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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

A Season for Giving; A Season Forgiving

To prepare for an upcoming call with my life coach I followed my usual routine, preparing written notes on what was weighing heaviest on my mind. Note: Yes I do use a life coach. I find that the combination of her wisdom, daily journaling and the occasional glass of wine keep me moving on my path of joy and positivity. I’m not quite sure whether this time of year factored in at all, but my topic was forgiveness. I needed to forgive some people in my life for the perceived wrongs they had committed against me. Since I did not have the opportunity to do so one on one, I role played with my coach. Visualizing my “offenders” sitting across from me in my living room, I began with the most recent, rattling off a list items and scratching them off line by line. It was cleansing to think them, write them down and read them. When all were expressed, I firmly declared, “I forgive you.” It was more powerfully immediately healing than I imagined it would be.

For the next person, I did the same thing. Her list was much smaller, consisting of only one item, but that had invoked a feeling of trauma within me. While I was writing it out, a strange thing happened. A conscious thought came to my mind about how after she did what she did I had behaved pretty badly myself, dragging her name through the mud by reporting the story to whomever would listen, and many people did. It was an eye-opening moment, which resulted in my remorse. Despite her behavior, I wasn’t proud to act that way; it wasn’t at all in line with the compassionate person I strive to be. After I wrote “I forgive you” under her entry, I added “and I ask for forgiveness. I am sorry for what I did.” An amazing feeling of calm overcame me (it wasn’t the wine) and I wished that these two people were standing in front of me right there and then.

I found this forgiveness activity so successful that I grabbed a fresh piece of paper from my notebook and visualized my life’s worst “offender” (my ghost of Christmas past perhaps?) and bravely began to write. I completed an entire side of the page before I was mentally exhausted and he was forgiven. Woah. In that moment I was thinking that sometimes the best of the written word isn’t reserved for the New York Times bestseller list, but in my own damn journal.

I’m glad I took the time to do that clearing of my heart Chakra. I feel like I shed every Holiday pound in the process. I learned so much. First of all, that I’m grateful to have so few people in my life that I feel I need to make amends with. Next, I gained an understanding that each of us has a different interpretation of what is necessary to receive or give forgiveness for. I am only able to understand those concepts according to my own values and beliefs, not other’s. Which is why it pays to communicate responsibly more in the moment when I have been hurt.  Otherwise the other person walks around clueless. If anyone needs to forgive me for something, visualize me in the living room, or better yet, step forward, let’s talk. We all will work better if we learn to share the love. Time and relationships are too precious to hold grudges, and forgiveness is a mighty elixir.

To All for 2017: Good Tidings of Comfort and Joy with lots of Love thrown in.

Photo Credit:  Megan Rose

Impeccable Me

I just finished reading a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Excellent read by the way. The first agreement is “be impeccable with your word”.  As a writer, I found that statement really made an impression on me.   Words are very powerful.  You can choose the wrong one and alter the meaning of something important or say the wrong thing and change someone’s life forever.  I choose the words I use very carefully when I am writing.  Not so much when speaking because of the spontaneity of the moment and tendency to respond on a quicker basis. To know my truth, to live it and to speak it every day in every situation is whom I strive to be and worth the challenge. Claiming to live under the pretense of joy, love and compassion, I’d better put my money where my mouth is.

I am grateful to have a gift to put words together in a meaningful, constructive and entertaining way when some people struggle to assemble even a sentence.  I feel a responsibility to be a woman of my word and stick to it.  I need to be better at that, and spend less time passing judgment on others and situations.  I will start in my thoughts first, long before they become my words, especially on paper.  I often wrongly pass judgment on myself, so I must start a great big campaign to toss out words of encouragement and kindness to myself.  If I don’t matter to me, how can I possibly matter to others.  And I will be conscious of practicing that theme of joy, love and compassion until it’s expressed every time I speak, write or think.  I’ll be impeccable.

Culture and social media make it easy for us to throw our opinions out quickly without thought. Surveys, comments, reviews on everything imaginable. Life rated. Very few opportunities exist for us to just stand back, watch and listen without distraction of phone or computer. I’m taking every chance I get to slow myself down to the point where I’m ready to remember the importance of my word. To think before I speak. People often pay me compliments on my writing, calling me inspirational and funny.  Before I am any of that, I’d like to be known as someone who is impeccable with my word, for this by default can only result in natural transition to speaking and writing the language of love. And I want to make it my purpose to do that loud and clear and consistently. I can only imagine how satisfying that will be in the effort to being at peace with myself. What a goal.

 

And now, sharing a Little Joy:
Waking up and hearing a lawyer commercial: “We have all of the extensive resources you need.” And thinking I just heard, “We have all of the expensive resources you need.”

Going out for lunch when it is 20 degrees outside and returning to the bonus of a second row parking space, only to forget after work and doubling your walk backtracking when you remembered!