It’s Up to Us: Making the Magic Happen

It’s Up to Us: Making the Magic Happen

Up and down the East Coast, it’s been raining a lot—old Apollo has packed his bags and disappeared (he’s not the only one). Ordinarily, such grey skies would be sufficient to sour my mood, but as I was driving home the other day, I spied a little boy playing in the rain and he looked so joyful! As I passed by, he beamed at the sky as the rain landed on his little slicker. His sheer glee captivated me, making me pause, feeling wistful.   When was the last time you felt unmitigated joy?   When did you even come close?   Of course, that sort of pleasure is the purview of childhood, so I guess we won’t get to experience the exact same sort of elation as that sweet little boy, but elation remains possible for adults. It may be quieter. It may be less obvious or showy, modified by the pangs and arrows of this mortal coil, but rapture is our birthright. We just have to know where to find it—mostly, within ourselves.   There’s a lot we can learn from that child.   There he was, playing alone in a grey, wet day with nobody but me to witness. Just a little boy in the rain. He wasn’t worrying about how he looked on the swing or whether it was babyish to feel so content. He didn’t ask himself if he deserved it. His thoughts weren’t filled with guilt about filling the house with muddy footprints or about what he was going to do later or if he might catch a cold. Or if his friends...

Lessons Learned: Bouncing Back From Our Mistakes

If you’re anything like me, thinking back upon your mistakes can be an excruciating exercise. As I decide to tackle such matters, internally, I feel myself recoil, deeply uncomfortable when exploring what exactly happened, why it happened, and my role in the matter. Confronting our own responsibility for what happened stands in stark contrast to others who (if not in complete denial) simply frame the matter in terms of the injury to themselves. While not all pain is of our own making, more often than not, we played a role–usually because we made assumptions that turned out to be wrong. But if we hope to extract anything other than unhappiness from such episodes, it is critical for us to confront it and learn. We can’t undo the past.   When it comes to just about any sort of decision, the assessment of when to override our hesitations versus when to give them credence involves personal risk. When things feel promising, we feel happier and encouraged–our best selves start to blossom. But sometimes, we hope too much. Alas, I tend to make this mistake over and over, allowing my hope and ambition to set the pace. I want to give it my all because I have so much to give! Holding back feels like trying to dam up the Potomac but it’s a foolish instinct.   Two very different incidents come to mind where I made the wrong assumption—regardless of the misleading behavior of others—I poured my heart into an endeavor without taking the time to verify that the other party would follow through with their promises. Now that I...
Putting on Our Oxygen Mask

Putting on Our Oxygen Mask

As is to be expected in every adult’s life, there are many responsibilities and demands we must meet on a daily basis. Whether these demands arise from our families or careers or something else entirely, they are persistent—providing us with both definition and meaning while often bleeding us of every last drop of our energy. The pressure is unrelenting. If we’re not on a plane to Los Angeles, we’re in a carpool, or stuck in another pointless meeting that has no end. And now on top of that, here in the 21st Century, we must submit to that ruthless Dominatrix, the Internet, who demands that we do more, know more, and monitor more than ever before.   Is it any wonder we can’t catch our breath?   No matter what our family situation is, no matter how much money we do or don’t earn, no matter what level of respect we command from the people we interact with, such pressure becomes our intimate acquaintance—compressing our chest and making our shoulders hunch. To a stranger, it might appear that I am living footloose and fancy free with nary a responsibility in the world, but I assure you that’s not the case. I’ve known what it’s like to hold a high stress job where hours stretch past midnight, gobbling up weekends and holidays, but at least with that I had a chance of closing the door and shutting it out for an hour or two. Not so now. Now, what my job is akin to an emotional outlet with cords running out of me in a variety of directions, drawing current...
Resistance Training: Extending Beyond Our Desired Range of Motion

Resistance Training: Extending Beyond Our Desired Range of Motion

I was at the gym the other day and noticed a sign on the machine that caught my attention. “What is my desired range of motion?” I wondered. “How much resistance am I willing to try in order to strengthen my legs? Will I injure my knees if I take on too much? But if I don’t, how will I build capacity?” These questions apply every bit as much to our willingness to tackle difficulties in life, let alone the proper form for weight training.   Lately, I’ve had several troubling realizations occur at once, leaving me feeling overwhelmed, disappointed, and dispirited—most of them involving matters well beyond my control, but they directly impact me nonetheless. If I had it all my way, I wouldn’t be confronted with any of it—the search for romance gone awry, parental resistance to aging issues, and ongoing questions about earning a living. (It doesn’t help that my birthday’s around the corner, which sours my mood that much more.) Just one of these topics presents sufficient challenge, but when they all arrive at once, it causes me to want to curl up and pull the covers over my head…   Have you ever found yourself in the same boat?   Since nobody’s going to ride in on a white horse and magically erase all my problems, I have to find my own way out. A wise friend counseled that I try to find something in each situation that I can be grateful for. Of course, my gut reaction was an emphatic, “Nothing,” but herein lay my resistance. Even I, the author and champion of...
Getting Past Our Annoyances

Getting Past Our Annoyances

It is only by learning to exercise our small muscles that we gain the strength needed to withstand larger challenges.

Harvesting New Dividends: Reexamining our Inflection Points

Harvesting New Dividends: Reexamining our Inflection Points

There are multiple occasions in our lives when we reach a place where life shifts– some of these are natural and expected such as graduating from school or becoming a parent, and others hit us from out of the blue, leaving us reeling. All of a sudden the landscape changes and we must make a choice. Inflection is an interesting word because while it is all about change, the quality of the change depends on the context. What I mean by this is that there can be as much inflection in a tone of voice as there can be in a business model or how a sentence is grammatically presented. We take away very different meanings depending on the inflection that is used.   Inflection points are not always obvious—they can creep up on us quietly, unexpectedly, infiltrating our awareness a little bit at a time. All of a sudden, one day, we look up and see or hear things differently. “When did that happen?” we wonder, rattled and unsure of just when or why this new perspective presented itself.   Change can be enormously inconvenient.   This last sentence makes me laugh because I should know by now that there is almost nothing in my life I can plan. Change happens and I stupidly resist it.   How stupid are you?   Looking back, some of the most powerful inflection points in my life came after a cataclysmic event because it was in the aftermath that I had to make a choice in how I was going to handle it. When something big happens to us, our initial...
Re-booting: Do You Think You Can?

Re-booting: Do You Think You Can?

More often than not, we frame life in terms of can’t. We can’t drive until we’re sixteen. We can’t drink until we’re twenty-one. We can’t stand seeing Relative A at family parties. We can’t afford to do X. We can’t imagine finding a more fulfilling way to live. Can’t, can’t, can’t. Framing our perspective from the negative is a terrible way to view life because it focuses on restraint in lieu of liberation. By doing so, we shackle ourselves to a much narrower piece of real estate since, all too often, one can’t leads to another…   How often do you box yourself in?   I believe a lot of this negative orientation ties closely into the protections perfectionism provides. What I mean by this is that by insisting the circumstances be exactly “right,” we are given cover from trying something new. There’s always a reason why we should wait just a little longer for a “better time.”   In a world (let alone a presidential primary season) as chaotic as the one we currently face, adding yet more instability into our lives by venturing in a new direction feels like a crazy thing to do. We can’t rely on what we’ve got, so why in the world would we introduce yet more variables into our daily existence?   Aren’t we better off sticking with what we know? Ah, a question for the ages…   Voluntarily assuming significant change may be the most frightening aspect of re-booting. It’s one thing to have your life upended unexpectedly, but it’s entirely different when we decide to arise from our chais lounge...
Needing Without Being Needy

Needing Without Being Needy

It’s ok to admit: we all need certain things in life to sustain or restore our spirits and equilibrium. Men, women, seniors, children–there are things we crave, things that nourish us in the same way that sunlight, sleep, and water enable us to move through our days. While the particulars may differ between individuals, the need remains the same. Ok, while theoretically everyone is on board with this precept, practically speaking, it is far more dangerous and complicated to admit to our needs.   In a society that celebrates fierce independence, admitting we need something flies in the face of all our Daniel Boone imagery. What compounds our reluctance to reveal such tender spots is an understandable revulsion to those who whine about their wants, having no compunction whatsoever at grabbing our shirttails to beg. “Really?” we think to ourselves. “Do you have to be this way?” When dragooned into satisfying their whiny needs, we want to run in the other direction or hide in the garage.   So, how do we do it? What’s the best way to express our needs without being needy?   Self-sufficiency is a key American value. It ties in with all our Wild West frontiersmen mythology, drinking dew in the desert, harpooning fish in a river, piecing together a tent from old scraps of fabric. “I can do it myself,” we huff indignantly. But then, there are those moments in the dark when we feel that keening in our chest for that companionship or expression of sympathy or whatever it is that will nourish us from the inside out.   Admitting our needs...
Moving On: Excising Parts of Our Past

Moving On: Excising Parts of Our Past

One of the rock solid foundations of any re-booting process is 1) extracting the valuable lessons from our painful experiences and 2) letting the rest go. Far easier to say than do… I’ve addressed this topic on more than one occasion, but it’s a message worth repeating since getting tangled in the messy cobwebs of our lives is a common experience. There is always something beneficial for us to extract from painful moments, but only if we have the good sense and sanguinity to search it out. The rest, however, should be dispensed with asap.   What pain are you allowing to hold yourself back? (Yes, I said allowing.)   For understandable reasons, most people cling to their pain because they believe that letting it go will somehow diminish the power of the experience—an irrational belief based on the fear that doing so will somehow erase or invalidate the injury. Having something feel like it’s disappeared is confusing. I know because this is what I worry about, too. For us to effectively let something go demands both intellectual understanding and emotional acceptance—the former is useless without the latter.   So, so hard to do.   Previously, I’ve written about protective vigilance which has become one of my favorite phrases of late. It encapsulates so much. We are protective of so many things, some of which hurt us. We nurse the pain. We probe the wound to see how much it still throbs. We fixate on the ugliness of the scar, wincing as we extract new blood, taken by our own hand. The idea of somehow removing all that thickened...
Letting Down Our Guard

Letting Down Our Guard

As someone who knows all about the merits of protective vigilance—and with excellent reason btw—I now speak as a champion of doing the reverse. It’s a rough and tumble world out there, filled with charlatans, scalawags, and sharks who roam the waters looking for a sucker to take. I know; I’ve been taken a time or two—beached even on occasion. Our hearts get broken. Someone important betrays us. We declare bankruptcy. We’re accused of something we didn’t do. In one way or another, our worlds get turned upside down in a most unpleasant manner.   All justifiable reasons for us, if we’re intelligent, to shed our naiveté and assume a stance of cautious awareness.   The problem arises when we become hyper aware, operating from a stance of guilty until proven innocent. Sure, that ups the chances of our never having to experience that type of betrayal again, but in the meantime, we’re bypassing a whole lot of good if flawed people and experiences who mean us no harm. When we establish such high thresholds of proof, not only are we being wildly unrealistic, but doing so demonstrates just how weak we believe we are. How little we trust we can spring back from another disappointment.   How weak are you?   I know all about being self-protective. I’ve spent most of my life in a defensive crouch, bypassing many important moments because I was afraid I was too weak to handle it should they go awry (so this is very personal for me). My re-booting journey has been an evolution in self-regard; I’ve discovered to my very happy...

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