#elevate

My Happiness Contract

Today I opened up a fortune cookie and it read, " Don't pursue happiness - create it.”.  Seeing it spelled out so simply made me realize that although I have entered into a contract with myself mentally, it is time to get it down in writing. It seems in general, the older we get, the more sidetracked we become about what leads to true happiness.  Watching my niece and nephews over Easter, I found myself concentrating on what made them happy, especially the 4 year old. When he was rested, a scoop of ice cream or a dinosaur easter egg were reasons for laugh out loud, jump up and down celebration...simple pleasures. Fast forward a few years, and the modern day perspective, so many times, creates a slip…happiness seems to be more expensive and more elusive, when the reality of what brings happiness hasn’t changed, we have.

There are a few things about my personality that I am thankful for that seem to make it easier for me to be happy than the average 43 year old.  I have been tested by real trials, among them having my life drastically upended with the end of my 20 year marriage, and  coming through the other side of that incredibly sad experience confident in my ability to grow through struggle and always find reasons to be grateful. Another trait I am grateful I possess is that I enjoy (even crave) the mundane and find pleasure in the simple things.  Choosing my coffee cup in the morning makes me happy, watching planes take off makes me happy, real connections with everyday people make me happy.  So today, here is my contract with myself, spelled out, so when I need a reminder, I have something to come back to. 

 

1. I will slow down and be grateful.  I have learned through hard times that I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude. 

 

2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that lead to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost. 

 

3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist.  My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness. 

 

4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect and understanding, but will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked. 

 

5. I will seek the place where my mind, body and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts, books, articles and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram, and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back.  Adequate sleep, healthy food and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness have happened when I silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.  

 

5. Most importantly, it is no one else's job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other.  It takes courage to find that place…and I will seek it every day. 

Signed with intention,

Wendy

Wisdom Works Both Ways

One of the first times I experienced the feeling of knowing that being a mom is the best experience anyone can ever have was when the nurse took a crying, freshly bathed and swaddled, not so little 9lb 12oz baby boy and laid him on my chest. Instantly, he stopped crying. I had never experienced anything so magical, soothing and empowering in one moment of life before.  

Luke, you are my calm, kindhearted, hilariously funny, March Madness baby.  Although I love having a boy named after a Gospel, if I’m honest, you were named largely because of Luke Walton and the basketball I loved watching with my swollen belly in 2002. I’m having a hard time comprehending how 16 years went by so fast, as March Madness again plays in the background as I write this. How are you closer to the age I was when I had you than I am today? It was yesterday when you were walking with that little blue cast when you broke your foot (you were 17months old!). Then a few days later you were naming every Thomas and Friends train that was ever invented and building tracks for hours, in between Lauren dressing you up like a princess and you having to learn why boys don’t get their toenails painted too (although, we did paint them a few times anyway). Then i tossed a volleyball at you and you just seemed to get it. No matter where you go from here, you have already given me so much joy with all of these memories that my life is blessed more than i could have ever imagined. 

Your calm and fun loving approach to life has taught me so much because even with that calm, when you do something you love whether it’s laughing with your friends or winning a game (be it Fortnite or volleyball) I can see such a fire burning inside you.  I will always have you in my ear with your question “how is stressing about it going to help mom?” Wise words from my boy that I have absolutely taken to heart.

Then one day you walked out of your bedroom, towering over me and even though that face (and thankfully, again that haircut) is the same...my little tan man was a man-child.

You are going to do great things, and great things are both big and small. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and ask the big questions, it’s what leads you to finding your purpose, the why of your life, and it is what gives us the deepest sense of joy.  When you hit a rough patch along the way, don’t smooth it over, but dive deep to find the calm water below where you can find the real answers and then come to the surface again wiser and stronger for having done the hard work. Remember that how we do the small things is how we do the big things...practice that daily. Don’t do (or overdo) things just because you think they are expected, but also know that nothing gives you more satisfaction in life than working hard and seeing success because of what you have invested. Know that you don’t have to make things ok immediately, pain happens in life for a reason, and ironically it is the greatest chance we have as people to grow into the best version of ourselves. Have confidence always. Confidence is the key to having the courage for your thoughts, words and actions to align and when they do, it’s the key to leadership and deep contentment. I want nothing more than for you to than to leave the places you go a little better than you found them. I am beyond confident that you will do that.  You are so blessed in life, honor those blessings with hard work and honest goodness that is such a natural part of who you are and your life will be a beautiful place.

Happy 16th Birthday Lukey B. I love you more than you will ever know.

 

To Raise a Champion

In April of 2016, as my almost 20 year marriage was falling apart, I turned around to grab a ball to serve as I was playing beach volleyball at 2nd St. in Hermosa Beach. Immediately,  I recognized one of the players on the court behind me and said hello, thinking at the time that she looked familiar from one of the kids schools or teams. We hadn’t lived in Hermosa Beach long and I didn’t know that many people.  As I went to serve though, it dawned on me, that’s not a mom from school, that’s Misty May. So, with my new “seize the day, what have I got to lose attitude”,  I went over and introduced myself telling her about how my two oldest kids (one of them being the only boy in attendance) had participated in a clinic she coached when we still lived in Fresno. Being that I’m older than Misty but still feel like the kid who had the Hovland/Dodd and Stoklos/Smith posters covering her walls, I was happy enough with that quick conversation and got back to my game thinking that was a pretty good story to tell the kids later where they would definitely laugh and chastise me for being a dorky "fan girl".

After the next game, I went over to my towel, grabbed some water and checked my phone for messages and as I scrolled through, I saw a text message from Kerri Walsh Jennings. At that point, I almost decided that I hadn’t really woken up that morning and must still be dreaming. What were the odds that I would have and encounter with the both players on the winningest team in beach volleyball history while I was playing “mom volleyball” on a regular Tuesday morning?  As I read Kerri’s text about Abraham Hickes and the Law of Attraction, the goosebumps rose on my arms and the tears came to my eyes as this champion of a human being recognized the bond that I have and the  energy that I put into my kids. If there is anything I have true confidence in, it's that bond. Kerri and I had only met a few times because our kids were taking jiujitsu at the same place but her instantly thoughtful, caring and beyond empathic nature saw me, and took the time to recognize it, at a time in my life that I was working overtime to keep my optimism and zest for life at its usual heights. She, of course, made a massive impression on me with her humble nature and helpful ways.  I was reminded as I read the text of how I watched her one day at jiujitsu run over to help an older man pick up a bunch of mail he had dropped all over the street. I was amazed at the attentive way she managed conversation with complete strangers and wondered how she could manage the energy she was putting out into the world with so many eyes on her all the time. It’s not that one person’s opinion or relationship defines my view of myself, but her intuition and attentiveness blew me away and provided so much inspiration as to what I am attracted to in this amazing, beautiful life. The real thing that has come out of this ongoing dialogue between the two of us that started way back at jiujitsu over 2 years ago and continues today, is the insight it has provided me in how to raise a champion. What I have learned from Kerri has given me so much perspective on how I want to raise my four to be champions in the game of life. The court is just one place to learn; but the world, full of its adversity, trials and tribulations and matched by its amazing beauty and potential is where the real game is won. True champions aren’t defined by their medals and results but rather by their character, work ethic, and ability to positively impact others every day. Champions leave other people's days a little better for having showed up…and that is exactly what this champion has so selflessly done for me.

Defining Strength

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to measure and pass judgment on my own strength, as if this subjective thing can be quantified, and I either pass the test or I don’t.  I’m seeing improvement in my thought process and confidence though because I consciously look for ways to make myself stronger and I realize that the more challenges life brings me, the more sure I become that I can handle far more than I thought I could. 

Part of my rising confidence in my own strength is because my definition for strength has changed.  For a long time, probably all of my adult life, I thought I was strong if I could accommodate and handle anything that people threw at me.  Join this, be here, plan that, call them, organize that, be ready in 20 mins to leave for a week… this kind of accommodating didn't leave me much time to figure out my own head and heart, to define what I wanted to accomplish in my life. When I look back on this time and the way I lived, I actually picture myself, standing on a staircase with someone tossing glass plates at me while I tried to catch and stack them neatly before the next one got tossed and I didn’t catch it and instead watched it shatter on the floor.  Living like this left my heart racing, my spirit tired and my confidence shot because, inevitably, I would take on more and more, until I hit a breaking point. When I did hit that point, I would have to drop everything and hit the reset button, which then caused me to feel like I was failing at everything and could never accomplish what I set out to do.  The self talk that came out of this pattern of living ended up killing my confidence in myself and my abilities to accomplish my goals.  My voice of self doubt can be so loud and convincing, I don’t have to give it much to work with and it can stop me in my tracks. 

Today, I define strength not by how much I can hold, but by how much I decide to carry.  That choice is up to me and I know now that I don’t have to take everything in. I have a choice as to what I decide to accept from others, from situations in my day and the blessings and challenges life presents me.  I challenge myself to slow down and stay present because this is how I have a clear head to evaluate what situations are mine to handle and what needs to roll on by.  Changing this pattern isn’t easy and sometimes make things look like they are falling off my plate compared to how I used to operate. I did things at other peoples pace for so long out of a sense of obligation and desire to keep peace, the way I operate these days looks strange to them too. So in a way, I’m not only retraining myself, I’m retraining people in my life in how they respond to my new way of thinking and reacting. My learning extends to them as well though because the road doesn't just go one way.  Letting the people around me be who they are, take in what they choose from me and not judge them for it gives me and those I love lots of freedom in our relationships.  It gets uncomfortable sometimes, but more struggles are lasting just moments and strength is emerging in sustained action and peace of mind so I know I’m on the right track.  The challenge today is to choose wisely and use both the highs and lows that I decide to accept to fortify the path ahead while I enjoy every step along this beautiful journey.

To my oldest...on her 17th birthday

 

 

As wonderful as sleepy, soft, cuddly newborns are and as hysterical and challenging as the toddler experience was, my favorite moments have come farther along on this parenting road.  Today, my oldest turns 17.  There are 3 more behind her that are 15, 12 and 10 so I have a distance still to travel on this journey, (that really never ends) but it still seems impossible to me that I have a child this age.  I don’t feel old enough, I look at her and remember so clearly being 17 that it brings tears to my eyes.  When she describes her experiences to me, a friend letting her down, a first date, I can feel them because they still feel so fresh in my own mind and heart. I’m grateful that I have such a good memory. I am mindful that we have a mother daughter relationship, she isn’t my friend yet…one day I am confident she will be. And although she teaches me things everyday, today I collected the 17 thoughts that I hope she will take with her on her journey.

  1. know that you have been unconditionally loved from the day you were born, through our faith and from my heart.  Nothing you can do will change that. 
  2. know that you are unique, there is no reason to conform to anything that doesn’t feel true to who you are.
  3. never forget what you learn through life experiences, but always forgive. it’s the only way to live freely.  
  4. your road to success isn’t measured in medals, scholarships or report cards but in the process you engage to make each day a little better for yourself and those whose paths you cross.  (You are winning on this one for sure already.) 
  5. there are few problems that can’t be fixed by a long solo drive, windows down with the right music playing really loud.
  6. let the lyrics of Zac Brown’s Remedy and Roots and Tim McGraw’s Humble and Kind take hold in your heart and even through the twists and turns, things will turn out alright. 
  7. listen to your voice first, it is strong, wise and trained in the right ways. Consult only a trusted few in times of trouble so that your voice is not drown out by others opinions. 
  8. to whom much is given much is expected.  never stop counting your blessings and being grateful for the many gifts God has given you in this life. 
  9. always, always, always look for the silver lining.  it’s there, some times not as shimmery as others, but no matter what can make you smile through the tears. 
  10. love the little things and seek them out,  they make up the biggest parts of your day.  a sunrise, a bike ride, a swim, none of these cost a dime and bring so much joy. 
  11. your heart and mind are trainable. train them to love, seek optimism and altruism. 
  12. let your motivation be intrinsic, not extrinsic.  there is no limit to what you can manifest from inside your heart and there will always be a time when the outside encouragement cannot be heard even when you are on the right path.  
  13. pay attention to what you attract, it can help reveal your purpose in life and guide you on your journey. 
  14. sometimes all you need is a new day.
  15. nothing will work unless you do.
  16. in seeking advice or good role models, look for people who rise to the pinnacle of their craft and pay attention to their process. How we do the small things is how we do the big things. 
  17. slow down and make decisions with intention. it limits anxiety, regret and always shows you the choice that is true to your heart. 

Happy 17th Birthday Lauren! You are amazing and so loved.