Where Are You Headed?

photo credit: rei.com

photo credit: rei.com

Everyone wants to get somewhere  – in love, in life, at work. On the weekends, the cashier at my local grocery store tells me that soon he’ll be going back to school to build a better career. A close friend of mine talks about wanting to find a nice guy and creating a home (though not necessarily in that order). My dentist dreams of the day she can retire.  And ask just about anyone, and they’ll tell you they want to be successful and happy.

But what does that mean, exactly? What does happiness look and feel like? Continue reading

Message in a Bottle: Thoughts on Waiting for Your Ship to Come In

Photo credit: behance.net

photo credit: micahburke@behance.net

Life isn’t easy. We all say it, but I’d never fully appreciated the weight of it until a recent conversation with a friend. After years of struggling to stay afloat financially and emotionally, she’d relocated, lost her livelihood, and encountered life-changing upheaval that would make even the strongest of us crumble under the devastation. Her stamina was faltering. Her bank account dwindled down to nothing and she was losing hope – fast. Despite courageous attempts to change her circumstances and tremendous sacrifices, she felt defeated and out of options. Standing on the rocky shore of her existence after years of fighting to survive, she was wondering out loud if her ship would ever come in. Continue reading

Children: Are They a Joy or a Job?

Photo credit: Mother and Child by Kat Ward

photo credit: “Mother and Child” by Kat Ward

I remember taking a college course years ago, during which my very caring but objective professor explained that children have evolved from being assets to investments. “Think about it,” I recall her saying. “In the past, children worked on the family farm or contributed to the overall functioning of the household. Now, we invest in our children. We work to support them. We build our schedules around them, train them, sacrifice our time and resources for them – all in preparation for sending them out into the world, away from the family.” In essence, she was agreeing with Jennifer Senior, an author who recently said in her book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, that “children [have gone] from being our employees to our bosses.” Continue reading

Do It Anyway

photo credit: picturejockey.com

credit: picturejockey.com

“What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
     Create anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
     Do good anyway… 
Give the best you have and it will never be enough.
     Give your best anyway.” – Mother Theresa 

Very few things in life really last. Our children grow up and our roles as parents change. Holidays and special occasions come and go. Years with our loved ones fly by as just fleeting moments in time. Our favorite projects, at home or at work, often reach a peak before coming to an end, signaling that it’s time to move on to something else. In extreme cases, what we build and strive for can be torn down by others or taken for granted, never fully appreciated for the dedication and love that was poured into it. So why do we expend so much energy on things that may not last? Why do we plan, strive, devote ourselves to pursuits that will likely be temporary? Continue reading

It’s Nice to Be Nice: Voting Rude People ONTO the Island

photo credit: sodahead.com

photo credit: sodahead.com

Last week I stopped for a cup of coffee on my way to work. Standing on a line with seven other people, I took advantage of what would be the last quiet moments of my morning before entering my fast-paced office; I took a few deep breaths, smiled at the Latin music playing overhead and chatted with the friendly stranger behind me. The woman in front of me, however, was a different story. An impatient woman with an abrasive demeanor, she walked up to the counter to order her coffee, barking her words as though they were a command.

“Sugar?” asked the polite barista.

“Gimme two,” the customer snapped back. “And don’t use skim. I want regular milk.”

As the barista put the lid on the top of the cup, the dragon-lady in front of me sighed and rolled her eyes, giving an impatient backward hand-wave, that rude way of speaking volumes without  saying a word. “You’re slow and incompetent,” it implied. “Hurry up! My time is valuable and you’re inferior.”

But the two words she should have said, she didn’t. Grabbing the coffee and walking out the door without even acknowledging the man holding it open for her, she plowed down the street, never even bothering to say, “Thank you.” Continue reading

Sink or Swim: How to Survive in the World of Work

photo credit: 123rf.com

photo credit: 123rf.com

A dear friend contacted me recently, out of her mind with frustration. It seems her employer had just derailed her pet project again, changing his mind and her team’s direction for the third time in two months. The change, sadly for her, will mean longer hours, heightened stress, and the certainty of a missed deadline for which, inevitably, he will hold her responsible. But perhaps even more significant, to her the change means a total disregard for her expertise and a lack of appreciation for the hours and dedication already poured into the work. After years of  experiencing this dysfunctional pattern, my once passionate friend, a driven project manager, is now feeling nothing more than ineffective and deflated. Unwilling to expend her energy on what seems to be a losing battle,  she has decided to stop trying so hard and simply “go with the flow.”  But even as she says this, I hear the doubt in her voice. She wonders out loud, “Does this acceptance mean I’m growing up or does it mean I’m giving up?” Continue reading

Negative Patterns – Positive Thinking

thisandthatbynat.wordpress.com“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” – Lao Tzu

We all know someone who can’t seem to get out of his/her own way: a neighbor who, despite admirable intelligence and a zest for life, keeps ending up in destructive relationships; a co-worker who responds to stress by eating; a friend who, despite undeniable talent and skill, sabotages himself and gives up before he ever completes a project or pursues a life dream.  These people have one thing in common: They are mired in negative behavior patterns. Continue reading

The Show Must Go On

photo credit: the guardian.com

photo credit: the guardian.com

I come from a long line of performers. In addition to winning adult Charleston contests at 12 years old, my grandmother often entertained her neighbors and grandchildren with silly characters she’d create, dances she’d whip up on the spot and skits designed to make us all laugh. My grandfather’s creative outlet was a Hammond organ. I used to sit at his feet, mesmerized, while he’d play. My father, meanwhile, fancied himself a doo wap singer. He’d burst into song whenever a phrase or word would suggest a lyric he’d remember. And my mother? She was a dancer – and I’m told a very good one at that. I myself spent years as a triple threat, an actress who could sing and dance, fully immersed in the process of trying to “make it” in show biz, so it was no surprise to me when my daughter was also bitten by the bug.

A few weeks ago, my very talented daughter was invited to audition in New York City, for “one of those national television voice competition shows.” (I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you which one or they’d have to kill me. Well, actually, they’d have to sue me; it said so in the contract.) And as I watched her bare her soul, present her best self to a room full of strangers and wait for acceptance or a rejection based not just on talent but on so many other factors, it occurred to me: there is SO much we can learn from performers. Continue reading

The Seriousness Of Play

photo credit: karengoble.com

photo credit: karengoble.com

On a Friday night about six months ago, I was engaged in my usual routine. It was close to midnight and I was hunched over my computer keyboard banging out another freelance project. Trying not to think about the dishes that still needed to be washed, I also attempted not to obsess about when I’d squeeze the laundry into an already packed weekend, and kept a responsible eye on the time; my daughter would need to be picked up on the other side of town soon. I was falling asleep, feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by a growing “to do” list, and listening to the voices of happy people as they walked home from a night out at the local bars and movie theater. I was quietly but deeply resentful. And that’s when it hit me: It had been a long time since I remembered to play.

Continue reading