Farewell to a Friend

Etapes de la croissance d'une pquerette, fond nature

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear friend.  She was the first one to “like” a blog post or leave a comment on my “latest and greatest” idea, no matter how wacky or weird it was.

If we’re lucky, we all have at least one person like my friend Linda who makes us believe in our own brilliance by reflecting it back to us.

Ours wasn’t a likely friendship but one that developed by working together.  We didn’t work together for hours on end but in the odd hours when everyone else was asleep or had gone for the day or the week.

You see, Linda was the caretaker of our building.  She was the invisible hand that kept the floors and windows clean and everything in operating condition. She would usually come in around 4 in the morning and spend a couple hours at our building before heading to her full-time job to put in another 8-9 for the day.

In her “free” time she made quilts and took in sewing projects and did all kinds of odd jobs for others.

She was a worker bee.

About a year ago Linda got bone cancer and embarked on the only route she deemed acceptable – the grueling road to recovery. She was an extremely private person so at first she simply withdrew. I’m sure she thought she could handle it without bothering anyone else and be back to work in no time.

But that was not the case.  She had a long battle ahead of her and she was forced to fight it full time.

Once as I was driving her to the hospital I remember thinking, “This is really happening to us. We are no longer immune to cancer. It’s no longer something other people deal with.” 

I got a glimpse into the impact a diagnosis of a debilitating disease has on a person. She, of course, was not going to let it get the best of her.  In fact, like many people who have had cancer, it seemed to bring out the best in her.

Despite her declining physical condition, emotionally and spiritually she seemed to simultaneously harden and soften. Harden to take on the fear and uncertainty and soften to allow others to help. This brought about a kind of acceptance and letting go that comes with finally understanding what truly matters.

During the service, the priest admitted that he didn’t know Linda. I thought about how lucky I was that I did. As he fumbled his way through a reference to some Twilight Zone episode meant to comfort her family and friends, I consoled myself with what I did know and love about her.

While he surmised she loved being an aunt, he had no idea how much she loved her “kids” Rick and Rachael, the cats who shared her life.  He made no mention of how mechanically minded she was or how, despite her fragile physical form, she was in the midst of a full DYI home renovation that had her excited about her future again.  He failed to mention her lucky streak at the casinos or her love for Manny’s pizza.

He had studied her obituary but knew nothing of her life. He hadn’t had the opportunity the rest of us did.

As the priest offered the congregation communion, I imagined Linda finally communing with Michael Jackson, whom she admired more than any other performer.  She told me once she’d love to have his music played during her funeral service but didn’t think it would go over very well.

So I came home and honored my friend the best way I knew how.  “Alexa,” I commanded my AI device from Amazon,  “please play ‘Man in the Mirror’ by Michael Jackson.”

Let me just say Alexa has ever understood or responded to any of my requests before. I believe she’s in cahoots with Siri who has the same problem. But today she responded, “Okay, Penny.  Playing Man in the Mirror – the Immortals edition.”

Then I moon-walked around my kitchen, celebrating the life of my friend.

What Do You Do When Life Gives You Lemons?

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In my effort to be more visible, to show up more fully, and put my whole self in, I’ve decided to make a series of videos called A Penny for Your Thoughts.

Each week I will explore a topic and invite you to join me in this grand adventure.  You are welcome to send in topics as well as your own videos.

If you are under 30, I’m guessing you’re totally up to the challenge and wondering why it took me so long to ask.

I can say with some amount of certainty that if you’re over 40, the mere thought of making a video is enough to cause a panic attack.

I know this because making videos is terrifying for me.  It absolutely unnerves me. Possibly because the Invisibility Cloak I got for my 40th birthday has become a bit of a security blanket for me by now.  And most likely because when a writer becomes visible, it’s a total game-changer.

No one notices my crooked teeth, thinning hair, thickening waste, or messy kitchen when I’m writing.  Everyone notices when I show up on their computer screen.

Videos = Visibility = Vulnerability

You know those dreams – nightmares, really – when you show up to a big event but somehow have forgotten your shirt or pants or find yourself completely naked?  That’s what it feels like to make a video.

But it’s also the best way I know to let you see my passion, my quirkiness, my commitment to my craft, to lifelong learning, and to you, my faithful reader.

I’ve been blogging for 6 years now. I thought we might be ready to take this relationship to the next level.  What do you say?

Okay then. Strap in.  Adjust your helmets. It’s going to get interesting.  And hopefully, even fun.

I know it’s a little hard to hear the audio part with the music. I’m using Adobe Spark and tried to turn the music down as much as I could but I couldn’t figure out how to delete it during the video segments when I was talking. Clearly, I needed to use a microphone.

I promise the videos will get better as I learn! 🙂  I am also open to any of you video wizards giving me tips and suggestions.  You know who you are!  I’d love to hear from you. Contact me at penny@wellpower.com.

 

Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “U”

It’s time for Plan “U” of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge. Plan “U” urges you not to underestimate the appeal of the ugly sweater. It’s undeniable!

If you’ve got one, it’s time to usher it in with unbridled enthusiasm. Understanding this fashion trend is not important. Unraveling the mystery is unnecessary.

Wearing Santa underwear or elf pajamas usually falls under the ugly sweater umbrella. But have no fear, upgrading to ugly sweater apparel does not undermine your authority. On the contrary, it unquestionably upholds it as it unifies us by unleashing and acknowledging a kind of universal dorkiness in all of us.

When you dare to be vulnerable or silly or uncharacteristically unconcerned, you uncover the truth that it’s what’s underneath the ugly sweater that counts. I’m guessing for most of us, that’s ultimately a uniquely loving heart and an utterly amazing soul.

Use the hashtag #midlifemacgyver to send me photo of your ugly sweater on Instagram or leave me a comment below describing your ugly sweaters or other apparel and the adventures they uncork.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Cake , recipe for winter holiday party

P.S. If wearing an ugly sweater leads to your undoing, then make an ugly sweater cake. The possibilities are unending!

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “T”

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It’s “T” time in our Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge.

As tempting as it may be to take you back through the Top Ten Tension Tackling Tunes to Keep You Humming through the Holidays for today’s tip, I think I’ll touch on a new thread.

It’s easy to get your tinsel in a tangle as you tick the days off before Christmas. A tirade of to-do‘s that torment your tired and troubled thoughts are not easily tamed or transformed without a little tampering with the terms of their tyrannical hold on you.

So try this.

Toss them out. Terminate those to-do’s that terrorize, torture, or tap you out. Tiptoeing around them or treading lightly only increases their tenacity and tempts you to head to the tequila tasting table before 10am.

Trust yourself to tune in to what wants to happen next, not what you assume must happen next. Try this reframing tack. If you have to do it, then choose to do it. Make it a choice, not a chore.

Also try this.

Take your time. Or as I love to say, “Move at the pace of grace.” Thrashing around to accommodate someone’s tight timetable can make you act abominably.

Transcend the moment of angst, anxiety, or irritation and trade it in for a temporary time-out that tickles your funny bone or tends to your tightening muscles. A quick body scan will tell you where you’ve tucked your tension.  And then maybe you’ll be able to talk someone into teasing those tensions away with a little tender loving care.

I’d be thrilled to have you teach me your favorite “T” tip, tool, or trade secret in the comments below. Or give me a thumbs up if you feel like you are not just surviving but actually thriving this holiday season.

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P.S. Have you ever noticed how whenever clocks are pictured the hands are almost always on the ten and two?  It makes the hands look like a smile.  Just like the arrow in the white space of the Fed Ex logo, now you’ll notice the time on pictures of clocks. Tricky!

Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “S”

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Skipping to the front line of the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge is the letter “S”, stacking one stone upon another in seasonal style.

There are several “s” words and ideas that strive to serve you. I could shower you with strategies that leave you staggering with a sprawling spread of spirited suggestions, but sticking to something more subtle suits us better.

You don’t need a series of solutions to get through the day. All that scheming, scripting, scouting, and scheduling may sacrifice your sanity. Where’s the satisfaction in that?

So without further speculating I shall spill the beans and sow the seeds of what I hope will be a shared sentiment.

Slowly succumb to the sights and sounds of your sacred space. If you can’t physically be there, go there in your mind. Soften your sharp edges. Seize the opportunity to shimmy, shake, shine, shout, or seek shelter in this place sanctioned solely for the spectacular surrendering of your stress.

It may seem silly or sound self-indulgent and you may be tempted to shrug it off.  Do it anyway. It will soothe your soul, sweet pea. Splurge. Savor. Soak it up.

You deserve some serious stress relief. And I’m here to see that you shift your sights slightly sideways so you might be seduced by a shameless sashay into a silent night – or seconds if that’s all you can sequester – to sleep, shop, or shovel snow in heavenly peace.

Score some stickers or snag a sassy Resolve to Evolve mini journal  by sharing your “S” stories in the comments below.  I never sell the information on my list so your secrets and your emails are safe with me.

P.S.  Here’s a bonus book recommendation for Plan “S”.  Start With Why from Simon Sinek. If you prefer watching TED talks to books, catch his sensational talk here. (Thanks, Tom, for sending the book to me in the (saint) nick of time for Plan “S”.)

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Here to the New Year in Good Cheer – Plan “R”

 

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Plan “R” is ready to report in for duty in the Here to the New Year in Good Cheer challenge.

Although there are many “R” words in the running for today’s top tip like relax, rejuvenate, roam, radiate, read, renew, receive,  reveal, respect, restore, represent, reflect, reign, and shake-rattle-and-roll, one of the revolutionary principles I like to coach people on is resolving to evolve.

Although I have written Reasonably Radical Resolutions to Redefine Your Reality in response to regular resolutions that tend to last as long Rocky Road ice-cream on a ridiculously hot day, resolving to evolve means you repeatedly return to the place where you get to rewrite, re-do, or reinvent yourself as a result of your most recent reach for something outside your comfort zone.

This quote by Rumi sums it up.

Respond to every call that excites your spirit.”

The reward for risking everything is that you reveal who you really are and this reminds you of what is possible for you.

Instead of removing yourself from any chance encounter with a roly-poly bearded guy and his flying reindeer, see if you can recapture a bit of the Christmas magic by reclaiming your  own superpowers and rising to the challenge of realizing your potential.

I know you may resist and possibly resent me for requesting this of you at this time of year, but I want you to ride this year out on a wave of remarkable moments made possible by your commitment to reigniting your rousing curiosity and rejoicing with the totally righteous dudes and dudettes who recognize your rebellion as your resurrection into right livelihood or reassurance that you’re already rollicking along the right track with no regrets.

And one more thing.

Release the need to ricochet or rush around. It will rob you of any peace of mind you may have recovered while reciting riddles in a padded room. Rely on your own rhythm to move at the pace of grace this holiday season.

What rings true for you?  Report in and recall your reasons why you rock and your Plan “R” rules below in the comments.

Right on. Or write on, as I like to say.

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P.S. I almost forgot… more Good Cheer here! Remember I told you there would be goodies? Well, I’ve got goodies galore!

If you would like Resolve to Evolve or Here to the New Year in Good Cheer stickers to put on packages or love letters, or a mini Resolve to Evolve journal, respond in the comments below. Please leave your contact info below so I know where to ship your goodies.

It’s my way of rewarding you for reading and responding. (And don’t worry, your privacy is a big deal to me. I don’t let anyone have access to the information you share with me.)

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Doom & Gloom, Begone!

Doom and gloom - pessimist outlook on life etc.

It’s that time of year when things can get a little scary.  I’d like to say it’s because of Halloween, the one day where we dare to scare and frighten for the fun of it.

But the scarier stuff for me these days are things I seem to have little control over. Things like the political climate of nastiness and divisiveness in the country or the workplace, whether my team can win the World Series once in my lifetime, or how I can get my internet provider to do what they’ve guaranteed me every month for the past 6 months they would do, but still have not done.

On their own, any one of these things can put a kink in my otherwise cheerful disposition. When they all happen on the same day it’s enough to make me long for my days in the desert, wandering around with my canine companion, marveling at the simplicity of a solitary life unplugged.

While I default to the wisdom of the Serenity Prayer in the majority of cases, I do not do well with “it is what it is” when something clearly can be done.

I do not believe that the current environment is really the best we can collectively do. Partly because I know I can do better if I stay open, stay curious, and stay available to what is happening in the moment. And partly because we are smart and creative people.

We send people into outer space.  It seems like we can send elected officials to the White House who don’t polarize half the country.

If Century Link truly values my business, they would deliver on what they promised the first time instead of putting me on infinite hold, transferring me a minimum of three times, and still not addressing my concerns, making it necessary for me to repeat this torturous task every month.

Far from being a treat, this is tricky business. I can shut down quicker than a mousetrap when I get miffed. But over the years I’ve learned it’s my silence that comes back to haunt me, not the words I spoke truthfully, however harsh.

A few weeks ago I signed up for Martha Beck’s Integrity Cleanse. I suspected I was in for a serious smack down on my assumptions, but what I didn’t anticipate was the way my whole life would come under scrutiny.

Sure, the truth will set you free.  If it doesn’t kill you.

I’m by no means a chronic liar.  But I am a people pleaser and seem to need copious amounts of approval before I act on what I know to be true if it might ruffle some feathers or upset someone’s apple cart.

Ironically, what I’m learning from my Integrity Cleanse is one of the best gifts I can offer another is to ruffle their feathers or upset their apple carts if it is done with integrity and truth. As gratifying as it would be if you agreed with me, I get to see things from a different perspective when you don’t.

What I learned from watching The Cubs get to the World Series is there are just as many compelling stories and die-hard fans rooting for the other side. If they’ve made it to the playoffs, all these players have proven they are the best of the best.

Of course, I wear my lucky vest every night and go through any number of pre-game shenanigans in order to ensure the odds in our favor. But even when they lose, I learn something about myself.

Friday night was a case in point.  My day went exactly like Game 3 of the World Series. I had played defensively all week at work and then at 5pm on Friday I got a message from  my boss about a botched communication I thought I had cleared up on Thursday.  It was the equivalent of the bottom of the 9th, I had the winning run on base, and I struck out.

The good news is the Cubs get one more opportunity to turn it around. I have an opportunity to clear up the issue at work. I’ve already voted. And I can continue to call customer service until they get it right.

The doom and gloom that threatens to take over my mood and render me despondent, helpless, and hopeless will have to wait for another day. I have the ability to write my way out of despair and, as Maggie Kuhn says, “Speak the truth even if my voice shakes.

What about you? What scares you? What do you  do to catapult yourself out of doom and gloom and allow your truth to be voiced? Please share in the comments below.

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