Archive | April 2012

i found my voice. are you willing to share yours?

Everyone experiences life in a way that makes us feel unique.  We are sure our hardships are harder, our joys more joyous, our pain more painful, than anyone else.  We are so embarrassed by our mistakes (or more often it seems, the mistakes of our partners), that we don’t talk about it.  Don’t share it with anyone else. We silence our voice.

We don’t realize our hardships prepare us to comfort others who are going through similar trials.

I have a friend who is the epitome of Sorority Girl.  She’s beautiful, talented and popular.  To the outside world, it looks like she has the perfect life.

subcutaneous abdomen injection for infertility treatment

I remember the day she confided in me that she and her husband were going through infertility treatment.  Hormone shots, acupuncture, meditation.  Miscarriages, failed treatments.

For women who get pregnant easily, her story is inconceivable.  Her confidences came after I shared my own infertility issues.  It took several years to conceive Sweetness.  I was in law school at the time, and the stress of infertility tests combined with law school exams was more than I could take.

I’m one of the lucky ones.  Sweetness came along in her own good time, and she’s been moving along on her own sweet time ever since.

My friend and her husband eventually conceived as well.  They have a beautiful little boy now.

young woman suffering from postpartum depression

After his birth, my friend endured the worst case of postpartum depression (PPD) I’ve ever seen.  She bravely chose to seek treatment.  She left her husband and the son she’d waited for, wanted, dreamt of for so long, because she knew she couldn’t stay and get well.

Thanks to successful treatment and doctors who got it, thanks to her braveness in standing up and admitting she had a problem and needed treatment, she saved herself.

As quiet as she was about infertility, she now proudly uses her voice to reach out to other women suffering from PPD.

Everyone has a story.  As much as we want to think we are unique, we really aren’t.

While we are going through hardship and misery, we don’t have the energy or desire to seek out someone to help us.

After we’re through the storm, we have a choice.  Keep silent.  Or use our voice to help someone else.

What’s your story?  If you’re like most of us, you have many stories to share.  Each story represents someone you can help.  Because you survived.  You’re on the other side.

lighthouse beacon shining in the distance

The question is:  Are you brave enough to share it?  Will you use your story to help someone else?  Will you stand tall and be a beacon, a bright light in the darkness, to lead others through the rocky waters of life?

If you are brave enough to share your story, you will always find someone who needs to hear it.  Your story may not resonate with everyone, but it will resonate with someone.

Whether your story reaches the masses, or just one or two people, you will make a difference in someone’s life.  But only if you are brave enough to let your voice be heard.

This blog is my voice.  It tells my story of forgiveness, my search for balance.  It shares my struggle with heartache and my search for a new soulmate.  I hope I tell it with grace and humor.  I hope my healing brings comfort to someone else.

Question:  Are you willing to use your voice to comfort someone else? Have you been comforted by someone else who is willing to share their story?

review: you are a writer (so start acting like one)

I am a voracious reader.  I’ve read thousands of books.  A few times in my life, I’ve found a book that changed my life. Jeff Goins’ You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) falls into that category of “life changing.”  It is a rally cry to fulfill your destiny.  And a map to guide you once you submit to the adventure.

Jeff starts with a very basic premise.   “You are a writer.  You just need to write”.  So, write.  No excuses.  No second guessing.  Just sit down and write.

Jeff reminds us that every day a writer is born.  She is given words to share, words to change the world.  But not every writer fulfills her destiny.  They let fear and uncertainty stand in the way of sharing their message.  They fail to leave their legacy.

The world needs our words.  Needs our message.  It’s what we were born to do.  So how do we get there?  How do we fulfill our destiny?

Believe you already are what you want to be.  And then start acting like it.”

After rallying us to do what we were born to do, Jeff then takes us through the rest of the tools to becoming a successful writer:  a platform to share your work; a brand to build trust and channels to distribute your art.

I’ve been a writer since I picked up my first number two pencil.  I was a bright child who always finished her work before her classmates. In third grade, my insightful teacher let me use my spare time to write a play, a musical about bunnies.  Then she let me direct my classmates who performed my little play for the rest of the third graders.

This year, my lifelong compulsion to share my words became so strong, I started this blog.

I wonder how much further along on my writing journey I’d be if I’d had Jeff’s book twenty years ago.  If I’d had someone like Jeff around when I was an eight year old scribbling about singing bunnies.

It’s about falling back in love with your craft and building a platform, so you don’t have to pitch or sell yourself.  Instead, you can focus on what you were made to do:  write.”

Question:  What is your destiny?  Are you embracing it, or hiding from it?

adventures in dating (or my no worries guide to dating)

My favorite response when things don’t go according to plan is, “No worries.”

Things work out the way they are supposed to.  Always.  I may not understand when it happens, but I know it’s true.

Sometimes, like this week, I get immediate confirmation that things worked out for the best.

Last Friday, I met a seemingly nice man on one of those dating sites.  He was all the things I look for in a potential beau:  funny, smart and handsome.

The picture of him as a young marine? Be still my heart! I love a man in uniform. Even if it is a twenty year old picture.  (There were current pictures, too.)

Our initial emails made me laugh out loud.  Both when they first came through and again later when I re-read them at my office.

By that afternoon, he’d asked me on a date for Sunday evening.  Snoopy dance time!

We texted for a few hours on Saturday morning.  He was still funny.  Still engaging.  Honestly, the first guy I’ve encountered in months who seemed like potential boyfriend material.

Sunday morning started sunny and promising.  Date night loomed large.  Then, the unexpected text.

“I have to cancel our plans for this evening.”

“No worries.”  I get it – things come up, plans change.  I can go with the flow.  Really!  I can.  I promise.

Within a few minutes, he admitted that he’d met another woman the previous afternoon.  They had a real connection.  He didn’t want to jeopardize it by going out with me.

My first reaction was disappointment.  Heavy disappointment.

Then a little light went on over my head.  I admit I’ve been out of the dating pool for a long time.  But shouldn’t you know someone longer than an afternoon before declaring monogamy?

In spite of his connection to the newer, better girl, we ended up texting for hours Sunday evening.

I got an update bright and early Tuesday morning. “Well, that didn’t last long.”

The texts that followed made me realize how my sister Karma was looking out for me this time.  What I thought was an invitation to dinner was actually an invitation to something altogether different.

While I was looking at this fella as potential boyfriend material, it became clear pretty quickly he was just looking at me as potential material.

When I kindly declined his offers, he decompensated quickly into, “Well, I guess I’ll just go home and get drunk this evening.”

The next update, “The funny thing is, I just lost my job today.”

And the grand finale, “You deserve someone better than a loser like me anyway.”

Imagine an oversized, cartoon bullet coming at me in slow motion.  My sister Karma steps over, pushes me out of the way, and together we watch the bullet pass by.  Whew!

Morale of the story?  Next time I’m disappointed because something doesn’t work out with a potential beau, I’m going to hang on to my “no worries” approach to dating.  Things always work out for the best.  My sister Karma is looking out for me!

Question:  Are you thankful when things don’t work out the way you want?

lessons from my garden: is it time to deadhead?

I am still a plant serial killer. I really do love flowers, though. So I’m trying to acquire new skills to help keep my flowers blooming all season long.

One of the things I’ve learned is that every gardener has to learn to deadhead. Now I love Jerry Garcia as much as the next girl, but don’t confuse deadheading with being a Dead Head. Deadheading is really just removing dead flowers from the plant. This lets the plant keep producing new flowers all season. Like us, the plant only has so much energy to expend. Getting rid of the dead flowers frees up energy to produce new flowers.

As I was deadheading my African violet this morning, it occurred to me life is a lot like gardening. You have to deadhead decaying things in your life, or you won’t have the energy you need to produce flowers all season long.

Close your eyes and think about your life. Is anything dead or decaying? Is it something that can be resuscitated? If not, maybe it’s time to cut it off.

How’s your career going? It’s easy to play it safe and stay with the job you have. But sometimes you have to find the job you love. Find your calling.

I have a friend who is getting her degree as a physical therapy assistant. She saw the need to change her life, and she’s doing it. She didn’t let the fact that she’d be 51 when she graduated stop her. She realized she’d be 51 either way. She snipped her old career off the vine. Now she has an exciting, new career ready to blossom for the rest of her season.

Are you in a relationship that has run its course? It is easy to stay in a relationship out of obligation, habit or fear. Have you ever stayed with someone because you thought, “maybe this is the best I can do?” You can never be with the person you’re meant to be with unless you’re willing to deadhead the wrong ones from your life.

There’s a difference between a relationship that needs to be resuscitated and one that needs to be stripped from the vine. I can’t tell you what that difference is. I don’t need to tell you. Listen to your little voice. It knows.

How is your house looking? Is it overrun with clothes that don’t fit? Kitchen appliances that never get used? Knick knacks and geegaws that need to be dusted on a regular basis?

Start small. It’s amazing how much you can clear in ten or fifteen minutes a day. I started by sorting through one drawer at a time every morning before work. A year later, I have one, scary hall closet left that needs to be deadheaded. The rest of the house is emptier than it’s been since I was a newlywed and everything I owned fit in a little U-Haul trailer.

Change is scary. The unknown is scary. It is easier to stay in a situation you know, even if it’s a bad one, than move into the unknown. What if the alternative is worse than what you have now? What if this job is the best you can do? What if nobody else will ever love you? What if they quit selling ridiculous appliances like quesadilla makers and dehydrators? Than what will I do?

It’s easier to maintain the status quo than to change. It’s easier to let the plants on the patio go to seed, limbs hanging low with dead flowers. The reward for spending a few minutes each day deadheading is months of riotously colored blooms brightening up your day.

Like the plants on my patio, I only have so much energy to expend each day. I choose to spend that energy on the people and activities that help me blossom.

We will never throw beautiful blooms for all of our season unless we’re willing to deadhead all the decaying flowers from our life.

Question: What do you need to deadhead from your life? What’s stopping you? Aren’t you ready for your life to blossom like the petunias on your back patio?

life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting

It’s my Year of Yes, and I’m working my way through my bucket list.  Easter weekend, I checked zip lining and whitewater rafting off the list.  I found out zip lining is a lot like dating and life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting.

The preparation for zip lining consisted of employees helping me into my harness and helmet and another employee sharing the rules of zip lining.  (Advice which boiled down to don’t touch anything metal, hold on to your harness, tuck your knees and enjoy the ride.)

Whitewater rafting started with a safety talk from Captain Dan.  Despite the Keanu Reeves stoner-dude delivery, he gave us practical advice about what to do on the water.  Most of the advice covered what to do if you fall out of the raft.

If we fall out, the first thing we should do is look for our raft.  If it’s close enough, swim to it and get hauled back in by your fellow rafters.

If we fall out of the raft and end up under it, Captain Dan demonstrated how to use a spider crawl to get to safety.  Put your hands and feet on the bottom of the boat.  Then crawl whichever direction your head is pointing.  The way your head is pointing is always the right way when you’re stuck under a raft.  Stopping and turning around or trying to find another right direction can be deadly.

Sometimes you fall out of the raft and pop up too far away to get back in.  In that case, he showed us how to assume the position: face up, head resting on the PFD, toes pointing to the sky, feet heading downriver.  At that point, you’re on a one-woman rafting trip down the rapids.

Captain Dan taught us about eddies – calm spots on the downriver side of an obstacle.

Each raft gets a trained guide.  Captain Dan told us to look for our guides if we end up in the water.  If we see a guide gesticulating frantically, it means we’re heading toward a danger zone.  The guide always points to the safest route.

The rapids are dotted with spotters who rescue troubled rafters. Captain Dan demonstrated the safety line that the spotters use.  It’s fifty feet of rope in a burlap bag.  The spotters hold one end of the line and throw the burlap bag to any rafter who is pursuing their own personal whitewater rafting experience.  If the bag is thrown at you, grab the rope. If you grab the burlap bag, you’ll end up fifty feet away from safety.

During the course of our runs over Class II, III and IV rapids, we got to see a few of these scenarios acted out in front of our eyes.

Our raft had five rafters and our guide, Reid.  One of us didn’t hear Reid’s instruction to “get down”.  While the rest of us were busy getting down, he was busy bouncing out of the raft.

When our wayward rafter’s head popped up above the water, I was relieved to see him assume the position.  Luckily, he was close enough to the raft to swim to us and get hauled aboard.

Our first time over the Class III rapids, we watched a spotter throw the burlap bag to another rafter and pull him to safety, up and out of the water.  Later in the day, I watched an entire party getting pulled to safety at this same location.

Life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting.

Everyone needs a spotter ready to throw a safety line when we fall out of life’s raft.  Someone to pull us from the rapids if we get in over our heads.

Who are your spotters?  Do you have a close friend or mentor who can see when you are stuck in the rapids?  Someone to pull you to safety?  I have a few people like this.  Friends who know me well enough to see when there’s a problem.  Friends who are honest enough to pull me away from the problem.

Throughout the trip, Reid told us how many times to paddle and in which direction in clear, concise language.  Two forward.  Three back.

He rarely told us to paddle more than three strokes at a time.  He broke bigger obligations down into smaller tasks.  We only had to focus on each small task without worrying about what comes next. 

Sometimes life is easier if you break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces.  Focus on the next little step you need to take to get to the goal.

Reid also told us when to rest.

Whitewater rafting is a balance between paddling furiously to get over the rapids and resting in the eddies.  A life of balance consists of working and playing hard and resting often.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your life you feel like you’re under water?  I have.  Some days it’s hard to figure out which direction to go.

When that happens, maybe we should follow Captain Dan’s advice.  Keep going whichever direction our head is pointing. When we’re stuck under an obstacle, the direction our head is pointed is always the right direction.  After our head is above water, look around, take stock and figure out which direction to go next.

Life should come with guides to point toward the safe areas.  How do we tell the safe areas from the dangerous ones?  Scripture provides guidance toward safe areas.  The Psalmist said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105 KJV 

I’m working on incorporating the lessons I learned on the rapids.

When I’m in over my head, keep going in one direction until I get above water.

Once I’m above water, keep my eyes open for the guides pointing me toward the safe eddies.

Be willing to let someone pull me back into the raft.

Grab the rope when I’m too far away from the raft to crawl back in.

Take life one step at a time.

Question:  Does your life feel like you’re riding the rapids?  Who do you look to for direction and advice?

lessons from my garden: who have you watered today?

I am a plant serial killer.  Every spring I go to the local hardware store and stock up on pretty flowers.  I spend hours planting them, watering them, loving them.  Every winter, at the first cold snap, they die.

In the spring and summer, my patio is a beautiful hideaway.  A place where I can sit and enjoy my beautiful, blooming plants, smell my gardenias and honeysuckle. Butterflies flutter about, enjoying the nectar from the blooms.  A lizard family scurries about its business.  The dogs and I loll around, occasionally napping.

In the winter, my patio is a wasteland of dead and dying annuals and perennials.

One winter, one butterfly bush never made the transition from the plastic container it came in to a real pot.  It was the only thing on the patio showing any sign of life, so I set it on a planter by the sliding glass door.  The petunias in the planter were long dead.

All winter, once a week or so, I’d step out on the back patio and water the butterfly bush.

butterfly on a butterfly bush

In the spring, as a reward for being the only plant to survive the winter, I finally planted the butterfly bush in its own planter.

A week later, I noticed signs of life in the petunia planter.  As the days progressed, the signs of life grew bigger and started showing leaves.  Big, fat, green leaves.

I was sure anything that looked that big and green must be a weed.  But I hadn’t bought new flowers yet, so I kept watering it.

One day the most amazing thing happened.  I stepped out on the patio, and the “weed” was covered in petunias!  It wasn’t a weed at all!  Somehow, for the first time in my plant-killing life, something survived.

Even more amazing?  The leaves and flowers were even bigger and prettier than they were the year before.

With nothing more than cast-off, leftover water from the butterfly bush, the petunia not only survived the winter, it came back bigger and better than ever.

All summer, as I sat on the patio and enjoyed the abundance of blooms, I thought about survival, and unintentional blessings.

Happenstance caused me to set the butterfly bush over the dead petunias.

Laziness, really. That was the closest spot to the sliding glass door and required the least amount of effort for me to water it.

The petunia didn’t care about my motives.  It didn’t care that the water wasn’t meant for it.  It took what I gave it, and it survived.  It thrived.

It made me think about people in my life who unintentionally bless me. 

When my marriage ended, I felt a lot like that dead petunia.  Thankfully, like my petunia, I had people who continued to “water” me.  Most of them, without even realizing it.

One friend’s marriage ended because her husband cheated on her.   She didn’t give up on love.  She didn’t turn into a “man-hater”.  She just kept on going, waiting for and expecting God’s best.  Eventually, she found him, too.

My friend whose husband has always made her feel secure and desired.  Age, weight, a few extra gray hairs or wrinkles.  They are all irrelevant.  They’ve been together since they were freshman in college.  In over thirty years, she has never doubted his love, faithfulness or devotion. 

There have been other times in my life when I needed “watering.”

A perfect stranger who saw me sitting in the mall when I was pregnant with Sweetness.  I never knew her name, but I still remember her face and her sweet voice.  She could tell I was upset.  She sat next to me and asked me if she could pray for me.  It’s been twenty years, but that prayer still blesses me.

It made me think about how I can unintentionally bless others. 

I compliment strangers, like the cashier with the beautiful eyes.   Random compliments from strangers are a lovely surprise.

I post positive messages in Facebook and Twitter.  The world is negative enough without adding my negative energy to the mix.

I smile and wave at people as I drive around in my convertible.  Have you ever noticed when you smile at someone, they automatically smile back?

You may never know how your actions affect the people you cross in life.  Something you did twenty years ago may still have an impact today. 

I was lucky with the petunias.  When winter ended, I was able to see the results of my unintentional blessing.  When you’re unintentionally watering people, you don’t always get to see the results.  Don’t let that stop you, though.

Question:   Who have you “watered” lately?

adventures in dating (or how dating is like riding a zip line)

I rode my first zip line this weekend. My fear of heights always stopped me before. But this is my year of yes, and Fear doesn’t get to tell me what to do anymore.

I’ve never experienced anything as exhilarating as flying through the air over the kayakers and white water rafters at the National Whitewater Center. Start to finish was 1,123 feet of pure adrenaline.

Dating is a lot like riding a zip line.

Most of your time is spent waiting your turn. The line for the zip line is the longest line at the Center. It’s strategically placed so that everywhere you look, someone else is doing something amazing.

Whitewater rafters and kayakers skim over Class III and IV rapids. Mountain bikers fly past on their way to the nature trail. Families lounge around at the outdoor café.

Dating feels like that some days. Everyone I know is in a relationship. Or going out with one amazing person after another. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for someone wonderful.

I brought the Genius and my nephew, Tim, to the Center with me. We spent our waiting time laughing, joking and teasing each other. Time flies when you’re laughing.

You have to figure out how to have fun during the wait, because the wait is the longest part of the ride.

My friends fill my empty evenings while I look for Mr. Right. We go to dinner together. We ride bikes at Pinckney Island or hang out at the beach.  Thanks to my friends, I have so much fun during the wait it doesn’t feel like I’m waiting for anything.

Before you get on the zip line you have to put on your equipment. Check and double-check to make sure everything is right.

Then comes the leap of faith. The moment you put all your trust in your preparation. Step off the platform and let gravity take over.

First dates are like that. I talk to men for weeks, vetting candidates from various dating sites. Trying to figure out who they are from their profile and pictures, from talking on the phone, texting and emailing. Then comes the leap of faith.

No matter how funny someone seems on the phone, there’s no predicting chemistry. The only way to know if you are a good match is to meet.

No matter how charming someone seems, the only way to really get to know him is to spend time together.

Enjoy the ride while it lasts. Spin around and check out the view from every direction. Look down at the whitewater raft as you skim above it. Watch the rafters furiously paddling while you effortlessly glide past them.

I love sitting at a restaurant with someone for the first time. I can talk about anything, so finding something to talk about is never a problem. And when you meet someone you have chemistry with? That’s as exhilarating as gliding across the rapids.

Wave to the people on the sidelines as you glide through the air. Some of them have already had a turn. Some of them won’t take a turn because the wait is too long. Fear stops some of them from experiencing the exhilaration of flying through the air.

I know people who have given up on dating. Their fear of getting hurt is greater than their desire to find someone. Their frustration with the wait keeps them from trying again.  I’ve been there myself, once or twice.

It takes courage to step up on the zip line platform. Courage and trust that your equipment won’t fail, that the employees do their job right. It’s a long way down from the zip line! If you fall, you die.

It takes even more courage to date. Courage to trust your instincts. To believe someone good is coming at the end of your wait.

When it was my turn, I told Fear to SHUT UP and leapt off the platform. I pulled my knees up, held on to my harness and flew through the air. It was amazing and worth every minute of the wait.

Question: Are you on the sideline of life? Or leaping off the platform?  What is Fear stopping you from doing?