Friday, April 26, 2013

People Who Need People ... Just Not All The Time

Last Sunday I went to see an Opera all by myself.

Well, in actuality, it wasn’t all by myself. The theatre was packed with Opera-Goers. But the seat next to me was empty. I did try to find someone to go along. No, I didn’t buy two tickets to have one go unused. I’m not wasteful like that. It just kinda worked out that way. And, to tell you the truth, I didn’t mind.

I spend a lot of time with people. I like people. I have some wonderful friends to talk to and share time with. I’ve met some lovely people thru theatre and my kids’ schools or activities. My family is a good time. The kids always have a lot to share – especially my daughter, now SHE can talk. I work in an office and coordinate networking events – gotta talk at those. I also manage large-scale events and need to discuss various aspects about them with my co-workers. In addition, we occasionally go to lunch and chat or visit by the coffee-maker. Since Communications was recently added to my title, I have stuff to write, discuss or share with the various members and visitors who stop by our office, too.

I talk on the phone with my mom and dad regularly – as well as friends near and far. I keep up via email and actual real letters. Oh, I also check Facebook to see what others are up to and connect there. I have special friends that I get together with more often who I especially enjoy. I rehearse with people and go out for drinks after rehearsals. I text a little. I reach out to the people I care about regularly.

Pretty clear … I like people and I like to talk/share with them. I like to have quirky conversations and discuss anything and everything.

But, there are times when I’ve had enough of them. Nothing personal. They didn’t offend, upset or annoy me. But sometimes when I’m really busy or have a lot happening at work or socially, I get tired of talking. Tired of listening. Tired of paying attention. Too many meetings and discussions and I long for the sound of silence.

At these times, I have a Charlie Brown moment. Oh come on … you know what I mean. Someone starts talking … I see their mouth moving … but all I hear is blah blah blah blah blah. You know … that Charlie Brown monotone sound that means absolutely nothing to my brain. It’s gibberish. When that happens, I know it’s time for a solo act.

It’s at these times that I go off on my own … either physically or simply by removing myself from the conversation. I check out. I nod and smile, but I can’t process anymore words or handle anymore communication. I’m exhausted and done. I need time without any required interaction. Time away and on my own.

So last Sunday, I went to the Opera alone. I go to the movies alone too. And, I have been known to sit in a restaurant, coffee shop or at the Bar alone. Sometimes I chat with the people around me or the bar-staff. Sometimes I just watch the TV or read a book or type blogs on my computer or people watch or review my lines or write or just drink in blessed, beautiful silence.

I like to be in the house alone. I enjoy those nights after I put the kids to bed when it’s quiet and I am completely on my own. I use this time as the mood strikes. To read. To watch what I want on TV. To write. To knit. To do whatever I want and not have to talk or listen or put any other energy out there.  It refreshes me. Re-energizes me to eventually get back out there. To me, it’s kind of like plugging in your Smart Phone after a day of busy usage. It needs time to recharge and get going again. To be able to receive all those emails and texts and calls, it needs a little down time with the power cord. And silence around me with no interaction is a key power-source for me. It revitalizes me.

My kids have their own rooms. I don’t have my own room anymore, though I’ve kinda staked out the SunRoom as “my room.” That room has no TV so it is quiet with limited stimulation. It has books, lots of paper, my Paris boxes, knitting and writing projects along with my desk -- where I keep my computer, pictures, special gifts and a memory box filled with items that make me happy when I touch or read them.

I go to this room for its quiet and peace and its ability to give me an emotional sedative. I go here when I don’t want to talk. I go here to write in my journal or read my book and to separate myself for a little while. And I share it when I’m ready to reach out once again.

So when I go to the Opera alone, I’m not trying to be anti-social. If you see me at Starbucks staring out the window with a coffee in my hand, I’m probably not lonely. And when I sit in a movie theatre with my own popcorn and soda, don’t feel sorry for me and think I was ditched by my friend. I just choose to be alone sometimes. I need to be alone sometimes.

If I wasn’t alone, I couldn’t write this blog … could I?

Yes ... there are times when I’m all by myself … and very okay with that….

                                                                                                                                                     -- Jenni

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Choices We Make

I have dust on my ceiling fan.

The other night, I climbed in bed after a long day, book in hand, ready to settle in and transport myself to another place and enjoy someone else’s story. After fluffing the pillows my eyes traveled up to my high arched ceiling. To the white ceiling fan. What did I see? Well, dust is all the way to the edges, coating the fan blades.

Now, those of you who know me recognize that this is not the norm for my space. I am a Type A Neat-Freak. I clean without conscious thought. I like order in my home. I actually like to clean. But the Ceiling Fan … well it’s way up high. I need a special ladder to reach it. It requires a specific decision to bring the ladder from the garage all the way upstairs. It’s a deliberate choice.

What did I do? I looked away and returned my complete and total focus to my book.

For a long-time, I was a stay-at-home mom. In the early years of their lives, I not only changed diapers, read books, played games on all fours, made up songs and got them to and from play-dates but I also made their baby food from scratch and took care of all the normal house stuff … laundry, washing floors, meal-planning, cleaning, cooking etc. (My husband did his share, of course. Not sayin’ he didn’t or doesn’t.) But I was at Home so I saw the dust-bunnies and mess and compulsively did it all day. Just part of the Stay-At-Home gig, I guess.

During their formative years, I actually worked from home too. (Love that statement … like I wasn’t Working at home already.) But I had a couple of different clients and marketing/event/communications work along with the kid/home projects. When my son was first born, I was in the midst of planning a huge event to take place at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton Hotel. I sat with him propped on my leg while I typed, planned and organized. I did the “event, communications and marketing work” while he napped, too. And then, when my daughter came along … well, it was just part of what I did. I just did it with two kids now.

It’s amazing what a person can handle. I like to work and be busy. I don’t sit and do nothing well. I typically have a project going as I watch TV. It is rare that I just stop. And if I do, I fall asleep.

But back to this Ceiling Fan. In that moment, I made a choice. I made a choice that reading my book was the priority. And when I “worked” at home while my kids were younger, I made other choices ….

I chose to take them to the park instead of wash the floor. I chose to snuggle up and read a story to them instead of folding the laundry. I chose to order pizza for dinner so we could spend just a little more time coloring or playing a game. I chose to rake the leaves and allow them to mess them up (even though it created more work for me) by jumping instead of sweeping them to the curve. I chose to plant the flowers with their help even though it took twice as long.

I make other choices too. I choose to audition and perform in a play, knowing it will eat up time and take lots of energy and that my house will probably not be as clean for a little while since I still choose to make time first with my family and friends. I choose to host the party for my daughter and her 8 friends instead of going somewhere else even though the house will need to be cleaned and then will be a mess and need to be cleaned again … even though the screaming and giggling little girls will make me nuts for a little while … even though I have to gather all the favors instead of paying someone else to do it. I choose to get going on a Saturday morning to take my son to swimming then take my daughter to swimming then take my son to a Boy Scout event then go to yoga then drive home to host some friends for dinner.

I choose to get up early to work-out instead of sleeping later. I choose to get my nails done, take my kids out to their favorite restaurant for dinner, play a Wii tournament and then, once they are in bed, settle in on a Friday night for a Scandal marathon 'til midnight. I choose to volunteer and plan events for Grosse Pointe Theatre though it takes lots of time and meetings. I choose to go to the bar with my friends and laugh and talk when I know I have to get up early the next day and go to work. I choose to work outside the home when I know I could keep the place neater and better organized if I stayed in.

I choose to make time for the people I care for … for the things I enjoy doing that feed my soul, spirit, body, and mind. I thrive as a result of my choices.

What do you choose? What are your priorities? Do these choices feed your mind? Exercise your body or spirit? Do they give you satisfaction or pleasure? Do they make you happy? What do they say about the person you are ... or the person who want to be?

I guess that’s what it comes down to. What I choose reflects the person I am and what I decide is most important. I am happy with my choices.  

So, Dust on that Ceiling Fan … you will just have to wait.  I have other priorities today.

                                                                                                                                                                        -- Jenni

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Can You Learn from Yoga?

I love Yoga. In fact, I am passionate about Yoga!
I can't believe it took me this long to find something that exercises my body so incredibly while simultaneously strengthening my mind and spirit. It's like workouts and therapy at the same time. The Yoga I do exists in a class that is organic. I like that word. Organic.
Organic means it changes every time I'm there. The fundamental poses and movement may be similar but I cannot predict it. In fact, one instructor has different expressions for poses ... She artfully explains them. Sometimes we flow quicker ... sometimes we hold a pose longer. Each instructor has his or her own style. But the classes are never the same. The poses and message are always in flux.
I attend a variety of classes but I'm pretty much a regular at the Wednesday 8:30 class at The Yoga Shelter -- love that name -- almost every week. It's my day off and my day to take care of myself ... and some of those little things I neglect amidst work and chauffeur duties. I like this class. It's Slow Flow which means lots of poses moving along at a smooth, easy pace. The instructor always gives me stuff to think about as I move. Today when I went, I expected to see Marty ... I always look forward to his message and his guidance. But today, it was Juliet who fed my soul and challenged me. And, she gave me and guided me in a completely different and exciting way.  
Today in class, I learned a lot. Do you have a mental or spiritual or physical exercise or activity that challenges and strengthens you? What do you take out of your classes or games? What does it bring or give you? What do you need from it? Why did you choose it?  
I begin my "Practice" with meditation. It's a method a friend of mine introduced to me. I have a specific posture that I use to prepare for class. And I cleanse my mind, anchor my spirit and shelter my essence. I protect my heart and my self during that meditation. And I know I'm ready to begin as I embrace energy from the earth and sky. Kinda cerebral, I guess. But it is a healing process that I crave and that surges bright pink sparkles and energy thru me and around me.  
Each Yoga class is organic. But this is what I brought home today. This is what I give to you.  

I seek Balance over Support. Guess that means I like am a seeker and I do things on my own.

Yoga, like life, isn't easy. What you do and experience and feel and take from it changes day to day ... side to side. What was easy yesterday sends me off balance today. What caused me to shake on Wednesday is solid on Saturday.

I like not knowing the order ... not predicting the flow. I like being surprised and challenged.

Whatever flow happens -- even if I'm looking forward to something and anticipating its benefits -- it is exactly what I need at that moment. That surprises me. Yoga feeds me what I actually need ... not what I think I need.

Yoga is a practice ... In the Shelter of that room, I seek not perfection. I seek the essence of who I am in the universe. Who I am varies and is not stagnant. It changes day to day and during the class. I am in constant flux ... This is something I've discovered.

When my body shakes, that is a good thing. The quaking is my body, mind and spirit ... one of these or perhaps all ... seeking strength.

If I fall, I get back up. No one looks at me funny or judges me in that room. I try to reach beyond myself and feel the supportive energy all around me. It inspires me to go farther in my poses. On the crowded days, we are challenged to take someone with us if we fall. That is a reflection of our group connection and the shared support.

In my poses, I find that I reach. I am reaching for something. Often for the light or the ceiling or the sky. Up. Out. Beyond myself .... Yoga helps me figure that out.

After class ends, I still have to vacuum and clean and do dishes and laundry and cook dinner and take care of my family and home and get to work and get stuff done and deal with people who are difficult etc etc etc. Yoga reminds me that I can choose my mental approach to all that ... just like we do as we hold difficult poses or stretch in not-so-easy directions. I can choose to wish away the experience or the discomfort, or I can find the joy and the opportunity amidst the strain.
And perhaps the greatest message I've learned: I am who I am. Yoga teaches me to embrace and respect and honor myself ... not based on the "rules" of our Western Civilization but based on the fact that I am a creature of this universe created to be exactly who I am right now. I am in process. I will evolve and grow. I will love and dream and desire and crave. I will win and lose. I have imperfections and assets. But no matter what ... I have a purpose. A reason. And I do not need to change based on someone else's story or expectations of who Jenni Carmichael Clark should be.

I did yoga in the beach in Florida. The energy was different amidst the sand and surf, standing on a towel amidst a beautiful beach surrounded by 75 people of varied ages. But it was harmonious. And beautiful. And it made my spirit soar as I listened to the waves and flowed my poses. 
Yoga strengthens my mind and spirit. It has given me the tools to see myself in a different light. To embrace aspects of me and share aspects of me that I once buried deep and hid. It empowers me. 
Does your exercise regime do that? What does it give you? What do you want from it?
Just curious....Yoga does that to me .....                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                   -- Jenni

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Something About A Beach ...

There is something about the beach. The sand. The sound of the surf. The music of the gulls. I revel in the feel of the wind whipping through my hair. I absorb the warmth of the sun on my simply clad skin. I laugh and spin, jumping in the waves as they surge back and forth, swirling and dancing around my ankles. I am intoxicated by the rush of the water against my legs and the very ability of the azure of the sky to blend effortlessly into the deep shadowy blue of the sea. I am captivated by the easy way the sun sinks and dissolves into a blur … and the way the surf and seagulls drown out the sound of cars and the humdrum elements of daily life.

Doesn’t matter where this beach is … Michigan. Florida. Mexico. California. South Carolina. Maine. They share the same ability to quiet the spirit and empower my mind. That fresh air inspires and revitalizes. The sand on my toes heals whatever ails me. The sun and breeze caress me gently and give me new energy along with a sense of peace. I don’t think I’m alone in this experience. Whenever I’m near water, I’m in a better place emotionally and mentally. By the number of people I notice flocking to beaches, perhaps this a universal state.

When I’m near a beach, I have to walk on it. Morning. Noon. Night. Sunrise with coffee. Sunset with a Shock Top. I love walking on the beach. As I said, this beach doesn’t have to be anywhere in particular … just someplace where I can feel the warmth of the sun and enjoy the vastness around me. I prefer it to be warm, but I can enjoy the cooler temperatures as well.

I like to feel the sand on my feet. There’s something about the texture. I notice my footsteps … I truly experience my time on the beach. What I find remarkable as I take my often solitary (not always J) walks amidst sand, surf and sun are the shells. So many. So different.

My kids hunt for shells. Spend hours looking into the water, climbing rocks and canvassing the beaches for the perfect conk or a complete angel wing or scallop. On my recent vacation in Venice, Florida, I watched people use a dredging shovel to pull as many shells from the watery sand as they could … then bend down and sort thru this catch selectively. Throwing things out arbitrarily until they found exactly what they sought. That is their fun, I guess.

But I don’t seek the perfect shell. I’m weird that way. I watch for shells that draw my attention for various reasons, sure. I’m drawn to color and sparkle and unique shapes as I walk along. But the shells I collect and treasure … the ones I find most beautiful … are the broken ones. Colorful – and cracked. Resplendent in their design yet imperfect. A hole at the top. Grains of sand stuck to the outside. Torn at the edges. Those shells I can relate to and understand. The ones others might throw back now sit on my desk at the office. They inspire my creativity as I hold them. Run my fingers over their ridges and sharp edges.

These shells are often overlooked or thrown away. They aren’t perfect specimens. But I find them fascinating all the same. I embrace them for their nature … their imperfectness. I value them for what they are…and even what they are not. A shell with a hole already in it can easily become a necklace after all!

Broken shells are fragile examples of how everything has its place and purpose if you apply a wider vision. The beach is created with these shells … the soft sand I so enjoy walking on is actually crushed, broken, leftover shells that didn’t make the cut. That weren’t chosen. These shells have found a greater reason and an expanded role. Perhaps if you think existentially, these shells have a longer life too. Oh the pretty shells are collected, taken home in ziploc bags and placed in displays or jars -- often in a conglomeration of color and shapes and shells. One of many on display with perhaps only a small portion visible. But crushed, broken, pummeled and damaged shells -- the rejects -- remain by the surf, lining pathways along the sand and creating the velvety smooth beach I love so much...

When it comes down to it, I relate to these broken shells. In their simplicity, they don’t aspire to perfection. They may be neglected and passed over. But they have their own important role to play. Oh, they aren’t collected or put on display or shown off as a prized possession. But they retain their own beauty. Though their place may not be glamorous, they are still beautiful, colorful, unique, intriguing ...

For a long time, I sought perfection in myself. Tried to live up to others’ expectations or vision of who I was meant to be. That’s a lot of responsibility to place on your shoulders. Perfection demands and expects and is unrelenting. It’s exhausting too.

No, I’ve discovered a beauty exists in brokenness. A strength. That I embrace and accept my imperfection doesn’t mean I’m making excuses. It also doesn’t mean I have less of a purpose. That my spirit or character or face is any less beautiful. I have discovered that my own imperfection has a beauty all its own … it is real. Honest. Authentic. Comfortable with its own elegance and style. It smiles and laughs. It struggles and succeeds. It wins and loses. It reaches out without fear. It cries without feeling a need to make an excuse or apologize. It honors itself ... doesn't put on pretense or wear a facade. In embracing my own imperfection, I am more truly me than I ever before was. My energy is revitalized and focused. I'm passionate and exciting and flawed and fun. I don't get it right all the time. I don't have all the answers. I make mistakes. I dream and desire. I crave and struggle. I spin in the sunlight and giggle like a little girl over simple pleaures and kindness from strangers and friends. I rejoice in the imperfect creature that I am. In fact, I'm good with that.

I may not be a prize to be placed on a desk or display. But, I’d rather be crushed, pummeled, softened, tossed back and enjoyed for the role I play in creating a beautiful beach.

                                                                                                                                                                   -- Jenni