Bringing it all home: trials of aging and degenerating

There’s nothing like bringing it all home…friends, family, old favorites, reminiscing of the past, blending it with the present. Then there comes those dark moments of bringing it all home; a little too close to home where your whole core is shaken. My trip home to Colorado has been filled with both…the comforting hugs and heart-felt conversations AND then there’s the deep and difficult reality of aging relatives and painful life struggles. As hard as it is to face and not turn away, the truth is home = family and family = unrelenting challenge. Meaning that being home presents those uncomfortable, anxiety-building situations where you want to run faster than ever before. For me, being home = intensely real.

My grandfather is peaking on the summit of releasing his self-independence. With my life now in SF, 1200 miles away from the daily process of this happening, I wasn’t ready for what I walked into…frail weakness, exhaustion, confusion, and uncontrolled natural body processes all at the same time. The change in his voice, loss of weight in his face, and most of all, the lack of recognition of my presence was heartbreaking. Having to change his soiled clothes while my eyes selfishly avoided looking around at the chaotic simplicity of his room, I felt my heart gain five pounds. How did we end up here? I’m not a kid anymore is all I could think!

On top of the hardship of watching my grandpa lose control on his independence and overall awareness, I had an extremely raw and brutal conversation with a relative regarding a longstanding chronic pain issue. Although this isn’t new news to my ears, the face-to-face conversation sculpted the truth deeper into my soul. The hard part is no matter what, I knew I can’t relate. Although my ligaments are beaten and torn, my body is yet to degenerate and continually worsen with each day. At this point, I can only listen and offer my attention and wholehearted love. The harder part is that the pain is so extremely inhibiting and rare that really no one can relate, leaving me feeling helpless to discovering a wider network of professionals to resolve the issue. The overwhelming sadness is all I’m left with at the end of the day, but I fall asleep without the relentless pain…For this, I know I am grateful but I couldn’t help but wonder, how did we end up here? I’m not a kid anymore is all I could think!

During this trip, I am being presented with depressing yet manageable struggles. The heartbreak is harder than the actual conflict. I am filled with abundance for my personal health and huge support network here in Colorado. Being surrounded by wretched deprivation is emotionally exhausting. So how do I continue to support and not run away? How do I bring it all home and still find comfort amidst the struggle? The struggle of existence is heavy…it’s not easy nor does it make sense. It’s not fair, it’s uncomfortable, bold, gut-wrenching, and painful. So we have to find courage to fous on one thing that is breeding success and multiply momentum based on that tiny piece of hope.

Supporting the pain of aging or degeneration from the outside is much different from living the physical pain. I feel helpless in my ability to know what is right or give advice because I am so over my head. Bringing it home is tightening my grip on reality, reminding me that life is precious and despite the minor injuries in my personal life, it could truly always be worse. It is enlightening and humbling — stripping me from my first world perspective by broadening my awareness of all the suffering in the world. And the one thing keeping me from closing my eyes and pretending I am somewhere else is (like always) the deep breaths and warm hugs from my family…bringing it home, hopping up the steps and knocking on my door….

…anyone home?! I cannot hide under the couch! I have to open the blinds, let the sun in and tend to my garden. I have to continue to dust off the dirt, pull the weeds and muster up all the courage possible, despite I have NO idea how to handle this. I don’t think we are ever prepared to watch someone die from age or pain. Love can only go so far before our efforts are exhausted and the power of the process of life prevails. It is easier to run away than stay. I soon will board a plane to go back to my thriving life in San Francisco and soon to be Lake Tahoe. So I have to stay present, love from a distance and accept the harsh circumstances of decay that exist in my family. And not for one moment can I deny that there is still wonderful growth happening amidst the break down. It exists in all families! The yin and the yang. I came to Colorado empowered and confident and I leave naked and defenseless. My heart feels stronger but also a little bigger. I am not a kid anymore, that is all I can think!

False blame, true resolution

Today a young girl, about eight years old, unconsciously swerved into my on the Golden Gate Bridge as I was coming home from a ride through Tiburon and Paradise Canyon. I was already feeling a lovely (but not so much) shooting pain in my knee and was not ready to run into a child while going faster than she was — starting a more-than-agressive-for-my-taste discussion with her father after she fell over. Granted, the bridge on a holiday is a sh*t show and I’m sure the girl was extremely scared/distracted as she just tried to survive the random pockets of people posing for a picture or unannounced flinging of their hands as they point at something on the water. When I hit her, I felt horrible and I stopped to see if she was okay. And although it was technically more her fault than mine in that situation, I had to keep my mouth shut and let the dad go off on his rant while I simply and as calmly as possible apologized as everyone started at us like we were a street act.

Little did I know as I got back on my bike that the impact from her flowery beach cruiser with a customized license plate hanging from her seat had deeply bruised my entire left forearm…talk about a joyous memory of how I mistakenly collided with an eight-year old girl. Her gushing tears showed that it was more than traumatizing from her. For me, it was a situation where I wanted so badly to get defensive and prove it wasn’t my fault. But all I could do was take the “blame” and move on accepting that as an adult, I too had a part. This unfortunate event made me connect with the overarching theme that from time to time, we are falsely accused of ‘this or that’. But in order to find more peace at the end of the day, we have to surrender to others’ over (or sometimes under) reactions, and use their reaction as a liaison to personally reflect on our own reactions. Any dramatic outrage or possible denial of a circumstance can be a sure sign to ourselves to question within the validity of our unique presence/participation in any event.

Whether we are disrespected, undermined, or neglected (possibly all three at once!), how do we remove the other person’s emotional involvement and dig up genuine self-care, as well as, responsibility in the moment? Chances are, we won’t! Or not as much as we’d like to. Whenever we feel threatened or hurt, we retreat to the habitual trail of blame to temporarily resolve our own fear of being wrong. But what if no one was wrong? Yet, the true solution can be the simple acknowledgment of our role, whether minimal or signifiant?! Once we step outside the immediate finger-pointing, screaming or silent-treatment session, the straightforward resolution can be seen: blame is just a mask to revealing the truth, often the truth that someone made a mistake.

The dad didn’t want to admit that his daughter wasn’t looking or that he was trying as hard as he could to direct her despite all the chaos and she wasn’t listening. I didn’t want to admit I had a bad attitude from all the people and could have slowed down even more as the family passed me. Blame is a roundabout way to confessing our individual part in difficult situations of life; be that a bike crash, argument, unsuccessful business presentation, or any rule-breaking activity. Accidents happen. That does not make us, or them, a bad person. Is there anyone in your life that you are falsely blaming for how something has worked out in your life? Even if they were wrong, can you forgive them and release the hate and/or anger? Accidents happen. The true resolution is not more conflict…it is peace.

“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” ~Suzanne Somers

Revolution of REAL: being an everyday leader

Don’t get me wrong, I love to read! But lately, all I can do is write. Unfortunately, that means more staring at a computer than at a printed page. A sliver of me feels guilty for being so attached to my computer and all the associated bright stimulation. And I try, try again and yet, I keep reaching over and opening my laptop to click and clack on tiny keys. I recently watched Drew Dudley’s ted talk on Everyday Leadership; it’s great btw! Beyond great though, Dudley speaks of the importance of making leadership not something BIGGER or o.u.t.s.i.d.e. of ourselves. Funnily enough, it’s mostly those insignificant gestures in our daily routines that end up being monumental acts in the lives of others. Invoking personal responsibility to be a leader is a powerful thing! And that’s why I’ve been writing more than I read, I guess…

…to break it all down to REAL. Am I leader? No, well maybe…according to Drew Dudley, yes. I am one individual brimming to the rim with limitless expression. Being a leader is about what we’re going through multiplied by our unique personality that makes up the articulation of leadership to bordering relationships. Leadership is the spilling over of simple struggle to better ourselves…it’s an epidemic because we all are imperfectly existing.

I agree that there are those extraordinary leaders such as MLK Jr. and Ghandi that reshape engrained systems in society. Their contributions to each of our lives should not go unspoken, NEVER; however, I think it’s crucial to recognize that they can’t do it on their own. They are not enough. They do not draw the line at some monopoly on leadership. The power of numbers is REAL.

Fink’s Song of Revolution makes me connect to all those kids I work with everyday. And what everyday leadership can REALly mean. Labeling leadership to the confines of private sector role models or Fortune 500 innovators caps the ceiling of possibility to those privileged enough to acquire enough debt to work 80-hour workweeks to repay. But the stranger passing you on the street can have the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.

This epidemic is about a positive perspective on personal influence: a revolution to the weird, the awkward, the sad face, the tear and the warm embrace. A revolution of REAL. Do we all have the balls enough to value ourselves as leaders, live honestly, and invite in those relationships around us that embody the same courage? Because the truth is, it’s always been here…we’ve ran away, both when we were scared and too happy to believe. But it doesn’t take much to be an everyday leader. Just because we aren’t a certain race or have faced extreme oppression, does not limit the significance of our emotions and hardships. We may not have cancer, but we’re fighting the disease of blessing ourselves as much as we bless others.

There’s a thought…can we be a leader to ourselves as much as other people?? Which one matters more?? The truth is only your own, but for me, I believe the weight has to be equal or one is defeated by the bloodshed of the other. This is not a battle, this is a revolution! Join forces and keep on keepin’ on! Hell, you’ve come so far…

****

Song of Revolution ~ Fink

We’ve come so far, it feels so real.
All this time, that we’ve waited for it.
And who we are, and where we’re going to.
All this time, preparing for it.

umh, come so far.
umh, come so far.

So let me know when we get there, if we get there.
Let me know when we get there, if we get there.

In the dark it, feels so, real.
And all this time, we’ve been sleeping on it.
And who we are, and what we’re going, through.
All this time, spent saving for it.

umh, come so far.
umh, come so far yeah.

So just let me know when we get there, if we get there.
Let me know when we get there, if we get there.

Come so far, there’s no going back.
All this time, we’ve been running from it.
And where we are , and where we’re going to.
We’ll organise a sort of revolution.
We’ll organise a sort of revolution.
We’ll organise a sort revolution.
We’ll organise a sort of revolution

Opening the gateway to personal permission

Last night, while having a little heart-to-heart with the bestie, I admitted aloud that one of the hardest things for me to do is break down the conceptual logic/understanding underneath self-love and patience and actually grant myself the permission to give myself a break (and further more: Trust with a capital T). With so many recent bumps and scrapes to my body, I acknowledged that completely allowing myself to have REST (whatever the hell that means!) is the most healthy thing my body needs for the bigger picture of my long-term health. And as much as I can speak the truth, mentally I have so much resistance to resting for more than a day or two. My energetic side of me becomes impatient to the slower speed of life.

On one hand, I am proud of myself for speaking the truth to the larger world outside myself. I believe the simple verbal acknowledgement that we are aware of our fears, minimizes the demons in our minds. It’s the first step to building change — making public that those voices in our head aren’t always “I love yous” or “I have it totally under control”. The courage behind being utterly vulnerable to our fears is bravery at its best. Can you make friends with your fears? Chances are, just like myself, you have more than one so make room for a bunch of new bffs!

So once it’s out in the open, then what? There are two options here.

1) The truth remains free-floating in the air rotating around you untouched and unchanged. Words are just the foundation to unconstructed actions. OR…

2) We enable ourselves to snatch the truth, give it a makeover and slowly but surely take the steps to reclaiming the truth. We start to build on the foundation to construct the desired actions.

What would it take for you to give yourself the absolute permission to be YOU? This does NOT include the ego, negative self-talk, negative judgement on others, blame, shame, hate — all the tools we pull out of the bag when we enter fight-or-flight mode. For me, the act of resting is the easy part: just BE! The act of whatever we have to do typically is the easiest part. Where we come up against conflict is in the mental processes prior to the action.

Imagine yourself standing at an electric fence gazing to the other side. On the other side lies deep acceptance of your biggest fear. All that is standing in your way is the electric shock blocking you from peaceful surrender. You don’t have to jump the fence or turn around and walk away from acceptance. You, yourself, are the electric shock that prevents you from stepping on the other side. Saying it is one thing, but being your own fairy godmother is paramount to the truth coming to fruition. The longer we shock ourselves, the more pain we feel!

In this day and age, the high-stressed environments are what produces the determined “success” pushed on us starting at grade-school. But, we have to let down our guard enough to let ourselves live out EASY from time to time. The truth is not an enemy, it is not wrong, it is what permits us to continue changing — it is the ugly duckling that is resilient. The moment we turn away from the fence and retreat, instead of turning off the shock by saying “I’m enough”, we lose the gateway to transformation. So step right up, you’re the next contest on your own gameshow. The objective to the game: snatch the truth and make it over until it builds into infinite acceptance. The prize: HAPPINESS. Good luck.

Lemons into limeade: the art of the tipping point

When life throws you lemons….you know the saying. But what happens when life slingshots them straight into your stomach? Well, for one thing, lemonade doesn’t sound appetizing. After crashing on my bike Monday night, twisting my knee while flipping into a parked car, the week seemed to unfold with the same downward spiral. The stress of work and the upcoming move came accompanied with a lovely cold sore, annoying the hell out of me for the rest of the week. Not to mention stripping coffee, wine and chocolate out of my diet. Awesome, right?! Guess it was my week to cleanse and the Universe failed to give warning!

Despite the fact that I am extremely used to being injured for the past year, the injury was still as hard on my heart as it was on my knee. Limping through the beginning of the week was deja vu to the past rides down Injury Lane. On Thursday night at the climbing gym, my workout consisted of only two routes up the wall…impressive, I know! Walking away so quickly was crossing the grounds into what felt like personal failure, but was honestly more just frustration. With the beginning of a few angry tears on the way home, I felt myself swiftly approaching the tipping point. You know the one; where you want to scream and shout just because — a.k.a. “I’m a victim!”.

Well that was me in the car. And then I somehow realized how unproductive and tiring all the screaming and shouting would be. Plus, I was already looking a little ridiculous to begin with, so intensifying the drama factor was not the best idea. So what do you do when life slingshots lemons at you?? You catch them bare-handed and trade them with your neighbor for limes. What I mean by this is, we have to catch those uncomfortable, vulnerable moments by the hand and learn to transform the frustrating, sour juice of our less-than-compassionate emotions into a new zesty outlook. And in the mean time, can we reach out to our neighbor, best friend, sibling, etc. for support? Sometimes a hug is enough to turn it around enough to gain back some consciousness. When we fully accept that we do not have to do it all alone, rather than isolating ourselves, there can be a refreshing inhale of relief. The beauty of support is in the comfort and assurance that even though things didn’t go “our way”, we are still valued.

Gracefully mastering the art of the tipping point is an everlasting practice because life will forever point in many directions. On top of life’s obstacle course, we have to partner with our deciphering mind to get ourselves safely to the treasure chest. So we must be ready for little yellow fruits to come flying at us along the way — we must be ready for unexpected changes, injuries, stresses or huge successes/joys. We also must be willing to give up our lemons, share with others and learn to love limes. Can we let go of habitual reactions to disappointment? Adopting a new practice of releasing the victim role and installing an open-heart point of view can keep us atop the tipping point and in charge of our reactions.

For me, as life is beginning to point in a new direction, I am keeping my eyes open knowing that with change comes challenge and with challenge, comes frustration. My goal is to walk the balance beam of the tipping point with humility and an open heart. And my hope is that I will gain a whole new love for limes! Besides like Jimmy Buffet says…

“If life gives you limes, make margaritas!” Unless you have a cold sore. Damn!

Hooked on frustration? Transform the 1%

How do we deal with being so frustrated it’s beyond control?…We decide to control it! Resting on the edge of uncomfort and struggle can morph us into another being. Our filters get strained with drops of toxicity that pollutes our ability to see clarity. And when we’re hooked, oh we’re hooked! Getting to know the frustrated, kidnapped you becomes easier as the situations arise, so the question is, can we constrain the villain to be a stranger?

Instead of getting trapped into the dark circle of never-ending resistance to our current situation, we can switch the energy to be a slightly more understanding optimism. I’m not talking about green grass and yellow daisies…because when we’re frustrated, god knows yellow daisies sound far from appealing. But, even the smallest mental switch of recognizing that our behavior is unnecessary no matter how shitty a situation is…that breeds personal empowerment.

When we take charge of our environment, big or small, mind or matter, we affect how we experience our reality. Does it really have to be this hard? The not-so-obvious to the mind’s eye answer is NO! DUH…of course it’s no, says the authentic self. But in that moment, the moment of ultimate frustration, you’re thinking, “hell yes it is hard and you should feel sorry for me!” Bridging the gap between those and building a foundation of positive (or at least 1%) solidity is powerful. The whole Occupy Movement is based on how the 1% dominates the 99%. Look how much that 1% has control over our society?!

Now take that one percent and put it towards yourself. Generate empowered control over both your positive, and not so-positive emotions. Get to know yourself enough to identify, distinguish and CHOOSE! Sometimes frustration is all we’re able to draw on, but make the conscious choice and choose to switch it up if possible. Ask yourself, am I hooked on frustration? Take a breath and move forward.

Namaste! To the 99% and the 1%…it all counts.

Beyond a number: change the being to be the change

How often do we give up on something because we’ve felt limited by a number? Whether it be weight, an athletic PR, a job goal, or a mental expectation that we should fulfill a certain number of requirements in our daily lives, it is easy to get fixated on a measurable outcome. For example, at the climbing gym, I typically stay within my comfort zone of trying routes up to an 5.11a rating. But the other night, I was encouraged to try an 11.c because really “I had nothing to lose”. And although I didn’t make it all the way up, I did much better than I originally anticipated, AND I felt empowered about the fact that I tried it in the first place. It was a lovely reminder that sometimes it’s not the task that is the most challenging, rather it is the details that complicate and ultimately turn us away from tackling the obstacles around us.

By breaking down the numbers, uncalculating the equations and erasing any connection between ratings and worth, we are left with natural effort and enthusiasm — my two favorite E words! The simplest equation amounts to the largest gain…My coworker and I are planning a workshop for an upcoming staff retreat. We are focusing on both global and personal change. In the midst of our brainstorming of how to fuse the two, we both exclaimed, “change the being to be the change”!

In today’s world, there are a lot of things that could change/improve for the betterment of Mother Earth and our humanity. I think it gets easier to point fingers than to actually do something about it. But if we really want to see change, we have to change the parts of ourselves, whether that be thoughts, habits, plans, or relationships, that get in our way of positive transformation. It can be so easy to stop ourselves at the end of our line of comfort; once we hit our peak number, we know that the next level up is only for those who can do better. But really? In a great article from YOGANONYMOUS  about fear and abundance, I tapped into the reality that finding equilibrium between fear and abundance is a daily challenge to measuring the change we are willing to invoke to stretch the comfort zone.

When I stepped away from the more challenging climb (normally a route I don’t even look at), I did not care that I did not finish it, rather I had gratitude I got as far as I did. It can be the small successes that empower us to take risks and make change in our lives and potentially the lives around us. This video illuminates how change can be a simple, unique expression of simplicity. But it does not come from thinking someone else is going to do it for you or that just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it is not a problem.

Equating our lives to a number minimizes our chances of exponential growth. We get subtracted and divided by our biggest fears rather than multiplied by abundant love. What do we really have to lose by applying for a new job or training for a triathlon or getting up the courage to communicate with a not-so-friendly coworker? What do we really have to lose by changing our being?

Nothing! What we gain is far beyond the loss of staying nestled in comfort. The moment we take a risk and stop identifying with a figure, fact or chart — the #1 thing in our lives becomes ourselves. And not the look at me, I have it totally figured out self. The I am trying my hardest, never getting it just right but always being right where I need to be self!! We must change our personal being to encompass a myriad of passions, skills and offerings, so that we cultivate the tools and compassion large enough to embody the change we dream of at night. Trash the statistics of injustice and bring IN justice to your life.