perspective

Walls Up

What causes us to put our walls up?

Do we intentionally put our walls up?

If a wall is erected can it be taken down?

Can a wall go up and down similar to the unpredictability of the weather?

I do believe the answer is yes on all accounts. For me I make choices on my walls while others may inadvertently pull up a wall or walls without noticing. It may put them in a corner in a way. It could be a separation of friends. A separation of business collaboration. A divide in a family. So many examples around.

For the purposes of this writing I will reflect on bending and flexing. We all have the ability to bend and flex here and there to make compromises. Does this always work out well? No.

Why? People are messy and life isn’t fair. This toxic combination usually ends up in a recipe for disaster. Walls go up. Feeling get hurt. Reputations can be tarnished.

The complications of life. Of commingling people, personalities, emotions, and who can forget fear.

If you ever want to delve into this subject deeper you can take the enneagram test. Examine your results. Compare to a colleague, a close friend and maybe even a spouse. You may learn how to avoid walls/barriers and work more harmoniously in whatever environment you are in.

This is a food-for-thought post to ponder on a Friday before the weekend.

perspective

Speed Reading

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The book was “Go Dog, Go.” It’s the stuff of family lore.  I pulled it off the shelf at age 2, plopped down on our orange linoleum kitchen floor and read it out loud cover to cover.

My parents loved to tell this story of what a precocious reader I was. (My brothers would spitefully say I just memorized it because they read it to me every day.)   Still, I was in the Redbird group in Ms. Levell’s first grade class, which everyone knew was the highest group.  I’m not sure I always loved to read, but I had a knack for it from a young age.

As if that wasn’t enough, when I was in late elementary school, my Dad thought I should learn to speed read.  I’m not really sure how I learned it, but at some point I started using techniques that caused me to try to read as fast as I could.  It’s about inhaling chunks of text instead of individual words.  Larger and larger units. Zooming through page after page.

You may not be surprised that this change of speed made my understanding of what I was reading plummet.  I would fly through pages and have no idea what I had just read.  Through high school, college, and my PhD, I spent untold hours reading and rereading to slow myself down.

Even all these years later, I think I’ve still got the mentality of “faster is better” inside my reading mind.  Once I made reading a priority during quarantine, I’ve been off to the races consuming books.

As I’ve said before, the books I am reading are about mindset change.  I’ve plowed quite a few of them in a row now, more like they are mindless romance novels than anything worth ruminating over.  There’s been a nagging voice in the back of my head that says “slow down and think about it…”  Or in a couple of them, the author asks questions at the end of each chapter.  Still, I’ve breezed through them, thinking I would come back to them at some point.  That hasn’t happened.

Right now I’m reading Chasing Cupcakes, recommended by many in the Stronger U Community.  I actually didn’t love the book at first. The author came at me from the very beginning, warning that I couldn’t just traipse through the chapters without doing any work.

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Today in my reading she talked about four stages of problem solving.  The first step is sensing, where you’ve identified an issue and are looking for information to remedy it. I’ve been in this stage for months now.  Reading mindset book after mindset book is interesting…I learn something different from each one.  But I haven’t really done anything concrete with it. Yes, I’ve changed my internal soundtrack, but I need to push forward in new directions. All this endless seeking makes little difference if it doesn’t change into doing.  At some point I have to move into solving, then I can circle back if things aren’t working out.

Time to stop piling on the information and pretending that is progress.  On to doing something.  I’m daring myself to get clear on what I’m chasing and move forward.

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perspective

New Normal

I thought I had adjusted to a new normal post-pandemic. I carry hand sanitizer and mask for when the need arises. I keep my distance. I limit the number of people I gather with and so on. I even utilize the x marks when needed.

Then I took a road trip for a funeral. It wasn’t a pleasure trip. I was forced to travel. I didn’t want to fly and deal with that drama so I opted for a road trip that I made many times in years past without issues.

Oh, but what has changed. Let’s start with the big one, everything has changed.

The simple task of going to the bathroom on a road trip. Stop in well lit areas, aim for clean and well-known spots echo in my mind from my parents’ early teachings. Those simple rules are history because we now have pandemic rules. Fast food and restaurants are take out only, no bathrooms. Gas stations are employee use only for safety. Hotels are for patrons only so no option for lobby use. So where does the car traveler go to use the bathroom when in rural areas? That’s the question at hand. For me it was a hole in the wall grocery store. Good thing it was the day time due to their operating hours. Am I the only one who has had this challenge arise?

Nutrition: you want to eat a good meal while traveling. You want to have energy to endure your travels. Where do you eat? In your car. How exciting, you get to eat in your car. The car you are traveling in. No break. This is just another way the pandemic has changed things we took for granted.

Mask or don’t mask is a question for me. I’m traveling through 6-7 states to mourn the loss of loved ones. Each state has their own rules and regulations. It’s hard to keep up. When I think about this new normal I just bury my head in the mask.

I thought dogs had it bad when they wore their cone of shame after surgery. I now feel their pain as we all adjust to the new normals of life and I don the mask of shame. At least I’m sporting sushi in this mask.

Of course I can’t forget about the riots that broke out amidst my travels. Circumstances bad enough to shut down cities and make me wonder where to stop for gas when I get alarms on my phone with major warnings like below. This world today is crazy and ever changing to say the least.

For now I will end this post with you thinking about if I need to go buy depends or not to make it to my destination. Enjoy that visual.

perspective

Vulnerability

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“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”

-Brene Brown

I sat in a training this week that began with an invitation to think about this quote.  Then, we took a moment to write down what vulnerability meant to us and what it would take for us to feel ok about being vulnerable with each other.

I admire and respect Brene Brown and her work immensely.  That being said, even just the word vulnerability makes me shudder.  In the exercise, I wrote about how vulnerability means showing my lack of expertise or knowledge of something, or admitting I don’t know something, or showing my soft underbelly that I try very hard to protect. I cling to my appearance of being intelligent and capable as a flotation device in life.  I have learned in recent years that I mainly choose goals and tasks where I can be almost assured of success.  I don’t like looking stupid or incompetent and I avoid those situations as much as I can.

I’ve also learned through my enneagram that asking for help is not something I am good at (but giving help is!)

Reading Brene Brown’s work and others has me tiptoeing up to bigger challenges these days.  I’m setting goals that are further and further past my comfort zone.  Sometimes, I try things I might fail at.  I have become less comfortable coasting through life.  I’m not jumping at challenges quite yet, but I’m getting better.

When my daughter and I went to help on a farm project recently, it was in response to a facebook post appealing for help. The farmer had taken advantage of several growth opportunities in recent times and managed to find herself overwhelmed with challenges.  She started her facebook post by saying that asking for help was hard for her, but they needed help moving a truckload of gravel.  I messaged her that we would be happy to help.  She was extremely grateful.

Imagine her surprise to have over a dozen people show up to help.  From teenagers to retirees, men and women, all strangers, all grabbing shovels and buckets and wheelbarrows.  We moved and spread two truckloads of gravel in less than two hours (including a 30-minute break to go get the second load).  Far more work done far more quickly than she and her husband could have managed alone. We made quick work of her challenge.

I watched people work together who had never met, just to help someone in need.  All because she made herself vulnerable and asked for help.  Big dreams and big goals can lead to some big challenges.  Big challenges can be faced and overcome, sometimes with a little help from our community. A lesson I need to remember.

What I also learned today is that asking for help also opens up opportunities for others to contribute, to make a difference, to share their own worth. It feels good to help.  For my daughter, an aspiring farmer, it was an opportunity to get an insider’s look at a real-life situation on an operating farm. Perhaps others who pitched in had different motives.  Who knows what moved that group of random individuals to show up, but just by helping we each got something out of the experience.  At times, it also offers the chance for people to let you down, but thankfully with a good circle you always have backup and support waiting in the wings.

When we make ourselves vulnerable, we invite others to step up, step in, and play a role in our lives.  The next time I am in my self-focused trying-to-hide vulnerable mindset, afraid to admit I don’t know something could use some help, I’ll remember to reframe it as offering opportunities for others to shine and share and connect. It’s not wrong to take on a task that turns out to be overwhelming to manage alone at times.  It’s a testament to ambition and big dreams. May I start dreaming bigger than I can handle solo.

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family, perspective

I Sat Alone

Something I normally don’t do is sit alone. However once the pandemic hit I found myself sitting alone more and more. Not always by choice but by circumstance. In the 60 plus days of restrictions, I think I learned to master the art of sitting alone and how to use it as fuel for my mind and spirit. A rejuvenation method.

When I think about it, it’s funny how the universe can whisper to you in the darkest hours and let you see light that is really shining in on you, your surroundings and your inner circles.

Today I decided to sit alone by choice. I was going to wait in the car while my travel buddy took care of an extended pit stop. Instead I ventured off a beaten path. The unknown path led to a cement picnic table on the Tennessee River. Covered in moss, cobwebs and bugs. I was drawn to it like flies on shit.

Definitely not a spot I had ever been to. Not a spot I ever planned to visit but to my surprise I enjoyed it. I had a book to read. I had AirPods to listen to a few podcasts. My keys to set off an alarm if any creepers came near and of course a pair of fancy shades. The essentials so to speak.

To my surprise I was more drawn to the sounds of the land than my packed items. I listened to birds of all sorts chirp and sing. I listened to the sounds of a jet ski and pontoon boat passing in the distance of the river. I stared at interesting cobwebs. I watched ants crawl. My mind was at ease.

I’m on a trip to see family and mourn the loss of a loved one. Some alone time is good for the soul. It lets you reflect. It lets you be at peace with what is and will be the new normal. Life less one or in my case less two people.

Life isn’t easy. Life is messy on most days just like people. Not physically messy just complicated messy. As I jot down this post in comes a text from a former athlete I coached. A sweet, sweet text of condolences. When a young person you impacted takes the time to reach out to you, how can you not be moved?

As I enter this next line, this post shifts from mourning and solitude to appreciation and foresight. We all have a chance to brighten another’s day at any given time, but do we? We all have the ability to look ahead and see tomorrow but do we?

Life is never about regrets or mistakes it’s always about new beginnings and sunshine for me. Today I worked on my photo reel. Photos of nature and beauty. Simple as it sounds but as complex as I make it when I visualize the purpose.

The purpose of today’s photo reel was to honor the people I lost while seeing the beauty in what they were about. I used nature to symbolize the beauty. Speaking of beauty nature takes another turn. Not one but two red cardinals are whipping by me and my picnic table. I didn’t grab a picture but I knew my two loved ones were letting me know all is good.

Simple. Sweet. Memorable. This post is dedicated to my dad and Irene. You may be gone but not forgotten. You both lived amazing lives.

I chose to close this post with a black and white photo as I’m closing the door on darkness and looking ahead to the bright sunshine of tomorrow and all that is visible on the horizon. A new day. A new beginning. A new set of goals and adventures that await.

Forging a path ahead is what those lost would want you to do. I may be a carrier of the message today but for anyone who reads this, the lesson can easy apply to you as well. Think about my post as a whisper from me to you. My universe to yours.