Subscriber Update

This post is specifically intended for those of you who are dedicated readers of my blog. I wanted to give you an update on a couple of things that have transpired since I ‘finished’ my book.

First –

Thanks again for all of the incredible support you gave to me throughout the process. Truly, I finished because of it.

Second –

Thanks so much to those of you who offered to edit for me. What a gift you are giving to me!

Third –

Those of you who have introduced me to published authors you know and/or people in the book industry – again, thank you.  I have reached out to several people and have received some really good advice.

The main theme of the advice and of the plethora of reliable internet information I have researched tells me that the publishing industry is in transition and I have to do a few things first.

  1. I need to build a bigger social media presence. Basically, that means I have to get more involved on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc…
  2. Everyone talked about asking my friends and family to help build that base. It means that everything I write now needs to be shared as widely as possible – the intent is to see how ‘readable’ and ‘interesting’ my stuff is to the masses… it seems that without this base, most publishers won’t be interested. Our social media connections are directing how they see future sales. So, I am asking.
  3. I was on the right track with the idea of an eBook – they are cheap to self-publish and rather easy to distribute but again – it will depend on how wide of a REFERRAL net is cast.

So… I am going to be constantly asking for you to SHARE stuff. It’s great to ‘like’ something but it doesn’t get the same attention as when it is shared. If you are inclined to do so – that would be wonderful and you’ll get my sincerest gratitude – whatever that is worth. It’s the most valuable thing I can offer at this point.

I realized that as I wrote about meeting Harlan and falling in love with him that it was triggering murky feelings I have about the very real potential of losing him to cancer. It was easy to write about all the other parts of my life because they are old memories – processed and moldy by now. But, my life with Harlan is ongoing and as I watch him struggle with his illness, it highlights energy that is not yet completely processed and so… it was important to end the story where it was. We are talking about how to write about the challenges of living with cancer; with a terminal illness and when we agree on how to talk about it – we’ll share – as I know there are a lot of people out there who could benefit from that story as well.

In the meantime, I will continue to espouse thoughts about things I talk about in my client sessions (generally of course) and other musings that pop up. If you have a challenge or a question that you’d like me to address – of course, that would be great too! I love writing prompts especially when I know they are relevant to someone.

Middle daughter Erin is moving to California next week and I will be making the road trip with her. Frank suggested that it may indeed create the fodder for my ‘next’ book (haha). We will be traveling the southern route across the US since it will be January with lots of unpredictable winter weather and stop to see some family along the way. I expect to write a bit while I take a passenger turn but I also anticipate just spending quality time with my middle daughter before our time together turns into electronic visuals and voice calls.

I hope you all enjoyed a wonderful holiday and take the time to acknowledge the value of all the lessons learned in 2016 while you also look forward to the wonder of 2017’s unknown blessings.

Again, starting with tomorrow’s post – (not this one) – any and all SHARING you do is tremendously appreciated.

Six Ways to Cope with Crap

Here are six constructive and helpful ways to manage all that stinky stuff:

“You never really know what’s coming. A small wave, or maybe a big one. All you can really do is hope that when it comes, you can surf over it, instead of drown in its monstrosity.” ― Alysha Speer

We can’t control everything that happens in our life and there are times for all of us that we turn a corner and run full on into crap. For some, we are just getting cleaned off and another pile of dodo drops from the sky like a storm that blows in on a hot summer day without any warning. The kind of crap I am talking about doesn’t distinguish between gender or class, race or religion, age or vocation… it comes slowly and quickly sometimes with notice, other times suddenly and abruptly. At all times, the only part of the crap that we actually can control is how we cope with it. Here are six constructive and helpful ways to manage all that stinky stuff:

ONE: Use the skills you have.

Remember that you’ve made it through every rough day you’ve ever had before. Chances are, the thing you are going through now is not the first load of crap you’ve encountered. Remind yourself of the coping skills you’ve used in the past. Generally speaking, crap causes stress – stress can be mediated by utilizing traditional and somewhat basic coping tools. Meditation, exercise, therapy, social support, writing and the like are fantastic resources that help us deal with stressors both big and small. Use them! Use several of them at once if necessary and use them often.

TWO: Eat right and sleep right.

Both of these are relative ‘no-brainers’ and we all know them intellectually but the first thing that people under stress tell me is that it is preventing them from eating and sleeping. Then we face the bigger problem of how magnified the basic stressor becomes when we haven’t slept and/or we aren’t providing our bodies with the nourishment that makes our brains work. Furthermore, it seems as if the basic stress point births more stressors that in and of themselves, become big and problematic when we allow ourselves to become run down physically.

This isn’t the time to worry about dieting… while I’m not suggesting that we all develop the habit of ‘stress eating’… keeping fruit, nuts, and juices available so that we have something healthy and quick to grab at any time, makes sense. When I know someone is going through a rough time, I take them a big bowl of whole fruits – I know… buzzkill.

Sleeping is difficult when our brains don’t ‘turn off’. You can help by making sure you create an environment conducive to sleeping. Many of us have really bad habits that don’t support healthy sleeping conditions. NO television in the bedroom! NO sleeping on the couch in front of the TV. NO caffeine (including chocolate ice cream and other hidden sources of stimulants – including alcohol). Yes, a single glass of wine can relax you but two may induce less ‘restful’ sleep. More than just a little alcohol of any kind will certainly help you ‘fall’ asleep but your slumber will be restless. Learn progressive relaxation (search in YouTube) and do it as you fall asleep. Use a fan or a white noise machine to help drone out the sound of your thoughts. Technology allows us access to so many helpful tools regarding sleep these days. Lastly, don’t forget to support melatonin production in your body as well.

THREE:  Self-care.

As simple as this sounds, it is the one thing I find goes unnoticed most often. Seemingly, the last thing we think about when we are experiencing a load of crap in life is taking time out for ourselves. I guess it isn’t second nature to stop in the middle of chaos and ‘fuel up’ but let’s think about this… how far does your car go without gas?? Would you let a leak in your roof go indefinitely or would you take time to fix it so it doesn’t get worse?? When I recommend to people that they take some time for themselves, they often tell me they don’t have time but we both know that is an excuse. Learn to look at your life with the intent of carving out small slices that belong to ONLY you. This is the opposite of selfish – the objection most everyone tries to lay out – if you run out of steam, you will be worthless to help anyone! Take five minutes an hour under extreme duress and 30 min. a day otherwise to devote to making sure that YOU are bringing your ‘stress level’ down to its base line. If not, your body will think that it needs an elevated amount of Cortisol in your system to function and a new base will be established – that won’t feel good either!

FOUR: Accept Help

Are you good at asking for or accepting help? I always recommend accepting any type of help that is offered even if you think you may not need it. Someone willing to come mow your lawn will probably be willing to run the kids around instead if you find that more helpful. If someone asks how they can help – don’t say “I’m fine” – ask them “what are you offering?” or “Sure, what did you have in mind?” or better yet, “That would be great! Would you please….”.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to ‘do it all myself’ and it eventually backfires. Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH – because it unzips your vulnerability. When we ask for or accept help we are making a statement that we can’t do it all ourselves and that is OK!! We are social creatures, not designed to be isolated and alone, or draining every personal resource we have. As a single mom, I had a village – almost literally – neighbors, scout leaders, friends, coaches, and the occasional family member that I depended on because I was only one person and even though I tried – God knows – I couldn’t do it – not successfully. When I made the decision to actually respond affirmatively to people who volunteered their help – my life was instantly better. Those who hadn’t meant it learned a lesson and we probably didn’t remain friends. Those who did, learned that I am a loyal friend who gives back when it is possible.

FIVE: Breathe & Count

At the very least learn how to breathe and count to five. In those few seconds where I take a deep breath and slowly exhale to the count of five, I collect myself and create intention (most of the time anyway). I respond better in conversations that are stressful, to people who are hyper or ultra emotional, and when there is significant chaos or confusion. The time it takes me to breathe and count allows my brain to run through a variety of scenarios where it can choose the best response, or the most logical in that time at least. Sometimes I count to ten if there is room for the extra pause.

SIX: Practice Gratitude

Everywhere you look these days we see reminders to practice gratitude and yet I find that the habits are not yet developed in many people… no worries, start again to make appreciation a part of everything you do. No matter how dense or smelly your pile of crap is – find something in it to appreciate it. I realize that sometimes, this is done in retrospect for the crap as a whole but in your day… there are at least three things that you can be grateful for. Today, I had enough to eat, I hugged three people who love me, and saw a beautiful sunset. If I take some time to really acknowledge those three things, I feel better about my day – at least a little. If you do a gratitude just before bedtime, you’ll have something fresh on your mind that is positive – helping you to sleep more soundly.

 

If you liked what you read just now, please share it with friends and family either by email or through social media and know that I am grateful for your effort.

A Little Christmas Love

May the light of love shine in everything you are and do!

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves”. ~Eric Sevareid

I celebrate Christmas and would like to wish you a very, merry Christmas if you also celebrate that holiday. If you are, or recently have celebrated another important holiday in your home then allow me to wish you “Happy Holidays”.

I am going to take a break from posting ~ perhaps not from writing but I am imagining the focus for all of us to be on our families, our hearts, and our spirits… not on what I have to say today or tomorrow.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!”~Hamilton Wright Mabie

I’d like to leave you with a few thoughts, though. Christmas, of course, is the celebration of Christ’s birth and for me… the presence of Jesus Christ on this planet was God’s gift of knowledge. The energy of the Universe providing an example of what each of us has the capacity to achieve if we allow ourselves to tap into the love that is innate and woven into the fiber of our cells. What perfection might exist if we only ever utilize love in our thoughts and interactions?

My promise to myself is to practice this today and tomorrow as best as I can and I would like to encourage you to join me. May I remind you to practice in ALL areas of your life. Beginning by looking in the mirror… “Good morning (self) – I love you” or “Good morning (self), you are the embodiment of love”.

When we ‘feel’ love, we are more apt to share it. Stay focused today in love. Remember that if the people in your home love you, any derogatory interactions are probably a reflection of a negative emotion they are struggling with – not a statement about a degree of love they have for you.

“No Christmas gift is greater than the gift of love. Thank you for giving the best gift ever!” ~ unknown

I’d like to say thank you for all the love that I have received over the course of these last several months. Just this morning I received a text message thanking me for “the gift of these daily readings”. I cannot overstate how meaningful the encouragement and support has been to me. I hope you all feel the love I am sending to you in these words.

I’d like to share a few of the gifts that I will be rejoicing in this Christmas.

  • All three girls will be here to celebrate the day with us. As many of you can relate to, there is no better joy than the sounds of your family together.
  • Frank and Rosie will be Skyping with us Christmas morning and I am happy to share that they will be parents in a few months and I will have a new name! Mémé or Nan or Gran… I think we’ll let BabyK decide when he or she makes a connection. It’s the most precious gift to the family and I am quite grateful.
  • Additionally, we saw the Oncologist yesterday and H is doing great. It’s been a rough fall but a recent round of radiation has almost alleviated the intense pain he was having and the virus that has taken many of us down this season is also seeming to fizzle out. He is sleeping better and has more energy. His goal for the next several weeks is to begin rebuilding strength – it so quickly diminishes during the dual course of chemo and radiation. The doctor is encouraged by the most recent scan – the treatment is currently working the way that it is supposed to and we are dropping down to only one doctor visit a month instead of the every two weeks that we’ve been doing all year.
  • The greatest gifts are the love and prayers, good wishes, and hope that people send our direction. Please know they are being received with replicated love and gratitude.

“Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most”.–Ruth Carter Stapleton

May the light of love shine in everything you are and do!

I’ll be back.

: )

Noticing Gifts

Don’t allow yourself to be so focused that what you are seeking goes unnoticed.

“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” –  Jonathan Lockwood Huie

I was speaking to a client the other day about things that we learn in life and how each of them seems to have to be learned personally even though generations before us have tried to impart the knowledge. We often don’t value the wisdom of people who have already experienced part of a journey. In this case, we were talking about aging and accomplishments. She is approaching thirty and feels as if time is running out for her to reach some of her goals. I made the comment that I recall thinking the same thing and then I didn’t finish grad school until age fifty. I assured her there is plenty of time. She said, “yeah, that’s what everyone tells me”. The thought occurred to me that if ‘everyone is saying it’ – might it really be true?? What would we do differently if we actually ‘believed’ the information that people who went before us, shared? How can it be wrong if everyone says it?

Now… keep in mind that I’m speaking about life experience here – not whether or not the world is actually flat or that infections can’t be cured. I realize that there are a time and place to forge ahead with one’s own hypothesis but we weren’t talking science or metaphysics. We were keeping it pretty simple that day and focusing on accomplishments. Age is only a number!

When I turned thirty, I believed my ability to impact the world was over. For some reason, I had the mindset that if I was going to be accomplished or achieve anything significant, I would have to be half way there. I wasn’t. I had not finished college, hadn’t had any great success in my job at that point, and had recently quit altogether. I had decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a while – a decision that my step-father thought was a tremendous waste of ‘my talents’ – whatever they were. I never could have imagined the road that has led me to where I am today – never!!

I believe one of the challenges we face in adulthood is having the patience to allow the Universe to deliver. We – at least those of us with control issues – are so often focused on what we think needs to be happening that we don’t just allow unfolding. We get tunnel vision – rigid expectations of how things should be. Indeed, sometimes our sight is so focused on a specific vision that we fail to notice what is right in front of us.

 

I wrote a book. I’ve said it isn’t the book I thought I was going to write when I imagined it all this time but today, after talking with a very special person, I noticed a few more dots that I hadn’t connected before. I see the perfection in what has happened – in the way that it happened and I realize that God had delivered exactly what I had asked for. In our discussion, I imagined exactly how I see the cover of the book – a dilemma I’ve recently considered. It makes sense to me in a way that I hadn’t been open to contemplating before. I continue to stand in awe at the Universe’s ability to manifest exactly what is good for us – when it is good.

Late this past summer I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. I love the way that she writes and being the aspiring creative that I am, I loved what she wrote on those pages. She touts “the universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them”. I know that to be a true statement.

I feel like I walked in circles around an idea, never really allowing it to stand out because I anticipated that it would look a certain way. When it jiggled my mind, I ignored it because it didn’t fit the vision I had. And then, I just trusted. I started something without an expectation of what it would be and in the end… it was that idea – the one that had pulled at me and I saw it clearly.

It was there the whole time but it didn’t look the way I thought it would and so – I didn’t recognize it. I’ve had this lesson before! A few years after Rocky died, I was ready to marry again, I wanted more children but nothing was happening in the dating realm. My options were bleak and I was headed toward 30. I was convinced that it might not be in the cards for me. And then… I had an epiphany. I realized that a family was still possible in any number of possible ways. I could meet a man with children – I could have children later than I imagined – I could adopt a six-year-old… really, the vision I had of my life was so rigid that only one possibility seemed desirable until I considered how many others were plausible.

I had imagined a life of ABC but got a life of XYZ…. Same alphabet, just different letters. Instead of green bows on the gifts, they were red. Because I was looking for green ones, I never stopped to consider that what I wanted was in the boxes with red bows.

Today, I realized that I was noticing that lesson over again. Funny how we forget what we know and need to be reminded! Christianity teaches us (Matthew 7:7) “ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find” – that God wants to give us the things that we ask for. The Law of Attraction tells us to ‘visualize what you want and you will manifest it’. Oprah taught us that “you get in life what you have the courage to ask for”.

I’m not sure which one of those universal truths or guiding statements is responsible for the progress I’ve made here over the last several months but I know that I’ve just trusted it to happen – with no expectations of what it will look like. I trusted it by staying present. By focusing not on what I was going to accomplish that day specifically but by relying on the here and now… what is happening now? What is the message at this moment? What do I feel led toward at present? I did only what felt authentic in real time and today, I realized that it was there all along. The book I had imagined years ago, was sitting right there, ready to be written.

I can’t help but consider how many other areas of my life this applies to? What am I missing by structuring my vision so strictly? How many times do I need to learn this lesson?

My client imagined her life a particular way by the age of 30 – as I had. She had a very narrow perspective of how to get there and how it would unfold. I never allowed myself to write because I couldn’t figure out how to get from where I was to what I imagined and without a specific and direct plan I didn’t want to go forward.

The substance here is the principle of trust; of believing that it will be exactly what we need – when we most need it but only recognizable if we have opened our mind to ALL potentialities. Don’t allow yourself to be so focused that what you are seeking goes unnoticed.

Who You Are

When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

The most common form of despair is not being who you are… ~  Søren Kierkegaard

One of the most common conversations I have in my office is the one that focuses on personal authenticity. It seems like a ‘no-brainer’ – “just be yourself” and some of us believe that we are – yet depression and anxiety live in the space between how we behave out in the world and how our hearts wish we would.

There are a couple of obvious examples that are stereotypical, commonly known – the Doctor’s child who is guided toward medical school but internally, yearns to be an artist or an accountant. Or the person who yearns for same-sex intimacy yet believes he or she is only ‘acceptable’ as a heterosexual.

I see problems with authenticity with people who believe that no matter what they do – it’s not ‘good enough’… perhaps what they are doing IS the best and authentic to them yet they are unable to recognize it as so.

We are so driven to meet standards from outside of ourselves. First – our family or teachers and then from our society or culture and then again, our partner/spouse and social circles. The struggle I faced as a kid to ‘fit in’ in terms of body shape and physical fitness was real. I grew up in the era of ‘Twiggy’ where pencil thin was in and my Victorian physic had been out for hundreds of years. Standards of education, socioeconomic class, sexuality, language skills… they exist in every realm of our lives and so we strive to meet them with little regard for the ‘truth’ or the sincerity with which we present those standards to the world.

Earlier this week a client was expressing frustration that interacting with a relative often produced a gross reaction, sending the client into throws of ugly and spiteful thoughts while she spewed derogatory remarks that came from an unknown place inside of her. “That’s not who I am”, she says. She emphasized that she didn’t like that kind of reaction and she really hated herself when it happened. “How do I make it stop?” she was pleading for relief of the ‘despair’ she experienced when she found herself tackling sarcasm and malicious sentiment, tit for tat.

While some may argue that her behavior in that moment was indeed ‘part of her’, it was notably not part of who she ‘wanted’ to be. She saw herself as a kind person, warm and considerate most all of the time. She never wanted to represent herself as someone who could be enticed into a verbal warfare of inflammatory and debasing commentary. And so, when she gravitated there – for whatever reason – she experienced a sense of ‘inauthenticity’… that particular behavior was NOT part of the person she genuinely wanted to present to the world.

I remember taking family photographs the fall before Hubby and I were first separated. We met with a photographer, wore similar outfits, and snapped photos all over a local Civil War battlefield on a cool Fall day. By the time we got the proofs back, our relationship was feeling more strain and the pretending I was actively engaged in was becoming tiring. I looked at those photos and thought about how disingenuous I was in almost every one of them. There was a smile on my face and we posed well together, but Hubby and I were definitely NOT authentic. I didn’t feel the happiness that was represented in the picture – I knew it was a lie.

Sometimes we don’t notice or understand – there is no conscious awareness that we are living inauthentically. Several years ago, my family deserted me for a weekend, doing their own things – scouts, golf, etc… I found myself in the house alone for a whole weekend. It was just before Thanksgiving and so I began my Christmas crafting – making a disastrous mess out of the kitchen and dining area but loving the fact that I could leave my stuff out – and all over – without impacting anyone else. I never even noticed that time was passing. I was content, satisfied, at peace.

By the end of that weekend, I realized that I was ‘fed’ by utilizing my creative energy. I knew that about myself and yet, over time, I had allowed the opportunities for artistic expression to become unimportant, or at least very low on my list of priorities. I noticed how charged and full of enthusiasm I felt by Sunday evening; I was glad to see everyone when they came home. I had utilized my energy in one of the most AUTHENTIC ways possible and my psyche understood. I’ve never allowed myself to forget that experience and I always have something in the works. In reality, I had to open an Etsy shop in order to have an outlet from where to part with all of the ‘creations’ that I had generated. They are simple, imperfect things but they are made from a Zen place… at least that’s where my mind is when I am in creative mode.

Today, I am using that energy to write (and maybe fitting in a craft or two).

I believe that the most important part of being authentic is accepting ALL of you – the parts you don’t like, the parts you want to change, the parts that will never change, and the parts that you think the world will reject along with all the wonderful, amazing, and talented aspects of yourself. My life completely turned around when I understood that the whole of my person wasn’t all great – and accepted it. When I can see my imperfections and LOVE MYSELF ANYWAY, my ability to be in the world authentically is greatly enhanced.

I can’t tell you how many times in a session when I ask a client to say “I love you” to themselves – there is an emotional block or a strong emotional reaction. When we accept ourselves AS WE ARE and strive to present ourselves to the world bearing the values and qualities that WE aspire, we are living authentically and then… despair cannot exist. Learn to love everything about yourself – even the things you want to change. You don’t have to like them – only accept that they are there. Then – change begins and you can be WHO you are.

Finding Peace

It didn’t matter. When I am on my bike, I am in a state of Peace.

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ unknown

The other day, a loyal reader added this on a blog comment: “My last comment is to say that I want to read about how you became the cyclist that you are.” – The individual asking the question is a friend of Harlan’s and has followed our bicycling ventures via Facebook. I had to laugh out loud when I read it because I would never use the word ‘cyclist’ to describe what I do and I’m pretty sure that people who are truly ‘cyclists’ might be insulted to consider what I do any part of the sport.

You see, I hate… more than strongly dislike… exercise of any kind. I always did. I remember being laughed at in grade school when we were trying to complete tasks to receive the Presidential Fitness Award. I couldn’t do chin-ups – I just didn’t have the upper body strength or perhaps my lower body was far too big and mismatched for the muscles in my upper torso. It was better to stand in the back than to fail miserably. I didn’t have any competitive spirit apparently. Consequently, I was the kid who was always the last pick; cementing my dislike of sports.

I did play basketball in high school because I was tall and it was expected. What I disliked most of all was running across the court over and over… and over again. I often thought about finding a sport that allowed you to stand still but I never found one. In gym, we were expected to run a mile at least once each marking period. That was four times around the track and the ‘runners’ could make it in six or seven minutes but it took me twelve to fourteen. Of course, I walked most of the way and was generally last, or close to it.

I did love to walk. I could walk for miles and did often. My long legs created a lengthy stride and I rarely got tired of walking. I loved all of the things that I got a chance to see when I was walking. We frequently laughed over the idea that I would walk from Oakland, CA to Chicago, Illinois twice a month when I worked for the railroad. Since I worked in the dining car, I was on my feet most of the time as we covered that distance.

No matter how much I ‘knew’ that exercise was good for me and no matter how many different types of equipment, sports, or activity I tried… I just couldn’t ‘get into’ the practice of exercising. It really was problematic since my body composition and metabolism required some form of external motivation. I thought people who enjoyed exercise were in possession of a magic gene that passed by me during conception. I didn’t get it.

When we were in Europe visiting Sara – who spent a year in Amsterdam as an Au Pair – we considered renting bicycles and touring around but it sounded like work and I was on vacation. Besides, somewhere after the age of 50, arthritis began to build in my hip and walking was challenging some days and so I believed that bicycle riding seemed out of the question.

Harlan, on the other hand, has always been an avid sportsman. From football to baseball and golf to running, his body almost required movement and elevated heart rate. He often spoke of the euphoria that occurred when he exercised. He loved the endorphins that were produced while I was always waiting for them to show up.

About two years ago Harlan decided he was going to buy a bicycle and begin cycling. He began researching and by late April made his decision. He encouraged me to invest in a bike but we were talking hundreds of dollars for something that required this exercise thing that I wasn’t into at all.

I decided to ‘test’ my interest in cycling by inviting my family along for a ‘Mother’s Day’ ride in a state park near the ocean. They looked at me a little funny when I said that’s how I wanted to spend my day but followed along. We rented bikes close to the trail head and the four of us set out, helmets on, across saltwater marsh lands full of blue herons. I was riding a hybrid with a cushy seat and twenty-one gears. I couldn’t remember that last time I had been on a bicycle.

Of course, as a kid – that was the primary mode of transportation. We went everywhere on our bikes and the best part of the year was decorating it for the annual Memorial Day parade. We wove streamers into our spokes and tied all kinds of noise makers behind us but… that was then – when I was ten and it wasn’t considered exercise. It was a necessity, a required method of transportation if you were one of the ‘cool’ kids.

We had a perfectly beautiful day to ride through incredibly beautiful scenery. I puttered along the trail which was predominately crushed stone and enjoyed the sun on my face, the breeze across my cheeks, and the smell of the fresh air. In fact, I barely noticed that anyone was with me. I embraced the sound of nature, the melody of the tire against the ground, and the tone of air moving past my ears. I loved it! My ass hurt but my hip was fine! I was happy as a lark and after about ten miles, the kids asked me how far we were going… I could have gone on and on but they were pretty much over it. We turned around and headed back – it was a total of sixteen miles that day. Not bad for a lady who hadn’t ridden a bike in more than thirty years.

That day, I found a Hollandia style bicycle – a hybrid ladies bike with fenders – very classic looking and it had seven speeds. I assured the salesman that I would ‘never’ need more than that as I had only used five all day on the flat trail we had traveled and that was just experimenting. I went for broke – buying as much bicycle as I thought I could afford while making sure it made sense for the kind of riding that we (Harlan) talked about doing. He had gotten a road bike and I wanted something a bit more versatile. I agreed to go with him if “it didn’t feel like exercise”, I said.

I’ll admit that I was pretty excited. We live in a mostly flat community that touts itself as being ‘bike friendly’ and indeed, there are bike lanes on almost every road. In addition, there are a variety of trails in town that are bicycle friendly. Furthermore, the Rails-To-Trails conservancy is a tremendous organization – converting old railroad beds into pedestrian and bike trails. We live in an area where there are a number of them within an easy driving distance. The nice part about Rail Trails is that they are FLAT – mostly. There is often a grade but it is hardly noticeable.

We started slowly… biking around town, after work, and on weekends. We biked into town and rewarded ourselves with a latte or ice cream. I noticed the calorie burn and my body started to take on a different shape. I wasn’t working hard at all. I pushed myself a bit… beginning to compete with myself to see if I could get up a slope in second gear instead of shifting down to first. And then, we headed out to trails that were longer… and longer… I fell in love with ‘my’ kind of biking. It was easy and fun. It wasn’t sport riding, though. It was leisure. But… it WAS exercise and my body liked it.

Before long, I was riding without Harlan’s influence. I was exercising just because I liked the sensation of those things that I fell in love with that first day… the sound of the air moving past my ears, the breeze on my face, etc. When I was out there – especially by myself – I could think about nothing at all or about everything at once. I allowed thoughts to flow through my brain at the same speed that I was moving but it wasn’t exhausting.

Eventually, my behind became accustomed to my seat and it stopped hurting. I was riding for 45 or 60 minutes several times a week and not thinking twice about it. Each time I left the house I could hear the theme song of The Wizzard of Oz playing ‘Duh – di duh – di da.’ Imagining myself with a full-on basket on the front of my bike, carrying a little dog. I wonder how many people saw me and thought the same thing? It didn’t matter. When I am on my bike, I am in a state of Peace.

I have challenged myself with longer and longer rides but let me be clear… they are leisure rides of 25 & 30 miles on relatively flat surfaces. One day last fall I took my bike up to Philadelphia and ran the Schuylkill River trail for 34 miles round-trip. I was done by mile 30 and the last four were brutal but it was exhilarating to know that I did it.

Harlan hasn’t been able to ride in months now and I don’t ride when it is cold. I bought an indoor ‘trainer’ last year so that I could bring the bike inside and maintain the routine but there is absolutely NO comparison and I don’t like it. I’d just as soon go to the gym and ride there – which I do now although not as religiously as I’d like you to imagine.

In any regard, that is how and why I became a ‘cyclist’… For me, it has nothing to do with the sport and everything to do with the PEACE I experience as I move through space on those wheels.

Looking Backwards

In my years as a financial advisor, I was trained to tell people that ‘historical precedence does not indicate future results’… that can apply to us as people too!

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

~ Søren Kierkegaard

I speak the essence of this quote almost daily, actually – I live it. It is the premise of my memoir… a journey of understanding who I am – how I became me. It is also the premise from which I seek to understand each of my clients. I strive to make sure that they leave my office with a curiosity of ‘why’ they are ‘who’ they are.

We need to look backward – not to blame or regret… in fact, those are worthless efforts We must seek to understand what it was that designed the framework for the way that we understand the world. I sometimes talk about the ‘fabric’ that shrouds us… comprised of the threads of each of our experiences. A vibrant red one from my first love, a purple one for that time I was touched by a hymn in church, and a blue one for the deep sadness I felt when Billy laughed at me in 4th grade.

Each of us wears a shroud that has been designed through the years very differently than the one that is worn by another. Even siblings – growing up in the same household weave shrouds different than one another based on the precise experiences they encounter. If I believe that I am my parent’s favorite my thread may be pink while my brother, who felt challenged to garner acceptance may have a brown thread. The oldest child may weave white, the middle child – yellow, and the youngest, perhaps gold.

Imagine the diversity of each shroud. We wear them over our eyes and ears. We listen to and see the world through them. How could we ever – ever anticipate that any of us see our environments in the same way? And yet – that does not keep us from the expectation that you might think or feel like I do…

If we consider our shroud and look at each thread – not with judgment – but with interest, just to observe and take note… Oh, that is the thread from when my girlfriend broke up with me and that green one is the thread I wove into my shroud after graduating with my Masters… every experience, good or bad, woven into the fabric of our life.

The way that I interrupt the world depends entirely on which threads the sound is being filtered across. Likewise – how I interpret what I see is dependent on the placement and combination of those threads.

Do you know what thread comprises your shroud? The bright ones and the bleak ones? Do you recognize the patches that exist in your shroud? Are you aware of the contradictions – perhaps twisting that happened during weaving? I am reminded of times when someone told me they loved me but they behaved in a way that wasn’t at all loving.  Those threads may have been twisted in such a way that my perception/understanding of love was disorganized and convoluted.

It’s no wonder that communication can be incredibly difficult between people.  The way that we anticipate or expect someone to behave is directly related to those threads that we correlate to ‘love’ or ‘friendship’ or ‘family’. We develop expectations based on what we know, want, or observe. I find examples of it constantly with clients and in my own life. If I consider the word ‘friend’ I have several examples and each of them is very different. Is it because the word friend has a variable definition? No… the basic definition (per Webster) is “someone attached to another by affection or esteem”.

I can safely state that I have a great number of ‘friends’ based on Webster’s definition but then there is my ‘expectation’ of what denotes friendship (the quality or state of being friends). You see – we all have a thought or a vision of what constitutes a good friend or friendship – much of it dependent on the construction of those ‘threads’ that are woven into our shroud. I may experience disappointment if my ‘vision’ of a friend is different than that of some I consider a friend.

In any regard – seeking to examine your ‘threads’ so that you glean an understanding about yourself that is rich and precise is worthy, albeit perhaps a bit daunting. We probably are unable to examine each and every fiber of that shroud in an unemotional manner, thus allowing for maximum acceptance… but we can take a good look at the thick ones. The ones that tend to shape or instruct the bulk of your perception and understanding.

Using my own experience, I notice a LOT of threads that are woven from the experience of people I love – leaving me. It’s not always on purpose and hence, they may not be identical threads but they are common nonetheless. I realize that I tend to see the world from the perspective that if you love me – you will leave me. This isn’t a universal truth – just a common theme in the shroud of my life. If I am looking at it objectively – it is just something I notice.

If I look at it emotionally (which is where most of us do our observing) then I must pay attention to how it directs my emotions and consequently… my behavior. I would be doing myself a great disservice if I allow myself to forgo love because it ‘might’ not be there at some point. It would be a sin to harden myself against love because there is a historical precedent… what progress has ever been made with that inclination?  In my years as a financial advisor, I was trained to tell people that ‘historical precedence does not indicate future results’… that can apply to us as people too!

Our future may depend on how well we understand the composition of our shroud. It’s certainly possible for us to twist, turn, and/or position the fabric in a way that more accurately allows us to interrupt what comes. For example, I don’t have to allow the experiences of lost love in my past to dictate how I will engage in love going forward. I can choose to pull threads when appropriate… eliminate their influence in my future. I can choose to experience love and be in-the-moment rather than anticipating loss and living in fear of losing.

Looking back is ONLY for understanding. We don’t live there anymore and so going forward… pay attention to what was learned because of having lived and keep what worked. If there are threads that exist in your shroud that prohibit you from seeing – cut them out. Purposely and with intent… weave in a new thread that is woven from positivity and pleasure.

Stay aware and intentional so that only the threads of experiences that are meaningful become dominant in your shroud. Today… even though the pain and uncertainty of cancer are appearing in a variety of colors throughout new weavings, there are thicker – stronger threads that represent intention – awareness – and coping; positive traits that will continue to serve me regardless of the others. Going forward, I am paying attention to the threads that I allow to dominate.