Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grab that Shoe

I was watching Mr. Holland's Opus last night. It's one of my favorite movies!

You may recall that Mr. Holland is a high school band teacher.

There is a young man that the athletic coach asks Mr. Holland to teach an instrument to. This young man has no rhythm whatsoever.

Mr. Holland tries everything to teach this young many to play the bass drum.

I crack up every time I watch this scene in the movie. Mr. Holland resorts to grabbing the boys shoe and tapping it up and down to the beat of the music being played.

It takes a long while and Mr. Holland puts in a tremendous amount of time to help this boy find his rhythm and learn to play his instrument.

His dedication and commitment changed this young man's life.

Sometimes we don't get something right away. We just can't seem to get the hang of it. In many cases, we quit out of frustration and a sense of futility.

Persevering through that sort of floundering is part of many great success stories. It is something that most people simply won't do.

It's uncomfortable. Sometimes it's embarrassing. Sometimes it's extremely frustrating.

Yet, grabbing our own foot and tapping it to the beat of the music when all else fails, is the way to move past our failures into success.

Being willing to do whatever it takes is the key. No matter what that looks like or how long it takes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough

This past weekend I went on a hike that was billed as an 'unmaintained trail.' Hikers were warmed that they might have to do some bush whacking.

My friend and I hiked up the 'trail' for quite a while before we came to an area where we were facing a wall of brush. No matter which direction we looked, there were ferns, briers and small trees taller than we were. We had no choice. We started plowing our way through the brush.

Eventually, we emerged from the thick brush onto the trail once again. It was clear that there was a trail. We had just lost it.

Because of the warning we had received, we anticipated that we might encounter some tough terrain. So, on a couple occasions we got off the trail, plowed our way through difficult territory only to find ourselves eventually back onto a trail that was relatively easy to follow.

On our way back down the mountain, we were on the trail most of the time. When we suddenly found ourselves without a clear path to follow, we returned to the last known 'good state' on the trail and tried another direction. This proved to be a great strategy. Our descent was much, much easier because of our new approach.

We realized that sometimes, when the going gets super difficult, it is a sign that you are on the wrong track! If we had simply explored our options, we would have found an easier route.

The resistance that we encountered was a sign that we were 'off track.' There was an easier route available to us, very near at hand in fact, if only we had looked for it.

Persistence is a great thing. Sometimes, however, when every door appears closed to us on a particular avenue, we need to try another route.

Heading down any 'dead ends' lately? If so, back track a little bit and see if there might be another way to reach your destination!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Going Beyond Perceived Limitations

I had such a great experience yesterday. I went hiking with a new friend. She's a much more experienced hiker than I am. She chose a trail that made me a little nervous from it's description.

It was a bit longer than my normal hikes and it involved a pretty serious climb on a slightly difficult to follow trail.

I had some apprehension about the hike. What if I couldn't keep up? What if it was too hard for me?

I really like to 'know' things. I am most comfortable when I'm familiar with the activity that I'm doing. When I hike, I enjoy knowing the trail I'm hiking and having a clear understanding of where I am and how far I have left to go.

My friend had never hiked the 'climbing' part of this trail, so she couldn't tell me where we were or how far we had to go as we traveled along. She was totally comfortable with the process of getting off the trail and finding our way back on.

Finally, after 3 hours of hiking, we arrived at our destination. A pristine, glorious Alpine Lake. It was such a fantastic reward!

I'm so delighted that I pushed through my hesitation and went on this hike! It was yet another reminder that I am capable of more than I give myself credit for.

It is so easy to let our fears and comfort zones keep us from fully experiencing life.

Challenge your fears. Confront your apprehensions and discomfort. Stretch out beyond your comfort zones and perceived limitations. Your life will be far richer and more satisfying if you do!

My friend and I at Marten Lake ~ WA

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gradual Transformation

I've been going to the same resort on the Washington coast for almost 20 years. They have a long wooden staircase that goes from the resort, down through a wooded ravine/cliff to the ocean.

I have no idea how long the staircase has been there, but it is old and kind of beaten down.

The last time I was there, I noticed that they had replaced the top section of the staircase. Gone is the old gray, decaying wood. In it's place there was new, sturdy pressure treated wood. It looked really nice.

I was there this past week, and they had replaced the next section of the staircase. It is clear that their plan is to rebuild the entire, long staircase one section at a time.

In some ways, I am sad to see the old staircase go. It has a rustic, nostalgic appeal.

Yet, the old staircase, at times, has me wondering about it's safety. The new staircase is really sturdy and attractive. It looks like it will last for the long haul.

It's interesting the conflict I feel. Letting go of the old feels like some sort of a loss. Even though the old staircase is breaking down, it is familiar and has it's own charm.

Yet, the new staircase looks safer and more sturdy. It's very attractive and obviously built to last. It's going to be kind of fun to see the new staircase emerge over time.

Our own processes of change, transition and transformation can be similar. Even when the old structures are breaking down and failing, it is sometimes tough to let them go. Whether it's a relationship that has become unhealthy, a job that no longer meets our needs, or any other part of our lives that has become unworkable, it is amazing how we resist letting it go. Even when something new could not only replace but improve things, we hang on to the old.

I like the model of this staircase replacement. They are doing a section at a time. It is less of a shock that way. It is also a way of easing in to a radical transition. Those of us who are regulars have time to adjust to the new staircase and say goodbye to the old as it disappears.

Our own processes of change and transformation can be the same! If we plug away at changing things that require changing, we can ease into the transitions and transformations. We have time to respectfully let go of the old, broken down systems, and we can gradually embrace the new, improved structures.

Start letting go of things that need to go... bit by bit. As you do this, embrace the new, improved replacements that are available to you!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Finding the Way Home

I've been enjoying a few days of R&R on the Washington coast. It has been a particularly busy past month or so, and I decided to give myself a little break. I am working a bit while I'm here, but for the most part I'm enjoying long beach walks, amazingly tasty seafood and all my favorite guilty pleasures - "fluff" magazines, scratch lottery tickets, jigsaw puzzles and of course, a good book.

Yesterday morning I took a walk on the beach with my coffee in hand, as is my 'beach custom.' It was an interesting set of conditions when I went walking. The beach was completely socked in with a low hanging fog. It also was one of the lowest tides I've experienced in a very long time. -1.8 on the tide scale.

I couldn't see very far in front of me because of the fog. Everything, in every direction was pure white. I kept trying to find the water's edge, but the tide was so far out that I never did actually see the ocean! There were large pools of standing water that separated me from the stretch of beach where the waves were actually crashing on the sand. I could hear the ocean, but I couldn't see it. It was an eerie sensation in some ways.

I walked for 45 minutes in one direction, reached a river I couldn't cross, and turned to return to my room and an inviting, hot shower.

The tide was turning and beginning to come back in, so I could see the ocean, but as I walked along the water's edge, I could not see the bluff upon which my hotel resided. The shore beyond the beach was totally obscured in the fog. I walked for about 30 minutes, and began wondering how I was going to find my hotel. I truly couldn't see!

About that time I noticed that the footprints I had made earlier, traveling in the opposite direction, were still visible in the sand. I decided the the easiest way to get back to my hotel was to follow my own foot prints.

Normally, I would walk along the water's edge for as long as I could until I was parallel to my hotel, then I would walk directly to it. I love to be near the water for as long as possible.

Today, however, if I had tried that I would have overshot my hotel. There isn't a doubt in my mind that I would have missed it!

I followed my footprints. Every once in a while they would disappear, and I would have to scan the surrounding area to pick up the trail again.

Eventually, they led me to the bluff and to the staircase that climbs through a wooded ravine to the hotel. Success! I had found my way back!

As I was retracing my footsteps, I thought about the various times in my life when I have gotten 'lost' or 'off track' and had to find my way back to where I belonged. Sometimes we can take a new route, but the truth is, sometimes we just have to backtrack and go back the way we came!

Sometimes, if the process of getting off track has been difficult or painful for us - the last thing we want to do is to go 'back through' the same territory. Yet, that is what is sometimes required to get us back on track.

We need to take the steps we need to take to correct our course when we have gotten lost or off track. Do what needs to be done to address it - even if it isn't comfortable or pleasant. The sooner we get back on track the better off we'll be!

Pick up the trail and follow it home!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What's in a Name

Today, I had such a wonderful experience. Someone who has worked for me for the past 10 years brought his infant daughter to meet me. He gave her the name, "Nola" because he liked my name. I was really touched when he told me that he was going to name his daughter Nola, but meeting her was really special.

She is such a beautiful and sweet little girl. She really 'took to me' and couldn't stop smiling at me. It was just a sweet and precious experience to meet her.

It is quite a compliment to have someone give their daughter your name. I'm not going to say he 'named her' after me, but obviously, if he thought I was a jerk, I doubt he'd have done it!

Sometimes we don't realize the impact we have on people. We don't realize that we can will always leave a favorable impression or a negative one on the people we meet and rub up against in life. We just never know the extent of the impact that we have.

In this particular case, I was truly blessed to be given a strong indicator that my 10 year working relationship with this young man has been a positive one in his mind. It's nice feedback for me!

I love the fact that there is a happy little baby named "Nola" out there. It is such an honor and a treat. I was named after my Grandmother who was a phenomenal woman. Now, there is another little Nola out there, who in some way has her name because of me... and my Grandmother. It's a wonderful continuity, and a testament to positive influence and what is possible if we treat each other with respect and kindness.

I wish for this new little Nola a life of happiness and contentment!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When You Look in the Mirror...

When you look in the mirror, ask yourself this question.

"What do you like the best about yourself?"

This is a line from one of m favorite movies - Mr. Holland's Opus.

Mr. Holland asks this of a student who is riddled with a lack of self confidence. He helps this young woman blossom into an extremely successful and confident person.

I truly believe that we need to start with what we LIKE about ourselves if we are to grow and evolve into all that we were created to be.

I have learned, first hand - the hard way - that self loathing and self criticism are NOT the way to improve yourself or your life.

Sustainable and authentic change cannot happen if we are at war with ourselves.

We can only truly change and improve from a place of self acceptance.

What do you like best about yourself? Start there. Praise that part of yourself. Appreciate it. Build from there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Reward at the End of It

I spent the last couple days doing a lot of heavy duty yard work. The weather has been really hot in Seattle. The tasks I undertook were a little more challenging due to the higher temperatures.

Still, it felt good to accomplish so much and see the transformation take place in my yard and around my house. It looks GREAT!

At the end of 3 long days of work, a friend offered to take me out for a little boat ride on Lake Washington. Now, boating is always fun. Especially on a beautiful summer day in Seattle.

Something about getting to do it at the end of a long haul of chores made it feel even better than usual!

The wind in my hair, the sun on the water and the feeling of freedom as we sped along felt simply marvelous.

I don't think it would have felt quite the same if it hadn't followed such an intensely busy and challenging few days.

Sometimes we appreciate things more when they come in sequence after something that is harder or more difficult in our lives.

I know that I appreciated this boat ride more than the last one I had. It somehow felt like a reward for all my hard work and effort.

Make sure you set high goals for yourself. Also make sure that you give yourself little rewards and treats along the way for a job well done. It enhances the quality of the entire journey!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Appreciating the Contrast

Finally. At long last, summer has arrived in Seattle. Temperatures in the 70s, 80s and 90s for the next many days. FINALLY!

We've had one of the wettest, coldest spring/early summers that I can remember.

Now, we have bright sunshine and glorious warmth.

I'm having more moments of deep appreciation about this weather than I normally would. I always love a sunny day, but with our long dark, wet, cold winters, and the late arrival of some sunny weather this year, I now find myself walking outside, spreading my arms out, reaching up towards the sky and saying, "Thank You!" with all my heart.

Nothing like a long spell of dreary weather to make you appreciate the beauty of a warm, summer day.

Life is the same. Sometimes we take things for granted if we don't experience the 'opposite' for a while. Having a good income or lots of money, is much more appreciated after a time of unemployment or financial struggle. Relationship harmony is amazing if you've experienced a lot of strife. Spending time alone can be a glorious gift if you've been through an intense period of being with people constantly. Likewise, companionship can be like a breath of fresh air if you spend a lot of time alone for awhile.

Contrasts teach us about life and about ourselves. We can really see where we may be taking things for granted, when the tide suddenly turns in a dramatic way. It's all good learning!

Live each moment that presents itself to you. Appreciate it for what it is. Try to stay out of 'longing' for something to be different than it is. Be where you are now, and find what is to be savored about this specific experience. There is always something.

Allow the contrasts in your life to enrich and grow you!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Closing Doors

I'm in a real season of 'finishing up' things right now. A big flurry of activity has just come to an end, so I find that I am in the mood for completion!

I've had a card sitting on my desk since Christmas time that needed to be answered. It crosses my mind every couple weeks, and I feel frustrated that I haven't handled it yet. I answered it today!

I had a very unpleasant customer service with a company, and have been wanting to write a letter to let management know about how my situation was handled. Finally, I took care of that today!

About a dozen other tasks that have been 'hanging over my head' were completed today. I'm now able to put away these files, and release some things from my mind.

It feels wonderful to close doors that have been slightly ajar for the past many months. I didn't neglect these things out of procrastination. I didn't avoid them intentionally. I've just been very busy and focused elsewhere.

Today, however, it just felt like a day to finish things up. So I did. Suddenly, I feel lighter and more 'available.' It feels like I have freed up energy that has been tied up in these 'in process' tasks.

I highly recommend 'completion days.' Just take a day, or a few hours here and there, and finish up all the things that are lurking around the corners of your life. Then, allow yourself to disconnect from those tasks and move on.

Closing doors allow us to move forward through newly opened doors with full energy and enthusiasm!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Simple Thrill

Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, we can miss the ever present simple pleasures that surround us.

Every year at this time, a particular tree in my yard yields some small red berries. They only last about a week, because birds love them!

In particular, a bird called the cedar waxwing really digs these berries! I rarely see Cedar Waxwings, except during the week to ten days that this tree has it's fruit. The Waxwings come, usually in pairs and feast on the berries. This happens right outside one of my windows.

I completely enjoy seeing these adorable birds each year. I look forward to the fruit ripening on this tree, just so I can see these stunning feathered friends.

It's a great reminder to me that things change and are impermanent. Things come into our lives and they pass from our lives. Enjoying the present moment, and what is before us is is something that enhances and enriches our lives.

If we rush past the simple pleasures and the moments before us, we miss our lives!

Do you have any Waxwings that you could pay attention to today? I invite you to look for the Waxwings and really notice them!

The Cedar Waxwing

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Turning Tide

The tide always turns. Sometimes when we are in a 'low tide' season of our life, we may feel that it will never change. The truth is, that the tide will always change.

When we move into a 'high tide' season, after a long, dry, low tide it is an amazing experience to behold.

Personally, when I've received the 'bounty' after the 'famine' it is one of the most inspiring and energizing times in my life.

It always comes. Even when we don't believe that it will.

If we do what is ours to do, and keep plugging away, we do experience the turning of the tide.

Persistence. Dedication. Hope. Perseverance. It all pays off, eventually. Patience is the key.

"Never, never, never give up." Winston Churchill

Friday, July 02, 2010

Drops in the Bucket

Sometimes when we are working towards a goal or trying to change something in our lives, we can get discouraged by the slow pace at which things seem to change.

When I'm feeling frustrated at my seeming lack of progress in any endeavor, I remember that if I put an empty bucket out in the rain... it will eventually fill with water.

Each drop individually, doesn't make that large of a contribution. Collectively, over time, those apparently insignificant drops do the impossible and fill the bucket to overflowing!

If we get frustrated and cover the bucket, feeling that there is 'no use' in letting the drops fall in the bucket, of course, it can never fill.

We need to patiently let the drops fall in the bucket. It will eventually produce the desired result.

Whatever you aim to do, or set out to achieve, be patient with yourself and apply consistent, ongoing effort.

You WILL get there!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Enjoy it Anyway

This past couple weeks has been kind of crazy and busy. Deadlines, unexpected commitments to meet, flat tire... you name it.

As a result, I've gotten behind in my schedule for doing my yard work. I have a large yard and it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it up.

Looking at everything I needed to accomplish I realized that I had to let go of my expectations with regards to the yard, and ease up on my schedule.

At the same time, some of my work related activities allow me to be out in the garden as I accomplish them.

In the past, this would have been difficult for me. Walking through the yard, it has been difficult for me to see anything except for all the work that needs to be done.

One of the things I've been working on myself in the last few years is learning to enjoy whatever is happening in my life, no matter what is going on.

This week, I have been taking little walks around my yard to break up my work sessions. I've been doing some of my work, sitting out in the midst of all the pruning and weeding that needs to be done.

You know what? It is totally possible to enjoy the beauty of my garden, even with all the weeds, and gangly plants about!

Things don't have to be perfect to be enjoyed.

You don't have to wait until everything is just the way you want it to be before you enjoy it.

Enjoy what is. Exactly as it is right now. Tomorrow is another day, and things might be different. For this moment, revel in the current state of affairs. There is something special in this moment, just as it is unfolding!