Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Zest

I believe in taking the characteristics of people's lives that work for me and incorporating them into mine. I'm a shameless imitator.

A long time ago, I met a woman who exuded zest for life. She greeted each person with love, warmth and enthusiasm. Being on the receiving end of such zest for life was intoxicating and I immediately tried to emulate her behavior, trying to make it my own.

Over the years, the zest for living that I copied as a teenager has become mine. "Fake it until you make it" has become my motto--and did you know there's even an actual word for that phrase? The word is praxes, or the habitual or established practice of something.

Living with zest means that, before I get out of bed in the morning, I choose to live with happiness, enthusiasm and curiosity--and just like adding the zest of a lemon to a recipe, it doesn't take a lot to live a zestful life. Smiling at a stranger, greeting people with joy, being a kind driver, these are just a few ways I try to incorporate zest into my life.

This isn't to say that I get it right all the time--because I fall short every day. However, I get to start fresh each morning and enjoy the wonder that comes with living zestfully, energetically and enthusiastically. No matter my frame of mind, time will pass. I would rather greet the day with gladness instead of gloom.

The courageous act of savoring daily life is the key to living fully and fearlessly right now. Life isn't made up of vacations or magnificent vistas. It is in the small things that happiness roots itself and takes bloom. Choosing to live with zest is a vital part of living deeply.

Living zestfully brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Thank you to our amazing hosts of April's A to Z Challenge! And thank YOU for stopping by, commenting and bringing great joy to me this month!!  We made it!! (Whew!)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Joyride A to Z: You

Long, long ago, (about 10 years) in a galaxy far, far away (called Montana), I was walking on a local bike path when I came across this message:

These simple words gave me pause that day. They were a gift that made me happy. Those words made me believe that I was just what they said: beautiful. Those words were written by a well meaning stranger on a public bike path, and even though hundreds of people must have seen them, that day, those words were just for me.

I’ve thought about those words a lot since then, and about what those words mean. This 'beauty' I'm referring to doesn't concern the buckets we walk around in. The beauty I’m referring to is regarding the content of our spirits. Today, I want to give you what a stranger gave me and tell you a simple truth about yourself:

You are beautiful.

You are extraordinary.

You are unique in the world.

You are whole, just as you are. Right now.

You bring something to this planet that no one else can bring: yourself.
You are amazing.
You have a kind heart and a marvelous mind, even if you feel that your heart is broken or that your mind is filled with dark thoughts about yourself and others.
Most of the unhappiness on this planet is caused by unhappy people. We women, especially, feel terrified that we ‘aren’t enough’. And when we are terrified, we feel like we need to be in control of everything. And when we try to control everything, (as if that's actually possible) our control mutates into an unhealthy, and soul wrecking competition with others.

Today, you can let all that negativity go.

Today, instead of condemning yourself and those around you, you have the opportunity to exonerate those you influence with your undeniable beauty. You can cease to belittle yourself and others, and instead, delight in all the success you see. Today, you can take pause and feel the peace that comes with this beauty and then you can share it. You can let all the pain that you have been carrying about this and that go, because you can choose to. You can believe in yourself and get out of your own way, and be happy, because you are a spark of the Divine.

Today, you can believe that you are beautiful.

Because today, you are fearless.

The time for resignation is past. You are beautiful. When you let that beauty and all its attendant joy cascade from you, you give others the permission to do the same. Today, don’t shine less. Shine more.

Shine more, because,
You are beautiful.

You bring me joy. Thank you for being here. What brings you joy today?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Joyride A to Z: E "x" pectations

Ok, I totally cheated with my X word.

Don't judge me, it was hard to think of something that had to do with "X" that had to do with joy--although, to be honest, playing the Xylophone really is quite joyous...but that's another post.


Let 'em go.

Not ALL expectations, just OTHER people's expectations of you.
Your personal expectations are the birthplace of your dreams.
Hang on to those, because they rock.

I experience the most unhappiness when I'm trying to fulfill the expectations dictated to me by others.
I have two problems with the expectations of other people hoisted upon me:
1. I hate to be bossed around, and...
2. The stuff that people expect of me I usually don't want to do.

A few years ago, I came across a profound book. You can read about that here.
When I finally figured out I could say, "no" to other peoples expectations of me, it was like a huge light turned on in my soul. I found myself with free time to fill with anything of my choosing. I felt like I was shaking off the shackles of a lifetime of guilt. I didn't have to say "yes" all the time. Instead, I gave myself permission to ask myself, when presented with another's expectation, "Is this a hell yes, or a hell no?"

If it's a hell no, I usually say, "I'm sorry, I'm unavailable." And I move on.
No guilt, and no worries, because I'm tending the garden of my integrity and standing guard at the gate of my soul and no one else is going to do that except me. I am responsible for my own happiness.

And if someone comes along with expectations that align with my inner desires, talents and interests? Then it's a hell yes, and I'm all in.

Living with the "hell yes/ hell no" concept takes a lot of the angst out of daily living--and I've gotta say that saying "hell no" to other's expectations of me and "hell yes" to living with authenticity and integrity has given me more freedom and joy than I ever expected.

Living free from expectations brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

"To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves, there lies the great, singular power of self respect." ~Joan Didion

Friday, April 26, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Wonder

Deepening the Wonder
Death is a favor to us,
But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body
Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes
Of this mysterious existence we share
And are surely just traveling through.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks
And as the Master poured, I would be reminded
That all I know of life and myself is that
We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.
If I were in the Tavern tonight,
I would buy freely for everyone in this world
Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty
Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,
But our minds have lost their balance.
The miraculous existence and impermanence of
Always makes the illumined ones
Laugh and sing.
The wonder of life brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Vulnerability

Vulnerability. Anything I could write on the subject would be directly sourced from Brene Brown. If you haven't seen her TED talk, take a minute and listen. 

Vulnerability is the birth place of joy.
And it's completely terrifying.

*(clinks glasses) Here's to taking a leap and exercising our vulnerability in order to experience more joy and living with our whole hearts.

Vulnerability is terrifying and rewarding...and ultimately brings me joy.
What brings you joy today?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Understanding

One of my favorite quotes reads, "I speak out of my experience, and you listen out of yours, and THAT is why communication is difficult."

At the base of our communications is the desire to be understood.

Each of us want to be understood, and on some level, to understand others as well. Even if we say, "I don't care about them! I don't know why they do what they do!" The reason we are so bothered by another's behavior is that we want to understand what is causing the behavior--and often we even want to "fix" people's ideas to align with our view of the world.

But true understanding of another will lead us to allowing others to be exactly what they are--themselves. Desiring to "fix" someone else, or sway them to the "right" kind of thinking will only result in more misunderstanding and then frustration.

Our spirits are constantly seeking peace. When we feel negatively about another, our negative feelings are communicating to us that there is a gap in our connection to our Source.

Some may call this source, God, some the Universe--there's a million different names. I don't feel like the name we call God is all that important, but the importance of feeling understood and understanding our Source and then one another is something that our spirits long for.

We often think that this elusive peace will only come when ALL THE WORLD *(twirls mustache here) agrees with our line of thinking--but there is nothing further from the truth than that idea.

Contrast is an interesting concept. Contrast in artwork gives depth to a piece--darkness illuminates light. Now before you go thinking that, "Of course, MY world view is the light and all others are darkness!!" Ask yourself this question instead: Why are there so many different kinds of people here? 

Contrast in humans gives life meaning and depth. We are not all the same--and this is a cause for celebration and joy. Understanding the contrast that people bring in all their great variety, is the true path to peace. When we aren't so busy trying to tolerate others, (meaning that we don't really approve of someone else's choices, but we put up with it anyway) but instead, allow them to be themselves in all their uniqueness, then we will find understanding and the love, that we so long for, rushing in like a great tide into our lives.

Understanding brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joyide, A to Z: Today

I like to use a lot of water/boating metaphors. I'm not sure why this is, except water analogies fit a lot of life experiences and I really like to swim.

Today is like a boat. The time that comprised yesterday can be described as the wake behind the boat--it's behind us.

I love that. Just me, in my boat (it's a canoe, by the way) just paddling along, today comprised of my current thoughts, feelings and interactions. I gently and sweetly paddle along and allow the current to take me down stream. The wake behind me is nothing more than memories. Although, sometimes, our enjoyment of today is hedged up by the baggage we are always trying to fit into our canoes.

How many of us drag around past events, memories, or emotions that are o-so-over?
I know I do.

But I've learned a trick to be able to actually enjoy today a little bit more:
I choose my own interpretation of events that cause me any distress.

You may be thinking: That's cheating. After all, choosing your own interpretations? Really?? Can you do that???

Yes. Yes you can.

If you think about it, reality itself is just our perceptions. Your reality is based on your perceptions and my reality is based on mine. We could even both be at the same event and interpret it in very different ways--and both interpretations would be "reality". Instead of attaching myself to someone else's version of events, I prefer to choose interpretations that empower me.

Let me give you an example: "Something" happens. Let's say...oh....I run into the driver in front of me. Not fast, just a little tap. I automatically assign meaning to it by saying, "Oh man, this sucks. My day is ruined! I am so dumb!!"
By assigning a meaning to the event (in this case, a negative one) we choose to either empower of dis-empower of the inevitable internal narrative that's going to follow.

I leave the scene of the accident and I say to myself, "I can't believe I did that. I'm such a screw up. It's going to cost money that I don't have when my insurance goes up."
(I stew and stew until I'm feeling pretty rotten about most things in my life.)

In that example, I chose a dis-empowering thought that lead to a negative internal narrative that defined my experience as "bad". I don't know about you--but I don't really enjoy feeling like crap.

So, let's try another one: I run into the guy in front of me. I automatically assign meaning to it by saying, "Oh man, this sucks....well, at least I didn't hit him terribly hard and it looks like there's no major damage, so that's good. No one was hurt either, so there's something else to be grateful for."
In this example, the event still happened, but I chose a different interpretation of the events. It changed from dis-empowered (I'm so dumb) to empowered (It wasn't that bad, and at least no one was hurt) which eventually changes how I relate to the world around me (my behavior).

If I'm feeling good, then the way I feel has a direct effect with everyone I meet after the accident. The positive feelings that I feel are a lot like tossing a stones into a lake. My good feelings create ripples that come right back to me on the shore. Likewise, if I'm tossing out stones of negativity, all that's going to ripple back to me will be more negativity.

Life is hard enough without re-living traumatic events, re-focusing on old grudges, and chewing on past dramas that zap our energy and leave us feeling powerless. I base my joy on how I feel. As I'm sitting in my canoe, I want to feel good as I make my way down the stream. If I need to think about past actions or relationships, I want good feelings of past events in my boat with me.

And here's where choosing your own interpretations come in handy: You get to choose how you feel about moving down the stream. You get to choose, right now, today how you are going to feel.

Now, that doesn't mean that you have to live in denial.
Absolutely not.
Painting a rosy face on something that is downright ugly will not help you heal or feel better; but choosing not to allow that event to define your life is power. Empowering yourself by choosing your interpretations just makes good sense--while happiness is a very personal decision, it is also decision that has consequences beyond our personal stories. Unhappiness is caused by unhappy people. So it's therefore our responsibility to learn how to navigate our way down the stream, by being gentle with ourselves during the journey and enjoying our lives today.

It sounds a lot like the song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" don't you think?
I hope that you enjoy your boat ride today, whether it's in a yacht, raft or cruise ship.

But most importantly, may you breathe in the perfume of today...merrily, merrily, merrily.

Today brings me joy. What brings you joy?

"The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present." ~Alice Morse Earle

Monday, April 22, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Sassy

Being sassy may seem like a strange addition to my Joyride theme this month, but let me explain:

Part of living with authenticity and joy is to be yourself. I learned a long time ago that I'm just sassy. Sometimes, I say or do things to ilicit a reaction in others, or to bring attention to a point of view that may have not been considered before (namely, mine). Other times, my sassiness just bubbles up like magma from the depth of me and I can't stop it. It's like watching a train wreck.
There are three definitions to the word 'sassy'. They are: rude & disrespectful, lively & spirited, and stylish & chic. I like to believe that I am all three. But the reality is is that I am probably just rude and spirited.  I've always been sassy. I think I inherited it from my Grandmother. She built airplanes during WW II and had a lot of sass.

Knowing my parent's sassiness limit was important to my safety and well being as a kid.
Too sassy, and I got a smack bottom. Not sassy enough, then I felt like I was being untrue to myself.
It's always been a precarious line.

On the other hand, embracing my inner sass helps my live an authentic life. It's who I am. Some of my personal examples of sassiness include:
  • Name calling (but only to those who deserve it, like mean people.)
  • Mouthiness (like when I told my Grandmother that she smelled...but she did.)
  • A high confidence that you can talk anyone into anything--like the time I yelled at a passing truck and the driver hit the brakes, got out and came after me. (Like any truly sassy person, I ran away. To be fair, he may have been a zombie.)
  • Believing in your Gawd-given talent for reading people and placing bets in absolutely inappropriate moments. The story to prove this point is so bad I can't even relate it here for fear of your judgement (which would be well deserved)--and the fact that I lost the bet (which shames me still) and don't want to remind my brother, Scott, that I owe him lunch...dang. Now he remembers.
  • Independence--like shaving your head at 32 and going grey just to defy cultural norms.
  • Brash boldness (or brazen stupidity)--like the time I followed a complete stranger off of a train in Prague--he said he had the hookup for a cheap youth hostel. Lucky for us it all turned out OK. In hindsight that was just a cold case waiting to happen.
There are a million other instances of my impudent sass gone awry...most of which I can't share here because I don't want you asking me about them. My sass filled life is one of constant embarrassment to my family.

Also, being sassy is a terrifying way of life. I have a completely unnatural amount of confidence. Take this morning, I was listening to an NPR story about competing in the Iron Man Triathlon. During one point in the broadcast I (seriously) thought, "I could do that." If you know me in person, then you are laughing out loud this very moment.

Shut up.

I can hear you.

You will regret your insolence.

(See what I mean??)

I also often say things before thinking. Things like, "SURE!! I'd LOVE to chair the school auction!!" Or, "My dad could TOTALLY beat your dad's face in!!!" (Which, to be honest, was true. But it wasn't necessary to say out loud--mostly because one look from my dad made other dads run away in fear...)

Simply put, being sassy gets me into a lot of trouble.
On the other hand, sassiness has it's upside, life is always an adventure.

Being sassy brings me joy. In what ways are you sassy?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Receiving

Receiving is an art. I've only met a few women in my life who do it really well.

A few years ago, I was standing in line in a grocery store and in front of me was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was in her mid-fifties, had beautiful white hair, and lots of laugh lines. She radiated a sense of calm and peace. As often is my case, I started speaking before thinking and I said, "Ma'am, I have to tell you, you are so beautiful!"

She turned to me and said, "Oh my goodness, no I'm not."

On the other hand, I have a friend who is just as beautiful in every way and when you pay her a compliment, she kindly says, "Thank you so much!! You just made my day!!"

She has mastered the art of receiving--receiving a compliment sure, but whether it is a compliment or something bigger, it doesn't matter because the principle is the same: She knows how to receive.

Receiving is about having an open heart--open enough to allow others to help, comfort, care and love. Receiving is about believing that you are worthy to be the recipient of another's kindness, another's love and another's care.

Receiving is the most graceful act we can learn in this life. Being a fellow human being is no small thing, and each of us have the privilege to give, and to receive, the loving kindness of others during our sojourn here on earth.

You may be asking yourself, "How can I receive?"
I say, start small. If someone pays you a compliment, simply say, "Thank you." If your neighbor brings you dinner out of the blue say, "Thank you." If someone cashes in their winning lottery ticket and gives you half, say, "Thank you." (And then buy them a Rolls Royce.)

If at first you don't feel worthy to receive the gift they've given you, that's o.k.--but try to make a little room for that gift to grow in your heart. Try to believe.

Then, and only then, can you receive.

Being a gracious receiver brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Quiet

"Remember the quiet wonders.
The world has more need of them than it has for warriors."

~Charles de Lint
Quiet brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: People

When I was in my early twenties, I worked as a full time volunteer for my church for eighteen months. During this time, I once estimated that I talked to roughly 10,000 people.

I met a lot of people. A LOT.

Fat, short, thin, balding, same, different, religious, not, nice, mean, funky, strange, drugged, homeless, gay, straight, orange--you name it-- I've met them. Volunteering eighty hours a week and talking with literally thousands of people in such a concentrated period of time, I learned one beautiful thing: People are amazing.

People make our world the wonder that it is.

Alas, this week we've also been reminded that people can produce darkness that is beyond comprehension.

Recently, I was told that I, "Just haven't been peaceful"--like it was a bad thing. I suppose for this person, who loves me, it was.

I responded, "How can I know true peace unless there's an absence of it from time to time?"

Often, people often do things to us (or near us) that produce feelings of negativity in our lives. That lady who cuts me off in traffic, the guy who yells at his kids, and even individuals who plan deliberate violence against innocents can and do effect our lives in quantifiable ways that often will lead us through the uncharted waters of our spirits. We may not make it through without help; but eventually, we will make it through.
And do you know why?

Because of people. Lovely, amazing and beautiful people will run to us, hands outstretched, willing to lift us up and even carry us to safety if need be.

As Gandhi said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

People have such great capacity for love, understanding, compassion and kindness.
Humanity is vast and glorious, confusing and profane; yet even as one causes harm, hundreds of others are reaching out to help and comfort.

People bring me joy. Who brought you joy today?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Open

Each January, I pick a word to define my year. I kind of plant it in my subconscious and watch it unfold. This year, my word is "open".

Here's the definition:
(adjective) Allowing access, passage, or a view through an empty space; not closed or blocked up.
(noun) Move or adjust so as to leave a space allowing access and view.

The biggest part of experiencing openness is allowing.  Allowing means that I am open to what others do, be or have. It doesn't mean that I agree with it, AND it doesn't mean that I disagree with it--living in openness means that I cast no judgement on another's experience.

You may be thinking, "That sounds a lot like tolerance." But it's not. Tolerance means that we don't really approve of the actions of others but we put up with it anyway. Despite it's popularity in our modern vocabulary, the word "tolerance" isn't a word I like to use in talking about my fellow human beings. I tolerate mosquitoes--I tolerate doing my taxes. On the other hand, being open, (or allowing) means that I am what I am, and you are what you are, and I honor, value and treat you as I would like to be treated in all things.

By being open, I remove all negative emotion that I may derive from the actions of others. I choose not to stay stuck in any negative emotion that other's actions may bring me. For instance, there's this lady who always, ALWAYS cuts me off at my daughter's school. Every day, without fail, she smirks at me and revs her engine and cuts right in front of me.

Now, I could throw something at her, or shake my fist, or smash her windshield in with my tire iron, or I could just talk about how she cuts me off every day and spend my time seething---or, I can choose to be open to her actions, wish her well, and be on my way.

By removing my negative emotions about the event (her cutting me off) I am not blocked up by my own thinking. I get to enjoy the many and beautiful blessings around me instead of stewing in my daily dramas--which, who are we kidding--they really aren't that interesting anyway.

Instead, I'm trying to be open. I'm attempting to allow. I find that when I do, openness expands my spirit. Being open allows me unfettered views on the path to understanding and compassion. I no longer tolerate my fellow humans. Instead, when I'm open to how others live their experience (in all their wonderful contrast and beauty) I am granted the same gift in return.

Openness seems to be working for me so far....at least I haven't used my tire iron...yet.

Being open brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Let it Go

Life is like a river.

It flows downstream all the time.
At birth, we put our figurative canoes in the river and go with the flow.
As we get older, we begin to choose thoughts that fight against the current. Sometimes we hang onto jobs, places, or people even though our life is calling us to something greater. Often, the current of the river will make us let go of the things that are keeping us from evolving.
But not after we fight and fight and fight.

Fighting makes me tired. With the last two years under my belt, I've had to learn to let go. Hanging on caused me uphappiness. Letting go turned me downstream in my canoe and I am learning to go with the flow. Going with the flow means that I choose any thought that causes relief.

The problem is, is that I'm really adept at paddling my canoe upstream--like I've got Arnold-pre-govenor-still-the-Terminator-Schwarzenegger-like muscles. Seriously, it may be the only part of me that's in shape. I'm so adept at paddling upstream that sometimes I don't even realize how hard I'm working.

But here's the reality: Letting go feels good. Letting go allows me to stop being beaten against the boulders in the river. Letting go means I can lean back and enjoy the ride instead of paddling upstream with all my might.

Our society tells us that paddling upstream is the norm. But it's not. Paddling upstream is what we've inherited from our collective belief that "doing" is better. Doing is fine, but being is better. Allowing is better. Loving is better. Feeling peace, happiness, and joy are better.

Letting go is better. The River has got us. All we need to do is enjoy the ride.

Letting go brings me joy. What brings you joy today?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Kindness

Today, I went to the grocery store. Going to the grocery store is something akin to amputating my own toes with a butter knife, meaning: I'd just rather not.

Anyway, I was making my way merrily through the store and ended up at a checker who only had one soul in line and lucky me, wouldn't you know it? They only had a gallon of milk and a Twix bar! "Look at my luck!" I thought. I loaded the contents of my cart on the conveyor and waited. The cashier started checking my groceries and then pointed above his head and said, "Ma'am, this is an express lane."


What the what? Talk about rude.

Of course, I wasn't paying attention. I stumbled through a loud and open ended apology to the now long line formed behind my mountain of groceries. "I'M SO SORRY! I JUST MOVED HERE AND I DIDN'T KNOW THIS WAS THE EXPRESS LINE. PLEASE FORGIVE ME--I DIDN'T MEAN TO BE SO RUDE!"

Two teenage boys stood patiently behind me buying roses for their girlfriends. One of them said, as he turned to the line behind waiting behind him, "No worries, stuff like this happens, right, people?"

It was so very kind.

Kindness, whether it's received or given, brings me joy. What brings you joy?  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Joyride A to Z: JOY

"Now and then it is good to pause in our pursuit of Joy
and just be Joyful."
Today I will just be.
Today I enjoy the changes life brings me.
Today I recognize my divinity and rejoice in the flexibility that this human experience gives.
 I delight in gratitude for all that comes my way, realizing that even my fear
brings faith and expansion  
and from the tendrils of faith blooms joy.
 Today I hope.
Today I treasure my integrity by honoring my whole self, undivided, and know that I am the peace, fulfillment and happiness I seek.   
Today, I scatter joy.

What brings you joy today?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Integrity

Growing up, I always equated the word integrity with honesty. Of course, honesty is a huge part of integrity, but it wasn't until I read a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner that I felt like I really understood the meaning of personal "integrity".

"Integrity means being whole, unbroken, undivided. It describes a person who has united the different parts of his or her personality, so that there is no longer a split within the soul."

I am a wild child.

I always have been. I've been told to "Just try and fit in." But I can't. I just see things differently than the culture I was raised in. The wildness in me wants to push back, do things differently, think other ways, maybe to come to the conclusion the rest of the pack has arrived at, or maybe not. Many people in my culture have tried to shame my wildness and from time to time, I've listened to the critics and my heart broke--and it broke because I was denying the very wildness that God put inside of me.

Last summer, I had a profound experience (which I won't go into here) and I finally "got it". I wasn't supposed to deny that wildness. I was supposed to embrace it. God put that wildness in my heart. And the wildness is the thing that allows me to be empathetic to others who feel like they don't fit in.

Just as the integrity of a ship is dependent on its hull being water tight, the integrity of my spirit means that I must embrace all those parts of myself that I would disown--usually because society tells me they aren't feminine. When I can value what being "bitchy" or bold has to teach me, then I can watch in awe as those gifts open up new paths to courage and compassion within my life.

God, the Universe, Source, (whatever you want to call it) dwells within us, as us. As YOU. As children, most of us are raised to believe that we have to make some cosmic transformation in order to be "accepted". The truth is, we don't need to change our personalities in order to connect with God. All we need to do connect to the Divine is to be our beautiful, glorious selves.

This isn't to say that we won't be tossed and turned and tumbled and humbled. Sometimes our tumbling will be the consequence of our own choosing. Other times it may come at the hands of others through judgement and unkindness. Still other times (as difficult as it may sound) our tumbling may come as a result of God wanting for us to learn a specific lesson. And the lesson will always provide us the opportunity (if we choose to seek it) to experience more love.

Sealing the split within ourselves and regaining our personal integrity only happens when we are authentic, honest and open with our own hearts. Living our integrity means we may make some people around us unhappy. But ultimately, living with integrity means that we get to cast off the shackles of other people's opinions of us (good and bad) and enjoy being ourselves, whole and undivided.

Only then can we have true joy.

Living with integrity brings me joy. What brings you joy?  

"People follow different paths, straight or crooked, according to their temperament, depending on which they consider best, or most appropriate--and all reach You--just as rivers enter the ocean."
                                                                                                               ~the Upanishads

"Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen."
                                                                                                               ~Saint Augustine

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Hope

Oh how I hope.

This moving transition has kicked my spirit to the ground, and the months before it were kind of soul battering as well.

And yet, I hope.

I hope that we will land safely and happily.
I hope we make some friends here.
I hope I see the dear friends I left behind very soon.
I hope my husband's hours level out and we can see his face in the daylight sometime.
I hope my children make some connections and actually want to go to school like they did before.
I hope a million other tiny little inconsequential hopes that will never mean anything to anyone else but me.

I hope.
I hope.
I hope.

I can't help hoping. There are no guarantees, but I continue to wake up in the morning clinging fast to my hope. 

I send my hopes to the Universe and my hopeful intention bends circumstances to my very will--I don't have any scientific evidence that this is the way things work, only my own limited experience.

When it seems like there is nothing but darkness and pain and confusion and chaos, there is, in that moment, growing from one tiny tether of hope, a pathway of peace. The problem is is that I am right in the middle of my chaos and it's impossible to gain ground high enough to see the path before me.
That is why I hope.

And one day, in one moment, I will recognize all that all I'd hoped for is blooming right before my eyes.
The key is to continue hoping.

After all, my other choice is to paddle upstream in despair.
I'm not strong enough for that.

And so I hope.

Hope brings me joy. What brings you joy?

"Once you choose hope, anything's possible." ~Christopher Reeve

Monday, April 8, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Gratitude

This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival…
a joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep the house empty of its furniture.
Still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whomever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. "
                                       ~Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Gratitude for all things brings me joy (even the hard stuff.) What are you grateful for today?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Faith, Fear & Flexibility

Fear is the often trodden road to faith...and flexibility is the gas station along the way.

Faith is the opposite of fear--the belief that every thing's gonna be alright--or the complete confidence in someone or something. Faith in events or people is something we experience every day. I have faith that the guy behind me isn't going to run into me when I stop unexpectedly. I have faith that when I wake tomorrow morning that I will still be able to see. I have faith that the people I'm raising will grow up to become good people.

But what if?

What if that guy runs into me, or I go blind, or (heaven forbid) my kids turn into zombies?

Playing the "what if" game is like supplicating to fear. Imagining all the horrible things that can happen is is the quickest way to rob joy from the moment. Imagining "what if" not only deifies fear but is the emotional equivalent of paddling upstream in a raging river. You're never gonna win.

But what do you do in the dead of night when you wake up worried that your kids are going to get scurvy because they don't eat their veggies? How do you get through the moment imagining that you may be diagnosed with a terminal disease? What do you feel when you picture losing your job, or your spouse or your life savings?

That's where flexibility comes in. Many years ago, we went to visit my parents (don't worry, we've been back since.) We brought with us our darling daughter who walked into grandma and grandpa's house and promptly threw up. I looked at my dad and said, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry!! We brought the stomach flu to your house!!"
He looked right back at me, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, we're either going to get it, or we aren't. There's nothing we can do now, but sit and enjoy the moment."

In two sentences my darling dad gave me a profound gift. I can worry about all the things that are probably never going to happen to me, or I can shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, it's either going to happen, or not, so let's enjoy the moment."

I know a lot of people who think that the society we currently live in is on the edge of complete destruction. They proclaim, "Look at that (insert catastrophic current event here.) The end is near!!!" And it may be.
But it may not be.

The reality is, most if us don't know how a simple magnet works, or have a thorough understanding of the period table of elements, know why the sky is blue or what our own blood type is--so how in the hell are we going to predict when the "end" is happening?

I've heard of people hoarding coffee (even if they don't drink it) so they can trade it for goods when the "inevitable" zombie apocalypse/WW III/Armageddon begins.

To me, this is insanity. I get the desire to want to survive, but at what cost? Spending my days prepping my bug-out location robs me of my present joy. To take a page from my dad, "It's either going to happen or it's not." Now, I'm not saying don't be prepared/have some savings/use your common sense, but if you're spending even one moment swiping the coffee from your hotel room to add it to your negotiable apocalypse trading collection, then honey, you're missing the joy in the moment.

I'm talking to myself as much as anyone. I wake up at 3 a.m. every single night worried about this or that. I go through phases where I can't stop thinking about the inevitable doom lurking right outside my door. Other times, I sleep peacefully, unencumbered by the monsters of the deep.

I recently learned a little trick: When I feel that fear begin to encroach upon my peace, I say to myself, "I am the mighty and magic circle of protection that is invincible and repels from me every discordant thought and element that seeks to find entrance or intrude itself. I am at peace."

After taking a deep breath/saying a prayer/turning on a light/getting a drink of water, I feel my faith being restored. As much as I don't want it to be, my faith and my fear are tied together. Without fear (or doubt), my faith (or hope) wouldn't be used. My fear is a gift, as is leads me to the faith that gives me peace and joy and flexibility allows me to be patient, adaptable, and responsive to change along the road to greater Faith.

Because, in the words of my dad, "...all we can do now is enjoy the moment."

Faith, fear and flexibility bring me joy. What brings you joy?

"Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." ~Frank Herbert, Dune

Friday, April 5, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Enjoy

I really enjoy my life.

I'm not saying it is perfect, 'cause babycakes, it is faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar from.

I'm as broken, messed up, worried, freaked out, addicted, sad, and sorry as the next person. I've got my problems just as you do.

....I really enjoy my life.

When I was just starting out my adult-hood I had a fabulous mentor-mother named Jackie. Jackie sucked each day dry of joy. She lived big. She loved big. She taught me not to regret, worry, to let go and that life is good.

Her daughter happens to be my dear friend, Clover.
Clover gives me the gift of wisdom and friendship and constantly shows the way. She continues to teach me just as her darling mom did all those years ago.

Jackie gave me a book called Living A Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard. In it she writes, "The only life worth living is the one we take responsibility for choosing."

The frame of mind with which we engage our daily living is a choice. We can engage living with fear, anger, or drudgery, or we can choose to engage it in a spirit of peace, fulfillment and true enjoyment.

Of course, living is just hard sometimes, and we may need the help of a doctor or a health professional to guide us through. But ultimately, when we are ready, the choice to return to wholeness is ours alone. This deliberate choice happens on the most individual and personal level and usually (but not always) during a stressful emotional challenge.

It's easy to feel good when things are going well. Enjoying life feels like the windows of our soul are welcoming in a bright and brilliant Spring. Conversely, it often feels impossible to suck the marrow of joy when the world is crashing down around us.

Two years ago I lost my dad. Six months ago, Mountain Man lost his job. Some other hard stuff happened in between, and then six weeks ago we moved to an unknown land where I still don't know a soul. Some days, joy seems like an elusive stranger.

And yet...underneath the waves of sorrow or sadness, is joy. I'm able to connect to it by enjoying the prosaic moments that make up daily living. The fragrance of the blooming maple trees, the ever changing Portland sky, sunlight (when it comes), rain (which I don't have to shovel!) lemons, the laughter of a friend over the phone last night, texts from a fellow blogger and real life friend just shootin' the breeze--This is where joy resides.

For me, learning to enjoy living each day fully gives me a foundation of joy--a reserve, if you will--so when the challenges come, (and they always do) I am able to be gentle with myself when my emotions are blown about by the winds of change. I can center myself in the joy found in these seemingly small things so I can continue to survive and eventually thrive.

So yes, life is hard.
AND life is good.

Enjoy it.

Enjoying my daily life brings me joy. What brings you joy?

"What you think and do now builds. Value this moment. Be patient. Smile often. Love the process of living each moment fully. What we do today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows." ~Alexandra Stoddard

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Divinity

I'm not talking about that weird fluffy cloud of white candy that people in my neck of the woods make at Christmas time. I'm talking about the Divine.

God? Nope...well...yes.

I'm talking about you, me, your boss (yes, that passive-aggressive freakshow), and even the bad driver who keeps cutting you off in traffic.

Human beings in all our frailty, are not just touched by divinity, we are the Divine.

Often, in our society, we delineate some humans as divine, and others not so much. We consider a person "holy" who helps the poor and a person "unholy" who shows selfishness. There are a thousand other instances where we define people as divine, and others as not.

This is our great mistake.

It's foolish to imagine that one person is ever superior to another. The meth-addict, the prostitute, the hateful, the wise, the kind, the compassionate--even the angels among us--are all the Divine creating, learning, being and experiencing. There is no one but the Divine.

Every atom of existence is sacred, as is every person. We'd like to pick and choose--trust me, I could name five people right now who I think are not so divine.

However, they are.

In the words of Wordsworth, "But trailing clouds of glory, do we come." This temporal and temporary ('cause everythings-a-changing-alllll-the-time) is fractured divinity. Individually we work out our self discovery and personal evolution. Through this self discovery we discern our divine nature and become our whole selves.

And what of those who don't?

What people choose to do with their time is their own business--even when it directly affects me and my life. Of course, it's not my place to judge what kind of suffering they inflict, (and it is absolutely my place to remove myself from any intended or perceived harm) but it behooves me to attempt to understand what causes their behavior--even if I want to punch them in the face.

So, I truly believe that it's still possible to recognize and honor their divinity because without exception, each person, whatever their existence, is a manifestation of the Divine.

I simply haven't expanded my understanding enough to perceive every one's divinity...yet.

Recognizing the Divine in all people brings me joy. What brings you joy?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Joyride A to Z: Change


The very word strikes fear.

(Seriously. I can hear your heart beating in terror from here.)

Change is hard.
Change sucks.
Change creeps up on us in the night and takes away the very thing we adore.

Simply put: Change makes my square teeth itch.

And...Change (dare I say it?) also brings new beginnings. Change brings growth. We are changing all the time. Everything is changing all the time. Our very breath insures it.

I often find it interesting (and repeatedly painful) that I expect things to remain the same. After all, our happiness is hard won, right?

And yet, the bodies we came to life with are no longer. All I have to do is look in the mirror and see that the graceful lines of my youth are jumbly around the edges. Every cell within my body (and yours too, unless you're six) has been replaced within the last seven years. I think new thoughts, have new feelings, experience new things. I am also (hopefully) more compassionate now than when I was as a child. Only change (that shifty blaggard!) has the power to help us evolve and become more open, more loving, and just more. Mountains move and seas rise and time passes and seasons are born and seasons die and there is always always change.

Then why do we resist it?

Hell if I know.

All I know is this: every great joy in my life has been preceded by terrible terrible anguish change. It's what my dear friend, Mrs. Marcus, calls "The grip before the shift." We beautiful humans yearn to hang onto what was, but when we finally and defiantly let go, our hands are open to receive the great joy that awaits.

 Change brings me great joy.(But sometimes not until after things kinda suck for a while.)
What brings you joy?

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~Lao Tzu

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Joyride, A to Z: Be

Just be.

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in again.

You are a human being, not a human doing.
You are a magnificent child of a loving God.
You are a spark of the divine.

You came here with everything you need for the journey.
You are perfectly whole just as you are.
You have a kind heart and a marvelous mind.
You are magnificent.
You are loved.
And you are love.

Just be.
Just feel.
Just know.

Stop for a moment and be. Close your eyes. Breathe it in.

Just "being" brings me joy. What brings you joy?

"It happens but seldom
that one of us really sees the other
for a moment a person shows himself
as on a photograph but more clearly
and in the background
something which is bigger than his shadow."
           ~Tomas Transtromer

Monday, April 1, 2013

"A"nnnnnnnnd, Here we go!

Hello! Welcome to the kick off of the A to Z Challenge!! Like any semi-dedicated blogger, I thought long and hard about my A to Z theme, made a neat little announcement, thought about the theme, panicked like crazy and threw the whole thing out in search of something better.

I was going to focus on the new city I'm living in--Portland, OR, A to Z, then I felt all pressured and then I started sweating and when I sweat I get angry. While I was angry I thought about what makes me happy and how people have often asked me if I'm on medication due to my apparent happiness.

In case you are wondering, the answer is "no", I am not on medication. I was even one of those granola moms who skipped out on the whole epidural section in birthing class--and then regretted it will all my heart. So now, I'm what I call  mediflexible--'cause ya know, stuff happens.

Before I jump into this year's theme, I'd like to say thank you and Happy happy birthday to the amazing Arlee Bird who is kind and wonderful and one of our A to Z hosts. Happy birthday, Arlee!!!

Now, on to this year's theme: OK, so let's review, I was angry about being sweaty about being the new kid in town and therefore unqualified to offer anything new or inventive when it comes to Portland. This got me thinking about how happy I've been here---and how unhappy--and happiness, or joy,  is a VERY BIG DEAL to me, because I pretty much think it's why we're here. So welcome to Joy: A to Z.

Joy. The definition is: the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Now, this all sounds good, and I've never met a person who was all like, "Nah....no more joy for me. I'm all full up." My journey over the next 26 days is well, really just that, a journey. It's not meant to be a comprehensive list of how to get joy or even maintain it, but rather ways I've found joy in my daily life and journey.

I hope you enjoy the ride. Thanks for stopping by.

And yes, I'm cheating. I'm really starting tomorrow with B. See you then mes amis!!