Feb 032020
 

I love February. It seems to me that the commercial world has been building toward Valentine’s Day dinner reservations, heart-shaped jewelers and over-priced flowers since January 2nd but my reasons for loving the love month are different.

When I lived in the north country, having a short month with slightly longer days was a glorious relief — and gave us some wonderful mid-week ski days. I love that it’s the shortest month — even during Leap Year. It’s quirky. It’s got attitude. And Groundhog Day. Think about it. Could any other month tolerate — let alone embrace — a morning that features men in top hats using a large rodent to predict the weather?

…With His Boots On. In February.

Could any other month tolerate — let alone embrace — a morning that features men in top hats using a large rodent to predict the weather? Click To Tweet

Growing up, the family typically spent winter school vacations skiing. I know, I know… the glitz and glamour of an annual ski vacation? Not so fast. Kids growing up in certain parts of Vermont and New Hampshire get to go skiing as part of physical ed and Gram and Gramp lived exactly one mile from a ski area in the White Mountains. It wasn’t the least little bit glitzy but skiing all day, every day? (And Grampa driving us there with his ski boots already ON???) The word ‘exhilarating’ comes to mind for both parts of that memory.

February is home to several other family favorites: some birthdays and special anniversaries, two of which take place on Hoodie-Hoo Day! (Relax. I didn’t know either.) And best of all? Friends from cold places reserving our guest room. It’s a lot of fun to share this part of the world with them and the azaleas in full bloom add to the brightness and joy. And aren’t there some award shows coming up? I love design and am a sucker for a good red carpet. In addition, despite the fun we have with the family’s annual NFL football pool for bragging rights and trash talk? Football.Season.Is.Finally.Over.

February is for Amelia Island Book Festival

My favorite book festival is here in February and the experience has been different for me every year. I’ve attended the author training, the kick-off luncheon, and the gala. I’ve assisted a good friend with the Teen and Tween Scene, helped start a ‘welcome’ reception for indie authors, and attended numerous inspiring talks and break-out sessions by wonderful authors. And the grand finale each year is the Author Expo.  (And, since the year it started, a week or two later, we head for the Jacksonville Library for a similar event!)

The Amelia Island Book Festival comes around in February and the experience has been different for me every year. Click To Tweet

This year I’m feeling some synchronicity about our local book festival, Black History Month, and Susan B. Anthony Day. Let’s just say that both my local grand girl and I are fangirling like crazy at the prospect of meeting Margot Less Shutterfly, the author of Hidden Figures.

And amethyst: those incredible purple quartz crystals that almost always make me stop and take a deep breath. I appreciate its range of hues, from deep pansy to a much lighter lilac. As a 30-year veteran of the addiction treatment world, I appreciate that  in Ancient Greece to was believed that it protected the wearer from drunkenness and enabled them to keep a balanced mindset. It’s also a symbol humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity — important elements of addiction recovery.

Awareness of Joy

I just found out that February 4th is National Hemp Day and, frankly, probably wouldn’t care, except For having recently discovered the benefits of CBD oil as a dietary supplement.  Skeptical? Sure. At first. And then I learned that CBD is not the same as THC. There’s no “high” associated with its’ use — unless you’re one of my dogs, waiting for their CBD cookies. That’s a level of happiness that’s hard to ignore. (And that’s the point of dogs, right?)

I just found out that February 4th is National Hemp Day. Click To Tweet

And Happy Heart Health month to you all. What an incredible reminder to brunch up on your CPR skills as well as to check in with ourselves and our health care providers to be mindful of diet and exercise and all those other things we need to do to ensure that this incredible center is able to thrive. I have come to love yoga heart opening poses and believe that an awareness of joy supports heart health!

What are your favorite things about February? Will I see you at the book festival? Or on the red carpet? I’m looking forward to your comments.

 

 

Jan 292020
 

The first month. The first day of a new decade and… all that advice. Make resolutions. Don’t make resolutions. Set an intention — it’s different from a goal. Choose a theme. Choose a word. Make sure to have something in every part of your life. Stick with just one thing until you’ve created a new habit. I love end-of-year reviews and setting goals, but none of it felt right to me this time. I chose a word anyway.

I chose the word “one.”

I’ve already been asked a few times about my choice. As in ‘we are all one?’ Yes. As in ‘first things first?’ Yes. How about ‘keeping the main thing the main thing?’ Yes to that, too.

A Sole Focus

Turns out, the more time I spent with my word, the deeper our relationship has grown. I have a lot of ideas so it reminds me to be mindful, keep a sole focus, to attend to a single thing at a time. It helps with physical exercise when I remind myself that I can only do a single workout at a time.

But the best use of the word has been as a challenge: what one thing will I do today that will make my life better? That’s a wonderful question — especially when life is already pretty great to start with. Some days it has been setting a single appointment or making a phone call. Half an hour of meditation. Writing a blog post. Training a dog. I cleaned out a single closet. I repaired one piece of jewelry, cooked a new recipe. I reframed a picture before hanging another. Repaired a favorite old piece of clothing. Accepted an interview request.                                                    Took a nap. Watched a movie.

Maybe a month is not a long enough period of trial. But, since I think my experiment has been a success, I’m offering a few more reminders about the power of one.

The Power of One

 

One! singular sensation, every little step she takes. One! thrilling combination, every move that she makes. ~ A Chorus  Line

I just wrote one song at a time. Kinda like an alcoholic. One day at a time. ~ Neil Young

A lot of things have been thrown at me in life, and I’ve got through it all without a rule book, taking it one day at a time. ~ Yoko Ono

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. ~ Edward Everett Hale

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks. ~ Harper Lee

I am just one human being. ~ Dalai Lama

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~ Viktor E. Frankl

Ideas can be life-changing. Sometimes all you need to open the door is just one more good idea. ~ Jim Rohn

Jan 212020
 

“Sorry, not sorry” is one of those expressions that makes me feel old. I don’t get it. Actually, I get it. I just don’t like it.

Professionally, I got to grow up in the addiction treatment world. I treasure that community, the changes I got to part of, and, most importantly, the life lessons that were so generously shared. It’s where I learned the difference between “apologies” and “amends.” And that sometimes “sorry” doesn’t cut it.

You’re Sorry. What’s Next?

I’m not sure that addicts are the only people who need to take a closer look. There are lots of people who say they are sorry but are unwilling to change the offending behavior. It’s meaningless. That’s one of the things that the recovery community has so right: folks are advised to steer clear of anything resembling an apology until they are fairly certain they will not repeat the behavior for which they are apologizing.

What’s an apology and when should one be sorry? When apologizing we express regret — sometimes even sorrow or sadness — for something said or done. We express regret for offending, insulting, or otherwise failing a group or another individual. That makes sense when we are aware of what we’ve done and are reasonably sure we can follow through by not repeating the offending behavior.

There are lots of people who say they are sorry but are unwilling to change the offending behavior. Click To Tweet

“Sorry” gets old when it is hollow and when it is repeated along with with the bad behavior.

What Will it Take to Make This Right?

Maybe that’s why I like the concept of amends so much better: the focus is not on the sorrow of the actor but on making things right for the injured party. When I am the bad actor, I can ask the person I’ve hurt to define what it will take to improve things. To amend is, by definition, “to change for the better, to improve.” Or, getting down the nitty gritty: words versus deeds.

If you broke, stole or lost something? Repair, return or replace it. That extends to relationships as well.

Sorry – It’s Rotten

I like to remember that, historically, amendments to the Constitution have been put in place to improve and strengthen it. We amend garden soil to nourish and enrich it — often using something rotten in the process. Injuries to those we love, however unintentional, are ingredients of that rotten stuff which, if used well, can be repurposed to help grow something better.

We amend garden soil to nourish and enrich it — often using something rotten in the process. Click To Tweet

I’ve had a ringside seat to a lot of family drama recently. There must be something in the air: people are talking openly about the family stories that keep them up at night. As I listen and love and try not to advise, I find myself wishing that my friends (or their family members) were in a program of addiction recovery largely because I don’t always know how to share the wisdom of those old-timey pioneers in recovery with others who would benefit from their foresight and compassion. I am reminded that however beautiful our words they can be easily overshadowed by our deeds.

What are your thoughts about apologies versus amends? How do you make the changes that improve and strengthen your relationships with those you love?

 

 

Jan 152020
 

Humility shows itself in the people with whom I am connected — both online and in real life. I love the conversations about becoming better  at who we are and what we do. Lately they have been about the balance between a commitment to continuous self-improvement and acceptance: of self, of others, and of life as it is. So how does one balance a desire to improve with gratitude for the way things are? I don’t know about you, but I struggle. And I seek greater humility.

I struggle not to compare myself and my accomplishments to those around me, striving always to applaud and appreciate others’ successes. Recognizing that we may have different strengths, interests, opportunities, privilege, resources, life circumstances, or abilities helps steer away from jealousy. The struggle is sometimes to recognize my own accomplishments — I’m not denigrating them, I just don’t always remember them when I should.

“Humility is truth.” ~ Desiderius Erasmus

Humility is truth. ~ Desiderius Erasmus Click To Tweet

I’m not interested in loud, brassy self-improvement like artificially adding “best-selling” to my author bio; but continuing to improve as a writer? To be recognized by my peers? That feels right — especially when I couple that commitment with the hope that what I produce lands with people who will enjoy it and, perhaps benefit from some of the ideas. It’s not a SMART goal but it’s a way of thinking about life and growth that’s meaningful to me right now.

Humility Makes us Real

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. ~ Thomas Merton Click To Tweet

Until checking the dictionary, I thought I might be trying to approach self-improvement with humility. But once there, it became apparent that I needed to discard most parts of that definition. Rejecting “a feeling of insignificance” and “low in rank” left space for “not arrogant” and “courteously respectful.” So many definitions of humility seem to ask us to present ourselves as “less than” and, to me, that doesn’t square with acceptance. What if humility is an accurate self-appraisal and an understanding that there are those whose skills are better than ours and those who know other things? Perhaps it has more to do with just being or with something our culture has rechristened “authenticity.”

Practice Radical Humility

Practice radical humility. Take no credit for your talents, intellectual abilities, aptitudes... ~ Wayne Dyer Click To Tweet

Searching for others’ thoughts on humility led me to a pair of popular writers whose work embraced a combination of creativity, spirituality, and helpfulness.  Thinking about them together makes me smile as I picture them having a cup of coffee together. I wonder if they’d enjoy the other’s company — and what the conversation would be.

My first Maya Angelou quotation places me (or “us” if you choose to join me) in a continuum. It places us in time, honoring those who came before and those who will follow. “What humility does for one is it reminds us that there are people before me. I have already been paid for. And what I need to do is prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who has yet to come but who may be here and needs me.”

And, as is true with almost anything I’ve ever read by her, she points us to honesty. “Whenever I’m around some who is modest, I think, ‘Run like hell and all of fire.’ You don’t want modesty, you want humility.”

I finally arrived at a favorite thought from Wayne Dyer. His advice? “Practice radical humility. Take no credit for your talents, intellectual abilities, aptitudes, or proficiencies. Be in a state of awe and bewilderment.”

So what can I do with this? How can I incorporate humility into my day-to-day life? Here are five simple ideas, a list that could, perhaps, be titled “Five Simple Ways to be a Better Person” or “Don’t Be Such a Jerk.”

    • Turn off your cell phone. I like instant access as much as the next person but liberal use of your smart phone’s Do Not Disturb function allows us to be fully present to the meal we are eating and the people with whom we share it. (Pro tip: I didn’t know how, so I asked the artificial intelligence to do it for me!)
    • Vacuum behind the furniture. I’m far (way too far) from being a neat freak but this one speaks to our place in time and doing our work completely whether or not anyone else will see it.
    • Supermarket behavior. Some venues are better practice than others and for me this is it. When I can let someone go ahead of me in line or return their empty cart, my behavior says their time (and their car doors) matter as much as mine.
    • Passing along a favorite book may say “I thought of you while I read this.” (Or, in the case of self-help? “I got a lot out of this, would you like it next?”)
    • Saying “please” and “thank you” — frequently and in many formats. A text. A hand written note. A small gift. The more I practice this the more ideas come my way.

Please share your thoughts on humility and self-improvement in the comments. Thank you.