My 11 month old daughter will pick up fragments off the floor and show them to me, as if she just found a nugget of gold, or evidence to unlock the meaning of life. I love when she does this. Her curiosity about the feel of a dried bread crumb or how a shred from the cardboard cat scratcher can be held between her thumb and index finger reminds me that life is wonderful. Life is full of wonder. I think this fact is easy to overlook or forget about, when our attention is aimed at all the noise coming from media outlets and the resulting circular conversations.
Part of the work I do with clients is to unearth the wonder and give it more space. We all start out with a great capacity to see the miraculous. It seems that at various points in our lives we are handed blinders that come with the promise of success, and whatever dream that word projects for us.
Thoughts are like travelers we meet along the way; sometimes knowing where they come from helps us to understand them; some are entertaining; some are inspiring and make us change our direction; some carry so much baggage it’s a real drag to be around them.
I’m fortunate that the hater traveler is not part of my entourage. You know the one. They constantly tell you you’re doing it all wrong and question every single thing you do. I run into this one sometimes for sure, but can shake ‘em off pretty quickly.
My core posse tends to consist of the planner, the photographer, and the mountaineer. The planner likes to (as you may have guessed) think ahead, strategize, and structure. The photographer insists on documenting, documenting, documenting. And the mountaineer is constantly pushing to ascend another peak. Having these fellow travelers around is nice, but I have to constantly manage them so they don’t rob me of the moment. Too much planning and looking ahead and I miss the incredible experience of being present. If the photographer had their way, I’d always have a device between me and reality—as a buffer and also to prove to myself that it all really did happen. The mountaineer’s ideal itinerary would keep me busy but leave me with no time to process, learn and grow.
I cross paths with these three time and time again, we walk together for a little while sometimes and then we say “until next time.” There are other travelers who I’ve had to say goodbye to altogether. They were keeping me from the path that’s right for me.
Prompt for Power Year clients:
Think about the habitual thoughts in your life. Is it time to let go of any of them? Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Well, it’s the final week of expressing gratitude for needs found in Maslow’s hierarchy. This week: self-actualization. Depending on which pyramid chart you look at, a variety of descriptors are used to explain what self-actualization encompasses; education, motivation, justice, honesty, altruism, creativity, emotional growth; morality, spontaneity, problem solving. Boiled down, self-actualization is to realize fully one’s potential.
Is this possible or are there just many false summits of self-actualization?
How many lifetimes does it take to get there?
It’s funny, I spent over ten years of my life dedicated to a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower young people to realize their full potential. All the while, I denied myself of exactly that. Because it’s terrifying to turn the eye inward. For real and for the long run. Not just for a moment until you see something that scares you and then you switch back to trying to empower everyone else except yourself.
It’s like someone shuffled up the pages of life’s instruction manual and I was trying to complete step two before step one. Life worked, just not as fully as it could.
I’m thankful for the perspective I gained from all the youth and families who I served while working in the non-profit sector. I’m thankful to be in a position of privilege, and that I feel less guilty and defensive about that position each day. I’m thankful for the education I received in college. I’m thankful for the access to free knowledge I have via the public library. I’m thankful for every step toward self-actualization that I take. I’m thankful to know how to navigate the line between self-awareness and self-centeredness. I’m thankful to know that fully realizing my own potential means I’m contributing to the greater good.
Striving for social justice is exhausting. This is what I’ve learned during my 12 years working for a large, youth serving non-profit. I’m tired. Not from the kids though. Working with them makes me come alive. It’s the endless hoops to jump through and glimpses of the good ol’ boys club that I find most discouraging and counterproductive. My frustration is nothing new. I actually left the non-profit world six years ago for a short stint, fed up with some of the same issues that I find myself wresting with today. But like an old lover who lures you back against your better judgement, I returned thinking things would be different.
From my perspective, the mission of the organization that I fully believe in has gotten buried under a pile of steaming hot bullshit. It’s disgusting, I know. Now I’m going to analyze it, like parents of kids do with their corn filled poo. Or beet poo, which is always alarming until you remember you ate beets.
Come! Dive in to the BS that I’ve been sorting through. First, I should introduce you to the head honcho. He was hired a little over a year ago by the organization’s Board of Directors. He beat out a highly qualified woman who I doubt would have made staff spend time and energy on a fear based emergency response app, as he is currently doing. Apparently it’s not enough that staff are trained to deal with emergency situations by calling the police and following the standard operating procedures. Head honcho insists on playing pretend crisis (homage to his previous days in the military?). He holds various meetings (that I don’t have to attend, but hear many complaints about) that distract a handful of staff from their primary job responsibilities. My guess is that during these meetings, he communicates the plans for the next pretend crisis. Someone leaked the storyline of the next pretend crisis to me (which I’m slated to play the role of a member who is taken hostage) and I found myself trying to calculate the time and resources wasted on this manufactured war game, created by THE MAN. I’ve heard people refer to him as the poop flinger, which makes me laugh because I imagine him walking through the office with a big smile on his face, flinging poop into people’s work areas, saying, “YOU’RE WELCOME and there’s more where that came from!” And there is. I could go on about what a large contributor he is to the mile high pile of BS I find myself being forced to swallow, but I’d rather not.
Let’s move on and see what else this BS is made of. Ah yes, the funding that determines the programming we offer. The funding that reveals more and more hoops to jump through just as you think you’re through the last of it. So much effort jumping through the hoops, distracted from the work that matters. Humans have only so much bandwidth, it’s a shame when it’s all spent on zero impact programming.
There’s more to the BS, but it’s rapidly becoming uninteresting to me. Instead, I like to imagine the organization out there that is led by someone who fosters a positive work environment that values its employees and encourages them to be innovative—authentically, not just lip service as one of the company values. I want to believe that this organization exists, that numerous organizations like it exist. I have to believe there are other fish in the sea, because I gave my boss my letter of resignation on Friday. My last day is October 29th.
I’d say the first objective of my PY35 is in good shape. I don’t feel stuck in the work realm, I feel free.
It’s been well over a month since I’ve gone screen free in the evenings. My phone sits on the counter far, far away from my reach. I don’t even think of sitting down at the computer to get lost and tangled up in the interwebs, I stay out of the t.v. room. I follow the 6:00 technology curfew that I read about on a friend’s blog.
I like to think my brain appreciates the break from all things screen, especially given the possibility of these negative effects. So what have I been doing instead of staring at a screen in the evening?
I’ve lost myself in books lately and have found the zone. It’s awesome. I feel like I’m a kid again, totally engrossed in the worlds of the characters who I read about. In some cases my heart has been pulled out of my chest. You know the saying, “My heart goes out to you.” Such was the case when I read about Bone in Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. I found such satisfaction watching Lisbeth Salander serve up justice in Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was surprised to find Amy Poehler as a kindred spirit, reading her essays in Yes Please. I fired up my Goodreads account (morning updates during on screen time–technology as a tool, yay moderation) that had been stagnant since 2009.
I’m able to invest myself in books more, since my brain’s attention span is building up from time away from the internet superhighway and lightening speed social media platforms in general.
I’m a fan of walking in general, I like the pace and seeing my neighborhood in a way that’s impossible through the window of a car. One evening after dinner, K and I took some dice on our walk and left direction to chance (roll of 1-2 left, 3-4 straight, 5-6 right). Each roll relieved my excited anticipation, I love when joy appears unexpected.
Some friends invited K and me to join them for dinner and an evening at Lakeside Amusement Park. That place is magic. They seemingly haven’t made any aesthetic updates in decades. And there is a real element of fear when you’re riding the Wild Chipmunk, I don’t think they allow rides like that to be built these days. Bonus: we witnessed a poor kid projectile vomit. No screen comes close to capturing the sound and smell of in-person projectile vomit!
I’ve been listening to stories told at The Narrators events since the shows took place at Paris on the Platte. Every time I leave a show, I feel like my soul has been replenished.In the context of my screen free evenings, I found myself valuing the true stories told by people at this month’s event, even more so than usual. There was a sacredness to parts of this month’s show. The theme was “Crushed” and a few of the storytellers were so open with their hearts, I found myself feeling like I was witness to part of their healing process, part of their personal transformation. I feel deep gratitude for them sharing themselves, unfiltered and raw. They displayed the type of courage that’s rarely recognized. It’s more matter of fact than guns blazing. And they did it with skill and grace. I’ve been witness to people’s personal healing in inappropriate arenas (they are the trainer and are sharing personal stories that don’t connect at all to the content of the training and it feels like they are getting free therapy from a room full of strangers). The storytellers that left an impression on me Wednesday evening spoke from the heart and offered incredibly insightful, sage advice.
My screen free evenings will continue, it’s a habit I’m happy to have started. Life is about balance and I get plenty of screen time during the day and on the weekends. I like interacting with the physical world around me too much to be looking at screens, constantly thinking about the past or the future. I enjoy being in the moment. The moment is off screen.
I consider myself the type of person who rarely acts on emotion. I err on the side of logic and reason. Don’t worry, I’m capable of feeling, it’s just not the force that drives me. Except for that earlier this week my feelings were PRECISELY what drove me, rather froze me, and I’ve been processing it ever since.
FEAR. What a mothercusser, am I right? I’m fortunate to not be frozen with it in my day to day life, or its sidekick anxiety. I am grateful that I can fall asleep easy each night, no ruminating about what or how someone said something to me, no worrying about tomorrow. Just my head hitting the pillow and then sleep does its magic (okay, science) with my brain and I wake up rested and ready to go. I appreciate this luxury of an axiety-free existence because I have friends and loved ones who I care deeply about, who I see have to deal with spending time and energy on managing feelings that don’t necessarily serve them. It’s not fair.
I got to experience a small sample of what it’s like to feel controlled by emotion earlier this week when I was in Zion National Park with K. We were on the Angel’s Landing Hike and had reached Scout Lookout, when we came across this:
I’m what people call “afraid of heights with an edge.” Or maybe I’m the only one who qualifies like that. Besides there being several red flags on that sign provided by the park (I spy four, how many do you count?), my body shifted into high alert mode. As K and I made our way up the edge of the cliff, literally hanging on to some metal chain that was “anchored” into the rock, I kept picturing myself falling off and tumbling to my death. I should mention that the metal chain didn’t span the entire way, there were parts with no
chain, where you had to just trust your own two legs not to give out. Before crossing one of these spots, I sat, with white knuckles on metal chain, as other hikers pranced by, like thousand foot drops were no biggie to them.
I recalled every high ropes course challenge I’d owned LIKE A BOSS. Like the log 100 feet above the ground that I walked across, and the platform high in the sky that I had to jump from to a near by hanging bar. My attempt of a confidence boost quickly failed when I acknowledged the fact that 1) I was on belay for all of those challenges 2) The height of every single one paled in comparison to the THOUSAND FOOT DROP I was dealing with. I told K that I was doing some positive self talk in my head, just to keep him updated on why I wasn’t moving AT ALL. I muttered something like, “Okay” after a huge sigh, hoping the combination would springboard me across the rock. It worked.
And then I froze again at the next chain.
We ended up turning around before we got to the top of Angel’s Landing. As we descended, a man on his way up asked, “Did you make it to the top?”
“No,” I admitted, feeling super conflicted about what I know about goals, personal bests, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve growth. Then K said something that simultaneously made me feel better and reminded me of why I love having him as my partner. “The view is great either way.”
The view is great either way. He spoke a truth that I’d ignored, simply because I was preoccupied with making it to the point designated as the finish. The top. As we continued down Walter’s Wiggles and the rest of the path, my mind marinaded in “the view is great either way” metaphor and how it applies to my life right now.
Life is precious—every breath. If I saw that written on the base of a small pastel porcelain figurine I’d probably roll my eyes, but I can’t deny how true I believe it to be. I am grateful for my health, the healthy partnership I’m in, for the life path I find myself on. The view is great, even when seen through the lens of fear.