Yes, Oui, Si!

Yes.

Oui.

Si.

Yes, we see.

2012 is nearing an end. And with endings come new beginnings. If you are reading this post, you survived the end of the world as the Mayans knew it. And maybe as you knew it too.

The holidays bring its own set of craziness. Too much to do, too many people to see, too many parties, food, drink, whatever.

But do take a moment to relish in all that you have. All that you are.

Next year you will see. Give 2013 your biggest “yes” ever.

The rest will take care of itself.

Happy holidays, everyone.

See you on the other side.

 

The Other Side of the Sky

For six days I visited the other side of the sky. It was blue. It was warm. It was family. It was about time.

In the past decade since I’ve lived in Germany, I have not seen my family around the holidays. But this year I decided it was time to do so. In a whirlwind visit that encompassed a public speaking gig, a party and three different beds in three different houses, I reconnected with my tribe. And it has brought me more joy than I thought imaginable.

So often we say “One day I will do this or that,” and then, one day never comes. We promise ourselves when the “time is right,” we will take on the challenges we know lay ahead of us. But then we make excuses because the kids are sick, or the dog is dying or the business is too busy to get away.

We compromise ourselves to the point of spending no time at all doing what we truly want to do…and with the ones we truly love doing it with.

If 2012 has taught me anything (and it has taught me a lot!), it has shown me that the time is now for everything you have been putting off. I am not just talking about losing that extra weight or exercising more. I am talking about the direction of your very existence.

Are you happy with your life as it is? It may seem like a loaded question. And for many, it is. If you can honestly say you are living your best life, count yourself lucky. I don’t know many who can say that in all truth.

It has been a year of asking ourselves hard questions such as “What am I really here for?” “Am I in the right place for myself?” “What am I avoiding?” We all have our own pace and timing. For me it seemed to come all at once, although a lot of the hard choices I have made come from a years-long inquiry of which I was barely aware.

It is the still, soft voice within whose whispers turn to wind tunnels when we ignore them for too long.

We all reach a tipping point or what I call in The Power of Slow as the “pain point”. It is the moment in which you simply can’t take it anymore. It is the point in time when inaction is more painful than action.

We often use pain to drive us forward. But I am wondering now if we could also use joy as our motivator. That we could make a decision that brings us joy, that then leads to another decision that brings us even more joy, and so on. So instead of moving forward due to pain avoidance, we actually move toward the light, dancing to the other side of the sky.

I think it’s possible. I really do. Do you?

Never Give Up Your Awesome

The fifth graders swarmed around me after my hour-long interactive creative writing presentation yesterday. They wanted me to autograph their papers they had used to record the collective story all sixty-eight of them wrote together with me. One girl even asked if I might sign her shirt. I smiled, thinking this is how Justin Bieber must feel.

“Never give up your awesome,” I told them. “Each of you has it. I see it as clear as day. Look at the story you all wrote. You are going to go far!”

Unbeknownst to us at that moment, in a similar elementary school 528 miles away in Newtown, Connecticut, a twenty-year-old gunman was shooting down children of the same age. When I learned of it later last evening, I was so saddened that on a day of such much joy, terror and sadness were spreading elsewhere too.

What are those kids in Gordonsville, VA, whose hearts I touched and who touched mine, thinking now? Is school a safe place to be where we get to write crazy stories with an even crazier writer? Or is it a place of fear and horror?

My mother assured me that they will know their school is a place of joy. As a school volunteer, she knows school for some of those kids is the only place where they are seen, heard, attended to.

And when I heard one of the Connecticut teacher’s stories of how she held her fifteen first graders close to her in a small bathroom near her classroom and told them how much they were loved so that, in her words, at least they would know that before they all died, I am convinced that the world can change through words. Even amidst the sorrow of such aftermath.

I can’t help but think if the young man who assaulted those innocent beings had heard healing words himself, he might not have done what he did.

Whether spoken, or written like the words we strung together yesterday on a white board in Central Virginia, words can make all the difference.

Let us unite together to use them kindly with acts of love, not hate.

 

Get to the Bounce

Resilience is a great quality. My mom has it. No matter what life throws at her, she either ducks, jumps or swims along. My sister is similar. That girl’s got bounce.

I wasn’t so sure I possessed much bounce until my family recently reminded me of the things I’ve managed over the years. We often take ourselves for granted, thinking it’s normal to do what we do.  But then one day, someone comes along to show you there’s another way indeed.

I’ve not always been slow, mind you. At times I have taken on way too much, but such are the vagaries of youth.

As I have grown in wisdom (that’s code for “I’ve earned these wrinkles, okay, people?”), I have begun to realize how important it is to know what to fight for…and when to lay down my arms.

Resilience is an accompanying factor to those moments when you aren’t certain whether fight or flight is the best path. It gives you the backbone to withstand the winds of time. It tells you what to do when you simply don’t know how to get their yourself.

That still voice within keeps you going in times of uncertainty. It resides at your core and guides you through the thickness of life. Bounce helps. A lot.

Have you tried out your bounce lately? If you haven’t, dust it off and give it a try. It’s a lot more fun when you do it with those you love.

Live like joy is your only option. And soon you will see that it is.

Top 10 Quotes for 2012

Quotables are one of my favorite things to pass along to people. They are pithy, hit home, and motivate us to get through the day. As an end-of-the-year round up, I thought I’d compile some of my favorite quotes that crossed my path in 2012. It’s been an intense year. May your December be filled with light.

Joy, peace, and love, my dear friends.

10. “The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are.” ~ Joseph Campbell

9. “Peace-making is a healing process and it begins with me, but it does not end there.” ~ Gene Knudsen Hoffman

8. “You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.” ~ Eric Hoffer

7. “Trust the process.” ~ Celina Stone

6. “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” ~ Bill Cosby

5. “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” ~ Stephen King

4. “Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I’m possible.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

3. “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” Katherine Hepburn

2. “Approach every day as if it’s a new world, because it is.” ~ Deepak Chopra

1. “Look inside and find where a person loves from. That’s the reality.” ~ Rumi

What is your favorite quote? Post it here and I’ll repost and retweet it @powerofslow!

Saving Your Best for…Now

Today is tomorrow’s memory. But because we never can be certain that tomorrow will ever come, it is better to make the best of now.

My aunt subscribes to the “use your best every day” rule. She insists on using silver and china for the most mundane of occasions. After all, why else would you have it? Or how about those silk pajamas you only take out every once in a while? Or that expensive perfume you’re waiting to use for ‘some day special’?

Guess what? That day has arrived. It’s called today.

So if you are tempted to save things for later instead of enjoying them now, I ask you: “What are you waiting for?” It’s a good a time as any. In fact, it’s the only time you ever truly have.

 

Superfreakin’ Back to You

Back before video games overtook children’s minds, there were such leisure activities as bowling and roller skating. The biggest thrill a sixth grade girl could have was to hold hands with an older boy who knew how to do crossovers on skates while never, ever tripping you up. Under the bling of the disco ball, it was as close to heaven as a twelve-year-old could get.

Rick James’ song “Superfreak” was popular back then. Somehow skating to music made it all the more fun. Later I advanced to ice skating on our frozen pond, when winters in Virginia were cold enough to form ice across its entirety. I would spend hours alone, practicing and laughing and never fearing a fall. I rarely did.

Fear is something that creeps along with experience. You get battered. Bruised. Banged up a bit as life changes  direction. Fear becomes a companion of sorts as you navigate your way on the ice of life. We begin to look for the thinness of it, avoiding slipping through the cracks where danger lurks.

We hold ourselves back based on those fears. We experience less, reducing our lives to what we deem safe.

Then one day some of us realize we have kept ourselves small, not playing full out for fear of…what?

Failure?

Falling?

Societal rejection?

That’s when you stand at a crossroads. That is when the question “Why not?” emerges.

Your ego self will give you a barrage of reasons why not. Its job is to stay in the same place, never changing or allowing you to unfold your fullest potential. Its role is to protect you from harm, real or imagined. Its singular purpose is to keep you dimunitized.

But when largeness moves in, when your ultimate juicy surfaces, it is more powerful than the ego that cries out: “Be careful! Don’t stray too far from the edge of the skating rink!”

Your own gigantic self overcomes those fears. It exists within each one of us. It is the one that says “Yes” when your friend calls to say “Let’s go ice skating today!”

Never mind it has been thirty years since you last gave it a try. Sure, you might be rusty at first, but by the tenth minute on the ice, you start to remember what you are capable of. You pick up the tiniest pieces of yourself that you shattered when life got too hard. You place them back inside, smiling all the while that you never really forgot how to be that huge.

It just took time to see yourself again in all your Superfreakin’ glamour with a ‘Yes’ that came softly, profoundly, and right when you needed it the most.

 

 

The Secret Closet

Do you have a place to house your secrets? Mine live with the trees and in the mirrors of places I’ve been. I speak my thoughts to those things, hanging them on limbs and smearing them across glass, smooth and soft like the inside of my heart.

My sister holds vigil in her walk-in closet where she expresses her thoughts, often to herself and to me across the ethers. It’s a sacred space of opening when the world just won’t listen.

We all need a sacred space to cherish those inner thoughts and feelings. They need to be housed in a safe place so life won’t trample on them. Maybe a special friend is the person who is the keeper of your ideas. Whoever, or whatever it is, it is a most valuable thing to have in life.

A friend once told me to create an altar of all my special things in the form of a circle. I keep those symbols under my Buddha (with a busted knee), pointing me in the right direction when I get lost or feel alone. It is my secret closet, right out in the open, but no one really knows what those items mean.

And it doesn’t matter. I know the meaning instrinsic to them. Each has a story, as we all do.

It is important to tell yours, to not withhold it from those who are special to you. It makes you unique, and they will love you all the more for it.

Dancing in the Fullness of You

As we near the end of this most tumultuous year, I am reminded of how it began ~ in the sleepy, quiet night of a Swiss German valley with a champagne toast amongst the snowflakes that fell.

New Year’s Eve holds many promises of future delight and striving. It captures our hope for a brighter tomorrow, filled with adventure, fun and learning. And when New Year’s Day arrives, a whole 365 days of newness lay at our feet.

Did you know you would be where you are today on the first of this past year? I certainly did not.

Instead of waiting for a magic number on a calendar, what if we were to dance in the fullness of ourselves, not only at this time of year, but for the rest of it as we realize every day reflects a new beginning? We needn’t only make amends to ourselves on January 1. We can start at any time to celebrate our lives as we want them to be.

Let’s put aside our New Year resolutions and make New Life ones instead. Begin now. It’s the only time you’ll ever be sure to have.

 

Courage Lives Here

“The world breaks everyone
And afterwards
Many are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Brené Brown, the so-called shame researcher, blew me away again. In her second TED talk, she expounds on what shame is…and what it is not.

Shame is not guilt. Shame is about you. Guilt is about your behavior. So when you feel shame, you feel you are unworthy. When you feel guilt, it’s because you believe what you do isn’t right. It’s that simple.

Guilt is based on the actions you take. You feel bad about this or that. You think you could do better, should know better, should be better. But it is always based on the things you are doing — or you think you shouldn’t be doing.

Vulnerability is what we feel when we know we’re not perfect, but we’re willing to step into that wide open space anyway.

Vulnerability, Brown says, is the most accurate measurement of courage. And here’s the good news. People don’t want to see perfection; they want to feel connection. When we try to present ourselves as the most perfect version we can possibly be, we leave no wiggle room for creativity or innovation. Because it is in the effort of trying without the fear of failure that we know what works and what does not.

If we feared failure, we’d never get to try out all those things that don’t work such as all the ways a rocket won’t fly. Life is more interesting when it is juicy and rich and a tad messy. Your life isn’t a gift-wrapped Tiffany box. I hate to break it to you.

When we lay wide open with our hearts completely present, we display our inner beauty in such a way as to move other people to tears. Actors do that. In another TED talk, Thandie Newton, a devastatingly gorgeous actor who played in such films as The Pursuit of Happyness, shared her greatest pain at being a biracial child growing up in England without a sense of self. The very thing that made her feel so small as a kid is what makes her so great now.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s not your picture-perfect self that makes you who you are. It’s all the shadows and shades of grey mixed in with light and warm pockets of wonderfulness that present the fullness of you.

Courage lives in those spaces inside ourselves that Hemingway called broken. The difference between those who become a victim of their lives and those who step up to the challenges that life offers them is the choice to enter the arena full out.

I don’t know about you, but I am willing to be vulnerable, to keep myself open despite the knocks life has served me. I want not only to feel the length of my life, but as Katherine Woodward Thomas says, I want to feel the width and the depth of it too. And I want to share the richness of my life because profound connection is what I am here to experience.

One thing is for certain: we don’t come out of this life alive. We might as well live fiercely with all that we have and with all that we are.

Courage will get us to those places yet unimagined. I want to go there. Do you?