Key Life Choices: 10K Steps – 5 Teachers & 18 Lessons for Life & Business

June 1 - 10K steps before 0830!

June 1 – 10K steps before 0830!

News flash!

“I don’t melt in the rain!”

A new month, like a new year, can often be a catalyst for recommitting to my goals. More precisely, recommitting to establishing the habits and taking the actions that will result in those dreams coming to fruition.

Recommitment for June 1st:

Stay healthy and energetic.

Eat well.

Move early.

Specifically, May 31st, I say, “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to get my 10,000 steps in early in the morning!”

June 1st, 7 a.m. – It’s raining in Annapolis!

“Of course it is!”

After the commitment always comes the testing of it.

I’ve been up since 5:30 a.m. looking for the sun to lighten the way enough to get out there. Part of me is debating, waffling, hoping a little lightening might flash and relieve me without guilt from the commitment of May 31st.

“No.”

The storm has calmed, only the rain remains. (I once completed a half-marathon entirely in the rain, so I already know I do not melt. I squish, yes, but I do not melt.)

I stuff my iPhone ear buds in and activate my Pandora app. It automatically goes to the Dean Martin Radio station I was listening too on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The first song has enough energy that I don’t bother to change the station. I’d just be giving myself an excuse to delay further.

“Just get out the door and get going.”

A couple of songs and a few blocks in Elvis starts to sing one of my all time favorites from the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, “Carousel.” The song is “When You Walk Through A Storm.”

The bit of irony is not lost on me.

It’s my opinion that you know a musical masterpiece when it continues to resonate with musicians through multiple generations. A quick Google search validates that “When You Walk Through A Storm” is just such a song. The list of artists who have covered the original is long and includes amazing generational voices like Mahalia Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Elvis, The Three Tenors, The Righteous Brothers, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Michael Ball, Celtic Woman and many more.

The inspirational lyrics and musical phrasing continue to inspire, to give hope, and courage.

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm

There’s a golden sky

And the sweet silver song

Of the lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Ok, back to recommitment. My 10,000 steps do more than just keep me moving physically. They give me time to focus my senses, to interact with the things and people I meet along the way. This morning, in spite of the rain, several things caught my attention and provided me with insights and connections for life, for my business, and for my clients.

IMG_6358

North American Box Turtle

This little guy first showed up to greet me on May 18th. This morning he surprised me by being in a completely new place. (Sure, I know it might actually be a different turtle, but just go along with me anyway, please.) He reminded me that:

  1. Even when I’m moving slow, I’m still moving.
  2. Sometimes I need to slow down to reassess my direction and my results.
  3. Sometimes I need to slow down to preserve myself for the long journey.
  4. It’s important to just keep showing up!
IMG_6359

Grey squirrel playing in the rain

This little gal scampered around the tree a couple of times before pausing on the branch long enough for me to focus and shoot the picture. She reminded me to:

  1. Stay playful as much as possible.
  2. Mind my energy. Get up and move. Do something.
  3. Don’t fear the swaying branches. Trust that I can find a way to balance even when things feel unsteady.
This dirty penny almost got by me this morning.

Almost overlooked this dirty penny this morning.

I walk this path several times a week and invariably I find money. I’ve found lots of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and even a $10 bill. Today, I thought:

  1. Isn’t it amazing that I can walk the same path regularly and still be finding resources?
  2. Never assume I’ve already found all there is to find. Keep looking. Pay attention. Notice. Observe.
  3. Believe there is enough. There are resources everywhere. There are opportunities just waiting for me to show up to serve and to earn.
  4. Get out there and look for what’s available.
IMG_6360

What’s your dream?

There’s no doubt where this owner would like to be. Got me to thinking about:

  1. The importance of always keeping my dream in front of myself.
  2. Having a big WHY!
  3. Nietzsche, who said, “He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’”
IMG_6362

There are signs everywhere…

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign. Blocking out the scenery. Breakin’ my mind…” 5 Man Electric Band gave us attitude about them, but still signs are here for us. In just this corner threesome, I found lots to consider:

  1. The road is rarely straight. Be ready for the curves. Lean into them. Adjust your speed accordingly.
  2. There’s direction if we’re willing to pay attention.
  3. There’s likely danger or a price to be paid if we insist upon ignoring the information available to us.
  4. Confucius’: “When it is obvious the goals cannot be reached [i.e. all the signs are there], don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.

BONUS: If you’re still looking for inspiration and courage to move through your own storms, here’s one of Elvis’ recordings to help you “walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart.”

 

Advertisements

Key Life Choices: 6 Leadership Lessons Learned From Motherhood

1. I’ve lots of power to set the tone and culture within my “cottage”.

“If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”

We smile, we smirk, and we fear this trite quip, because its truth resonates.

Likewise, we know we can easily modify and apply it to our workplace: “If the boss ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

Motherhood and leadership give us the power and responsibility to set the tone and culture of the environments we inhabit.

2.  Example is the only way to transfer my values and principles.

“Values are caught not taught.”

We’ve all learned the hard way that “do as I say and not as I do” never yields the results it demands. Nope. Not with our children or with our co-workers.

We watch, we observe, and we often mimic those placed in authority over us.

Motherhood and leadership give us the opportunity to teach the discernment process of choice that is living from our values and principles.

3.  With all their limitations, my words carry power and linger long.

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

We instinctively feel the authenticity of words of encouragement, comfort, acceptance and forgiveness, just as we recoil from the sting of a rebuke that’s void of care.

Motherhood and leadership record our reflecting voices to be replayed over and over in the minds and hearts of those with whom we live and work.

4.  I’m not super-woman. I cannot do this alone.

“It takes a village.”

All politics aside, we can never parent or lead alone. The conceiving of life and ideas, the birthing and nurturing of a child or a business, require the input of the gifts and commitment of others. The need for others isn’t just for me. Those I parent and those I lead need the influence and input of others. I serve them best when I understand and make provision for this for them.

Motherhood and leadership temper our pride and sense of independence and heighten our awareness of and appreciation for shared vision, collaborative relationships, and those committed to investing in the lives of our children and our co-workers.

5.  The best results come when I relinquish my need to be in control.

“Let it go, let it go! That perfect girl is gone!”

We’ve all fallen into the traps of “this is how it should be,” “there’s only one way to do this,” and “this is how you must be.” Invariably, that’s when we are sent the child or employee who challenges our “shoulds,” our “only ones” and our “musts.” In learning to embrace and hear these individuals, we learn to loosen our need for control.

Motherhood and leadership expand the room we can make for diversity, and the creativity and inspiration of others. In doing so, we often provide new paths for our own growth and transformation.

6.  Seeking divine guidance keeps me grounded.

But the high point came when the minister stood up and said, “Friends, Brother Jonathan is going to give the sermon today, and his subject is going to be faith.” Little Brother Jonathan stood up. He was about five-foot-four. He stood before everybody for a minute, folded his hands and said, “Faith, faith, faith, faith, faith, faith.” Then he sat down! The minister stood up with a big smile on his face and said, “Thank you, Brother Jonathan, for that beautiful lecture on faith.” I thought, someday I’m going to wise up and when I go to talk to people as I am tonight, about love, I’m going to fold my hands and I’m going to say, “Love, love, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, love, love,” and then I’m gonna go home! It’ll be the most beautiful evening we’ve had. But I’m not that secure yet, so I’m going to spend an hour telling you what this man said in a minute. (Leo Buscaglia)

Sometimes we just need to get secure enough to shout, “Help, help, HELP, HELP, HELP!” Then, get silent enough to listen for the still small voice of the divine. Whether we think it is within us, outside of us, or some combination of both, the voice of inspiration, intuition, and wisdom makes itself available when we get secure enough, perhaps humble enough, to surrender to hearing.

Motherhood and leadership heighten our awareness of the need for wisdom and guidance that is often beyond our present knowing. We’re not giving in or giving up as much as we’re opening to more, to receiving, to filling. With what we get, we can then continue to give to those whose lives we’ve been entrusted to parent and lead.

Key Life Choices:

  • As you spend time caring for and playing with your children this week, watch them closely.
  • What leadership lessons do they teach you regularly? How have you integrated these lessons into parenting them? What results have you experienced?
  • How have you or might you integrate these lessons into your business relationships and interactions? If you’ve already integrated them, what positive changes did you experience from doing so?

Key Life Choice: Embracing Disruption

great-balls-of-fire-1989-1-g

Disruption….

Like Jerry Lee Lewis frantically sang: “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain!”

Disruption….

“Oh, no! Not again!”

You remind me that my sense of control is mostly myth, my routine often a way I wall myself in from life.

Disruption….

“We interrupt this program….”

You force me to suspend the complacency that often sits within my ease, to engage larger in the wholeness of life.

Disruption….

“Breaking now….”

You remind me that I can never prepare for every possibility, but I can ponder how I will respond to surprise, to chaos, to the unknowns yet to be revealed.

Disruption….

“You broke my will….”

You often distort my image of myself. I reconsider, reinvent, renew. I’m seeing new beauty in brokenness, new courage in cracks, new possibilities and pathways among the pebbles.

Disruption….

“Do Not Disturb!”

You move me beyond my self-imposed boundaries, to reorder, to un-cage my creativity and inspire innovation.

Disruption….

“Oh, what a thrill….”

Your chaos opens new perspectives, allows new opportunities for clarity.

Disruption….

“Goodness, gracious, those are great balls of fire!” 

“Hey, Disruption! Welcome! Come on in. I’ve been expecting you!”

 

Key Life Choices: Connection – A Gift From David

Connection.

Once the press realized President Reagan liked red, they quickly saw he often called upon reporters who were wearing red during press conferences. That connection got some reporters a lot more question time than others. That’s the power of connection.

I met Janna, one of my oldest friends, because of a red jacket. The first day of third grade the teacher let us pick whom we wished to sit by.

New to the school and not knowing anyone, when it came time for me to pick, I said, “I want to sit by the girl in the red jacket.”

Never could I have known what a wonderful friend the little girl in the red jacket would become in my life. This week, she and two other friends from childhood are visiting me. We’re sharing old memories and making new ones. That’s the gift of connection.

Connection.

Yesterday, we four spent time at Arlington National Cemetery. The gals are doing a lot of sightseeing while they’re here, but I asked them not to go to Arlington without me. I have a special connection in Arlington.

We lost Captain John David Hortman on August 8, 2011, when his Army helicopter crashed during a training mission in Georgia. Among the 400,000 plus souls interred on those hallowed grounds and the rows of pristine, aligned headstones, it is David’s that calls to me; it is David’s that deeply touches me no matter how often I visit.

Connection.

David connected in a very personal way. Though he could have been my son, I learned a lot from him about quickly bonding with others. He would take time to sit down across from me, look me directly in the eyes, smile, and have a conversation. A real conversation: he would talk, I would talk, he would respond, I would respond, he would laugh, and I would laugh.

His curiosity was natural. He wanted to know other people, and we all felt it. He was genuine, not perfect, but real. He could give and take as good as he gave. He cared about his relationships and made sure he took time for others.

David is one of my heroes. Not just because he gave his life in service for our country. He’s one of my heroes because of how he lived his life. Because he took time to connect with me personally and because connection was a key life choice he made every day. That’s the blessing of connection.

Connection.

It’s a key life choice.

Whether personal or professional, connections and relationships require time, curiosity, conversation, openness and honesty. How are your connections?

Key Life Choices: Daffodils, Dandelions & The Tension of Beliefs and Practice

I wonder who decided that yellow dandelions were weeds that should be eradicated? Who decided that yellow daffodils should be prized?

IMG_5849It’s spring here in Annapolis. On my walk yesterday I saw my first daffodils in bloom. Up on a hillside they stood, ten inches tall with their heads already bending down like daffodils seem want to do.

I couldn’t help but wonder if they’re naturally introverted in nature. These bright, tenacious flowers that not only survive the winters but need the cold, dark time in the ground to regroup themselves before pushing forth as some of the first blooms of the spring.

They make their entrance early, often brightening a world still cloaked in winter grays and browns. Though they grow upward, they easily bow to the elements like those I saw this morning, their backs glistening with raindrops.

It’s spring here in Annapolis. On my walk yesterday I saw my first dandelion. It was also on a hillside, ensconced among decorative groundcover; quite low to the ground and tentative looking almost as if it knew it was an unwanted guest. IMG_5856

The bright yellow in the dandelion matched that of the daffodil. It’s tenacity for survival of winter equal if not stronger. It’s ability to push forth among the early spring bloomers undeniable. It’s resistance to the elements unsurpassed.

One we struggle to cultivate. One we fight to eradicate.

One we prize. One we abhor.

One we showcase in our homes. One makes us the bane of the neighborhood.

From whence cometh these beliefs and ideas? Who made these determinations? What keeps us passing them along for all generations? What good do they add to our life? What harm are they causing us? What other ways might we view their value? Who disagrees with us and why? What will we suffer if we change our mind, our beliefs, and our practices?

I wonder who decided that yellow dandelions were weeds that should be eradicated? Who decided that yellow daffodils should be prized?

I wonder….

Key Life Choice: Dancing and the Tension of Life and Living

dance

The other night I danced the waltz for the first time. Actually, the other night I danced the waltz for the second and third times, too. I can’t wait to do it again!

I imagined myself Scarlett O’Hara, my dance card filling quickly as gracious gents requested the honor of this dance. How could they know my shoes ensconced virgin feet? That the flutter they detected was fear, not a reaction to their charms?

Dancing.

I’m pretty sure that if it showed up on the same survey list as public speaking, it would rival for the top spot of our greatest fears. Since so few of us ever have to do it as part of making our living, dancing and we who fear it, are spared this acknowledgement. Aside from the occasional wedding, where it’s possible to escape to the powder room or fuel our courage at the bar, we rarely face the giant.

Yet, here I am, looking in the eyes of a stranger. Wondering, what kind of giant will he be?

My three giants that night each turned out to be princes. Leaders on the dance floor every one. Patient teachers plying me gently with tips, then, helping me practice and refine my new knowledge.

Flexible knees, frame, arm positioning, and weight distribution. Feel the music: 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

Then came the tip on resistance.

I must have frowned a bit when my partner spoke of it, for he quickly followed it with, “Trust me on this.”

Ah, there it was, my goal for the evening: Trust my dance partner to lead! Admittedly, in some ways I was using it as a safety net.

My friend Fred, quite an accomplished dancer, recently reminded me to never forget “it’s always the leader’s fault.” Just having that blame card tucked in my pocket relaxed my need to control and buoyed my courage to surrender.

Still, I’m a bit confused. I must surrender and resist? My analytical mind wanted to unpack this conundrum, but there was no time. My partner led me around the dance floor and urged me just to feel it.

“Lose the thinking. Get back to the feeling.”

Only a few days before, I’d heard music producer and VOICE coach Pharrell Williams say this to one of the show’s classically trained singing contestants.

The tension of life and living is this very thing: to master the knowledge of technique and to connect artistically and emotionally to what lies not just within the technique but also with the possibilities that are beyond it. These are the moments where we lose the thinking and get back to our intuitive creative souls.

Of course, this is often when we fear the most. When we ramp up our control factors, stumble over our hesitations, and swirl in a vortex of what-ifs. What if I fail or falter or fall down? What if it’s messy and not perfect? What if others don’t like it, or worse yet, what if they don’t like me?

I went to dance, to feel the music and the freedom of surrendering fully to the movement. Sometimes I momentarily lost my frame. There was the occasional nipping of toes and some intentional rehearsing of resistance or a turn. But always there was choosing to step into the artistry, to float above the resistance, to connect with the joy of the moment, to surrender to the leader.

My dance partner was right about the resistance technique. There was something very powerful in applying a slight, momentary resistance to his forward movement. It was like the briefest acknowledgement that we were together in this. That one of us was leading, one of us following, and neither of us was taking for granted that we both mattered in the partnership. It created a natural flow.

Beyond the joy of my full engagement in the dances came the unbidden gifts of gratitude and acknowledgement from my partners that I had let them lead. One shared that in not having to fight with me for control, he felt released to his own artistry. Isn’t that descriptive of the tension in all partnerships?

The pull of resistance, the push of surrender.

The pull of leadership, the push of followership.

The pull of systems, the push of innovation.

The pull of process, the push of service.

The pull of knowledge, the push of experience.

The pull of boundaries, the push of freedom.

The pull of thinking, the push of feeling.

There is the sweet spot in each of these. The moment, even if only briefly, when we know we are not just a man or woman dancing, but we are truly a dancer.

Lee Ann Womack had a hit song that aptly describes the tensions life often presents us.

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.

You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger.

May you never take one single breath for granted.

God forbid love ever leave you empty-handed.

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.

Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens.

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance.

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

 I hope you dance!

I hope you dance!

 

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance

Never settle for the path of least resistance

Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’

Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’

Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter

When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance.

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance!

I hope you dance!

As you face the tensions that naturally come with your key life choices, I hope you not only choose to dance, but that you find those sweet moments when you know and feel beyond all doubt that you are, indeed, a dancer.

Key Life Choice: On Taxes & Integrating Fun & Responsibility

th-24

It’s been said there are only two certainties in this life: death and taxes. Sometimes I think I shall be sent earlier to the former because of the latter.

The filing deadline looms again, less than a month away. The annual pressure builds within me. I berate myself to employ discipline.

“Dare you to avoid the 36-hour crush,” my inner voice challenges.

Do a little each day. Make checklists. Gather all the papers in one place. Sort, calculate, add, and re-add. Research. Draft. Find just one more deduction.

I detest this project. Finding any fun in it seems hopeless. I foster all means of avoidance. Masterfully justify my procrastination.

“No fun! No fun!” Every part of me screams.

Still, the responsibility looms over me. It is not to be ignored.

I exude responsibility. It seeps from me like the tears of an iconic weeping Madonna.

As the oldest of three, it’s a destiny ingrained from my birth order, an inescapable anointing. Abdication self-forbidden.

I’m sure I knew the role of responsibility in my life much earlier, but my first memory of deeply knowing and feeling it is on Christmas Eve of 1962.

Nearing the end of my 5th year, I awaken my 3-½ year-old brother and take him by the hand. With my other hand, I raise my index finger to my puckered lips. Our eyes meet. I raise my eyebrows slightly to indicate the severity of what I’m about to say.

“Ssshhh.”

He nods. I lead him out of the bedroom, and we begin creeping down the stairs.

Our mission: To catch Santa Claus in the act of coming through the front door and to escape detection from our parents in the process.

The wall along the enclosed stairwell means we must make it all the way down to the 3rd step before we’ll be able to peer around the corner.

What an adventure!!!! My heart pounds hard and loud.

Staying one step ahead of David, I lead the way. Always holding his hand – both for his safety and to keep him in his place. I’m in charge, of course.

We near the third step. I take it and stop David on the fourth. My heart races. Excitement. Fear.  Wonder. What awaits around the wall?

“I wanna see. I wanna see, too,” David starts.

“Not yet,” I command in a stern whisper.

We’ve not come this far for me to give up control yet.

I balance myself on the edge of the wall and the step, tilt my head forward and to the left. Not enough. Stretching my neck forward and checking my balance, I lean my head into the darkness of the dining room. I hear voices and see shadows move through a light from the living room.

“Is it Santa? It IS Santa!” David chortles excitedly and a little too loudly.

“Ssshhh.”

Listening, I realize the voices are those of our parents. Responsibility shrouds me.

I’m suddenly aware that this adventure I brought us on might have dire consequences. If we are found out, Santa might actually pass us by. There might be no presents for us to open on Christmas morning.

I peer around the wall one more time, and then quickly decide I must save our Christmas. I must safely get the two of us back up the stairs without detection, back into bed, and fast asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

There’s no doubt in my mind that in that moment I knew being a big sister was both an adventure and a responsibility. I embraced it. Still do. I can be good at it. I can be bad at it.

The responsibility thing goes well beyond my role as sister. It’s a role all itself. I’m good at it. So good at it, that sometimes I forget to lighten up, to play, to have fun.

Like with this darned tax return project.

I know what needs to happen. I’ve got a plan, but it’s only when I find a way to have fun with it that I overcome my resistance and procrastination.

So, this morning, I’m playing with the tax return. Revenues are entered into the calculations. Time to celebrate. Turn on Pharrell’s Happy song and dance and sing a victory jig.

Work some more. Depreciation calculations are completed. Roy Orbison sings Pretty Woman, and for three minutes I strut through the house on high heels like Julia Roberts on a Rodeo Drive shopping spree.

“Mercy!”

More responsibility! Go at it some more. He Ain’t Heavy. He’s My Brother! Sing it sister!

Sometimes responsibility, like life, is meant to be all seriousness. But more often, it’s meant to be imbued with excitement and enthusiasm, filled with celebrations for even the smallest victories.

Our childlike senses of adventure and fun come naturally, fueled by our curiosity and early explorations of the world around us. The imprinting of responsibility presses into us at different times and in many different ways.

Both are wonderful, necessary gifts for living and contributing to our lives and the world in which we live. But, often one can smother the other.

In my case, responsibility is the older sister. She holds fun back on the fourth step. Integrating play and fun with responsibility is an ongoing key life choice for me.

Reconnecting with my childlike exuberance means sometimes letting go of cool and reserved. It’s recalling the essence of my own childlike wonder. It’s seeing and embracing the world with wide-eyes, spontaneous joy, and an innocence that just naturally plays at whatever lies before me to be done.

It’s Mary Poppins adding a spoonful of sugar to the bitter medicine that life sometimes requires me to swallow. It’s finding joy in the ordinary events of life and celebrating accomplishing even the most mundane of tasks.

Speaking of mundane. I’m off to calculate my auto miles for last year. Haven’t quite decided how I’ll celebrate, but considering a little bit of Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again. Of course, by the time I get finished a better choice might be Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain! Wishing you just the right balance of fun and responsibility for your day.

Your chance for a Key Life Choice: How do you integrate responsibility, joy and fun into your life? What childhood memories reconnect you with your natural sense of play and curiosity? How can you bring those qualities into your present to support you in finding joy in the responsibilities of your adult life?

 

 

 

 

Key Life Choice: Bringing Seashore Fun to the Shores of Adulthood

little-girl-waves1

Planting my toes in the sand of any shoreline quickens my heart. It raises my happy meter. It makes me a better adult.

It feels like fun. It sounds like laughter. It connects me to my childlike essence: a light-hearted little girl at play on the Florida shores.

Secure in the presence of family staked out on a blanket nearby, I run freely to the water’s edge. A brief pause and look back. Mother is there.

Still, a little fear rises just before courage swells to embrace the new adventure.

I move closer to the water anticipating the crash of the wave upon my tiny legs. The force of it slams me back. I fall down landing on my bottom; my legs and feet fly upward.

Startled, my mouth flies open. I taste the salt and sand. The water rushing out to sea tickles my back. Another wave splashes over my belly.

Chaos. Excitement.

Wonder. Thrills.

Squeals, laughter, & clapping.

On my feet readied for another take-down. Willing it to come. Full-throttled fun.

“Do it again! “

“Do it again!”

 

The thrill of play. The joy of fun. The balm of laughter.

Gifts I find deep within for the present shores of responsibility, the sea of adulthood.

Chaos. Excitement.

Wonder. Thrills.

On my feet. Readied. Willing. Fun-filled.

Laughing, clapping, sometimes even squealing:

“Do it again!”

“Do it again!”

Key Life Choice: Embracing Our Sunshine Smiles

smile

When I was in 6th grade, my nickname was Sunshine. I hated it!

Mr. R gave me the name because I smiled when I ran the races we held regularly on the school playground.

“Run, Sunshine, run!” he would call out.

My classmates, of course, picked up on it, and the name stuck.

What’s a girl to do?

Develop a Warrior Princess face, that’s what.

frowning-smiley-emoticon-emotion-glossy-yellowEvery day I’d practice warrior faces in the bathroom mirror at home. There were five of us sharing one tiny bathroom, so secreting experimentation time proved difficult.

Practicing got a bit easier after I pillaged a powder compact from my Mom’s dressing table. The 2-inch mirror made it nearly impossible to see my entire face, but it was great for zooming in on specific contortions of features like scrunched noses, flaring nostrils, squinted or wild eyes, pursed lips or barred teeth.

Later in the day, I could incorporate my favorites into my Warrior Princess face development time in front of the bathroom mirror.

I don’t remember ever being very successful at using my Warrior Princess face in the moment when it counted: the playground races. I simply enjoyed running and winning races, which I often did. Sunshine just naturally showed up and Warrior Princess would be forgotten for the moment.

Life has its own way of imprinting our faces, though. No one has ever nicknamed me as such, but I’m well aware that Sunshine now possesses fully her counterpoint Warrior Princess face. Serious, sometimes even brooding, Warrior Princess has shown up, often uninvited and stayed longer than any intentional invitation would ever be extended. Life can do that.

Like Mr. R made me aware of Sunshine, a former boss made me aware of my Warrior Princess.

“You’re looking a bit serious today, Pam. You should try smiling more.”

What’s a girl to do?

Reconnect with Sunshine, that’s what. smiling-sunshine

Back to the bathroom mirror I went. Even more importantly, to the mirror of my heart and soul, reflecting on things like my values, goals, and connections. Face the Warrior Princess and reconnect with Sunshine.

Warrior Princess taught me the worth of Sunshine and the value of a smile.

I know my smile can replenish and encourage those who have none of their own left to give.

I know this because others have gifted their smiles to me at such times in my life when my smiles didn’t come so easily. In fact, they didn’t come for days. When they did show up, they were only a repositioning of my lips, void of glimmer and warmth. In these times when I most needed to feel the sunshine of another, a smile would greet me with warmth, depth and connection. A smile takes only a fraction of a second, but it can brighten my way for hours.

I know my smile can break down barriers and set a positive tone.

My genuine smile has disarmed tension between strangers and opened a pathway of trust. Even when spoken language has been different, my smile has communicated a willingness to dialogue, to assist, to engage. Sunshine warms a room for cooperation and collaboration even when Warrior Princess holds the agenda.

I know my smile can uncover joy that I’m not aware I’m masking.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk said, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, sometimes your smile is the source of your joy.”

Sometimes the very act of putting on a smile can lighten my spirits and brighten my day regardless of the circumstances.

I know my smile can be heard even when it can’t be seen.

My smile lifts and brightens my tone of voice over the telephone. I’m aware others can hear it, and I’m very aware when they show up with their own sunshine or warrior faces or when their faces change during the conversation.

I know my smile can communicate many good things.

I’m happy.

I like you.

Hello.

Welcome.

Don’t worry.

I care.

Smiling-Sun-dreamstime_144972-e1371718814126I don’t run much anymore, but I do lots of walking. Invariably, I catch Sunshine doing her thing. Smiling unconsciously as I stride, I’m aware that those I meet along the way are having various reactions to Sunshine. No matter. I’ve met Warrior Princess, and I know who I want as my walking partner.

Key Life Choice: What does a smile say to you? What value do you receive from your own smile or someone else’s? How do you connect or reconnect with your own genuine smile?

Key Life Choice: What Driving In A Snowstorm Taught Me About Vision & Execution

Snow-Covered-Pine-Trees

The storm appeared instantaneously. Huge snowflakes quickly covered the road blending with the white lane markers and obscuring any clear sense of our path.

My friend focused hard as he struggled to define a safe space, a manageable speed, and clear vision through the blinding snow. Our headlights illuminated the large flakes flying toward our windshield.

I imagined this might be what it was like to fly through space on the Starship Enterprise mesmerized by the stars and planets whizzing by me.

My driver, on the other hand, was merely tense. His tight grip on the steering wheel and his quiet concentration instructed me to quietness, too. I wisely didn’t share my Mr. Spock moment.

The heavy and wet snow immediately clung wherever it landed, on our car, the road, and every tree and branch standing along the roadside. Within a few short minutes the world was awash in exquisite beauty and danger.

I frequently stole glances toward the side of the road. I was in awe of the beauty being created there, just beyond the pavement where we struggled to survive. The scene felt peaceful and tranquil in comparison to the mounting tension we were experiencing in the car.

“It’s like a world of Turkish delight,” I thought to myself.

“It’s Bing Crosby’s perfect picture of a White Christmas,” my mind continued playing.

I felt guilty enjoying the beauty so much and moved my eyes back to the windshield. The flying snow quickly blinded me then cleared just in time for me to see the car ahead of us begin to slide sideways. The driver lost complete control, and his car slid to the right across all four lanes before stopping just inches from the bumper of another vehicle. Red brake lights flashed on and off ahead of us as drivers, now more alert, maneuvered to gain traction and avoid a collision.

Once again, I let my eyes move beyond the now planted car back to the beautiful snow-covered forest poised on the other side of the highway barrier. The vast contrast between the two worlds imprinted my mind.

Very quietly, I said to my friend, “I know you’re concentrating really hard right now. Thank you for that. When you get a chance, though, briefly look to your right at the beautiful scene just off the highway.”

He said nothing in response, and I’m pretty sure I saw his mouth tighten a bit. I chose not to look to see if he rolled his eyes.

At some point, though, as we crept along, he looked over and saw the vision I’d been watching develop.

“That really is beautiful, isn’t it?” he remarked.

Even though his focus quickly returned to the road, I felt the tension in him relax just a bit as he went back to concentrating on executing our journey home.

Later that night, safely sitting in front of my fireplace with a cup of hot tea, I watched the world outside my window continue painting in white. I thought about how this experience felt like a perfect example of the tension between our dreams for life and the process it can sometimes take to manifest them.

Our dreams appear in our minds as beautiful and inviting. They draw us to them with promises and hope. They implant within us their colors, sights, sounds, and feelings. They call to us, willing us to focus and commit to creating them.

The contrast to our dreams is the execution of them, that process of attention and action, discernment of choices, and the healthy management of risk. Sometimes execution requires we grab hold, sometimes it expects we’ll let go.

The tension of execution has the power to draw us away from our vision, to separate us from our original intent, to mask the purpose of the journey.

The beauty of the dream can sometimes draw us in and lull us too long to inaction.

Intentionally balancing these two, affirming our dream and purposefully executing toward it, can lead us to the peaceful and joyful sense of satisfaction represented by a cup of tea, a glowing fireplace, and the gift of quiet moments enjoying God’s handiwork before us.

Key Life Choice: What things help you find the balance between focusing on the design and beauty of your dream and staying committed to the process of executing it? How does one support the other for you? 

%d bloggers like this: