An Answer to An Eternal Question. Birthdays are a favorite time for reflection, so today, I’m once again assessing where I am and what I’ve learned and if there are any nuggets to share. This year, rather than compiling a list of lessons and isms, ...

It's All About Coming Home

An Answer to An Eternal Question. 

Welome sign

 

Birthdays are a favorite time for reflection, so today, I’m once again assessing where I am and what I’ve learned and if there are any nuggets to share. This year, rather than compiling a list of lessons and isms, it’s one of the eternal questions on my mind and an answer that’s been percolating for quite some time.

Why am I here?

As I was walking to get coffee one morning, I saw a man across the street, out for his morning stroll. I paused to watch him because there was something magnetizing about his carriage. He was elegant, wearing a cappuccino-colored suede jacket over jeans. I’m guessing he was early 60’s, had shoulder-length silver hair pulled back into a loose yet neat ponytail and wore large sunglasses, as he was walking toward the bright, rising sun.

What captivated me was his gait. He had a long, confident stride as he walked with a cane. But the cane wasn’t there to help him walk;  it was a prop, a walking companion, a dance partner as he swung it in front of him and struck the sidewalk in a steady rhythm.

A few months later, while in France with friends, I saw a woman who, although very different, reminded me of that man. We were in Saumur, in the Loire valley. It was a perfect afternoon; after buying chocolate and strolling the charming cobblestone streets that seemed to meander forever, we stopped for lunch at a sidewalk cafe. It was mid-afternoon when I noticed the woman.

She caught my eye when she was about a block away. She was also late 50’s, early 60’s, with a smart chin-length bob; she had an easy swing to her stride, her casual, denim shirtdress swayed gently with each step. As she sat at the table next to us, we exchanged greetings, “Bonjour, Madame.” Her voice was low in timber and strong in expression. She settled back with her espresso and cigarette, lost in her own reverie. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

What was it that struck me about this man and this woman? They were both comfortable in their skin. But, it was more than that. They each had a deep sense of home about them, of personal ownership that preceded and walked alongside them.

What is home?

I've been thinking a lot about home lately. It has different meanings to people, at different times in their lives. For me, it started as a journey from the outside in.

I've lived in 21 homes during my life. That seems like a lot. Looking back, each home signified a theme and a progression of some kind. I remember feeling safe and loved in the family homes in which I grew up, where I never questioned where or what home was, it was with family. 

As a young adult, home meant striking out on my own, being able to make my own decisions about how I furnished it and lived there. Responsibility was the theme.

The first home I owned, a small bungalow in Royal Oak, Michigan, was a big mark of adulthood. Even though the bank was the true owner, I had a real sense of independence and ownership for the first time in my life. It was the first time I heard the phrase, "The house has good bones." I could make it a home and it was glorious to make it my own.

The house I owned with my ex-husband was new construction and we shared all of the decisions as to what went into that house to make it our own. Adventure, conflict, and compromise were rotating themes. It was an adventure for a while until we grew apart, realizing that things didn’t fit. I never felt like I fit in there and I kind of lost myself for a bit. So, that home represented coupling, a loss of personal ownership, then un-coupling.

Shortly after divorcing I transferred to Los Angeles with the company I was with and I bought a sweet little condo that felt like being a part of something grand, after which upgraded to a house with a big yard. I loved that house which was filled with so much happiness. Then, something else happened to rock my world.

I got laid off from the corporate job with the corner office. I was in the bubble that millions found themselves in at that time. There I was, without a job and with a big mortgage payment. I blew through savings over the next several months, and I got a tenant. I went through all of the processes made available during that time of crisis and tried to save my house. The American Dream became a nightmare.

It was in that house that it began to sink in, deep, that a house is not the home. The house is brick and mortar, slats and beams. I sold the house, downsized and moved on, as my career and life moved on too.

My idea of home started to change. I began some soul-searching spiritual work and the external signals became louder. 

“I need harmony in my home.”

I was in a brief living situation that was difficult and at times combative. I didn't feel at home. I said, “I need harmony in my home.” It started an ongoing conversation between the housemates about what that meant and might look like. That house represented a major shift in my definition of being home.

One morning I woke to up to find a spectacular spider web, the most intricate I’d ever seen, outside my door. It was a huge expansive mansion with its orb weaver and homeowner posing in the center. When I returned at the end of the day, the web and the spider were gone.

The next morning, the same spider built another web in the exact same spot. Fascinated, I learned this particular spider actually eats her web after the laborious task of building it, only to build it again the next day, and the next, and the next. She had a very specific intention while building it and also while tearing it down and taking it with her.

It got me thinking about was how this wise spider was never homeless because she carried her home with her. Inside of her. It was always with her, even as it was displayed for the world to see, she was connected to it, it was a part of her and represented who she was.

Well, that changed my entire perspective. It was empowering.

Home is an inside job.

When I shared living space, whether, with an ex-husband, tenants or a variety of roommates over the years, I appreciated the lessons of community and relationship. Many of those people I consider some of my greatest teachers.

There’s a reason some axioms are evergreen. They are true: Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home.

There’s no searching for home when you have it with you always. The cane-walking man, French woman, and spider taught me that. I settled into my own sense of home, more contained, more within.

I have good bones. I can make a home here, where true harmony resides.

Rumi said, “Remember, the entrance to the door of the sanctuary is inside you.”

The seeking really does start inside. Often we find ourselves searching outside of us, looking for happiness, purpose, validation, which is why so often we can come up empty, constantly searching for something that feels elusive.

So, as I ponder on this day, beginning my next year around the sun, the answer to this question is crystallized.

Why am I here?

To come home. Everything starts and ends there. 

What has become clear, in order to discover your purpose, you must first come home to yourself. When you launch from solid inner homeownership, your purpose becomes your way of being. And, when you share your purpose with the world in a way that helps and serves others, it’s a beacon that shines from the center of your soul, the hearth of your home. You no longer feel the angst of searching for something outside yourself.

And, it's when you are safe and self-loved in your inner home that you are truly ready to invite someone else in, someone who will reflect his or her own safe and loved self within. How magical is that?

It takes courage to unlock the door to your inner home. For me, it’s been through deep meditation, prayer, plant medicine work, writing, sharing and being in community with others who are seeking as well. Curious conversations are illuminating.

What are some keys to unlock your inner home?

Carve out committed quiet time where you’re just being with you. Commit to it every day. Get up a half-hour earlier than the rest of your household. Or shut everything down an hour before bedtime as the house quiets down for the night.

Meditate to get in touch with your breath and your body. Find a guided mindfulness meditation that will ease you through it. When my mind wanders, I focus silently on this mantra: “I am home.” On the inhale: “I am.” On the exhale: “Home.” It’s incredibly grounding and simple.

Breathwork is extremely powerful to open your energetic pathways and to get in touch with yourself.

Journal to communicate with your inner voice, the homeowner. Your inner voice, your higher wisdom, the God inside of you, is the one that says “welcome home.” 

And, hey, I still love and enjoy a beautiful home to live in. I’m a Libra, what can I say? I’m comforted by nature and aesthetics and my surroundings and enjoy spending time and energy creating my living sanctuary. But, now I enjoy my environment even more because I’m not seeking the satisfaction out there.

So, why am I here?

I am here to come home and to live my purpose from here. To transcend basic human struggles by knowing I’ll find most answers inside my own wisdom and by integrating that knowledge into my daily life. It’s not the only answer to why I am here. But, to me, everything starts and comes from that sense of home.

 

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

       
 

The Magic is in the Details

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On a recent episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" Jerry Seinfeld had coffee with his greatest comedy influence, Jerry Lewis. Seinfeld wanted to discuss some of his favorite iconic bits where Lewis was in his genius. 

One such scene from "The Bellhop" Lewis appears to simply be walking through an empty ballroom. Seinfeld said, "You were playing like eight different characters there." To which Lewis responded, "Yeah, most people don't notice the details..." What they notice is that it's funny. And, the reason it's funny is that it wasn't general; instead was filled with specificity. And it's why it felt real, even in its silliness. 

The best actors spend a vast amount of time and dedication to being so specific in their scenes - What's their intention? What's behind the dialogue and actions? What's between the lines? - So that they embody the truth of the life they're portraying. They notice everything. 

The magic is in the details.

In a recent fiction writing class, the teacher talked repetitively about following the character moment to moment, with curiosity and great attention to detail. There's such discovery in the most minute instances. And, that's when the surprises happen, when, as the creator, you allow yourself to just be with that moment, inside the life of the person, as new moments, directions and discoveries present themselves. And, those are the moments that feel most true.

The magic is in the details. 

It got me thinking about how specificity can be a vital component to living a fully present life; a mindful, moment to moment aliveness. 

It's noticing what's right in front of you, the textures, feelings, sounds, colors, the unique details and nuances that keep you present.

It's noticing that the barrister at the coffee shop has a smattering of freckles on his nose.

Or that the brass has worn off the elevator button.

Or that your child holds her cup with her thumb and middle finger, just like you do.

Or that your dog uses his paw as a pillow.

Or a tree branch barely touches the top of the table on the patio, gently scratching it as the wind blows. 

Or that the person next to you in line has stepped aside so you can go first. 

What's magic about the details is how you allow them to surprise and delight. In what's next. In what's underneath. In what's there when you look closer. 

Just a little something to ponder as you head into your weekend. Get specific. Pay attention. Notice everything.

Look for the magic. It's in the details. 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

       
 

This Is Not on You

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Sometimes we need a little reminder. And, then other times we need more than that. We need a meaningful punch to snap out of it. To snap back to paying attention, paying attention to ourselves. 

I was fretting over a couple of situations recently where I had myself in knots about what to do, what to say, how to be. Enough so that it took a meaningful punch from a good friend, who said, "This is not your responsibility. You're acting like it is." And, when I say meaningful punch, I mean it's a welcome jolt of reality, something I often count on from this friend. 

It got me thinking about how subtle it is sometimes, the ways in which we can take on too much, diminish our sense of personal power, our self-worth. And, it can build until the little forms of self-betrayal become a way of being. It stops us from being truthful and effective. And, real. 

How do we stop from robbing our own personal banks of self worth or power? These two ways are vital to replenish and revive.   

Stop Taking Responsibility for Other People's Stuff

You know those times. If not, let me remind you. Those times when you want to help so badly that you, energetically, take on the problem. When you feel like you need to fix things, to get in the middle; to help or give advice, often unbidden. And, all because you care, at least it starts out that way.

Then, if things get complicated or don't go the way you hoped or envisioned, or the person or people come back at you, then you - wait for it - take it on. You become responsible for that person's or group's actions or feelings. 

But, here's the thing. This is self-inflicted responsibility, misplaced ownership of that which doesn't belong to you. And, most of the time the other person or persons have no idea because they're focusing on themselves. They may sense of push-pull type of energy or they may not. Because it's in you, this self-inflicted responsibility, you're the one who is suffering.

The work, your work, is to know and understand the difference between support and responsibility. They dance next to each other but to very different tunes. Big aha for me! 

This is not on you.

A dear friend used to say, "One, two, three; not about me." It's a good mantra in those moments. Another friend says, "How is this my problem?" It helps put things in their proper place. 

Stop Apologizing for Yourself

This is the other debilitating way we betray ourselves. And, it's rampant, particularly with women.

You know those moments. If not, let me remind you. Those times you apologize when someone else gets in your way. Or you say I'm sorry for someone else's mistake or misgiving because you don't know what else to say or you somehow feel it's partially your fault, even when it isn't. Or you apologize for a situation that is clearly out of your control, outside of your jurisdiction, just because you extended the invitation to an event that goes awry or you brought to someone's attention something in the ether that ended up being offensive. Something you had nothing to do with. Or when you apologize for taking up space, for breathing. 

The last one may seem far fetched, but that's the impression it leaves. I've been trying to be mindful of when I do this. And, when I see or hear another woman do it, sometimes it's a reflex to say, 'stop apologizing.' Primarily because it's a reminder or a call for all of us to stop it. 

"I'm sorry." 

"Stop apologizing."

"Oh okay... Sorry."  

Apologizing for yourself is another way of taking responsibility for something or someone that has nothing to do with you. Yikes.

The first step is awareness. Start noticing, listening, as others do it, apologizing for things that don't require an apology from them, and then notice how it disempowers them instantly.

At the same time, shine the spotlight on yourself. Pay attention to how and when you do the same. Don't judge yourself for it. That's not what this is about at all. It's about reclaiming your inner strength and worth, your life, instead of continually giving your power away, one I'm Sorry at a time. 

Perhaps find another word. Remove I'm Sorry from your vocabulary. It so easily slips off the tongue, for everything. So, if you stop yourself from saying those words, then it allows you a moment to consider what's really happening and if the situation calls for you to say anything at all. If so, then find another way to engage, empathize, support, respond. 

This is not about when something occurs that does require a heartfelt apology, something that you are a part of. This is about not diminishing yourself and your life. It's also about not putting what you perceive to be other people's opinions about you or your actions above your own self worth. 

In her book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing," Rachel Hollis says, "If you actively take steps and intentionally begin to live without obsessing over what other people think of you, it will be the most freeing decision of your life." 

So, stop apologizing for yourself. And, stop taking responsibility for another's stuff.

Instead, be in full ownership of your own life, your own power. Now, that's on you. How awesome is that?

 

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

       
 

Catching Up to Your Own Success

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"Reading your own bio is more painful than looking at current photos." 

I've been helping a friend update his bio. Several days after sending him the first draft, his response email came and literally made me laugh out loud. "I am learning that reading your own bio is more painful than looking at current photos."

I laughed because I related so much to the raw truth of his statement. 

My friend's career has taken a huge uplevel that puts him in the very top echelon in his field. And, while his ascent has been organic and based on decades of study, practice and proven success, the latest leap is the stuff of dreams personified. Thus, the need for a new bio.

It got me thinking about how sometimes there are those comfortable parts of ourselves - as in the parts that fit-like-an-old-shoe - that aren't quite ready for the big accomplishments and successes that happen to and for us. And, once you see yourself in that elevated position, in black and white, in meaningful descriptive words, the way others already see you, and the way the rest of the world is about to know you, it can take a minute to catch up. For the rest of yourself to catch up.

In fact, for me, there have been times in my life when I felt I went backward after a big leap. Where the fear of being able to actually survive and thrive at the new higher base camp, sent me back a few thousand feet.

When you think about it, mountain climbers who set their sites on a major pinnacle must do so in increments. They spend time at the elevated base camp to become acclimated to the higher elevation. They have to allow their bodies to catch up. To become comfortable with the new normal. Once they have, they can keep moving upward. And, every few thousand feet they must get acclimated again. 

The same can be said for your life and career. When something major happens - a promotion, a huge book launch, a major product line unveiling, a big sale from your life's work, a high profile invitation to sit at the big table - it makes complete sense that you might need to take a moment. Or several. To acclimate to your new base camp.  To enjoy the view, as well as the fruits of your labor; to get comfortable in your new suit of clothing. Adjusting. Loosening the bindings so that it fits. Making room for all of you. 

I used to think it was self-sabotage, those moments when I took a step back, and when the committee in my head would come up with all the reasons why I didn't deserve it.

Now, with the help of my brilliant up-leveled friend, I see that it really was simply space, a pause, a comma that was needed in order for the rest of me to catch up. It provides the chance to say to the self that's lagging behind, "It's okay, I've got this. How about you get in the backseat and I'll drive for a bit. Until you can catch up."

So take a minute. Get acclimated to your awesomeness. 

Photo by Samuel Clara on Unsplash

       
 

Your Most Important Conversation

It might not be what you think.

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DIANE LOCKHART: I’m happy.

KURT MCVEIGH: You like narrating your life.

~ CBS’s THE GOOD FIGHT.

I thought, ah, there's so much truth to that. We're always narrating our own lives, sometimes dictating, sometimes cheering, sometimes judging. It got me thinking about that most important conversation.

The most vital chat being, to my way of thinking, our inner dialogue, the constant conversation we're having with ourselves. 

On the full moon this weekend some friends were texting about what we each wanted to release and let go of. It can be kind of powerful to do that as one moon cycle ends and another begins. No matter the woo, it's always something good to ponder and can lead to change.

I said I want to let go of the attachment to the negative voices in my head. The naysayers in my internal conversation, the one who says all of those things that spark insecurities or fear. The voice that likes to keep us in check, that says we're not good enough - whatever not good enough looks like. 

So that the "I'm happy" conversation starter is met with, you should be. And, me too. And, I'd like more of that please.

Or the first internal voice that says, "This is what I desire and I'm going for it," is met with, "Great what's the next step?" Rather than, "Yeah, that's not gonna happen. Again." Or "You're a dreamer." 

Here's the deal. Since you are the one on both sides of that conversation you get to write, or rewrite, the dialogue. How cool is that?

Safire Rose in her moving poem "She Let Go" wrote "she let go of the committee of indecision within her." I love that. 

It's so true, sometimes those voices can feel like a committee whose vote is louder and counts for more than your first true voice, the one being told to hush and to stop. That's when, along with letting go of the glue-like attachment you may have to this committee that's likely been in place for years, you can rewrite the committee's agenda. Or, better yet, do away with the agenda altogether and assign a higher purpose and vocabulary to your this-is-my-life-so-I-get-to-write-the-script committee. 

And, since they are voices that have most likely been around a long time, you can be gentle but firm. Listen, but not judge. Learn and reframe. Re-engage and choose the inner conversation you wish to have.

Kind of gives pillow talk and coffee chat a whole new meaning, don't you think?

Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

       
 
 

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It's been 5 days since my beloved Gracie has been gone. I haven't been able to write a word until today. Her transition was swift and light and beautiful. She was ready and she waited patiently until I was ready too. Once the decision was made the day was filled with peace. I'll always be grateful to my dear sister-friends Andrea Quinn and Lisa Greenfield for their generosity, for being by my side and for holding me up afterward. When I returned home to her little sister Maggie, my entire space was filled with light and angelic presence. It was remarkable. And, so not surprising. Gracie was, and is, an angel. She was, and is, the gentlest, sweetest spirit, always loving and kind. She taught me the true meaning of infinite love. My steady companion, I loved her soft, bunny fur. I loved the way she slept next to me, always touching, purring, next to my face, with her head on my shoulder. Checking in with me, making sure I was there and okay. A daughter. A mother. A sister. She had a wise, knowing way about her. She was the equalizer, taking care of everyone in the room. She was a playful goofball. And, oh, she was elegant. Princess Gracie of Monacat. If there was a silk pillow in the room she'd know it was hers. Thank you so much for all of the calls, messages, cards, and visits this past week. It's been so much harder than I imagined. I've been blessed for having been chosen to be Gracie's kitty-mama for the past 16 years. And, I surge forward with sweet memories to carry me! I'm so grateful. XOXO #lovemycats #infinitelove