From the Sanctuary

Solo road trip along the lake, Cleveland bound. This journey begins with my being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness when I reached the toll taker arm outstretched, money in hand. She told me to keep my change and proceed on through because someone had “taken care of me.” I continued on in joy; vintage CD’s in tow. These include Queen’s A Night at the Opera, which allows me to perform my personal rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody belted out word for fabulous word with unquenchable manic enthusiasm. This, by the way, is as intuitive as Mooing when passing a field of cows. It’s a rare moment of pure unadulterated satisfactory expression.

My purpose for this adventure is to meet with a likeminded professor at Case Western University who not only understands, but preaches the power of positivity. A historic Gothic hotel is my stay of choice, where I arrive early afternoon and spend several hours writing uninterrupted. Nice. In the evening I turn the television on (I don’t have one at home, so this is an act of bravery) and surf around, landing on a National Geographic interview of the Dali Lama. His words and message send me to a peaceful meditative place before I settle into slumber.

Too cheap to spend the fourteen dollars for the hotel breakfast buffet the next morning, I head to Case Western three hours before my appointment. The campus is much different than the University at Buffalo I’m accustomed to, nicely interspersed with the local community and featuring as many modern buildings as old ones, adding a lot of character to the locale. The nature is different as well. There are groves of fascinating trees with pretty-colored peeling bark that I can only identify as River Birch. I also encounter several red squirrels and a skunk safely observed from afar.

After I wander for a bit, I ask a student on a street corner where the best place to get a cup of coffee is. His friendly response doesn’t disappoint. When I arrive at The Coffee House, I find the perfect spot to my personal liking. No franchise here, instead a quaint local shop in a restored old house, clean with antique furniture and run by a local owner (in our short “small world” chat, we discover that his wife grew up ten miles from me). And they have Jamaica Me Crazy flavor! I hang out there and write some more before taking a long walk, exploring buildings and engaging in people watching.

At noon, I am warmly received by both the Organizational Behavior Department and the professor. As part of their MS in Organizational Development and Change program, he teaches a course and concept called Appreciative Inquiry, a process that focuses on an organization’s and its employees’ strengths to be built upon rather than problems to be solved. This is done through a series of inquiries and storytelling to invoke positive emotional responses. After taking the course online, I know the material and his intense wisdom and insights will add significant value to the work I will be doing in my program coaching young adults diagnosed with mental illnesses to thrive.

Dining over the best college food I’ve ever tasted, we talk about topics that aren’t often strung together… joy, neuroscience, compassion, Alzheimer studies, coaching, how words create worlds and the importance of listening. I show him the draft of what I am working to accomplish and he gives me more contact names and offers to review it and send feedback as I move toward implementation. My serving heart is working its way into a plan, and I am grateful for the encouragement and support.

Spirits elevate after our meeting; I head out into the sunshine to enjoy the waterfront and a stop at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame where I read about the history of Bohemian Rhapsody. I don’t sing it there, at least out loud. My visit provides a fun jaunt through music history and memorabilia and my favorite display cases exhibit the first handwritten drafted lyrics of some of the most famous songs ever written. Words create worlds.

My evening ride home is more passive, with instrumental synthesizer music accompanying my smile, the dimming sunset and some contemplative thoughts.  Reflecting back to seven months ago when I received word that my job would not be renewed, I thought, “When one door closes…”  And then I said out loud, “Let us keep inspiring one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

My Thing-a-Ma-Jig

I have one of these novelty thing-a-ma-jig toys on my desk that is filled with clear liquid. When you flip it, blue and green colored streams from the top trickle slowly down to the bottom in a process that produces pretty relaxing bubbles throughout. It is an appreciated gift from a co-worker, something I wouldn’t have thought to buy on my own, yet it brings me a few moments of daily joy.

This amuses me occasionally when I am in need of a distraction during my workday or I need to fidget or am just absentmindedly losing focus on a mundane project. I also add it to my lunchtime meditation routine on the days when I stay in my office. The green bubbles make me think about the fresh opportunities, choices, experiences that are mine to embrace all the time. The cooling blue reminds me of all of my chances to take a few minutes out of my life here and there to notice and contemplate them. When they land at the bottom they combine into this fantastic blend of ingredients that I have come to know as my happy life.

It took some practice for me to recognize the simple perfection of myself this way. Once upon a time self doubt, indecision, negativity, inadequacy, victimization, etc. were all a part of my self-inflicted world. They were the solids that landed upon and crushed me. The right people, outlook and powers that be helped me climb out of the rubble, introducing me to the ebb and flow. Liquid is so much easier and pleasant to navigate, especially when you learn the tricks to stay above the water.

I have developed this habit of flipping the thing-a-ma-jig when shutting down my computer and leaving work every day like I’m signing out. It readies me for the evening, calling me to have some fun there, too. Enjoy whatever I’m doing, whomever I’m dining with, be thankful for the abundance of food, look up at the stars and hope to see the moon. If it’s cloudy, so what. They’re still there.

As I inspect the thing-a-ma-jig while writing this, I notice there is a label on one end that says “Warm and Fuzzy Toy” in tiny letters. I believe that’s the name of the company, but it suits me. Simple things for simple minds as they say.   So I flip it one more time and it makes smile again. When the joy arrives, I am reminded of a true pay-it-forward story a co-worker told me earlier in the day. Her son was having breakfast at a diner with a couple of his fraternity brothers over the holidays.   A man at the table next to them laid a $100 bill on their table as he left, telling them to enjoy their breakfast. Stunned, they in turn paid for their breakfast and for the family’s at the next table. Then they left the generous balance to the waitress.

I like my thing-a-ma-jig. Simply wonderful.

The Grand Delusion

A dialog exchange I heard recently:

“Do you think I’m delusional?”

“Only if delusional means seeing the world differently than most of the world sees it and differently than most of the world would like you to see it.” Followed by this statement, “I stand in the delusional place of mastery with all the greats.”

Me too.

As someone who is able not only to think out of the box but spent my entire life living and breathing out of the box, I appreciated that perspective. As someone with a mental illness who has heard “delusional” often associated with diagnosis and flawed perspective, I found it such a relief that it brought a smile to my face throughout the day every time I repeated it. You see, for as long as I can remember, the herd is not what I wanted to follow, the popular crowd has never been my destination and I don’t do trendy. Granted, there have been three weeks out of my life when my mental illness has brought me to the clinical diagnosis of “delusional.” But over my lifetime that leaves more than 2,541 weeks when I have been living it on my own terms.

This means finding alternatives when there are seemingly none. In my latest example, weary and discouraged from the traditional job search process, I told a friend that I am finding one-on-one networking and setting up my own marketing campaign to find employment because I just can’t bring myself to sign one more cover letter “Sincerely yours” when I’m not even close to meaning it, and nothing makes me feel more unproductive than hitting the “Submit” button on an online application for a job designed for hundreds and sending it into impersonal oblivion. She laughed and said she knew I would come up with a creative approach. And that I will succeed.

It is safe to say that somewhere along the line the brilliant minds of the past (Edison, Ford, Leonardo DiVinci, Newton, Goddard to name a few) must have had some level of delusion in order to manifest their ideas for the advances of mankind in such extraordinary ways. After that they were forever referred to as geniuses. When I was a child growing up in my neighborhood, we were delusional as well, only back then it was called imagination. Clouds were pictures painted just for us, back yards were campgrounds, picnic tables pushed together were pirate ships, we were whatever we wanted to be and no one could convince us otherwise. We were awesome.

I am blessed every day in my delusional state to see many things that others don’t.  Like St. Francis, another famous historical delusionist, I see hope in despair, light in darkness, joy in sadness, trust in the Universe which allows me to find alternate pathways to happiness, magic, miracles and a steadfast belief in unconditional love. And while my fellow human beings are enmeshed in drama, anger, gossip, mistrust, feeling victimized, complaining and negativity, I am busy being caught up in my delusion of inner peace and gratitude. That makes every day of my life worry, stress, doubt and anxiety free because what I see is seen through the eyes of my true heart; inner spirit, not clouded by exterior influences.

How’s your vision today?  May it be filled with joyful delusion.