Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When you keep doing what you've always done...

From our earliest days we learn that if we cry, our stomachs are filled, our fears are soothed, our bum is  clean and dry. While our needs change as we age, we are conditioned that certain behaviors and actions will provide us with the results we want.

Until it doesn't.

Last week, Seth Godin challenged readers to think consciously about our personal narrative. (You can read it in its entirety here.)

Godin writes: "Did you wake up fresh today, a new start, a blank slate with resources and opportunities.... or is today another day of living out of the narrative you've been engaged in for years? For all of us, it's the latter. We maintain our worldview, our biases, our grudges, and our affections. We nurse our grudges and see the very same person (and situations) in the mirror today that we did yesterday. It's painful to even consider giving up the narrative we use to live our life. We vividly remember the last time we made an investment that didn't match our self story, or the last time we went to the "wrong" restaurant or acted the "wrong" way in a sales call. No, that's too risky, especially now, in this economy. So we play it safe and go back to our story."

Instead of playing it safe, what if we allow ourselves a little bit of risk? A little deviation from the tried and true? What if the "tried and true" is really not getting us what we want?

"If you keep doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always gotten." - W.L. Bateman

What if your narrative, your way of making decisions and living your life, opened up ever so slightly? What if you took a risk on something that was good rather than setting it aside because it wasn't quite perfect? We all run wounded in some way with scars and baggage and ick that we carry around with us. Humans are not perfect and we go to great lengths to try to make our lives that way in order to avoid pain and hurt. Not that there's anything wrong with that inherently, but what amazing opportunities are we missing because we are following our plan to avoid taking the risk of living with our whole selves?

The truth is, breakthroughs and new experiences aren't usually found in the safe places of life. Not much new in the ruts of the road. Is that really getting you where you want to be? I'm talking about setting the map aside and maybe taking the next exit off the autobahn. Even if you don't know where you are headed... take a leap of faith.

We all have those wounds that life and love have left behind. They may be very fresh, they may be in the process of healing, and they may be scars, but we all have them. I want to challenge you to think and feel - at what point does your narrative hold you back from opening up and taking the risk of living fully and true to the person you are meant to be?

"Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." ~ Voltaire
(The perfect is the enemy of the good.)

"I'm just gonna let something brand new happen to me." ~ CeeLo Green
(Gen X Barry White)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Homesick for England

So typically English country...

This week has made me homesick for England. It feels like the spring time visits we have made in the past when we have left the brown and gray of Iowa for the intoxicating green humidity of England. The daffs blooming as wildflowers through the woods. With a single rain shower earlier in the week, it seems as though everything was washed with green.
The garden is looking pathetic and wants to be cleaned up. A little at a time and it will get done. This year, more flowers. I envision an explosion of a cottage garden that will supply me with bouquets all summer long and into the fall.

I don't know that I have ever mowed as early as this, but my yard needs to be cut. This Domestic Goddess is expanding her repertoire and has watched a YouTube video on how to sharpen the blade, change the oil, the whole bit. I will not be intimidated....much.
Yes, really.
The beauty of the early spring has thrown allergy fighting into a full-time occupation. In fact, we are starting spring break early with coughs, wheezing, and splitting headaches today. We're popped on antihistimines and laying low. An early spring makes it a long time until the first killing freeze of fall.
This is a familiar spot for the fam! Ipswich quay on the River Orwell

Spring weather like this sparks new ideas and interests. The walk/run thing has started, however... see ref. to allergies above... I am eager to paint and freshen the house. I am making new friends, staying in touch with old friends, and getting to know myself after many years of being disconnected.
The kids are off to spend the week with Grandma and Grandpa and I am thinking of all the alone time I will have. Delicious, yet daunting all at the same time... A break and change of routine is always welcome. I'm thinking cereal for dinner just about every night next week sounds really good. And browsing through photos of spring breaks spent in England will help the homesickness...
What is spring nudging in you? What new growth is pushing its way to the surface in you?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March Madness is more than basketball

Today's view from the porch is green... not just because it is St. Patrick's Day but because we have had an unusually warm stretch of weather for mid-March. There are crocuses blooming, daffs not far behind, and even the tulips are pushing up. I've seen magnolias ready to bloom. "March madness" in more ways than one.

We are a men's college basketball household and pride ourselves in being excellent spectators. Our brackets are busted and only the first round of games have been played. But what fun.

March madness refers to the weather, the fun term for the wall-to-wall basketball tournaments for both men and women going on right now, and all the madness in my house these days.
  1. My son passed his test to earn his learner's permit yesterday. Enough said.
  2. Both kids had excellent report cards.
  3. Another birthday bonanza with both kids' birthdays seven days apart, now 14 and 11. 
  4. I'm starting a running program. Yes. At my age.
We missed the joy of March Madness a year ago. At that time, it truly was madness in a very serious way. My children's father was in the hospital with alcohol-related liver failure and all the related complications made it a life-threatening situation. I was encouraged to have what I hope was the most difficult conversation with my children ever. In the lobby of this huge teaching hospital, I told them that their dad might not make it. He might not get better and that he would not be coming home to live with us again. 

The past year has been filled with stops and starts as we found our new way of being normal. What we really discovered is how to live fully and openly. With credit to Paul Johnson for this observation, when we have brought our individual brokenness, sadness, and hurt, together with each other, we have created something really amazing. We have created a new family. 

The joy of spring feels amazing this week. New life, renewal, the world waking up and turning green again. I don't think I have ever enjoyed being alive more. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Celebrating Because You Need It

This morning's view from the porch is sunny at 6 a.m. This won't be the case tomorrow when we monkey with time tonight. Spring forward, fall back... I love falling back, but springing forward is a lot harder. Relishing the sunshine this morning and wondering why we don't just leave the clock alone...

It's been a wild week. We are a high school family in training, with freshman registration coming up next week. We've been to the high school musical. We've listened to both the middle and high school jazz bands in competition in Iowa City. We have confirmation class at church. We followed the boys basketball team and their trip to the state tournament. We are studying for a learner's permit. And we reveled in the progression of music education from 5th to 8th grades last night. The entire week has had one school or youth function after another.

I have close friends who are teetering on the edge of empty nests and right now, a little bit of that sounds kind of, oh... relaxing? But I also know without any doubt that I will be melancholy when my time comes up, too.
We are in the midst of the birthday bonanza in my house. My son turned 14 on Monday and my daughter turns 11 this coming Monday. So the house is decorated for a couple of weeks and there's always cake and ice cream - at least until it's gone.

Celebrations feel good and I am of the spirit that sometimes, one must create a celebration because it is a Thursday. Or, come to think of it, because we change the time on the clocks... maybe tonight we'll celebrate having an evening with time to be at home for dinner... homemade pizza is sounding pretty good...

Make a celebration if you need one. It can be as simple as phoning a friend or as elaborate as planning a party. For all the crazy it brings, life is good. Enjoy your view today.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Teen Spirit

Yesterday's skies showered us with the biggest, fattest, jaw-dropping  flakes of snow that made us a little more than grateful that it couldn't pile up for the warmth of the earth. A snowfall like that is much more fun in December than in early March. However, there are patches of little green things out there, shoots of daffodils, and signs that spring is springing.

For those of us whose seasons follow a school calendar, it is high school musical season. The kids and I went to see the musical production at our high school last night and it was quite impressive. From the students with the leads, to those who lent their voices, and all those who worked unseen but did the magic, it was spectacular. A certain incoming freshman who lives in my house had that same look on his face as he did last spring when he decided he loved jazz and was ready to add the trumpet to his list of instruments so that he could play the music. A tradition goes forward and scores of high school musical memories come flooding back...

I doubt that few of us can say with confidence that we like what we see in the world. Financial crises, incredible disasters, school shootings, war, and outright hatred being shown to others daily. Fear is a very powerful emotion and drives so much of this. It's extraordinarily hard for those of us who are self-proclaimed and die-hard Pollyannas.

But then you decide to buy tickets to the high school musical, you go to the girls basketball game, you listen to the students who compete in the speech contest.... and it makes the negative in the world somehow much less potent.

Another reinforcing shot of teen spirit on the schedule for today, delivered through the wonders of jazz played by middle and high school students. It's all the more potent because they want to do it, they have an interest - even a passion for it. I will soak it all up, and give it back to them.