I am back in Wednesday Ladies Ski Class. Enjoying another season on the mountain.
This year it’s skiing the bumps or moguls.
I am often surprised by how what I am learning in ski class seems to also apply to life and relating.
What stands out to me in skiing bumps is how it’s important to not let a bump become it’s own mountain.
On a good day, I am looking ahead and anticipating the next bump further down the hill. I ski into the bump and around, focused on the next pole placement and letting the mountain pull me in the right direction, down the hill.
However, I am also very familar with getting a touch nervous about my choices. Instead of moving down the mounatin, suddenly I am going across the mountain or worse I lean back on skiies and the skies fly forward and down I go.
In those moments the bumps become their own little mountains. They seem huge and the troughs around them make them loom even larger.
My focus becomes narrow and I am working super hard.
That same thing happens in life. Life can be like a mogul run. You might even be the type that likes the challenges. Indeed, it can be fun. When you can see further ahead and down the path and stay with your line, it can even seem easy. But if you get to focused on one bump or the obstacle right in front of you , it might overwhelm any forward momentum.
Often when I am engaged in a writing project I can get stalled staring at a plank page or trying to think of the right word. The one idea I am trying to articulate or get across becomes like one of those bumps, a mountain.
It’s best when I can pull my focus out and see that one concept or piece of a story has become way to important, it’s own mountain.
Often in those moments, I just need to stop and take a moment to see the bigger picture. Usually, I can find a line and my flow comes back.
Be it skiing, writing or just dealing with life – don’t let a bump become it’s own mountain.
Today I find myself sitting outside DMV office with my number 64, my phone scrolling to let me know when I am within 6 numbers (currently at 32) and can come in, while reading the Heart of Democracy.
There’s a lot of information about my life right now in just that first sentence.
This is not my first two hour wait outside the DMV. Earlier this month I was here because my car tabs got lost and though paid had to come in to get replacement tabs. At some point since that event I lost the registration papers – lost, stolen, tossed out – I don’t know. But gone. So here I am again.
Now I am trying to stay curious about what I might need to know about these happenings. I will say it is creating the most community interaction I have had with people outside my ‘pod’ for awhile.
Since Covid, I go out with close friends and I pick up groceries but don’t stay anywhere long. The DMV offers the biggest variety of people I have engaged with. This trip it is raining so I am mostly staying in my car. But last time I stood outside, socially distant talking about everything from wearing a mask to which is more of a concern covid or our economic stability. I’d say the vote was split on that last one and fortunately everyone either had their mask on or stood talking from a better than six foot distance.
Which brings me to the book, The Heart of Democracy.
I am reading this book because a friend shared a post about the book and the ideas touched me deeply. The idea that the heart of democracy isn’t about left or right, republican or democrat – but about power and a divide between those who believe that power is found within us as well as outside us, and those for whom all power is external to the self.
His ideas so resonate with many of my own. The idea that we need to not be talking about ‘them’ (politicians – people in DC etc.) but talking with the people actually in the room. (Or on Zoom) The idea that this is not left or right – it’s about people and power and how we define and embrace where we believe we have some choice and control and where and when we don’t.
There are those who see his stories of individuals making a difference as just pie-in-the-sky beliefs and those who use the same stories to inspire their own action.
He shares how Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party are examples of the same shared goal – to make a collective shift against perceived power. Sure you can say these groups are fundamentally different in ideology but in impact and influence – they are very much the same – examples of democracy in action and people making their power known – the power of “We The Power”.
It helps me to see the common elements and the possibilities that lies in seeing even these two efforts having a common purpose – to impact a change.
Why is that so important now?
Because I am anxious, angry, scared and feeling helpless more often than I wish to reveal. Aside from little pockets of conversation outside the DMV and a Zoom call with only people who share my values I am not having having deeper richer conversations that are touching my heart and helping bridge differences. No, what I am mostly seeing and hearing is screaming or fighting or negative ad campaigns. What is usually a time to gather an understanding of why something is so important to someone else and why I might choice to vote for one candidate over another has become a battle ground and mud slinging crazy talk. My heart breaks with this.
Covid makes it hard because normally I would be at an office, engaging in dialogue over dinner after a day with a team of leaders. I would be up at The Haven mixing with a variety of people with different backgrounds and positions. I’d be stuck in an airport or on a plane with someone who was clearly different than me and I could ask – why is that so important to you or what do you think of the potential Supreme court candidate. We may have some strong differences but we’d be there long enough to know something real about each other and maybe even influence each others position before going on our way. Those moment and those conversations would help my heart and faith in humans.
Even these DMV visits help.
It is for me one of the biggest challenges of Covid. Zoom, Teams House Party and Facetime don’t allow for quite the same spontaneous moments. Don’t get me wrong I am very grateful for what technology has offered because I can Zoom with my sisters, Zoom with my mom and friends. I can help I team bridge their differences and have some real conversations virtually. I can support my clients in breathing and getting more in touch with their heartbeats and breath. But I am missing the moments where I can gather in front of the TV watching the debate with strangers and talk about – what was that? Or why isn’t he answering the question? Or what did you get about his/her position on that? And talk.
I miss those moments right now at lot – because I think those moments and conversations are what make for democracy. Democracy is about the power of people and mostly about how WE THE PEOPLE need to be talking, sharing and listening more than just blaming.
I’d love to hear from and if you feel any of the same. If there is a way you are doing this differently – having real conversations and really getting to understanding someone else’s position – tell me about it.
I have a major project due for completion and I am struggling to get the job done. It’s not like I haven’t known that I suffer from procrastination issues. However, this is one of those times when awareness has not led to new behavior. This project has been looming for months and though I have attempted to pull the necessary pieces together so I could focus and get the job done, I have now waited until the last minute, blogging about this issue instead of doing the job.
So what is that about? I could tell you about my Myers-Briggs type. On Judging/Perceiving I am a high ‘P’, meaning I like to put things off until the last minute. Apparently I thrive on the rush of pulling the all-nighter (this might have been true in college but I am much older now and I doubt I would do well at all without sleep). I don’t like closure because I like to leave myself open to all possibilities. Still, there comes a time on a project when choices need to be made.
Even with all this awareness, I am still not moving ahead. My Myer-Briggs also says I suffer from internal perfectionism, meaning sometimes I won’t do a job because I am too afraid of letting others down, so instead, I just say I can’t do it. Well this might have been okay months ago when I could have said ‘no’. But now I am need to overcome any internal concerns about failing and as Nike would say: Just Do It!
As I have mentioned before, I also have some ADHD symptoms and can be easily distracted.
I could probably dive into some other personality assessment or childhood experience that could offer an excuse for this behavior. It is amazing how sometimes self-awareness can simply become self-excuseness.
Enough! It is time to quit making excuses and get to work.
Though it is quite nice outside—may be I should go for a bike ride!
I have been soaking in as much of the Olympic vibes as possible. Last week on my way to The Haven for a Come Alive, I caught the skytrain down to the heart of Vancouver and enjoyed just walking and chatting with folks. Of course during the Come Alive my energy and attention shifted to the folks in the group. Though I found it quite fun to check out the results either online or through dinner conversations.
Now back at home I am watching with CrisMarie, an Olympian from the summer games. In the past she wasn’t too fond of watching. It seemed to stir some pain from her own Olympian disappointment in finishing sixth. Fortunately she seems to have come to a different place now. Able to recognize the amazing triumph of making it to the Games and competing at that level and even drawing from the disappointment to speak about the lessons learned about teaming; primarily the difference between being a boat of champions and a championship boat.
It is interesting to me to watch the athletes. Especially the ones expected to medal. So much pressure. Some seem to embrace that moment and rise to the occasion. I am not just speaking of those who win their Gold, Silver or Bronze but also about those who don’t, yet still stay thrilled with the moment and able to recognize that on that one day they did not win.
Personally I believe it takes excellence and dedication over time to make it to the Games. It takes a peak moment to win the Gold. Very different. One not better or worse then the other. But different.
I love the events where some unexpected contender races to the lead, surprising everyone. I was watching the USA hockey team beat Canada 5-3 and watched the goalie defend 45 shots at the goal, only allowing 3 to get in. I could not help but wonder was that a peak moment or a sustainable performance. Just the fact that Canada got 45 shots on the goal versus 20 some by the USA, who was the better team and who was having the better moment.
That is what makes the Games so interesting to me. There is just that drive that allows someone or a team to come together and practice and dedicate themselves to making it to the greatest sporting event. That effort alone is something any Olympian I would hope could recognize and honor for themselves. Then there is the moment – the event. Some will rise that day and fly; others will put their heart in the event to simply be beaten by a better performance and some will fall and never cross the finish line. Indeed that moment can be crushing after all the effort. Still I can’t help but believe that there will be a day when each and every athlete that walked through the gate during the opening ceremonies can and will fully embrace the accomplishment of that – with or without a medal to show for it.
In the Come Alive we talk about the Power and Strength Model. This is a continuum that we are all living and choosing all the time. The power side of the model deals with control, roles, security and dominating the world around us. The strength side deals vulnerability, authenticity, risk and finding our will from within. For me this is the essence of the Olympics. I see and hear the continuum being played out through these athletes. The power in winning – taking the podium. The strength in competing – rising with or without a medal. Some will get fixated on their moment. That moment may be one of greatest or humility; victory or defeat. Some will flow through the moment. Again through the high of winning or the low of falling short of their dream. I can see it on their faces as they embrace their team mates or not, speak to the press or not and through the awarding of the medals. With some the fixation is clear. This moment will define them for some time. For others it is simply another piece of the fabric of their lives. May be a bright spot but still just a piece and they are already moving on.
We are all like these athletes. Life is like the Games. Fortunately not being captured on TV. Yet still working with that same dynamic. The moments and the day-to-day effort it takes to make those moment possible. We are our peak experiences as well as the little choices we make every day.
Sometimes I get stuck focusing on the moments and miss the opportunity to move on. Sometimes I forget to celebrate a moment and move on too quickly. Indeed life is always offering me so many opportunities to wake up – in-the-moment and over time. I would like to be one of the ones who does indeed wake up and can celebrate that I made it to the Games and gave it all the power and strength I had to offer; with or with a medal.
In just a few days we’ll be back into the thick of our work. We have client work that fills the next two weeks. In some ways this is a good thing. For CrisMarie it will give her something to focus on as she continues to integrate the information that her brother is gone. For me it’ s a way to quit thinking so much about cancer.
Tom in many ways was more of a ‘brother in arms’ to me than a brother-in-law. I never fought in a war, but over the years I have worked with many folks who did and they often spoke of the unique relationship they had with anyone else who served. For me, there is something similar with the folks who cross my path while dealing with cancer. It goes way back to my own fight and the people who were in the oncology department at the same time I was. Really, the first comrade I remember was the other woman who was in the Life, Death & Transitions workshop with me along with 90 other folks who were health-care providers for cancer patients. The workshop was run by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who was an expert in the field on death & dying. I went because I was told I was dying and really had no clue how to do that at 24 and thought the workshop might help. The other woman was fighting breast cancer and had been for a while, much like a long term, multiple-tour veteran. She had a very strict routine and belief system. I don’t think she liked me very much because I was not really ‘strong’. I wasn’t doing everything by the book. Of course, I did not know there was a book, but she had a very clear intent and was not going to give the cancer one ounce of negative energy. No tears, no anger. I was a bit more undisciplined, and I sort wished she would cry because I could feel the pain she carried under the surface. Still, I respected her choice – how she fought.
There have been many more folks since then. I have sat and talked, cried, screamed and raged with many comrades. I still am a bit undisciplined in my approach to cancer. I am not one to believe it’s all about being positive or about fighting the good fight. I think the cancer fight is quite unique. There is a bond we share, but there isn’t a common play book that wins the war.
Even after twenty years, as I sat with Tom and he looked to me for some sort of answers, I knew I had none. There is no right way to deal with cancer. Just like there isn’t a right way to deal with living through a war. It’s a bloody fight and many people die.
There are lots of lessons learned from studying veterans. Though each war seems different, there are the common links. I think it is like that with cancer. There are different types of cancer, fast growing cell types, slow growing, very invasive and more contained types. There are many ways of fighting a war – on the ground, in the air, on the water or even gorilla style. Same with cancer – there’s chemo, radiation, surgery, transplants and also the alternative style which may be more like gorilla style – not as organized or as obvious. There’s a mindset that is required to fight cancer. People are uncomfortable talking about cancer – particularly about the obvious closeness of death. Much like wars – we don’t like to talk about the ugly reality of a war zone.
But really, for me, one of the hardest parts is when a comrade dies. My heart aches. I feel survivor quilt. I question my recovery and I rage against the crazy cancer process.
My war was many, many years ago and yet when I am with another cancer comrade I am right back there in the fight. That’s why I am glad I’ll soon be back at my other job. I don’t like the pain of reliving the past. Of course, I will do it all again if I believe it can help one comrade in their fight against cancer. Much like we all wish for a world without wars, I wish for a world without cancer. Oddly, I think war and cancer are way too much alike. Wars are simply men and women fighting each other over different beliefs and stories that are so deeply ingrained and compartmentalized that the the human connection has been lost. Cancer is just my cells fighting against each other having lost the connecting link – communication has broken down.
Today isn’t about solving the bigger communication issue. Though that is the very reason I do the work I do. No, today still about saluting a comrade. Today is also about crying for all the lives lost to this dirty, rotten war called cancer. Tomorrow will be the day to move on and get back to work doing my little part to help improve the way people communicate. May be someday that will make a difference by helping stop a war on any one of the many fronts we keep fighting them.
The Bailey, aka Moose, story continues. I now understand why there are so many dog stories out there. We have yet to have our final interview before being officially allowed to adopt boxer Bailey. In the mean time we have been allowed another visit. Today’s visit was challenging.
We thought we were prepared. We were rested and ready to walk and play first thing so that Bailey could spend the rest of the morning becoming more familiar with our home. The walk went pretty well except for the part when Bailey needed to be on the leash. He’s obviously new to the leash and does just fine for brief periods until he moves in such a way that the leash catches his attention. When that happens he does one of two moves. One is the classic chewing process clearly intended to rid himself of this annoying line that is slowing down his forward progress. The second move is when the leash seems to totally surprise him and he proceeds to jump around in such a way that the leash pulls on his collar so tightly that he thrashes even harder in an effort to figure what the hell has him trapped. The second move is much more difficult to watch and even harder to sort out. Of course we know it is our job to teach him differently but we are not there yet!
Overall though, the walk went well. Back at the house it seemed he was content to wander around and finally drop down at our feet for a nap. This is part where he is the adorable puppy and isn’t it great to have him in our lives moment. Then he woke up.
We missed getting him outside fast enough so there was the little accident on the carpet. Once out he seemed confused why we were staying out when he was complete with the task. Back inside it was clear he wanted our undivided attention. Actually he really wanted Sooke’s attention and she was not into playing. After a number of play bows, some barking and a few right hooks thrown gently at Sooke’s face, she let him know she was not going to be the one to entertain him. Next he started working on us. We did give it our best shot and for a few minutes I thought we were doing okay. But the phone rang and one of us needed to cover that. You would think one of us could entertain the puppy but may be that is the problem we simply are trying to hard and he knows it. Shortly we felt quite defeated and decided we’d end our visit a bit early.
When we dropped Bailey off at his foster home we asked how she did it. We then got the chance to see Bailey with his three adult boxer buddies and realized he was getting tons of attention that was never really going to be available at our house. It was fun to watch one adult dog after the other tag team Bailey’s needs for play. I was exhausted watching!! Foster mom, Tracey, let us know that really he would settle in. Routine and knowing us would eventually help him settle into our lives. Still I left wondering if I was the best owner for Bailey.
After getting home we had another chat about our decision. I am beginning to wonder if this is why the adoption process is taking so long. The process will determine how committed we are or wear us out trying. We are not giving up on Bailey but after I write this blog I am heading to Petco for more toys and supplies. Tomorrow he is coming over for a sleepover and we are determined to be prepared.
Of course having Bailey in our lives has changed the focus of everything. Even blogging seems difficult. I wasn’t going to keep writing about Bailey but he is so BIG in the picture thus for a better writer a book becomes a easy outlet for the amazing level of focus this job requires.
I am sure any parents reading this blog are laughing. Indeed Bailey and previously Sooke are the closest thing to child rearing I have ever done. Well not totally true I did teach, and at one point, was responsible for a room full of first graders. I also have a niece and nephew who survived living with me for short periods when they were young. I don’t need to be reminded this is not the same. I know from talking to many new parents when they were exhausted and wondering, “What made me ever think I could do this?” It is not uncommon to question and even wish for a way out. It is a significant life change be it a child or a puppy – both are a handful of joy, energy and constant demands. I just hope I am up to the job or up for being honest and making the right choice. It is clear this is not an easy logical choice. This type of decision is riddled with emotions. It may seem obvious to an outside observer but for me I am not so certain.
In the mean time, I will keep giving this my best shot and likely you will keep hearing more about Bailey. He really is a cute puppy and he does deserve the effort!!
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!