Stand Clear — Rampage In Progress

Look. Out. And get out of the way.

I’ve been on a rampage. The best possible kind — shedding, organizing, cleaning up the disaster zone we’ve been generously calling our home.

Although the place is technically pretty clean thanks to help twice a week, it’s been a total shambles at least since Aidan was born and maybe even before. (Was there “before?”) Stuff. Loads and loads of stuff. Piled EVERYWHERE. I haven’t seen my dining room table for OVER A YEAR. Well, a couple of weeks ago, I hit my limit and thus began the rampage.

My sister, Tania, will remember the whirlwind efforts to clean up my side of our shared room. Half a room, mind you, and not a very big room, but a mess the size of Texas. I’d basically dump everything into the center of the room, then start putting things properly away from there. I remember once her coming in during the early stages of one of these whirlwinds and yelling, “You’re supposed to be cleaning!” She of little faith. But I was certain (and dutifully explained) that, though things got worse before they got better, they would get better. And they did. Right tidy, I must say. Enough to earn a gold star in the grading system I devised as incentive to clean my side regularly. (Yes, you read it right. I invented a grading system, complete with different colored stars and a comments section, which my sister dutifully filled out, to inspire myself to do my chore.)

I’m happy to say I’m a bit more systematic in my organizing efforts now. I started in the living room, at one end, and I’ve been working my way around the apartment, clockwise. I’ve been finding/inventing homes for things, returning things to homes already established, going through stuff that’s been sitting around for years, and giving away or throwing away as much as possible. It’s not a small chore.

Having mostly finished the living room, I’ve moved on to the kitchen. Got rid of some cookbooks I never use, cleaned up and reorganized the baskets that keep fruit, onions, garlic, potatoes, etc. (so many little nubs of desicated “fresh” ginger, I couldn’t believe it), FINALLY went through my spice drawer and consolidated, labeled, cleaned and tossed, did the same for the pantry drawers, and reorganized where we store certain dishes so that the things I use frequently are more accessible. This is the level of tidying I’m doing. Not the surface, just-stick-it-anywhere tidying that led to the disaster in the first place. Gold star tidying, for sure.

Next is the bar between the kitchen and the dining room, then finally, the dining room table. I am determined to reclaim it for eating.

I’m actually really enjoying all this. It feels great to be living in neater quarters (even if only half the house qualifies), and I absolutely LOVE shedding. It’s a little odd actually. I’m not genetically programmed for shedding. Both my parents are pack-rats. Yet their children, all three of us, are easy and frequent shedders. Scared straight, I suppose.

And the effort this time is actually related to the coaching/transforming I’ve been inviting. I was listening to Elizabeth Purvis (whom I’ve mentioned before here) who said the foundation for properly valuing your work (i.e. charging appropriately) is valuing yourself. And toward that end, she advocates establishing what she calls a “Goddess state of mind” (she’s known as the Marketing Goddess). Simplistically put, is the life you’re living worthy of the Goddess you are? Well, one place my life certainly wasn’t reflecting the Goddess that I am was my shambles of a home. So, I’m upleveling (as they say in the coaching world). Yee Ha! More power to me.

But seriously, get out of the way. A fed-up woman with a trash bag and mop is a dangerous thing.


A delicious, decidedly NOT quiet Sunday

When Dean and I got married, my friend, Andy, gave us a truly unique gift. It was a small, wooden box, filled with about two dozen, individually wrapped little treasures, each with a blessing, prompt, or timely reminder and a little trinket. She told us to pull one out whenever we needed a bit of inspiration or a little treat for the heart.

I absolutely loved this gift. Not only was it clever and unique, but it felt like receiving a piece of Andy’s heart. Like love in a box, that we could go to time and again, whenever we wanted. Brilliant.

Well, it’s been almost five years now and there are still treasures in the box (I guess we don’t go to it often).

Today, I was cleaning up a pile of stray papers and CDs that had taken residence near the box and, on a whim, I opened it up and pulled out one of the little wrapped bundles. There was a beautiful, elongated spiral shell and this note:

“Be quiet today. Be contemplative. Speak only when you must. Selective speech is nurturing.”

Such a lovely message. And perfect for a rainy Sunday in the dark half of the year.

Except that, at the moment I read it, we were blasting The Full Monty soundtrack, Dean was dancing with Aidan, I was dancing/playing tug with Reba in between putting things away, we were laughing and yelling over the music… It was chaos. The best, most joyful, happy chaos.

So I put the pretty shell on our seasonal altar, along with Andy’s handwritten message, and went back to celebrating our satisfying life. It’s been a delicious day — play time and cleaning, baking and laughing, dancing, writing, the whole gamut of mundane, daily tasks. And a little bit of love from a friend. Yum.

That’s all I’m going to say about it because I’d rather be living this day than writing about it. And because selective speech is nurturing. 😉

I hope you, too, are having a delicious Sunday.

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Respecting death

When I was in my twenties, I used to like to hang out in cemeteries. Especially old, very old cemeteries. I’d take walks through them, or sit on a stone bench and eat lunch. Sometimes I’d write in my journal. Or, I’d just sit.

It’s not as morbid as it sounds. It wasn’t a fascination with death, or some quiet death wish. It’s that my twenties were difficult. I felt a lot of things I didn’t have the tools to deal with, struggled a lot and didn’t know how to stop. I wasn’t acutely miserable most of the time, but it was always at least a little bit hard, a little bit sad, a little bit scary. So death felt like a relief. I wasn’t in a hurry to die, but knowing I would someday was comforting.

Thankfully, at the height of my attachment to cemeteries, I lived in Paris, France, which is FULL of very, very old ones. And aside from the odd fun of seeing where famous people are buried, the wrought iron and crumbling stone, half covered in wild grass is really beautiful. It was extremely common for me to visit once or twice a week.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt attached to cemeteries or visited one just for the sake of it. But I got to thinking about it today.

I still feel a certain gratitude for death. Not because my life is full of struggle but because I see it as release. And I’m grateful that parts of me — beliefs, behaviors, habits — can be released to die. Death is also a critical part of the cyclic turning of the wheel. And while I feel the same pain as anyone upon the death of someone treasured, the wholeness of that cycle comforts me somehow.

So today, I’m bowing my head to the presence of death, that I may appreciate my life, be grateful for timely release, and respect the wholeness of every living thing.

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A gift from motherhood I didn’t expect

OK, can I just start off by saying how WEIRD that, in yesterday’s post, I consciously chose to risk being visible in my not-yet-knowing, how-might-I-get-there state and intentionally invited input from you all, only to discover this morning that the comment function on that post had been disabled? I mean, it’s really weird. That sort of thing is automated. It’s not like I “forgot” to enable it, he he. It’s ALWAYS enabled. But somehow, it got switched when I published that post. Weird.

Anyway, it’s been corrected and comments are, once again, allowed and highly encouraged!! As a matter of note, too, I do make an effort to respond to comments. So, if you’ve commented, or liked someone else’s comment, do check back over the next couple of days because there might be more to the conversation. I don’t respond to every comment, but many.

OK… On to today’s post.

I’m feeling incredibly excited this morning. I offered my first ever, official coaching call today which went really well, I thought. We accomplished what we’d set out to do and there were a couple of really powerful moments of release and transition. Plus, I felt really guided throughout the call. Having never done it before, I didn’t know if I would be inspired or be able to intuit what was needed, but there was a lot flowing through me. Phew! Big relief!

I also got a great e-mail from my sister (in lieu of a comment on yesterday’s comments-disabled post) about speaking to elite athletes. I’d never thought of that, but it’s my sister’s world and now that she’s mentioned it, it seems like a great idea. And since it’s her world, a starting place won’t be hard to find.

All this excitement has got me feeling a bit light-headed actually. A little too much oxygen, I think. (Funny that. Usually there’s not enough oxygen as I clamp down in resistance and fear… Progress?). I need to deepen my breath and let the good feeling of this morning, this forward movement, just vibrate a little within me.

The path to said deepening and vibrating is turning out to be Aidan’s songs.

There are a handful of songs that we sing to Aidan, many of which we either composed or adapted from other songs. For instance… “There once was a boy who wiggled a lot and Aidan was his name-o. A-I-D-A-N, A-I-D-A-N, A-I-D-A-N, and Aidan was his name-o.” You can guess where that comes from. And there’s “Aidan is a beautiful boy. Aidan is a growing boy. Aidan is a very sweet boy. Aidan is my boy.” That’s a little chant I wrote over the first few weeks of Aidan’s life and have been singing ever since.

Well, a few of Aidan’s songs have become standard and favorite go-to-sleep songs.

Dean used to sing a medley of songs to calm Aidan’s crying during those first few fussy months. It was Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; When the Saints Come Marching In; She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain; and Chain Gang (hmmmmm, how was Dean feeling about fatherhood?). Since then, he’s dropped Chain Gang (either because he’s feeling better about fatherhood or because his wife convinced him it wasn’t an appropriate song) and re-written the lyrics for Aidan. “Sleep now, sweet Aidan. Drift away into your dreams. Sleep now, sweet Aidan. Drift away into your dreams…”

At bedtime, I tend to sing either the song Dean wrote for me on the occasion of our wedding, or The Itsy Bitsy Spider, depending on my mood.

Well, today in the kitchen making lunch, feeling a little more buzzy than I like, I found myself singing Itsy Bitsy Spider, slow and soft, just like I do for Aidan when he’s falling asleep. And later in the day, I caught myself singing Dean’s medley. Both times, I was unconsciously using the songs to calm myself down. And both times, it was working.

There is something so sweet about those songs sung in that way. The warmth that they hold. The security. The love. Of course, that’s why we sing them, so that Aidan will feel all those things and more easily surrender to sleep. Turns out, he’s not the only one lulled. For this mama, even when her boy isn’t there and isn’t sleeping, those songs offer deep comfort, a soft bed for my soul to settle down and be still. That’s a gift from motherhood I didn’t expect. And I’m so grateful.


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The irrelevance of “I don’t know how” — Stretching into corporate speaking

Yesterday while Dean and I were at dinner, we got to talking about my work. Specifically, I want to be speaking more, and I want to speak about some new things to some new markets.

For years now, I’ve been speaking to students and faculty at universities around the country about life with a spinal cord injury. And I’ve always loved it. It’s extremely satisfying work. I bring people into greater awareness and empathy by sharing the complicated truth of life with this disability. And in my story, people find inspiration and hope and, often, courage. Students tell me afterward how much it has meant to them to hear my stories, that they see not only me (and other people with disabilities) differently, but that they also see themselves differently. As one student put it, “I came expecting to be inspired. I didn’t expect to be transformed.”

It is thrilling beyond words to have such a powerful and positive impact on people, to know that everything I have suffered and worked so hard to learn can now be potent tools for the empowerment of others. And I love, love, LOVE connecting with communities all over the country, to laugh and rant and cry and dream together. Every time I do it, I only want to do it more.

I want to do it a little differently than I have been, though.

I’ve been privileged, in the years since I was injured, to learn such extraordinary things. Paralysis has been an unparalleled teacher (relentless, too). And I’m aching to share these lessons with others. Lessons about what obstacles really arewhat it takes to thrive in challenging, even catastrophic, circumstances; how to effectively move through change. And I want to reach a larger audience. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE connecting with college students, but I also want to connect with business leaders and faith communities and people all over the world who are striving to live into their wholeness and effect powerful, positive change around them.

Because when it really comes down to it, I want us all to be thriving, people everywhere. That’s the world I want to live in. And if I can help move that along, I really want to do it.

However, I have no idea how to break into the corporate world or the self-help industry. That’s what Dean and I were talking about actually, just brainstorming a little about who we know and what the path could look like. We didn’t come up with anything earth shattering, but two things have come to me since.

One is the irrelevance of “I don’t know how.” Growing in any way always involves doing new things, things that, by nature, we won’t know how to do. That I don’t know how to do something is only an indicator of how far along I am in a process. It means I’m at the beginning. It is not significant in any other way. And it’s certainly not a good reason to avoid doing something.

There’s no question I’ve sometimes used “I don’t know how” as an excuse to avoid stretching into something new, but this time around, I’m taking a different attitude. This time, I’m choosing to see “I don’t know how” as merely a given, and I’m moving on to “how can I find out?”

The other thing that occurred to me is that, I usually wrestle with questions like “how can I find out” in private. I don’t normally advertise my lack of knowledge, and I’m careful about whom I ask for help. Maybe that’s not in my best interest actually. Maybe I’m more likely to get the answers I need if I put the questions out more widely. Of course this means being willing to be seen not knowing which, I have to admit, isn’t always that comfortable. But if I really consider it, there is no shame in being at the beginning and not knowing yet what you’re doing.

So as a starting place, and to create a little accountability for myself, I’m stating now that I’d like to explore speaking in a corporate setting. Anyone have ideas about how I might do that?