred is at stake.” – Gavin Rossdale

YES, this my friends is what it is all about!

I remember this very well as I sat by my mother’s bedside in her final days; time had no meaning and every single one of those final moments something sacred was indeed at stake. My bond to her, the bond that was breaking, attempting to leave me, prisoner, without a cell, bound by no one forevermore.

Today as I was moving through the moments there was not a moment that was not precious. This time it was not about life or death but it was an interruption of a partnership if only temporary…we are affected. A place in time where everything was changing for them and within me. In those moments, every reaction was sacred and we were reminded that while it is all business, it is always personal.

What we are going through will forever change us, as a society and personally. I will always remember those days next to my mother knowing what was at stake was the change in me and today as I attempted to meet myself where I was and be there, in the moment with colleagues that I revere and respect more than they can ever know, I knew then as I know now…

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.” – Maya Angelou

We as a society are being shaken, we are being tested and we are uncomfortable. However, ultimately remember that you STILL decide; you still have the same power you had yesterday, one week ago or even a year ago. You are still the YOU, you always were; everything around you will change but ultimately YOU decide.

With all of my love, adoration, and respect for anyone suffering through these uncertain times.

L.