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.

There never seems to be a shortage of things to worry about, for others and ourselves.  Worry.  It’s a state of being that has somehow become associated with caring.  If I am worried about you, it suggests that I care deeply.  The more I say I worry, the more you’re supposed to know that I care. 

I have made a personal choice to stop worrying.  Now I know this may sound cold and callous, but allow me to introduce my line of thinking, and then you can make your own determination.  What does it really mean to worry?

I am coming from the premise that what we focus on expands.  If we place our attention on what we don’t like in our life, then without realizing it, we are increasing the power of that.  If we focus on what is working, then we magnify that.  If this premise is true, then a good question to ask yourself is “Where am I investing my mental energy and what am I focusing on?”  And that brings us back to the concept of worry.

Worry, as defined by Webster, means  mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated : anxiety. Nothing in this definition denotes anything positive or loving.  When those we care for experience difficulties, emotions such as disappointment, fear, and pain (emotional and/or physical) often accompany the challenging times.  If we join them in those same emotions, which is what “to worry” actually has us doing, then no one is left able to hold a higher vision.  Resolutions always come from a higher place in thinking then where the perceived problem lies. 

Caring doesn’t mean I need to join you where you are.  It means I honor you where you are, and the best way to support you is to stay grounded and centered, an anchor of love for you to hold onto.  I can offer a hug of comfort and a shoulder to cry on, all the while staying positive and focused on the highest outcome.  If you are sick and I worry about you being sick, there is no focus on the health, which is what you are really wanting.  If you are struggling financially,and I jump in with you and focus on your lack of resources, then there is no focus on the abundance, which is what you are wanting.  Remember the premise, what we focus on expands.  I know it’s so tempting to swim around in the “yuck” with your friends.  Afterall, misery does love company.  But what if we can view the “yuck” as just experience, one that will pass, and pass quicker if we can help shift perspective onto what is really wanted, instead of what appears to be here now. 

Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you worry, it never has the power to change anything?  All it does is rob us of our joy and ability to hold the high watch.  It took me many years to understand that phrase: holding the high watch.  During a difficult eight years of my life, I had two special friends who always reminded me they were doing just that.  I get it now.  What they were doing was holding the vision of who they knew me to be, and not the low, pitiful vision of myself I was wrapped up in at the time.  They didn’t try to fix me or tell me what they thought I should do.  They held the space to allow me to be right where I was, honoring my emotions but not feeding my victimhood.  They knew something at the time that I’ve only come to fully understand recently.  The most loving and effective way to help someone out of the darkness is simply to hold the light.

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