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.

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

Photo by j.mt_photography on Pexels.com

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.

Stop Chasing…if when, why and how?

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

How do we stop the chase? We start it almost from birth. We are motivated to chase development as we enter this world, benchmarked against other babies, toddlers and children until our physicality has reached its peak. The chase then changes lanes to the mental capacity of knowledge as we learn and are tested via “standardized” benchmarks to determine where we sit amongst the pack and which then determines where we head to next; job, tech school, or college. For what? All to steep us for the chase that will begin when standing on our own two feet. The chase to be like others our age or better and long for what others want; regardless of our ability or means. 

This dreadmill of the chase goes on for years; through our twenties, thirties, and into our forties before we are faced with fifty. To most, we hope that it is midlife, but we cannot know. We look at where we are in this moment after 50 years of chasing and find ourselves stopped, facing our new reality and wondering what is next and worse than wondering is why we should, could, or would do anything more.

This leaves us pondering the state of being versus doing. After all, once you consider stopping the chase there is no more doing. So where does that leave us? To be or not to be…that is the next question! The chase exhausts us yet when we stop we do not recover we reconsider. We feel guilty for not chasing. We feel lost on a path so worn that the path is now a hole we have dug ourselves into and you cannot chase if you don’t climb, if you don’t climb does this become the end? 

The real deal is that we spend so many years chasing, climbing ladders, and proving the ground we stand on that when it is time to stop and enjoy the view we can’t see straight. At what point have we put in the time to be absolved of the work and enjoy the reward. There is no sign that appears that says you have now “Arrived”. Arrival is where the chase ends.

Ironic as it may be the chase ends at the start line of a new beginning. It does not require training because the work has been done and now the cruise control can be “set”. The funny thing about cruising is that it does not require anything more than what you have already learned and now have the resources to do; which is to be. You don’t apply the gas and yet you don’t put on the brakes. You cruise. 

So here we sit, those of us at the FINISH LINE of a race well done, trained for, and accomplished. We may have a few medals around our neck even if just for participation. Now is the time to sit back and relish in the reward of all that was accomplished along the way. The learnings, the failures, and most of all the wins only made greater by the embellishment of storytelling. For here is where wisdom begins. We have earned the right of wisdom by stopping the chase. Regardless of the lessons learned, wisdom is all of ours to share for at this point in life there are no benchmarks, tests, or ladders to climb. 

Stop the damn chase. Time to cruise. 

  • When? Now
  • Why? Because you earned it
  • How? Just BE.

Life as I live it — L.

Present with All Five Senses

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin on Unsplash

This is about being present. This is about how to know you are here and not there. This is about bringing it back to center. The most valuable lesson I learned in the final days of my mother’s life was in presence. Being present meant being there with her physically, mentally, and spiritually. I promised myself as I walked away from that experience that I would forever live in “the moment”. Experiencing presence in such an extreme moment as the passing of one’s parent is intense and profound and while nothing we would ever want to repeat it is only worth the pain of the experience if you can experience the intensity of that presence in life without death.

The key to being present is giving focus to that moment and therefore checking for presence. The ultimate audit of presence is through the senses. Are you there? What are you seeing, what do you smell, what can you taste, what do you hear and what do you feel? This is how you bring it back to center. You cannot do this “audit” without moving back to the present moment. Our minds will wander and we will be reminded of something in our past or feel the pressure of what is to come in the future but checking in with our five senses will force, most gently, us back into the present moment.

Let’s try this out together. Using this moment as our present, as it is all we have and undeniably the present moment, let’s use the senses to audit our presence at this moment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you see? What is in front of you? What is behind you? What is in the peripheral?
  • What do you smell? Immerse yourself in your environment. Acknowledge the obvious smells and hues of other smells in the air?
  • What do you hear? Go beyond the obvious that is in front of you and look for those accompaniments around you.
  • What do you feel? Again, mentally, spiritually but also in the environment. Is there a breeze or is it still? Are your fingers engaging in texture?
  • What do you taste? If you are eating search for the essence beyond the primary ingredient. Can you taste a spice or herb that is transient? If you are not eating what is the taste on your tongue or in your breath? Can you still identify the remnants of a previous meal or drink?

When this is read through as a process this can seem cumbersome or time-consuming however in practice it is quite simple and becomes a “pulse-check”. I was sitting with a friend at lunch yesterday and we were talking about “presence” and our monkey minds and at that moment I did a senses audit to embrace this moment that we were in. It was simple and yet the most valuable thing I had done all day; because I was checking for my ability to seize this very special moment and revel in the gift that it was and will now be remembered. This is the secondary benefit of “being in the moment” is that it then creates a more vivid memory to recall a moment spent in full presence. As I look back on that moment from yesterday I can now recall it more sweetly because I engaged all senses. It is now recalled as follows:

  • I could see my friend. I was also aware of the people moving around us from a distance coming and going.
  • I could smell the rich spice of my soup and the freshness of the vegetables in my sandwich. I could smell the fresh air blowing around us.
  • I could hear my friend and her intonations as we spoke about life. I could hear cars passing, I could hear the breeze blowing around us, serving up the fresh air.
  • I could feel my friends’ love for me. I could feel the tinge of coolness in the breeze. I could feel my gratitude for being in this moment and wanting to push pause on everything else in life.
  • I could taste the warmth of my soup, the texture of the french bread I was dipping in the soup, and the crispness of fresh vegetables in my sandwich. I could also taste the sweetness of fellowship as it made the physical taste more intense.

This recollection is now only available to me because I had the wherewithal to stop and check my presence, at that moment, through my senses. My friend was not aware of my internal audit as my going through it only intensified my presence.

Stop right now and do the audit at this moment. Reading a blog can seem so insignificant without acknowledging it with all five senses. Reading is seeing, but what does it make you feel, and what can you hear in the background as you read, what are you touching while you read, and is there a taste in your mouth of sweet, sour, or neutrality. While I realize that everything in life does not have to be “a moment” it is worth practicing in the insignificant moments to savor the significant moments through this practice.

Think about your favorite moments in life and they are likely those that engage all five senses and were also likely in places that were curated to engage all five senses. Watching a movie in a theater, hearing music at a concert, or eating food in a restaurant creates impact and demands presence as these experiences command your senses. These places are set-up to engage every sense and in doing so creates an intensity in the moment that is remembered and leaves the participant longing for the same experience again. But what is the experience you are left longing to repeat? It is likely not to see the same movie again, hear the same music, or eat the same food. The longing is likely to experience a moment when all five senses are engaged again where you are so caught up in the moment that you forget everything except that very moment. That is presence.

This blog is a reminder to us all that every moment has the ability to be fuller and more profound if you simply allow yourself the benefit of being present. It is a tool to be practiced to engage presence rather than acknowledge it. In a world that is pulling us in a million different places and abusing our senses, it is so important to stop and control what you are sensing. Be present in the places you want to be with the senses you want engaged.

Be. Present.

Life as I live it. L.

Dress Rehearsal to 50 with only six months more to practice before my debut!

Don’t see it, don’t hear it, don’t speak it…it is what you know…just be.

Time to stop the guesswork

Run don’t run, eat don’t eat, work don’t work, sit don’t sit…it’s insanity! Everything we are supposed to do, we aren’t. Everyone we are supposed to be, we shouldn’t. Where is the line and who decides when you cross over? What I know is that when I run I am a better version of me. What I know is when I don’t obsess over what I eat, I eat less and better. What I know is when I put boundaries around work, I have more expertise. What I know is that I can’t sit…I just don’t know how.

Six months before my 50th birthday and I am finally realizing that the first 49.5 years were the dress rehearsal for what will be the best days of my life. I have spent 49.5 years learning how other people do “it” and then trying “it” on for size. Well I finally know what works for me and now I need to do “it” and move on to the greatest performance of my life, my 50’s.

I know what styles fit my body best and it is not likely that after 50 years this will change. I know what foods work in my system best, as no one has a system like mine. I know how to do my job best for the company that is the perfect fit for me. I know what I know and for those things there should be no more decisions. Let knowing be the decision allowing more time for those mysteries that remain.

Figuring out the last act

What I believe lies in front of me, in the next six months is to figure out the rest. Those things that I have not found the fit. The monkey brain that cannot slow down, cannot stop thinking, cannot relent that is what is left to figure out. Even for that I know the course to take yet continue to stumble as it takes over. The noise, the never ending cacophony of what I should be doing all the time is the next frontier. Do I meditate, do I use oils, do I listen to spa music all day, do I watch tv, read, walk, sleep…RIGHT down the RABBIT HOLE I go!!!

I know what I know. We all do. It is just a matter of putting it all in its place. I control the mind, it does not control me. I control the reaction regardless of what plays out in front of me. Just like the brands I choose to buy, the people I surround myself with, the life I have created…I ultimately have control of this monkey mind and that is the mantra, the final act I will rehearse for the sake of sanity.

Putting it in place is the easy part. Playing it out is where the rubber meets the road. Easy to do when the day is yours to decide. Hard-as-heck when the pressures of life have their way with you.

Life as I live it – L.

Raw Thoughts on Space and the Doing of Being…

To be or not to be…there is so much to do.

Space is Mine when Time Permits

As I have been enjoying the holiday for the last two days I have not worked at all and because we are in quarantine time is immense. There is time to do everything and anything; as long as I am home. As the past three days have gone I feel the tension and stress of my world lifting. I magically have time to do things I simply don’t have time for normally. I have read three books in the last week, watched a number of Netflix series and spent an enormous amount of time sitting on my back porch. It has been bliss.

I have also been spending time thinking about my writing and why I am not doing more of it. My words have not dried up, I have simply not taken the time to put them on paper. Where is my commitment to this gift that allows me to put things on paper that I don’t even realize I am thinking? As it happens when I get stressed the first thing to go out of balance are those things I love the most like hobbies and self-care. Ironically I realize how badly I need those things when I am stressed more than when I am not. It is those things that help balance me out, that take down the intensity within and allow space to breathe. While time permits I am finding my chill-factor surprising with today being the pinnacle as I decided to do literally nothing. I have read, I have walked, watched football, read some more and napped. Wow. …and then I feel guilty like I should be doing something. Why?

Trapped between Being and Doing

I explore this idea of doing and being productive with my therapist often as my self-worth is wrapped up in the doing. I struggle to simply “be”. I am still exploring the concepts of “being” and “doing” so I don’t have the answers but I am sure they lie somewhere in the balance that is otherwise lacking in my “normal” life. The fact is I like how “being” feels. Being seems to be where gratitude lives. When you are being you are not wanting more of anything. To be is to be one with what you have, who you are and where you exist. I want to want to BE.

The oxymoron here is that in order to be I do more to get myself to a point where I can be. Wait…what the hell? I guess that is truly the definition of an oxymoron and why I don’t have the time to DO the things I want to do or to simply BE because I am always doing things to get to the next state of being. Forget oxymoron it is simply moronic!

I conclude by being honest with myself and knowing that I am a doer and even in that statement it is flawed because I don’t get to do the things I want often enough. If time is mine to decide then why can’t I decide when, where and how I will “do” my life outside of a holiday weekend? I know the reality is that I can, I always decide even when I decide an unbalanced approach that turns me into someone I don’t want to “be”. The blessing of today is there is space to pontificate these states of contrast. The blessing tomorrow will only exist if I continue to pontificate on a new future; one where doing and being live together in a peaceful existence.

Life as I live it – L.