Safety, love & connection. The best relationships are build on these things…starting with the ones we have with our kids.
I guess I’m a little preoccupied with time these days, how I spend it, where it goes, how to get the most out of every minute. As I stood watching Lauren’s beach practice this morning, I counted my blessings that I still get to do what she’s doing, in some form, with a few more aches and a lot more warm up necessary. Sometimes I’m hard on myself as I try to grow my writing and coaching business but instead I am headed out to play. I should be writing, learning, looking for new coaching opportunities. I stop myself though. Volleyball brings me so many things… joy, connection, new neural pathways, challenge, and all of this equals sustainable growth and energy to stay consistent with the work it takes to find the next step to deep meaning in life, and then the vocation comes from there.
Lauren introduced me to the grad assistant/player on their team… a real human, newly engaged, 25 year old athlete, and we chatted about her major and what she wants to do in this life. As she walked away, I glanced at Lauren, looking almost as mature and the same as this player…
“I was her age when I had you.” I said, filled with disbelief.
At that age, I was filled with so much naive optimism, and looking back on it, so much desire to control outcomes. I lived carefully thinking I could keep it all on track with my good deeds and carefully assessed plan of action. I didn’t know at that age that the freedom I was looking for lies in surrendering to the outcome in any situation and committing relentlessly to my process.
And now we’re sitting here, twenty years passed in a flash and my life looking so different than I had envisioned at 25. It blows my mind. My confidence has wavered over the years and my sense of urgency has been challenged as I build a business realizing I have spent the better part of these last 20 years being “just a mom”. But then, in this moment, sitting here with her, I am filled with the biggest sense of meaning and accomplishment. She’s confident, coachable, real, and has a strong sense of herself. She makes mistakes but doesn’t let them define her, we talk about them openly, she has empathy for the situations going on around her, and she trusts her gut first.
One of the greatest gifts of parenting is to see qualities in your kids emerge that took you a little longer to figure out.
After spending a day in Seattle on Friday with Compete to Create, I’m chewing on the wisdom that I have gained over the past five years listening to the Finding Mastery podcast and seeing the threads of that podcast be stitched together over this amazing eight hour conversation how the best version of ourselves is grounded in a mindful life .
Awareness is the double edge sword of tragedy and challenge. We learn much more about ourselves when the going gets tough than when everything is coming up roses.
The mindful life is full of reframing, and one of the silver linings I have found is that as much as we don’t want to see people in pain, especially our own children, there is a genuine reality that comes through a person’s eyes when they have been tested and emerged stronger. I spent most of my young life, definitely the part when I was Lauren’s age, thinking I wasn’t tough enough to handle hard, waiting for the shoe to drop, maybe even looking for someone to take care of me because I wasn’t so sure I would be able to do it myself. I’ve worked through a lot of guilt having put my kids through a divorce and watching them navigate pain, of course with guidance, but it’s difficult nonetheless. What I see emerging, from my optimists perspective, especially out of my two oldest who are so close to adulthood, is an empathetic understanding that people struggle and yet are also capable of so much. They see what it takes to surrender what they can’t control, acknowledge their feelings even when it’s hard, and work from what is. Although they are still teenagers, the capacity I have seen them gain to meet people where they are will serve them for the rest of their lives.
I’ve said it before, I wish there was something that inspires growth the way pain does, but to date I haven’t found it. So even though I fight loneliness on this road that I’m on, and the fear that I won’t find the deepest connection that I am looking for, the real meaning, and the example I want to live is found in the surrender to my story, trusting my gut and seeing where it leads, and knowing that through pain, I am proud of what has emerged. So today I resolve to keep spending my time the way I have been and stay committed to my process, I’m proud of what I see.
Life is messy, but so good in so many moments. Be present, lean in, and trust the process.
Most memories these days feel like they happened a lifetime ago and then in the next moment, like it was last week. That’s what living on campus in married housing (what?) at Stanford University feels like to me. I hadn’t thought about it in so long, but the news that I have a kid that will be playing volleyball there next year has brought back more than a few thoughts. Mad About You and Seinfeld were mainstays, as was Marie Callendar’s and Mr. Chow’s Chinese food (neither of which I would choose today) and early Sunday morning trips to do laundry when the laundromat wasn’t crowded were my thing. Even though I pretty much hated my job and missed my college life at Cal Poly SLO like crazy, now I look back on those days with nostalgia, because silver linings are even easier to find with the benefit of hindsight. Early morning runs around Lake Lagunita and hikes to the dish are among my favorite memories. Years later, we added to these memories taking the kids to football games as they learned the value that traditions bring to higher education and planted this dream of going to Stanford in Luke’s mind.
When my marriage ended, those friendships I made with people from that era were something that I mourned. It’s just a normal part of moving on, no hard feelings, just the way hers and his relationships work. But the idea that the next generation of my family will create their own memories allows me to build a new relationship with a place that still holds a special place in my heart.
We don’t have to hold tightly to things, relationships, and places in time that were important to us because if they are meant to be in our lives, they will find their way back.
As parents, the experiences of our children are not our own, but they have such an intimate relationship with our own lives. Last night, I saw Luke in person for the first time since he got the call from the coach. As I stood in my driveway and hugged his giant 6’5 inch frame, all the memories connected like magnets on his Thomas the Train sets he played with for hours when he was little. How did we get to this moment? A lot of toughness, patience, learning, hard work, and optimism…and trusting in the infinite wisdom that these values add to life.
The challenges build our strength, but moments like these are what we hang onto to breathe energy into our lives.
Luke I’m so proud of you. You earned every bit of this opportunity and now the test is to double down on the hard work and find joy in the journey. Everything in me tells me you will. Thank you for helping me expand and evolve my relationship with my memories of old and always creating new things that bring so much joy and meaning to this road that looks different, but is still so beautiful. Glad I get to visit you on the west coast.
There’s a song by Five for Fighting called 100 Years. I’m sure you’ve heard it. He doesn’t have my favorite voice out there, but his lyrics and piano are so good, he’s one of my favorite artists. In 100 Years, the lyrics zoom through the decades from 15 to 99, I remember not being able to listen to this song just after Kate was born. I was 30 and my postpartum mindset just couldn’t handle the message in the song, which is beautiful but fleeting. He nails the feelings of the ages - the freedom of 15, the love of 22, the responsibility of 33, the chasing youth of 45 and onward up to 99…the song mimics life and connection and I felt it so deeply I just couldn’t handle how fast it was all going, it literally filled me with dread. Now today, I can tell you that some of those feelings had a lot to do with those hormones after you give birth and a serious lack of sleep…Kate wasn’t big on sleeping in her crib or even letting me sit and rock her, she preferred it if I stood up. She’s much easier on me today at 14.
The older we get, the faster it goes, and lately I worry that I don’t have enough days left to do what I want to do in this life. But I had an epiphany this week that is making me feel so much better. My ego is attached to what I accomplish, what I do physically in this world with the time I am given. I feel like I have to deliver. And yes, it matters to me what I do with my time, a lot. But when I bring my spiritual self and my true nature back to my goals, my desire to leave places better than I found them and connect with people, that is the work of my spirit, and what we do with our spirit lives on forever. This idea is so freeing and motivating at the same time. God already knows my best plan with all it’s infinite potential, but it’s my choice what I do to fulfill it. I figure if I’m tapped into that, if I’m falling short and not executing the plan He has for me, I’ll know it, and make the effort to correct my course.
As I watch my kids and talk with the people closest to me, I see the parts of my life that have passed in snapshots. Gyms filled with people watching volleyball, kids racing across swimming pools without any aches or pains, college campuses that feel like I was there just months ago…but it’s been more than 20 years. I want to grab it all and I’m not sure what part I want to hang on to the most because it’s all so beautiful watching my kids flow through it. As my friend Vanessa so insightfully put it with tears in her eyes like the ones I have right now…
we are never going back,
and sometimes its hard to believe. I am so grateful for this friend of mine with strong faith that sees the depth of what this life has to offer. Faith brings progress, goodness, and the intuition to know where the next great adventure or pink sunset lies…andI have so much gratitude for what I have learned and where I am on this journey because I have learned to be present and let the moments unfold. I’m still hoping to get 100 years, and master the art of living every day like it’s my last.
For writers, a backstory is a set of events that is invented to help create the plot to our story. The truth is, it doesn't work much different in real life. Our life is the plot, those who came before us created our backstory. The more we know about it, the better we can understand ourselves and give that gift to the children we get to raise. Human beings leave little fingerprints all over each others lives. I love to reflect on the good ones left by hugs, conversations, travel, and long lunches. My life has been so blessed in so many ways. But the path to our best life learns how to reflect on the imprint left by the not so shiny, darker side of life. The addictions in my family are mine, even if I never drink or take drugs. The tragic effects of suicide that happened before I was born or brought into a family is part of my fabric now.
What I have come to understand is, I don’t hurt anyone by admitting these things have gone on, it’s when we don’t talk about them that they still cause pain.
The silver lining is that grace washes over us in waves when we accept that most people are doing the best they can, with what they know, to be happy on this earth. We take control of our lives though, when we are brave enough to confront the things that hurt, and be honest with ourselves about how to heal them. Healing is an inside job, no blaming involved. So while we are affected by what came before, healing is present tense and on us. Once we realize that, the question becomes:
“What are we willing to stay open to, to learn about, or acknowledge, that will teach us more about ourselves and allow us to grow?”
Let’s face it, as the days go on experiences, even tragedies, have the ability to either expand our vision, or harden us and draw us inward. If we pretend that life didn’t move us based on our encounters, that we didn’t see it or feel it, our world becomes smaller and we feel an undying need to control a narrative that we know we can manage. There is no freedom in that, and the human spirit is meant to be free, no matter how much we try to contain it with worldly standards or what other people may think. In so many ways, its not the experience, but how we choose to be shaped by the experience, that sets the tone for our lives and the generations that come after us. Sometimes these events had nothing to do with our individual choices, like being a child affected by suicide, divorce, or neglect; events like these kick us hard nonetheless. But as tragic as some of life’s situations can be, we are resilient enough to grow through them.
The real marker of tragedy is what happens when healing is stunted or stopped in its tracks.
You’ve heard the sentiment, hurt people, hurt people. It’s true, and these patterns repeat themselves generation after generation. I think there is some enlightened thought that we have now that even the most well intentioned people of generations past didn’t know. They had to work with what they knew…and this is my interpretation.
* If we don’t talk about it, it’s not really happening and it will go away.
The truth is, it will get buried and come back in patterns of addiction and enabling that make us feel unsafe and unable to trust ourselves. We we don’t trust our own judgment of what we see as true, we can’t build our own confidence and self worth and are always looking for a backup opinion or for someone else who can help us take care of what we feel we can’t manage on our own.
* If I acknowledge that something hurt me, I place blame on people I love, or even people that are no longer with us to tell their story.
We can’t be deeply hurt by someone that we are not attached to. So acknowledging that you have been hurt actually shows someone that you care. They may not take it that way but it’s true. Their reaction to your wound will tell you whether you need put up some boundaries to heal on your own, or do the healing together with them. Give them a chance, even a little time to reflect and process. By admitting your feelings you are already on the path to healing…and hopefully you are a catalyst for their healing too. Either way, better out than in.
* We see the world in moral absolutes.
Yes, society needs constructs to coexist, but oh how my rule following self has been thrown off by dualistic thinking. Divorce is wrong. Living together is wrong. Sex before marriage is wrong. Being gay is wrong. Certain forms of spirituality are wrong. These patterns of thinking kept people in past generations and even modern day me, until recently, living in less than ideal situations, not respecting (or even having) my own boundaries and making choices that were detrimental to my own self worth.
There is such a difference between the so called rules different branches of society come up with and the mercy that we need as humans to not be wracked by guilt and shame. The longer I am on this earth, my rules are shaped by conscious thought and the time that it takes to know and love myself. I build the best connections from there. We can’t do that when we are stuck in lower vibrations of fear, shame, and guilt.
We all have the power to create and choose the energy that surrounds and connects us. We don’t have to let everything in, but what we do let in, we need to sort out.
Everyday I ask myself:
“What do I want out of this life?”
The answer is: to leave the places I touch better off because I was there, and to find the deepest forms of human connection. Knowing this answer has given so much more energy and purpose in my days. It points me in the right directions, it helps me maintain my optimism, and guides every human interaction that I have.
My life is better when I connect with growth minded, vulnerable people in real life, and I’m grateful for the path that I have created to be able to do that.
Do you know what you want out of this life? Answer the question, and design your life around the answer.
There’s an assignment that all of my kids have done in school now. As I see it, what I’m about to show you is hanging on the wall in Matthew’s classroom…so I’m not blowing any secrets here.
I don’t save much, but I have saved each one of these. Matthew was asked to do this in 6th grade Language Arts, my others did this exercise in 2nd grade at St. Anthony’s in Fresno with the simply amazing Mrs. Gennock. With every year of our life, if we choose, we have the ability to grow our own awareness of ourselves and our environment, and I love this assignment because it gives me a little more insight on his inner workings. So here it is, with my response bullet pointed below his words in bold.
I am tall and hardworking.
True and both such good things. Height carries status that I will train you to feel worthy of. Stand tall and be proud. The best thing that comes from hard work is the confidence you build in yourself. No comparisons, just commit to your process and your hard work will lead you where you are supposed to go.
I wonder what I will be when I grow up.
You are looking for where your passion and talents lie. Don’t be afraid to try and fail, it helps us check things off the list that weren’t meant for us, and we build strength through the process of trial and error. I promise I will continue to nurture your interests and guide you on the path to find your calling.
I hear my mom encouraging me.
I’m glad you do Bubs, it comes naturally to me, and it’s a gift to be here to guide you. My greatest hope is that you believe me and use my encouragement to know what you are capable of on your own.
I see an amazing beach.
You are so blessed to live where you do. It’s a dream, don’t take it for granted. Get into that ocean every chance you get. Nothing calms the mind better than the water.
I want to be a pro surfer.
Don’t be afraid to set goals, but know that the action plan to attain them falls on you. I can support you, but in the end, it’s your action that will make your dreams come true.
I am tall, smart.
You will be the tallest in our family. No small feat and pretty cool. Don’t be afraid to take up that space. You are smart, but more importantly, you are wise. Wise comes with intuition, with allowing what you take in to move, mold, and change you. Keep doing that, don’t play it safe when it comes to feeling things. Acknowledge and express, that’s the smartest thing you can do.
I pretend to be the pro surfer of the world.
Visualize. It’s so powerful and helps create a space to belong in your grandest vision. Use your imagination to create your reality. Sink into it and believe, then back it up with your game plan.
I feel worried when I do something wrong.
Oh Bubs, I’m sorry, I think you got this one from me. I get it, but I’ve learned. Shift your focus to what you do right, focus on your “enoughness”. As long as we learn and survive them, there are no mistakes. Don’t let the guilt or shame take over and rob you of the energy you need to grow. We are made of so much goodness, it’s only when we fail to reflect do we miss what a mistake was supposed to teach us.
I worry when I get bad grades.
Work hard and don’t quit. The rest will figure itself out. Sometimes we don’t bloom the first place we are planted, but if we are smart, like you are, we figure out why. And there are so many ways to measure what we learn, grades are just one of them.
I cry when I do something wrong.
My biggest goal is to help you feel safe in this world. It’s the basis of all learning and connection, things I want you to experience that make life beautiful. When you don’t feel safe, it’s hard to regulate your emotions, that’s why I try to teach you to breath and slow down…then those impulses won’t jump up on you the way they sometimes do.
I am tall and hardworking.
Stand tall and work to connect. I know it’s hard, I know people can be unkind but your intuition is nails and always tells you when it’s worth it, so trust that. The best people take the time to understand, and it only takes a few to form the tightest circle. You already have that with your family and you get to choose who gets in from there.
I understand my parents well.
I’m sure you do. You are a mystical creature and far more observant that most people notice. Always use your understanding to find compassion for difficult situations, but let me help you build the boundaries so that you know what to give energy to, and when it is best to just let go.
I say I dream that my mom and dad will get along.
Don’t worry Bubs, you are not responsible, and I am just choosing my energy. What you interpret as conflict, is just me knowing how to fill myself up so that real healing takes place. Surround yourself with what fills you up, live inspired, not obligated, and your energy will not fall short. Then you can inspire, forgive, and help others from a place of abundance.
I dream that I will do something amazing one day.
You don’t recognize yet that you do amazing things every day. You tackle things that scare you and have learned to breathe through the overwhelm that life can bring. You have gone from the bottom of the pool to surfing in the Pacific Ocean. You are a miracle.
I try to do my best in school.
And your teachers see it every day. It is the thread that runs through every conversation I have with any of your them. Work hard, don’t compare yourself. Remember we all have different brains and yours is beautiful.
I hope I get really famous one day.
Follow your heart and you’ll be famous with the right people. That’s all that matters in the end. Fame does not equal fulfillment or even happiness, just ask Elton John. Everyone wants acknowledgment at some point, I am here to give it to you. Keep talking to me.
I am tall, hardworking
Be proud of who you are and keep working. The way we speak to ourselves defines our path. Keep telling yourself, stand tall, work hard. Your life is going to be more than good. I understand you Bubs, and you inspire me.
I am conscious and brave
I wonder how many days I get on this earth
I hear enlightened conversation
I want to join in
I am conscious and brave
I pretend that I’m not scared
I feel optimistic
I worry that I don’t have enough time left to accomplish everything I want to do
I cry when I’m lonely
I am conscious and brave
I understand that nothing works unless I do
I say I belong
I dream that my kids will find their calling
I try to inspire
I hope to find the deepest form of connection
I am conscious and brave
Try it…send it to me. Self awareness starts with the simplest acknowledgement and opens the door to life long learning. It’s the real fountain of youth and we are here to learn and inspire each other with our truth.
My new house is a little father away from the beach than I used to live. For a kid from Fresno though, I still pinch myself that I get to see the water every time I drive down my street, and when the night gets quiet, I can hear the waves crashing, way down at the bottom of the hill. I watch the surfers carry their boards through my neighborhood and across Pacific Coast Highway up and down the hill, the young ones limber and light, some of the older ones wearing a knee brace, maybe a little slower as they make their way up the hill. My thought every time:
It inspires me to see people make the effort for something that they love. They are embracing resistance.
The real test of our mettle is what we choose to do when things in our life are a less than ideal. I realize ideal is a relative term, it’s only 13 miles from Redondo Beach to Compton, but I write from my personal experience and seek out other perspectives to fill in the gaps…like the one in A Dream To Big: The Improbable Journey from Compton to Oxford by Caylin Moore (yes, this is my second mention of this great book). Just this week proofreading my own son’s college application, he made the connection between having to work for something and therefore appreciating it more. It’s a tough lesson to teach in an upper class world if we aren’t extremely conscious of our own privilege. Man, I hope he keeps adding this kind of wisdom to his tool kit for life.
As I get a little further along on this journey, I realize that it’s easy to embrace things that are at our fingertips, to be a surfer living three houses off the beach, or a young athlete charging down the court with no aches or injuries. But it’s not until we have to answer the question:
“Is it worth the extra effort to embrace the resistance we encounter?”
Do we realize what really brings meaning to our days? Is the rehab worth it to make it back to the sport we claim to love, is the uphill walk with the board worth the thrill of the ride and the calm of the water? This is where we find our core values and what we are passionate about in life. The more we find meaning, the more gratitude we have for our lives. The cool thing about the surfer finding his passion is that he doesn’t carry his board up and down the hill to get my attention or admiration, he’s doing his thing for himself, not to inspire me…yet I get the benefit nonetheless.
See what happens when we operate in our zone? We create a ripple effect of inspiration just by answering our calling.
Time is a construct in everyone’s day, but the happiest people identify what is most beneficial for them, and make time for it, whether that means getting up a little earlier, staying up later, or choosing to give up something else, so that they can spend time doing or being with an activity or a person that brings value and meaning to their life. We have to take an honest inventory of our time to design our days in a way that brings us meaning and joy. Otherwise, life becomes a process where we are taking in so much from the outside, we are merely reacting to what comes at us, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, and not in control of our lives. I’ve read that we will encounter the most resistance on the path to our greatest destiny…the extra practice that leads to the starting position or a team championship, the difficult conversation that leads to a deeper and more meaningful relationship. Next time you encounter resistance, try reframing it as a path to the greater calling in your life and see if instead of feeling defeated, you find energy to dig deeper.
Yoga has taught me that tension in life is normal, and that it’s in learning where to relax and surrender, and where to embrace resistance and hold, that we become the strongest and most authentic versions of ourselves.
What do you need to surrender today? What is asking for your extra effort? Chances are by answering these questions you will move closer to alignment with your true self and when we do that, we find the energy to carry our boards a little further up the hill.
I don’t know if it’s the start of a new school year or just more of the growth and healing process taking place but the concept of lost and found runs heavy through my storyline these days. There is a line in one of my favorite new country songs by Tyler Rich, Leave Her Wild,
“…she ain’t all found, but she ain’t all that lost.”
Speaking to me loud and clear…I have a mild obsession with songwriters because the truth in their lyrics makes my life make sense. Music is a constant in every day and has been since I had my first clock radio in 4th grade that did it’s job helping me fall asleep at night. Zac Brown blaring in my kitchen on many occasions has been my assurance that life is going to be ok if I just kept working to uncover the layers and music plays a significant role in the book I’m working on connecting life stories and what is found on the journey when we feel lost.
The reality about writing and healing is that it brings up memories that I probably would never have thought of again if I wasn’t combing my brain for signs and patterns of how I arrived in the present, how I can design my best life from here, and how I can teach the next generation to embrace self reflection to help heal generational pain.
I texted my mom from a workshop I was attending in Nashville last week,
“I can’t imagine why you would remember this, but do you remember me having a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox?”
I remember it, it was the first one that wasn’t one of those tin ones that made all that terrible noise in the lunch room. I was in second grade and my sister had one too. Well, mine disappeared, and to my recollection it was taken from me by a redheaded girl that I didn’t know how to stand up to. Even though I towered over everyone, I was young for my class and so shy that this girl had had my number since first grade. My mom remembered the lunchbox, but didn’t remember anything happening to it. Lord knows I didn’t tell her my story about where it went. She did remember me losing lots of things at school and always encouraged me to “check lost and found” which made perfect sense, but I didn’t do it. I remember giving the long line of sweatshirts and lunchboxes a sideways glance as my class would file into the cafeteria everyday, but I never would have stepped out of line to claim something, or worse go back there on my own later to claim a lost item. When I look back on it, I remember feeling that if I found what I was looking for, it felt like I did something wrong by losing it in the first place, so rather than risk admitting that, I ignored, instead of solved my problem, compensated, and went on. Life made me so nervous, so it was easy to lose track of things. It’s strange how far back we can trace our tendencies if we think about it.
I have been ignoring my perfectionist ways for years, letting them bubble under the surface, hiding them under a facade of calm, and stirring the pot of unworthiness that boils away the energy to accomplish what I want to do in life.
I always felt safer hedging my bets on someone else, pushing them forward, and helping them quietly from behind the scenes accomplish their goals. Blending in is safe, and no matter how strong the feeling was inside me that I should step out, I never found the courage to find that place until my world looked like something I didn’t want my kids to have to experience. Without a lot of honesty, patterns have a way of repeating themselves generation after generation, and at that point I knew it was on me to travel the road from lost to found and The Optimists Journal is my place to chronicle that journey.
Lost holds on to insecurities, fears, a false sense of control, perfection, expectation, and my own ego. I know what I feel like in my body when I enter a room and I am working from this place. Lost looks for results, validation, and for someone else to give me the blessing to move forward with my plan or tell me I’m right. Found moves freely in the world and the inevitable judgment from others doesn’t fall heavy on my shoulders. I don’t always know what to do in every situation, but when I don’t, I know how to breathe and stay present until I figure it out. Gone is the worry that has been just under the surface my entire life. I see the confidence that I have trained into my grown and almost grown children and know that so much of that is coming from my own vulnerability and ability to turn lost into found. Through my process, I have learned, and grown and turned myself into a writer, speaker, and coach…things I had been doing for years without stepping into the light. Found is loving myself for who I am today, confident in my choices, authentic in my words, and autonomous in my decisions, and all of this adds up to a whole lot of calm…and that is a feeling I have been searching for my entire life.
I recently moved into a new house, a space of my own, and even as a self proclaimed home body, I had no idea how happy it was going to make me. Within days of moving in, it looked like I had been there for years because I got my pictures hung and my favorite things in place. I’m still working on getting everything organized just the way I want it…it’s always that last 10%, 10 pounds, or 10 minutes that hangs us up right? This process of moving, and moving on, has gotten me thinking about simplification in my life, not just with my material possessions but in what I choose to focus on and do with my time. I tend to find a lot of synchronicity in my life these days and these thoughts were already on my front burner when I went to Nashville this past week and met and furthered this conversation with Monica Leed, author of SIMPLY SPACED - Clear the Clutter and Style Your Life, coming out in October. When I said I had four kids, the conversation shifted to the work she does for mom’s, simplifying, making things more efficient, because we don’t have a lot of time for the extra. She knows exactly what to do with this last 10%.
Our head and heart space often mirrors our physical space, so I see what Monica does not only as practical, but also energy creating…always something I am looking to do. I aspire to simplicity, it feels good, and free, and fills me with gratitude. I have lived the fanciest life, but studies show, and I have experienced firsthand, that the more choices we have, the less content we are. What I realize today is how my current lifestyle has helped me simplify by letting go, and in many cases shifting life’s details to my (almost grown) kids, to create a more cohesive environment for all of us, creating time for me to do what fills me up, setting that example for them, and allowing them to learn to take more responsibility for their own lives.
Since I was born with a pretty anxious nervous system I have always sought calm in the surroundings I spend the most time in. But, having four kids, I have been behind the curve for quite sometime as far as keeping up with all the details. As with any field or topic, perfection is an illusion, and I work to let go of it day after day. I’ve come a long way from racing back home to pick up the library book that one of them forgot and was in tears over leaving at home. Life is messy, sometimes we forget the details, and we learn and usually can still manage to pull things off. I make no secret of the fact that I have befriended many a one or two kid mom to help me stay on track and I couldn’t be more grateful for their expertise and attention to detail that slipped past me. But I have also been more than inspired by one of my closest friends, also a mother of four, who coined the phrase “survival days” over a decade ago, so that her kids could learn much needed life skills and she could get a break. If you know my friend Sarah, it’s not really a break, just a time to focus on other things…she never sits down and her kids are some of the most competent I know.
After my divorce, and as I started to set my own professional goals, so many things that I used to have a strong hold on, like library books and kneepads, started to fall on my kids. My attention is focused on the big character building stuff, teaching work ethic, drinking and driving, and curfews, because with teenagers that stuff comes flying at you fast and straying outside those navigational beacons are the mistakes we can’t afford for ourselves, or our kids to make, even once. As I’ve said before, parenting is an art not a science, and there could be a curve ball in the next inning because of that amazing free will we have all been granted, but, the silver lining in letting go as they grow is raising more competent kids…who will soon be adults.
I live in a top 1% place, materially speaking, we have so much more than the rest of the world. As I observe, and read books like Caylin Moore’s A Dream Too Big, The Story of and Improbable Journey from Compton to Oxford, (READ THIS BOOK, so inspiring & I love the TCU connection) it strikes me that the more we have, the more time we spend on the details trying to make our kids lives easier and more fluid today, which I am convinced will leave them struggling later when we aren’t around to arrange the puzzle perfectly, and they haven’t had to do it on their own. Fixing and doing for them is an easy pattern to slip into, we love them and we are are so far removed from survival, we have plenty of time to focus on the little things. But what if we simplify?
The conversations I had dropping Lauren off at college continue to fill my mind and heart. As the oldest of four, she has lived a pretty independent life. As we walked and talked through Target, watching mom’s pushing carts that were almost to big to maneuver with toddlers sitting in seats on the back, she said:
“Mom, I always walked.”
That’s because her brother was only 19 months behind her and the simplest answer was to put her down and let her hold my hand…and after awhile she didn’t even need that. My challenge today is to let the younger ones walk like she did, because there is nothing like the empowerment and freedom that is created when we can handle our responsibilities on our own and teach them the paradoxical principal that abundance and simplicity are two sides of the same coin.
There’s an article about me from 1988 in the Fresno Bee in my file. The headline reads:
“Shy, demure Jones can’t help but draw attention.”
I remember being embarrassed as I read it. It’s always been hard for me to take a compliment, and I see the same tendency in my youngest. I attribute that to spending a lot of my life not feeling I lived up to what other people saw in me. I didn’t recognize my own gifts and attributes from an early age. As I reflect on what I’ve learned, I realize that this lack of confidence left me looking for validation or permission to live my life according to my own plan. And now I’m writing a book about it; reflections on what has worked to help me find calm, and confidence, and get closer to making my insides match my outsides…always a work in progress. Although there is no timeline on accomplishment, there are rites of passage (like sitting and writing in your daughter’s dorm room!) that make me realize my own mortality and know that there is no time like the present when it comes to accomplishing goals.
“Does bringing me here make you feel old mom?” she asked as we navigated the streets of Fort Worth between Target and The Container Store.
“Kind of…but I don’t have the mindset to feel old because there is still so much I want to do.” I said. And this book is at the top of that list.
Born a rule follower and people pleaser, I didn’t know the power of autonomy and the truth that if we are willing to work consistently at something, then what we want is ours to create. I didn’t know that I would have to get over other people’s expectations, my own insecurity, jealousy (which stems from another’s insecurities), fear of failure, imposter syndrome…the list goes on and on. And yet, when I sat back and thought about it, the way around all of these roadblocks to grant yourself permission to follow your own path. And if we don’t, we lose that connection with our true self, and start showing up quieter and more subdued in our own life…not good for ourselves or the people around us.
For quite awhile, I have been interested in generational learning, how we use our own memories and self awareness to pass down our stories to teach and hopefully make life more beautiful because of what we learn through that process. We could avoid so many patterns of abuse and addiction if we understood our worth and attachment styles that correlate with our family stories. No right or wrong, just indelible marks left on little human spirits that we had no control over but that we have to learn to work with so we don’t turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms that cause pain for ourselves and the people we love. How we process these stories and life patterns matters for our own happiness and the little people (that turn into big people) that we get to raise.
Starting 19 years ago (man, that sounds crazy) and over a seven year span, I was blessed with four beautiful children. As I went through those formative years, I put my heart and soul into raising good humans. My goal with these four little lives wasn’t to turn them into scholars or athletes or some version of perfect that I wanted them to be. I had found my calling because these little people had my heart and I felt so lucky to be able to teach them my secrets of life, before I had the courage to talk about what I thought to the world. I wanted to teach them to have confidence that I didn’t even have for myself. Confidence is interesting, it can show up in certain settings, come and go with circumstances, and definitely disappear at the most inopportune times. And although I have lacked it in some places, I felt it from day one as a mom, I was only 25 and I’m not even close to done yet!
Maybe the days passed slowly for awhile as I changed their diapers and took them to Target, but as they say, the days go slow and the years move fast and looking back, even in those early days, the patterns and philosophies were taking shape. From early on, I looked for the value I was trying to teach with any specific scenario that arose, whether it was kindness, honesty, bravery, or many other important virtues that make strong character, I saw both what was facing me in the moment and the bigger picture that was the training ground of life for them. I believed in teaching them black and white, right and wrong young to give them a stable base so when the shades of gray creep in later in life, they have the grounding principles to see the way through, the attachment to know that they are valued and enough, and the grace and forgiveness that is needed to evolve when things don’t go the way you planned.
These days, because I have come through an evolution of my own, they can’t quite pin me down on the black and white “rules”. Because I have the confidence today to know I am grounded in strong faith and principles, I hold much looser to the expectation of what “should be”, work from what is, and know that although I have learned so much, I have also taught a few things in this life. I know my intentions, how I want to be treated, and treat others the same way.
As I leave Lauren in Texas, I realize sometimes it’s not the deepest thoughts that make the impression by this age, it’s our actions that they watch and the simple things that have been sinking in for years that make a lasting impact. She packed all of her own bags to get here and, as we organized in her new dorm room, we set up a bin full of exercise bands and rollers, an essential oils diffuser and lavender oil, and her first request for groceries was oatmeal and peanut butter - because she knows that any meal can be happily replaced with those two things. We had conversations about mental strength, what we can become, introversion, extroversion, and validation, that surpassed anything I knew at her age, and talked about where she would find a church (there are plenty around here). She knows how to care for her mind, body, and spirit and has the confidence to be herself. And knowing I raised a kid who knows these things gives me confidence that the goal I set almost 20 years ago has been attained. No more shy and demure…the process of raising her, and seeing what she has become, inspires me to be what more of what I want to be and today I have the confidence to do it.
It’s hard to believe I’m done filling out permission slips for you. When I stare down the fact that we are leaving Tuesday…two tickets out, one ticket home, I can’t get rid of my chills. I’ve been so excited for you, I still am…you are about to experience one of the greatest privileges on this earth, a college education backed up by parents who love and have the ability to support you through it. It’s a gift, a protected world with the freedoms of adulthood but with a protected and safe place to land. It’s still one of the things I am most grateful to have had in my own life. Although you are about to be out on your own, making your way, I thought I would write you one more permission slip to take with you on this journey.
Date: 8/19 - 6/23
I give permission for Lauren Turner to have the time of her life
on (date) 8/19 to 6/23.
Wendy Jones (Mom)
Comments & Notes
Give it time. It may not feel like this new environment fits like a glove right away. It may be uncomfortable, you will get homesick for your bed, home cooked meals, easier ways to do laundry, your siblings and your parents, and the routine that you have done such a beautiful job building. Give this new routine a chance, when we learn to sink into the uncomfortable, we grow, learn, and develop a broad perspective. There are so many ways to make life beautiful, give yourself time to find it there.
Make friends with people with different points of view than your own. This world is begging for tolerance and understanding. We all come from different upbringings and traditions of thought. Learn to share yours humbly and more importantly sit back and listen to what other people have experienced. Give them a space to speak their mind, you never know what you will learn that will add to your own experience and perspective.
Seek solitude and breathe. Find an empty church, a yoga class, or somewhere out in nature to be by yourself with your own thoughts. Dorm life, team life, full classes, and busy schedules are the bulk of your routine, but the younger you master the art of quieting your mind, the sooner you will realize that you are in charge of your own destiny. Solitude connects us to the present moment, settles anxiety, and reconnects us to our mind, body, and spirit. Then we learn to bring that peace into the busyness of our life.
Change your mind. You can be good at a thousand different things. You are young and the farthest thing from locked into a path. You don’t have to define that path today, just pay attention to what you attract. To quote my beautiful little card from yoga this morning, “Life doesn’t happen to you, it’s happens for you.” You have the skills to figure out where you want to go, whatever you treat with consistency and commitment will become your life, so take the time to choose that path and let it wander to match your heart and mind.
Help yourself first. There will be many requests, from friends, roommates & people along the way, but we are more useful to others when we have learned to take care of ourselves first. It’s not selfish. It allows us to give from a place of abundance and shows us the balance of what we truly have to give without burning out.
Define who you are away from your family. Have those conversations that go way into the night with roommates and friends that become your second family. Be vulnerable, share what you think about the world and life, and you will form bonds that you will have for the rest of your days. The friends I made in these times of my life I can call anytime, ask them anything, and they have my back. The power of those friendships is possibly greater than even the degree I received.
Work through fear, shame, and doubt. I wish I had known earlier in life that these are normal feelings for every human being. There isn’t a perfect one among us, we all make mistakes, we all have things we wish we would have done differently or better. So fear, shame, and doubt are not things that are meant to hold us back and make our lives small. They are merely things that connect us as human beings. Although these emotions are always present in our lives, when we learn to wrestle with them, we break through, assign them their proper place in our mind and heart and, only then, are we able to use our intuition and see life through the lens of love, truth, and connection. This is the kind of maturity that will make your life joyously full.
Take care of your body. You are young and your body will forgive you, but the habits you create now will lead you forward. You already know the power of endorphins, but sleep, what you eat and drink, and how you treat your body on a daily basis is important in the years to come. It’s so much easier later if you get a jump on it now.
Don’t be afraid of attention, you are so worthy of it. You are amazing, and you will attract attention because of the joy and kindness you express when you are going after life. Be confident, don’t shy away from it. Keep being you and be comfortable with the attention that you draw from that. Surround yourself with people who want to see you shine, and your light will burn brighter and brighter and light your path forward.
Master the disappearing act. People will want you to stay, but only you know when it’s time to go home. Establish a buddy system, share your Uber log in with a trusted friend and get home safely. But when it’s time to go, don’t be afraid to pull the ripcord. You’ll thank yourself for it in the morning.
Use your jiujitsu if you must, you learned it for a reason. You are the strongest girl I know, mentally and physically, and you are your own first line of defense. God willing, you will never have to use these skills, but, in the event that you do, don’t be afraid to fight back the way that you were taught. You are a precious commodity that deserves every protection, starting with the knowledge and physical skill you earned yourself. You are my 2.0 in toughness for sure.
You no longer need permission, the greatest responsibility of your life is to know yourself so well that you can understand the choices to make to optimize this beautiful thing we call a lifetime. Autonomy comes with responsibility and you are ready. It’s been my greatest joy to get you to this moment, so, while you no longer need my permission slip, you will always have my heart, no matter where your path may take you. Now, go have the time of your life.
Just a few years back someone asked me:
“If you could live anywhere, where would it be?”
Even by this point in my life, I had traveled the world, but I quickly answered,
“Fresno. I love it here.”
I loved my home, my family, my friends, my church, my kid’s schools, my routine...complete with friends to have coffee and wine with, a Masters swim team, and a coach that put his heart and soul into our workouts as though we were training for the Olympics.
The thing about sports in my life, is that they have been a great outlet, and also a huge source of regulation. I got the nickname Turbo from my marathon running friend Michael the day I showed up at a Saturday morning swim practice, mad as hell about something, and, at the end of a 3500 yard workout swam 20 100’s on the 1:05. Not bad for a 35 year old recreational swimmer - and I left all my rage in the pool. The first time I was able to recognize flow state was when we swam a race 100 at the end of practice, no dive, just a wall start, and it felt like i was gliding above the water and I finished with a 1:02. The thing is, all of these significant and meaningful memories to me, even dating back to high school all tournament teams, Valley Championship losses that no one except the players and the coach remember, and chalk full of goofball injuries like torn thumb ligaments and severely sprained ankles that have left me with almost no dorsiflexion in my right foot come without any fanfare or major championships. But it doesn’t mean that they didn’t help train a championship mentality.
The growth comes with the process, not the result.
Life teaches us the lessons that we are ready to learn. I wish I had the mindset that I have gained through my yoga practice in my younger athletic days. Yoga has taught me not to run from discomfort, like the kind you face when you want another breath racing for the wall but shouldn’t take. It teaches me not to attach to outcome, and let it define who the world thinks I am. Most importantly, yoga has taught me how to calm my overstimulated nervous system with my breath. I am not one of those athletes where nerves work in my favor. The calmer I am, the better the focus and the vision, and that comes with breath work. Wish I knew that fact a little younger.
Now, I’m raising my own athletes, and I get to use what I have learned to train them. There is a big difference between using my hard earned knowledge to parent and living vicariously through my kids athletic experiences and I check myself on it frequently. I consider myself lucky to still get so much joy from the sports I get to play at 44 and can separate that from any success or challenge my kids my face. Today, this idea of process over result mentality doesn’t always hold true in the world of single sport club athletes, scholarships, and coveted championships. I have nothing against winning...I actually like to win a lot, but, I know that the bigger lessons I have learned have come in the face of adversity, in learning to trust my own gut because of my ability to process life on a highly sensitive level, and feel comfortable in my skin. These are the things I want the younger generations to learn from their athletic careers, no matter where they take them.
My athletic journey has two distinct periods of time, the first was one of a timid, tall, athletic kid who was literally afraid to stand out. The second chapter of sports in my life started when I got cut from the Cal Poly Women’s Volleyball team.. As a late walk on at Cal Poly, I had very little leash to get injured. I had already missed my entire high school senior season because of that torn thumb ligament and was significantly behind in skill from my Southern California counterparts. Then that typical and terrible volley injury when someone comes under the net and I was the lucky one to come down from a block and land on her foot sidelined me...and ended my career. But, I got just enough college level experience before that fateful cut to feel how much I loved to work hard, get better, and feel the blissful endorphin payoff. So, I let that ankle heel and pretty much never missed a workout for the rest of my college days. Self motivated, I lifted weights, could run 10 miles with ease...I still miss those SLO backroads, and came to understand what exercise did for my body. I went on to run half marathons, one marathon (checked that one off the list) and swim in Masters swim meets and open water races, the latter while raising four little ones. And now I’m lucky enough to get to play beach volleyball multiple times a week.
Our bodies hold on to the stories of our life and we have to find healthy ways to release them. Four pregnancies, a near drowning for my youngest, autism, divorce, these are just some of the stories that my body has harnessed and I have learned to release through swimming fast, breathing deeply on my mat, and pounding volleyballs into the sand. They each serve a freeing and secure purpose in my life because I have learned that I am my only competition. I win when I find calm, trust my gut, and beat back fear by doing what I’m scared of. And I use my mind body connection to keep it all clear.
So, as I get ready to take my first born back to start her college athletic journey as a athlete on the TCU women’s beach volleyball team, and my second born goes through the recruiting process and I will drop him off at school in just a year’s time, the way I have learned to process and shape my experiences is paying off for the kids I have the honor and joy to raise. Our journeys are all connected, they don’t begin and end solely on our terms. We are meant to use our trials and hard fought wins and losses to help others find their own best story.
This is why I write, and speak. Sports has taught me a lot about how to live my life, but in recent years life has taught me how to get better at the sports that I still love to play. Today, the game is life…and I will settle for nothing less than my own championship.
I’m coming back on September 17, to my favorite neighborhood, at Fig Garden Swim and Raquet Club, a place that holds a special place in my heart, to talk about “The Game of Life”. Come join me in this conversation about how we build confidence, find flow, and live our best life on and off the court. Tickets are available at www.theoptimistsjournal.com
As far as my look goes, I have always been a naturalist. I’ve never been particularly good with makeup or hairstyles, ask my kids…my boys had shaved heads from the time they were three and my girls learned to do their own hair at a young age, or look slightly on the ragamuffin side wherever we arrived. On dance recital day (a very short lived period in our house) I used to send them down the street to Mrs. Schuh to have hair and makeup handled. So the other day, as I sat at the med-spa (a combination of businesses that I have only recently discovered) with a needle in my arm drawing blood to check my hormone levels, out of nowhere, a doctor swung around the corner and asked me:
“When are you going to let me take care of this?” as she pointed to the crease in between my eyebrows.
“I’ve always been natural.” I replied. “I like my expressions.”
“Well, it’s so deep, I don’t think I could get it all out anyway.” she quipped nonchalantly. As she walked away, she practically instructed the nurse to get me scheduled.
Wow. Aging. Hormones, wrinkles, injuries, bodies that work differently than they used to…and we have to decide what works for us. I don’t fault anyone for the choices they make for themselves and how they figure out getting and staying comfortable in their own skin, it’s an individual and daily process. But, as I continue to peel back layers of myself and let my ego and true self banter back and forth, for me, the way I feel continues to win out over the way I look.
I enjoy exercise…volleyball, yoga, swimming, lifting weights, because they make me feel strong and happy. I’ve had to figure out healthy ways to manage how I feel because I feel every little thing. Life as an empath is a bit like the Princess and the Pea. My body stores tension from life’s challenges and experiences and movement is healing.
What struck me from that brief exchange with the doctor was how little her opinion affected me. Yes, I am aware of the deep wisdom line I have between my eyebrows. Yes, I am aware that I don’t look the way I did when I was 20. Yes, I have my own thoughts about what bothers me about my face and body changing on certain days. But what I know, is that the dialogue is between my two ears…what she had to say to me didn’t matter, even a little. As my friends on the court this morning told me as I relayed my funny story, boy was she barking up the wrong tree. What a blessing to spend time around people who get me.
As I celebrated my daughter’s 19th and my mom’s 70th birthday last Sunday, I sat smack in the middle of their two ages, in my very own backyard, in a relaxed setting, hosting my family and friends and calm enough to just observe.
There is so much grace and beauty at any age if we live from the inside out with faith and consciousness. The good life starts in our soul, and our souls don’t wrinkle.
They strengthen when they learn from a challenge, when they choose to feel, instead of numb, they deepen with positive relationships based on mutual attraction, love, and respect. Our health and vitality is unified with our true self, our vanity is our ego. And ego always leaves us chasing something that is just beyond our reach. Being at the stage of life where you realize that life doesn’t all of the sudden start reversing itself, that there is no going back, can be scary some days. But forward with calm and conviction is turning out to be a beautifully imperfect, even wrinkled road…so we work from what is, and go with it.
And for now…I’m not scheduling that appointment.
I sat on my striped towel, behind the scene, I even snapped a photo of the picture being taken. The kids all lined up for their annual summer shoot, the 15th summer in a row…mine weren’t in the line, I was there alone, and even though for the past two summers I couldn’t make this trip happily, this time I chose to come, alone, and I was ok. I was grateful. Grateful for downtime, bonds of friendship that have lasted 15 summers (actually longer), to see kids who were in infant seats together before they head off to college. I was grateful for a calm that I didn’t know existed, the ability I have to jump in the car and take a two day trip up the coast on a moments notice, and most of all my outlook…an optimistic one that in part comes naturally, but also that I have worked hard to make solid. It’s the best feeling to know that life has changed, something that most of us as humans have a pretty serious aversion to, and I’m ok.
Healing takes a lot of reflection, a lot of learning to work from what is, instead of what isn’t.
It’s not about ignoring feelings when they come up, like they did when I went to meet my two friends (who are married) for coffee on Sunday morning. When I got there they were already sitting down, but Kent quickly gave up his chair for me and went to stand in the long coffee line, asked me a couple of times for my order because he wanted my coffee to be right, and brought it back to me. The gesture brought tears to my eyes…it’s nice to be taken care of and I appreciated it to my core. But when I bring the optimist’s lens back into focus and let it pan out over the expanse that is my life, those little tugs at my heart strings are just that, because I know where I sit in the bigger picture, and I like it. The deep calm that comes from knowing I am capable of taking care of myself is so empowering and I rest easy knowing that even if I don’t get the luxury of having my coffee brought to me often, I know I’m worthy of it on any day…no guilt, no weakness, no strings attached. And most days I’m happy to choose my own mug anyway.
When we work from what is, and don’t give our energy to what isn’t, we find our way, little by little. This is our ticket out of ‘victimville’.
An optimist’s lens gives us the energy to have the discipline that it takes to keep going. It helps us see that what isn’t there today, may well be there tomorrow, or in a week, or a month, or even a year if we commit to our process. And, when we commit, we find our calling, our uniqueness that we were meant to bring to the world.
If we go along, wishing to be like or have what we think everyone else has, how would we ever discover what fills us up, what brings us joy, and what we can bring to the world to make it a better place?
So to bring it back around, it’s not that I didn’t want my kids with me last weekend, they were missed and I would choose them any day of the week. What matters is knowing that the difference I was most afraid of, not having them with me all of the time, has come to pass, and I’m alright. Knowing that, I can apply those feelings to other things that scare me on this crazy journey and be confident that as long as I fight to keep my optimist’s lens, my way forward presents itself. As my dad told me just this week, the kids will be ok if you are. There is a lot of change, angst, and unknown coming down the pipeline, it’s a hallmark of parenting teenagers no matter what your circumstance, and I’m poised and ready to handle it with my sleeves rolled up and some rose colored glasses…because one doesn’t work without the other.
Find calm in the chaos…these words go through my head multiple times per day. Text messages, emails, calls, voicemails, to do lists, goals, kids, social media, ideas, writing, so often it feels like it is all hitting at once and that everyone and everything needs an answer in 10 minutes or less. But, that expectation is a state of mind. Calm is learning to reframe, take things in on our own timing, not as the world gives them to us. We all used to have to wait a lot longer before the age of Amazon Prime same day delivery and insta everything…and we were ok. Sometimes I think that everything that is being done to speed up our process in the name of efficiency and time management is chipping away at our calm. Even ATM’s have order ahead service now!
If you have read any part of my blog before, you know that yoga has been a major game changer in my life. I like to think that sports toughened me up which, quite honestly, was necessary, but yoga taught me how to slow down and enjoy my life. As I unitask my way through my days (if you are wondering, unitask is the opposite of multitask) I encounter someone almost every day who, through some shared experience that we have, comments on my state of calm. Whether it’s finding out I have four kids, or having to wait a little extra time for an appointment, when we talk and exchange stories, they say
“But you’re so calm.”
It’s pretty ironic considering the way I started out in this life. Loud noises like the air brakes on a school bus, the compactor on the trash truck, sirens, or fireworks felt like they left an imprint on my soul. I think I wore ear plugs on the 4th of July until I was 10. I remember trying to anticipate what was coming next so that I didn’t get surprised by anything. I lived like that for a long time…anxious and waiting for the shoe to drop, and worse, trying to disguise that anxiousness under the mask of calm. The good thing now is that I can feel the difference between the mask and the real thing.
Real calm is slow, it’s present, it’s focused and sure. It’s comfortable in our own skin, even when the circumstances are uncomfortable. Calm allows us have our own place and know that it’s ok to take up as much space in this world as anyone else. Calm brings peace to our process and helps us let go of the need to control any outcomes. Calm silences the outside voices and helps us hear our own clearly. It lets us trust our gut and do the next right thing. It’s where we can drop the multitasking and settle into our routine, and trust that it all will get done in the best time with a sure and steady hand. It creates flow in the routine of regular life, and then we find success on whatever stage we seek.
Aside from our greater goals, it is stabilizing for my soul to encounter people who find calm and flow in regular life because regular life is my favorite. I find a lot of joy in the mundane, like choosing my coffee mug every morning or my favorite chamomile tea. As I stood on the beach in Santa Cruz this past weekend, there was calm in observing the joy that our hosts found in hospitality. Two grills, tons of meat, and such ease in the preparation and serving of a casual meal in a beautiful scene. Their choice to make it seem easy to haul everything down there and create this relaxed and gracious scene made a memory for me and my kids that we won’t forget. Nothing fancy, but there was legitimate work involved and there wasn’t an ounce of hardship expressed. I love people who find calm instead of complaint in the work…it radiates to everyone around and, in this case, we got to sit back, exchange stories, and take in the blue sky and surf and be taken care of by these wonderful friends. There aren’t many people in my life who give me this easy feeling, to feel the true appreciation I have for being taken care of, but this crew makes it so easy, it’s hard to imagine a way I can repay them.
The calm I feel today is real, and knowing what my nervous system feels like in this peaceful place is a blessing and a source of productive strength. When we know ourselves well, we can choose what feeds our soul. For some it’s excitement, crowds and the next big party but for me it is calm that allows me to find my flow…and I’m feeling more in the zone with every day that passes.
The sounds and feels of summer…waves, crowds, traffic, and warmer water to jump in after volleyball. The ocean serves as the cheapest and most efficient ice bath for the aches and pains that have to be tended to to live to play another day. Then there is the sight of seeing Matthew paddling out or stand up on his board, something that the long wet winter had me wondering if we would ever see again. Summer also means tutoring for him. To stay sharp, he needs lots of repetition as we work to improve those frontal lobe executive functioning skills that came more naturally to his sisters and his brother. He’s aware of it, and he’s searching for what he is good at, and that process tugs at my heart strings when he gets frustrated. So much of the time I think his mind works differently than mine or my other kids, but hearing him articulate what he is searching for makes me realize that in many ways his path is the same as mine.
I overheard him chatting with his tutor the other day, they were working on math, but he knew a little bit about her schedule and asked her questions about her travels the week before. His questions were engaging and focused on her experience, not his, he was genuinely curious.
It’s actually moments like these, not when they are going through common denominators, but when he is engaged on an emotional level that I know we have a good learning connection.
I told her, if he is relaxed enough to ask you questions like that, then he can learn. Getting him out of fight or flight is the key to the educational stuff sinking in, it also makes me realize that I am far more concerned about raising a kid who cares about other people than how fast he can finish a math worksheet. Not to say I’m letting him off the hook on that, but the bonds he creates with other kind humans and learning how to connect with the goodness that comes from them is something that what will help him find his successful process in his life.
There are three things that have been at the center of my own path the last few years that have helped me define my process. The first thing was finding calm. I have learned, through lots of self reflection and yoga, that I spent way too much time in fight or flight mode. I called it “waiting for the shoe to drop”. When I think back to the jumpy feeling that was almost always with me, that I spent so much energy masking while I projected outward calm, while my insides were anything but, I realize now that I could never accomplish what I want to in this life in that state. Too much energy was going into just trying to survive. Fight or flight isn’t an age thing, it’s a human thing, and we have to train it. As I have learned to calm my own nervous system, I have new techniques for calming his.
Yoga brought my feet to a grounded path, and my mind to a still place where I could connect with the sensation of feeling safe in my surroundings, and then begin to trust that I could handle what was coming next without having to anticipate it.
I also have wrapped my head around the concept that it’s ok, and in fact maybe even better, for my path to look different that others.. Letting go of expectation has been one of the most freeing feelings in walking my own road. It has made me self reliant in a way that builds my strength and confidence, helped free me of guilt and shame, and quieted that voice of “I screwed up” so that I could have the energy to define and create my own success. Our uniqueness is what makes the world an interesting place, and success is not something that comes in one form. Free yourself of other peoples expectations and go after your dream in the present…it will lead you to the most beautiful moments of flow. And then we build on those.
As I have let go of expectations, I am also learning to let go of other people’s judgment and what they may (or may not) think of my path. As a recovering people pleaser, this one is the hardest. It’s an exercise both in not giving credence to other people’s judgment, which is definitely there, but also in realizing that they aren’t thinking about your path as much as I may have originally thought. We all have so much on our plates, most often, people are concentrating on that, and judging the next step you make really isn’t high on their priority list. Either way, the opinions of the masses are something we have to learn to set aside when we know the goals we have for ourselves, and are trying to crush them. If I let perceived judgment scare me, or slow me down, it produces the heaviest energy in my day, limiting the progress I make on the course I have set out for myself. Success is built on putting your head down and believing in yourself, no matter what other people are or aren’t thinking about you. So if you think about it, either way it doesn’t matter!
The gift of being a parent is that what I learn about myself in this beautiful and challenging life, I get to use to teach my kids as they learn to navigate their own life paths. It turns out, Matthew’s words to me about trying to find what he is good at aren’t any different than what I am looking for in my own days. I am helping him define his process, and I get to be the one who teaches him to find calm, realize that his path is unique, even beautifully unconventional, and that what the masses think about it really doesn’t factor into the discovery.
Life is life, and the process isn’t all that different at any age.
My job isn’t to worry, it’s to use what I have learned to teach him to be brave enough to wrestle with the questions life presents and develop a consistent process to get them answered. Then he can press forward on his path. Safety, love, and hard work…I am confident I can teach him what it feels like to feel all three, so that even if the waves toss us around a bit, we can learn to emerge standing on our own two feet.
The adrenaline rushes, even when you sit in the stands. But one thing I have learned is that once they take the court, there is nothing you as a parent can do about the outcome. The athlete in you might want to spring out of the seat, the coach in you might think you have the game winning knowledge, but, as a parent, besides the loud show of support, which may or may not have the outcome you desire, our job is done. We get the long ball, the years of down time, grind time, drives to and from practice before they get their license, maybe a little conversation in the hotel rooms or in the kitchen after practice as they grow. We get to teach them, and better yet model for them, that the process is more important that the result…and that the work put in will pay off in the long run, even when the ball hits the ground too many times on your side in one match.
But that didn’t happen yesterday, the focus that I thought I saw from the outset was real. Guys, even when you were down two, and five points from being ousted in the quarters, you kept your composure, locked in, and came home with a National Championship. As a mom, of course I think this team is special. I have watched four of them play together since they were 12, being the highlight of Luke’s days when he wasn’t as happy about our move to the beach as he is today. Five of them have been together since 13’s, and seven of them since they were 14…and the rest have been welcomed with open arms, adding levels of talent, discipline, and heart from both the court and the bench. Knowing how fast a year goes, and how quickly things can change, I wanted to take the ride home last night and this morning to sit with the feeling. These boys hold a special place in my heart and will for the rest of my life. Long after volleyball, this group will remember their triumphs and struggles together as a team, this is their first fraternity.
Way to get up and show up boys…not just the last four days, but on the days you didn’t feel like it, on the days when you felt like it wasn’t fair, or the ball didn’t do what you thought it should, or when you missed out on something fun going on outside the gym. Yes, there is a balance, but gold medals don’t come easy, with the vision and grit you have shown, you guys deserve this one. It’s both a privilege and a grind to play at this spectacular level.
With all the talent on display at this amazing tournament, mindset made the difference. I hope you guys are sitting back this morning, resting happily, knowing that you took your best out there and left it all on the court…boy was it golden in every way. Take a day or two, enjoy it, and then get back at it, whether that’s in volleyball or in life, because in the end, they aren’t really all that different.
Apathy: (n) lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern
For the past few years, The Optimists Journal has been a place for me to reflect and build my writing (and who would have thought, speaking) skills, learning both vulnerability and strength by putting my voice out into the world. Through this self reflective process, I understand myself, and my lens on this world better. In using what I have learned, but moving beyond my own experience, that place where the my micro world meets the macro of society, my hope is that my content will engage and inspire people to think for themselves and engage as conscious citizens. Every week I read many articles, am always reading a fiction and a non fiction book (albeit slowly!), listening to podcasts and following the sporting events and even better the stories behind them (can we talk about Coco Gauff!). I believe that when we are engaging in the areas of our lives that we are passionate about we create a consciousness that is stimulates our own learning and is engaging to others and together we become a more energized and informed community.
Before I found this outlet, I had an unfilled desire to put my voice out there, but without the courage to execute, I developed apathy, a “stuckness” for lack of a better word, and at times I questioned whether I had the ability to fight through the feeling. Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head with the voices of “it’s already been done” and “what do you really know that’s noteworthy”. But in the consistency and determination that continues to rise up against the imposter, the clarity of my voice and vision has taken shape, day by day. When that self doubt kicks in I just remind myself that Arianna Huffington was a speaker in my first political science class of 30 college kids at Cal Poly SLO back in 1992, married to a local Congressman and raising two girls…look what she has done since.
We fight apathy by locking into what lights us up. Usually that spark shows up organically, but then it is up to us to follow that path and become conscious citizens. To do this we have to drill down, learn more, and discover the talents that our passions can bring to the world to make it better. That is my goal with The Optimists Journal, because the world doesn’t need our apathy, it needs our energy, and my energy is buoyed by an optimistic spirit and the ability to keep learning about the topics that light my fire. In learning and writing about them, I hope to fight the malaise that keeps us slightly comfortable, but with that voice in our head that tells us there is more we can do.
The key to American life is having a society of safe and informed citizens and lending my expertise and spreading that message is something that makes my conversations and days great. Having been a news junkie from a young age, being raised in a home where my dad held political office from the time I was seven until I was 27, the division caused by the intolerance of different opinions and the 24 hour news cycle have made it tough for me to maintain my usually positive outlook for the past few years. For awhile, I checked out completely, trading growth mindset podcasts for politics. But I missed being a part of the conversation, it’s in my blood. But what if I could blend the two? How do our individual mindsets help shape our society. I remember laying on the bed at the LAX Westin, pregnant with Luke when my dad lost the primary election for Governor in 2002, my young untested spirit thinking the world was coming to an end. Needless to say I’ve made some progress since then and, more than anything, recognize my dad’s ability to speak his truth and put himself out there no matter what other people thought or put up against him, but there is rarely a time I land at LAX and don’t look at the Westin and remember that feeling…you win some, you lose some. I still believe California missed out, but those who are lucky enough to be close to him certainly haven’t.
I am hard to pin down these days though, because my way forward has taught me so much about the unconventional, the mind/body connection, the mystics and Eastern traditions, and being real with the trauma that life brings us. All of these things mix with my roots in a unorthodox way and create my own unique point of view. I admire straight talkers, honest inquiry, and lack of pretense in the situations and people that cross my path. I cast a nonjudgmental eye on the happenings of the day, believing that I have a right to my opinion and experience as much as anyone else, and that the way forward is found in respectful dialogue, owning our individuality but always looking to add to the collective American experience.
This week, I begin to lay out my vision for The Optimists Journal, starting with mindset, because our mindset is the root of all possibility. In the coming weeks, I will unveil the other topics that spark my interest, and show you how these topics link to create a conscious place where great dialogue and the next deep conversation take place, something I am always in search of, whether that is here or in person. Follow along with me, let me know what you want to hear more about, you won’t be disappointed. Sign up for my weekly email, which always includes my blog, but also links to the articles, books, and podcasts that I take in every week. There is so much amazing learning out there to do to make us conscious citizens…so let’s get going on that.
It has been said that we are only as happy as our least happy child, and there is some truth to that. Nothing prepares us for the love and devotion most of us feel when we become parents. As years go by, we have hopes and dreams for them, hopefully we learn to manage that process in a healthy way, and eventually we learn that the desire to control outcomes for them and protect them from distress and harms way is, in large part, an illusion. As a friend of mine said in his daughters bat mitzvah toast,
“I just want you to breathe.”
I found that to be such a beautiful and freeing sentiment, letting his daughter know that she could become whoever she wanted to be, that the dreams were hers, not his. He would play the supporting cast to her stardom, however that took shape. His words make me refocus often and realize that we have far less control over our children’s happiness and even, as they get older, their safety in this world than we would like. It makes me realize that as devastating as divorce is for children, life deals us blows at some point that the human spirit is capable of not just surviving but thriving beyond. This concept has been an evolution of my own mindset that continues each day because the memory of telling my four kids that their dad moved out is etched on my heart forever. It’s possibly the most painful thing I have experienced through this entire process. As I said last week, time moves on, and the task at hand of raising four strong, well adjusted kids who know they can withstand difficulty, learn from it, and become contributing members of society is, without a doubt, my greatest motivation in life. Being that my youngest is 12, we aren’t even close to done in the pursuit of that goal. Here are some principles that I have learned firsthand that are guiding me today:
You can’t physically do enough to make the heartache ok, so let yourself off the hook, and guide them through the emotional journey. Just after that fateful conversation about our split, I went into overproduction. They probably don’t even remember, because it didn’t last long, but for about six weeks, I was bound and determined to deliver them the best life experience they could get. We would road trip, I would have every last thing packed for them in their bags, make amazing meals when we were home, and basically try to anticipate their next need before they had even thought of it. My exhausted self quickly realized, probably out of necessity at that point, that it was not the way to go. I was working from a place of guilt, which, whatever the parenting circumstance, is never the place to make decisions. Not to mention, I was dead tired, and, although maybe a distraction for my own feelings, overproduction mode wasn’t helping anyone. One of the silver linings of split households, because yes, I make myself look for them, is that it gives kids the opportunity to learn to manage their own stuff, with real consequences. They are hugely capable if we teach, instead of do, and since I abandoned overproduction mode, I have watched little by little as they pick up the slack and learn to plan ahead, do pick ups and drop offs for me, use an alarm clock instead of me waking them up, manage their own bags and schedules, and I have time to go to yoga and make dinner.
Teach them to focus on who they want to become. We all have strengths and weaknesses that we can both capitalize on and work to improve. In split households, most likely there are different ways of doing things, mindsets, and habits that define each dwelling. I’ve seen it first hand, manipulation can come out quickly when discomfort rears its head.
“Dad wouldn’t make me do that.” or “Mom let’s me play that game.”
Anytime I have heard that terrible comeback in response to me laying down my law, I shoot back:
“When you play me against him, you are only cheating yourself.”
Example, “Do you think playing Call of Duty for six hours makes you a better human?” Usually I get an honest response.
“You have to decide who you want to be, and then work at that.”
Then I push the conversation to how he thinks he’s going to get there.
Let the other parent work from his or her strengths. This one has more to do with our own self esteem, but can end up doing harm to the relationship between parent and child. Don’t be territorial with things. If he wants to do something for your child, unless you see it as overtly harmful, be gracious and let it happen. Don’t let your ego get involved with ideas like, I wish I would have thought of that, or worry that there is going to be a favorite parent. Most likely that is going to ebb and flow based on experience and personality so don’t get hung up on winning the popularity contest on any given day. If it helps the bond between parent and child, just go with it. Always remember that their emotional needs are entirely different than yours and that other parent is a place for them to feel safe and loved, as long and there is not a reason to think those two things can’t be achieved, stay out of the way. In some situations, I have even found that whatever was being offered crossed something off my already long to do list, while giving one of the kids a positive experience, and I’ve learned to look at those as a win/win.
Be Strong, Be Vulnerable. Safety is a real need, no matter what age we are. Kids want to know that you have things from the top handled so that they can work on the building blocks of making it to adulthood. This doesn’t mean though that they should not see your feelings. I think one way we can help change the cycle of generational pain is to let our kids know that things are hard or less than ideal, and then let them be part of the process of conquering that obstacle. Let them know that, even when you are sad, you can still find laughter. Let them see you seek your outlets that give you joy, it will help them find theirs. Yoga, piano, sports, music playing in the kitchen, reading, outings and trips together, little inside jokes…there are all kids of things that we can find for ourselves that will turn the tables. Being both strong and vulnerable at the same time helps us get to the root of our issues, not just the symptom and I believe learning to do this is the real key to long term emotional well being.
Let Your Voice be so strong that they hear it even when you aren’t with them.
This is something I am always working on, speaking up isn’t something that has come naturally to me over this lifetime. This also isn’t an invitation to butt in, believe me, I’ve learned from experience that is bad form. It’s hard when we see our kids in some kind of emotional distress, because we want to solve the problem yesterday. The trick is figuring out if there is a way to help them process through what they are feeling versus trying to solve it for them (and most likely, you can’t anyway). Depending on the age of the child, the skills are different. Nonetheless, unless we are dealing with toddlers or younger, they have them, and honing them gives them an edge on self realization at a younger age. The message to them is that they know they can count on you in happiness and in distress 100% of the time, but then teach them that they have the power within them, despite their surroundings, to be present and happy wherever they are. In this day and age, we are a phone call or FaceTime away, we can even play video games with them when they aren’t with us. Let them know that you can meet them where they are, even if that’s not in person. I have found that just the idea of this can calm anxious feelings, especially my youngest.
In the end, parenting is an art, not a science. Despite some real hardship and heartbreak, I feel so much pride and joy when I watch my kids work as a team, to belong to each other and be a unit no matter where they are sleeping at night. The goal is always to give them access to emotional support, but let it look different depending on who lends it and give them the experience to see what works best for them. Raising kids in split households isn’t a competition, and, as long as it’s a safe environment, it’s their foundation and reality. I have found that even with it’s challenges, when we parent from our most authentic place, we get into a flow that helps us not to overthink. We just have to be brave enough to say what we know in our hearts to be true, and with good timing. I work hard to give my kids the deepest sense of who I am, even if they don’t fully grasp it today. Letting them see my emotions while providing them with safety and love is always a goal for me. I trust the bond I have built, and then I work hard to maintain it It looks different at every stage of this journey. Sometimes it’s talking, then it’s listening, then it’s holding on, then it’s letting go.
As I sit here at my oldest’s freshman orientation at TCU, the speed with which it passes it unbelievable. Don’t waste a minute fighting your ego and give them the opportunity to love and be loved by both parents…because what if, in the end, your child is only as happy as their least happy parent? Show them your joy, let them know they are safe and loved and the story can still have a very happy ending.
I still don’t like the word divorce. I still find the word itself hostile and angry and sad all at once. Just one little word, and I don’t know if that connotation will ever go away. What I do know though, it that the feelings change, the days change, and little by little your heart and mind begin to heal and your best life starts to show it’s way through. I often have people say to me when I tell them my story that they thought mine happened a lot longer ago than the just over two years that it has been. One thing I tell them is that for me, by the time the divorce happened, the healing had already planted it’s roots. It’s the years leading up to that fateful decision where the greatest heartache lies.
As I have said in more of my writing, I still believe in marriage, and the hard work it requires to choose someone every day and do the work that it takes to stay together. It’s not easy, and, for some reason, that wasn’t meant to be my story. So, if I can help people who find themselves in a similar situation to mine, that’s the next best thing I can do, because we are all capable of living amazing lives. One choice or event can never define us, and the best life lies on the other side of getting up, dusting ourselves off, and doing the hard work of mending a broken heart. In fact, whether it was a divorce or a break up, we’ve all been there, and it’s never easy. I started to think about what has helped me the most to move on with my life and came up with some practical steps that have lead me to a new level of peace and happiness.
Look Forward, Not Back. Get rid of the ideas in your head of how you “thought” life was going to look. Expectation can be so disappointing. Take what is today and learn to sit with it, in quiet, breathe and feel the sensation that you are ok. Exactly where you are, even in the sadness, you are living, you have talents and gifts, ones that you weren’t able to access when you were wrapped up in a dying relationship. Now is your time, what do YOU want to do for yourself and for the world. Identify the big goal, and set the small action steps that will get you there. Small victories put a little wind in our sails and lead us to the bigger ones. Where will you start? Allow these ideas to excite you, LOOK FORWARD.
Remember that you are the only one who grants yourself permission. I am a rule follower. I like to be coached and taught and learn from others. But those qualities set me up for a place in life where I was always looking for permission from other people as to how I should live my life. Being in a relationship, especially if it has some codependent tendencies, can foster that dynamic as well. Newsflash, you are a grown up. You have to pay your own bills, manage your own stress, raise your own children, so you better figure out that the decisions you make are yours. Quiet the outside voices and just listen to your mind and heart. Make small decisions at first, open your own bank account, make your own schedule, and through your choices allow the real you to be seen. Drastic change does not have to happen every day to make good progress.
Choose people who want to see you grow. Keep the opinions you take in to the trusted circle who wants to see you grow and not just survive, but thrive. The patterns you created in your past relationship have to change, those connections and conversations cannot stay the same if you expect to get over it. That doesn’t mean they won’t take a new form in the future, but give yourself the time and space that you need to heal. If you do this, life will look different, feel different, and that’s ok. Again, let go of the expectation and live with what is. If you are taking care of yourself, you will attract people who believe in your greatness, and your circle will change. You don’t need pity, you want to see progress, so choose the people who want to see that for you as much as you want to see that for yourself. Your growth will move some people out of your orbit, that’s ok. Some come in to our lives to teach us and aren’t meant to stay forever.
Learn the difference between power and control. We all have power within us to create, communicate, and design our lives the way we want to. There are different circumstances for all of us, but at the root is that beautiful God given freewill that gives us the ability to make our own choices. Notice I said our own choices, not anyone elses’s…that is where our power lies. Control is an illusion that takes away our power and makes us focus on the wrong things. Control is when we try to use our power to influence things outside of ourselves. Our power lies in our practice, not our results. Don’t spend your time trying to control outcomes, for you and especially not for your old relationship. Do your work, focus on your goals, and let your power fuel the fire to move you forward. Control is an illusion that steals our energy.
Practice Yoga. Yoga is breath, it is connection, and it creates the most beautiful free flow of energy I have ever experienced. It taught me to sit alone and truly feel instead of sitting alone and feeling numb. It taught me that I can do hard things, and that I am enough right where I stand today. Yoga is healing, and practiced by the most amazing community of non judging healers who accept without attachment to your story. It is a positive place to go when you need to get out and will do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. Enough said, just go.
Do not look at their social media. It may seem shallow, but in this day and age, it’s truth. It’s tempting at first, but I promise it will take you down the wrong rabbit hole that has nothing to do with your way forward. It doesn’t help you process pain or sadness. Basically, it’s an incredible waste of time and energy. Stay away, block them if you have to, not out of spite, but for your own emotional well being, it’s ok. Pretty soon you won’t even think about it anymore.
Forgive. I put this one last, it could be an entire blog topic in itself, and it takes time. Forgiveness happens in little moments, in realizing that we are all human, life is not perfect and that not one of us is defined by one choice that we have made in our lives. Forgiveness is the only healthy way forward. Being free is so much more important that being right, forgiveness comes easier when we realize that fact. Although we can learn from these painful experiences, eventually, forgiving has a lot to do with letting go of the ways you believe you were wronged. Use what you learned to set boundaries for next time, but know that most of the time, especially when it comes to matters of the heart, we hurt others from the place where we ourselves are hurting. That is not unique to a certain ‘type’ of person, it’s all of us. If you have ever wished to be forgiven, put your own forgiveness out into the world to heal.
In the end, the only thing that is finite is this life we have been given. The ups and downs and ebbs and flows teach us, but not a single one of them defines us. I sit here today, not ashamed of my story like I was two years ago, knowing that I make my own way forward, and confident that I have the skills to do that because of the work I have done. My highest hope is that I can break the cycle of generational pain that divorce, but more importantly the things that precede it create, by telling my story and helping other people process their own. If you are in the beginning of this process, know that no one feeling lasts forever, the tide will go in and out. Feel it, learn from it, and most importantly love yourself exactly where you are today, because that love is more important than the love that comes from any other person on this earth.