unicorn rainbow puzzle

Life is Not All Unicorns and Rainbows

Well, this is certainly an interesting year, isn’t it? As a student of perpetual improvement, one of the challenges I have experienced lately is finally having to accept that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how well I make choices and live my life – there will always be struggle, strain, sorrow, and sadness. Being an idealist, I had always hoped that I would crack the key to uncovering a pain-free joyous life. Instead what I have found is that suffering is a part of life – and, importantly, suffering is the path of enlightenment and joy.

Focus on Joy not Happiness

If your happiness depends on the quarantine being over, you can not be happy. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in The Book of Joy, “Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.”  Many of us focus on and desire happiness, but happiness is fleeting. Happiness is based on circumstances. Joy is from within. Joy does not need money, relationships, or others to act how we wish. Joy is a choice. Joy is how we decide to face the day.

See the Whole

I find that my fear and anger take hold when I only see the bad and when I make assumptions about others’ actions. Much peace and joy can be found in looking at the whole. Find the beauty. Find the joy amongst the sorrow. Stop making assumptions and start really learning about those around you.  Look for the helpers. Greet people with compassion. Choosing to expand your awareness, seeing the good, accepting the not so good, and treating others with compassion are scientifically proven to help with overwhelm and stress.

Finding Meaning

Catherine Johns shares about Viktor Frankl’s focus on finding meaning in tragedy and hardship. The concept is not to deny the hardship but to see how it is truly a gift. As I work with many who have lost their jobs during Covid and the protests, I see the impact of this stress on them – and I also see where it eventually leads them. It may not be immediate, but many times the job seeker can see how this was a gift to them – freeing them to move when they felt tied to a location, freeing them to try starting their own business or a new profession, freeing them to explore life outside of full-time work. In the moment there is stress, fear, sorry and anger. The meaning behind the struggle is sometimes hard to find and accept, however whether it is job loss, a health crisis, or other life shift, for myself and those I work with, finding the meaning and the gift in the tragedy gives purpose, hope, and optimism.

Evolve

Overall, what has been helping me during this trying time – for myself and those I work with – is to look at this time not through the eyes of victimhood as something to hide from, but to see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to grow. A time to evolve faster and further than we could have ever done on our own. Just like a pinecone does not become a tree without first having the seed release throughout intense fire, we can not become who we are meant to be without going through our own trials and strife. Whatever you are experiencing right now, embrace it as a gift to help you become the best you, you can be.

Perfecting Imperfection

One of my biggest character defects, my biggest struggles is the dishonest belief that I am/can/should be absolutely perfect. A lot is wrong with this belief. First, it assumes there is one absolute correct way to be, i.e., perfect. Yet with the variety of people, professions, beliefs, abilities, etc. out there, how could someone presume to define a singular explanation of perfection. Second, my belief is tied to the assumption that if I am not perfect, I am not worthy of love. Anyone who has had a child who acted imperfectly (crayons on the wall or meltdown at Wal-Mart) can easily express how the child’s imperfection did not take away from how much the parent loved them (unconditional love). Third, the idea that we should be perfect is inherently wrong because we are, well, human. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “human” as “of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.”

broken glass
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

Most of my life I thought I could and should be God or at the very least, an infallible machine. But alas, I am not. I am human. The perfectionist in me longs to be perfect and always act perfectly. The realist in me knows this will never happen – for me or anyone else. I am learning to accept my imperfection and see how my struggles and challenges, how my imperfection serves me – and hopefully serves you, my reader, as well. I recently received an email from one of my subscribers, Jill May, who wrote, “By the way, I love your newsletter.  I don’t always take the time to read every one of them, but when I do read it, I always get something from it.  Sometimes it’s a small tidbit, other times it’s a ‘Wow!’ moment.  I appreciated reading about your yoga headstand challenges.  It really does help the rest of us to know you have struggles just like we do.” (my underline)

It is not my perfection which resonates with my readers. It is my struggle with life; it is my imperfection which helps others through the ups and downs of their life. In an interview last year, I was asked what my purpose was. Out of my mouth without my conscious awareness came, “My purpose is to mess up and learn from it, so you don’t have to.” Funny, for decades I had the belief that my purpose was to achieve perfection so I could show others the way. What I am coming to accept is that I’m on this planet to roll around in the muck of life. I am here to choose poorly, learn from it, and find the courage to move on. I am here to realize the obstacles I put in my way through my dishonest beliefs, to find the tools to release these beliefs, and to find a new way to live. I am here to find deep and absolute acceptance of myself – warts and all – and to help others feel and embrace their own self-acceptance. Through self-acceptance, we can all learn how to have unconditional empathy and love for those around us as well.

Do you have a life purpose or mission? What is it? Do you struggle with the desire for perfection? What would your life be like without the struggle for the unachievable?

paint a picture

Painting the Perfect Picture

“Every day I start my day by going over things for which I’m grateful. Even though I’m in hospice and the end is near, I have an immense amount for which I’m deeply grateful.”

A friend of mine from high school wrote that powerful sentence on Facebook this week. The honesty with which he shared was beautiful. He was very grateful for the people in his life and for the little things we so often take for granted. I asked his permission to share his words. He responded with, “Go for it! At this point, my goal is to try and make an impact with any little things I can do.”

paint a pictureAt the end of Jim’s post, he wrote, “Now go make today the best day you’ve lived so far. You can do it, because the day hasn’t been completed yet. So go out there and paint the perfect picture and make it happen. That’s my plan.”  In honor of Jim, I invite you all to do just that. Make today the best day you can by using Jim’s focus, gratitude, and reflection.

Focus

What I found most powerful about my friend’s post was his choice in focus. At age 47 and with three young children, this is not the time for him to leave. He could have so much more of life to experience. But that is not where he focused. He focused on the fact that he met his wife and was able to spend the time he did with her. He focused on the time he had with those he loves, not the time he will not.

How much of our lives do we spend looking at what is lacking? What we have lost? What we will never have?  Make today the best it can be by switching your attitude from one of lack and sadness to one of love and appreciation.

Gratitude

I have spoken many times about the power of gratitude and making it into a daily practice. Jim’s gratitude at this time is simply amazing. Many of us find it hard to be grateful. We are looking at what we want, what we have lost, or we are just in the struggle to survive. Making gratitude a daily habit is a powerful tool to strengthen you and help you find joy in every day.

To help you create your perfect day, every day, start it off by thinking of five (5) things for which you are grateful before you get out of bed. Then every night, take some time to reflect on the wonderful things you experienced. For bonus points, start to recognize the good things in the moment. Actively focusing on gratitude at first may seem like a chore, but after a while you are reprogramming your mind and senses to see the good, and we receive more of what we choose to focus on.

Reflect on What Matters

Jim mentions that the best part of dying is having the “time to sit back and reflect on what really matters.” For Jim, this is his relationships, the long-standing ones and the ones which were rekindled due to his illness. Sometimes it takes a disaster to bring us together, but our focus on the gift and gratefulness for the re-connection is much more important than the reason why.

Take today to sit back and reflect on what is truly important to you. Now look at how you spend your week. Are you putting your time and energy toward what is truly important? What can you adjust in your life to help you focus on what is most important to you?

You have the power to paint the perfect day. Choose your focus. Concentrate on gratitude. Uncover what really matters to you and ensure your time and effort are being put in the right place for you.

Jim, I truly believe your transition will be peaceful for you and those around you due to your ability to make the most of this time. Thank you for blessing our lives.

Gentleman in Moscow

Bringing the Pieces Together

Recently I read an amazingly interesting and well-written book called A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. It is such a wonderful novel that as soon as my husband is finished reading it, I can’t wait to read it again. If you are looking for a book well worth your time, check it out.

A myriad of passages and quotes from this book come to mind, but this one seemed most appropriate to the work I usually share in the It’s My Life blog.

“He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of supreme lucidity – a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of a bold new life that we had been meant to lead all along.”

Gentleman in MoscowLet’s break it apart.

“Our lives are steered by uncertainties” Although the human mind longs for consistency and normalcy, more often than not, our lives are chaotic, every changing, and full of surprises – seemingly good and bad. No matter how long we live and how many challenges we have overcome, disruption is the rule more than the exception. Amazing how we expect otherwise. Our minds, and maybe our hearts, expect and pray for constant and easy, expected and comforting. Yet every week, we are thrown a challenge, a shift, the unexpected. When we can “persevere and remain generous of heart,” we can begin to overcome these challenges, and, importantly, “be granted a moment of supreme lucidity.”

Much of my life I acted and reacted, but did not live in purpose. Thankfully I have been granted my moment of supreme lucidity. I had a glimmer of how a series of seemingly random, incongruent, often challenging incidents and choices were not a sporadic mess of a life, but the pieces of the puzzle which, when put together, create a solid picture of my life and my purpose.  Everything I have done, everywhere I worked, everyone I met, every challenge I faced, has brought me to this life right now. I can see how each was a training ground to give me the skills, understanding, and insight necessary for my purpose. Those events in my life when I thought I had failed or thought I had taken a wrong turn, now make sense in the knowing of the “bold new life that [I] had been meant to lead all along.”

Take a little time to see if you can put your pieces together. Start by uncovering each piece. Write down your professional career. What skills did you learn personally and professionally at each stage? What are your most profound memories? These may be successes or failures regarding your position, or your personal relationships with those at the company. Do the same for the different phases of your life – high school, college, first romance, marriage, divorce, children, sickness, loss. Objectively explore these pieces of your life. Then make a collage of these pieces. What are the through-lines? What are the obstacles you have met again and again? What is the meaning or takeaway of each piece, and when the pieces are brought together? Knowing and understanding the life you are meant to lead, allows you to make more appropriate choices, to not miss opportunities to share your gift, and to live with meaning.

Sometimes we must wait for a moment of lucidity and sometimes we can create one through the exercise above, either way, once you have a glimmer of the bold new life, the life you are meant to live, make choices to embrace and maximize what you are here to do.

listen to your soul

Soul Purpose

I’ve written before about the power of the mind and I have also written about intuition. When I saw this meme, I was reminded of the important role that the soul plays in our lives.

listen to your soulWith all the science we have these days, why we are here and what we truly are, is still a mystery. We can explain how pulses from our brains create our responses, but we still don’t understand why our bodies were created in this way. I don’t want to get into a scientific, philosophical or religious debate. What I would like to explore is the different aspects of self and the role they play.

The Mind: We spend most of our time here. It is what allows you to read and comprehend these words. The mind is a powerful and necessary tool, but it is also a warehouse of old worries and pains. The mind has amazing analytical powers, but it can also be fooled through perception and judgment. The mind is like your computer. A highly sophisticated tool, but it is only as good as the data you put into it.

The Heart: The heart is our intuition. It is our feeling mind. The heart is our sixth sense; the organ that can see and feel what science can not yet explain. The heart is where we can sense right and wrong, good and bad. We might not know why we shouldn’t walk down a dark alley, but the hairs on our arm make us feel that we shouldn’t. Within minutes of meeting someone, you just know and understand them on a deeper level. This is the heart at work.  The heart, or some might say the gut, can often be doubted because it is based on feeling, on unprovable knowledge, not fact or logic.

The Soul: The soul, or should I say our Type Me, is who we are. It is our gift to the world. It is our purpose. I believe we are all here for a reason. Our soul defines our reason. Why do we love what we love? Why are their certain skills that come easy to us? Why can we do this but not that? Our soul is what we are built for doing. We all have a purpose, a meaning to express in this life. Our soul is the definition of that purpose.

Our soul’s purpose may be noble and grand. Or not. Our purpose is something we can share with others like a singing, making chilaquiles, or being an amazing listener. In this day and age of striving to be the best, uncovering our soul’s purpose and living our life to serve that purpose will allow us to be the best us we can be.

Don’t be fooled though. Our soul’s purpose does not ensure fame, riches, or acclaim – because that may not be our soul’s purpose. Your soul’s purpose is a way of life as much as a skill. Uncover what really makes you happy. If it is hearing cheering from thousands of fans, great. If it is hiding away in a cabin, writing enjoyable short stories to lift someone’s day, embrace it. Just know who you are and what you are meant to be, and then work every day to embody and share your gift.

Instead of debating the importance of the logic of the brain versus the intuition of the heart, take some time to uncover and accept your soul. Embrace what you are at your essence. It is from this acceptance that all power comes.

Marc Anthony

Simply to Live

In an attempt to improve my Spanish-speaking abilities, I had hired a teacher. A recent assignment was to listen to a Marc Anthony song trying to recognize and decipher the words. I have improved immensely at reading Spanish, by my auditory and verbal skills are lacking. Even without dialect issues, being able to comprehend when people speak is difficult. At this point, I am up to recognizing and comprehending about every third word spoken. Sometimes it is enough for me to understand the gist of what someone is saying. Sometimes it can get me into trouble. Going through the exercise listening to the song was helpful, and frustrating. But it was well worth it as the song had a beautiful message.

In the official video for the song, Marc Anthony begins by asking, “What is your legacy?” In his response, he doesn’t talk about the number of albums he has sold, the number of countries he has played in, or the notoriety and acclaim he has received. In his words, “Yo vivo para, de alguna manera, dejar mi huella . . . yo simplemente vivo” which translates to “I live to, in some way, leave my footprint . . . I simply live.” He speaks about being a father, son, brother, and friend. He says he is his smile, his music, and part of New York and Puerto Rico. Nothing more. Nothing less. His legacy is just to live.

The song talks about laughing, dancing, and enjoying life. It recognizes that everyone will have some rain – disappointments, losses or challenges – but that these cleanse our wounds and help us move forward. No matter what we suffer, that is part of life and we are just meant to live it.

Many of us, including me, at different ages have explored what life is about. What are we supposed to leave behind? What is the purpose of being here? Teenage angst was filled with discovering myself and being confused over my purpose. My twenties were full of hopelessness of achieving the success I thought I wanted. A nice midlife crisis had me re-evaluating all the years I spent pursuing something which did not fulfill me. Thankfully lately I tend to agree with Mr. Anthony.

There is no big secret to life. There is no big purpose. The only thing we are supposed to achieve with our life is to live it. To make the most of each moment. To move past fear. To experience emotions – good and bad. To feel love and heartbreak. To win and lose. To touch, to feel, to move, to laugh, to cry.

As you go through today, notice how much you are actually living. Are you in the moment or are you thinking about a past foible? Are you smiling and laughing or are you fearing the future? Did you take an opportunity when it presented itself or did you deny yourself? Are you living your life or watching it go by?

As for me, “I’m going to laugh, I’m going to dance, feel, dance and enjoy, there is only one life. “ / “Voy a reír, voy a bailar, siente, baila y goza, que la vida es una sola.”