author moments

Symbols

Meaning is hidden everywhere. Places. Signs. Memories. That little park you pass on the way to work every day is the place where someone proposed. It is also the place where some friends had a huge fight. It’s the place where a kid broke her arm and ended up in a cast. Maybe it’s even the place someone first learned to drive, smoke pot, who knows. Countless scenes in countless stories have taken place there. All in the little park you pass each day without thinking.

Meaning, symbols, roadblocks are everywhere. We stumble over the hearts and sometimes heartaches of others without even knowing it.

Music is potent for memories with me. I grew up singing and listening to tunes all the time. Paul Simon, the Statler Brothers, and Dolly Parton on my parents’ 8-track tape deck in our conversion van. Show tunes and standards I belted out with our player piano in the basement. And then the love songs I would pine over each night, wishing in vain someone would dedicate something to me. It took decades for me to listen to the music of Chicago without bristling or quickly switching it off. Even today, there are songs I may never listen to again. Places I may never go. Overly sensitive? Perhaps. After all, it is just a place, a song, who cares?

Maybe I’m just too much. I willingly embrace being labeled sentimental. Someone watching closely may see the quick shadow roll across my face when that potent memory pops up. Most will miss it.

Just part of what makes me me.

For some people, cardinals are a special symbol. A reminder or even a visit from someone departed and dear. A symbol more purposeful than just happenstance…a place you used to go, a song you used to sing to. This is more of a sign. For me, it’s ladybugs. They always pop up at the most unlikely times. They bring me back to myself. A reassurance. A reminder.

Recently, someone new in my life called me ladybug as a nickname. And it stuck. Sometimes when she says it, it makes me smile, sometimes tear up, sometimes just makes me hold my breath an extra beat. She could never have known that ladybugs are so special for me. Just a sign that she has some role to play, a scene to share. A hand reaching out of the day-to-day doldrums to remind me of the bigger picture.

What it all means.

friendship

The Athletic Supporter

Sometimes I come along for the ride. Someone asks me to be there when they have a big day. When they’re competing.

For this enneagram 2, a helper at heart, this is music to my ears. I live for these moments! Put me in, coach! Some might ask, what do you do all day at CrossFit competition if you’re not competing? Why spend weekends sitting in sweltering lacrosse tents at far flung venues? What do you do with all the down time? Why are you there?

Lots of reasons, really. Here’s just a few.

I’m there to cheer. I’m there to take photos of moments big and small. To capture the day so you can see how amazing you are.

To be a clothes hanger for wardrobe shedding right before the big moment, to carry the bandaids and tylenol, to bring the good snacks and the right color gatorade, to apply the oils to aching muscles.

To provide chairs and blankets and hats. Or sunscreen and water and sunglasses, depending on the season. And umbrellas, always umbrellas.

I am a holder of phones, a fetcher of things from the car when you don’t want to get up from your seat. I am the scouter of porta-potties, or just going along for moral support. I am the counterbalance for quad stretches.

I am the bringer of cupcakes for birthdays or Galentine’s day or just because you like cupcakes. Or bagels. Or whatever you like. I am the maker of signs and shaker of pom poms when the need arises. I am a surprise engineer.

Need scissors? No problem. Sanitizer? Got it. Extra socks or tank top or leggings? Check, check, and check. Plates, spoons, knives, paper towels, Everything but the Bagel on cucumbers? Of course!

Sometimes I am screaming, to be that voice of encouragement you hear above the voice in your head. Sometimes I am wrapping you up in a blanket, hugging you and walking you around in the parking lot as your body temperature and heart rate come down. Sometimes I’m just here to listen to what it was like for you, in that moment. What went wrong, what felt good. The lucky sounding board for all of it.

I’m there for the podium pictures and the postgame meal. For the high fives and the hell yeahs.

Still, some of the most important parts of my day are spent in silence, just witnessing your efforts and achievements. Seeing any moments of doubt and staring at you until you look over and see me, telling you with my eyes, you got this. I believe in you. Being a part of it is amazing. Sharing in the memories, the “team mom” as someone recently said. To be a part of supporting someone I care for deeply. This is my purpose.

giving

Life

A big sigh. A deep and hearty breath was expelled. A yawn. Another big sigh. A controlled exhale.

Here I am before bed. In my super comfy pjs. It’s late on a Friday night. No big plans on the calendar tonight as it’s been a long week. My adorable fluffy dog at my feet. The most loyal companion that ever did live. She missed me today. I had a Zoom call that took me away from her for a good bit midday and an errand in the afternoon. She missed me terribly. Oh, and I missed her too. Guilty as charged. All is good as we wind down for the evening. We are reunited and calm because we have each other. Just being present is what matters. Just being present. 

When one is present there is no worry. No anxiety. No stress. No silence. No wondering when one will be back. A calm. A reassurance. A beautifully peaceful place in time. Can you picture this in your mind?

As we have each other I think of many who miss loved ones or miss out on true connections or companionships. Life happens. Life isn’t always a bed of roses. I wish it was but there are more thorny paths in life than I care to share. However I will always find ways to shift to positivity in life.

I’m currently working with a person who is single raising a young child. This person is amazing in so many ways and is doing the best for their child. Sometimes the two that make the miracle end up being better apart. In this case it’s definitely for the best for many reasons.  As the single parent/child duo emerged from the thorny road they travelled for too long, the puzzle pieces were left scattered. Not just on a table. Literally scattered to the point one had to search high and low for the pieces to put them back together. This is life for them. Many twists, turns and more thorns. 

Unfortunately, a cheering squad is missing as they out the life puzzle back together. Maybe it’s the ex’s side who fails to show up for visits today. Maybe it’s the temporary accommodations at night.  Maybe it’s just the lonely road of single parenting another day. Maybe is the constant juggling act with school shutdowns and balancing work/home all by oneself thanks to Corona. Maybe it’s missing the parental figure that was lost before the grandchild arrived. So many obstacles. So little support. Or so it seems to the one carrying the heavy load.

Fortunately I am there. Jumping up and down, cheering from a far, offering a listening ear, and so much more. Today more than ever I recognize people need people. In many different ways at different times. Companionship, trust, love, loyalty and overall presence. It seems simple in concept but many miss opportunities be present for others. The chance to be present in life. Or be a present to that person in need.

For me, I feel the universe whispers to me at times. The special times when certain people around me need to have a friend. A support. An outsider looking in. A new perspective. An unbiased party. I am to others what my dog is to me. I may not be all snuggly, cute and fluffy but I’m purposeful in my undivided attention to the needs of others.

My dog is purposeful in her loyalty to me. She recognizes I care for her. I support her. Much like a child relies on a parent. A parent needs support at times as well. In the case above I mentioned the single parent scenario. Another scenario may be an aging parent who needs the support of their adult child. The support that is just being present. No parent wants to feel like they are a burden.

Do you have a friend to family member you could do a better job being present for? Why not make present and see how much that gift is appreciated?

awareness

Listen Again

Sometimes KT writes a line that really sticks with me. To be clear, many of her posts make me think differently and many prompt me to make a change in how I approach life or how I act. This is a little different…here’s my take on her recent post about listening and what a gift it is.

Here’s the line (and I encourage you to read the whole post): Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human.

Being a more intentional listener found its way into my goals this year. A series of conversations made me realize that I don’t sincerely listen to people as often as I should. I reflected on the fact that although people ask me all the time “how are you?” and I answer, I don’t often ask them how they are. I’m often so caught up in what I’m doing I don’t even look up. I may make a brief comment but not much else.

What am I telling people as I just let them walk by? I don’t look them in the eye. Sometimes I don’t look up from what I am doing. Sometimes I probably seem annoyed at the interruption.

I’ve been trying to reverse since since it caught my attention. When I think about it, I take the time to put down what I am doing and ask the person how they are. And then follow up with another question.

What I have noticed is that more people than I realized are hungry to share. Excited to connect. They want to tell me a bit about how they are.

I thought I was a decent listener. Now I see that I need work. The invitations to listen are everywhere. How many have I blown off because I didn’t make time or was just too into what I was doing to notice them? From my friends, my co-workers, members of my family?

Among the other unfolding lessons, the pandemic has taught me that people matter more than pretty much anything else. We can’t replace people or the opportunities we have to share with them. I have missed many, but I am committed to doing better moving forward.

I’m also on the lookout for the people who are dropping out of sight. Who haven’t I heard from in a while? Different schedules and limited opportunities to be out and about make those happenstance meetings less frequent. Who is telling me through their silence that they may need a friend? Who can I text to check in with? Who can I lift up with a funny post, a quote, a kind word? Who can I (re)start a conversation with? As KT often says, hope is free.

The motto of the StoryCorps podcast is: listening is an act of love. Who can I love today by listening to them? Who can you?

friendship, giving

Listen Up!

I often talk about active listening skills in professional settings. I often challenge many participants (especially males) in those environments to engage in activities that test their ability to actively listen.

It may not be every male who can’t listen but it is definitely a higher number than women by far. I often think about the why of this…

Listening is the greatest gift you can give to another human. Anyone can give quick advice when somebody has a problem but those who are actively listening can hear your emotion, feel your pain and generally connect with you. Listening takes time. Listening requires one to be patient.

When I think of my own life and frustrations, I think of how my spouse doesn’t listen a lot of time. Doesn’t engage or empathize with anyone who has an issue or struggle. This makes me think back to something my mom taught me at a young age. Never pass judgment on somebody until you have walked a day in their shoes.

In order to be supportive or helpful one has to be willing to set their own feelings to the side, get down on your level, listen and really relate to your issues or struggles. This doesn’t even have to occur face to face!

If you are struggling and you text your life partner, one would hope they could read your words and really listen to your hurt. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand that many close to me are grossly incapable of doing this. 

I think this honestly comes down to their inability to get down on your level. Feel the hurt. It’s a lack of genuineness. Ask yourself, who do your reach out to when you need to talk? Is it your mom? Your best friend? Your sibling? Your spouse? Who?

Then ask yourself who will listen to you when you feel troubled? Is it the same person? Maybe it’s more than one person. The point is you are never going to reach out to the person who lectures you, passes judgment on you, or just brushes you off.

In order to be a better listener you need to give of yourself. You need to put the phone down and listen to the person in front of you. Maybe you need to stop playing a video game to read the words of a loved one.

Today more than ever our words are powerful. In today’s digital world words are a big way of communicating. Sending a note of praise. Sending a text of good will. Even sending an emoji with a smile is positive communication. We are all capable but not everyone does it.
Positive communication opens the door for building trust. One day somebody may need you. They may need you to hear or read their words. They may need you when they are struggling.

If you are not capable of using your active listening skills you may never hear or read those words. It’s unfortunate that many I know struggle in this area. This why I am opting to write this post.

If one person can make a change based on this blog, I feel like I have made an impact. Listen up. Turn on your antennas. Today’s world is hectic and crazy. We are all busy. We are all trapped in a digital world. But we are all capable of listening to words spoken or words written or even emailed / texted if we just slow down, pause and think about what another is saying. 

Remember “tell me more” offers the one person with words hope that somebody is there to listen to them. Offering hope is free.

I know I am making it a point to listen more listen to all around me and I encourage you to do the same. It’s a new year. Why not make it a goal to be a better listener?

Listen up!