Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Here Piggy Piggy...

I went for a stroll last night. I thought I was alone, but I wasn’t. As I walked down the sidewalk I heard the sound of munching. I assumed that some type of critter was enjoying an evening meal. It was dark and I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so I didn’t bother looking around. I just ambled toward the community mail box with my Visa payment in hand, ignored my surroundings, and let my brain cycle through its thoughts.

For the most part I enjoy my little musings, just like I enjoy my dreams. But every once in a while my mind gets stuck on an idea or situation that annoys me, and I have trouble shaking loose from it. I was chanting, “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” and reciting a few affirmations regarding my upcoming book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within. In spite of my efforts, a few errant concepts were buzzing around like flies. I shooed them away, but they kept returning, ready to spread their filth on my cleaner intentions.

Part of my annoyance is my impatience with getting my book published. I know that messages of optimism and hope are badly needed, but book publishers have their own agenda and time line. They say later and I say “NOW!” Normally I’m a patient individual, but I am human and I have my limits. Part of my problem is I veered a bit off course with my original intention. The sole purpose of writing the book was to help people, but somewhere along the line, my self esteem got involved in the mix. Every day that I encountered a setback, rejection, or no response at all – I’d get frustrated, angry, or worst of all – sad.

I was making a mistake that I lecture others about – looking outside oneself for validation and acceptance. In my lapse of judgment, I was feeling like a failure because publishers were not jumping up and down to publish my book. The problem is I have no control over what others think or do. If I had good news, I felt great. Bad news and I was upset. This is a very defeating way to look at things because I was handing over my happiness to the whim of others. That’s like handing the car keys over to an impaired driver and then getting upset when the car comes back in a damaged state.

Fortunately, I know better than to indulge in a pity party. Been there, done that, and I know how the story goes. So instead, I reviewed this excerpt from the book (written by my co-author, Jackie.)

"One of the greatest lessons a person must learn is acceptance of self. The acceptance of total responsibility for one's own thoughts, words and actions. This means maturity and loving yourself, filling yourself up with joy. When you have done this acceptance is no longer an issue nor is it important. You have made peace within you and the world around you. You like the person you are, just as you are.

Louie Pasqual, an 18th century philosopher once said "I am concerned about Western man because he could not be alone with himself in an empty room." In effect, this means we need to go inside ourselves and find our acceptance, peace, joy and love and learn to connect with the power within ourselves. Until we are able to do this, we will never truly be happy and whole. This is what releasing negativity is about, starting the journey to find the joy within. The only way to do this is change the way we think and perceive the world and people around us. We must accept the only path that can be changed and improved is through our own efforts and not through the opinion of others."

Back to my stroll (you thought I really wandered off topic and forgot to return, didn’t you?) As I was walking back home, a car was driving slowly by and came to a halt. I thought they were going to ask me for directions. Instead, they asked if I saw the herd of javelina that was in the desert basin. I realized that I had walked by the beasts, but was so intent on my thoughts, that I hadn’t seen them. And it wasn’t one or two of the critters – there was a whole herd – mothers and babies, happily munching on the desert fauna.

I was so caught up in my thoughts (and many of them unhappy thoughts at that!) that I was oblivious to a wondrous sight (and maybe even a potentially dangerous one).

The bottom line is I am more than my back account, my career, my writing, my family and any number of things that I use to identify myself. There are wonderful things within, or right in front of my face, that I can choose to see, or ignore. There is a saying that we can see the moon that is thousands of miles away, but cannot see our own eyebrows without a mirror. The same is true about our inner beauty.

How ironic that it was a stranger in a car and a herd of wild pigs that helped me see the hidden treasure that was there all along.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Water, water every where...

“Water, water everywhere and nor any drop to drink.” This line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner came to life like a tidal wave of confusion when I went to greet the carpet installers at my daughter, Alicia’s house earlier this week.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to Alicia’s place and stepped into a flash flood. I could hear the sound of water spewing forth and gasped in fear as I saw the lake of water inching closer to the beautiful laminate flooring my son-in-law Greg, had just installed.

I’ve lived in a few different houses over the span of my life, and one of the things that I made sure I knew about was how to turn off the main water valve to the house. But this wasn’t my house! I was clueless. However, as I was about to bolt to the outside spigot to see if I could find the shutoff valve, the carpet installer, Pancho, rushed to the kitchen and quickly found the guilty culprit. It was the tubing that supplied the water to the refrigerator. Pancho turned the water off quickly, and even helped with some of the cleanup. What a great guy.

Pancho guessed it had been running for two hours. Apparently, if you do not use the correct tubing for the drinking water, it can easily burst and create an indoor lake. I have found out since this little disaster occurred that using the wrong tubing – and the leaks that ensue - are a common problem. The tubing that is needed is pricier than one would expect – but certainly a bargain compared to dealing with a major leak. My friend, Andrea, who is active on the HOA board of her community said this has happened to her development a few times in the last two years. One resulted in a major repair.

So, my advice for today is to make sure to use proper equipment when installing appliances. If you can’t afford the $80 hose, then just don’t hook up the water filtration system until you CAN afford the right tubing. There is something to be said for doing things the right way, using the best tools for the job, and taking the time to do the job right. Of course this is all very ironic coming from someone who can’t put a child’s puzzle together. I hate reading directions or doing anything that takes even a modicum of mechanical aptitude. I even get confused changing the vacuum cleaner bag. But I’m getting better. After all, if you live long enough and learn from your crummy mistakes, you get to be a pretty sharp cookie.

In spite of my lack of mechanical skills, I AM good in a crisis. Plus I was plenty motivated. My daughter, her husband and my beautiful granddaughters were going to be moving into a bank-owned property only three miles away, and it couldn’t happen soon enough as far as I was concerned. Part of this is my desire to have the family unit close by, and part of it is to relieve the stress of my daughter, who has her hands full with a fearless and inquisitive, 22-month-old, and a slightly demanding, three-month infant who has been nicknamed “Crabby Cakes”.

In the past, my spouse was always the one who performed the more “manly duties” (plumbing, carpentry, tree-trimming, tile work etc). But in my zeal to get my daughter moved into her new home I’ve helped remove carpet and padding, removed tack strips, washed walls and cabinets, and volunteered to babysit to hasten the move-in process. I even made the appointment for the carpet installers to come. Not only that, I put a little pressure on the appointment setters to get a crew out there as soon as possible. This was definitely overstepping the mother/daughter boundaries, but my daughter is very easy-going, and I was afraid the installers would put her off another week. So I just took the first appointment they offered. I also let them know she had wanted to move in the week before, but they needed the carpet to be installed first. This was overstepping the boundary of my duties, but as I said, I wanted this to happen.

The installers had been scheduled to arrive between 8-10 a.m., but they got there early. When they called my daughter and told them they were almost there, Alicia called me and asked if I could let the workmen in the house to begin the project. No problem. By 7:15 a.m., me, my cereal, the newspaper and my coffee, were ready to roll. The installers were waiting for me when I pulled up.

I opened the door, stepped inside, and immediately found myself sloshing through inches of water. Before you could say, “Noah, where’s the ark?” I got towels, a mop and a bucket and started cleaning up the mess. Pancho also pitched in. After calling my daughter and son-in-law, we decided to go ahead and start with the installation on the parts of the house that weren’t flooded. All in all, everything worked out okay.

I have to admit that prior to seeing the flood, I felt a little guilty about pushing my daughter to get moving on the house renovations so they could move in, as well as for the earliest delivery dates for the carpet. It is, after all, her house, her life and her family. But in this case, my nagging paid off. Pancho said that he estimated the leak had been going on for two hours. In another 40 minutes the water would have flooded the laminate my son-in–law had just installed. Two more hours and the whole house would’ve been flooded and the water would have been running out of the house and into the street (the same road that was getting chip sealed – but that’s another story).

So what is the morale of this story (besides the using the right tool and doing a good job?) It is not about being a pushy mother. It’s not about nagging. It’s about following intuition. Something told me to push for this. I actually went against my daughter’s wishes when I made that early appointment. And I do not advocate that we run over the desires of others – quite the contrary. But when there is a strong intuition that something should be done, it is best to follow that instinct – or dam the consequences.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Time, Education and Leaky Brains

There are times when my head is so full of information that I wonder if I can absorb anything new. Sometimes I feel as if my brain were like a bucket of water and if another dollop of information is added to the pail, liquid will leak out of my ears. Of course this isn’t true. My head isn’t leaking, so I can take my fingers out of my ears and stop singing “La, la, la,” every time I am confronted with new factoids. But in this age of instant information, it can seem a little overwhelming to keep up with everything.

After talking to my daughter, Brittany, I realize my concern is not confined to middle-aged Baby Boomers. Brittany just turned 25 and she is not only learning new things on the computer, phone and digital camera (all things I seriously underuse), she is studying interior design – a career that is constantly changing. She is attending a private college and passed on an opportunity to enter a competition where she could have won a significant scholarship. Unfortunately, the entry was due shortly after completing her finals and she felt she wouldn’t have the time to create a worthwhile project.

Apparently, her classmates felt the same way. Only one person entered, and that lucky person won the top prize. The second and third place awards went unclaimed.

One of my clients, the International Academy of Hair & Aesthetics in Tempe, AZ, also had a competition. Students were asked to write an essay, or pledge, outlining their commitment to their future careers as aestheticians. The prizes were significant – a $2,000 and a $1,000 scholarship to the National Laser Institute. Amanda Tihey won first place and Baeley Haught received second place.

While the International Academy of Hair & Aesthetics received more reaction than Brittany’s school for its competition, I thought the response was a bit underwhelming, particularly considering the amount of the scholarship and how tight money is for most folks right now. I think it might be attributed to the leaky head syndrome. Bottom line is most of us feel like there is too much to do, not enough time to do it, and if I have to learn anything else today I’m going to go screaming into the night.

So, you might ask, with this attitude, why did I write the self-help book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within? Isn’t this just another example of new information? Technically, this may be correct. There is nothing new about my book, or even most self-help books in general. Some of the best ones go back hundreds, or even thousands of years ago – The Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, The Richest Man in Babylon.

However, since there is only so much time in a day, the information may be out there, but taking the time to access it may be problematic. And that is the catch 22. Most of us recognize we would be happier if we took the time to learn better habits and methods of interacting in the world, but we feel like we just don’t have the time to do it. Just like my poor, struggling student-of-a-daughter, Brittany who missed out on a chance to win a scholarship and reduce her student loan debt.

No matter where we live or who we are, all of us have the same 24 hours in each day. What separates us is how we choose to spend our time. We can veg out in front of the television, gossip on the telephone, or sleep all day. Or we can make an investment in ourselves to learn how to become better human beings by taking the time to help others, read an uplifting book, or simply enjoy beauty by taking a stroll through the park.

When confronted with the many options we have each day on how to fill our day, I hope you will take a moment to ponder on how you can use what limited spare time you do have to create value in some way. Because that type of investment in time is one that is sure to bring lasting rewards for yourself, and for others.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Dreams, Witches and Butterflies Take Flight

I love to dream. I love my waking life too, but my crazy little imagination really cooks up some interesting nocturnal scenarios when I’m asleep. Occasionally I will have a dream that I think conveys an important message. When this happens, I write down what I remember. The following is a case in point.

In this dream I had great powers. Two reoccurring themes were present that I’ve experienced in other dreams – I can identify other special people with powers (particularly children), and I can fly. The children with powers look like everyone else and they do not know they have powers. They actually come from another planet. I believe they are sent here to help earth, as well as have some sort of mission about their planet of origin.

I can’t remember all the parts of the dream, but in one segment I am flying and there are emerald, green, trees below. It was a breath-taking sight that was absolutely awe inspiring. It was more than sheer beauty, there was an element of magic to the scenario. At one point I flew straight up to the clouds. There was a meeting of magical witches and I was one of them. There were mostly middle aged women, but there were a few younger ones and a couple of women in their early 60s with white hair.

There was one woman I didn’t know and I introduced myself. The rest of the women I knew and trusted. At one point we were supposed to suspend our powers so we could recharge. I think this was a normal part of the mystical process. However, there was something about this unknown woman that made me uncomfortable. I sent a telepathic message to the others to not totally give up our powers, as I thought we might be too vulnerable. The other women already thought the same thing. It was as if our vulnerability would allow dark forces to defeat us, and then the rest of the non-empowered society.

I woke up before the dream had a real ending. However, it was very interesting and fun. Even the part of the dark forces was empowering because I knew we were right in our pursuits and that is why the other dark forces were trying to stop us. I had no doubt we would win. I wish I could remember all the sights and colors enough to describe it. It was better than anything I had ever seen in a movie.

I suppose I could interpret this dream in a variety of ways. However, a few key things come to mind.

• If you want to be happy, seek out friends and/or acquaintances who will lift your spirits.
• Take the time to show kindness to children. They may have more material and technological advantages than we had at their age, but they have also inherited a planet that has been badly damaged. Help instill in them the hope that they can accomplish great and wondrous things that will be a benefit to everyone..
• Follow your instincts about people and events. If your gut is telling you to not trust someone, take heed.
• Life isn’t always easy, but it is the struggles that help us grow.

It is said that before a butterfly can take flight, it has to constantly beat its wings against its cocoon to break free. It takes enormous energy for the butterfly to emerge, but it is precisely what the butterfly needs to have the strength to fly. If someone were to break through the chrysalis to help the butterfly in its escape, the winged creature would be too weak to survive.

No one likes hardships, but they are a part of life. We may not be able to sidestep problems, but we always have a choice on how to respond to each situation. We can grouse over our setbacks, or we can take a more optimistic approach and take the opportunity to use each obstacle as an opportunity to grow. And the more we grow, the higher we can fly.