Category Archives: Life Experiences

Life is Like Theater – Our Job is to Make it Pop!

I have had the pleasure of going to the theater three night in a row.  Yes I have watched the same show each night.  I live in Whitefish, Montana not NY, so there are two theater groups but only one performance hall.  You may be asking why three nights?  Or thinking my partner or child must be in the show.  Truth is my partner is in the show which is the reason I had tickets for two nights.  But the reason I have gone three is because I love live threater.  Yes the lines are the same, the story doesn’t change; however, the actors interact differently with each other and the audience each night.

I would not go so often if it wasn’t a wonderful, inspiring play.  That does make a big difference.  The play, You Can’t Take It With You is a wacky comedy set in the 30’s with a timeless message about living your dreams and being happy not just successful.  The Sycamores are a family that remind me a bit of my own.  I believe I grew up in a home with lots of things going on, at times people coming and going who were not the norm and the message I got from my folks was one that did resonate with the theme of the movie; do what you love.

However, it wasn’t memories of childhood that took me back to the theater.  for the past six to eight weeks I have learned bits of the play quite well as CrisMarie practiced her lines and I played whatever part preceded her entry onto the stage.  I also learned many insider stories about the folks who were in the show with her.  Their past lives on the stage and their reasons for letting fame go to come and volunteer and thrive in community theatre instead of NY, LA or such places.  Still that wasn’t enough to get me there every night.  Though it was a significant piece.  The commitment these people make to a show is amazing.  They do become like ‘family’ and it is something meaningful and purpose driven.

Bottom line I came because each night I loved watching Rheba come to life.  CrisMarie has talked of acting for a while and yes she did perform and take many classes a few years back.  But this first full production has been something else.  She has thrived getting to know her part.  At times fearful she wasn’t going to get the accent and at other points believing she was missing the laughs.  But mostly she has been fully alive as Rheba – the Sycamore’s maid.  I have loved the transformation.  For me much more exciting the classes.  Plus she has found people like her.  People who love performing. People who have taken her in and shown her the ropes of community theater.

They’ve warmed up to me as well.  Of course not all shows may be as fun and delightful as this one.  There are still five more shows on this run and I imagine some will be less exciting then the first three.  I don’t plan on going to them all.

Still I don’t generally watch a movie twice or repeat a TV show especially and never night after night.  But live theater that is different.  If the lines are well written and the actors know their stuff each night comes to life – resonating with the audience in that moment.  Each night is different, unique and that makes theater pop!!

Live Theater seems like such a interesting blend of ego and collaboration.  The actors have to own their part and make it bigger then everything else.  Then let go of that so they can fully connect and relate to each other each night.  Add to that the the audience – an audience that laughs at different parts and in different ways each and every night, leaving the actor to wonder, did I hit my mark? Plus since it is live sometimes a line is dropped or missed providing that moment when someone either picks it up or finds a graceful way through without letting anyone know a mistake was made.

Live theater is really so much like life.  We are often repeating patterns, there is not a lot new about daily life. However, if we trust our lines and know our patterns, we can make ourselves important enough to fully embody our unique part.  Then we can open, relate and connect to the others on our stage and our audience.  That’s when life pops!!

Dealing with My Internal Eruptions

Every once in a while I have these extreme reactions to things.  It is like a volcano is erupting inside.  Often the external events do not seem to warrant such a hugh reaction and I do my best to cover up the internal storm.  Yet I know I am not one who hides emotions well.  Too often I can feel my nostrils flaring and something will come out of my mouth that is loaded with intensity and energy.  I am getting better at noticing the signals and therefore try to regulate.  I do have to live with the consequences of my transparency.  Yes I have wished often for a better facial mask or easy skills at compartmentalizing until later.  But no – that is not my gift or charm.  I am the ‘reactor’ and can not hide when something seems incongruent to me.

Yesterday I had one of those moments.  As I was running a Board meeting, a topic surfaced that quickly resulted in a boiling point inside of me.  I did my best to navigate through the meeting without too much damage.  However, I am left wondering why was I so bothered.  The issue involved a history of allowing folks to ‘pay over time’ or give services in exchange tuition (this was a school Board).  The school has  struggled with financial issues but this has never been enough of a concern to stop the process.  At today’s meeting a new case was presented and it seemed the decision was going to be different.  This time the answer was ‘no’.  I am not sure why I was so angry but I was.  I guess because this had been such an incongruent process to date and frankly for me it seemed unfair that suddenly the ‘norm’ was going to be changed.  I did my best to deal with my reaction but left just needing to get some space.

Later I found I would quickly return to the same strong feelings and realized I was dealing with a significant level of resentment.  I had clearly not spoken over the years as the policy had been set and established to allow some to not pay or do very creative arrangements around payment.  Sure there were some real issues and reasons for me to be upset.  However, even know I get I am still avoiding the real issue.  None of this would bother me so much if I was okay with my own boundaries and commitments to the school, the Board and the folks involved.

Long ago I had learned that anytime resentment surfaces the key is to look at my own boundaries and discover where I was not honoring myself.  I have helped many people of the years shift from being resentful and angry simply by having them address their own unmet needs and unset boundaries. Generally once that is done the resentment vanishes.

For me I know I enjoy my volunteer work at the school.  However, I often spend more time focused and assisting the school then I do moving forward on some of my own important projects and dreams.  No one is making me do that but me.  I think I find it easier to help someone else or some other cause move out into the the world then myself.

Even as I write this the eruption inside subsides.  Indeed I do need to address the incongruent behaviour.  It is just not the school’s behaviour I need to be focused on.  First I need to work on my own.  Make time for my projects and be sure I am scheduling the time and support I need to make my dreams happen.  I am guessing once that alignment is right I will find an easy way to talk about the policies of the school and I doubt my nostrils will be flaring.

Hold Myself & Others As Able

I got a call from a friend late one evening.  My friend was having one of those dark nights of the soul and was reaching out asking,”Will I ever be okay?”.  I could hear in her voice the fear and in her tone the over-writing anger and self-hate that was making it very hard for the average person to connect with her.  I know that place.  When I am hurting, sad or feeling helpless, the last thing I want to do is let anyone know that.  Instead I talk tough, push back on any encouragement that seems to be implying I’ve ever been in this place before and totally negate any positive or inspiration aspect of my tenacious will and willful life force.  I did understand and everything in me wished I could just teleport myself to where she was and give her a big hug.

Instead, I suggested my favorite way to get through a dark night when it’s too late to visit a dog park (the best daytime way to deal with despair).  I encouraged her to make a pot of tea and watch a Disney or light movie such as:  Lilo & Stitch, Harry Potter (the first one) or Legally Blond.  If I am really feeling sorry for myself, I ditch the tea and make a very big bowl of air popcorn with Bragg’s and Brewer’s yeast.  I do think it is important to have a shelf of movies and chamomile tea on hand throughout the year.

We talked, and I knew I was still the only one on the phone, who had faith and confidence in her spirit and life force by the time we hung up.  Still I knew I could not decide for her.  She was going to have to find a path through the dark night.  I wanted to call her the next day, but I thought it best to wait.  Primarily, because I had spoken of my confidence and faith in her, and I did not want to sound wavering. It wasn’t until a few days out that I got and email from her saying she was feeling better.

Having been a mental health professional for many years, and a mental health client before that, I know the drill.  Set up a contract, “I promise not to kill myself.” Personally, I  never liked that concept.  For me the best words I ever heard on the other end of the line when I wanted to kill myself were, “It is your choice.  I even understand why you are thinking of quitting, but I personally hope you don’t make that choice.”  The power of someone giving me the choice and believing in me to make the best choice, that was amazing.  I really got that I could choose.  Suddenly I had power.  Before that moment, I had felt helpless and powerless.

It is hard to let someone choose.  Whether it’s as life or death as suicide or watching someone choose to stay in a horrible job that they are slowly letting take the joy from them, it is hard to let them choose.  Still I am a big believer in holding people as able.  In my own life experience I did not really understand joy until I understood choice.  The idea that it is never the hand you are dealt that gives you joy or any feeling for that matter.  You get to decide how you respond to the circumstances of your life and you get to make that decision over and over.  meaning you can make it differently.  That is powerful.

The most loving and caring thing anyone has ever done for me is holding me as able. Believing in my ability to choose life even when I did not.  Sure I still have my dark nights that’s why I always have tea and movies on standby as well as friend who remind me I am able.  I can choose!

Staying Positive While Stuck in Denver!

Yesterday I spent most of my day in airports or on the tarmac.  I was traveling to South Dakota through Denver for an afternoon meeting.  Then heading to Seattle through Denver again in the evening.  The connections looked easy but it’s fall and Denver had a light snow storm with lots of fog.  Needless to say, travel problems started with the first flight.  Still by a miracle I did make it through to South Dakota arriving one hour late but making the meeting! More problems occurred heading to Seattle and now I am sitting in the Denver airport after spending a short night at the Red Lion courtesy of United.  Feeling sorry for myself I headed to the Red Carpet area and it seems they felt sorry for me as well.  After looking at my flights yesterday I was given a pass in for the morning.

As I sat in Souix Falls last night listening to the reports of delays related to O’Hare and Denver, I found myself wondering as I have before – Why are the largest airport hubs in cities that seem notorious for weird , difficult weather? Okay may be these airports have so many delays and issues because the largest airlines have hubs there.   I also found myself wondering why the hotels are so far away from the Denver airport.  By the time I had taken the shuttle and settled in I was only a few hours away from a a wake up call to go back to the airport since I was about 40 mins away.  This had me thankful that generally I can take regional flights with smaller airlines like Horizon.

Of course I don’t want to sound too annoyed I still have not made it to Seattle.  Plus there were and are those bright spots.  Like the woman who made sure I was going to be on a flight this morning and kept me in my seat to Denver just in case I made it.  She was great.  Another flight person did an amazing job of sticking luggage in very small spaces through the plane when it looked like some people’s bags were not going to fit underneath.  As I mentioned earlier there was the woman gave me a pass into the lounge after looking at my flights yesterday.

Then there are the folks who like me are stuck.  With some I can share road warrior stories but the ones I really enjoy are the folks who are less hardened by the frequent flight delays and seem to maintain an adventurous attitude.  One woman had two small children – the kids thought the time in the airport was great – she laughed as she ran around trying to kept up with the kids until they both fell asleep on the floor.  Only then did the exhaustion show.

Indeed traveling through airports has it’s challenges and sitting here I have all sorts of thoughts about how it could be better.  Bottom line it’s awesome that I can travel as easily as I do.  Airports just give me such an opportunity to see all types of people traveling for all types of reasons.  It’s quite amazing!

Okay I am off to catch the last leg of my trip.  Hopefully I’ll be home when I write again!!

Life Isn’t About Being Measured

Woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I wanted to since it’s Sunday morning and a good day for sleeping in.  However, my mind was racing and I could stop the mental chatter.  I’ m hoping channeling some of the racing thoughts into writing will help settle me down.

I have been replaying some comments made by a friend about success.  He was referring to who was ‘most’ successful amongst our colleagues.  The two people he name were for sure the guys who sold the most work and made the most money.  In many ways that may seem like the obvious measure of success.  Those seem like common success measures.  I think about clients who put together performance measures and often sales and revenue are fairly high on the list if not the list.

I get that for a company to stay in business sales and revenue are important but I don’t think they are a very useful measure of success.  We talk about vision meaning something noble or a reason to rally and stay together through highs and lows.  I do think that selling for someone who is passionate about connecting to people and understanding their needs and wants can be noble.  I can also believe that making significant revenue can pull people together.  Still I am not sure sales and revenue measure success.

I guess I believe success is much more personal.  I have gotten to know people who by the above standard of success should see themselves as very successful but don’t.  We’ve all heard the statement – “money can’t buy success” and I imagine some of us have wished we could test that statement ourselves.  Having had times of pretty good revenue and times of none, I do get it’s not about the cash flow.  Sure having some does help my ego but money isn’t sustaining or for that matter meaningful. Also selling has only been noble for me when I truly believed in the product and of course then never really felt like I was selling at all.

You may be wondering why is this keeping me up?  I think because there have been too many times in my life when success was measured generally and I watched or worse found myself trying to measure up only to discover later I had lost my ‘real’ direction.

Take tennis – I was very good.  For a long time I never lost and soon I thought winning was the measure of success.  However, winning soon became something that kept me in a very tight box.  I wasn’t willing to try new shots or a different serve.  I became fearful of losing and soon tennis was not the game I loved.

Take cancer – I am considered to have been successful at cancer.  Sure I am alive so that is a definite success.  But am I more successful then someone who died? No  Cancer more then anything else taught me that it’s not about how anyone including me measures a life tomorrow.    It’s only about how I choice to live today.

We are too easily convinced that there is some way to measure if we are doing well or succeeding in life.  May be it is sells and revenue, may be it’s how long we live, may be it’s if we’re married or how well our children do, may be it’s the number of times we win or the kind things we do.

Then again may be we are not here to meet performance measures.

What Am I Really Crying About?

I have been traveling.  Taking a road trip from Seattle to Montana.  It seems when I am driving I am less inclined to pull out my computer at night or for that matter anytime.  Anyway I am behind on blog posting.  The trip was excellent.  I was able to ride with the top down most of the way and the temperature was a mild with blue skies overhead.

Basically, I moved to Montana over a year ago; however  kept a place in Seattle where our company is headquartered.  Slowly, I have scaled down the office in Seattle and finally made the call to bring both vehicles to Montana.  I find myself dealing with more transition and loss with this trip than I did after selling the house and moving most of my personal life.  This might reflect the fact that I never enjoyed living in Seattle.  Wasn’t able to find and maintain the right level of connection for me.  I had lots of friends and yet it never seemed easy to connect and do things together.  Now my work  – that was different.  Thrive! was started in Seattle and thrived there – as did I.  So maybe the process of scaling down the office is a bit more of a loss for me than the personal move.

It is not like I won’t be back.  We have a number of clients there which we will continue to work with, and as a result, will be traveling out that way quite regularly. So what makes this so hard?  Office space is rented, the VW Bug was the last real asset to be moved. Plus, we are shifting our business focus – instead of an independent consulting firm we are aligning ourselves as Table Group Consulting Partners.

I would have thought driving a huge moving truck would have been the catalyst for dealing with any loss or dislocation issues.  Instead, it seems driving the convertible VW Bug brought up much more grief, as did letting go of our business independence.  Seattle was never my home personally, but it was where I found my passion in terms of work and career.

I remember when I left Gabriola Island – the last place I called home.  What was calling me was creating a business, a partnership and work that I found fulfilling.  Stepping back out in the world as the person I had become after cancer and close to ten years of reinventing myself.  Our decision to start Thrive! did not come at the best of times for starting a business, post 9/11, but wet we did great.  We have never had to market and have always found work we needed and wanted over the last seven or eight years.  Sure, there were times when we were slow but we’d connect with clients and generate new leads and we found our own voice and way of working.

When the move to Montana came, we were starting the shift to align ourselves with The Table Group more.  Now, we are not creating ourselves the way we were when we started Thrive!.  Instead, we are using material created for the most part by The Table Group.  As a result get more visibility and larger pool of potential clients, but we aren’t quite like we were.

I know this is good move. Just like I know bringing the Bug over the mountains is also good. What I didn’t count on was feeling this sense of loss.  I do know now that there is something going on as we scale down Thrive! and align ourselves with The Table Group that involves letting go.  We can’t really be something new until we let go of the old.  I think the drive was part of that process.

Transitions are never predictable.  We all do the psychological adjustment to a change in our own time.  I teach this, but living it is something else all together.  Good thing I had the chance to take the drive.  Now I know I need to do the rest of the work.  I hadn’t realized what I was letting go of.  I get why I might feel like crying now.  It also makes this blogging even more important.  It seems to be the path I am using to reinvent myself.  The same way I did when we started Thrive!  I can only hope it leads to the same fulfillment and success!

Cycling Through 50 & Beyond

I will be turning 50 in 2010.  As a way of marking the significance of the year I am planning a bike touring trip with friends in Croatia.  I have entertained the idea of a fancy bike tour in Europe for years.  Many things have stopped me from making the trip happen.  I did not want to ride alone and the last time I did any touring in Germany that was the case.  Now I have a partner and some friends who are game for riding as long as we have a sag wagon and comfy places to rest at night.  Since I am turning 50 I too think comfort and ease is a good idea.

Biking has been a part of my life since I was five and was able to take my first breakfast ride with my father and older sisters to Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House.  I was proud and thrilled to pedal my way to food and have memories of this being part of our family route throughout the first decade or so of my life.

I was not always so joyful about biking with my Dad.  Sometimes he would get us lost or take the longest route between two points possible, and as a young kid, I thought that was unnecessary.  However, my dad is turning 90 and still bikes, actual these days he rides a fancy recumbent trike.  So I am thinking something must right about his biking style.  I can only hope at 90 I am still riding.

Over the years between five and forty-five I have had a variety of biking moments.  I became a bit of a biking snob for a while, priding myself in having the best gear and using my bike as a primary means of transportation.  I had a brief desire to bike across the country, but after a few treks down the east coast, found biking on America highways not so great.  I stayed off the road on trails for awhile after that.

Throughout my biking life I have continued to take a few rides each year with my dad.  He has gotten out on his bike most every day since retirement.  On his 80th, the whole family gathered to take the big bike ride to the local ice cream parlor, instead of Aunt Sarah’s.  Following my dad’s path, the ride took considerably longer than the five mile distance between where they live and parlor – but it was his day and it was neat to have three generations of family riding along with my dad leading the way.

A few years ago I invested in a nice road bike.  In many ways I feel like I did when I was five.  I love riding these days.  May be it is the bike – it is light, sleek and fast.  Or may be it is that I am approaching 50 and no longer feel like I need to compete or ride hard.  I simply ride to enjoy the scenery, the freedom.

I sometimes get lost and often take the longest path between two points.  I am guessing I am more like my dad than I ever wanted to admit growing up.

I am about to turn 50 and can’t think of a better way to celebrate than taking a bike ride.  Of course, the tour needs to provide great food and hopefully an ice cream parlor on the big day.  My dad won’t be in Croatia, but I am fairly certain on his 90th this year we’ll be taking a ride somewhere.