Archive | November, 2015

Declarations and Manifestos

19 Nov

If you would like to listen along, click here:

As some of you know, I did a creativity bootcamp in October which has now become a creativity salon. In bootcamp, we were challenged to create every day of the month. In the salon, we are more focused on a longer term outlook on our creativity. One of the things we have been encouraged to do is to create a manifesto or declaration for ourselves, and I have enjoyed reading every single one of them. Some are bold and incredibly ambitious. Some are more pensive as the creative is searching for the path that feels best. Some are there to soak up what they can to help them understand their own creativity better. Each one is a treasure, a small piece of the creative soul shared with those who understand. I, however, really struggled with mine. I have wanted creativity to be my career since I can remember. I worked in advertising and media production because it was a way to build creativity into my career. The creative life calls to me and fortunately for me I have a husband who supports me in that and believes in me more than I believe in myself at times. I know I could immerse myself in creativity and forget everything else, but I also know I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to do that because as I age, I seek a life that is untethered rather than un-managed. I know I need some structure to my day or nothing will happen at all. That doesn’t mean that if I have a rush of creativity, I can’t indulge it. It means that by creating structure and doing the things that bring peace to my home, I am free to indulge those creative rushes when they happen. As I said in part of my declaration, I made a promise over 20 years ago to be the best wife and mother as I could be. Two of my children attend college, so my daily parenting for them is done. I have one more child at home with two and a half years left before he graduates from high school and heads off for his college adventure. Until that happens, my family comes first.

The peace I felt when I wrote that was extraordinary because for many years I felt like I had to apologize for being home with my children. I am college educated. I have been writing for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I found true peace with my life. You see, eight years ago, my youngest child was diagnosed with ADHD. Because of a medical condition, his doctors all agree that medication for his ADHD is a bad idea. I understand that medication is a miracle for some, but in my heart, I knew it wasn’t the best answer for my child. Instead, we have spent years working with behavior modification, dietary changes and other lifestyle choices to create the best environment for him. In the process, I began reading about the condition and several things clicked. It wasn’t long before I realized that apple didn’t fall far from the tree, and the more I learned, the better things got for both of us. I began to understand that I did well in school because I loved it, and he struggled with it because he didn’t. I also understood that even though I loved school, long term projects were a mystery to me because I didn’t know how to break up the work. I didn’t know how to make little bits of progress so most projects were completed in a flurry of adrenaline the night before they were due, and I failed several of them. Somehow I made it through not only high school but also college, and I think the only reason I did make it was because I majored in subjects that I loved. Otherwise I would have been doomed because doing things I didn’t like was like torture for me. It was the reason my room was a mess. It was the reason I could cook a meal fit for a king and leave the dishes sit for two days after. It was the reason I could work for 14 hours on a video shoot but couldn’t seem to clear my desk. It was the reason I had the idea for dozens of creative projects but few of them ever got finished. Until my son’s diagnosis, I truly thought there might be something wrong with me. After my son’s diagnosis, I was sure of it until I began to read articles that explained ADHD in a different way. I began to realize that often the greatest discoveries came from people who exhibited the same thought patterns my son and I had. The difference was that they found a way to elevate their creative gifts and deal with their organizational challenges. Now how in the world was I going to do that?

October 14, 2002 changed my life. That was the day that I signed up on the FlyLady website. I’ve discussed about this before so I won’t go into great detail about all of it. I will tell you, though, that if you want to improve the condition of your home, she has a great way of going about it. I would caution you also that it can get overwhelming, so I want to share the greatest lesson I learned; the magic of fifteen minutes and baby steps. It has been said we over estimate what we can do in an hour or a day, but we under estimate what we can do in 30 days, 6 months or a year. We tend to have short sightedness when we approach tasks, and if you have ADHD, that is especially true, but here’s something I think is amazing. I have been journaling for decades. I pitched some of my earliest writing because at one point in my life I couldn’t face the angry teenager I was, but I still have about 25 years of journals. Lately I’ve been reading some of the first ones, and it was been incredibly enlightening. I’ve always wanted to create a wonderful home for my family. I’ve always wanted to be a writer who helps people live their best life. I’ve always wanted to be a spiritually connected person. Those are the constants. When I began this journey, I was searching and almost pleading with the Divine to show me the way. It felt like there was a secret I didn’t know. It felt like so many had it together when I felt like a hot mess. I wanted and longed for better. FlyLady gave me that hope for my home. Little by little, my home came together, and I wish I could tell you I cleaned like Cinderella or Snow White, whistling and singing and being filled with joy. I didn’t. In the beginning, I was resentful and angry, but I kept moving and on August 1, 2004, nearly two years after signing up to learn how to clean my home, I finished my to do list for the first time. It was a joy to read about that day again, not because of the progress made in my home but because of the other things I wrote in my journal. I wrote about feeling like I was on the right path for the first time in my life and feeling joy about my life and its direction. My finances were improving. My health was improving, and I was in awe of how I had arrived at that moment; through a messy home and needing to clean it up for a child with extraordinary needs.

The journey has not been a straight line. I have had curves, hills and valleys with the occasional mountain and chasm to cross. A decade later, my home is not perfect, and that’s perfectly fine. At times life feels overwhelming, especially when I forget the magic of 15 minutes, but somehow I eventually remember and I address that overwhelm 15 minutes at a time and with baby steps. It’s how I got and keep my home in shape. It’s how I improved and continue to improve my finances, and it’s how I will continue to write books, blog posts and who knows what else in the future. When I wrote that in my declaration, at first I wondered if other people would understand. I wondered if I was turning away from the creative life I have always longed for, but two things became very clear. First, it didn’t matter what anyone else thought. If I was at peace with the plan and knew it would create a better life for me and for my family that was what mattered. Second, not only was I using a system that has created enormous success for me in the past, I might even help someone find their way to success as well. It’s an unusual way to approach life, but it works for me, and it brought me to the next challenge in the creative salon.

Someone asked if we had anything that we used for inspiration while we created and I do. I haven’t looked at them as much lately as I have in the past but it reminded me to do just that, and those things still make me smile and inspire me greatly. I have a picture of myself at 2 years old. I’m smiling the impish smile of a two year old with a secret, and it’s my favorite picture ever taken of me. That picture reminds me that I have an inner child who lived life fully before life got in the way. She is the best and worst of me and I want only the best for her. It reminds me to be gentle with myself and with others because we all have an inner child who needs love and nurturing and an occasional miracle, and that’s one of my other inspirations. An online friend sent me an amazing card when I was writing my first book that said Miracles Can Happen. That card helped me to crank out my first book, and I will be using it to help with every creative endeavor from here on, as will the other card that sits on my desk. This one was sent by a friend for my 50th birthday. Unlike some, I celebrated my entry into my fifties, and this card is something I aspire to be. The card reads:
Born to be wild,
Born to be outrageous,
Born to live your life out loud,
Born to be courageous…

Born to make some mischief,
Born to rock ‘n roll,
Born to spread your wings and fly,
Born to bare your soul…

Born to be a dreamer,
Born to dare and do,
Born to make the world a better place
Because you’re you.

Although I wrote my declaration for the creativity salon, this is the manifesto of my life and who I aspire to be whether I do that through my writing, my radio show or taking care of my family. It isn’t a traditional path, and I’m ok with it. It’s also why I thank you for being you every week because I think we all have unique and amazing gifts to share with the world, and I hope you have your own declaration, manifesto or incredible life plan as well. If not, start thinking about it and let me know what you come up with. Thanks for being you and have a great day.

Searching for Holiday Happiness

5 Nov

To listen along click here:

I know talking about the holidays makes some people’s skin crawl. So many are dreading what’s to come, but they are coming whether we want them to or not. Thanksgiving in the US is a mere three weeks away. There will be challenges. We will all have them. Some easily rise to the challenge. Some whine through the challenge and some run from it. The irony is that if we whine or run from the challenge, nothing changes. We will be faced with the same type of challenge over and over until we figure it out. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We have this idea of the perfect holiday season, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize the perfection we imagine might be beyond our reach, and that sends us spiraling downward. None of us is without challenge, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace and joy and one of stress and angst.

Let me start by saying that I am a failure; at least I could look at it that way. Last month, I joined a creativity bootcamp with the idea of finishing and publishing a book about getting through the holidays. It was going to be a step by step guide to help those who need it. This is the second time I attempted to write this book, and I failed to finish it. Am I a failure? I’m sure some would say yes, but in truth, the vision for the book got bigger, so it has been postponed again. I actually have several ideas for books rolling around in my head and on several pieces of paper. I also have ideas for webinars, speaking engagements and future radio shows. Very often it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day because “real life” gets in the way, but real life is what I’ve chosen for now. I made a commitment to being a mom and with ADHD to deal with in my son and myself, some days it’s all I can handle, so for now, the book is on hold; perhaps next year.

If we’re willing to look, the greatest gifts, though, from the challenges we face show up as compassion and gratitude later on. We can look at what we’ve faced and then look at others in moments of challenge with grace. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down in the suffering and be at one with it. I would even suggest that commiserating with someone’s challenge only helps to keep them there. It provides no solution. Unfortunately, many would rather wallow in the challenge than look for the solution. They don’t want help. They want to justify their suffering. They aren’t ready to move on from their suffering to be joyful, and I think that’s sad, because when you focus on the suffering, you keep away the joy. That is the personification of misery loving company. I have felt the blues during the holidays. I have looked into the abyss, but I have learned from it. I have learned that I never want to pull anyone into that abyss with me but retreating can often make the spiral go deeper and longer than ever. We continue to ask what’s wrong with me. We tell ourselves that we should be grateful, but we focus on the problem when the most important question to ask is what you can do to get out of the dark place. The holiday blues are not inevitable or maybe they are, but they can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season. In hopes of helping those who would like it, I have created a list of ten things to improve your mood before you slide into the abyss this holiday season. There are many more, but this is definitely a start:

1. Take care of yourself. Take a shower. Dress in nice clothes even if you have nowhere to go. Paint your nails or put on makeup if that helps you feel better. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. These are simple things that can start to bring you out of a funk.

2. Meditate. It has been said that when you pray, you speak to the Divine. When you meditate, the Divine speaks to you. If you’re new to meditation, I would suggest finding a guided meditation on YouTube. Meditation changed my life and it can change yours too.

3. Breathe and become aware of your body. As you breathe, consciously relax your forehead, your shoulders, your spine and your stomach. Releasing tension like this is incredibly calming and can help you slide right into the meditation experience mentioned above.

4. Listen to music that brings you joy. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like and look for the soundtrack. It can be especially fun if the movies are from your childhood.

5. Do something for someone else. Rake your neighbor’s leaves when they’re at work. Bake cupcakes for the neighborhood kids. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you have a sick friend. Send a gift card to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. I could do an entire blog post just on random acts of kindness, and I assure you, when you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you receive as much as you give.

6. Open yourself to receiving. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it is wearing us out and killing us. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? Think of it this way, why are you the only person that should be allowed into Heaven? If you don’t give others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming their best selves. Nothing is sadder to me than a person who says they don’t want to burden their friends with their problems. What the heck are friends for? They are there to lift you out of the muck and to deny them that hurts both of you. Stop it! Be willing to be vulnerable and sad and frustrated so others know they are not alone and so both of you can find out that people care. They really, really care. This concept changed so much for me. Start with a compliment. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate the compliment. If someone compliments you on how you look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one of your own. If someone compliments your talent, say thank you and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t talk about all of the flaws or mistakes you see. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful for the compliment. People like to make others feel good. Let them!

7. Indulge in a healthy guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Give yourself a short time out to do something that brings you joy. Some days you may have to do several little things. Some days it may be one big thing, but find joy in every day. If you are a parent of young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because I was given the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of just holding that moment of peace. If you’re children are away at college like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them. If you don’t have children, pull out an old photo album and look through your own wonderful memories. The possibilities of finding precious moments in your past are endless.

8. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This quote by Gandhi has been running through my mind for the past several months, and I think it is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. I think this goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy because you are being the change instead. Right now, I want more love, peace and kindness in the world, which is plenty to keep me busy for now.

9. Stop being offended and stop taking things personally. This is one I am still working on. Yesterday someone wrote something on Facebook that offended me. Imagine that. It was a response to something I said, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was a veiled insult to the kind of person I am. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. I believe we are born filled with love and must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other thing people seem to think about me because I am positive and happy is that I have no problems. Honestly, this is where I started today’s post/ radio show idea, and why I decided to write this list.

10. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act the way you do or think the way you do? If not, be the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. It’s interesting to think that your mountains might be someone else’s molehills. Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They may have been the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed. Take the focus off of what you think you need to do and put the focus on who you want to be and the way you want the season to feel. You will approach everything differently. You will clean up your home to have a peaceful space. You will buy gifts to bless others instead of just checking names off of a list. I hope it will help you find peace, joy, love and grace every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but it isn’t about them. It’s about you having your best season ever. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next eight weeks, but for the rest of your life.
Thanks for being you and have a great day.

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