You Must Be Present to Win

heyward-mlb

photo by ASSOCIATED PRESS

I must admit.

I’m overly identifying with the Chicago Cubs this year so the spectacular four-run ninth inning rally that secured their win over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night was more meaningful to me than most playoff games.

You see, early on I adopted these boys of summer as mascots for my How to Get Your Groove Back class. Jake Arrieta in particular seemed like the perfect poster guy for getting one’s groove back. He almost gave up the sport altogether when his pitching coaches couldn’t quite find his groove and released him from Baltimore.

Fortunately Chicago was able to help him find it. And then Jake was able to show the rest of the team how to find theirs. (It might have something to do with that Pilates reformer.)

After a lifetime of summers spent listening to the “lovable losers” on the radio, this summer I watched and learned from the victories and defeats of the Cubs like a vigilant den mother. And one of the things I learned is you must be present to win.

You don’t win by checking out, dwelling in the past, or projecting into the future.  If the Cubs had gone into the ninth inning on Tuesday night plagued by what had transpired in the previous eight, they wouldn’t have been open to the opportunities the ninth inning presented. They clinched the series by seizing every one of them.

That takes an unflinching commitment to being in the moment. That is deceptively difficult.

Last week I spoke to a student services group about resolving to evolve. The first of four actions I asked them to take was to embody. 

What does she mean by that?” you might ask.

I mean to be fully present in the skin you are in and to be open and aware of what you are feeling and to allow your body to provide you with all kinds of information.

Do I have a choice?” you might ask.

Yes and no.  If you’re reading this, you are in a physical form that you move around to do your brain’s beckoning. You feed it, clothe it, take it to work, and allow it to rest. So in one respect, you have no choice but to embody.

But anyone who suffers from aches and pains and a general distrust or disgust of their body will tell you how preferable it is to live life from the neck up. Their choice is to check out of their bodies as often and in as many ways as possible. They might choose to medicate or obliterate with food, alcohol, drugs, or their vice of choice in order to spend as little time as possible feeling what it’s like to be in their body.

As a certified eating psychology coach and fitness instructor, I see this a lot. Most of the people I work with have a very complicated relationship with their bodies. My desire to understand this relationship is what led me to become a writer and coach.

Here’s my take-away. The present moment is all we’ve got. It’s the only time and place where we can make things happen and move forward in our lives.

This means we need to be open to receiving feedback and support from all our faculties, not just our brain. Because I don’t know about you, but my brain can be a bully.

It can have me believing all kinds of things that are just not true because it’s feeling threatened or scared. That’s why I need an entire team of truth tellers located in my heart, my belly, my back, my legs, or anywhere that might get my attention.

I do not want to be stuck in the eighth inning where I might be down 2-5 with just my brain calling the shots. I need my body on board to rally and earn a shot at the World Series.

Bob likes to remind me it’s just a game and whether my team wins or loses, my life will be the same. He may have a point. Every team and every sport have come-back stories and heroes’ journeys stories and a hundred reasons why their epic victory is destined.

But I know on the days the Cubs win my world seems a little bit brighter or more hopeful. Not just because they’ve broken a curse or done the impossible or because my Grandma would be grinning from heaven to see her Cubbies win it all, but because of how they played the game. They model for me how to be all in and present to win. That’s something I can rally around.

Who does that for you? Share if you dare in the comments below.

Say What You Need to Say & Do

Lets do this

It’s Day 27 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.  Today’s challenge is to say what you need to say to whomever you need to say it to in order to do what you need to do next.  Do you need to move on, get over it, get on with it, set things right, set things in motion, start a revolution, or continue your evolution? Then let’s get to it and go do it.

Saying what you need to say liberates you to do what you need to do.

Granted, conversations of this nature usually take more than 5-15 minutes.  But you can take a small action step and identify which conversations need to take place and with whom, get clear on your talking points, or schedule an appointment with the person in this amount of time.

Because I’m a lover of words, I’m hesitant to say actions speak louder than words in every situation, because the right words at the right time can change a life. However, during our Get Stuff Done 1×31, I’m also about making a case for doing the stuff that moves your life forward. That requires action and, sometimes, doing difficult stuff.

I admit I love to talk my way all around my issues rather than face them head on because doing so would most likely result in a confrontation. I like to avoid these at all costs. However, the greater cost is that the issue continues when I’m perfectly capable of putting the kibosh to it by daring to do what needs to be done, which often starts with saying what I need to say.

As much as I call on my inner badass to get stuff done, harnessing her potential takes some serious practice on my part. That’s why I’ve devoted an entire month to getting stuff done. And by Day 27, I’d like to think we’ve practiced enough that we can confidently carry out today’s challenge.

I’d love to know what you need to say or do and how that will set you free to move on to the fabulousness that awaits.

Share if you dare in the comments below.

And by all means, add this song by John Mayer to your playlist.

The Boys of Summer

ct-cubs-vs-pirates-20160619-022(photo credits – Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)

Okay, so I’m not usually so interested in the boys of summer, but I have to say if a team ever embodied the How to Get Your Groove Back method I teach, it would be the Chicago Cubs.

Ever since I was little, summers were spent either listening to the lovable losers blaring on our kitchen radio, watching them on tv, or occasionally going into Chicago for a game.

My parents are snowbirds and spend their winters in Arizona. While they love Arizona, they also want to be as close to the Cubs training camp and take in as many preseason games as possible.

As long as I can remember, it’s been the same thing. A sentiment shared by the entire MLB franchise. The Cubs will choke.  If the  Curse of the Billy Goat is to be believed, the team will never win a World Series at Wrigley Field.

But like all groovy gals, guys, teams, businesses, and best sellers, where there is a will, there is a way. In the case of the Cubs, where there is a dream and a team of outstanding people capable of making that dream come true, anything is possible.

Take Wilson Contreras for example. Last night, at this rookie’s first major-league at bat in front of 41,024 fans, he hit the first pitch 417 feet over the center-field to score a two-run homer.

I happen to be watching the game because Bob, like my parents, is a bit obsessed with the Cubs. He and my dad spent Father’s Day salmon fishing in Wisconsin. Bob had just gotten home, unloaded the car, and made it as far as the couch before collapsing.

As I cuddled up next to him he declared, “Honey, you’re watching history in the making.” I asked why. He said, “It’s this guy’s first at bat in the major leagues.

My reply was, “Doesn’t every player have a first time at bat in the majors once in his career? What makes this one so special?

It defied explanation.

Clearly the crowd knew something I didn’t. All 40,000+ of them were on their feet.

And then Contreras stepped up to the plate and in front of all those adoring fans made history.

I must admit, it was wondrous.

How many hours went into making that moment possible? How many people had supported him, encouraged him, created the circumstances that made that moment absolutely perfect?

I will never know the discipline, the training, the sacrifices, the mental toughness that made the quieting of nerves, the calling in of confidence, and the summoning of superpowers possible.

But I do know we’ve all done similar things in our own version of the big leagues.

Whether you’ve delivered a speech, signed divorce papers, buried a loved one, sent a child off to college, into the military, or walked him or her down the aisle, whether you sang karaoke at your neighborhood pub, ran for office, or stood up for yourself in front of your family or organization, I know you possess the kind of courage called for when it’s your turn to step up to the plate.

You simply need to summon it on a regular basis.

It doesn’t happen without practice.

When I was startled out of sleep this morning at 1:30 am by my dog’s disagreeable dinner choice, my thoughts drifted back to the game instead of dreamland. Suddenly I was wide awake as I replayed the emotions of watching someone do precisely what he was born to do. It was thrilling to witness what love of the game, love of the work and discipline, love of the fans, love of the players and coach, and love of team made possible.

It made me think about the following.

  • What would be possible for you if you had 40,000 fans on their feet supporting, encouraging, and believing it you?
  • What would stepping up to the plate look like for you?
  • If you hit it out of the ball park, what would that mean to you?

These questions kept the sandman away for a good two hours. Maybe they will stir something up in you as well?

I love hearing what matters to you. You may even surprise yourself when you jot dot the first thing that comes to mind in the comments below.

Batter up!

Jump In! The Water’s Fine

young boy jumping into a swimming pool

Yesterday  I did something I never do.

I accompanied Bob on a business trip to Des Moines.  I am usually the one attending the meetings since I love to attend writing and coaching conferences in fabulous places across the country. Bob, not so much. So I went for moral support.

While Bob spent the day learning about the latest governmental regulations imposed on his business (which explains his reluctance), I spent the day writing and hanging out at the pool.

At 10am on a Thursday, the pool was perfect. I had the place to myself. Was I in heaven? No, Iowa.

My plan to follow up my laps with a floating meditation evaporated as soon as a mother with a newborn, a toddler, and their adoring aunties arrived.

My disappointment over forfeiting the sanctuary of sunshine, water, and wispy clouds was quickly replaced with delight as the little guy’s glee spilled over onto all of us.

Even I began hoping his mom would hurry up applying the sunscreen so he could get in the pool and we could all share the adventure with him.

Because his mom was busy setting up the scene with towels, toys, and string cheese, the auntie brigade* took over. As one auntie burped the baby, the other auntie hopped in the pool and prepared the way for the boy named Brock to fulfill his most ambitious dream of the day.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the water.

He was a vision, standing there in all his glory, complete with water wings, a swimming diaper, a confident victory stance, and a superman cap.

He looked ready.

He seemed willing.

He was perfectly able.

His auntie was ready to catch him.

I was ready to catch her.

The step was right in front of him

And….

He hesitated.

He stalled.

He refused to jump in.

What looked like an epic adventure from a distance must have seemed like an ocean of uncertainty and utter terror up close. Suddenly, he wanted no part of it.

The devoted auntie cooed encouraging words and suggested he enter the pool by a less intimidating set of steps inside. He reluctantly agreed.

Together they emerged from the mysterious passage where the indoor pool joined with the outdoor pool.  Brock was fine to be in the water for a few minutes.  Then he needed a drink.

So he got out, secured his sippy cup of milk, and from the safety of the deck, took a strategic sip every time his auntie mentioned getting back in.

I watched this all unfold as the perfect metaphor for the great adventures and creative endeavors any of us attempt.

Sure, some of us can jump right in, knowing the shock of going from one set of circumstances (like being dry, hot, safe) to an entirely different set (like being wet, cold, and having to stay afloat) will only be temporary.

Most of us can easily get ourselves fired up and ready.  But then, like Brock, freak out when faced with the enormity of our adventure. Bridled with the burden of our potential, we hesitate, procrastinate, dilly dally, drink, distract, and delay until we talk ourselves right out of the thing we’ve pledged allegiance to.

You are familiar with terror of embarking on your biggest adventures, are you not? Failure looms larger than any semblance of success.  What if you find out you  are not equal to the task or not worthy of your dreams?

But what if you find out the water is just fine?  What if you discover it’s even more magical than you imagined?  What if you discover the secret to the success of any adventure, project, or performance is that when you are present, you are absolutely okay?

If you can stay in the moment and breathe, you are more than equal to the task. If you trust that you can handle anything in the moment and not abandon yourself,  you are wonderfully worthy.

This doesn’t guarantee that the path before you will never terrify you again. It only guarantees that you are gathering the grit required to risk, to dare, to dream, to desire, and to do it over and over again.

Failure is a given at some point.  Just like paying up front and in full is usually required in the beginning. Eventually you’ll come to see the wisdom in this.

Once you’ve made a splash, jumped in, gotten wet, and lived to tell about it, you are qualified to continue on your quest. And encourage others on theirs.

So, carry on, my brave souls. And, might I suggest, you have a little fun? Because really, the water is fine. It’s even better when you join in.

 

*I read about the auntie brigade in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed.  She beautifully describes the auntie brigade as consisting of those of us who have chosen not to have  children but are deeply committed to being aunties to everyone in need.  Personally, I love being a part of the auntie brigade!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, to “Bee” a SCAD Grad

SCAD

“Once a bee, always a bee.”

Not the rally cry heard at most universities focused on football and other achievements in sports or even academics, but a promise made by Paula Wallace, president of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

I graduated from a college known for producing teachers. Although I knew I was not cut out to be a teacher in the conventional sense, I’ve always been one in the unconventional sense. As an educator and academic advisor, I’m not convinced conventional education serves everyone. Especially the creatively quirky ones.

When I attended my niece’s graduation from SCAD last weekend, I realized why.  Celebrating the achievements of these eloquent writers, devoted designers, illustrious illustrators, innovative architects, visual and sound artists, advertisers, fashion merchandisers, and gamers, I instinctively knew that finding the right educational environment made this moment possible for many of them. Their dreams might not have survived a conventional approach.

Had I known about SCAD when I was considering college, surely I would have gravitated towards it. But at the time, I didn’t know such a place existed.

So I carved out a creative life on my own. Slowly. Over time. Wandering around the desert with my dog.

As Barbara Sher says, “Isolation is the dream killer.

Consequently, I can appreciate the value of a college for creative careers that focuses on creativity, community, and collaboration. I swarm to that like a bee to honey.

In this brave, new world of instant and constant connection, there really is no excuse to hide out as an artist or creative person. There is always someone, somewhere who will “get you“, who will see, understand, and be empowered by your creativity. No matter how old you happen to be.

And while art school might have been or still might be a pipe dream for many of us (because art school is expensive), where there’s a will, there is often a way. Figuring out how to get there – wherever your Promised Land may be – is part of what makes arriving so satisfying.

As the confetti fell from the ceiling and the acrobats twirled overhead, I contemplated the opportunities that await these gifted graduates. I felt inspired not just by these students but by anyone who has the courage to create.

In my world, there is a special place in heaven reserved for those who make life bearable by sharing their art and the beauty of their words, their music, or their creative visions. (There is also a special place for those who make indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and clean, safe drinking water possible.)

You don’t have to go to art school to create something meaningful, beautiful, innovative, or excellent. You don’t have to graduate from any institution to prove your value, your worth, your right to be here, and your need to contribute.

It is something to be proud of, for sure. The connections made and the experience gained from any educational experience will serve you for years to come.

But so will showing up every day not just with your degrees, portfolio, client list, and resume, but with your palpable passion, clear purpose, endless curiosity, and open heart.

Oh, to “bee” a SCAD grad would be an honor, indeed. But so is being all of who you are and not being afraid to bring that to the table over and over again.

I’d love to hear about your “graduation” – from school, from a relationship, from a job, from a place – in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obsolescence or evolution?

Vintage typewriter and phone office

As I reached for the last couple of pumps from the only mousse that makes my hair look thicker than it is, I lamented the inevitable obsolescence of almost every product I love, from shoes to health care products to television shows. My Body Full™ instant bodifier has been discontinued, leaving me to begin the quest for more magical mousse.

I know this is nature’s way of preventing me from staying stuck in the last millennium. But after searching high and low for products that work for my particular makeup, I wish my favorite things would stick around longer. Kind of like how I wish swim suits would be available in stores during the summer.

I like to think of myself as an early adopter, one who is quick to embrace new ideas, try new technology, leap and learn to fly on the way down.  But the truth is, when things change so quickly and so often, it’s hard to get my bearings.

In theory, I love the idea of apps that make my life easier. In reality, if I can’t find my phone,  I won’t be able to find the list I organized and color-coded and filed under such a clever name I can’t even remember it.

I make supreme efforts to set myself up for success. Yet I’m easily distracted by all the bells and whistles that guarantee it. By the time I get all these systems in place, I’m too perplexed to do the actual work. (Learning curves can last a lot longer than one might think.)

This morning I embraced the idea that creativity coach Eric Maisel taught me a long time ago.  I simply must create in the middle of things. There is really no other way around it if I want to get anything accomplished or, in my case, written.

Life is too messy or busy or random to declare, “These are the only conditions that I can birth this baby” – whatever this “baby” may be.  As we all know, babies have been born in taxi cabs, bistros, and barns. And these babies have gone on to do great things.

So I will complete the blog post I started when I still had mousse. I will also renew my WordPress site for another year and update the look of it while I’m at it.  I’ll write another chapter for my How to Get Your Groove Back course. I’ll write before I book a flight and hotel room for next weekend.  I’ll write in between unclogging the shower drain, potting some plants, walking the dogs, enjoying a camp fire, and attending a graduation party. Because this is how life guarantees I continue to evolve.

I am incredibly curious about any number of things. In order to fully explore them, I have to cultivate the conditions for them to take root. This means continually letting go of things, ideas, relationships, products that are heading for obsolescence, whether I think it’s time or not. It means taking the time and making room for what matters most.

All any of us have to do is look through a high school yearbook to realize the wisdom in letting go of what we once believed to be fashionable, cool, or important. I’m not sure any of us could have predicted the path that brought us to where we are today.

Maybe it’s that mystery that motivates us to keep tossing our caps in the air year after year as we transform inevitable obsolescence into ongoing evolution.

Promising Future

My best advice to 2016 grads?  Resolve to evolve. You’ll figure out the rest along the way.

Feel free to share your best advice in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re Not Getting Older, You’re Getting Better

Colorful sparkler, close-up.

It was the early seventies when I first heard a commercial for Loving Care reassure me, “You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” At the impressionable age of 7 or 8,  I had high hopes of getting older and better.  However, it’s taken me decades to truly appreciate the wisdom of this bit of marketing.

Contrary to popular belief, getting older does not mean stepping off a cliff into an abyss of aches and pains, memory loss and incontinence, age spots and unsightly facial hair. These things may or may not come with the territory, but they definitely don’t define what I’ve come to see as this grace period I’ve grown into.

I went begrudgingly into my forties. I was attached to being relatively young, reasonably attractive, and readily available. I feared crossing the threshold into middle age would catapult me into oblivion. I assumed I’d immediately become invisible, undesirable, and unemployable.

That was not an appealing option.

The better option was to own my throne and step into a Queendom of my own making. The world needs more Kings and Queens, grown up men and women who know who they are, understand what they have to offer, and are not afraid to contribute to the well-being of the world. Instead of depending on the world to define them, who they are defines the world.

We live in a youth-obsessed society. Letting go of the goodies surrounding princes and princesses isn’t easy. We’ve all grieved our glory days. Yet every age has its upsides. Unfortunately, we tend to focus more on the downsides the further on down the road we go.

As founder of the Midlife MacGyver Movement and an enthusiastic advocate of Getting Your Groove Back, I’m here to put a stop to all the trash talk about aging.

As I settle into my fifth decade, I’ve never felt more confident about my ability to move about the planet, share my ideas, open my mind, inhabit my body, learn from those who are different from me, relax into the unknown, and trust my ability to handle whatever happens next.

I’m living the dream, albeit a very different one than I imagined when I was half my age. If someone would have suggested to my younger self I’d be living where I’m living, doing what I’m doing with the people I’m doing it with, I wouldn’t have believed them. And yet if I connect the dots, there’s no doubt I would be here now.

I recently read an article by Ramit Sethi called Why Successful People Take 10 Years to “Succeed Overnight.”  It caught my attention in part because I’ve always joked it’s taken me 40 years to achieve overnight success. And by “success” I mean the way I measure it these days. This, too, is very different than I would have defined it even a few years ago.

Sethi talks about the underappreciated power of sequence and using the domino strategy to take one small step.  Like dominoes, that first small step is followed by a little bit bigger step and so on, creating the momentum that can ultimately move mountains, or at least very large dominoes. He explores the invisible scripts that run and often sabotage our lives, and how the treadmill of disappointment can derail us right when we’re on the verge of a breakthrough.

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll recognize where you’ve succeeded and where you’ve strayed. And if you’ve learned anything, you’ll know without a doubt, you’re not just getting older. Fortunately for all of us, you’re getting better.

Today I embark on another trip around the sun, chalking up another year to experience. Of the many things I’m grateful for, one is getting to show up in your inbox unannounced and share stuff that catches my fancy.

Thanks for reading and allowing me to do the thing that makes me feel the most alive and the most vulnerable.  Open a vein and let the words pour out.

 

 

 

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Stream of Color

A few weekends ago I got to spend an amazing weekend in Austin, Texas, participating in a Gathering of Wayfinders with Martha Beck.

I felt pulled to the event the moment I read about it. That didn’t prevent me from coming up with dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t spend the money, take the time, or trust the call of the wild that insisted I make my way to the Lone Star State.

Fortunately, reason can’t hold  a candle to instinct.

My desire was to find my tribe, those people who “get me” without explanation. As I stepped into a room filled with 500 coaches, I knew I had found them.

Conversations were immediate and intimate and none of us let the other get away with anything. We are, after all, trained to help others see what is hard for them to see in themselves.

We are also trained to know “if you spot it, you got it. Whether it’s something we love or something we loathe, we respond to what we recognize.

We won’t heal the world by fixing it. We fix the world by healing ourselves.

I watched Martha work with person after person.  She took their greatest challenges or frustrations and turned them around to find the places within themselves that were suffering the same fate.

“What should be done about it?” became, “What can I do about it?” The answer was the directive. “Start here.”

The relief of knowing I don’t have to save the world was quickly replaced by the responsibility of saving myself. The best way I know to do this is to let my freak flag fly.

It doesn’t mean putting all my outrageousness on display at all times. But it does mean trying to blend, when I was born to be different, will eventually snuff out the brilliance that begs to shine through at the oddest moments.

Flying your freak flag takes tremendous courage.

None of us want to risk the social disgrace of being outed as unusual, eccentric, strange, weird, cra-cra, or unhinged. But really, who among us isn’t? Who hasn’t had thoughts or experiences that those who know and love us advise to keep to ourselves?

I suppose what happens in Austin should stay in Austin, but what happened to me was so subtle, I could easily have missed it. I connected the dots that led me from one leap of faith to another until I found myself at the JW Marriott, cavorting with my tribe like I knew the way home all along.

The truth is, I did. And knowing that changed everything.

Try as I might to convince myself I’d been lost for years and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, that was simply not true. I cleverly sprinkled clues throughout my life to remind me where I parked the mother ship. I also managed to find my fellow trackers in the trickiest of terrains. I remembered I had superpowers just in time to activate them. And all the while I’d write and share these stories when I dared.

Then I’d forget everything and go back to blending.

But in Austin,the more I allowed myself to believe impossible things, the more likely they were to happen. The weekend was a series of synchronized connections and coincidences.  If I needed to know something, someone would tell me. If I needed to meet someone, she would show up. If I needed an Uber driver, he was already at my location. All I had to do was to suspend my disbelief, be present, open, and willing to trust.

Okay, that last line may have rolled off your tongue as easily as it flowed out my fingertips, but it’s taken me a lifetime of practice to even begin to master. Being present and open and trusting when I’m in a new city is as hard for me as not trying to blend when I’m in a small town.

But it can be done. Especially in Austin. The music, the mood, the food, the warmth, and the water will work their magic and you’ll have no choice but to surrender to it all. At least that’s what happened to me.

Of course, the real test of any trip is how I return to my regularly scheduled programming. This time instead of pretending nothing had changed, I acted as if everything had changed. When Bob picked me up at the airport, I said, “Hi, honey.  I’m home.” And then I added, “You may want to strap in. It’s going to get interesting.

Bob, being quite familiar with my freak flag, he just laughed and said, “Welcome home. I missed you.

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

Bright Pink Sky with Adventure Quote

There was an unusually large crowd at the airport at 5am on Thursday morning. Although I knew it was my day to travel, I didn’t know I know it was also the day local veterans were traveling to Washington, D.C. as part of the famed Honor Flight.

Even though we were headed in different directions, we all had to get through security at roughly the same time. Consequently, I had several opportunities to practice my stress management skills as the media descended upon these war heroes and threatened to derail my imminent departure.

Having been the last one to board a plane in the past,  I knew what the walk of shame to my seat at the back of the plane felt like. I had no interest in experiencing it again.

Despite being a seasoned traveler, getting from here to there still unnerves me. There are many things I could do to become a better traveler. Pack less. Arrive early. Bring snacks. Have a travel buddy. Take sedatives. Stay home.

The very act of traveling means I surrender control of most things with the exception of my attitude. And I can only control that when I stay present and positive.

Thursday’s journey led me through fog in Iowa, snow in Denver, and rain in Texas. Someone had mistakenly taken my seat on the first flight. This set off the equivalent of a Chinese fire drill for the rest of us scrambling to find our assigned seats.

All of the iTunes purchases I had diligently transferred to “the cloud” were apparently stuck there, waiting to be downloaded, and were unavailable to me when I was literally in the clouds wanting to hear them.

Because I depend so heavily on my playlists to transport me to my calm and quiet place, this discovery was especially disconcerting. Fortunately, I had a few meditation apps on my phone and could listen to those as we lifted off and landed.

When things fail to go as expected I can get cranky or I can get creative.

About a week before I travel, present, or do anything outside my comfort zone, I start stressing out. About a day before lift off,  I’m downright difficult and berate myself for thinking the trip, the talk, or the big event was a good idea in the first place. The truth is by this point I’m terrified, so I’m a tyrant.

But once I get to the other side, I’m deeply grateful I had the courage to leap into the unknown. For instance, Austin was a damp and gloomy place when I arrived. Because I’ve lived in Texas, I know how quickly the weather can change. And let’s face it. It’s Austin – capitol, creative mecca, home to SXSW and all things techy. What’s not to love about Austin – even on a rainy day?

When my Uber driver arrived 5 minutes after I called like clockwork and charged me $10 for the usual $35 cab ride, I realized most adventures are worth the effort required to arrange them. When the hotel let me check in at noon instead of 3pm, I knew the tide was turning. When I managed to walk around town for a couple of hours and not get lost, my confidence returned.

Suddenly the sun came out and dried up all the rain so I headed to the pool. When someone came up to me and asked, “Penny?“, I knew I was not going to be friendless for four days. An old UNI alum who I hadn’t seen since the 80s was here to attend the same coaching workshop with Martha Beck and her wonderful wayfinders that I was.

When I think about the day I might have had if this were my normal Thursday, I doubt I would have had much to blog about. At 4:30pm when I wrote this and had been awake for well over 12 hours, the day’s biggest adventure hadn’t even begun.

At 6pm I met 30 new friends from across the country when we all attended Susan Hyatt’s Girlfriends Gone Wild dinner party.  No one could believe the story of the unexpected reunion with my college friend or the fact that we were both dressed similarly and wore almost identical leopard shoes.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to blog about in the next 72 hours. In the meantime, let my adventure spark one of your own.  I’m here to tell you, contrary to what fear tells you, adventures are the antidote to whatever ails you. Let them begin!

Take A Hike, Valentine

Penny's iphone 2016 824

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!