Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lesson in a Question

Someone asked me a question that caught me off guard. Considering our conversation, the question was not out of line and my answering it wouldn't have revealed anything that can't be found in my writings, but still it gave me pause. Writing about my life and having people read it is one thing, but saying the words across a dinner table is much more intimate and vulnerability always has the potential to freeze me. In a brief second, I had to decide if I would respond, "I'd rather not say," or simply answer her question and move on.

Discretion is absolutely necessary. Not everyone needs to know everything and not everyone should have our trust. Plus, we have been gifted with a support system purposefully. There are some discussions that are best if only had with those closest to us. However, our decision to reserve our pain for ourselves does more to reserve us. That decision holds us in solitude, shame, and guilt. Ultimately, it holds us back. We cling to the side effects of our pain by ourselves because we're convinced that if others knew they would use it against us, treat us differently, or love us less. Essentially, we believe that if others knew the cause or extent of our pain then they would view us through the same judgmental and harsh lens we use to see ourselves.

The next time you are afraid to open up consider whether you are projecting your own judgments on others. Is your fear appropriately placed? Has that person said or done anything to warrant your fear? Is it the actions of another that has made you so sure that you can't trust? Do you imagine someone using your pain or your decision to trust against you? Is your fear preventing you from progressing and getting healthy?

I considered this woman's question, this woman who I have known for quite some time, but didn't know very well. This woman I had never shared anything remotely personal with prior. This woman who hadn't done anything to earn my suspicions or distrust. This woman who asked me a question that she could find the answer to by reading about me online, but preferred a face-to-face conversation. I looked at this woman with a slate that wasn't tarnished with my defensive imagination nor the hurtful actions of others and decided to answer her. I didn't regret it in the seconds following and I don't regret it now. My world didn't crumble. She didn't treat me differently. She didn't look at me through the judgmental and harsh lens I use for myself. She did nothing to confirm the horrible things I have told myself. She merely heard me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I am proud of my circle of support. It consists of strong, intelligent, fun, funny, clever, kind, and considerate people who make me nearly pity anyone who doesn't have the pleasure of knowing them. What I find fascinating about my circle is that while each has discovered success, all have taken very different paths. What binds us together, though, has nothing to do with how we earn our living, but how we live. In addition to being considerate of one another, each one of us has an internal need to strive and I not only support our individual need to strive, I admire it.

Whether it's based on natural ability, circumstances, or some combination of the two, everyone has aspirations. Not everyone listens to or works with that internal force to strive, but we all have it and must be mindful that the decisions we make repeatedly expose our commitments, not what we say and certainly not what we simply wish. What we strive for is revealed in our habitual behavior.

What do you strive to do or become? Before you answer, remember that strive is a verb. It is a word of action. Also, don't limit yourself to what you think is appropriate or acceptable. You could strive to become a business owner, an author, or a professional musician just as you can strive to be healthy, emotionally intelligent, and self-aware. Listen inwardly. What do you strive to do or become? How do your actions reflect that? If your actions don't align with your answer(s), start today. You were designed to strive and like those in my circle, where that takes you may be unique. It may differ from those in your circle, your family, or your profession. A rare vision doesn't equate to impossible, unimportant, nor pointless. It's simply rare. Ultimately, you should strive to be intentional about how you live and it is your intent and your action that will lead you toward the life you desire.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Do you know people who consistently think negatively? Of course it's windy because I just left the salon. Of course it's raining because I just washed my car. Of course there's a traffic jam because I'm in a hurry. Whenever something negative or inconvenient happens, they soothe themselves sayings like, "it's just my luck." They expect the worst and when it does, they use that as confirmation to continue believing in undesired outcomes.

The power of belief is undeniable. Children believe that a fairy leaves money in exchange for teeth, that a bunny delivers them candy-filled baskets, and that a man goes around the world in a single night in a sleigh powered by reindeer. Belief is so powerful because it shapes actions and perception. Children who believe in Santa Claus are often bribed to behave during the entire holiday season. Parents are quick to remind them of the upcoming holiday when children step out of line. Even a book and toy franchise (Elf on a Shelf) has capitalized on managing children's behavior. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques are filled because of belief. Whether people attend because they believe it will enhance their lives—or they believe in the power of guilt associated with not attending—belief shapes behavior. Whether it's in a higher power, science, people, self, or some combination, beliefs shape actions, energy, and essentially, perceptions of the world.

What do you believe? Where did those beliefs originate? Do you believe in and expect negativity? Do you believe that people can't be trusted? Do you believe that you can't trust yourself? Do you believe that if you allow yourself to have hope you will only be let down? Do you believe in fear rather than faith?

Consider how you interpret inconveniences and set backs as well as how you view fortune and advancement. Your beliefs impact so many aspects of your life so why not believe in what will enhance your life? Why not believe in what will benefit you instead of discourage you? Whether your beliefs were inherited or learned it's time to evaluate and be intentional about what you permit and encourage yourself to believe.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Life of Consideration

It's not often that I have an immediate reaction—besides laughter—to much of anything. I typically need time to reflect before I respond. Not long ago, though, I received a message that elicited an immediate feeling. The impulsive, childish side of me wanted to snap back. I wanted my words to be so cunning that the receiver wouldn't even know just how cleverly cold they were until a day later. Essentially, I wanted to offend at a level even higher than the one I felt was intended for me.

Between work, community events, children's activities, family obligations, and household needs, we are in contact with others constantly. The majority of us risk delivering unkind words, even if we feel justified, without leaving our home. However, feeling justified does not equate to being the right thing to do. Being kind is the ultimate just act, especially when kindness is the last characteristic you want to exude.

Everyone you encounter, from a coworker, parking attendant, your child's teacher, a relative, to a cashier in a grocery store is carrying more than you know. They have sources of joy and sources of heartache. They have felt love and felt hate. They have had countless experiences prior to their interaction(s) with you and will have many more after you. Before you repay rudeness with more rudeness consider the value of that exchange. Your reaction to one negative encounter could fuel someone's belief that he is insignificant and that people are unkind. Your reaction, as minor as you may think it is, could confirm to someone that life is not worth living. Your reaction to a person's inability to cope with his/her circumstances may not reveal your true character, but it can lead you to getting increasingly comfortable living a life of reaction rather than consideration.

I could have spread the negativity. I could have engaged in behavior that did not coincide with my character. I could have wasted energy—and it certainly would have been a waste—coming up with a hurtful response to receive a temporary sense of shallow satisfaction. When I considered the repercussions—spreading negativity, acting outside of my character, and wasting energy—it was clear that the only appropriate and most important response was not to respond.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes aren't limited to those making the changes. Friends of mine have changed their eating habits over the years requiring me to be more cognizant. When hosting, I serve food that honors their wishes. While it's their decision, I am impacted by it because I care for them. It's easy to understand why I wouldn't serve bacon cheeseburgers to my vegetarian friends, even those whose mouths watered upon reading the words "bacon cheeseburger" are empathetic. Unfortunately, though, people are not as understanding and supportive with decisions pertaining to the pursuit of emotional health.

I've recently grown more protective of my time and personal space. Of course I didn't always live so carefully so when I began to make changes there were questions. Those who'd known me for years didn't understand. In their minds things were fine as they existed. Why change now? What was the reason? Who was I punishing? And they weren't looking for an explanation as much as they wanted to convince me to stop changing. As I became more intentional and honest, I unknowingly forced them to ask some hard questions and face truths also. My changes—made so that I could take better care of myself—were impacting their lives.

Not everyone will support your decisions to improve your life and that lack of support doesn't necessarily have anything to do with you. Some will want you to remain the same because it makes it easier for them to be complacent. Others will want you to stop seeking truth so that they don't have to acknowledge theirs. Some simply cannot understand your purpose and are therefore unable to understand the steps it takes for you to reach it. Your changes will impact the lives of those around you, but if you are certain of what you need to be whole and fulfilled don't negotiate, feel guilty, nor shrink away from it. Your responsibility to yourself and to those who love you is to pursue wholeness, fulfillment, and your purpose.