#optimism

Live and Learn

I was blessed to spend the weekend with a pack of kind, loving and fiercely strong females.  We shared the court almost 30 years ago. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been that long. Back then, we were all going through awkward teenage years, afraid or uncomfortable about small and big things, by who we were, and who we were going to become. 

It turns out we had nothing to worry about.

The irony of that goes even further because we have each dealt with some things that our teenage brains couldn’t have even contemplated back then.  As each story was told, in different conversations, over music and dancing, college football and amazing home cooked dinners, I couldn’t help but think, I never thought it would turn out like this…and yet this is some pretty amazing stuff.  Collectively, we have weathered storms that brought more than a few tears to our eyes, impacted our kids (nothing worse, and yet we will work the way we always do to make them wiser and stronger for it) and made us come to terms with some of the most formative relationships in life. We have learned some of the hardest lessons about love and lose that this lifetime will ever teach.  You could easily say that we have each been given more than one chance to test our resilience, and yet here we all are, pushing past and through, stronger and happier together that I could have ever imagined. 

Either no one told us back then, or, because real life experience was determined to give us the tools just as they were necessary, and show us one day at a time, that everything is going to be ok, even when the life event isn’t, we had to learn some things the hard way. We’ve learned to cut through the awkwardness of introversion, learned how difficult it is for so many of us to ask for help, we’ve let go of judgment, shame and other peoples expectations, so we could show up this weekend as the real deal and be able to come together as if no time had passed at all.  If we can pass that on to our girls, we are winning. Through our experience we have learned both what we do and don’t want out of life and, from what I saw, we are killing it when it comes to seeking the real experiences that make up a full life. Sometimes we learn by examples that show us what we want to do and how we want to be, other times, our experiences teach us the exact opposite.  We all are observant enough to know the difference. To be ourselves, to be comfortable in our skin, to not have seen each other in so long and come barreling in real and raw is a testament to who we have become, and we’re not even close to done.  

Now…who was it that mentioned the screenplay?? I’m in, we have a great story.

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.

Own Your Energy

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we all realized the power we each have to do good, to make choices to challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves and see what results.  In the past, I could get myself so excited about human potential and then so quickly be let down when that potential wasn't realized.  The truth is though, everyone grows at their own pace and in their own way, not the way I would always say it should be done.  Accepting that people have the same freedom to make their own choices and live their lives as they (not I) see fit, leads to a lot more freedom and happiness for me.  In the past, when people, particularly those I loved, didn’t make choices the way I wanted them to, I got upset and tried to convince them that my way was right.  That action plan takes a lot of energy and slows me down in my own process of fulfilling my own goals and living an independent life. It also gave other people so much power over the energy in my day.  Some days, people brought me great things that revved me up, like a child with straight A’s and some days those same people brought me heavy problems, like sickness or relationship problems.   I would take these things on, even though they were not mine, rolling them around over and over in my head and diminishing my potential to efficiently focus on my own life and what was actually within my scope of choices. 

 

Today, I make it a point to focus on a live and let live mentality that leads me away from needing to pass judgement and rather focus on my own creative path that I work on intentionally every day.  It leads me to create connections with people who have different ways of seeing the world, but similar ways of communicating their vision.  In the end, the best relationships are not about being like minded, but authentic in their communication and discovery of their differences. There is infinite room for growth, connection and intimacy in relationships like these, not the case when everyone is just trying to conform or operating out of a sense of obligation.  Judgement happens, its a natural part of being human, but both how we communicate it (or don’t!) and take it when it comes at us is a choice that I am getting better at making.  My actions today are the ones that matter, my confidence in taking action on my path is what I am building.  Join me, I’m excited to see where it goes from here. 

Seeking and Shining

Writing brings so much clarity to life circumstances that seem so overwhelming before putting them down on paper, virtual or otherwise.   I started The Optimists Journal at a time when I was seeking connection with like minds, to know that there were people out there like me, who were interested in deeper meaning, not just making a list and checking the boxes, but figuring out what makes us all tick and connecting all of this human potential to make a better world.  But there was something so foreign to me about global sharing, and worse, global attention seeking, that I have continually struggled with the blog concept from inception. I am not an attention seeker and honestly one of my worst fears is being seen as boastful, better than or like I have it all figured out…because I don’t, not by a long shot. My daily discovery though is that life’s journey is so fulfilling when I am transparent, real and vulnerable. In approaching my relationships this way, as scary as it is, the freedom and beauty that is unleashed makes conquering my fear worth every deep breath that it takes to get there.  I have lived with the fear of vulnerability my entire life. It's based on fear of failure, confrontation and judgement and also my nature of being a straight up people pleaser for most of my life. This (maybe not so unique) combination of personality traits has made me spend thegreater part of my life purposely trying to stay small and unnoticeable, surrounding myself with people with bigger, louder personalities than me and mastering the art of exiting a room as quickly as possible. I pushed other people around me forward, helping them on each of their journeys from behind the scenes and I was perfectly happy about it. I still don’t regret having lived this way for 40 years because I learned some very valuable lessons. I learned how to listen without responding or judging, I learned to watch for patterns that expose the universal truths in the circumstances that we encounter and that connect us as human beings, and most recently I learned, while going through separation and divorce, that when you expose a struggle to the world, you find connection not condemnation. 

Today, I am grateful that I have learned these things but there are so many more lessons that present themselves everyday, challenging me to master them. The trick seems to be staying present so that I don’t miss them as they come my way.  I’ve started practicing this on a daily basis and have realized once you are on the journey to knowing yourself, there are practical steps like yoga, books, podcasts, and healthy lifestyle choices that keep you on the journey of being a life long learner.  There is always room for growth and improvement in this beautiful life.  There has been a shift in my thinking and here I am sharing my writing.  Today I thank God that the voice that He put inside me is turning out not to be as weak as I had once allowed myself to believe. 

Over the last almost 20 years, I have had the joy, challenge and privilege of loving and parenting 4 amazing kids, the youngest of whom is on the autism spectrum.  I have encountered the near drowning of that same mystical little boy, felt the pain of watching loved ones with addictions fight major battles, and experienced the break up of my family through divorce, a word that still feels bitter in my mouth. And yet, as major and course altering as all of these things have been, they have taught me that adversity provides the building blocks of of a beautiful life if you respond properly. Contrary to how I thought I would handle the bumps and brusies, I learned slowly to lift my gaze to the beauty, not the tragedy of any situation and in this I began to rise and attract like minded people doing life in the most beautiful, conscious way. People who are embracing challenge and turning it into human capacity, exploring their own limits and always seeking to become better at the game of life. As a lot of smart people have said before me, its not what happens to you, its how you handle it. I’ve learned that I can smile through just about anything, but even more importantly, I have learned that my capacity to sustain, to connect and endure life's hardships, still filled with optimism and gratitude, is far stronger than I ever believed. 

So herein lies the bigger message of the Optimists Journal: Our connection is found in our broken stories, not our perfect ones.  We are the storytellers of our lives and I’m just learning how to tell mine.  I invite you to share yours too, its where all the best connections in life are made.