by LifeWhys | May 1, 2021 | Uncategorized
We all have them. Scars. Small, large, deep, light, old and withered, fresh and pink. Some are hidden beneath layers of protection, regret and possibly denial. These are the ones we only look at in the safety of our private space. Then there are the ones that are physical, visible and tell stories of grand adventures. These are the ones we may take great pleasure in relaying the stories behind their creation. I’ve been thinking a lot about scars as Iately. Probably because I recently acquired some rather impressive ones and the stories that tell of their creation into existence are equally as interesting.
As I tallied my scars and called from memory each of their origins, I realized each one carried a lesson or had led me to something memorable. There is the little oval puff on the front of my right ankle from when my brother pushed me into a pool. I caught my foot on the edge and proceeded to bleed profusely turning the pool into what looked like a scene from jaws. I was cared for by the young, handsome lifeguard on duty. He later became my very first boyfriend and that led to my first kiss. This little scar pillow on my ankle makes me smile as I think about us huddled under the tunnel at the top of the playground slide, soft misty rain covering our heads and backs as electricity raced through my belly and our lips met and I tasted him for the first time. My brother was completely forgiven.
Then there is the pepperoni slice on the inside of my right calf. This is now visibly all but faded. It is the memory of its birth that I’m really seeing. I can feel the wind on my face, taking my breath away as I pressed harder into the drivers back and gripped my arms tighter around his waist. I clung to my first love as we screamed down the highway on his red-hot Suzuki motorcycle. When we finally stopped and disembarked from the bike, my skin peeled off on the muffler. My sky-blue mini skirt completely inadequate for protecting me in so many ways, least of which from the heat of the exhaust pipe. I had never even felt the heat that seared the salami scar into my leg, branding me with a tattoo of our love for all eternity. I realized love has a way of dulling our senses.
I have the usual collection from the drunken stupor of my 21st birthday, various surgeries over the years; appendix, tonsils, lollipops on my breasts for the reduction that helped my back pain, and sundry scrapes and falls. My latest ones are no exception. My right wrist now bears the marks of Salty’s teeth where he clamped my wrist instead of Sage’s foreleg. In hindsight, I believe I was the better outcome. Had he achieved his goal and caught her instead of me, I’m afraid she and he would have been injured beyond repair. As it was, this incident had been brewing for some months and I knew it was only a matter of time before a more serious outcome would present itself as a result of their tussles. My lesson from this scar is to pay attention and act sooner before anxiety escalates. Defuse the situation before it can turn into a trip to the ER or emergency vet.
This lesson of awareness can be applied to humans as well. Instead of rushing in to fix something or stop an altercation, pay attention to the subtle signs and body language, eye contact or lack of, any verbal queues, or tension in the air. When I sense these things, I try to take action before they erupt. That action may be to remove myself or to change the energy in some way. The main thing is to pay attention, be aware of the energy and act before it bites.
My latest scar is the best one of all. It stretches from the top of my shoulder midway down my bicep. It came to life when I shattered my shoulder after tripping over my youngest bulldog. The result was a trip to the ER, a surgery to put it back together and now months of rehab. I found myself sifting through my closet recently looking for a blouse that would be nice enough, cool enough for the warming weather AND cover my scar. I quickly realized my options were limited with my current wardrobe. So being the forward-thinking, fashion-conscious woman I am, I went online and ordered some nice new additions that will be equally professional, comfortable and cover my shoulder and upper arm.
This scar carries several lessons with it. One is again about awareness. When you have a dog, who has no sense of boundaries, ALWAYS look before stepping. And most importantly when you are incapacitated to such a degree of near helplessness, inviting others to assist you allows them to give back from all that you have given to them over the years Recognizing the gift in caring for someone you love and allowing them to repay that love in a time of need, opens a door that can never be closed again.
Knowing that if this injury had happened to one of my family members, there would be nothing to stop me from taking care of them. Probably to the detriment of their recovery. Instead, I had to let go of my ego and self-pity, recognize and appreciate them to do for me that which I would happily do for them.
Many people have asked me if I’ve forgiven Sage for tripping me. When I was first asked this, I was confused. My first thought was, there is nothing to forgive. I tripped over her. She’s a dog. She didn’t wake up that morning intent on causing me grievous injury. She has been my constant companion. Ever aware of even my slightest discomfort, wince, or sigh. There is no blame and nothing to forgive. There is only acceptance of the situation, allowing of others assistance and perseverance through recovery.
These scars tell the stories of my life. They remind me of the wonderful, sometimes painful experiences and wisdom I’ve gained along the way. They remind me of what it is to be human. When I lay my head down at night to slip away into my dreams, I ask myself these questions:
- Was I kind today?
- What did I learn today?
- Is there anything I could have done differently?
- Is there anything or anyone I need to forgive (including myself)?
- What am I grateful for?
- What is my intention, wish or desire for tomorrow?
As long as I keep learning and I appreciate all that I have (people, things and experiences), then I am successful. My scars are gentle reminders of what it is to be human and what it means to really succeed in this life. To overcome adversity, to love, to forgive, and to feel gratitude for all that I have, all that I’ve done and all that I’ve yet to experience. Bring on the scars.
by LifeWhys | Apr 16, 2021 | Uncategorized
“Well, imagine an ice cream cone with two scoops on top. You know the double headed cones where the scoops sit side by side?” the doctor looked up from his fist he was using as a prop to make sure I was following along.
I nod indicating that I am with him.
“Well, now imagine if one of those scoops sloughs off the side and separates from the other. Maybe it breaks free and maybe it just sits there. On the verge of slipping off,” He was now using his other fist as an example of the scoop slipping free yet hanging on.
If only it were an ice cream cone that he was describing and not the ball of my shoulder bone. I listened, not really comprehending exactly the seriousness of my situation. There was talk about a main artery and nerve that ran along the top of the humerus. It all sounded like a teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons.
“Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah,” says the unseen authority figure.
I guess the cocktail of pain medications did not help my comprehension or attention abilities. Thank goodness they sent me home with well-written instructions on what to do and who to contact next.
I stumbled out of the emergency center into the bright sunlight and stood for a moment gathering my wits – or at the least the ones I could catch. Looking around the parking lot, I spotted our grey Sienna and my husband sitting inside. Due to the new COVID restrictions, he was not able to come in with me and had to wait in the car. I walked over and reached for the door handle. He had already hopped out of the driver side and sprang around the front to meet me at the door and help me in. Gently guiding me into the seat, he carefully closed the door. His silence spoke volumes.
Now inside the care, I fumbled for the seat belt. He reached across and pulled it gently around me, being extra careful not to bump my left arm, and snapped the lock into place. I felt the tears pressing behind my eyes, begging to be released. Swallowing hard, I asked for a drink of water. The nausea settled and the tears held as I drank deeply from my hydro flask.
I had already texted him letting him know the prognosis that I had fractured my shoulder. I was now looking at physical therapy and possibly surgery. We drove home and I went straight to the restroom where I proceeded to writhe in pain trying to get my pants down one-handed. Trying to stand up I nearly passed out in pain. Not from my shoulder, but from my left knee. How had I missed that? Why was my knee so painful and how am I going to get off the toilet without calling for help? I was determined to get my ass off that toilet and so I forced my right leg to do all the heavy lifting as I pulled with my right arm on the ledge of the counter.
“Are you ok in there?” my husband called to me.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I groaned between my firmly gritted teeth as I hauled and pushed with all my might to get myself off the toilet.
Standing, sweating, and breathing heavily, I still had to get my pants up. I stood and took several long deep breaths trying to calm my shaking body. I was clearly still in shock from the trauma of the morning. However, there was no way I was going to allow my husband in to help me pull my pants up. Slowly, carefully, gently, I eased up the waistband of my leggings and managed to make myself presentable. Opening the door, I found him sitting on the bedside waiting for me.
“You know, after 20+ years together, I think I can help you pull your pants up,” he said with a wry smile.
He stood up and gave me a very careful hug and I felt the tears pushing into my eyes once again.
Stepping back, I gave him a kiss on the cheek and thanked him for being such an amazing husband, but there was no way I was going to let him ‘help’ me in the bathroom.
Sitting at my desk, my arm hanging limply in the sling, I felt the pressure of the tears return as I pecked out my first one-handed email, very, very slowly.
How will I shower and dress myself?
How long will it take to recover?
Will I be able to fully use my arm again?
How am I going to finish my books if I can’t type properly?
Who’s going to take care of the chickens?
How am I going to plant my seeds for my spring garden?
How am I going to go to the bathroom?
Unable to care for myself
I sat there staring at my keyboard. My right hand resting on the edge of the desk and my left arm resting in the sling. I took several long, deep breaths and tried to calm my racing mind.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” the voice in my head chastised. “Bryce and Lionel will do anything you need them to do to help.”
“But I can’t expect them to do everything for me. I’m not even capable of dressing myself.”
“Yet,” the more positive voice in my head added.
“There is no way I’m going to let them help me in the bathroom or shower. That’s not an option,” I cried into the blackness that was descending across my mind.
“Do they love you?”
“Do you love them?”
“What if this were one of them instead of you who had fallen and fractured their shoulder? What would you do?” That damn rational voice asked.
“I would do whatever I need to do to help them heal and recover,” I answered after a brief pause, now seeing where this discussion was heading.
“Then why would you rob them of the opportunity to help you? You are always giving and doing for everyone else. Allow them to do for you what you would happily do for them.”
The message was clear and the tears streamed freely down my cheeks as I realized, I had called this into existence in my resistance to letting others help me. My fear of being incapacitated in some way, being helpless, drives me to do and be everything for everyone but me. It’s my turn to take care of myself and allow others to help me in anyway they can.
My husband and son have assumed the responsibilities for cooking, laundry, chickens, dogs, plants, etc. I have released my attachment to how the towels are folded, what and how they are preparing food (except regarding WildFit guidelines), feeding the dogs and chickens. They are doing great and I’m enjoying letting them care for me – mostly.
I released my fear of being incapacitated and allowed myself to be cared for by those who love me in the same way I would happily care for them.
by LifeWhys | May 11, 2020 | Uncategorized
MAY!! That just cannot be possible. We only just had our New Year’s Eve party about a month ago. At least it feels like it was only a month ago. What happened to the last 4 months? We had our New Year’s party, I went on a few business trips, then the pandemic struck, we went into lockdown and then I suddenly y realized it was May. My mind reeled as I sat on my patio this morning drinking my matcha green tea watching the cardinals peck from the bird feeder, the horses graze lazily in the paddocks, and the bulldogs lounge in the morning sun.
I wasn’t even sure what day of the week it was. I have become completely disconnected with the concept of weekdays vs weekends, weeks or months, etc. My days still start with my morning meditation, journaling and stretching, then matcha tea on the patio, then a shower, breakfast and I’m ready to sit at my desk at 8am. I’m one of the fortunate ones and still have my job. Unlike many who were suddenly thrust into a manic dash to set up a ‘professional home office’, I have worked from home for over 20 years – well before we were required to shelter in place. The main thing that changed for me was not having to travel anymore.
Now on weekends instead of unpacking my suitcase, doing laundry and repacking ready for the next trip, I find myself working in the garden, finishing my novel, planning where my chicken pen will go, walking the dogs and even napping on the sun lounger. When your movement is restricted due to circumstances outside of your control, you have two choices: embrace the home fully or go crazy. I chose to embrace wholeheartedly my time at home.
I now have an amazing garden-as long as I can keep the slugs at bay and the javelinas out. I have great plans for the rest of the land as well. I’ve identified which plants I want along the west fence and which ones can go in the rock garden. I’m nurturing the peas, squash, beets, celery & herbs that I’ve been growing for the past several weeks and are now ready to be transferred to the garden tubs.
I wonder how my sense of time got so disconnected from the important things in life. Instead of notching up another meeting, deadline or business trip, I am measuring the passing days by how much the sweet peas have shot up or the fact the wind no longer has a bite to it and I’m now wearing tank tops and shorts. My leggings and sweaters are all tucked away clean and ready for the fall. When did that switch happen? Does it even matter?
I’m reconnecting with my sense of home. Poppy seed muffins, home cooked meal every evening, morning routine, afternoon naps and gardening. These are the things by which I now measure my days. I trust that when the quarantine is lifted and I begin to return to my previous routines, I don’t lose this reconnection to home.
Our lives should instead be measured by the passing seasons, how much the tree has grown since it was planted or whether the chill in the wind is warming, or if the squash is ready for harvesting? These are the things I will take from the quarantine. I will leave behind the fear, uncertainty, and speculation. I move forward with renewed hope, more love for the earth and gratitude for reconnecting with my sense of home and humanity. It does not matter what day of the week or month of the year. I am here exactly where I need to be, doing precisely what is most important – living.
by LifeWhys | Mar 16, 2020 | Uncategorized
I often hear from people about how hard it is to find time for themselves. Often what they mean is that they don’t make time for themselves. One of the keys I’ve found to really connecting with my inner wisdom is to make the time to be quiet. I use this quiet time for different things depending on what is happening in my life. Sometimes it’s a time for me to journal, meditate, nap, or just be. I incorporate my quiet time into my morning routine. This way it’s something I do first thing in the morning when everyone else is still sleeping or just waking. It allows me to ease into the day, reflect on the prior day and what lies ahead for me in the coming day. I believe the key to this being a successful practice is that I have a dedicated space for my quiet time, and I keep to roughly the same schedule every day.
Some tips on how best to prepare your space.
1) Identify the place that brings you a sense of calm, safety and quietude. This could be a special corner in your bedroom, study or lounge. It could even be a quiet place on your patio or in your garden. Being outdoors is always a great place to relax and be quiet. – for me this is my morning sauna time or on our back patio with the rising sun (weather permitting)
2) Keep it simple, comfortable and uncomplicated. Bring things that are meaningful to you (crystals, favorite images, blankets, pillows, etc) – having a plant or something natural helps you connect to nature, if your space is inside
3) Have a journal dedicated to your quiet time. Have a pen for capturing moments of inspiration, jotting down your to do list or just doing a brain dump to clear your mind.
4) If you relax through scent, then burn incense, sage, palo santo, atomizer, etc. Keep the fragrance natural and consistent for your quiet time. (ie. don’t do sandalwood one day and a floral scent the next). This helps to signal the mind that it’s time to quiet, calm and prepare to meditate.
5) If you like music when you meditate, then choose some simple meditative tracks. Using the same music also signals the mind to quiet, calm and prepare to meditate. – My favorites are Tibetan Singing Bowls and Shamanic Drums
6) Let your family and friends know that when you’re in your quiet space they are not to disturb you unless there is an emergency or urgent need. Pre-define what would constitute an emergency or urgent need so there will be no questions.
7) Make time in your day to sit in your quiet space for at least 15 minutes. Even if you don’t meditate in this time, it allows you to connect to the space and to yourself.
Once you’ve identified and set up your quiet space, conduct a small ritual to bless it and really connect with the energy in the space. Sit quietly, take three long deep breathes and feel the energy that you’ve created. Set your intention for the space. Then just sit quietly for a few minutes and enjoy your first quiet time in your new space.
Relax, rejuvenate and reconnect.
by LifeWhys | Oct 28, 2019 | Uncategorized
I can still feel the butterflies beating rapidly in my belly…
Fear is a basic human survival instinct. Without fear we would surely all be dead. Fear drives us to think about what the worst possible outcome might be. Unfortunately, this can cause us to fixate on that outcome and by doing that we can actually call it into being. This way we can prove ourselves right and reinforce why we should continue to be afraid.
I use fear differently. I use fear as a tool to drive myself, to transform my beliefs and to continue growing and evolving. If I lived in fear, then I would still be living in Cedar Rapids, IA, working as a manager or by now, possibly a Senior Manager. Instead, I used my fear to propel me on a life long journey of exploring new places, meeting interesting people and generally pushing my boundaries of comfort and familiarity.
I once delivered a presentation on public-private-partnerships. I was asked to present it to the French national Assembly. Being fairly new to life in Europe, I had no idea what I was signing up for or to who I was delivering the presentation. I had been living in England for a little over a year and wasn’t very familiar with European politics or the government structures. After I created my presentation and learned enough French to open my speech in their native language (albeit horribly butchered), I was practicing my presentation when my fiancé said to me with such pride in his eyes, “Wow, I think it’s so great that you’re presenting to the French National Assembly. What a great achievement.”
Innocently, I asked him why he thought it was such a big deal. When he then told me that it was the equivalent to presenting to the House of Congress or something similar, I can tell you the bottom dropped out of my stomach and that liquid cold feeling ran through my veins. The fear began to set in and my mind raced to think about how I could possibly get out of this mess. How had I let myself be so naïve in thinking this was something I could do? I was nearly paralyzed into withdrawing from the event. I phoned my dear friend, Nicole, who lived in Paris at the time and asked her what she thought I should do. She confirmed that the Assembly is the policy arm of the French government and went on to tell me how fantastic she thought it was that I was actually presenting to them. She offered to help me with my French as she speaks several languages fluently. Together we recrafted my opening and polished my presentation to reflect a more French appeal.
I stayed with her for a few days prior to the event and she helped me navigate the Parisian transportation network so I could easily find my way on the day of the presentation. She even escorted me to the Assembly House and encouraged me all the way. Then I was on my own sitting on the stage while the attendees filed into the hall. There were representatives from the main industry operators and Assembly officials all sitting in the front row. I was certain they were ready to pounce on me and make me into fois gras to be served as a snack after the event.
I can still feel the butterflies beating rapidly in my belly and the sweat slicking my palms almost smearing the ink on my presentation notes gripped so tightly in my hands. I was one of several presenters / industry experts that day. We all sat on chairs aligned on the stage with a moderator to facilitate the order and the questions. The moderator welcomed the audience, queued up the first presenter and my mind drifted listening to him and thinking about my own presentation. How his was so much better and mine was so juvenile and lacked so much depth. His graphics were so incredibly good and mine looked like my son had drawn them. Then the moment came and my name was called as the next to present. I swallowed….hard….stood up…wobbled a little as I took my place behind the podium. Gripping the sides of the stand, I looked out at the audience and said, “Bonjour, je suis es …….”. The rest was a bit of a blur. I remember getting a chuckle during my opening at the expected moment and then I relaxed a bit. I released the death grip of the podium and sailed through the rest of the presentation with grace.
Following my delivery there was period of questions and answers. I artfully responded either directly or through the moderator who also acted as the translator for those who were not adept in English. I noticed there were headsets, much like the ones in Geneva when I had presented there, and a booth of translators located at the back of the room. I was able to answer the questions with ease and many of the participants came up to me following the presentation sessions to congratulate me and tell me how brave I was to open in French. They appreciated my attempt at their language although they also told me I needed to keep practicing.
It was an amazing experience. One that I never would have had if I had allowed fear to rule me. I had to dig deep and reach out to my friend to help me through it. When the realization of what I had taken on had first hit me, I had two choices:
- Withdraw: people do it all the time. Some family or business emergency comes up and the presenter has to withdraw. I was certain I could come up with a plausible reason to NOT present. The excuses ran the gambit of my son is ill, my company needs me on a major project with critical deadlines, I’m ill with some mysterious disease, my dog sat on my laptop and broke it (oh, wait, I didn’t have a dog at that time).
- Go through with it: push my boundaries, learn from the experience it would look great on my resume.
I asked myself “What’s the worst that could happen”? They might not like me. They won’t laugh at my joke. They won’t like me butchering their language. My presentation will be laughed at. I could have played it safe and withdrawn from presenting. I didn’t. I decided I would not let fear rule me and even if they didn’t laugh at my joke or like me – so what? As long as I don’t start a riot, then what does it matter that I’m presenting to politicians and industry leaders. I chose to use my fear to spur me into digging deep, asking for assistance and expanding my comfort zone.
I was at a gathering of friends recently when I said to a friend who was telling me about something she was debating about doing. I asked her “What’s the worst that could happen?” Over hearing my comment, another guest interjected with “Oh no, never say that. If you ask that question, then it will happen.” I looked at her for a minute, a little taken aback by her adamant response. I realized in that moment that she was coming from a place of fear. I diplomatically let her know that I didn’t agree with this view because unless we understand what the parameters are we will not be able to make a rational decision. I explained that I believe we can chose to focus on the negative (ie. The worst possible outcome) or we can acknowledge it, then decide how we feel about it and make an informed decision. She listened intently and told me she had never thought about in those terms.
When making a decision that can have potentially major consequences, I ask myself two questions:
- What’s the best possible outcome?
- What’s the worst possible outcome?
This gives me a spectrum within which I can then operate. I’m sure my years of project management and risk mitigation have a lot to do with how I handle fear. Instead of letting it rule me, I use it to drive me towards the best possible outcome. And I put mitigation strategies in place to address any potential detours that may come up along the way. I also ask myself if the worst possible outcome is something I could live with. If not, then I know that I need to do something differently. What I don’t do is allow it to paralyze me.
I encourage you to use fear to explore new and exciting opportunities. Work with it to drive yourself forward. Learn how to harness the energy and channel it to enable you to live an extraordinary life full of wonder.