Posts tagged: passion

Outside Looks Inside

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When I go out for a walk, there is so much that makes me happy to be alive. Breathing. Not thinking. Observing. I am grateful beyond measure to be part of it all. There are trees. Glorious and consoling. Changing with the seasons. Reminders that all things change. And change again.Maria Kalman

The Case For Outside

This post is making a case for walking. Outside. A few years back my doctor told me I had to get regular exercise. I hate going to the gym and frankly the cost of the gym that is near my house is ridiculous. So, I decided the only way I would be able to make sure I got exercise everyday was to get a dog that had to go out everyday. This strategy worked for me. The dog is almost 4 and I go outside, 3x a time, in all weather.

There were multiple side benefits to this but the most profound was that I relearned how to appreciate the outdoors. The older I got, the more excuses I found to avoid taking a walk. Wrong shoes, too cold, too hot, too windy, whatever. What I found is that by walking, I had a quiet 30 minutes to myself. I didn’t have to do anything but walk. In fact, I couldn’t do anything but walk.

The Case for Outside, Inside

What have I learned from this adventure? It’s teaching or reteaching me how to be quiet. For me, this is a big deal. I work at a computer, I listen to music, watch TV, watch YouTube videos – you get it. My discipline for quiet is shot. I’m so used to noise, I’ve forgotten the power of quiet. I’m not sure I 100% understand the benefits to my insides, but I assure you, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. How do you get quiet?

Image Credit: Maria Kalman  A Walk in the Cherry Blossoms

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730

Ch-Ch-Changes

When I was young, my dysfunctional family made daily life very chaotic. While I wouldn’t wish that type of churning nuttiness on anyone, it did several positive things for me. One was that it made me adaptable. I certainly wasn’t going to have things my way, so I had to learn to go along and get along.

I remember reading this:

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Creating Change Makes It Easier to Manage

I knew that the best thing I could do, was always be ready to change. To always be looking for a way to improve and create something better. This way, change wasn’t thrust upon me. I noticed that when change happened TO me, I was resentful. But if I was part of the change process, I was ok, even joyful at the chance to try something different. I learned to be somewhat of a ‘victim’ from some people in my family. It’s a most unattractive and problematic position to be in. The victim doesn’t have to do anything, the victim can just blame someone else. But even true victims need to be responsible for taking actions towards their own healing.

Turn and Face The Strain

If you’re out of practice with creating change, try these:

  1. Practice daily gratitude. I kept a gratitude journal for about a year. Everyday I wrote down 5 things I was grateful for. The habit of focusing on all the positive things in my life (my eye sight, ability to walk, breathe, laugh) became second nature.
  2. Find a way to meet new people. I know, I hate this idea but when I do, I learn so many things about myself. The easiest way for me to meet new people is by volunteering.
  3. Stop acting and being so grown up. If you have a chance to be around small children, do it. If not, look at things the way a small child would. Stop being all “judgy” and prissy. Act like a fool. Who care if someone sees you? They’ll just be jealous anyway.

What are your favorite ways to help create change in your life? Look out you rock n’ rollers…

Image Credit: David Bowie Masayoshi Sukita

Self Respect and the Joy of Self Reliance

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“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — this is the source from which self-respect springs.” Joan Didion Slouching Towards Bethlehem

But I Don’t Want To…

I hate discipline. I mean, I like it and appreciate it and then again, I loathe it. Why do I have to do so many things I don’t want to do? Dishes, listening, talking to strangers, doing my job? Why can’t I just do what I want, right?

The Journey to Self Respect

Maybe I can get self respect from having stuff, maybe I can get it from other people’s admiration of me (fame, money, position), maybe I can get it from ______ (fill in the blank). I can only speak for myself:  there is a direct line from discipline and self reliance to my self respect. There’s a Billie Holiday song, “God Bless the Child (listen here)” with these lyrics;

Money, you’ve got lots of friends
They’re crowding around your door
But when you’re gone and spending ends
They don’t come no more
Rich relations give crusts of bread and such
You can help yourself, but don’t take too much
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God bless the child that’s got his own, that’s got his own

The Struggle Is Real…Really

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten what it’s really like to struggle. We have less money to spend on clothes or going out to eat so we’re upset. But we are not Syrians or Southern Sudanese where bombs drop on our homes every day. Most of us don’t want for food or shelter. In the most privileged country in the world, we still feel entitled to complain. This is not to take away from real problems and struggles of abuse, poverty, equality. We must fight to improve how we help and change the world.

People ask me how I raised my children to care about the world and not be materialistic. I hope I taught them to value experiences over things, to value a person and their dignity over, well, maybe anything. I have a long way to go in improving myself. I’m happy to report it’s a life long journey. I’ll let this serve as a reminder to myself to pay attention to my own ability to depend on myself and the joy and serenity that brings.

Image credit: Picture Quotes

Billie Holiday lyrics: God Bless The Child

Perfectionism Is Slow Death

“ If everything were to turn out just like i would want it to, just like i would plan for it to, then i would never experience anything new; my life would be an endless repetition of stale successes. When i make a mistake, i experience something unexpected…. when i have listened to my mistakes i have grown.Hugh Prather

When I was a young professional, someone gave me this Hugh Prather quote. I didn’t think of myself as a perfectionist but apparently I needed to learn the difference between striving for and insisting upon. The striving is good, the insisting is not. The reality is that if don’t strive for ‘our best’ (perfection?) then we are settling for something less than. Striving is good, freaking out when we’re not ‘perfect’ is not.

I’m not sure what made me think that being perfect was a requirement. That somehow if I weren’t perfect, I would be let go, fired, disliked, not respected. Worst of all, that I would myself and others down. It took me a long time to let go of control. I finally saw the correlation between wanting to control things and thinking things had to be perfect (hmm, in my case that meant it had to be done my way.)

Fortunately for me, I found wonderful mentors who helped me to lighten up and let go. To work to let other people learn and grow. Perfectionism (and wanting to control everything) is slow death… of your spirit and your joy. Let it go.

Image credit: Hugh Prather Quotes

Curiosity – Brought Back the Cat

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Now that I am old(erish), I thought my curiosity about the world would decrease. After all, it’s gotten me into plenty of trouble.

When I read, “The Routine Gene – Can Productivity and Creativity Coincide?” I knew that my love of ambiguity/curiosity was alive and well. That’s because I have a high CQ (curiosity quotient). This is in contrast to my IQ (aka Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Our “curiosity quotient is measured by how inquisitive and open to new situations we are. People with higher CQ, dislike routine, but embrace ambiguity and have a knack for finding simple solutions to complex problems.”

The following quote (from the article) describes my approach to routine and creativity:

“The art is finding the balance between turning everything you do that is repeatable into a well-oiled machine (call it ‘a routine’) whilst keeping all your attention and senses open for serendipity and creativity. The best entrepreneurs zip through life on autopilot where their creativity isn’t needed and bring intense focus to those areas where they can make a huge difference.” This manifests itself in various ways; I generally eat the same thing for breakfast. Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck and jeans.

If you are bored with your work or your life, maybe you need to figure out how to up your CQ. I like to ‘feed’ my curiosity. Here are few ways that I do it:

  • Watch a movie and imagine I am the director. What would I have changed? Who would I have cast?
  • Take a walk outside and appreciate the simple complexity of nature. I look very closely at tree bark, rocks, flowers. I look at the pattern, the texture, the color and I smell everything.
  • Listen to someone talk about what they love to do. Somehow, watching and witnessing their joy and passion is completely inspirational.

How do you feed your curiosity?

Photo credit: Eugene O’Neill Quotes

Got Values? Act Like It.

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<p>Photo By: SPC Aristide Lavey</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>To learn more about the annual U.S. Army Photography Competition, visit us online at <a href="http://www.armymwr.com" rel=&qu...

Many of us feel strongly about the values we were taught by our family. We don’t think of ourselves as bigots or sexists. We think of ourselves in the way that we hope the world sees us. Patriotic, strong.

The truth, if we are brave enough to face it, is that we all have biases built into our brains and thought processes. It takes commitment, energy, time, awareness and patience to look for them and weed them out. Some we will likely never change. I was raised in Boston by a family of liberals, going back generations. It’s unlikely that I will become conservative today. However, it is very important for me to be open to looking at the world through the eyes of my conservative friends.

I enjoyed and appreciated this post titled, “Act On Your Values, A 4-Step Method to Achieve Equal Representation.”

Since we come from a history of patriarchy, the pattern of male domination will go on and on if we don’t decide to actively do something about it. Part of the reason is that when we’re asked to suggest speakers, board members, etc., we unconsciously think of people we’ve seen in similar contexts before, and so the uneven balance is reproduced over and over again – Martin Thornkvist

Recently, I was listening to and co-grading presentations for grad students. The other teacher is male.  One (male) student introduced his group by saying, “Good morning, Mr. President…”– he looked directly at the male teacher. He did not acknowledge me or look at me throughout his entire presentation. Is this student a bad person? No. Does he hate women? Probably not. Is he following the context of his experience and of those who taught him? Yes.

The problem is that we don’t see our biases. They are hidden under layers of pats on the back, instruction, belonging, etc.

Mr. Thornkvist  has some excellent suggestions for working on this… and we all must work on this!

  1. Write down your values. It’s funny how alive and real things become when they are written on paper.
  2. Communicate your values. When you ask for help, when you are speaking, when you are going about your day; be aware of what you stand for and take every opportunity to let people know where you stand. Now you’re thinking, come on.  This is a bit much.  Is it? Do think slaves were emancipated, women ‘allowed’ to vote and own property because people thought about these things occasionally?
  3. Be stubborn. The world needs to change. Let it begin with me and you. Pick one injustice… one place inside you that makes you think… hey, the world would be better if… and start to think, act, share and communicate about how YOU are going to change.

I included this photo from the Army Photo Contest because our Veterans are in need of our help. Today — let’s think about our soldiers as “us” not them. Who do you help and why?

Photo Credit: Army Photo Contest Familymwr

Wanna Be A Teacher? Be a Student.

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I have the privilege of being a teacher. I am grateful for the opportunity and in general, I work to learn as much as I teach. Every environment (classroom, one on one, online) provides me a chance to learn because of the students. Each one teaches me something interesting and often, important.

Life is a series of learning opportunities. How we approach learning is as important as our character.

When someone is a ‘student’ – they get space to fail/make mistakes/goof up. In fact, we expect it. But somehow, when we “grow up” – that changes. We aren’t students anymore; we’re expected to be confident, aware, ‘on top of things.’

Ugh. This drives me crazy. If we view everyone as a full time student of life… who happens to be employed as a (fill in the blank), imagine how much easier it would be to try new things and learn. Failure, mistakes and goof ups would be normal, good, desirable.

Good teachers are everywhere, but good students are hard to find. Look to teach others (it makes us feel smart and important) but WORK to learn (it makes us feel stupid and weak). Hang around other students (entrepreneurs, kids, artists)… they’re full of mistakes and joy.

Confront Your Shark

In the article, “10 Navy Seal Life Lessons You Can Use Everyday,” Navy Seal Admiral W. H. McRaven shows us how to train like a seal. One of the 10 lessons is to “confront your daily shark.” Wow, really. I don’t want to. That’s why it’s a shark; it’s big, dangerous, mysterious, overwhelming.

In truth, some sharks are overwhelming. But many sharks are sharks – only to us. To others they are simply bosses, bullies, relatives – whoever intimidates and makes us feel smaller than we are.

I can’t tell you what you to do, but I can tell you what I did. I went through a bad, awful, terrible divorce. Specifics aside, I can tell you there were many times when I felt I couldn’t keep going. I wanted to give up and give in. I had grownup with alcoholic parents, was always taking care of other people (mom, little brother, chronically ill older sister) and I had a poor sense of myself as a strong, confident person. So when this ‘challenge’ arose in my life, I was more than shaken to my (already shaky) core.

Here’s what I did:

1) Got a physical and communicated regularly with my doctor

2) Exercised regularly

3) Talked and talked and talked.. thank you to everyone who listened

4) Tried to have fun whenever I could (I wasn’t great at this to begin with and … still not good at it)

5) Worked to change the “tapes” playing in my head that told me, I couldn’t, shouldn’t, wasn’t strong enough, smart enough, etc.

6) I focused on ‘the prize’ – what I wanted as an end result

7) Listened to inspirational (rock n roll songs) like:

Already Gone – Eagles

So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key

You Gotta Be -Des’ree
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
 What are your favorites inspirational songs? Share them and what you’ve done to ‘confront your shark.” Go get ’em!

Photo Credit: 3D Shark Will Ellis

Are You Part of the “Other Backward Class”?

I found this homeless man with his dog, he was ever so gentle and loving with man's best friend. Chris told me his dog, Brandy, was all he had in the world. His last dog was taken away from him by the police because he did not have tags or a ...

I read an article about the unexpected death of an Indian politician named, Gopinath Mundie. Mr. Mundie had risen to prominence from, what in India is known as, a low-caste grouping called the “Other Backward Classes.” When I read this, I almost cried. Can you imagine growing up in a country where you, your family and friends are referred to by this derogatory term?

I am not judging the Indian people, their culture or their politics (in fact, we could learn a lesson from them in democracy… if you haven’t seen this Daily Show segment on voter turn out… check it out.)

I am simply asking you to think about your life in America. We have a long way to go in many, many aspects of our young country’s democracy and fairness to our citizens. There are many problems. But one thing we don’t have are Backward Classes. Of course, we have ‘classes’ that ‘we’ consider ‘less than’ – so we all have a lot of work to do on understanding, kindness, sharing, fairness, etc.

Related to this… I hear many people complaining about our economy, but I see the restaurants are full. People complain about fuel prices, but we still drive everywhere. We worry about climate change, yet we leave our lights on, use drive-throughs and in general don’t pay much attention to our individual contribution to the problem.

I’m not blaming anyone… I have many improvements to make in my own life. For today, I am asking you to think about how lucky you are that you live in a country (with all its flaws) where education is universal and opportunities are abundant. The chance to live a life that most people on the planet would give everything to have a chance to experience. So the next time your dry cleaning isn’t ready on time or the grocery store is out of your favorite ice cream, will you stop and be grateful for the abundance that being born American has given you?

P.S. One other item of interest about Mr. Mundie… “His home district of Beed is infamous for female foeticide (where they find out if a fetus is a girl or a boy and then abort it if it is a girl) and given that he has three daughters and no son, he was often hailed as an example for others to follow. One of his daughters, Pankaja Munde-Palve, is a member of the Maharashtra state assembly.” Mr. Mundie.. you will be missed but your legacy lives on.

Photo credit: His Entire World: Homeless Man  Beverly and Pack