Growth Minded Patriotism

I’m re-engaging in the political process after taking a long break since the last election cycle. Over the last couple of years, I switched from being a lifelong news junky who wrote letters to the editor frequently, to a podcast fanatic who was trying to figure out her own mindset and how to go forward in the midst of personal crisis. This happened because, more often than not, the news of the day didn’t help me maintain my usually optimistic mindset, and I had enough pulling on it already.

There are times when the micro of our own lives takes over the macro of the bigger world.

I have certainly been through that scenario over the last few years. But, i was raised to care, to participate, and to give back. Lately, I have found myself in some interesting conversation and debate and am feeling the pull back into the orbit of public policy. A big reason for this is because I believe that just because something is less than perfect or even has some glaring flaws, it shouldn’t be abandoned by people who have the capacity to improve the situation. I also believe that because my free thinking self does not paint party lines or come down on the anticipated side of every issue, my mindset is helpful in the modern day policy arena. As with a lot of things about me, my answers about many issues could surprise more than a few people. I’m also a believer that discourse sharpens our minds and gives us the ability to learn from new perspectives. I was raised in a home where opinions didn’t offend the way they do so often in the world today and am continually grateful for that.

The quest for power without a moral consciousness creates a void in leadership.

When I attended John McCain’s memorial service a few months back this was my thought regarding what we are dealing with in Washington today. As far as the leaders we are looking to today, I can’t think of any with a character defining story as heroic as Sen. McCain’s. In short, we don’t know where our leaders are coming from and what led them to want to govern?

As I listen to podcasts on leadership and growth mindset, I can’t help but think that our elected officials could benefit from some of these words and I have hoped I might find at least one or two of them sharing their wisdom over these particular airwaves. When I can’t, it makes me think that the skill set to rise in the political world today isn’t grounded in the character or mindset that I believe produces the best results. Newscasts shell us with information, but wouldn’t it be interesting to get the backstory and thought process on important votes or decisions? Tell us elected leaders, what inspires you, what are your guiding principles? I would be interested in the answers regardless of political party, or whether I agreed with the opinion. Give us something to bridge the gap that feels so wide between the elected and the electors.

As I freelance through my interests, looking for interesting interviews and story lines, politics is a glaring void because it feels almost impossible to generate an authentic story. People aren’t willing to open their mouths and share without a lot of conditions and understandings up front. But voting citizens would be well served by a leader’s transparency. We want to see that your goals are bigger than your own personal ambition, that they are for us and our normal lives. That was my example growing up.

Over the last couple of days, I watched the movie, Mary Queen Of Scots (highly recommend to any adult for a movie going experience) and read this essay from the Niskanen Center that is embedded in this article by David Brooks, one of my favorite columns as of late.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/opinion/centrism-moderate-capitalism-welfare.html

The movie made me think about why our democracy was born and, while far from perfect, how grateful I am to live in a country where power is not defined by lineage, marital status, religion or the ability to have a child. I do wish that I got to ride a horse up the cliffs of Scotland like that though.

The essay I read dissects, in a very intelligent and logical way, what we can do to bring our process from the more fanatical views of today to a more pragmatic approach that challenges our ability to think critically and not be so dogmatic in any of our judgments. I highly encourage the read if you have a political mind...the rest of you may start it and see what a political geek I really am. 

As I see it, our country is only as good as the sum of it’s parts, and I see myself as a strong one. To borrow an old phrase from back in the day...think globally, act locally. I have no desire to go to Washington, but every intention of making my own corner of the world as good as it can be, and let it grow from there. Here’s to tuning in and applying growth mindset to some pretty formidable issues. At least there is a lot of ground to gain in front of us.

The Courage to Confront

My dad and I had the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays together for the first time in many years. Twelve days late for me and two days late for him but, nonetheless, totally worth the wait. When we get together, I can feel the power and purpose of generational learning (our ability to tell our stories and pass them down to the generations that come after us) in such a strong way.  He has the ability to set such a strong example of strength and selflessness at the same time…excellent qualities in a leader and a dad.

When we take the time to tell our stories, they have the chance to impart to younger generations what we have learned through life’s ups and downs. This is only part of the benefit of storytelling though because there is no guarantee that the knowledge sinks in, as so much in life is learned through our own experiences. However, one of my greater realizations about telling our stories is the ability it gives us to work through our own feelings from our life circumstances and sort through the effect they have on us. 

It can be difficult to process our perceived  negative emotions such as anger, sadness or rejection but, when we push these experiences away, they end up causing us even greater pain that manifests in addictions and insecurities. We almost always end up passing that pain on to other people.  You’ve heard the quote: 

“Hurt people hurt people.”

That experience has been proven to be true in so many circumstances in my life.

I watched this TED Talk 

https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage/transcript?language=en#t-21778

on “bad emotions” and it made me think deeper about what it means to be real about the difficult situations that life presents and yet keep an optimists lens on life.

As an optimist and growth mindset believer, I believe in our ability to reframe occurrences in our lives that seem negative or bad, into opportunities to learn and grow. As we move though our lives, we encounter heartbreak, loss and other pain that comes with the experience of a full life. When this happens, we can choose to dig deep and wrestle with the discomfort, or let those lessons become blows to our ego and security and give them the power to take over the best parts of us.  When we choose the route of avoidance, we become cynical, negative, or even look to criticize or belittle others, in an attempt to put out the flame of our own insecurity.  We become easily threatened by other peoples points of view and our world begins to shrink..a sad fact being that we all have so much to learn from each others perspectives. Little by little, comments sneak out and soon we are scratching away at the people we love the most, often because they are loyal and will take it from us.  In fact though, these are the very people we should be honoring with our words and deeds because of their unwavering loyalty.

It takes courage to process feelings instead of stonewalling, which only causes us to become more calloused and less vulnerable (which means less of the connection that we as humans are wired for) every time we decide to sweep something under the proverbial rug.  These days my ability to be transparent about my emotions is something I consider very important, whether in the form of tears, words or any other respectful communication. When we fail to deal with our feelings and emotions honestly, we create a situation in our own life where mediocrity is accepted and our ability to be transparent and know ourselves declines. Since self awareness is a top trait for a meaningful life, we leave ourselves in quite a bind.

I know that the only way I can teach my kids to handle their lives with honesty and connection is to tackle my own insecurities head on and stand strongly on my own two feet. Better out than in I tell them…we certainly aren’t there yet, but this is a topic that won’t fade for me, and I hope that future generations of my family will be able to thank me for it.  Clarity, courage and respectful confrontation…good goals to have for 2019. 

Why Not Be An Optimist?

“Let’s dig into the fresh bucket of optimism and if we fail we fail.” - Casey Jennings

Optimism has been mentioned in every podcast I have listened to lately. Whether it’s Bobbi Brown on Finding Mastery, Kai-Fu Lee on Impact Theory, or Casey Jennings on The Net Live, it seems the world is in need of an optimistic lens. In the first few pages of pro beach volleyball player Travis Mewhirter’s new book, We Were Kings, he too talks about the benefit of optimism in sports and life. It is even the message in my younger kids flag ceremony at school today. 

There is joy in being an optimist, but to remain one throughout life’s ups and downs, or to transform our outlook to become an optimist, our days must be grounded in discipline and hard work. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy yourself, or even take a day off once in awhile, but on the whole, we must define and honor our unique process. The process is what sets real optimism (which some like to call realism, I disagree) apart from just wearing rose colored glasses and believing that everything will just “work out” no matter what.

In my kitchen last night sat my daughter, less than one year out from being a college beach volleyball player, chatting with her friend, home on break, who is a current college beach athlete. In walks my son from practice, who, despite his effort and love for the indoor game, told his sister, “you guys are so lucky to have the beach opportunities you do, I love playing beach, it’s so fun.” I can’t help but wonder if part of the joy of beach for him is that it sits far away from the pressure of recruiting and grades and rosters that may or may not have your name on them. All of these things make us tougher and are part of what we learn as athletes when we rise through the ranks of our sport. Most athletes don’t forget the day they learned that there is someone out there better than them, whether that’s in 8th grade, at the Olympics, or somewhere in between. It’s real, we learn it, hopefully work harder, and move on. But real joy and love for any game is intoxicating and sits far apart from medals, accolades, recruiting, and the pressure that I see so many young athletes experience. I say that, and this is not negative self talk, because I have gained so much joy from sport, and don’t have any major accolades to speak of. I’ve learned so much about myself when I’m trying to race to the wall and want to take one more breath, but don’t. The adrenaline I get from a good block or kill, the conversations that happen in between races and games uncover some of the best, tough minded, dig deep realizations; I’ve discovered all of this without having even a dollar on the line. Now I’m 44, past my prime, but far from giving up what i love to do. Play volleyball, swim, do yoga, be active. Endorphins lead to optimism too.

The world my kids are growing up in is full of first world problems, privilege, pressure and instant gratification. It’s about SAT scores, medals and GPA’s, not whether there is food on the table or money for gifts at Christmas. They have been blessed with talents and resources, but it’s their reality, they don’t know any different, so it’s from that vantage point that I teach them. As a parent, the reason I have always come back to training character is because character isn’t relative. The fruits of love, kindness, resilience, forgiveness and yes, optimism translate no matter what life situation is in front of us.

Watching p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings and team’s professional volleyball/health & wellness tour, role out their inaugural season is a lesson to younger generations of athletes and entrepreneurs on how to dig deep, learn as you go, and use the spirit of optimism to chart a strong course to success. I was one who downloaded the app, watched the live stream, and attended events. None disappointed. Is there room for improvement? Always...and they’ve asked. Do good business people make choices based on market conditions and what they learned from each event held and opportunity given? Yes, that’s what gives them a chance to survive and thrive. Adapt or perish, it works in business and in life. 

I don’t live like Kerri, I live like me. But I look to learn from people who have reached the top of their game, whatever that game may be. I ask them questions, see what they intake and include in their day, and it has helped me rise through my own personal struggles. I also understand firsthand what it’s like to be part of a start up, and want to see it succeed more than anything. I’ve been blessed to see that success happen once in my life before, and understand the blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights that are part of turning a dream into a reality. When you are in the zone, risking capital and hours of sweat equity, there is no room for naysayers, they suck your energy...action and optimism are what give the goal a fighting chance of being accomplished. 

The knowledge I have taken in along the way is not always from famous people. There are plenty of everyday hero’s that none of us will ever read about in any large scale format that I learn from everyday...like the one that a friend of mind quoted in a birthday card she sent to me this week that came from a retired army sergeant:

“I learned through experience that adversity doesn’t create character, adversity reveals character.”

Truth. I love that my mindset attracts friends who will write me cards like the one that included this quote.  Growth mindset allows the playground of life to have infinite space for anyone who wants to work and risk failure. What I have learned from the masters, and choose to incorporate into my own life, has made the world a much bigger and exciting place. There is always more to learn and so much to experience. My take away is this...the thoughts of leaders matter, so if you consider yourself a leader, choose your words carefully, because they have influence on so many. If you don’t have the inside look and a deep reason to disbelieve, why not be an optimist?

The Paths That Lead us Home

It’s typical in the human experience to seek what we know.  Traditions, habits and patterns are part of a successful journey and, when we pick good ones, they set us up for success. But as this imperfect life would have it, we can also be prone to seek out patterns that, although might be comfortable, aren’t setting us up for our best life.  Usually, intuition is there to help us know the difference, if we have the strength to trust it when it speaks. Luckily, I was smart enough this time to listen to my intuition, at an incredibly chaotic time in life, to take a drive up the coast to visit some of those voices and faces that keep me grounded on my path.

The Taylor family has welcomed me with open arms since I was 16 years old and for that I could not be more blessed or grateful. Last night, I parked my car in front of my friend Elizabeth’s house and walked in the gate. As I made my way down the path toward the front door, listening to the sound of the ocean, I could have been 17 again, being dropped off by my mom for a week at the beach with my friend and her family.  Same house, different kind of freedom than that summer when Agassi won his first US Open title…the memories flood my mind.  I’ve been coming to this beach for over 25 years, as a teenager, college student, with babies strapped to my front and back, married with kids and divorced on my own.

This time, the memories of Elizabeth’s mom Nancy, one of the most fiercely loving and wise women I’ve ever known, (and who is undoubtably making the sun shine on us today) has moved on to eternity. She is keeping the good bumps on my arms and a few good tears flowing the last few weeks. It’s hard to beat a woman who can cook, teach, and tell stories with wisdom woven through them at the same time. These are the matriarchs that shape our world in the most special ways.  I’m sure that the ripple effect of their dinner tables are what the world is surviving on today…Nancy was one of these and has the family to prove it. 

Life is constantly changing, and we have to be adaptable to make the adjustments that keep us healthy and free.  The circumstances are not always as we would draw them for our perfect picture. They certainly weren’t for Nancy, but I never saw her for a moment when she wasn’t living life to it’s fullest. Independent, strong and yet gentle enough to care for anyone in her path (and she has thousands of students and friends who would attest to that). She held the keys to her own happiness and taught others that same beautiful lesson throughout her entire life. You can see it in the faces of the people she loved most. The lessons and actions just flow as if she were standing in the room still teaching them.

Life gives us people who return our feet to the grounding paths and have a way of gently leading us, whether we are physically with them or not. 

I’m so thankful today for those people and places that live in my heart that I can go back to time and again and lead all the way to eternity. Love you Nancy, thank you for this beautiful family that I get to go hang out with until the sun goes down:)

Fields to Beaches (and everywhere in between)

Almost every time I descend the grapevine on the valley side I start to cry.  I think there are many reasons for this; maybe a sense of loss, maybe because I see so much wide open space it overwhelms me, maybe out of a sense of wondering where I belong.  For the most part, I’m able to let the tears fall and move on, but when it happened on Tuesday as I was driving to Exeter to Lauren’s volleyball game it really got me thinking.  I’ve been a part of so many communities by this point in my life…so many different ways of thinking, value systems, and community involvement on different levels. Sometimes there were activities that resonated with my soul and others that I felt I had an obligation to fulfill. 

I believe so much in giving back, but have learned, that we each have our own way to do it. When we find the way that is right for us, we are able to give infinitely more.  We find the flow in giving and nothing could be better for our spirit or the world.

My thoughts then went to the idea that communities get set in their ways.  We think that we see it all, when really what we see is our tiny space in this big world, and our perspective is one of millions. We think we know the way things should be done, who certain people, or even groups of people are, and we allow certain circles in each community to be the ones that get things done…and the hierarchy forms.  It’s the classic alpha/beta scenario in some ways, which isn’t something I am trying to argue against, but we do have a choice as to how we play our role in that timeless system.

What I realize today is that we choose who we are. We can choose to let that be dictated by our circumstances, positive or negative, or we can develop the constructs of self love, discipline and confidence that can transcend both our highest and lowest experiences, allowing us to balance it all out and become the best versions of ourselves. To be honest, I’ve never felt like I belonged in the hierarchy in any of these communities where I have lived.  I’ve felt welcomed enough, but there was something in me, that kept me from feeling like an insider. The other thing I know now, is that I feel most comfortable in my own skin when I am bridging the gap between people who I understand, but may not understand each other.  Maybe that’s what has given me the ability to have such diverse experience in life; growing up in political life, living far out in the country…rural America so to speak, experiencing financial success in business and then running in the circles that come with that, faith based communities that helped solidify my values and taught me about grace and mercy, and beach life and the athletic experiences that come with living in the training grounds for a sport that I love. There are so many differing points of view and a lot of perspective in all of these life experiences.  What I want to do with all of this vision, generational teaching and storytelling is bring people together, to see perspectives that they may not have had the chance to see, in hopes that they might discover there is nothing to be threatened by. There is not one right path or one right answer.  When we lead with good intention, hard work and kindness, everyone learns and broadens their perspective and we are all so much better off trying to connect the bigger picture than trying to protect our own little piece of the pie. 

Live and Learn

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

It turns out we had nothing to worry about.

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

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

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

Be "Good"

I let go of anger and shame bit by bit, sometimes it rises up in my day and I have to figure out why and what to do with it.  At least I notice now.  It shows up in my volleyball game when I can’t stop saying “i’m sorry” for my play when it’s less than what I think it should be.  It shows up in my hips which are locked so tight that they prevent fluid movement and hinder my performance and enjoyment of exercise and life. These days though, the deep stuff is coming closer to the surface because I started dealing with the surface level a while back. I’m able to clear it faster because of the time I spend seeking and being blessed by connections that seem to just appear in my path. Like Neda, the energy healer I wrote about in this post,

and my friend Teal, the water PT, that I wrote about here:


Over the last few months, I have been putting together a specific healing path which could be baffling to many who haven’t felt physical and emotional trauma show up in big ways in their body. I consider myself to be pretty tough, I have a high pain tolerance and can grin and bear it, or even laugh through my tears, so I hadn’t realized that I had gotten to a point that the tension I was holding in my nervous system were really taking a toll on me.  My sleep was off, my hormones were out of whack, I was basically feeling like a pretty big mess on the inside and still pushing through my day.  This violates one of my basic tenants of happiness because  my insides were not matching my outsides…and when this is out of whack for too long, it sets me down a less than desirable path.

On top of the body and energy work I have been focusing on, I have been putting the finishing touches on my book, 365 Days of Optimism, and listening to some amazing podcasts that are furthering my growth and blowing my mind, like this one…it’s an absolute must listen!

https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/rss.art19.com/episodes/03cdccb9-b535-4c1f-9725-b93f5f8e2795.mp3


With seeking and exposure comes wrestling with the big issues, so here are a few of the concepts that have reared their head in the past week or so based on my experiences:

It takes a great deal of self awareness to tackle the problem of unworthiness and the ego at the same time. 

As I walk the path of creating The Optimists Journal and 365 Days of Optimism, I confront some of my biggest insecurities.  So much doubt can creep in when we are vulnerable and put ourselves out there with the stories of our lives.  I realize that I struggle to accept the truth that I am enough on my own, that I don’t need a bigger platform or other people to help define me…I have been out there doing some significant living and I take this student of life thing pretty seriously.   I believe so deeply in generational learning and healing and the stories that have to be told to achieve that level of understanding for relationships and families to heal, that I am willing to go farther on my own than I ever have before.  That doesn’t mean that I’m not scared sometimes, but my core belief is making me braver than I have ever felt and giving me more confidence and a relaxed security comes with that…man, what a great feeling.  Here’s the catch though, I am still trying to figure out the prescription of knowing my value and using that value to help others, while letting go of my ego.  My ego can get offended so easily when it’s met by someone who doesn’t trust my intention or value my time the way I think they should. There’s some more work for my soul in that equation that I haven’t completely figured out the answer to yet.  For now, I will keep working and trust that the big picture, with due diligence, is going to come out right. 

Learning to judge what’s good from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, is hard. 

I am a rule follower and for all of my life have had a very rigid sense of being “good”, something that I realize was a judgment that I would let other people make for me and then apply their assessment to my own life.  Basically, if you watched me and based on the actions that you perceived of how I was living my life, you decided I was “good”, I thought I was winning when really what I was doing was giving up my power and identity. Other people don’t know the circumstances of our lives, how would they know what is innately good for us and by us. As my confidence rises, I am able, more and more, to trust my own instincts on what is “good” in my life rather than let someone else define that for me, and then try to feel satisfied with that approval. 

Letting our goodness shine is what the world needs. isn’t it cool that we each have our own brand of goodness that will attract what we are meant to find in this life? I am more and more ok with other people’s judgment…I trust the goodness that is coming from inside me and the choices that it helps to create. Beyond that, the calm is coming from a deeper place and, for me, calm is the root of real goodness and prosperity will come from that newly found safe and stable place in my heart.

Aqua Healing

I write often about my life being a work in progress, being a late bloomer, an optimist, and framing the less the favorable situations in life in a way that allows for the greatest amount of growth and learning so that we can continue to become better versions of ourselves every day.  I feel like I have a good hold on the concept of resiliency, I have come through some pretty tough times and not only am I still standing, I am stronger and understand myself better than ever. Now that I have a grasp on resilience though, this healing process continues to teach me what I need to work on next, like not second guessing myself, trusting my intuition and, for lack of a better phrase, staying in my own lane and not taking away other people in my life’s chances to learn by trying to “fix” the issues that come their way. I notice almost daily that healers seem to show up along the way to aid this process.  They come in the form of friends, family,  and mind, body and spirit guides.  They have shown up at yoga, and daily on my Spotify account…music is healing as they say.  

Last Thursday, I played five games of volleyball and every single step hurt.  I have been on a somewhat scary path since last year when I hurt my knee and my lower half just hasn’t recovered the way that I would hope it would.  I’ve done PT, soft tissue work, consulted Youtube on how to get better…pretty much anything to keep me playing but my mobility just hasn’t come back as strong as I would hope…I’m not giving up of course.  

As my good fortune would have it, my friend happens to be a water PT (which means she works out of the pool, one of my favorite places) and she reached out last week to see if she could try working with me.  Friday morning, she strapped some flotation devices around my neck and legs and I sank into that blissful chlorine heaven of my childhood ready for her to do her work.  As a kid, the swimming pool was always one of my favorite places to be, under the water looking up and wishing I could breathe under there so I could stay down, is still one of my most vivid memories.  I turned that feeling into a love of racing and some of my happiest adult memories are swimming with the Fig Garden Masters in Fresno before I moved south.  Clearly, I’m not one to have trouble relaxing in the water. As Teal pulled me around in the pool, and my weightlessness allowed my nervous system to enter a more parasympathetic state, I was overcome because I could feel my younger body making its way back through the haze of trauma and trigger points.  I’ve written before about how much we store physically in our bodies, and, I believe that in some part, is why I struggle in my recovery (and yes, I have a copy of Paulo Coelho’s new book “Hippie” sitting right here). After that zen-like hour, I came completely above the surface. Teal was smiling and the words she spoke added her to my list of healers. As I told her how amazing the experience was and how I felt better already she said…

“You knew what your body needs on your own, I just supported you. For you, it’s more about letting go, than strengthening.”  

Uh…not sure truer words have ever been spoken. Once again, the message I’m learning to relax, have fun, worry less and let the pain go. Just because you are strong enough to shoulder it, doesn’t mean you should. This is what real healers do… they heal themselves first, then they can support and empower others to do the same. Thanks Teal for helping me learn to stop second guessing myself because I intimately understand how to heal, I just have to trust my voice and relax into it. I can’t make things perfect for my kids but at least I can show them how to heal. Once again, my body is teaching me about my mind and spirit…another reason to get out and get moving today.  Hope you do to!

Generations of Inspiration

Almost 30 years ago, the AVP traveled to Lost Lake in Fresno, where I grew up, and my non-beach community had access to amazing beach volleyball…the crowds for the final were upwards of 25,000 and it was easily over 90 degrees.

I came away from those days in the sun with such excitement for the sport which, except for that weekend, I didn’t have much access to.

Fast forward to this amazing inaugural weekend for p1440, a soon to be legendary beach volleyball festival that includes not only world class volley, but access to the pros health and wellness gurus, and concerts by night, and volleyball continues to offer me a purpose and a place to connect to higher thought. I pushed the boundaries of my confidence in search of stories and generational knowledge and came away with gold…not surprising for any of you who know how Kerri Walsh Jennings does anything and everything she puts her heart into. 

This weekend I was able to observe, connect and challenge my own self imposed limits that have held me back from pursuing my bigger dreams.  As I push the boundaries of my confidence in search of like minds that are interested in the bigger questions and connecting the universal truths with each of our specific life experiences, what I desired out of these interviews became more clear.  I stopped worrying (for the most part) about my fear of self promotion and committed myself to the why of my message. When I did that, I received an incredible reception from anyone that I asked to share their story.  To be able to talk mental game, resilience, female leadership and the game of life with some of the greats of the sport, producers of the event, and grass roots volleyball fans who are out living with passion across the entire country, was completely invigorating.

I know that through my own knowledge quest and game of life experience I am able to draw on, I have the ability to create content for younger generations of players, (like the ones I am raising) to learn from when they are ready for it. I tell my kids all the time that what they learn on the court is a warm up for life.  Acceptance, confidence, leadership, even the neuroscience of how we challenge our limits physically and mentally is all there for the taking, if we have the courage to ask the right questions and allow ourselves to sink deep enough into our experience to let the answers become part of our consciousness. Obviously, I think a little deeper today than I did when I was 13, but the feeling of being that same passionate kid who got to run drills with Smith and Stoklos and then told her mom she could die happy now (yes, I remember the quote verbatim) was reignited as I interviewed Sinjin, Kerri, Reid, Z, Brooke and other great players, historians and minds of the game.  

Thanks for the energy, grace and visionary leadership Kerri. As I left last night, I watched from a distance as a young player took pictures with Heather Bansley, one of the female champions, and saw the circle connecting again. Generational learning and inspiration…only when we tell our stories, both the good and the challenging, can we learn from them…and this was one of the good ones for sure.  

Abundance


I write a lot about challenging comfort zones because I have seen the positive effects it has had in my life.  Challenging our limits though can feel like a roller coaster sometimes. For me, it hasn’t been easy to unlearn habits like negative self talk, feelings of less than worthy or simply lacking confidence on any stage. Being the empath that I am, I have sought out many paths to healing including counseling, yoga and most recently, energy healing with Reiki.  I continue to add to the contradiction and complication of myself by looking for ways to heal and fulfill my potential.  Because of this, my conservative nature and free spirit have a lot of conversations these days.  Most of my life I have fought with that energy that I feel in my own body and coming from the world but, beginning with yoga, I began to open up to new ideas and figured, if it can help me heal my mind/body/spirit, I’m in. 

Yesterday, as I laid on the table and Neda, from Tara’s Garden (who I can’t wait to have on for a podcast next week because I want to understand so much more about her training and what she feels) gently laid her hands on me, she targeted my deepest fears in the first few moments of lying there.  I have been to see her twice now, and the accuracy with which she talks to me about my feelings and what is going on in my life is mind blowing. I tell her a few things about what is going on, kids, work, that type of thing, and yesterday she spoke to my most insecure feelings from the start.  Her words…

“What’s the fear about?”

“It’s ok to be successful. It’s ok to be seen. It’s ok to be beautiful. You are not taking away space from anyone else.”

Wow.  It’s like I’ve been sitting on a couch talking to her for years. 

If you’ve never felt these things, I can understand why it would be difficult to connect with these words, and that’s ok.  But with these words, Neda spoke to my deepest fears, the things I am working to overcome everyday. 

I came up with two practical, if not slightly quirky, tools to help me in this journey towards confidence and freedom and they are helping me beat my old mindset. 

  1. I don’t have to order off the happy hour menu. 

    I realized that so often I am looking to accommodate, to try and guess what makes things easier for people around me.  I looked at others as if they had something I didn’t and told myself that I was really good at being average, helping and pushing other people forward on their journey.  There is a lot of comfort in that, especially if you have the work ethic to back it up.  Every day hums along and I could do great things on a small scale, but in the back of my mind there was always this feeling that there was more to do, more that I am meant for.  When that feeling would come up and I would act on it though, it would cause me personal problems that would quickly rob my energy and put me back in my place. Being that I am happy with simplicity most of the time, it was easy to convince myself that the happy hour menu was where I belonged…cheaper prices, fewer options and so very safe.

  2. The only one focused on me is me.

    This thought works to alleviate the stress I feel when I believe that eyes are on me.  Most of the time, people are doing what they need to do for themselves, and I am a very small part of their picture.  This realization has also helped me to embrace the challenge of making my dreams come true myself.  I don’t have to wait for someone else to validate or give the stamp of approval on my plan.  That’s one of the cool things about the entrepreneurial mindset…I’m the only one who has to have my vision, no one is stopping me from putting it out there. Frankly, I need to be tough enough to put it out on my own, without someone in front of me telling me it’s good or it’s ok.  

In a few hours, I’m getting on a plane to travel to p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings’s Inaugural event that is Beach Volleyball, Health and Wellness and Music all in one spot.  Sounds like heaven to me.  I’m going to connect and talk with people who you may have never heard of, but who have risen to the tøp of their field or game.  As always, I want to learn from them and share pieces of their wisdom that every generation can learn from when they are ready.  Life in so many ways boils down to small choices and what I have figured out is that it’s not about being famous, it’s about making your mark in a positive way in the world, big or small. I want to tell the stories of the people you think you already know, the ones you have never heard of and anyone in between. Anyone living their dream with passion is so inspiring to me, whether you sell books, make movies or serve coffee to strangers with a smile.

So often it’s the little things we do everyday that add up to the big results.  I have always believed this, but that belief caused me to be very hard on myself and rob me of the energy it takes to create flow in my life…I understand now, grind is not flow.  Small choices are easy, today I will take them one at a time, not take myself too seriously and have fun. 

Hope you find your flow today…

Let it go

Healing…its a concept that I have always understood, but almost from an outsiders perspective.  From the time I was young, I have attracted scenarios in my life where I could provide some type of relief with my words.  Because I am so sensitive to other people’s vibes, I now understand I have to choose what to react to. My intuition creates scenarios, especially with my own kids, where I have to decide, 

“is this something I should address or let them 

figure out on their own?”  

In past relationships, I was overbearing, because I was attached to a certain outcome that I was absolutely determined to achieve. Today I believe that to attach to a certain outcome, rather than to stay present (the best way I have discovered to beat back fear and overthinking) and let the outcome of any situation reveal itself organically, is what creates a free flow of creativity and, the autonomy that we all need to create our best life. When I operate in this zone, I suddenly feel like I am strong enough to handle what comes my way, my confidence rises and success becomes more tangible in my life. 

I realized something though, as I was talking to my friend Sarah this morning.  Sarah and I have been close friends for 20 years, a concept that frankly blows my mind.  We have traveled the world together and have always found comfort and common ground in our no nonsense approach to life.  We see the world from a very similar lens and, I would say, that she is one of the toughest, most competent people I have ever met.  To put it simply, I have always been drawn to her strength, and yet we have always been able to be the people we want to be, and be completely at ease in our relationship at the same time.  I think there is a certain point in life where you realize that relationships like this are the gold standard. That trusted inner circle where you are your most genuine, and yet also striving to be your best self, without judgement, guilt or reservation, are the relationships that I treasure most in life. It’s a magical spot between acceptance and self improvement where success is born. From this conversation this morning, I understood more clearly that I have developed my strength to be able to handle my sensitivity.  

Because of my mind/body/spirit connection, I dove into 200 hour power yoga teacher training after my own yoga practice produced healing effects in my own heart and mind.  I have believed theoretically for some time in our body’s ability to store emotional pain as physical pain.  Things like tight muscles and food cravings, for example, I believe can be tied to emotional experiences and traumas we haven’t let go of.  Hippie talk for some, and a departure from my earlier days of bear down, ignore it and just get it done. What I know from experience though, is that my work ethic hasn’t changed, but the more I open my mind and soul to my own healing, the higher my energy level becomes, to the point that what used to take grind, now comes much more effortlessly.  

Last Sunday, as I was finishing up a long day of teacher training, we were learning to do adjustments and practice teaching and my theory of emotional pain in the body became real for me on my mat. As Natasha, our most inspired owner/teacher/sage at Soho Yoga came over to me to adjust my supine twist, (knowing her levels of sensitivity she knew exactly what she was doing when she got to me) and placed her hand on my tøp hip, stretching it to release.  When she did this, a lot more than just fascia was released. In a moments time, and before I could even sense it coming, a well of emotion sprang up in me and, as my lip began to quiver, one whisper of

“let it go,”

I did…and I couldn’t stop crying. I have so much to work through in my own body and heart space, but instead of that being a fearful endeavor, it’s a welcomed journey for me that is both unique and universal.  I’m comfortable today knowing that this type of journey isn’t for everyone, but, I also know that the people I am inclined to surround myself with are on a healing path.  Our stories are distinct, but often their roots are similar. Sometimes we have to be uprooted, and planted in a different soil, to create our most productive harvest. My outsiders perspective on healing is no longer, it’s a inside job, rooted in both strength and sensitivity and cultivated by gratitude and connection…and it’s bounty has yet to be realized.  


The Changing Tide

To know me is to know that I am often having a conversation with myself in my own head.  Maybe that’s why I like being alone, my thoughts and I really do have a good time together.  I have a conversation going these days about how its ok to be a late bloomer…because that’s what I’ve been calling myself a lot lately.  I’ve said it before, but there are parts of me that feel 22 and parts that feel 55.  I love the wisdom that comes with age but I know I’m not the first one to think, “I wish I could keep my 43 year old brain and have my 22 year old body.”  That sentiment is ringing true when it comes to the sports I still like to play as much, if not more, than when I was younger.  My 43 year old mentality is so much better for sports, it knows how to grind, is far less timid, incorporates my mind into my game, pushes through pain and let things go quickly.  My mature self plays for my own love of the game, not for any accolade or because of any expectation put on me.  Endorphins, friendship, stress relief, fitness…each one is enough to get me moving and make volleyball, swimming or yoga a part of any day. I don’t need a bigger stage or reason, and the thought of not being able to do these things makes me scared. 


Injuries are part of sports, but in the last year they have caused me to modify my schedule, have knee surgery, and listen to my body…and I can’t say that I haven’t fought it. My sage of a yoga teacher Jeri told us one day in class that ailments in our bodies are meant to slow us down and take inventory…that thought gave me a good cry because like almost everything I encounter in sports, it has a life meaning as well.  Slow down and feel it is what she was saying.  Man, sometimes that is so hard. The good part about my injuries (besides making it much easier to pass the anatomy portion of my yoga certification because I have spent enough time with my own aches and pains and figuring out where they stem from) is the people that I have met who do a great job holding me together.  From my yoga teachers, to my soft tissue guy Frank at The Center, (who jokingly calls himself my enabler, which is not too far from the truth) and movement guru Cynthia at The Center for Movement & Fluency, who I met when she worked some of her magic on my youngest, Matthew, that then spilled over to me, these people have become my friends and partners in keeping me moving in the way I love and I couldn’t be more grateful.  They understand the importance of the mind body connection…some people use shopping for therapy, I forgo that and go straight to these guys.  I’m inspired by their continual learning and desire to get better at what they do, and, I like to challenge them with my high arches, lack of dorsiflexion in my feet and ability to compensate in some pretty unhealthy ways!  

I’ve been around long enough to know that we teach what we know…it happens whether purposefully or not.  Having kids grow up active and learn how to be healthy and take care of the bodies they have been given is so important to me. Learning how to compete, be coached without defensiveness, be a good teammate and be mentally tough in tight moments are all things that I have learned (and am still working on) from playing sports that have given me wisdom, joy and some amazing relationships and, because of these experiences, I am better equipped to pass these lessons on to them. My body will tell me how long the mix of activities gets to stay the same, but life has taught me, I’m adaptable…so I’m going to keep getting better in some way, on and off the court, and we’ll see where we go from there. 

Renegade Leader

Senator John McCain - Picture: wikicommons/flickr

Senator John McCain - Picture: wikicommons/flickr

In so many ways, I am typical to the scene around me.  If you look at me, I dress the same, eat the same, and workout the same as the collective of people in my geographic area. As human beings we tend to try and fit in, to match our surroundings,  we are consciously and unconsciously influenced by our experiences that are most often with people more like us.  I find myself running in circles of volleyball moms, moms of teenagers, people of above average financial means living in one of the most expensive areas of the country to live. But, I am self reflective, and find myself drawn to independent spirits who aren’t afraid to buck the status quo. My creative mind has always been there with ideas and theories that weren’t always mainstream, but, up until now, I just haven’t had the courage to act on them. What this has taught me is that when our thoughts and our actions don’t line up, it creates discontent in our hearts. Over some time, I have learned to identify the feeling of discontent and wrestle with it in a way that somehow shows me new opportunity and teaches me to fight off cynicism with action. I’ve learned that to become something different than one who just accepts and runs with the pack, we have to challenge our beliefs, and critically think and ask why about 100 times a day.  What do I really think? Is it worth breaking the mold? Who do I trust for advice? What will the feedback be, what motivates that feedback and how much will I let it influence my thoughts and choices?  Each of us gets to answer those questions based on our own unique experience, there is not one right answer, but there is a feeling of contentment that comes when we get the answer right for ourselves. As humans, we want a tribe, we want to be part of a collective, but we also each have a burning desire to stand out, to let the world know what we are about. That takes courage and a decision to find where our “happy medium” is that creates the most life satisfaction and impact in our own life and for the world. It's not a balance that is easy to strike. 

 

I had the great honor last weekend to attend the Memorial Service for US Senator John MCain at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. To say that standing with a crowd of thousands, tears streaming, with that incredible backdrop, and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic is a moment in my life that I will never forget is an understatement.  I had the opportunity to be there because of the legacy of leadership and hard work that came before and beside me.  I was raised in a quietly patriotic family where the example was set not as much by the words spoken but by the actions taken. From the time I was seven until I was 20 my dad served in the California State Assembly and as California Secretary of State.  He taught my sister and I, through his example, how to lead with virtue and humility and he attracted the friendship of other leaders with similar values throughout his career.  One of the greatest among these was Senator McCain.  My sister went on to work on both his 2000 and 2008 Presidential Campaigns, as well as serve in his Press office on Capitol Hill, and over those years and through countless hours of intense work, she built a strong bond with one of the greatest leaders of this century. When he passed away on August 25, as a country, we mourned the loss of a great American hero, but my parents and sister mourned the loss of a friend with whom they shared pivotal moments of American history that are part of the fabric of our country and had great impacts on my family. When she texted Wednesday night asking me if I wanted to join her at his memorial service in Washington D.C.,  there was no hesitation in my answer. 

Reflecting on what I took in there has been a challenge, there is so much depth and connection and so many spot on words spoken so eloquently by leaders on the world stage and those who shared their days with Senator McCain.  What was communicated in the tributes given by Senator McCain’s daughter Meghan, his close friend Senator Joe Lieberman, Secretary Kissinger, President Bush & President Obama was a moving oratory of the roles played in a lifetime, that no matter the action necessary to fulfill the role, it was evident through their words that Senator McCain played each role true to his character. Their words spoke to the effect his leadership played on a world stage and in the life of a family.  I began to think what an honor it is for a single life to have significant impact on both a micro and macro level.  To leave the world better off because you were there, as well as the individuals that you share life with stronger in their own position takes takes consistency of values forged under pressure over a lifetime.  Some may say that its easier because he was a Senator, or was born into a position of privilege, having had generations of leaders in his family come before him but no matter our position in life, everyday, we are all creating a legacy.  What we do matters to the next generation, just as the generations that came before John McCain influenced the decisions and habits that created a great American hero. The people who helped shape him, influenced a man that who spent over 5 years being tortured as prisoner of war, and then in that same lifetime work to restore normalized relations with that same country. They helped shape the mentality of a warrior who understood forgiveness and the importance of dodging a cynical outlook on life as key factors in a life well lived. His life helped us see that the life choices we make are bigger than us…they have far reaching impacts on the character of the generation that comes after us.  We choose whether to carry this fact as a burden or an honor.  The greats, the ones who leave their imprint on our history, accept the challenge and stand their ground with honor.  They shake up the status quo with their radical way of thinking  and they show us how to live with courage, conviction and confidence…thank you for the example Senator McCain. You left your mark on the world, on my family, and even with all of the power you held on the world stage, most importantly on your own family and for that, we are forever grateful.  

 

Girl Power

Dinner at home…I’ll take it pretty much anytime over a crowded restaurant.  Add great company and a fabulously prepared Italian meal and you’ve got the recipe for an amazing evening.  I had the best time spending last night in exactly that place, celebrating my friend Terri’s 50th birthday with my 6 Man team.  Terri is the “founder”, the one who rallies the troops every year, gets us going on the costume and holds the tradition together.  I was lucky enough to find my way on to this team 8 years ago, and have been blessed by this amazing group of women ever since.  The chef of this amazing meal was my dear friend and favorite beach partner Vanessa, her gift of hospitality overflows in her kitchen.  I think she ran a bed and breakfast in Tuscany in her past life.  

The evolution of girl power that I got to enjoy last night is a lesson in why the journey of life is such a gift.  Between us we have 16 kids, own businesses, some of us have husbands at home, some are single moms, have survived cancer, have put kids through college, provide healthcare in some of LA’s tenderest spots where love, advice and support are equally if not more necessary than medical care, have been shaped by the medical conditions of our children, have lived on different continents, taught generations of students, and driven a million miles to ASC, StubHub and beaches beyond the South Bay to support our kids and a sport that we all love.  The accomplishments are endless and that is just the short list. 

The cool thing about sitting around a table like that is that I could feel the evolution, the raw support that comes from a group that has been there. You can look across the table and feel it coming from any single one of their eyes.  I remember being in my late 20’s, maybe barely 30 and having people tell me, just wait until you turn 40…that’s when the *$%* really hits the fan…and around that table, you could say that we have each experienced that in a real way. But what is produced in by the battle testing flames of exposure are women who get it. There was no gossip, no fanfare just laughter and realness mixed in with a dance party that featured everything from Chaka Khan to 50 cent.  I couldn’t help but think as Vanessa’s teenage daughters hung with us, helping serve dinner and learning the grace of life from their amazing mom…this is what you have to look forward to girls, enjoy every minute…but life on this side is looking good tonight.

Finding Calm

Life is moving pretty fast these days…all four of them are in full swing, we’ve had first days of school, a concussion, volleyball tryouts, football games, videos to make, and as I try to do these days…zen out and try to find the calm.  

 

Eeerily, when I think of moments of calm in my life, one of them is attached to what still is the scariest day of my life…Sept 6, 2009.  Every year since, I write something about it.  I talk about water safety…never leave a child unattended around water, not ever, even for a minute. I reflect on the horror of pulling Matthew out of the pool and the moments after when we were waiting for the first responders to arrive.  My mind goes to the day after this horrible accident when we got to bring him home from the hospital, never having been admitted to ICU, where most near drownings go, never fully recover and then even got to get him up for preschool the day after he returned home.  Had we not said something, the teachers never would have known the miraculous reality of that Labor Day Weekend.  

 

Although I have relived that day over and over in my mind a thousand times and know that I received the gift of my faith that day.  Up to that point, I felt unworthy and untested.  I believed, but in a way that was almost obligatory because it was what I had been taught (which I am immensely grateful for) and, because I had been blessed in life to that point, it just seemed ungrateful to question.  But as I knelt on the red brick driveway in my yellow bathing suit, praying out loud and not caring who heard me, the calm that came over me in the worst moment of my life was a feeling I will never forget.  It gave me the strength to go and tell my other kids that no matter what happened we were going to be ok, and I actually meant it.  My heart breaks to this day for other people who were in my same shoes who didn’t have the miraculous outcome that we did. I have been wrestled with guilt over that through the years.  These days I know though that lessons can be learned without the guilt, and my energy is better spent being present, finding the calm in the moment and honoring his survival by being the best version of myself.  He reminds me everyday that I am enough, despite my shortcomings and even almost near failure as a parent.  He inspires me to keep working, even when things are hard, because they are hard for him everyday and it’s the best way I can teach him to overcome that fact.  We learn and grow mosts from the tests that life gives us…and I study every day for the next one because there are no guarantees when we are going to get a pop quiz.  

 

Thanks again for all you teach me Bubs! So happy to be able to do life with your mystic soul.  

 

Let Them Be Little

When I started The Optimists Journal, writing was just beginning to be a tool for me to cut through generational pain. Piecing together memories and examining my life so I could figure out how I got to the present day  felt like gutting a fish, a memory from Huntington Lake as a child that I won’t ever forget. Turns out, I am not much of a fisherman, but I am a healer.  A healer of myself, a helping hand in other people’s healing, and, most hopefully, a healer for my children in this garden of life that grows some pretty good weed patches that need to be cleared to be able to bring in the harvest. 

Tonight,  I rolled in from a long and beautifully connected day at yoga teacher training, I had one teenager I was trying to locate and another doing a back to school AP Chemistry packet with his friend, laughing and eating candy in my kitchen as they worked.  I wrestled through a tough situation with Matthew, my 11 year old, that is breaking my heart, trying to help him find his voice, speak his opinion calmly, and still be ok no matter the outcome of the situation.  As moms, we get so good at thinking on our feet, multiple topics and conversations shooting past us in every direction. In my best moments, I can create a 3-D picture out of the myriad of topics running through the house, make it all relate, and capture one or two lessons that we can all learn from…I live for moments like that. So much so, that I have been given the nickname this summer of Zen Mom and Mother of Wisdom (from kids who aren’t mine) and making my 16 year old roll his eyes and plead with his friends, don’t tell her that (all in good fun, he’s a kind heart for sure).  

Tonight I was feeling that level of healing power after the Sound Bath at Soho Yoga…yes, LA is a place where I have learned strange new things, adding to the Zen Mom nickname and causing my 13 year old to compare me to the grandma in Moana. Everything was connecting, even in the chaos of this Sunday evening.  When Matthew asked me to read him a story before bed after ten o' clock, nothing sounded better. My older three are readers, so I have always  kept trying with him, even though he has yet to take to reading as a legitimate pastime.  We have a stack of books that have been our favorites since he was 5, with very little evolution of the list…one of the hallmarks of the sometimes maddening, sometimes comforting, life on the spectrum. Tonight it was the later because I still got to cuddle and read children’s books for just a little longer (cue the song by Lonestar, "Let Them Be Little" that gave me a good cry before I went to bed). There are many challenges raising Matthew, emotional regulation, social skills and making friends, anxiety, teaching optimism, (which doesn't seem to be his usual mindset choice) to name just a few, but there is a beauty in his simplicity and love for routine that we connect on, and reading the same stack of books is part of that process. He pulled Olivia out of his pile, and as we read the story that he could easily read, if not recite on his own, I realized what he needed from me in those moments. Routine, closeness and laughter…he hasn’t graduated to Harry Potter or even Wonder, among the favorites that I used to read to his sister. But tonight I found myself full of gratitude that I still get to lie in bed and read Olivia, all cuddled up and laughing together about her “moving the cat” to a kid who, based on his age and some of the thoughts in his head that loom so large and serious, should be far past this simple children’s story. Some of the richest things in life can be captured in the simplest moments and as I finished the story, I realized again that the universe had aligned, picking the right book on the right night.

”You know, you really wear me out, But I love you anyway.” - Olivia by Ian Falconer

As I close my computer after midnight because I have to get these moments down, I couldn’t be more grateful for the simple things that have the ability to cut through some of the pain that life creates…routine, closeness and laughter. I hope you find some of these in your day today.

The Strength In Surrender

I’m not sure when I broke through, but I realized it after Yin yoga on Sunday night. After an all day session of teacher training that started with a heated 75 minute Power Flow, Yin did what it does to me most of the time…it put me to sleep.  As I lay there folded over on my blocks in Deer pose, I was dreaming that I was going to be called on for a answer that I couldn’t give, because I was asleep! Besides the sleep being so dreamy and appreciated, I realized, as we talked through the sequence after class with the teacher (another part of teacher training), that I have turned a corner in my life and truly know how to surrender…once again bringing the near daily tears to my eyes. 

Surrender doesn’t happen because everything is exactly how I want it or because I have some checklist that has finally been attained. It’s definitely not because I’ve somehow become immune to challenging, or worse, harmful things happening to me or the people I love, something this life will never assure us.  That fearful feeling of something dreadful happening was what brought me so much anxiety for many years after Matthew’s near drowning accident.  For so long, I would have a burst of fear that would make me leap from my seat and go to find my kids to see that everything was ok. That feeling was usually not instigated by any major event, but rather an unexplained and irrational shock up my spine that annoyed people around me and probably made me look a bit crazy. It's taken a lot of work and strength over time to be able to release from that feeling but it has giving me so much freedom to choose and work to create a life that I see for myself. Anxiety is paralyzing, surrender is freedom. 

These days though, my energy and focus is going into pursuing both what I love and what challenges me, and I have high hopes that what it produces overflows for the people around me. I attribute this higher energy in large part to this ability to surrender and not waste time on things that are out of my control. I’m trying to define what I have learned that has changed my mindset and, as usual, it can be easily stated, even if not entirely simple to follow.

1. Make choices for what I want to happen, rather than what I am trying to avoid. 

    Putting my energy into creating what I want to happen leaves a lot less time to think about the pitfalls that life may offer.  When my energy shifted to creating my vision, and fear became more of a motivating factor than something to avoid, calm was much easier to find. For me surrender to the unknown comes both from faith and through the practicality of the work to create and foster what we already know we want, but just haven’t attained yet.  Ambition, with a good plan behind it, curbs the fear of the unknown because all the sudden, the unknown becomes exciting instead of scary..the promise of potential.  Hard work covers what it needs to to achieve, and faith gets to handle what is outside of my control (and as a mom, that feels like a lot of things!) 

2. Have the confidence to bet on myself, unattached from others judgements or thoughts. 

This week I made my one woman show a party of two and hired someone to help with with the technical parts of web design and social media that are not my forte (thanks Abe!).  I want to use my talents, and since time is a finite issue, I now get to shift the weight of the tasks that were slowing me down to him, and do more of what appeals to me.  His expertise also pushes me to do things that spread my reach but that I'm not necessarily comfortable with yet (ahh!! cameras!). In making this decision there were competing opinions and plenty of self doubt, but in the end, I’m betting on myself to succeed and that comes with the ability to surrender to the possibility of failure. I’m not risking the roof over our heads or food on the table, but learning to believe in my own potential rather than the voice of self doubt or the doubts of others is a big step towards any successful venture. The great thing about a growth mindset though is that failure becomes less of a focus when we we realize that there really is no failure, just lessons to learn, and if we keep learning, our potential is limitless. 

 3. Learn to use my voice, not just my written words.  The more it comes out loud, the less scared it sounds...but man did it sound scared on FB Live this morning! It's ok..I'm going with it. Putting my voice behind my ever percolating thoughts out into the universe is scarier than writing and I had no idea it would make me so emotional! I've got a lot of old patterns to challenge, but my belief that we have so much to learn between generations is greater than my fear.  Connecting those generations of people, whether they be friends, family or in the athletic or creative world is my purpose. And having a purpose is like coming home complete to flowers and a fireplace.  

I got to use my voice on Tuesday and had so much fun interviewing two AVP athletes about their ride at the Manhattan Beach Open…the “game of life” is always fascinating and getting to be part of generational storytelling live is right up my alley. You can catch my first interviews on The Optimist Journal Facebook Page. 

So today I surrender, to my lack of control, to what other people think, to the judgement that lies around every corner.  We aren’t here to live other peoples lives and when we try, the comparison or lack of understanding between us is a sure happiness killer. I am here to connect and tell stories, to surrender and to look for the commonality in all of us.  Be confident and surrender to the unknown,  define your process and see where it takes you...amazing stories and real connections are right behind that. 

 

The Myth of Perfection

 

As a sports fan, I read my fair share of sporting news, mostly in short spurts as I make my way through the day. I love sports for what they can teach us, how they bond us in community, and even for what they help us escape for just a little while.  I am forever a fan of the underdog, the humble warrior, and the life lessons that come from the work put in in the hours before the spectators and fans are a part of the game.  No matter the sport, who wins and loses is less important to me than the story behind the athlete or team that is in the battle.  The Players Tribune, an online media platform where the athletes write stories about their life experiences and what they learn from them, is one of my favorites places to get to the story behind the story.  If you are a sports fan, a life lesson fan, or just a fan of good writing, check them out and prepare to be inspired.

I’ve probably mentioned before that one of my biggest struggles in writing is believing that i have a story worth telling. From the time I was a kid, I have had (for lack of a better word) a ‘guilt complex’ because I was born in California to two loving parents, with a roof over my head and people to love who love me back. Success on this paved road that I have walked my entire life is easier than for those that walk a narrow dirt path on the edge of the mountain or a congested highway full of potholes. Knowing this, I have felt less than inclined to speak up. My life certainly hasn’t been without struggle, but to keep it in perspective, my struggles pale in comparison to so many other life experiences out there. In working through my perspective on this, and becoming braver with my voice, I’ve come to understand that all I can do is honor my God given talents with hard work, look for where I can be of service to others, and be real in working on my weaknesses. I know now that just because I have been abundantly blessed, perfection is not a mandate, and striving, learning and authenticity is at the heart of the good life.  

As I read an article from NBC Sports about one of my favorite athletes, Kerri Walsh Jennings, the other day, telling her story of her quest for Tokyo 2020, impending retirement, and her new volleyball/music/health and wellness movement, P1440, chills rose on my arms when I read this quote:

“It’s so liberating when your weaknesses are exposed, when you live your worst nightmare and survive.” -Kerri Walsh Jennings

Here, one of the world’s greatest athletes is getting to the heart of the struggle to be real in this world.  No matter the work we put in, or the talents and circumstances we are blessed with, we all have weaknesses and things we can work to improve.  Our stories are not for comparison, but they are there for inspiration and learning from one another.  Only when our weaknesses are exposed are we liberated to do the work to improve.  When we are hiding our weakness from the world, too much time and effort goes into concealing instead of improving, not to mention the harm we can do to ourselves and others when we can’t come to terms with the realities of our own struggle. Our world becomes smaller and sadly, so does our impact to do good in a world that really needs us. I've learned this firsthand walking the road of Matthew's developmental struggles and most recently coming to terms with the effects of my split family. There is so much greatness though when we are vulnerable enough to show weakness, we find our tribe…the people who see our beauty within our struggle. They are there to collaborate, support, love, and provide inspiration for the journey. 

Once again, the game of life doing what it does for me, wrapping up universal truth in competition and entertainment. The challenge…be real, struggles and all, the naysayers will still be there to strengthen our resolve but the tribe we discover when we are real is worth it’s weight in gold

 

Thanks for the Memories

Memories are both the keys to our past and the pavers of the bridge to our future. What we are able to tuck away can both sustain us and teach us because they give us reason to celebrate and chances to learn. They are exclusively our own, even if they are contested by someone else, my advice, don’t sweat it, let them have theirs,  yours belong only to you. 

The yogi’s say we store our memories in our hips, sounds strange to anyone who hasn’t practiced, but I can attest to some crazy stories popping into my head on my mat that I didn’t even know were there.  There are a lot of them, considering that one of my firsts predates my second birthday.  Most wouldn’t believe it, but I can still smell the fence that I used to rub my nose against, as I roamed the backyard early in the morning. My mom thought I was looking to see if the neighbors were awake yet and maybe we could go over, but I just remember the smell of the sweet, woody fence, and the feeling of having small splinters in the end of my nose. Interesting to me that neuroscience tells us that the sense of smell is closely linked to forming memories. Based on my experience, I'd buy it. 

Yesterday though, my memory brought me back to the Starbucks drive through line at Palm and Herndon in Fresno, babies in the back seat, trying to make it to nap time and feeling like life with little ones would never give way to me accomplishing anything else.  As I pulled up to the window to grab my coffee, I realized that my mind had wandered so far away, I hadn’t even ordered the cup of coffee when I had the chance. Thankfully, without a complicated order, the girl took pity on me and I got my coffee anyway. Yep, tired with little ones, especially once you have four and are worried because the last one isn’t quite showing the signs of development that were typical to the first three, is a special kind of tired.  Physical tiredness is a given, but mental and emotional fatigue is so much harder to carry…and tougher to beat back with a cup of coffee. 

Stories can be so simple but they build on each other to create such beauty in life.  Tonight I sit on my new patio, a little Florida Georgia Line on my speaker and drinking my big jug of water as I write.  My kids all went down to the water to swim, they don’t need me to watch them, but just a few doors down is a group of moms, kids driving battery powered cars, moms with glasses of red wine in hand, just braving the witching hour together as the inevitable fighting and tears come like they always do this time of day…community in one of its greatest forms.  I was just one of them, practically yesterday, and those moms who got me through those days, where 4pm to 8pm felt longer than the other 20 hours, still bring tears to my eyes.  When I was in it, it was both amazing and hard.  When I was in it, I could never imagine a day that didn’t look like sippy cups (with ice), car seats that were probably not tethered properly, and where’s your shoes, (ok, we still have trouble with that one).  When I was in it, there was never a thought of being able to do anything else but handle their growth, which actually wasn’t true, I just didn’t realize the full extent of what I was carrying back then.  And then it was over.

Don’t get me wrong, I have an 11 year old that challenges me every day in the ways of maximizing development, and teenagers who aren’t  even close to done being guided along this path of life, but it’s just different. With little ones, their development is simple but critical.  As an intutive, I’m not a fan of the use of control, but those hard and fast rules in the early years, give way to a beautiful, trusting relationship as the years go on. The grind you put in and the boundaries you set the first five years are the backbone for what lies ahead. To use another "yogi -ism",

"strong spine strong mind."

As my crew came back from the water, I saw some of this beautiful independence earned through those early years of boundaries shining through. My new home filled with teenagers, trying to shock me as they decided which “Cards of Humanity” they could show me and which ones they shouldn’t. It’s ok, be shocked, I’ve never played the game, and not planning on it…it’s not my brand of humor. But, as they baked cookies, played the piano and learned to play with yoyo’s they had ordered on Amazon, that intuition I was speaking of kicked in and told me that we are all going to be ok, at least for tonight. And these days, that is the best feeling I ever have.

A Centenarian's Happy Hour

The more I write, the more my brain connects with the universal truths that bring together this incredible human experiment.  In less than one weeks time, I have been able to share significant experiences with people that I vibe with that span every decade of life.  I’m feeling grateful today for the opportunity I have to go from the Six Man in Manhattan Beach to happy hour with a centenarian in just a few days time. I talk a lot about the care I take and satisfaction I find raising my kids, who span just a seven year age range from 18 to 11, but today I’m thinking about what makes life great in the decades after we become independent adults, and how what we learn and pass on forms the generations that come after us. 

Tonight I had the privilege to be invited to “happy hour” with an incredible 100 year old man, Jack.  I’ve written about Jack and his wife before…six kids and 24 grandkids, a generational family business, and so much in common with the way I was raised, and the history that connects us and forms the people that we are. 

For a little backstory on Jack click here: 

https://theoptimistsjournal.com/blog-2/2018/8/8/a-centenarians-happy-hour

It’s amazing to take in the energy, flair and competence that goes into an almost 70 year marriage and the stories that go along with it. Their vibrance at 100 and 90 respectively has such an effect on my outlook, as I sit at 43, afraid that I have so much left to learn and do, and not enough life left to accomplish it.  They have the ability to take life at a pace that is both awe inspiring for people their age, and yet so comfortable that I felt at home letting them be the hosts, never feeling like my presence was a burden…what a blessing to be a part of.  

This morning I sit, finding clarity in the attributes and mindsets that connect the human spirit across these generations that I am fortunate to have in my life.  People who help shape me into the person that I am…one that can navigate the 405, while listening to George Strait, talk California history with the greats and analyze both my potential and my missteps and how to evolve.  I am so grateful for the people in my life that help me find peace with my past, enjoyment in the present, and hope for the future.  As I like to do, boiling these truths down into simple words, today I am paying attention to the attributes that create driven contentment in this crazy world. 

Observance - Greatness seems to be born first in the ability to observe others.  The people I am most drawn to are not usually the loudest in the room, they are actually the ones who, although not afraid to contribute, often sit back, take things in, and quietly learn from human behavior. From that place we develop a keen understanding of when to act but also how to improve ourselves. What we learn from observance of others, not always having to be the one at the forefront with our own story, and acknowledging that there is both time to learn and teach, is a hallmark of success over generations and time. 

Passion - Beginning with advice from my dad and progressing to my observance of human condition over my life, the presence of passion is critical to a life well lived.  We are all capable of finding what makes us excited to get up in the morning, but that doesn’t mean that we all do. Our passions can evolve and change over a lifetime, but without one, life is shorter, smaller and offers less to the world than what we were meant for.  We only get one go around, and the greats use their passion to define their purpose and inspire others to do the same.

Routine - I am so grateful that I have a personality that finds satisfaction in routine. Routine creates consistency in small things over time that build to great success.  Routine is inspiring to me because, so often today, we are looking for big results from lesser amounts of discipline and action.  Instant gratification, born of the thousands of choices that are readily available to us at the drop of a hat, does not lend itself to the type of long standing success that comes from good habits. Routine itself is not something that is acknowledged or gratified in the moment, but as time goes on, the rise to greatness is always grounded in consistency.  From the athletes I observe honing their craft in the South Bay to the 100 year old who’s answer last night to the question “What are you going to do tomorrow?” was “the same thing I did today”, routine is an integral part of creating and sustaining greatness in every season of life.

Relationships - Over time, relationships are perhaps the most important marker of a life well lived.  Caring for people, forming authentic connections, understanding a perspective that is different than our own and allowing it to have an effect on us, is something that requires a lot of intimacy and sacrifice.  So often, our defense mechanisms and egos will push us away from developing these types of deep relationships, but the greats, over time, seem to know the meaning of this connection. 

The level of care that I observed in the room last night, both spoken and unspoken, (at what will now be called “The Centenarian’s Happy Hour”) is something that I strive to emulate in my life and also look to have returned.  When relationships have mutual benefit, human potential that was good before becomes great. 

Memories - The longevity of memory, and how we keep those memories alive, was something that really struck me throughout the conversation last night.  To listen to people who can speak firsthand of huge stories like the day Martin Luther King was assassinated to the personal and vivid stories of raising children who are older than me, inspires me to keep my brain vibrant and alive.  People who connect to their past and can learn from the perspective it provides, lead rich lives and offer so much to younger generations, if we take the time to listen. Part of what I hope to achieve through my writing, which was reinforced by my friends last night, is the importance of telling our stories. In doing this, we teach younger generations the great connections we all share, why we attract what we do and how we are meant to live in community, strengthening each other.  

As I finish my thoughts, that have been dancing in my head since I got home last night, taking in the scene at Pleasure Point in Santa Cruz, where Matthew is having the surf lesson he has been asking for the last year, my two middle kids kayaking with the their closest childhood friends, and my oldest, who held the crew together until I could get here to enjoy,  is independent enough to return home on her own, I realize that the brief few days we have had to spend together, without agenda or hectic life schedule, has been marked by all these qualities.  Observance of greatness, passion for our active lifestyle and simple routine (thanks for the pancakes and bacon as always Sarah!), relationships span 20+ years and mean so much, and memories that we will carry with us forever, I am again overwhelmed with gratitude for the life and opportunities that lay before me…and hoping that I get the opportunity to host a Centenarian’s Happy Hour someday.