Monday, June 23, 2014

Leave Drama To The Stage

Today just moments before departing for Dance Camp, my daughter discovered that her ballet shoes were too small. Not a huge surprise since we bought them last September, but the result was an emotional outburst with whining and despair.

Last week I left a "To Do" Note for my Summertime kids. At noon I received an insulted phone call from my son, declaring that I was asking too much … these things weren’t his job!

I know people who have looked at an action taken by a friend as an insult and stopped speaking to them, deleting them as Facebook friends and ignoring them in public. Years of happy moments lost in a perceived slight or careless word or misspelling. No steps taken to discuss the issue ... just a friendship dissolved in an instant. 

At my Thursday yoga class, our guest instructor seemed to perceive this whirling dark energy that takes hold of the thoughts ... this destroyer of peace. And Rob took us in a completely unique direction. Beside the fact is that I sweat more than I ever had in my life and we did moves I’d never done in a slow flow yoga session. Key to the experience was the moment we were holding a particularly difficult pose after a really, really challenging flow and he gave us a mind warning.

What is that, you ask? What is a “Mind Warning.”  I  mean, he didn’t say it was a Mind Warning. There was no flashing sign stating ... Get this now! This is the important message of the day!!! Wouldn't it be nice if there were?

No, he just stated a particularly compelling thought that gelled in my mind. Here we were sweating (okay, gonna admit that I was dripping sweat) and holding this balancing pose and he made a remark that stuck with me. It ran something like this: “Right now, Drama is trying to sneak into your mind and pull your focus and even insight a little panic. Don’t let it take hold.”

The Human Spirit is amazing. It can handle and withstand more than we think it can when we are in the midst of a crisis moment or difficult time. Not that holding a yoga pose is truly a crisis moment. But, all around us people -- including you and me -- make ordinary moments into crises all the time! Psychologists blame this on our Fight or Flee response. Either we meet the challenge or we run from it. But what if we do neither? What if instead of fighting or fleeing we consider the challenge a balloon … a balloon we don’t pop but deflate.

We’ve all heard it before, bad things happen. People stress about why these bad things happen to good people. Why they happen to them. Why they happen at all. Something these bad things lead to good things. Sometimes these bad things challenge us and stretch us and help us grow. Sometimes these bad things seem to be pointless. They never seem to end or teach anything and just suck.

In the midst of our “Bad Things” are choices … How to respond, how to behave, how to handle whatever Drama is flying our way. Lash out? Blame? Cry? Scream? Shop? Run away? Exercise? My daughter tends to whine. My son chooses to argue and debate. But, in the middle of it all, we DO have a choice in our response.

Back to yoga and Rob’s Mind Warning. Drama will come and go. If we dwell on the stress or pain or anger or frustration or fear or unkindness or hurt or _______ (fill in the blank with your current personal drama), we get stuck in it. Trapped in a tar of our own making. We spin out of control. We start shaking. We have anxiety or panic attacks. We stop sleeping. We distance ourselves from the offender or from people in general.

What if instead of giving into the Drama, we embraced the idea that whatever was happening was temporary and let the Drama drift through us?

What if instead of holding a grudge or blaming someone or allowing the anger to rise, we embraced the idea of uniqueness and diversity and the concept that not everyone sees things the same way and we’re all just doing the best we can?

What if instead of thinking there is only One Right Way to Be or to Act, we accepted our own differences, "weirdness" and individuality, embracing and honoring it instead of denying or fighting it?

What if we forgave and moved forward instead of dwelling on past injuries done to us by those we love most?

I’m a passionate, dramatic person. Those of you who know me well may know that I have highs and lows. But Rob's Mind Warning isn't something I choose to forget. And I encourage you to join me. You see, I see the Drama whirling around me and trying to take hold in my mind. I recognize the darkness and the hurt and the rejection and the __________, and I choose to take a mental break, releasing the air from the balloon. And if I don't happen to have a balloon handy, I release a deep sigh.

And I leave the Drama on the stage.

                                                                                                     -- Jenni

"Sometimes the best thing that you can do is not think. not wonder. not imagine. not obsess. Just Breathe. And have faith that everything will work out for the best."

Friday, June 6, 2014

An Uncomfortable Life

I see her pretty much every day, pushing her grocery cart around the streets where I live. It's not L.A. or New York City. It's just a mid-size midwest town.

In the summertime, her skin has a tan glow ... but not a healthy one. It's hardened and sunburned. She pushes her cart down the sidewalk outside my office window. The wheels rattle as she goes by. I think she takes shelter at times behind my building. 

During the long Michigan winter, she wears a thick down coat but her skin still shows a ruddy glow, hardened by the colder temperatures. She is still pushing that grocery cart. It is full of bags.

I saw her at Taco Bell one day. She was quietly sitting at a window table eating a box of tacos. Her grocery cart sat outside the window, parked like a bike near the doorway.

I don't know her name. I've never spoken to her. She never makes eye contact when we pass each other. She didn't look up from her meal that day as my son and I walked out. But I see her. And one thing I've noted ... I've never witnessed one time where she has held up a sign or asked for money or support.

So I find myself wondering what her story is. How did she come to live like this ... pushing a grocery cart around the downtown area? Where does she go at night? Where does she go when it rains or snows? What does she eat? Where does the money come from? How does she survive day to day to day? Why is she alone, pushing a grocery cart around Royal Oak?

I have no answers. And, I must honestly admit that I've never stopped her as she walks past me. Never asked her name or offered to assist her. That bothers me. See, I thought about it that day in Taco Bell. But then I did nothing. Since I've never seen her ask for assistance before, I didn't want to insult her. Perhaps nothing "happened" to place her in these circumstances. Perhaps she has found some sense of realness or satisfaction in the simplicity of her existence. Perhaps she has chosen this life ... a life that to me seems riddled with strife and hardship. An uncomfortable life.

Life is filled with choices every single day. We choose what to wear, what to eat, who to talk to, who to love and who to reject. We choose our activities and our goals and our hopes and our friends. We even choose our enemies. We choose to keep learning and growing and living every single day. Or, we choose to settle in, sit on the couch or recline in our easy chair and watch the world move along. We choose to protect our heart or open it up. We choose to explore new activities (like PoleFit classes or yoga). We choose to push ourselves and sign up for a 1/2 marathon or run daily or visit the gym when it's still dark outside. We choose to audition for that role. We choose to apply for a new job. We reach out or walk away. We choose the things and people to invest in ... and when to let go of those things or people that no longer serve us. Choices greet us every time we step outside our door. Heck, just stepping outside is a choice.

I don't know whether The Grocery Cart Lady chose the life she is living or whether she became a victim of circumstances I can't begin to comprehend. I've never faced a situation like that. But I don't see her huddled on a street corner. I see her moving along and making her way in the world as sure as I hear the wheels turn on her cart.

I'd like to help her. But since I don't know how I choose to help others from meeting her uncomfortable fate. I've sponsored three different children through World Vision and donated to various support-focused organizations. I've volunteered and served food to the homeless. I've stopped my car at an exit ramp to give a few dollars and a lunch to someone whose sign said they were homeless and needed help. I've paid attention and offered a smile instead of ignoring those who walk past or near me. I've opened the envelopes requesting a few dollars for a Thanksgiving meal. Not tooting my horn or asking for thanks ... just anonymously doing what I can do to make a difference in the lives of people I will truly never know. 

I have a good life ... an easy one by most standards. I don't need to worry where my next meal is coming from and I don't push a grocery cart around town. I have a home and plenty of clothes and shoes. My children can participate in the activities they choose and I have my own car to transport me around town and beyond. HOWEVER, I do not choose to settle down to a comfortable life either. I challenge myself, embracing new experiences and opportunities. I reach out to those I care for and leap oceans for them whether or not they step over a damn puddle for me ... that's just who I am. 

I'm over 40 but I'm not done yet. There are things I want to do and places I long to visit. I have Dreams and Hopes. I don't think I'm unique here. If we continue to see our lives as a work in progress ... as though we are a lump of clay spinning on a potter's wheel awaiting the pounding, shaping and eventually the fire before we are finished ... we will live an uncomfortable life. We will get bruised. But we can get up and move too.

Sometimes what we do sets us outside our fundamental comfort zone. Sometimes it stretches us. Sometimes it hurts. But it makes us stronger. It makes us alive and not some puppet blindly following a flow chart. 

When I die, I want my tombstone to read She Loved Deeply & Lived Fully. That might mean some scraped knees along the way. But it also means adventure and exploration. Great love might bring great pain ... but it's great so I will deal. And I will have lived and embraced all life has to offer with two hands ... not necessarily fearlessly since sometimes I am afraid but with a passion that enables me to push past the limits fear might try to apply. 

The Grocery Cart Lady haunts my thoughts. Maybe someday I will reach out and give her a Taco Bell gift card, purchased because I was thinking of her as I ate my comfort food there one lunch hour. I wonder about her story. Maybe someday I will ask. 

I hope I will never live her Uncomfortable Life. I may never know how she came to be with that Grocery Cart. But I learn something from her. Life can be uncomfortable. I choose to see that as an opportunity for myself and not a hindrance. No, I don't want to explore her life. But, I pledge to honor my own quest as it beckons me ... to avoid the easy road and the unkind road but not fear the bumpy road. I pledge to strike out on an adventure to fully live this life I have been given.

And if it gets Uncomfortable, well, I guess I'll face those challenges along the way. I mean, no one said Childbirth was easy or pain-free ... but the results are pretty damn incredible.. 
                                                                                                                        ... Jenni