Read It & Leap

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It’s Leap Day!

Following in Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes footsteps, this Leap Year I’ve decided to say yes to any reasonable opportunity to expand and grow, despite its power to terrify and send me into a full blown panic before, during, and after the opportunity.

For me this means doing anything that involves public scrutiny of my less than perfect performances. Whether those performances include speaking, leading, teaching, or seizing my fifteen minutes of fame, the moment I have an audience is the moment I doubt the dazzling idea that came to me in the shower and insisted I share it publicly. It’s the moment my  heart beats faster, my mouth goes dry, and  my voice gets a little shaky.

I’m determined to manage this and train my butterflies to fly in formation. I’ve pondered Eleonor Roosevelt’s suggestion to, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Because that idea instantly overwhelms me, I’ve amended it to doing one thing every month that scares me.

Because here’s what happens when I get too comfortable.  When I finally do venture out into what I call my evolutionary zone, I have to summon up every ounce of courage and grit from my previous expeditions. If it’s been more than 21 days, I’ve more than likely lost my mojo and have to start all over again.

To save time and energy, I’ve decided to just keep putting myself out there.  Instead of retreating back to the safety of base camp, I plan to keep climbing and set up temporary shelter at higher altitudes.

For example, last Friday I did something nine years in the making. I collaborated with a co-worker to present a session at our Staff Development Day. I know what you’re thinking. No big deal. You may have to do this kind of thing all the time.

The reason it was a big deal to me was because I used to train and speak to groups for a living prior to taking this job.  When I put on my college administrator hat, I put away my stand-up comedienne/trainer hat and hoped the delusions of grandeur would subside.

Watching others do what I am perfectly capable of doing or, worse, witnessing people fail to do what needs to be done, catapulted me out my comfort zone. “Be the change you seek,” means nothing unless I act on it.

For me this meant volunteering to lead the kind of session I would like to attend on Staff Development Day.  It also meant submitting a proposal a year ago to speak at Beyond Rubies, a fabulous women’s conference at Kirkwood Community College, this Thursday and Friday, March 3-4. (If you happen to be in Iowa, please join me Friday morning and learn How to Get Your Groove Back.)

I don’t do this for the money. In fact, there’s usually no compensation involved in these kinds of gigs. The payoff for me is who I become in the process of facing what feels like either a potential public execution (one that ends my career) or an evolutionary experience (one that moves me forward).

Who I become regardless of the outcome is a voracious reader, devouring anything remotely related to my topic. I become incredibly curious and open as I scout for examples to backup my theories. I become bold and daring as I try out new material on anyone who will listen, my dog and houseplants included. And I’m forced to relax and put all the things I’m preaching into practice so I align my words and actions and authentically walk my talk.

When I do that, something remarkable happens.  I become the change other people are seeking and enthusiastically share my secrets. The nerves fall away, the worry about what might come out of my mouth disappears, and I am present, having fun, and connecting with the most amazing people.

I made some rookie mistakes on Friday because it had been awhile since I had presented. I was aware of them, my co-presenter was aware of them, and maybe even my friends in the audience caught them. But no one let on. Everyone acted as if attending the last presentation on a Friday afternoon was a seamless segue into a well-deserved weekend.

This Leap Day you have an opportunity to say “yes” to new beginnings. Or you can say”no” to what needs to end.  Name and claim, tame, or reframe whatever you want to bring into being.  Then do the one thing that’s scariest of all – act on it.

Happy leaping!

I’d love to hear about your leaps in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take A Hike, Valentine

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Asking my Valentine to take a hike was the best thing I could have done this Valentine’s Day. Now, before you think this is the reason I’ve been single all of my life, let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve found that taking a hike with someone you love is a natural way to bond with them. Getting outside, moving your body, and connecting with the earth has a way of grounding a relationship and opening up conversations to new perspectives, insights, and influences that may not be present in familiar, indoor environments.

A few weeks ago I realized the stress that had been accumulating since December definitely needed to be diffused. I have a couple of presentations coming up at the end of the month that require me to be fully present and aligned with my message. Stressing about it only makes me less available to “aha” moments.

Knowing the state I can work myself into prior to public speaking, I decided the best thing I could do was to head to my power place and relax into the upcoming challenge.

For me this place is the Southwest. The solidarity of the mountains and the solar power of a high desert sun recharge my batteries like nothing else. Rekindling my love affair with the landscape and the architecture does wonders for my spirit.

Listening to the urgency of my insistent soul, I set my sights on St. George, Utah. Then I told my Valentine to take a hike – with me, of course!

Maybe it was all that male bonding he’s been up to lately over activities I want no part of that made him eagerly agree to accompany me to the desert. Or maybe we both need to escape Iowa winters in February. Whatever the case, an amazing thing happened on the way to Utah.

First, I lost my iPad. Or so I thought. This led to a meltdown that left me in tears from Cedar Rapids to Denver. Luckily I still had my iPod with me and could console myself with Snatum Kaur, whose music I can only describe as transcendent.  I needed something to lift me as far from my funk as the plane was from the ground. Snatum is a Sikh which means I don’t always understand what she is singing about. But she sings like an angel and her voice was the antidote to my angst.

I imagined her words translated to some variation of the following: “Let it go. Not just the iPad but the stress and all the accumulated hurts and slights and disappointments. Let go of  your expectations that it should have been any different or that people should behave differently than they do. Let go of the striving and relentless drive to prove yourself.” Because her voice radiated love and understanding, it produced ongoing waterworks.

This was followed by a reminder from Michael Bublé that I needed to say something other than, “Take a hike!” to my Valentine. As Michael and Naturally 7 belted out “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” I took the ear pod from my left ear and stuck it in Bob’s right ear.

Fearing that the meltdown might have had something to do with him, he visibly relaxed when he realized the crying jag had come to a conclusion. Just as we had left the cold and snow in Iowa, I had checked my stress and presumably my iPad at the gate.

As we made our connection in Denver to St. George, the laughter and lightness returned along with the excitement that we were headed someplace spectacular. We arrived to sunny skies and warm temperatures and a van waiting to take us to our dream destination. Admittedly, my dream destination – Red Mountain Resort.

Greeted by a gracious staff, incredible views, and the most delicious and nutritious foods that we won’t have to prepare ourselves, I’m pretty sure we landed in heaven.

I love labyrinths and discovered one onsite within the first hour. As I circled around and back I thought of how few trips around the sun we get to make. Life is really too short to get so worked up about stuff I have no control over. Sometimes I simply need a little distance from it.

This morning we took a remarkable hike into the Snow Canyon State Park and explored the red sand dunes and Snow Canyon trail. I had a record 14572 steps before noon. We got back just in time for a delicious meal and afternoon guided meditation.

This, of course, led to an afternoon nap for Bob while I wrote. This was followed by stretch class, an exquisite dinner, and a gathering of new friends at the hot tub.

So now, my funny valentines, I must leave you.  As naturalist John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Zion National Park awaits.

I will, however, leave you with this Valentine suggestion, which I say with love. Please…. if you know what’s good for you… take a hike!