I RESOLVE TO NOT RESOLVE


this is your lifeLife isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”  — anonymous

We’re nearly two weeks into the new year and, by now, I am typically looking back, already filled with regret, seeing how I have slacked off on my new year’s resolutions.  Every year, I resolve to not make resolutions. Nevertheless, loping around in the back of my brain, are the resolutions that I have secretly made with myself, hidden away, because I do not want to admit – even to my own self – that I have fallen into the same trap yet again.  This year, I was very deliberate about not only not making any conscious resolutions but also resisting the overwhelming temptation to tuck some away in my subconscious.  After the challenges of last year, it was easy to imagine a whole slew of declarations of change that might help turn the Titanic away from that iceberg that sits ominously in the dark night.  Despite that, this year, after a whole lot of soul-searching, I committed to not resolve and only focus on intention.  Intention allows us to focus on the outcome rather than the activities that get us there.  We commit to accomplish something and with that purpose in mind, the behaviors required to do it become much easier.  In fact, I believe that if we are deliberate about our bigger intentional outcomes, we can have far greater results than if we put arbitrary expectations on ourselves, even if we have envisioned a game plan to complete them.  What is never part of the plan are the inherent road blocks that will always trip you up.

So, this year I am trying something different and, on day 13, I can report it is going far more smoothly than I’d imagined.

For instance, rather than committing to lose the 15 lbs I gained between the hurricane and the holidays (not to mention the other weight that is still lingering), I simply set my intention to do what I need to do to feel healthy and strong and that immediately resulted in my commitment to get back into my kickboxing routine.  Within days, I found myself feeling better and, instead of focusing on every morsel of food I put in my mouth, I am making sure that I get in a workout at least 3 times a week which is good for my body and mind.  I connect with my friends there, I release tension and I continually acknowledge the benefits I am getting – far beyond what the scale might read.  And, along those lines, I have abandoned the scale for the time being.  It’s simply not a partner in my efforts.  It is an evil little creature that calls out to me and mocks me regardless of the readout because, even if I have lost weight, it taunts me about the need to lose more.  I simply never get the recognition I know I deserve.

Rather than resolving to spend more time with family members and friends, I have been extremely deliberate about the choices I make with my time.  Because my job is so consuming and I can work 24 hours a day if I let myself, I am making sure that I use my free time wisely.  I spend time with those people who energize me and align with my intentions.  My family is my number one priority and where I want to be most of the time because being with them enriches me.  However, I also need and desire the company of friends and colleagues so, if I am going to be away from my family, it better be for meaningful encounters.  I’ve seen tremendous benefits from this already.   I have connected with people who I lost touch with or have neglected over time and found our re-engagement to be so nourishing to my spirit.  I have also been very conscious to make sure that I am responding to my needs to be social or my needs to alone and have quiet instead of my typical behavior of trying to be part of everything at all times and neglecting everyone, especially myself.

Instead of resolving to grow my business, make a certain amount of money or zoning in on certain focal areas, I have acknowledged the fear that normally inhabits me right about now, taunting me with the worry that no new clients or no new business will come along.  I have been able to tame that fear by acknowledging that there is risk in how I run my professional life and there will always be uncertainty about my work.  At the same time, my intention is to have a business where I work with people who are aligned with my thinking and behavior and that we focus on projects rooted in our passion with the ability to be meaningful both personally and financially.  In my estimation, that is a strategic plan that will yield positive outcomes and what will help my business flourish.  On the contrary, if I focus my energies on worrying and reprimanding myself for not doing things better or differently, the end result will be me feeling weak and powerless and disappointed in myself rather than feeling fulfilled and optimistic about the future.  I have not billed one day of work this year yet I have no concerns about the future of my business because I am laying a strong foundation for growth and success.  I have created projects and programs that are extremely meaningful and are yielding strong results because my passion and enthusiasm is coming across to partners and clients.

This past week I had lunch with an old friend and, as we were catching up on our lives, we got to talking about his philosophy about branding his years.  He’s done it for the past few years and it has served to set his intention for the year.  I love this notion but have never actually tried to do this for myself.  I suppose, if I were to reflect back, I would say that 2012 was the Year of Vulnerability.  I did not set that intention but it became very obvious to me one evening at the beginning of March as I sat in my car talking to a friend.  I was having some kind of manic epiphany about the role vulnerability plays in my life and how it has taunted me for my lifetime.  (It became apparent quite quickly, by the way, that lots of people close to me already knew that and forgot to include me in the memo.)  Even with this realization, I did not set forth with the intention to be more vulnerable but I opened myself up to learning more about the struggles I faced with it and made a vow to educate myself and, if nothing else, become incredibly knowledgable on the subject.  It is no surprise that with the learning came some level of implementation.

No brand for 2013 has surfaced but it is looking like this might be the Year of Intention.  It’s a real shift for me because, while I am typically a very strategic thinker in business, I do not employ those same skills when it comes to my own personal life.  In business, I think things through, make decisions after weighing pros and cons and don’t often act impulsively.  Emotionally, it’s a whole other story.  My husband proposed to me after knowing me for 4 months and, while I can still say 21 years later that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made, I have to admit that I certainly did not put a lot of strategic thought into it.  I went with my gut.  I don’t want to abandon that part of myself because I do have strong instincts but I also want to be more thoughtful about things and I commit to thinking about how I am living my life and who I am bringing into my life to help to nourish it and enhance it.  To that end, the other day my friend posted a wonderful quote on Facebook that really summed it up for me when it comes to the people in my life:

people in your life quote

One big intention for me in 2013 is making sure that I am not dragging people along behind me.  I want the people in my life to want to be there.  Growing up in the kind of family that I did, there was always an inclination to accept whatever anyone gave me in terms of friendship or love.  I did not have the self-confidence or the acuity to discern between what I wanted and simply what was in front of me.  I was like a homeless person who is being offered food.  A tuna sandwich is sustenance even if it is a steak you are really craving.  How do you turn down the sandwich when you are starving?  I guess, the good news is that my tummy – and my heart – are full now.  Anything I choose to ingest is for pure enjoyment and enrichment.  I no longer need to make myself whole.  I no longer need to fill gigantic empty chasms within myself in order to get through each day.  I can live a life of intention because I am finally at a place where I get to choose.  I get to intend.  I get to be selective.

It’s a very new feeling for me because, in truth, all I have ever known is how to go with the flow.  I have lived a life of desperation where I am always putting filler into the gaps to ensure that the building wont collapse.  My life has been a house of cards and one strong breeze could end me.  Not so much anymore.  2012 might have been the Year of Vulnerability and learning how to embrace the vulnerability has actually made me stronger and more powerful.  I am no longer afraid of it.  It feels good! Learning how to do this also gave me the power to make my own choices and stand on my own feet.  So, in 2013, I do not need to make resolutions.  I do not have to force change in my life because I am living a life that welcomes change as part of the roadmap.  Course correction will always be a necessity because I do not have the gift of telling the future or a magic crystal ball to see what lies ahead.  Instead, I have fortification to know that, no matter what comes along, as I live with intention, I am doing the best that I can and I am preparing myself for whatever lies ahead. I am always surrounded by people who will catch me if I fall rather than plotting ways to knock me over.  It isn’t always easy and I am certainly not perfect but I am open to giving this a shot and seeing where this year takes me.

Go ahead, come along for the ride.  Throw out those resolutions and commit to living your life with intention!

CELEBRATION JAR


fireworks“If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year…Today should always be our most wonderful day.”  — Thomas Dreier

So, here we are.

It’s 2013.  

It seems many of us (and when I say many, I am referring to my significant research conducted while reading Facebook posts on New Year’s Eve) were very happy to see 2012 go away.  In fact, some were shooing it away as quickly as they could.  I was definitely part of that crowd.  2012 started out rather poorly and, unfortunately, there were far too many moments that would fall into the category of events that I would prefer not to include on my highlight reel of life.  Despite this and even though I was anxious to see the year end, I was determined to close it out on a high note, making way for a very positive and optimistic entry into the new year.  On Monday afternoon I began my decidedly low-key new year’s eve celebration by going to a movie with a friend  – frankly, it seemed somewhat odd to go out to a movie during the day when everyone was prepping for their big NYE spectacular celebrations but it was just right for me.  Afterwards, my younger son, who had been cooped up in the house for days with a cold, asked to go out to spend some of his holiday gift cards.  I obliged, again thinking that this was an odd activity for the day but committed to keeping my expectations of the day low with a hope for great outcomes.  We took a little drive to some stores to find even more video games and toys because the ones he received on Christmas were simply not enough to sustain him through, um, let’s see…December.  All in all, it was simple, easy and pleasant.  The quiet time in the car on the return home from shopping left me some space to contemplate the results of the soon-departing year.

I was waiting to turn on one of the various jug handles that signifies you are driving in New Jersey and I heard an interview on the radio with yet another person expressing their relief that this year was coming to an end.  I know we had a particularly rough last quarter of the year with Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook shooting and a scary fiscal cliff but, even with all that, it suddenly struck me as odd that so many people were overwhelmingly grateful to move into the next year and kiss the current one goodbye.  And, in truth, it was not just year that I noticed this phenomenon. I wondered why we so often end the year this way.  It is great that we are optimistic for what is to come, hopeful for a better result, wishful that the good will outweigh the bad.  But, it feels as if when we get to the end of the year we spend a great deal of our time focusing on our regrets and shortcomings.  Certainly life is really not all that bad.  Perhaps we tend to use the new year as a moment of cleansing to rinse away the muck and make room for all the bright shiny new opportunities.  Of course, we all have misfortune – it is part of the ying and yang of life.  There is no such thing as having a perfect life and even those of us who live with intention and make a great effort to focus on positivity have struggles and moments when life pulls us down.  It is natural.  It is unavoidable.  As I was pondering all this it made me think hard to summon a year that ended with me sad to say goodbye.  I had to do some deep reflection.  I suppose the years when my children were born I was still aglow from their arrivals – especially since they were both born towards the end of the year.  I doubt I ended those years on a low note but, of course, I was also probably too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the business of dealing with newborns to indulge in such reflection.

In truth, I think that I (and probably some of my fellow year-chuckers) tend to welcome the excitement of the new year and the promise it holds by justifying and balancing its arrival with the dismissal of the current year where there is no more mystery and the story has been revealed.  We know the outcome.  We can see the crappy moments and the less-than ideal circumstances.  We know what we are tossing away while we can wistfully hope for something better in the new year.

I posted on Facebook on Monday that I was borrowing my friend’s ritual of writing down my top 10 list of bad stuff from the year and burning them in the fire to ensure their permanent departure.  It was my own version of smudging my year.  I loved the symbolism of releasing any negativity into the fire, freeing up space for positivity and possibility.  But, alas, I am not ignorant or naive.  I know that the coming year will bring its own set of struggles and disappointment and I might very well end up on December 31, 2013 lamenting those less fortunate experiences and, once again, be anxious to welcome a fresh start in 2014.  The activity of throwing our disappointment into the fire seemed very cathartic to me but I feared it would be a ritual that would yield only short-term results.  Then, today, once again thanks to Facebook I saw something that possibly solved my conundrum about how to end the year on a positive note rather than toss the baby of regrets and disappointments out with the proverbial bath water.

celebration jar

While this has seemingly gone viral, I thought it worth sharing yet again.  Someone has suggested creating what I refer to as a celebration jar where you jot down on a scrap paper all of the wonderful things that you are grateful for throughout the year and place them in the jar.  On December 31, you can open the jar and read off all of those delicious memories and experiences and acknowledge the positivity in your life.  So, even if you are excited about the promise the new year offers, you do not have to walk away from the current year sighing in relief that the torture is ending.  This enables you to build goodness on top of more goodness, resulting, hopefully, in a sustainable happiness that can translate from year to year. Rather than lamenting and being awash in disappointment, this is a beautiful way to remember those spectacular moments – big and small – that made your year special and impactful.

All of this inspired me to think deeper about the shared comfort so many of the people in my circle felt as we turned the calendar page and put 2012 behind us.  Perhaps it is easier for us to focus on the negative aspects because we are simply wired that way.  As a society, we certainly tend to dwell more comfortably on negativity because focusing on the good stuff feels indulgent and, frankly, sometimes scary.  It is as if we will jinx ourselves if we believe that good is the norm rather than the exception.  And, at the same time, so many of us set intentions for goodness and positivity and still fear it when it comes because it might only be temporary.  There is a fear that if we allow ourselves to embrace the goodness in our lives, we may set ourselves up for disappointment when things go wrong.  It is human nature.  The Celebration Jar allows us to chronicle all the wonderful moments throughout the course of the year and then safely and joyfully reflect on them as we wave goodbye at the end of the year, perhaps with a sense of accomplishment and wholeness knowing that, even though we may have faced struggles and challenges and unpleasantry, we also had some pretty amazing times.  The truth is we always do.  We just need to hang on to them a little bit longer.

Here’s mine.  Hope you create one too and embrace 2013!

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BE THE CHANGE


I believe intensely in the power of the small moments of our lives and how they shape and inform how we move forward.  I also believe that nothing happens by accident.  If you pay attention closely enough, you can fit together the pieces of your life and complete the complex jigsaw puzzle picture that is being formed.  It’s kind of funny that my husband and I are often diametrically opposed on this topic. Being an engineer, he believes that randomness is part of our existence and coincidences are just randomness collisions.  And, ironically, I believe he is one of the pieces of my life that most certainly did not happen by accident.

Along with my deep belief in fate, I also believe in the power of intention.  However, this is a relatively new way of thinking for me.  To be intentional, you need to trust that you can follow through with your intention.  You need to believe that you can regulate your life in such a way to live by your intention.  This is no easy task because it forces you to be present, conscious and accountable for your actions and behaviors.  On the other hand, being intentional creates an ease in your life because it provides you with a compass and barometer that immediately indicates if you have gone in the wrong direction or if you have fluctuated away from your focus.

Being intentional has never been a defining characteristic for me.  Because of the chaos in my life – chaos that caused me to be reactive and protective – I have never had the space or latitude to decide what I wanted.  I managed.  I survived.  I tolerated.  I never chose.  The idea of being able to choose the pathway I wanted was luxurious like cashmere and caviar.  I trusted no one – most significantly myself.  And, while I was blessed to have the gift of introspection which allowed me to constantly challenge myself and force myself to explore new ways of thinking and behaving, I failed to notice the magical connections that pulled my personal puzzle together and, ultimately, lived my life with same chaos that was foisted upon me for years and years.

I often talk about the blessings of people in my life and I firmly believe that I have been gifted with individuals who have come into my life to help me find my path, to help me along on my journey and show me the way when I could not do so myself.  Nonetheless, I have struggled to understand how to embrace these guides because my inability to trust would get in the way.  My aversion to vulnerability and fear of admitting that I need the assistance to find my way – or the acknowledgment of the fact that I might simply be lost -has prevented me from extracting the beautiful gifts bestowed upon me.  In recent years, though, I have much more consciously tried to change that.  I have tried to be courageous and test my limits, challenge my fears and consciously and intentionally accept what is being offered.  This is such hard work but the payoff is greater than any lottery bounty.

I want to tell this story in so many ways.  I want to share how this has paid off in work, how it enhances my relationships, how it makes me a better mother.  In reality, the only way I can honestly and authentically share the power of intention is to talk about how it has changed me – in the deepest aspects of my being.

When I have talked about vulnerability, I have shared that the environment I grew up in was one I would compare to a battle zone.  The enemy always had its weapon drawn and was ready to fire the moment they happened upon a vulnerable or open target.  I had to learn how to wear protective armor and shield myself from the oncoming attacks that happened far too frequently.  This was my familiar lifestyle.  A small voice inside me constantly begged for safe harbor.  I searched for someone, anyone who would be protective and would let me drop my guard.  I wanted to simply be.  I did not want to overthink things.  I did not want to be afraid.  I just wanted to be.  I wanted to luxuriate in the mundane.  My need for an ally removed any level of conscious intention and forced me to try so many people on for size – many of which resembled the initial enemies but did a wonderful job of masking their true identity.  I was hurt again and again and the callouses grew harder and thicker.  I trusted only to be betrayed and I never seemed to learn anything because I kept returning to the same enemy over and over.

I began to develop a level of consciousness in my 30s right around the time my first child was born.  Suddenly, as a parent, I knew instinctively that I needed to be intentional about mothering.  I knew that, without this intention, I could not possibly raise my children in a healthy way, offering them love, consistency and order.  WIthout clear intentions I would be replicating a level of chaos that defined my life.  However, I had no idea that I was even thinking any of this.  I did not have a vocabulary to define my behavior and actions.  I had instinct.  I had fate.  I was exercising these new muscles with my children but the rest of my relationships – particularly the one with myself – still suffered because I did not understand that trust and intention was what I required to begin a full transformation from that unarmed child.

There was no magical a-ha moment.  I did not wake up one day and burst from my bed with the answer.  I did not have a grandiose epiphany.  Instead, I worked really, really hard and tested everything around me.  I continued to try people on for size but I developed an acute awareness for what did not feel right and was able to extricate myself from unhealthy relationships much faster.  I took little baby steps towards a reality that included me possibly liking myself enough to invest the time and energy into trusting myself.  I grew older, I went to therapy, I battled through, I got hurt.

Then the universe kicked in and I was ready to listen.

Yes, I have had some extraordinary relationships.  FIrst and foremost is my husband.  For over 20 years we have struggled together, confronting our own scars and committing ourselves to let love prevail.  We are both very complex people with lots of emotional baggage and, often, our relationship has been so hard yet so worthwhile.  And the journey continues.  I have had friends – many of which have come and gone but who have left an imprint on me that I only now can look at and understand the significance.  I have risen from a family that suffered from mental illness, alcoholism and deep dysfunction – and I would not have chosen any other family because they are part of who I am today.  The good, the bad, and the ugly have helped to shape and inform who I am right here and right now.  They have helped me to struggle and forced me to confront my demons.  I could certainly have chosen to not do this but, for me, there never was an option.  I may not have set out to do this with intention but the universe intervened and made sure that I eventually paid attention and found my intention.  Today, I am surrounded by a beautiful tapestry of people I have chosen to be in my life.  Each of them enriches me in a way and I am intentional about my purpose in their lives.  I don’t always know right away what the purpose is but I am always committed to learn.  I still struggle with trust because that little person inside me looking for safe harbor also knows that the waters can be very dangerous and we need to be very careful.  But, for the first time in my life I have found myself in trusting relationships that continually prove themselves to be worthy and authentic.  And I am so moved, emotionally impacted and overwhelmed at how powerful the trust is.  And, when that trust is ever questioned or challenged, it rocks my world.

I am trying to be the change I want to see in the world.  I am trying to be intentional and give out to those around me exactly what I want in return – love, respect and trust.  It defines the me of today and I know, without any shade of doubt that the payoff is there.

I have found myself ending each of my blog posts recently with a thank you and acknowledgment to the people in my life and I will continue this practice because it is the people – always the people – that make the difference.  Without them, I stop learning and loving and growing.  Without them, I have no audience, no support system, no purpose.

The other day, while strolling through Manhattan with a dear friend I was sharing some stories of my early career days and I lamented about some choices I made.  He pointed out to me that, had I made different choices, he and I would never have met.  That thought stopped me in my tracks and I can still smell the air and hear the noises around me when he said it because I knew that would be a terrible eventuality.  Perhaps he was right.  But, given the power of our relationship I suspect the universe would never have allowed that to happen.

WEIGHTY MATTERS


Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a new friend who specializes in coaching people about their relationship with food.  We met recently and we both knew implicitly that we needed to get to know each other better.  I believe in following the universe on these things because people come into your life for very specific reasons.  With Randy, while she may have had her own reasons for wanting to get to know me better, I know that she arrived in my life at exactly the right time.

As I have chronicled here, I have been on a journey of getting healthier and it has not been the easiest road for me to travel.  It has been a lifelong adventure for me and, for the past year, it seemed to have kicked in to high gear rather unexpectedly.  As i shared in an earlier post, I began my journey on a dare when I agreed to take a kickboxing class back in February 2011.  This triggered something in me and my life began to change in so many ways.  The net result is that I have lost nearly 50 lbs, have become leaner and more muscular and have a new level of self-confidence and discipline that never existed before.

But, here’s the strange thing about losing a lot of weight.  After a while, you forget that you were fat to begin with.  That is not to say that I have shed all my extra weight and am now tall and slender as I dream of being.  Instead, it is about perspective.  Even though I have discarded clothing that were 3-4 sizes larger than the ones I am currently wearing, I do not see myself much differently than I did when I was 50 lbs heavier.  It is quite a self-defeating position to be in because, rather than celebrating my success, I still critique myself with my old lens.  I look in the mirror and have to squint when looking at myself to be certain that I can see the differences.  I know there are changes but I simply do not have the perspective to see it.  I look at my body every single day.

When I began my journey in 2011, I was so deeply out of control with my eating and my physical health that I was in one of those places in life where you just do not know how to get started.  I felt like my body was a big pile of dirty laundry laying haphazardly on the floor and I just could not begin to sort through the colors and whites to begin the laundering process.  Ultimately, I did not put any pressure on myself and was as surprised as anyone that this new pastime actually made the difference for me.  It sort of makes sense to me now because of the outlet it provides for me to both release aggression and be competitive without actually having to compete against anyone other than myself.

Today, as I live in my life, I am struggling.  I am challenged to appreciate and celebrate what I have accomplished and, instead, am lamenting that I have not accomplished more.  I never set a goal for myself but, once the transformation began, I became very ambitious about what I could accomplish.  I work out 7-8 times a week, taking kickboxing and karate classes and now running in the mornings.  I try to eat healthy but, in reality, I struggle with that.  I gave up sugar and carbs for 2 months in order to gain some control over my eating and I fear that I placed too much focus on the food and actually sabotaged myself.  I worry every day that I will not be able to sustain this and the success I have had will be temporary, quickly replaced with the return to the “old” me.

During my breakfast with Randy yesterday, I shared a lot of these feelings and concerns and explained how this part of my journey fits into the larger parts of my life.  I have been transforming myself internally and externally.  I have freed myself from toxicity in many parts of my life and consciously chosen to be intentional about how I work, who I spend time with and where I put my energies (such as investing time in myself vis a vis exercise).  I also explained how my fears and anxieties about not being in control of my body is torturing me at this moment in time.  And, with the ease of someone who really knows what they are talking about it, she attempted to release me from my paralyzing thoughts.  She suggested that I am where I am supposed to be.  She indicated that, perhaps I simply need to level off a bit and get used to myself at this new stage rather than be so aggressively looking for the next goal.  I need to accept myself now – exactly where I am today.  Sounds pretty simple, huh?  It was a pretty profound perspective to me.  And I know she is right.

Last weekend, I was at Target during my normal weekly shopping adventure and I decided to buy some ice cream for dessert for the family.  I had not had ice cream in nearly two months and was really in the mood.  “Why not?,” I thought.  “I have to be able to live a life where I can eat ice cream now and again.”  So I bought two pints to share amongst the family and had no second thoughts about it.  Later that evening, my older son and I were preparing to watch a movie and were scooping out our ice cream to snack on.  I pulled out the two pints and began scooping the ice cream into my bowl.  I was scooping and scooping and my son said, “Look, old mommy’s back!”  That stopped me in my tracks.  No it was not old mommy.  It was new mommy who felt liberated enough to eat as much ice cream as she wanted to without fear that there would be no way to stop.  As much as I feared that I would revert to old behaviors and begin to gain the weight back, I knew in that moment that I actually had a new level of control.  Yes, I still binge on candy every now and again but don’t a lot of people do that?  I occasionally overeat when out to dinner or have a little too much dessert.  Isn’t that common even for people who are not struggling with their weight?  

So, when Randy suggested that it was time for me to simply settle in to where I am at this moment, I realized that I was already beginning to do that.  But I was doing it in a way that was unfamiliar and a wee bit scary.  I have much more control over food and what goes in my body and I maintain a very healthy and active lifestyle – something that was remarkably absent from my life a year ago.

My journey continues and I have so much work to do both internally and externally.  Yet, I am trying very hard to celebrate and appreciate me.  I have so many wonderful people in my life who continually remind me of this and fail to get frustrated with me – even when I share my innermost demons.  They understand the challenges I face – perhaps even more than I do.  And, I am grateful that I have a new friend in my life who can give me an additional perspective to help me turn the corner to the next road of my travels.