Sunday, as I finished a song and moved from the keyboard to the podium to give the talk, it hit me. I was living my dream! It wasn’t in an arena of 20,000. It was in a room of 40, but the numbers didn’t matter. The point was, an intention I had innocently stated so long ago, had become my reality.

     It was about 12 years ago when my mother-in-law took me to a large women’s convention in Portland. From the top of the nose-bleed section, I watched a woman come out on stage, sing a touching song, and then go on to speak about challenges in life and her experiences of bouncing back. I had goose bumps running through my body and internally I said, “I want to do that!” At the time, it was a ridiculous, impossible idea. I hadn’t sung or played the piano for many years and I felt I had nothing of value to share with others. But no matter, the intention had been claimed.

     The old cliché seems a good fit here: Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it! I imagine the whispers between my Higher Power and my soul may have sounded something like this: “Need some life challenges to speak of? Well, how about if we start to unravel your life, one choice at a time, until you find yourself with nothing. Maybe we’ll crack this façade you’ve got going on to the point of leaving you huddled in a corner, surrounded by tears, disappointment and loneliness. You’ll be unsure of who you are or why you are even on this planet. We’ll allow the choices to destroy whatever positive image you might have left, and leave you questioning your value as a wife, a mom, a daughter, and a person in general. Will that do? Ooh, yes! Maybe create a nice rich soil of life’s difficulties for you to dig in. You can use it to uncover your true self, learn to share from an authentic place, and build a platform from there. Of course we’ll also have to get your creative side going again, but we’ll do that in unexpected ways, through avenues you never could have imagined. Will that work?” Standing here now, reflecting on that possible soul conversation, I marvel at all I’ve been through and how far I’ve come. Yes Spirit, I think that plan did the trick!

     The fruits of our intentions and dreams have a way of sneaking up on us.  About four years ago, I stumbled upon a video of Sarah McLachlan and Carlos Santana playing together on stage. She had been invited to do her song Angel with him, unrehearsed. As I watched the musical dance happening between the two of them in that performance, my soul set another intention. “I want to do that!” The “that” was to embody the confidence to play and sing a song with such passion that I could allow room for someone else to sit in and improvise with me.  Together we could make something beautiful. Forgetting all about that intention, one day many months later, I was in the recording studio with my producer, who also happens to be a fabulous guitar player. We were rehearsing for a small fundraising concert we’d be doing. As I started to warm up and play Angel, he began improvising along with me. I was suddenly flooded with a feeling of realization, to the point that I abruptly stopped and turned to him. This was the moment I had dreamed of! We were not two famous artists on a stage in front of thousands of adoring fans, but that didn’t matter. I had gained enough confidence and we were creating some musical magic of our own.

     Nurturing dreams into existence is an interesting process. If I had set a specific five-year goal plan, I never could have envisioned anything as wonderful as I’m actually living now. There’s a flow to the process that gets stifled in rigid planning. If we get too set in our own ideas of how things will or are supposed to look, we can miss unexpected opportunities, ones that could take us even further than we ever dreamed possible. I’m learning to stay flexible and leave a little room for the Universe to work its wonders. Often times it’s not until we’ve reached another step or turned a corner that we are able to see all the current possibilities that weren’t even imaginable from where we stood before. I’ve discovered holding the vision isn’t about achieving a specific end result. It’s about embracing unused gifts, stretching the mind, and opening the heart. It’s about who we become in the process.

     One year ago, I was in New York City for a Publicity Summit, and as I attended the various events, it just wasn’t feeling like a good fit. I wondered why Spirit had nudged me to go at all. One night my accompanying friend treated me to an evening of Broadway, Carole King’s musical Beautiful. I didn’t know much about her life or music, but I got to know her as the story unfolded in front of me. At the end, Carole surprised everyone, even the cast, emerging from behind the curtains! In her words, it was the first time she had summoned the courage to see her own story played out on stage. She interacted with all of us, doing a song which extended the overall length of the show by another 45 minutes. It was a glorious moment that sent goosebumps down my spine, even still brings tears to my eyes. This was why I had been brought to New York, to see and experience this moment. For years, I’ve been imagining a musical show, one that would bring my recent difficulties and transformation to life. As a kid, my number one dream was to be on Broadway, and even after all I’d been through, that dream had gone dormant, but had not died.

     Last month I found myself standing on stage at the Elsinore, a local historic theatre that was designed to resemble the castle in “Hamlet”. It seats about 600 on the main level, and another 200 or so in the balconies. The beauty of its décor and ornamentation is breathtaking! Standing on the stage, I had a clear vision of every seat full, a black grand piano on stage, and me. Everything about that felt right. I was ready to take the leap, reserve a date, and begin the process. The theatre’s manager, who was giving me the tour, wasn’t quite in line with what was happening within me. This is common when it comes to our dreams. Others don’t or can’t always “feel” them or believe in them at the level we can. He was questioning whether this was the right place for me. Could I really sell enough tickets to fill at least the main level? I had no idea how, but standing there, I knew without a doubt, I COULD! I had a vision, and it was spectacular! I saw people entering the doors, finding their seats. I saw the lights dimming and the curtains opening. I heard the music. I saw the laughter. I felt the tears. And when the curtain had closed for the final time, I saw myself entering the beautiful, grand lobby. Hundreds of people were milling around, enjoying the reception that was there to thank them for their support. I was hugging old friends and greeting new ones, signing books and CDs, and marveling at the way our dreams come true. 

     In January when those curtains open and this next phase of my dream takes the stage and comes alive, I’ll know this for sure: I am not Carole King and I may not be on Broadway, but that doesn’t matter. I am thriving inside my own dreams, and that is enough.    

     Last week I joined a group of college freshmen and sophomores for dinner to celebrate my daughter’s 19th birthday.  As I sat at the table, watching them and listening to the various conversations, I was struck by how vibrant and alive they all were.  The talk was animated, the topics passionate, and the eyes bright.  They easily expressed opinions, laughter and affections. 

     As I spent the next day going in and out of the coed dorm making trips to the car, I noticed it again.  There was a palpable buzz of love and excitement meeting me in every doorway.  At one point as I washed my hands in the restroom, I studied the one staring back.  Am I really old enough to have a child in college?  How is it that even as I watch my reflection gradually morph, internally I still feel 18?  It could easily have been me moving out of that dorm, couldn’t it?  And honestly, sometimes I think when others see me out with my five kids, they must surely wonder if I am the nanny! 

     Am I the only parent that feels this way?  If you are chuckling right now, you either find me ridiculous, or you feel it too.  And if that’s true for most of us, then why is it that externally we gradually stop expressing that youthful exuberance?  How is it that we somehow manage to suppress all those spry qualities as time makes its way across our faces?  It’s so easy to become numb to life, dreading the days, biding our time.  We become complacent and bitter, closed off to all the world has yet to offer.  I reject the premise that as we get older, our best days are already behind us?  No matter the age, what if our best days are yet to come?

     So what does it take to keep that enthusiasm of “the world’s at my feet” mentality?  It starts with redefining what some of the markers of age really mean.  What if wrinkles of despair were marks of courage?  What if changing bodies were temples of wisdom instead of problems needing a lift and tuck?  What if the many footprints on the heart were remembered simply as moments of loving instead of experiences of pain?  What if challenges were an opportunity to grow instead of a justification for feeling defeated?  What if life were an adventure instead of an ordeal?  And what if death wasn’t something to be feared?

     Those youthful qualities still reside in each one of us, waiting for an opportunity to freely express.  Allow your face to contort in giggles, easily reach out to convey love, and light up with enthusiasm for who you are.  It’s fun to walk around feeling young and alive, and it’s contagious!

Several weeks ago, I made a commitment to myself:  I would become more dedicated in my writing of the blog, both for my own practice and as a way to regularly communicate with my fellow travelers.  After many false starts this week, it's become apparent...I got nothin! I've decided to go ahead and honor the commitment to myself anyway, and so this week's blog is simply an explanation as to why there is no blog!

I find that my best writing comes from that deeper place within.  A topic often pops into my mind, almost as if by some sort of universal magic, and then the words quickly make their way from my mind, through my heart and out of my finger tips onto the page.  This is the way my writing works.  It's how I wrote the book.  I even hesitate claiming that I'm doing the writing because most times it feels as if I am merely a vessel for the messages to write themselves through me.  If I try to write any other way, the words usually end up feeling and sounding forced and contrived. 

In the absence of a thought-provoking topic, I've decided to be gentle with myself.  I trust that even though some inspired insight hasn't made its way onto the page, there are many brewing inside of me and when the time is right, they will emerge.

As I relax into this trusting of the process, it occurs to me....perhaps a blog about no blog, is a blog afterall!

Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?  Maybe you've heard that phrase before, and maybe you haven't. It came rushing into my mind recently while I was witnessing a conversation between two people. I was watching each of them dig in and deeply root themselves in their own opinion of how they had remembered a situation occurring earlier that morning. This quickly spiraled from a conversation into a he said/she said argument. Because each person was viewing their opinion as "the truth" of the matter, neither could allow the other's opinion to even be a valid possibility. The more they volleyed on whom was right, the more their faces contorted into anger and frustration. It was obvious neither felt heard. After much back and forth, one finally said "I don't want to argue about this" and then muttering under her breath, "but I'm right." It was at this point that the phrase playing in my mind tumbled unexpectedly out of my mouth, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?"

Ouch! The moment of impact silenced all movement and speech, sending thought ripples around the table of, "I can't believe she just said that!" Well I couldn't believe it either, but like so many times we manage to unsuccessfully filter our mouths, it was too late. The harshness of the phrase had already landed. And then the shocking answer came, "I'd rather be right."

I pondered those happenings all day.  Can that really be true? Someone would rather be right than be loved? And then when I just couldn't seem to digest or understand that part, my mind turned to get a full understanding of what being right or being loved might mean.

Being loved is about feeling heard. It's about knowing that we are important and that what we have to say means something. When I have a need to be right, in order for that to happen, then the other has to be wrong. This creates an adversarial dynamic, not one conducive to feeling loved. To fully understand what that means, here are some synonyms for adversary: opponent, rival, enemy, antagonist, powerful words, none of which convey an ounce of love. An adversarial dynamic by nature contains a winner and a loser. In order for a healthy love to grow in any relationship, there must be a respect for the other person and their thoughts, a desire to understand who they are and why they think the way they do. When I need to be right, I am essentially discounting you.

I've been at the losing end of this many times before. Engaging with someone who always has to be right leaves no room for an honest interaction, and being constantly corrected wears away at one's self-esteem. At some point I stop sharing because I know the other person is not listening from a place of openness. They are instead listening for that moment when I say something "wrong" so they can swoop in and correct me, proving their rightness.  It's exhausting and these days I tire of those kinds of interactions very quickly.

I've also been the one who needed to be right. I didn't know at the time that meant I was, by default, making someone else wrong. I just knew I always had the answer. This doesn't just happen in bigger, more obvious conflicts and disagreements. It becomes a way of life, showing up in the smallest of instances. You say up, I say down. You say it's cold, I say it's only chilly. You say it's 12:00, I say no it's 12:03. I used to even go into others' houses and when using the bathroom, switch their toilet paper roll around because they had it on incorrectly! I thought I was being helpful, setting everyone straight and fixing things with certainty. Now I know differently. Though I've made much progress in this area, it's something I still remain mindful of. And given how quickly that phrase slipped out of my mouth earlier, prompting this writing, I still have some work to do! Typically, when I feel myself wanting to go there, I take a breath, pause, and wonder, "Does what I'm about to say really matter in the bigger scheme of life?" If not, I let it go.

Essentially, here's the bigger truth as I see it. Everything is perspective, and so it is possible that my opinions feel as much like the truth to me as yours do to you. Ultimately, it really doesn't matter if it's 12:00 or 12:03, if that shirt looks blue/green or teal, or if that thing happened on Wednesday evening or Wednesday night.  What matters is how people feel in your presence. The bigger question to ask is, "How important is this relationship to me?" If it's important, then proceed with caution! Be aware that your constant need to be right is eroding away at your connection with others. All of those criticisms and corrections which individually seem insignificant at the time, are building up and creating an argumentative energy around you. You may not realize it now, but there will come a time when people have had enough, and they'll no longer enjoy being in your company. When that time comes, you'll be left wondering, "What happened? Where did everyone go? Why don't I feel loved?" Likely, your methods of communication have unknowingly alienated everyone around you.

The good new is it's never too late to change our patterns of communication. So I ask again: Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?

"Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten." -Lyrics from the song Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield

Viewing life as a book waiting to be written is a powerful analogy. We partner with the Divine to co-create our story. We are the author and illustrator, and when we take time to reflect, the reader. Any writer knows that sometimes it's necessary to pause in the middle of your story and re-read what's already been written. Where do you want to take your character now? And thus it is with life.

I remember writing a Christmas letter several years ago in which I alluded to a chapter of my life coming to a close. It was the first time I had thought of life as a book. My marriage was ending and we were sifting through our individual lives trying to determine how to split the remains of an 18 year union. It felt bigger than the turn of a page and an end of a chapter, though those were the only words I had then. It was a dark, confusing, emotionally chaotic time, and it almost felt as if my entire book was ending. Life as I had known it was over. Who I had known myself to be as a person, wife and mother was in ruins.

I feel another chapter wrapping up. After 10 years of being at Unity of Salem in various capacities as a congregant and leader, my time there is now coming to a close. This community and its loving members have encouraged, supported and witnessed my incredible transformation from a sad, closed-off soul to one who is passionate about the adventure of life. "Someone just taking up space" is how a friend recently described me during that initial period.  That's a powerful statement and unfortunately, quite accurate. In those days, I felt like I had nothing to contribute to the world.

These last years have been a time to retreat, to go inward and commence the process of cleaning house.  I've sorted through the contents of my mind, saving the beliefs that still serve me and releasing those that no longer do. I've opened my heart, removed the dust and debris, and given it room to breathe. I've learned to savor the ordinary and expect the miraculous, to give of myself and allow others to give to me. Of course, life is one long journey in learning and expanding, but this intense period of repair and healing is complete.  That is what releasing my roles at Unity of Salem represent for me. It's time to leave the safety of the confines of "home" and venture into the world. I do so with a grateful heart, for all the beautiful friends, teachers and mentors who have come into my story at various pages, and loved me back to life.

Because the chapters in my life have seemed so definitive, perhaps they are not chapters at all. Maybe my life is a series of books, each with a new adventure. Some characters carry through, book to book, and others stay for only a few pages or chapters. Like any good series, I can never know what will happen next. The story may continue a bit predictable for a while, and then when least expected, a plot twist will grab my full attention. Sometimes, depending on the twist, it may take much courage to turn the page. And at other times, I won't be able to turn the page fast enough. No matter what, when that last book has been written and the series is complete, I rest assured that through all the twist and turns the story has taken, it will have been magnificent.  A story worth living. A story worth reading.

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