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A view from the top – where the possibilities are endless!

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I went to NYC for the first time in 2006. As a child I had decided since New York was cold and full of people, I wasn’t too interested in going there. I always figured I wouldn’t feel safe, and I would get lost. I decided if I had to pick a big city to live in, I would pick LA. A good portion of this decision was based on the fact that I loved sunny weather, and all of my favorite TV shows were filmed in LA. But, even so, when we were embarking on the trip I was a bit apprehensive.

We were only going to be there for about 48 hours. And my only goal on the trip was to make it to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. I’ve always loved Christmas trees, and when they are all lit up I can sit and look at the lights for hours. It’s calming to me. We drove into New Jersey, and made our way to NYC via the subway, and our train stopped in Grand Central Station. When we got out into the night lights, I found myself feeling unusually comfortable. There were people everywhere. It was three days before Christmas. It was cold and rainy but not freezing out. And the whole time I was there, I was continuously surprised at how at home I felt. There are more people in a two block radius than there are in my entire state. But something about it just fit.

When we got down to the tree I remember just thinking to myself, if it weren’t insanely expensive or I were a millionaire, or I figured out a way to get into Columbia to go to school, I could totally live here. People weren’t rude. They were simply on their way to wherever they were going. And we were as well. We didn’t get lost. There was nothing scary about it. When we went to the Top of the Rock and looked out over the city, it was a truly beautiful sight. We could see the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The bridges were lit. There were red and green lights for the season. You could see life. For miles and miles. You just knew there was life all around. It was lively, and encouraging, and you could feel the energy in the air. You could see all of the different avenues of possibility that were right at your fingertips. They are simply waiting for you to stroll their way.

Sometimes it’s surprising what we find when we go places we never really wanted to go. I never wanted to go to NYC, yet it took one quick trip for me to fall in love. I never wanted to write a blog, but this has turned out to be one of the most encouraging experiences I’ve had in a long time. I never wanted to pursue my dreams, because there was a chance I would fail, and I didn’t know how to handle that, yet this journey of writing and publishing and reaching people with something I believe in has been the best experience I’ve had despite its frustrations.

Potential is what we continually seek in life. The potential for something new can feel exciting, if not unnerving. It feels like hope, and we need hope. We need the potential to reach our own potential. We want to feel accomplished and productive. We want to feel like we can achieve something worthwhile. All of life is tied to potential, and sometimes if we change our point of view, and we try new things – even those we really don’t think we want to, it can change our lives in the most wonderful way. Whether it’s writing a different type of story than we had envisioned, taking a job we didn’t think we wanted to have, traveling somewhere we aren’t really interested in going, there may just be something in those experiences that change our lives for the better. So don’t forget to be open, and try to envision what life could be like with a view from the top, where potential is visible all around.

More about potential and learning to utilize it.

“You can’t get full staring at someone else’s plate”

My friend used this quote earlier in the week. I am guilty of this all the time. It’s so easy to look at what is happening in everyone else’s life and wonder why things don’t work that way for you. It’s hard to maintain the focus we need on ourselves without finding a way to compare it with others. By our nature we are comparative, social beings. We want to know what others are doing. We want to know why. And we want to know if it would benefit us just as well or if it will bring us down. And it’s hard not to let those things get into our heads and manifest in a way where fear, jealousy, and confusion emerge.

We have a tendency to throw ourselves off track. We forget our main focus and get confused by all of the little details. But no one else is going where we are going. No one else’s path will be the same. We can do exactly the same things as the person beside us, but still end up with completely different results. We are all suited for different things that work at different ways and in different times. We have to remember that though it’s impossible not to look at what others are doing, we have to keep our main focus on ourselves. We can look to others for guidance and advice, but we can’t look at their situation and spend all of our time wishing things we the exact same for us or believe that doing exactly as they do will make things right for us. We are similar, yet unique. And we have to maintain that balance and go forth in the direction that works the best for where we are at that time. Besides, when we consume someone else’s plate in addition to ours, the ultimate results are rarely  what we’d like them to be!

 

Happy Holidays all, I hope your weekends are wonderful! Stay safe!

Up to the Mountain – When it seems the world is against your dreams

and this is a different version, but one that I love:

There is a song called “Up to the Mountain” by Patty Griffin. She wrote it thinking of what it would have been like for Martin Luther King, Jr. to have seen what he saw – to have his dream. He had gone Up to the Mountain, and seen how wonderful everything could be. But the world had other plans. He faced opposition everywhere he turned. He had to fight and fight and fight from the moment his dream began. Nothing came easy. He got worn down, but he never gave up on seeing his dream come to pass.

We all have dreams. We all have those moments of clarity, where we are up on that mountain top looking out over and where we can see our dream come to pass. It’s like the world falls into place. We know at that moment in that time we have something worth offering. Something in us tells us that we have the capacity to achieve it. But what happens afterwards is often times not that easy. We’ve seen where we want to go, but it seems that no one else is interested in us going there.

We receive opposition from all sides. It’s confusing. It’s heartbreaking even at times. It wears us down. One of my favorite things that I’ve heard people say when it comes to religion is that “even Jesus wasn’t allowed to perform miracles in his hometown.” People in our lives know us in the way that they know us. The adults around us know us as the children we were. Our friends know us as the people we were when we met. Our family knows us as we were when we were little. And those things are very hard to break. People’s ideas of who we are tend to be quite strong. And in general, we aren’t interested in those around us changing. It’s hard to handle when the people around us become “unpredictable.” We have certain patterns that we all work in. We have roles for everyone in our lives. And we usually like for those roles to stay the same, whether they are good for us or not.

The thing is, if we are going to achieve our dreams, we are going to have to fight. And sometimes we are going to have to change our situation. We have to leave people behind who don’t understand and who aren’t supportive. Not necessarily in a way where there is no contact, though sometimes that’s the case. But in a way that allows us to feel free to go forth in our journey to accomplish the things we need to accomplish to live a life of happiness that is fulfilling. People will come in and out of our lives. Few will stay for the long haul. And even fewer will allow us to change and grow.

When that opposition comes against us, we have to be willing to fight. We have to go back up to the mountain, and remember that there is something out there worth fighting for. That our lives and our dreams are worth fighting for. We are worth fighting for. Our happiness matters. Our desires matter. And we are the only ones who can accomplish them. So keep fighting. Keep working. Keep climbing back up, no matter who tries to knock you down. You have it within you. So keep taking chances and grow!

My Book

Know Your Worth and Live It

“I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” – Terence

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves, I believe it to be the single-most important thing we can do is: Know your worth and live it.

Seek out truth. Don’t believe something simply because someone says it is so. Be proactive in your quest for knowledge and growth. There will be conflicting opinions on everything, including from people you trust. Remember the importance of being an individual who has the capacity to take in what you’ve heard and discern truth from fiction.

And one of the greatest truths to remember and live by is that you are worthy. Feel free to not take me at my word and to instead look into it, explore it. Research it. We have to search into who we are and why we think and feel the way we do. What makes me believe I am not worthy? What makes me choose to believe myself undeserving of the happinesses* I seek, instead of believing that I am deserving of these things? We judge ourselves so quickly. Why are we not allowed to be a humans who are human? People who make mistakes, but are not ruined. People who fall down, but are capable of rising to the occasion, also. Not perfect, but always worthy.

Our feelings of self-worth impact just about every decision we make, even the mundane. If we look at the truth and understand that we are inherently worthy and being human doesn’t remove that, then we can rise more often and help bring others up with us along the way.

If we have self-worth we can see our dreams and believe in them.

If we have self-worth we can see our future and know we are capable of achieving it.

If we have self-worth we are able to know that we will falter, we will fall, but we can and will get back up and still be capable and someone of worth.

If we have self-worth we are able to redirect a path that didn’t work out as expected. We can change direction, but not give up or settle.

If we have self-worth we can see ourselves as who we want to be. We can see the best of what we have to offer and work towards becoming that person a little more every day.

We mostly overlook worth. We fail to realize just how important it is to each of us as individuals and to all of us in our humanity. We must take the time to stop and observe our actions and who we are. How are we contributing to our own well-being? Do we let our lack of worth lead us using fear? Or do we look to the truth and let the knowledge that we are worthy lead us to the life we want to lead? Always search for truth. Let it set you free to be who you want to be.

*Yes, I know happinesses isn’t a word, but Jack uses it that way and we do seek multiple types of happiness so it makes sense to me.

(You can start your research here if you’d like.)

In the midst of the fire

(Trigger Warning: This post references suicide and depression. If you need help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)

robin-williams1

My favorite priest once gave us an analogy. He said to us that someone once told him that people who are depressed with suicidal tendencies feel like they are standing in a burning building with flames all around and the flames are growing bigger and bigger, closer and closer. They can’t run through the fire, the flames will engulf them. They stand on the edge, waiting for the moment the flames die down, but sometimes the flames move so close that they cannot escape them any longer and the only way out is to jump. The jump isn’t designed to hurt anyone else or even themselves. The jump is designed to escape the fire that is all consuming. People jump from burning buildings. We instinctively search for an escape from the pain that we know has the potential to destroy our lives. Sometimes the pain is physical. Sometimes it’s mental. Sometimes it’s both.

I think what’s important here is that we must seek help. We must do something to remove the flames, to put out the fire. Mental health is so important, but so gravely overlooked. It is underfunded, under researched, and services are nowhere near what they should be, but they do exist. Help is out there. And it’s important to remember – you know those moments when we are sick with a virus or an ailment where we are in so much pain we can’t move, we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t get things in order on our own – that’s what it’s like when a mental health issue takes over. It’s not that people don’t want to fight it, it’s just that it seems impossible to do on our own. We have to create support. We have to care about one another. We have to remove the “why can’t you just get over it, we all have problems” mentality and move towards caring about one another and ourselves again. Treat people well. Be good people. Help one another. That’s what we are here to do.

It saddens me tremendously to lose someone who provided so much joy, love, and depth to so many through his work.But thankfully, those things live on. And hopefully we can strive to give those things to those around us – share in the joys and the sorrows, spread love and hope. We all have something to offer. Let’s offer it all with love.

Four truths Dr. Maya Angelou shared with the world

 

source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/maya-angelou source: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/maya-angelou

Truth is something that can appear to be quite elusive these days. It’s very easy to find half-truths or outright lies, misconceptions, misunderstandings; they are all sitting at our fingertips. So when I find truths that speak to me, that resonate within me in a way that I know in my core this is truth, I try to pay attention.

Maya Angelou was someone I had heard of in high school. We may have read a poem or two, if so I honestly don’t remember. It wasn’t until college that I took more of an interest in her, and in reality it’s probably because I saw her on Oprah. I have a tendency to cringe when speech is seemingly deliberate. When I can tell someone has thoroughly thought through what they are saying and they say it in a very matter of fact manner. I don’t know why. But I typically disengage. So to watch Maya Angelou speak and find myself literally on the edge of my seat feeling as though I am being pulled in a little bit nearer to her with each word was extremely unexpected. She spoke in a very deliberate manner, she knew what she was saying, but this time it was different for me. She was speaking in truth. Every word was one I wanted to hear, and I was glad she spoke with such clarity both in pronunciation and in point. And since truth, as I stated can be hard to come by, I wanted to make sure I shared some of it here, by way of Dr. Angelou.

1.“When people show you who they are believe them (the first time).”

I have found this to be true time and time again. Whether it is in a relationship romantic in nature, a friendship, family members, whomever we have in our lives, people will show us who they are. If someone tells you they are mean, believe them. If someone tells you they don’t care, believe them. If they say they just want to have fun, believe them. If they cheat on you, ignore you, make it a point to hurt you, believe them the first time. They are showing you who they are, and they are making it clear they have no intentions of changing this for you. Once a person shows us what they plan to do, and we stick around, then that is our poor choice. They will easily have the chance to say, “well you already knew” and use it as an excuse. And sadly, they won’t be entirely wrong. We have to learn that being a savior is not supposed to be the same as being a victim. So staying somewhere that is harmful to us to stick it out, to be strong, because we love them and we know they love us if we could just get them to change just one more time is never an excuse. We are saving no one and in trying to do so are only creating inequality within the relationship. We must pay attention to what people tell us about themselves and have enough worth about ourselves to be willing to let it go.

 

2. “…and if the future road looms ominous or unpromising, and the roads back uninviting, then we need to gather our resolve and, carrying only the necessary baggage, step off that road into another direction. If the new choice is also unpalatable, without embarrassment, we must be ready to change that as well.”

This quote comes from her essay titled New Directions. And it continues along very well with the previous quote. Many times we don’t leave a situation because we’ve planned out a future in our heads. We have something, and maybe we are only holding on by a rapidly fraying string, but we are holding on. There is something in front of us. But when our vision of the future does not match the reality of our future, there is a problem. If we truly stop and look down the road ahead, which most often will look like the road behind and it in no way is a path we should continue down, we must be willing to stop and change directions. We have to let go. We have to imagine a future that is different. We must be willing to try, and not only once, but as many times as it takes to get us to where the future we are imagining has the capacity to line up with the future coming to life in our reality. Whether it’s a career change, a relationship change, or even family that is harming us, we must care enough for ourselves to forge onward towards better things.

3. “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

And on our path to our new places we must let go of the past, lighten our load and forgive. We must be willing to admit to ourselves that we acknowledge what has happened, we understand that we were deeply hurt whether emotionally or physically, whether from and outside source or something we did to ourselves, we must look at the moment for what it is and find a way to release it. It is the only way to move forward successfully. We cannot let those moments define us. We know that they exist. They aren’t likely to be things that we forget. But they are things that we can move forward from without allowing them to control us. Forgiveness is truly one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.

4. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In life we all have choices that we make every day. One of the most important choices we make is how we treat others. None of us were immune to people coming into our lives and making us feel bad. As children someone hurt us. Well, in all likelihood, multiple people. Children can be cruel. Adults can be cruel. We are all humans exposed to other humans, and that means life isn’t always going to be pretty. So each day we must make a choice to treat others the way we truly want to be treated. So we must believe ourselves worthy of the treatment we extend to others. We must know that we have the chance to grow a person, to encourage them or to bring them down, and it is essential that we become growers of others. We know how people made us feel. It lasts. We remember being scared, we remember being hurt, we remember being outcast, feeling alone and desolate, that no one else understands or cares. We remember these things because they made us feel like we didn’t matter. And that is not acceptable. We cannot continue a culture of people whose only goal is to make people feel this way. We must do what we can to acknowledge and accept our own worth and love ourselves enough to recognize and grow this in others. To be encouragers and walk in light so that others may follow. So that we can all know truth.

If you need a meaningful gift or a motivational start you can find my book here.

This is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts of her Master Class with Oprah: “to be the best human being you can be” (in every situation)

 

 

Why can’t we be friends?

I happened to be on a news site earlier, and I read the article. I never normally scroll all the way down, but this time my computer decided to make the jump for me. I guess I’ve never paid an excessive amount of attention to the comment section at the bottom of online news pieces, but since my computer decided to freeze there, I took a minute to peruse the comments. I’m not sure what I expected, but the venom injected into so many of the comments was jarring. People are looking to fight. Looking to be mean. Seemingly looking to make others feel terrible about their own ideas or any idea that may be in any way different from what said commenter has decided is the “right way” to feel.

Now, I know people are mean online. I know people are looking to say ridiculous things. But it made me think about just how much time and energy is put into this kind of thinking. And not even in an “internet troll” type of way, but every day. (I just learned what internet trolling is, I’m behind.) We are so comparative in the way we view ourselves. We look at others to judge what they are wearing, what they are eating, what they are thinking. The sole purpose is to judge. If you’ve ever read The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz, the first agreement is to “Be Impeccable with Your Word.” And by this he means that we have to understand the power of our words, the impact that they have on others, but also on ourselves. Those are our thoughts. That’s what we are spending our time, energy and brain power thinking about. In essence, we are thinking about “how can I look at that person in a way that makes me feel better about the choices I’ve made?” We use looking at others and thinking about them as reinforcement for who we are, but when all we are is someone who spends all their time judging others, we are contributing very little to who we can be. That is time that we don’t get back.

There is so much criticism about everyone’s choices (and media surely plays into this) that we forget that everyone here is just human. We are all people trying to live our lives as best we can at each point in the day. We all have lows, we all have highs. We ALL make mistakes. We make poor choices. We say the wrong thing. We engage in things we know we shouldn’t. We all get sad. We all get mad. We all get confused. We are alive. So wouldn’t our time be much better spent building one another up, recognizing that we all fall short sometimes and instead of judging others on what we perceive to be shortcomings, encouraging one another. Not saying, “hey why are you doing that or why are you wearing that?” and instead allowing it to be okay for someone to make different choices than we might. (Unless of course their choices are putting them in danger – this is a completely different subject – always try to find someone who can help in that case!)

There is so much negativity in the world. Instead of feeding into it, create a spark against it. Feed encouragement. Feed hope. Feed kindness and love. THESE are the things we need more of, all of us. Kind words help us climb peaks. They help us reach the summit. And as we speak them they transform us into the kind of person we want to be. Someone who makes the world a better place. Kindness makes us a contributor. It is through our actions that people learn who we are. It’s up to us to make our actions count.

“525,600 minutes, how do you measure the life of a woman or a man… how about love?” – Rent

All day long I see people, including myself, with something to complain about. We have a problem. We need someone to blame. Life, everyone’s life, is full of imperfections. It is full of unforeseen bumps, walls, bruises, breaks, tragedies, etc. And it’s full of readily known, easily seen bumps, walls, bruises, and breaks, and in some cases tragedies, as well. None of these, however, are easy for us to deal with. Not on a deeper level. They are things that require time. Sure some are easier for us to process, but to deny that they affect us, to deny that there are residual scars, is simply as stated, denial. It is ultimately unhelpful for all of us.

One of the things that I’ve seen numerous times recently is this statement, “I wish we could return to the morals on which this country was founded.” The statement seems well enough at first glance. But ultimately it is pining for something that never existed in order to blame everyone else for the problems in existence today and tag them as different. It is different, we are different, and that’s why things are the way they are. In reality, we are not all that different. In fact it is how much we have stayed the same in many cases that causes the issues that we have. See, our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom…if you were a protestant. It was founded on morals that included drowning, hanging, and burning females who might be perceived to be a witch. It was founded on denying any human rights, respect or decency to anyone who wasn’t white – as was obvious with slavery and the treatment of native Americans . And to denying a majority of rights, respect, and decency to those who were white, but happened to be poor or a female. You were allowed to murder someone for stealing from you with almost no civil process. It was common practice to allow abuse and mistreatment of women, children, and anyone who wasn’t a powerful (not in the physical sense here) white male. It was founded on the idea that anyone who strayed in any way from the ideas set forth by the males around them could be considered a heretic. It was a time when they believed and practiced the idea that God felt them to be the only worthy members and it was okay to kill, steal, and manipulate their way into power. And the law of the land was much more in line with “an eye for an eye” than a democratic justice system.

Maybe we should go back to the times before this. Perhaps the Renaissance, that was a good time right? Sure our country wasn’t founded then, though it was “found” by a tyrant. Back when we (a human we, here) were crusading around, killing people who thought any differently than us. Taking their land, their money. “Screaming convert or die.” Burning people, hanging people, raping women and children. No? What about the Dark Ages? Should we go back there? What time in history is it that we should return to so that we can find these uplifting morals that I’ve heard so much about?

In truth, those morals are present at all points in time. There are people, probably the majority, who want to do good. Who want to be good. What do we measure a life in once it’s gone? In love? In hate? In blame? What do we measure it in while we are still living? With what do we measure our own lives? If it is not love, then, this is what we have to blame for the way that things are going. If we aren’t learning to love, ourselves, others, and teaching ourselves and others to be better people every day, helping one another rise up, then today will remain just as it was, yesterday, and last week, and even back in the good ole days when this country was founded. It is those who adapt who survive. It isn’t the strongest, or even the smartest, it is those best able to adapt. And it starts with a drop. Just one. One person to start measuring the year, the day, the minute in love, and this ignites the spark.

–It’s been a long time, and this was a bit long – my apologies.

The holy or the broken Hallelujah

“Hallelujah” via nbc.com

Silent Night, Children’s Choir via nbc.com

Sometimes we find that life places holes in our hearts. Holes that never fully disappear. They house emptiness. They house sorrow. They house all of the things we wish to have never experienced. But, hopefully, over time, little by little, moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year, those holes begin to fill. They fill slowly, not always steadily, but if we let them, they fill. And if we let them fill, they will fill with love. Love that doesn’t remove the memory, but brings it peace. Love that allows us to wake up again and begin to heal. Love is the only thing strong enough to fill those holes. To overcome those sorrows, that emptiness. So I pray that each day slowly, but surely those holes that we all have begin to fill. That love can find its way in.

“There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah”

– Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”

 

Finding focus in the silence – seeing your ideas become reality

Most of the time when we have an idea or a goal, at the beginning there is this wave of excitement and focus. We are able to make the ideas flow, we are able to put a pen to paper, and we’re off. We start on our way. Then all of a sudden it stops. The wave has landed ashore, and we’re stuck out of water. This is one of the most pivotal times when it comes to accomplishing what we’ve set out to accomplish.

It seems like when we look at others, they are on their way and their journey has been nothing but smooth sailing. In reality, it’s extremely unlikely that a tremendous amount of time, frustration and unreturned effort wasn’t put in. We don’t get to most places worth going in life simply by showing up. We have to work to get to where we want to go. If you have something to say, and something worth saying, finding an audience is the most important and most difficult thing you can do. Unfortunately, in life we can only control ourselves. We have no power over others unless they consent. Unless they are willing to show up and say, “Hey, tell me more.” And people aren’t willing to do that until you’ve put in the effort.

Maintaining focus when things are starting to fall, when you realize that the road in front of you is full of hill after hill, mountain after mountain that you have to climb over – when you realize that you are fighting uphill, and there will be times when you feel like you are only losing ground – maintaining focus here is what separates those who achieve their goals from those who let them go. It separates those who become from those who settle. It’s hard. It’s long. It doesn’t go the way we expect it to go or feel that it should go. But it IS the road to success, as long as we choose to stay focused. To find ways when there seem to be none, and to keep working when it feels like nothing is happening. Finding focus when we are hearing nothing at all, when there is only silence is the key to seeing your ideas become a reality.

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