Help

stepping_stones_of_memory_by_nwwes-d3krg59I have lots of help. I am surrounded by a community of family and friends who, despite not always understanding my choices, support and trust me. I also benefit from the broader “help” available to me, a community larger than those who appear as flesh and blood in this life and on this earth. I am continuously humbled by the support I receive from both when my intentions and actions match a greater purpose.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, I’ve written another book in an attempt to reach a broader audience. While the process hasn’t been without obstacles — that’s where the lessons are learned, after all — the validation; the offers of help, resources and creative support; the loving and wise feedback; the number of folks who “get” what I’m trying to do here… It’s overwhelming. And the process has only just begun.

I’m writing this partly so I have it to refer to on those days when I doubt my purpose or why I’m making myself, my secrets and my family so vulnerable. Or when I wonder why my book merits the attention of anyone outside my doting and biased inner circle. I will need to be reminded that reaching people, touching people, lighting a path, holding up a mirror and allowing them to see themselves in my story is a major part of my soul’s purpose in this lifetime. I will need to remember all the assistance I enjoy and that they wouldn’t be with me unless there was a grander design behind it all.

I have a lot to be grateful for. But today I am grateful for this phase of the journey and those walking beside me, holding my hand, whispering in my ear lovingly when the doubts and fears arise, helping me see the next stable stone across the rushing river, and cheering when I successfully jump onto it.

In the truest sense, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you. Thank you.

On knowingness

the-thinkerI spend at least a little time on social media every day. Mostly I keep track of my friends and family and what people are thinking and talking about around the globe. On occasion I take some silly quiz telling me which Game of Thrones characters I would be (Daenerys Targaryen) or what my animal totem is (wolf). It’s fun and just accurate enough for me to remain curious about the next one.

Not long ago I took a semi-legitimate test that had been posted by a Facebook friend. It measured how much I used both the left and right hemispheres of my brain—the right being the creative, open, intuitive side and the left offering logic and analytical thought. Jill Bolte Taylor’s brilliant book My Stroke of Insight and wildly popular TED Talk provide the most memorable explanation and illustration of their unique talents.

According to the test, I currently use exactly 50% of each hemisphere. When I saw this I was genuinely surprised. My whole life I have struggled with the continuous nattering my mind, usually ruled by my left brain, offers. Over the years, though admittedly less in recent ones, it has provided a steady diet of almost purely analytical solutions based on carefully considered pro and con lists; insecurities and doubts masked as thoughtful, reasonable caution; and big decisions made only if my brain could offer some rationale to back up what my gut was telling me. I was pleased with the results of my now more balanced approach, but still I questioned them a bit, until a few days ago.

This week I made a decision based solely on my intuition. I’ve been doing that more often (see Unsafe Choices). But this one truly had no logical or practical reinforcement. A job moonlighting as a hostess at a local restaurant fell in my lap one day. The young woman who held this position, but had to quit for a volunteer gig she loved, was cutting my hair as she told me all about it. On paper, the job made a lot of sense. It was at a well-respected farm-to-table restaurant in a great location, weeknights only, nice people, low maintenance. Mostly, it got me out into the community I’d chosen as my new home. I even worked one night of training and found it lived up to my expectations. Two days later I quit.

There’s nothing much to explain. There is no clear reason and I don’t know exactly why. All I know is that my intuition—a gut feeling—took me there. Before I made the call to my new boss, I did just enough cleaning and looking to make sure any lingering insecurities about doing a job I haven’t done in 25 years weren’t disguising their voices, masquerading as my intuition and higher self. My mind can be crafty that way sometimes. Turns out it was just a glimmer, a shadow of a red flag I couldn’t entirely see yet but couldn’t shake, so therefore I was supposed to pay attention to it. With hesitation, I did.

I called, I apologized, he understood, and I know I did the right thing. I don’t know for certain how I know, but I do. And perhaps I’m not supposed to. Perhaps the reasons will never present themselves merely to show me they don’t have to. Through this process I was reminded it’s okay to just know what I know, and trust that enough to act on it. This time I didn’t try to layer the decision after the fact with a thoughtful rationale or retrospective wisdom. I didn’t sit in meditation until I could see everything clearly because I simply had to know why. I just let it sit there quietly. So far it’s remained quiet, but it’s only been a few days.

We need our left brains for survival, to calculate a proper tip and to figure out how to fit the luggage and the bike with training wheels into the back of the car. But we don’t need them as much as most of us believe we do. Not everything needs to make sense or match up. Logic and intuition often agree somewhere, but when they don’t the higher wisdom is still there for the taking.

It’s waiting with open eyes and open arms. It just wants to be seen, felt and heard. It doesn’t need to be understood.

Clear seeing

I-can-see-clearly-with-great-visionI was at the DMV a few weeks ago. We’d just moved back to California and I needed to get my new driver’s license. In this particular state, they give you lots of tests before allowing inferior out-of-state drivers to have licenses. It’s important to immediately recall what school buses must do at railroad tracks and how many days you have to report that you finally restored the jalopy in your driveway. They also want to make sure your eyes work as you barrel down the highway at 70 miles an hour. So, off to testing I went.

The staffer asked me to cover my right eye and read the bottom line. I rattled it off quickly and correctly. He asked me to cover my left eye and read the same line on the next chart. I pulled away and looked at my husband who was standing off the side, my mouth hanging open in shock. All I could see were fuzzy lines and shapes on all but the gigantic top line. I was surprised to discover that while my left eye still worked like a champ, my right had decided to get lazy on me. I took a stab at the row the staffer mentioned, but when I started saying numbers where clearly letters sat, he put me out of my misery. He took me to a different machine and tested both eyes together there, and I saw just well enough to get a license.

The kind optometrist I visited last week fitted me with magic glasses. One eye at a time he presented lenses that showed me just how much I hadn’t been seeing. For me, it was a slow fuzzing of the edges, an imperceptible fading of clarity. As for the kind optometrist, he was surprised the DMV had passed me at all. He was only seeing the end of the journey, where change and overuse had made one eye much less clear than the other and its user hadn’t noticed.

As I wiped the numbing drops from my eyes, I silently acknowledged we’re all witnesses to each other’s journeys, even if just in snippets or toward the end of a particular path. Even if the bigger picture isn’t immediately understood by the observer, there is so much that can be seen and learned. Clarity comes and goes. Confusion caused by stress, emotions, physical imbalance and external energy can make it difficult to notice the effect these things may be having – how energy, growth and intuition may be challenged. Those witnessing my journey along with me, even for a moment, can bring to light things I have been ignoring or can’t find neutrality enough to see myself. If I can set aside my own ego and baggage long enough to hear the wisdom they have to offer, no matter how or when it is offered, than I have an overflowing cup of truth, lessons and teachers around me all the time.

I will always trust my own intuition and inner wisdom first, but more than a few times I’ve received insight from friends and strangers alike that I knew instantly was valuable and wise.

Oh, of course, I think every time. I hadn’t seen it that way. I’m so glad I was listening.

As I genuinely thanked my optometrist for restoring my clear sight, he smiled with a hint of judgment and said, “On behalf of all your fellow drivers, I’m glad you finally came to see me.”

I laughed. It’s funny because it’s true.

There’s no ego in parenting: a much-needed reminder to me

The Ego DichotomyEgo judges.

Ego thinks there is such a thing as success and failure, and that they are important.

It cares what other parents think.

It makes you question your intuition and what you know in your heart.

It thinks it knows when something is “right” or “wrong.” It still believes they exist. If it’s right, you deserve recognition. If it’s wrong, you deserve rebuke.

It wants you to believe you can reason emotions or inconvenient but genuine reactions away, or if you only explain it differently maybe you can get them to understand.

Ego drives you toward some ideal it has created and continuously points out the things that don’t function within that perfection. It thinks there’s something to fix.

It makes you strive for control even when control doesn’t serve anything else but its own survival.

It makes you angry when your child doesn’t do things in the time you require.

It makes you livid when he does things you specifically asked him not to do.

It makes you fly into a rage when he does these things and then smiles because he knows he just made you fly into a rage.

Ego tells you that to be a parent you need to do anything other than love your child unconditionally.

Ego lets you forget how much you have left to learn and that your children are your greatest teachers.

There is no place for ego in parenting. Only love and openness. Open heart. Open ears. Gratitude, even amongst chaos and tough lessons. Presence, even when your pride makes you want to remain in the past. Forgiveness, even when you realize you let your ego parent your child for a little while.

And love. Always love.

Thank you for the reminder.

Unsafe choices

LeapOfFaithMy son lives in a world that wants to make all his choices for him. Others want to tell him how often to brush his teeth, when to cross the street, whether to wash his hands after he goes potty, when to start kindergarten, whether to wear a jacket, how long to play at the playground. As most young children testing their boundaries and figuring out how they fit in the world, he resists this, but that doesn’t stop the adults around him from trying to protect him.

When he’s climbing on a precarious chair or I see the mischievous twinkle in his eye as he considers darting into a crowd, I often say, “That’s not a safe choice.” This awareness may or may not deter him from the activity, but most of the time it does.

As we get older, that external voice moves inside our own heads and egos. Is this smart? Are you prepared? Is this really a safe choice for you right now? For years I let that voice deter me from countless experiences and opportunities. I still do too often.

My family and I recently made what some would consider a string of not-so-safe choices. In fact, my friend Beattie might say we’re on a “risk bender.” A year ago my husband quit his well-paid, stable job to start his own business. We then went on a month-long road trip in a rented RV down and back up the West Coast. Then a month ago we moved from Seattle to Central Coast California without salaried jobs or any other external catalyst to propel us there (except the 30-day notice from our landlord telling us they want to move back in to their home; thank you for the kick in the pants, universe). We simply wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere we loved, and since both my husband and I work out of home offices we had no reason not to go. Others might disagree with this assessment, and have, but most are too busy admiring the relative size of our balls to voice it. I get where their trepidations came from. With few major employers in the area, we were finally and fully committing to our freelance lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit, all in a down economy. We locked into place our dependence on our talents, business sense and good intentions to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads.

To top it all off, I recently completed and soon will publish a memoir, titled Laugh at the Sky, Kid like this blog (more on that soon), that basically outs me as a practicing clairvoyant and energy healer. This is something I’ve never before written or talked about publicly for fear of the inevitable skepticism and criticism from those who only know me outside of that world.

I’m done making only safe choices. Safe doesn’t bring about change or growth. Safe words don’t reach or move people. Safe actions rarely affect anything below the surface. The old ways, the safe or “proven” ways, don’t move things forward. Inside a cocoon of security, it’s rare to find true happiness or your true purpose. Nothing shifts and there is no reason to search for or even be interested in anything beyond the end of your nose. That is no longer acceptable to me and to so many of you. Thank ever-loving-goodness for that.

As a society we are quickly learning that within the presence of infinite possibilities we all enjoy, there are no wrong choices. There are only ones we are comfortable with in this moment and those we are not.

When the inevitable fear arises as I start down a riskier path, I let this truth wash over me like healing waters. And when I can turn off the narrator in my mind asking me to consider whether this new path is safe or not, I find freedom. I find a place where I can fully be.

Your exquisite voice

Kids ListenOne foggy day, as we climbed a brushed and muddy mountain outside LA, I asked a dear friend a question. After she yet again shared an engaging story containing some very wise and eloquent advice, I asked if she ever had considered writing a book.

“Yes,” she replied. “But why would anyone who doesn’t know me want to hear anything I have to say? What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?”

It’s the writer’s dilemma, the human dilemma, the same doubt anyone who has a pen or a computer or vocal cords faces, isn’t it? At least on those struggling days as we sit with ourselves, wondering how we dare to presume our words are worthy of being heard. If anyone cares what our story is or what ideas swirl in our minds and hearts.

When my friend asked these questions of the mountain sky I was already fifteen years and one published memoir into a marginally successful writing career. I had asked these questions off and on for that many years, usually in particularly vulnerable moments – while questioning the invention of the printing press, my mere existence as a result or why Madonna’s brother was a best-selling author as my little memoir struggled to sell those last five remaining hardcopies in Amazon’s “why can’t we get rid of these” storage lockers.

Every day as I wrote said memoir I asked why my story, shared by so many young cancer survivors, was worthy of anyone’s attention? Why was I so compelled to share it nonetheless? Until the mail started coming in. They said no one was telling this story – my story, their story – so honestly. No one else knew what they were going through. In fact, there were several young survivors telling lots of stories, many very similar and some much more fascinating than mine, including best-selling Lance Armstrong. But these readers were convinced I was the lone voice in a sea of folks they couldn’t hear yet. And they were extraordinarily grateful I was willing to share it.

So, I understood my friend’s doubt. But I had an answer, offered to the same sky she’d asked. It’s what I tell myself and my writer clients regularly. It’s also the notion I offer silently to my son – and me – as he struggles to find his voice in a world that expects him to communicate differently than is natural to him. It’s what we all need to remember every time we open our mouths…

Your voice will be heard by anyone who can and wants to hear it. It’s different and worthy because you are the messenger, and there is someone out there who can’t hear yet because you haven’t said it yet.

Not everyone will care what you say. Not everyone is meant to. But in this moment, with your story, with your energy and words, someone is getting the message, the information, the healing, the inspiration, the provocation, the perspective they need and have been seeking, perhaps without even realizing it.

In return, you will know you are heard. You will feel the frequencies unite and your experience, shared as you will, will combine with those you shared it with to become something even greater. You will understand that you don’t need a book or a blog or a microphone to communicate something exquisite that can be exquisitely heard. But look at what you can do if you try.

Every day I thank my friend for reminding me why I write. We all have a worthy voice that offers transforming beauty, healing laughter and truth that transcends what we think we understand. The lesson is in knowing you do and rising above your fears to offer it to a world that will be better off for having heard it.

For when we are brave enough to tell our stories, we all benefit.

Figuring out authority

A beautiful blue and green Seattle day requires a long trip to the park. With a four-year-old, that translates into some time at the playground, and with Henry that means somewhere with a sidewalk suitable for speedy and spirited tricycle laps. There are always lessons to be learned at the playground. Not long ago, a big one — green, with hypocritical eyes — looked me square in the face. Here’s how I got there.

During a recent visit, my husband Larry and I were enjoying the sun on a bench and getting dizzy watching our son go round and round when we realized a meeting was starting on the grass behind us. We turned around and about eight little girls and their camera-toting mothers sat in a circle. It was the kind of meeting where you wear vests with badges. Ooh, entertainment, we thought as we adjusted our heads to the best eavesdropping angle.

Question AuthorityThe troop leader welcomed everyone to their final meeting and started discussing that meeting’s topic and an opportunity to earn their final badge. What are we earning our badges in today? asked the troop leader. Respect authority, they all said. The kind troop leader reviewed what they discussed the previous meeting, the authority figures in our lives who we should respect – parents, police officers, teachers, troop leaders, coaches, etc. Red flags began to go up in my head, but nothing was really that bad yet. I kept listening.

Why should we respect them? she asked the troop of girls who appeared to be about six years old. With the mothers hovering and the troop leader waiting, the girls began responding as they’d been taught the week before:

Because they protect us.

They take care of us.

Because they know best.

Because they make the rules.

It’s what we’re supposed to do.

The kind troop leader’s response: That’s great, ladies.

I hoped no one in their little blanket circle could see the goose bumps on my arms.

We continued to listen as the girls one by one presented the pictures they’d drawn of an authority figure in their life. Most of them were pretty typical: Mom, Dad, school principal. When talking about their parents, “love” was mentioned a lot, but there was just as much talk about making and following rules. One little girl quietly explained that she’d drawn a picture of President Obama because “he knows what’s best for us and has a lot of power.”

Yes, I know they do amazing things too.

I never participated in any troop-like activities when I was a girl, but I have a generally positive impression of any organization that empowers young women and men. For the girls, a couple of Google searches showed me all the great lessons and badges in addition to “respect authority” – all about community, compassion, self respect, honesty, individual responsibility, supporting other girls, doing good in the world and more. I don’t mean to diminish their work nor the positive influence they have had over countless girls and women.

Shouldn’t ignore the boys either. Despite their homosexuality-challenged policies and other issues, they continue to offer positive opportunities and adventures to those seeking this kind of guidance. (However, they have a similar law about “obedience” and even the right way to go about changing rules…as long as you never disobey them.)

With all of my genuine “they do a lot of great things” disclaimers said, this meeting had the misfortune that day to represent the perfect example of exactly the kind of authority programming we shouldn’t be teaching our children. In fact, we should be teaching them the opposite.

They’re powerful and they know it.

Corporations, governments, politicians, large religious organizations, educational systems, healthcare providers, banks and more. They market their own special brand of authority and quid pro quo. Most of them have a lot of power, and most of them aren’t afraid to use it to get what they need to thrive – your compliance.

If you adhere to my laws, I will protect you and your family.

If you buy my goods and services and don’t question how we do business too much, I will make your life more comfortable and improve the economy.

If you do what I say and take your medicine, I can make you feel better.

If you sit quietly and work hard, you will be successful.

If you pray the right way or believe what I believe, you will go to heaven. Or, better yet, you won’t burn in hell.

This is the messaging we allow to manipulate us, consciously or not. We have become accustomed to giving up a measure of (sometimes imperceptible) control to someone or an institution in exchange for whatever we believe they offer us or, in many cases, out of fear of what will happen if we don’t.

In our current world, questioning authority is critical.

Throughout history, questioning authority has always been necessary for any kind of meaningful change. America was founded on a group of citizens questioning those in power, after all. Our time is no different.

Currently Edward Snowden is somewhere running from the U.S. government after revealing that its anti-terror electronic surveillance techniques are much broader than any ordinary citizens previously knew. Whether you believe he’s a hero or a traitor or something in between, Snowden questioned his authority figures, breaking the rules of his government and his contractor employer, to reveal what he believes to be an unjust overreach. Without Mr. Snowden, would we have ever had anything other than lots of conspiracy theories and Person of Interest to provoke an exploration into this issue?

More importantly, when we don’t question it, there are consequences: Dependence. Willful ignorance. A resistance to change. A willingness to conform or even deny our own beliefs out of apathy or fear. An agreement – spoken or unspoken – to give up our own power to those who would have us believe they are our authorities because that’s what we’re expected to do.

And this belief and resulting behavior is what we often unconsciously, and usually motivated by great love, pass along to our children.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

As I listened to the troop leader, I ran through all my long-held beliefs and societal frustrations detailed above and began writing this blog in my head and heart. I wanted to be sure to make note of the organizational line she was leading from and all the ways it is different from my own intentions etc. etc. etc.

If I’m to look at the whole truth, I also have to point my eye squarely back on myself. It didn’t take long to spot a programmer no farther away than my own nose.

At four years old, Henry is all about his independence. Often it manifests as saying a strong ‘no’ just so he’s refusing to do what I want or at least refusing to do it my way or on my timeline. I’ve built up a strong tolerance for this, and often quietly cheer him on out of respect. I was similarly strong-willed as a young person, much to my parents’ dismay.

Reminder to self: Our son isn’t a horse that needs to be broken.

As a family we’ve developed strategies to give Henry back some choice or control in any given situation. Or at minimum an explanation he can understand as to why we’re asking him to flush the toilet. Our intention is to support his independent spirit and nurture a belief in his own power. That’s our intention.

But some days, I just need him to put his ever-loving shoes on so we can get to preschool or give up the bag of cookies he found in the back of the cupboard and now has a vice grip on or stop chucking rocks at the kitchen window or for god’s sake for the last time hold my hand while crossing the street.

In these situations, more often than I’m comfortable with I’ve offered some version of this response to my child when he questioned me as his authority figure:

Why do I have to listen to you?
Because I’m your mother.

Why should I comply with that rule?
Because I love you and I’m protecting you from danger.

Why shouldn’t I throw rocks at the window?
Because that’s the rule.

Why do I have to go to school today?
Because it’s what’s best for you.

That’s how it starts, right? Follow me because I have power over you. Why, Mommy? Because it’s easier for both of us, but really only for me.

Authority is given and can be taken away.

I want my child to believe that authority is earned through trust and given only by choice. That it should always be questioned. That authority can be taken away when it is abused or even if he decides he doesn’t want or need that authority figure any more. There’s always a careful balance to strike, but I want him to be empowered and strong in his convictions, enough so that he doesn’t hesitate to follow his own heart even when it doesn’t comply with anyone else’s rules.

I want Henry to respect me because I am true to myself and my beliefs and because I likewise offer him the respect he deserves, not because I have any measure of power over him. But first I have to admit that though I so easily talk about these convictions I don’t always walk them. I’m grateful to the group of sweet little girls, their loving mothers and their well-intentioned troop leader for reminding me so pointedly how important this lesson is, and that I’m still learning it.