Life’s too short to finish crappy novels

crappy novels

I pick it up. I feel through the pages for the dog-eared one and begin again. I read two pages and have only a shy comprehension of  the words I just read. It should be interesting–it’s a beautiful picture of a lonely man in a foreign country caught in love with someone who loves for a living. I’m uninterested. I press on. I’m half way through the book.

And now here I am, forcing something just to finish. I’m wound tight in the idea that if I hold out a little longer, read one more chapter, I’ll get it, feel it. But I know better. Life is strange and scintillating and above all, finite. There are some things to press through, to see to the end. Shitty novels are not one of them. 

 

Do the work. Trust yourself. Say thank you.

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Gathered from scraps of paper, sticky notes, the backs of bills, a cocktail napkin, words spoken to Siri, some never posted blog drafts and a recent hallway conversation, these are things I’m learning to live by.

 

  • Be intentional. Wake up each morning and decide you’re going to make a difference in someone’s life.

 

  • Take criticism with grace. If it’s true, find a way to make the change. If it’s not true, let it go.

 

  • When someone gives you a compliment, say thank you.

 

  • Laugh when you can, apologize when you should and let go of things you cannot change.

 

  • Make decisions. When you take to long, you waste a lot of time “thinking” and slow your momentum. Still, when you make a decision, stick to it for as long as it makes sense and allow yourself to change your mind when needed.

 

  • Trust your gut. Especially when you don’t want to.

 

  • Begin. Start now. Don’t wait for permission. “If you want to live the life you haven’t lived, you have to you’ve to do things you’ve never done.” -Jen Sincero

 

  • It’s never too late to start over. If yesterday sucked, begin again. If you weren’t happy with the results of your efforts last week, try something new. The point is, move forward. Don’t stay stuck. Evolve.

 

  • Love hard. 

 

  • Don’t insulate yourself from pain and discomfort. You’ll grow more if you let it in then if you waste your energy building a wall.

 

  • Don’t be afraid of failure; it’s part of the creative process. The point is (see #7) you’ve got to dive in head first, with passion and determination. Acknowledge when things aren’t working and change, quickly. Caveat: Know the difference between the work is hard and this is the uncomfortable part and this isn’t working, it’s time to switch gears.

How to be Mindful During the Holidays

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Goodbye November. I’ve got a month of mindfulness ahead of me and I’m ready to begin. The holidays are a wonderful time but they can also be filled with excess and expectation. We come together as friends and families but with that comes the pressure to provide meals, gifts and even our time–which seems like the easiest thing to give, but when you have dozens of people to touch in a short period, this can be a challenge. And then there’s the excess. It’s part our culture to celebrate with food but with so many celebrations in such a short time, the calorie counts soar, causing every gym and health club to brace for (and revel in) the crowd of people who hit the door January 2nd, still reeling from 6 weeks of over-indulgence.

But does it always have to be this way? It seems like everywhere I turn there are angry people voicing their concern that the local holiday parade is called just that in order to accommodate people of all faiths and beliefs. There are family members at odds because they can’t agree on plans. There are people running themselves ragged, giving up their personal time to exercise or reflect, just to do more of the required holiday stuff.

This time of year is not likely to change but it doesn’t mean we can’t change the way we react to it ourselves. As we turn the corner of the holiday season and say goodbye to Thanksgiving until next year, there are things we can do to strengthen our souls and spirits in the next month, instead of overwhelming or ignoring them.

 1. Don’t put all of your personal routines on hold. 

With vacation days, school breaks, travel and no shortage of things to get done, it’s tempting to disregard the routines that serve us personally, like taking a moment to meditate or write, hit the gym or read a book. This is a time where we want to give so much of ourselves to others–and the best way to do that is by first, making sure

2. Be grateful. 

There are more people, experiences and things in your life to be grateful for than you can count. So try. Create a list of all of the things to be grateful for and reflect on them throughout the month.

3. See more.

Experience the food, the lights, the music and the space around you with new eyes. These things are here and then they are gone. Appreciate their splendor.

4. Forgive. 

Give yourself a gift this season. Forgiveness is one a powerful way to rejuvenate the spirit. Forgiveness does not mean whatever happened will be forgotten but it does mean that you are releasing the negative feelings surrounding it and deciding to not let it control you any longer. When you do this, you make room for new and wonderful experiences in your life.

5. Practice empathy. 

When you encounter someone who steps in front of you in line, snaps at you at work, cuts you off on the road, remember that they have their own stresses. You do not know their story. You do not know their struggles. Put yourself in their shoes and treat them the way you would want to be treated.

6. Drink water. Sleep.

This seems simple, but so many people underestimate how much water they actually consume and the quality of sleep they actually get (let alone the length). It’s proven that we function better when properly hydrated and rested so just make this a must!

7. Trade judgement for kindness. 

The holidays seem to bring out the best in some and the worst in others. Use this time to feel warmth and kindness towards others instead of casting judgment.

8. Let go of expectations. 

This is a time of year that is fraught with expectations that just can’t reasonably be fulfilled. Instead of committing to the way you think things should be, stay present and ground and roll with the punches (this is by far my hardest rule to abide by).

9. Love yourself.

Stop looking at your flaws and missteps and appreciate everything that makes you you.

10. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” -Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk

Wounds in the Process Of Healing

 

brene-brown

“We’ve all fallen. And we have the skinned knees and bruised hearts to prove it. But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”

My parents like to tease me about a video of me when I three and in my first year of pre-school in Pennsylvania. Throughout the year, our class had someone tape “interviews” with each of us, along with our holiday performances and parties. Then, at the conclusion, each family had a personalized year-book on tape, glimmering with the hopes and dreams and oddities of their own child. In mine, I sang to the camera-man, I often turned the “questioning” back on him and I revealed my talent for knowing the difference between a boy Easter bunny and a girl Easter bunny (one wears blue and one wears pink of course).

Over the years, my mom has told the story of my video proudly to many and I’ve come to realize that she was not as proud of me for my performance skills–although I did belt out a fabulous rendition of “Where is Rainbow Bright,” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” and reaffirmed my dance skills during the solo in our class Christmas performance in which I chose to lift my dress up over my head while swaying to the music–as she was by my unabashed self-promotion and assuredness. I was all-in. I was proud, fearless and full of self-confidence. And I was having a hell of a time.

Not long after that candid, documented time in my life, I began my life-long battle with perfectionism. I began to recognize consequences of failure and learned the easy habit of self-doubt. I’ve spent much of my life fighting between the two very different, very pervasive sides of my personality–the fearless girl who wants nothing more than to have a purpose, rise and shine and show the world what she’s got, and the one who hears the cruel whispers of perfectionism reminding me of the what-ifs: What if I don’t say the right words? What if I mess up? What if I they don’t like it?

I was driving to work one day and on a billboard outside of a church was written “Acknowledge life’s hurt, habits, and hang-ups.” I pulled in to the parking lot and wrote it down, not sure what it meant to me yet, but knowing it was something important. Then came Brene Brown’s latest book, Rising Strong. There are so many things I love about this book, but the thing that has stuck with me the most is the thing Brown calls the “messy middle,” which describes the part of our story in which we’ve falling and are trying to figure how to get back up.

Brown writes, “But scars are easier to talk about than they are to show, with all the remembered feelings laid bare. And rarely do we see wounds that are in the process of healing. I’m not sure if it’s because we feel too much shame to let anyone see a process as intimate as overcoming hurt. Or, if it’s because even when we muster the courage to share our still incomplete healing, people reflexively look away.”

I’ve decided to start my process over again by sharing the fears (not altogether rational) that have crept up on me in the time of my own messy middle with the hope that the act of writing them down and putting them out there will in itself pay homage to the fact that we are where we are. We all fail. We are all afraid. It’s okay to be low.

The Fear:

The fear that I can’t find my voice. The fear that I’ll never be a good writer. The fear that I might appear too self-confident. The fear that I will appear not self-confident enough. The fear that my words will be taken wrong.  The fear that I will offend somebody. The fear that I am not good enough. The fear that I will make a fool of myself. The fear that I will not be the best I could have been. The fear that I will not succeed. The fear that I will not bounce back. The fear that I have wasted my time. The fear that I gave up too soon. The fear that I didn’t quit soon enough. the fear that I am too hard-headed. The fear that I put up with more than I should. The fear that I am selling myself short. The fear that I won’t tell enough of the truth. The fear that I will say too much.  The fear that I am not a good enough friend. The fear that I have let someone down. The fear that I will let someone down. The fear that someone close to me is hurting, and I am not engaged enough to know. The fear that I made too much out of nothing. The fear that I made not enough out of something very big. The fear that I don’t laugh enough. The few that I might laugh at something that hurts someone else. The fear that I take things too seriously. The fear that others won’t get me.  The fear that it’s written all over my face.

In Response to My Own Fears:

May I learn to trust the process more and worry less about the outcome. May I muster up the courage to sing more, dance more, go all in.

May I worry less about what other people think. May I contribute more to other people’s joy.

May I take more time to enjoy the moment, be present, uninhibited, and happy in the midst of imperfection and fear.

 

Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn

alicerabbit

The past five months have been some of the strangest in my life. When I stop and reflect on them, I see that I was living in a way that I have always admired in other people without even knowing. Because circumstances were beyond my control and the stress could have easily eaten me alive, I had to make a decision to look forward, live with the risks and just handle whatever was coming at me in the moment. At the time, it just felt like survival.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written and of course, the longer you wait to do something, the easier it is to build that something up in your head, until it seems enormous and out of reach, looming above your head. I tend to look at the things I am not accomplishing more closely than the things that I am experiencing at that very moment. When I look back at my notepad, I realize that I have been writing all along these last two months, just not in my usual format. Here are a few sentiments I wrote down that have stayed with me on the journey.

Fear can only hurt us if we let it.

Trust yourself.

Sometimes, the best way to solve a problem is to stop participating in it.

Well, why the hell not?

The best people possess a a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable, they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. -Ernest Hemingway

There is no path to happiness; happiness is the path.

Take courage.

Choose to see beauty.

Let go.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. -Thomas Edison

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. -Ernest Hemingway

The bad news is, people are crueller and meaner and more evil than you’ve ever imagined. The good news is people are kinder, gentler and more loving that you’ve ever dreamed.

Always be kinder than you feel.

Be quick and curious and playful and strong.

Don’t stumble over something behind you.

Trust the vibes you get from other people. Energy doesn’t lie.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better. -Maya Angelou

The trouble is, you think you have time. -Buddha

You don’t need a reason to follow your heart.

Don’t settle: don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it. -Chris Brogan

Wake up each day and say ‘Thank you.’

Silence is so accurate. -Mark Rothko

Kindness has a beautiful way of reaching down in to the weary heart and making it shine like the rising sun.

Be happy for no reason.

If running is difficult, run more. This lesson applies to many things.

Fall in love often.

Doubt is your only disability. -Chris Mott

You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body. -C.S. Lewis

Be filled with wonder. Be touched by peace.

Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. -Mary Oliver

 

Life’s too Short to Worry. Life’s too Long To Wait.

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1. Be Authentic. The most powerful asset you have is your individuality–what makes you unique. Don’t put too much equity in other people’s opinions.

2. Trust the process. Expect plot twists.

3. Work hard and you will always benefit from it.

4. Create. Do. Make things. Innovation in thinking is not nearly enough.

5. Travel as much as you can. It is a humbling and inspiring experience to be reminded how much you don’t know.

6. Strive for grace. There’s always room for more grace and there’s always another chance to embody it.

7. “Do Good.” The Golden Rule actually works.

8. Read everything. Read with an open-mind and a child’s fascination.

9. Go out on more limbs.

10. If you want to change, change. You are what you are until you decide you are something else.

11. Connect in real ways. Life is visceral. Get off your devices and connect with real people in real-time in real culture.

12. Instinct and intuition–learn to feel and trust them.

13. Let passion guide you. The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.

14. If you like to eat pretzels in bed, eat pretzels in bed. Occasionally. Don’t abuse your own power.

15. Be a dreamer AND a doer.

 
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