Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vacation Days

Myla Denise in Miami, Florida
I am a firm believer in vacations. In addition to hand-picking climates, experiencing unique cuisines, discovering culture, and meeting new people, they also afford me with the time and space to breathe in beauty. Travel has become my church. It is where I find rejuvenation, peace, joy, and truth. Whether it is sitting on a beach feeling the breeze tickle my skin, witnessing the call to prayer halt an entire city, or hearing wildlife in a jungle where the only sky is a wave of lush green leaves, I find myself more in tune with who I truly am when I strip away what I have become.

On a recent vacation to Miami, Florida, one of my companions asked to get a picture taken during a downpour. Minutes later, I was out crossing Ocean Drive, getting soaked, in my bathing suit, and laughing about it. I would never be on a main thoroughfare in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the rain, in a bathing suit. The thought of it is ridiculous to me, but down in Miami, out of my routine and all that is associated with it, I didn't give it a second thought. I was open and free.

There is a reason why statements like, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," are so popular. We feel liberated on vacation because there is a perception of anonymity and because we are in a new place. Removed from our normal settings, all of the roles we play at home fall away. We feel free enough to simply be. We eat what we want, have more drinks than usual, stay up late, sleep longer, and do whatever it is that we feel we can't, shouldn't, or wouldn't even imagine doing at home. While it would not be wise for us to take on the eating, drinking, and sleeping habits we adopt on vacation, we can take some of the freedom, joy, and peace home with us instead of leaving them a plane ride away.

There is something wonderful and peaceful about getting away, but there is beauty in maintaining wonder and peace in your daily life. Discover ways to incorporate that more vivid or more relaxed version of yourself in your everyday. Appreciate the splendor unfolding where you are. You may not walk down the street in your hometown in your bathing suit, but maybe you can take a walk in the rain and let it remind you of the simplistic beauty and peace that exists each day instead of reserving the lifestyle you love only for vacation days.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Brave Enough to Believe

There is something very special about watching reruns of old television shows. I still laugh aloud when I see The Cosby Show, Livin' Single, and The Golden Girls. When those shows were popular there were things I didn't fully appreciate nor understand due to a lack of life experience, especially when it came to The Golden Girls. Besides them representing a time of collective purpose and consideration, with no hint of the ridiculousness that today's 'reality' tv offers, there's another reason I love these shows. Watching them reminds me of the power that is released when we believe.

I always smile whenever someone appears on reruns who has gone on to find success as a professional actor. As I watch The Cosby Show now I recognize people like Angela Bassett, Mario Van Peebles, Robin Givens, Stacey Dash, Adam Sandler, and countless others I didn't know by name back then. I imagine how excited they must have been to audition, receive a call back, walk on the set, tape the episode, and see it on television for the first time. I fast-forward to now, knowing how their lives evolved. Their bravery to believe in and chase their unconventional dream released the power for them to pursue more.

The life you envision does not have to be impossible. It may be a long shot. It probably requires commitment again, and again, and again. More than likely, you will have to make sacrifices and repeatedly surrender to your purpose. Difficult? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. Here's the reality, though. Living already comes with requirements. Even if you refuse or are too afraid to tap into the power of belief, in order to live you already have to commit and sacrifice. To maintain a job and earn a living you have to show up and sacrifice your time for a paycheck. In order to keep healthy relationships or raise a family you have to be there, present, and sacrifice 'my' for 'our.' If you must commit and sacrifice for what is necessary and who you love, you might as well commit and sacrifice for you.

You could be in the cameo stage of your life. You may be several steps or one big leap from whatever is considered your big break. You could be one connection, one performance, one job, one written piece, one kind word, one volunteer opportunity, one appearance from crossing into the threshold of fulfillment. Wouldn't you rather look back on the cameo phase of your life as where your beliefs were strengthened instead of where they deteriorated? Don't lose sight or give up. Follow the example of those young, eager actors you saw on television all those years ago. Be brave enough to believe and release the power that exists to pursue more.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Discover Your Power

Challenges are a part of life and come in different forms. Whether hardship is inherited, environmental, at the hands of someone else, or a reflection of our own choices, our responsibility is to grow through challenges instead of allowing challenges to stunt our growth.

In any challenge, we choose how to cope. We don't always exercise our choice intentionally, but the choice remains ours. We can either:
  • dismiss the negative impact of adversity,
  • allow our heartbreak to break us, or
  • do the work and discover our power.
Some hurt is so intense that the only feasible reaction is to halt. Losing a loved one, receiving a life-threatening diagnosis, or experiencing any other emotional trauma can send you into a mental freeze. Often, this is a part of the process. However, there is a massive difference between an immobile phase and an immobile life. As long as you dismiss or ignore how you've been affected by your hurt, you will continue to make decisions influenced by a past that you haven't reconciled.

In order to treat a medical diagnosis, the diagnosis has to be acknowledged to determine a course of action. Similarly, issues that have an emotional impact like neglect, betrayal, abuse, or abandonment must be acknowledged. Acknowledgement does not mean you make room for your hurt to sit at the table of your life so that you can feed it. Acknowledgement means that you recognize the source of your pain, not that you surrender to it.

Maybe you have acknowledged your pain, but you can't get out of that stage. Maybe your heartbreak is breaking you. It's possible that you clutch your history and keep your painful narrative in your face and in the faces of everyone who cares for you. If this is the case, your hurt has become the root of every choice you make and the one thing you want, change, is impossible because you make decisions with your hurt instead of working through it.

The key to not remaining stuck in your pain or the acknowledgement stage is to assess. Determining how hurt has impacted your life
  • through the decisions you make,
  • the people you allow into your life, 
  • and the messages you tell yourself 
leads you to the process of correction and progress. As you work through the assessment phase you practice making good choices and exercising wisdom. It is here that you use adversity to build up your strength instead of tear it down. By doing the work you discover your power and it exists in the same situation that has made you feel powerless.

Is it scary? Absolutely! Will it require a process that may not always feel great? Yes. Is that enough to keep you from doing it? Absolutely not. Consider the alternative. Would you rather make decisions through the lens of fear and avoidance or the lens of clarity and purpose? Would you rather live clutching pain or releasing it? You are absolutely worth the work it takes to reconcile your past and intentionally direct your future. If you are willing to do the work you will discover your power.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sound Advice

I have a small group of friends who are my sounding board. I go to this special group to vet ideas, vent, and preview my writings. I am strategic in reaching out because only a few people have invested the time to understand me and my history, goals, purpose, flaws, and fears, yet don't cater to my nuances or enable stagnation. Within my sounding board, I go to certain ones for certain areas. Even people who love me can offer opinions that may not necessarily be bad advice, but not best for me. No matter what the advice is or who delivers it, I am responsible for distinguishing between what I should simply hear and what I should heed.

I accepted years ago that my path was unique, even when compared to my friends who are brave trailblazers in their own ways. Although our paths have crossed, they are not identical. While we share similar traits, we are independent and have unique styles, interests, plans, and quirks. For those reasons, we not only go in different areas, but we approach love and life differently. My circle provides sound advice, but it is my responsibility to know that good, well-intentioned advice is not always the best advice.

It is perfectly normal and healthy to share your experiences and feelings, but it is not necessary for you to internalize every word of advice or sentiment that results from your sharing. What one person would do is not necessarily what you should do. What may stop or discourage someone else does not have to stop or discourage you. What someone else may not be brave enough to pursue may be exactly what you should pursue. The life that someone else would settle into does not mandate that you settle.

Life is always leading you toward your purpose. Your intuition is constantly directing you, ever so gently, in the right direction. There is no external source that can guide you better. After all, when external signs appear, it's only after you have ignored the internal inklings repeatedly. As you share you life with those in your circle, be mindful not to allow advice, no matter how good it may seem, to lead you astray.