What if the man upstairs only has one leg?

What if the man upstairs only has one leg?

Photo credit: GollyGforce per Creative Commons license.

Note: I wrote this post last week, before my husband, our daughter and I all lost our jobs this week. I hesitated to post it because, quite frankly, I’ve been spending some time catastrophizing about losing our house, etc. I do still believe that negative energy attracts more negative energy, so I’m doing my best to keep a positive outlook. It’s just a lot more challenging when our little family is facing this situation.


While listening to Says You a few months back, I enjoyed their discussion of the phrase “Waiting for the other shoe to drop”. It’s an expression with which I’m very familiar, had often used and understood, but had never considered its origins. As it sounds, it actually does come from hearing a person (perhaps in an upstairs apartment) drop their shoe, and then waiting for the other one to drop. I know, pretty straightforward, right?

Recently, I realized I seem to spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something goes really well in my life and I’m waiting for it all to end or for the next catastrophe to befall me. Something goes wrong, and I’m girding myself for the other two disasters (we all know that bad things come in threes…)

Considering I’m rather optimistic by nature, I find this rather strange. I mean, I’m the ideas person, the one who always has a creative solution to most problems, the one who performs really well when my back is against the wall. I like to think of myself as the ideas version of MacGyver – I couldn’t escape from an enemy compound with a paper clip and a piece of baling twine, but I can usually find creative ideas that prevent me from needing to go that route in the first place. I can always find a way to “Make it Work”.

In my examination of this mindset, I may have found part of the key: I expect to have to find a way to “Make it Work”. I have developed the belief that the other shoe will drop, it’s only a matter of when.


Photo credit: Commons.Wikimedia.org

But then an interesting, perhaps even life-changing thought came to me – What if the man upstairs only has one leg? What if I’m waiting for a disaster that never comes? What if I’m missing out on being truly happy right now because this little corner of my brain insists on holding on to its fear? By waiting for the thump of that other shoe, I’m ransoming the happiness of fully experiencing the joys of the moment to fears created by my own mind.

Bringing this formerly undiscovered belief to the surface is the first step in eradicating it. I’m now focusing on creating “What if’s” that end in a hopeful possibility as opposed to a dance with doom. Being a student of many things New-Age and touchy-feely, I fully believe (at least consciously) that if I spend my energy negatively, I’ll attract more negative energy. So today, I’m going to tap into the positive nature I know is the real me.  I’m going to enjoy this day. My “what-ifs” will travel through the realms of delightful possibilities and positive outcomes; and if I hear a shoe drop, I’ll just know that my one-legged upstairs neighbor is home.

I’m in a Good Place…and it’s time to move on

I’m in a Good Place…and it’s time to move on

I’m in a good place right now. I’m physically in better shape than I was 5 years ago, I’m happier than I have been at any time in my life. I have a loving family, a home with “good bones” (which is a nice way of saying it’s a work in progress), I’m doing yoga, drinking water and meditating. Yes, it’s a pretty good place…and it’s time for me to move on.

Oh, I’m not talking about ditching my husband and hitting the road as a groupie for a rock band, I’m not selling the house and moving to Milwaukee – nothing that drastic (or, for me at least, just plain silly). I’m talking about becoming involved in a new project or course. I’m talking about upping the game with my writing, converting the guest bedroom into a studio where I can write and exercise and meditate without the aid of the dogs deciding it’s time to eat, or go out, or play tag around my chair. I’m talking about taking my horse for lessons with my trainer again, and finally going to a few shows. I’m  talking stepping up my exercise program so I can finally run the 5K that’s languished near the top of my bucket list for years. Life is wonderful, but it could be even better.

                                                                          The good is the enemy of the best

I’m not sure where I first heard that phrase, but it stuck. It’s amazingly easy to be lulled into complacency by a wonderful life. And why shouldn’t I be? What’s not to like?

In reality, not much; at least not right now. But without change, especially growth, that wouldn’t remain the case. Think of your life like a lily pond – a peaceful, beautiful setting – quite wonderful in every detail. Now think of what happens if that pond doesn’t have a supply of  fresh water circulating – the water becomes stagnant, algae forms; it pretty much starts to smell. It doesn’t Water Lilyhappen right away, if you look at the pond every day, you might not notice anything for months; but then gradually changes begin to appear. The pond loses its beauty and vibrancy. It’s still a pond, and in many ways still useful; supporting fish and as a watering place for wildlife – but that extra something is missing.

The real thing that’s missing isn’t the beauty, that’s just a symptom of the lack of fresh water. If you don’t have fresh experiences (i.e. growth) in your life – you’ll become like that stagnant pond. So take a good look at your own lily pond today. Do you have a good supply of fresh water, or has it gotten a bit murky? Your lily pond is really just a mud-hole, or even a puddle? Go ahead – plan that pond! Think about the experiences  and beauty you want in your life and take one action to get out of your comfort zone today – beauty awaits! And be sure to let me know about your lily pond in the comments section!

But we’re NOT Mother Theresa….

But we’re NOT Mother Theresa….

We’ve all heard it a million times – “It’s better to give than to receive”, and most women I know have bought into it – wholesale. I could be the poster child (or at least the poster middle-aged woman) for the cause. There is certainly nobility in giving, and I’d be the last person (since Mother Teresa is no longer with us) to stop giving on a daily basis. But – and here’s the catch – giving and never receiving can actually be a selfish act.

Creative Commons by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamsjoys/

Creative Commons by http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamsjoys/

Selfish? To give and give till you’ve given all you think you have and then dredge up just a bit more? To finish your day exhausted and then nobly wave your weary hand dismissively at any morsel of succor offered? Yup, I stand by my claim – it can be selfish. Now far be it for me to call Mother Teresa selfish, but I think we can safely exclude her from the rest of this discussion and just focus on us mere mortals – we are NOT Mother Teresa.
So how, you may ask, is it possible to be a generous person and still be selfish? (And I’m not referring to hiding the last piece of Godiva Chocolate from your loved ones so you can savor it later – that’s not selfish, that’s just human!) I’m also not saying that everyone who gives is being selfish. This isn’t about giving because it makes you feel good, that’s part of why we give. What I’m referring to is having a highly developed capability to give while your ability to receive is withered like the potted plant you left on the porch in September and then forgot to water until last week (not that I would have any experience with such things). Follow me on this – the act of receiving is a gift to the giver. Let me repeat that:

The Act of Receiving is a Gift to the Giver.

Think of the joy you receive when you help someone. It can be a small act, like letting someone with a screaming child in front of you in the check out line (OK, poor example, that is an inherently selfish act). How about letting a car out into traffic in front of you, calling a friend who has been unwell, or picking out the perfect present for everyone on your Christmas list? Don’t you get the warm fuzzies just thinking about it?

It feels good to give.

By practicing the art of gracefully receiving such gifts yourself, you are allowing the giver to feel those same warm fuzzies. It is generous and kind and good to give, but it can be even more so to receive. Always doing things on your own feels noble, and powerful and exhausting, trust me, I know. But the art of gracefully accepting is also noble, and powerful, and once you get used to it, far less exhausting.

Give it a try. Today, yes – this very day, when someone offers help, accept gracefully, then watch the smile on the face of your helper. You may just learn that receiving can be one of the greatest gift sof all.

Living what my heart knows is right, not what my ego thinks should be.

I recently posted on Twitter, “Today I will lead with what my heart knows is right, rather than with what my ego thinks should be.”. It’s a challenge I have faced for a very long time, and for most of that time, I was blissfully unaware that I even had a challenge.

One of the challenges I’m facing, now that I’m facing the original challenge of being relatively unaware, is to be aware humbly. It’s sadly rather easy for me to feel somewhat superior for being good (like a karmic version of being a good driver and feeling far superior to those who don’t yield, merge, stop or generally drive as they should….. Not that I have ever felt that way……)

One of the points of becoming conscious in the spiritual sense is to become more at one with the universe and all of it’s occupants. I recently completed a personality profile for an amazing program I’m involved in and one of the questions asked if I felt connected to all human beings, animals and nature.  Despite my complete love of animals and my physical and spiritual need to spend a great deal of my life outdoors; I had to answer No. Although I consider myself a people person, feeling connected to all humans is something with which I struggle. Given the choice of spending time with humans or animals, I would normally choose animals. Given the choice of being by myself or in a crowd, I’d normally choose solitude. That being said, I love my friends deeply and have the ability to strike up casual conversation with complete strangers in supermarket lines. I genuinely enjoy human interaction – but I still feel myself an island – and all too often, a somewhat superior island to much of the human flotsam and jetsam I see in our universal sea. For someone who has very little self-confidence, it amazes me how many times a day I manage to feel superior to my fellow human beings.

The earlier reference to drivers was not a random choice. I am constantly amazed by the ineptness, dangerous practices and general rudeness of other drivers. Before my personal campaign to become more spiritually evolved, life was more simple – I simply engaged in road rage. I would rant and rage, simmer and swear; all of this vitriol directed at the offending driver, yet affecting only me.

My new approach to such drivers is to try to understand that they may be coming from a more difficult place than I and bless them on their way (admittedly, this usually comes after a dose of annoyance – this is a work in progress).

The challenge with all of this is that as I bless them on their way, I do so with a feeling of moral and tactical superiority, and I drive off extra vigilant to the traffic code. The point of my spiritual evolution is become more connected with the universe, not to use my growth as an excuse to see myself rise on my own. This doesn’t mean I will choose to “sink” to the level of human behavior which so frustrates me – quite the opposite. My goal is to continue to rise in consciousness in such a way that it will also help elevate the awareness and growth of others. What I need to constantly remind myself is that connection (and indeed leadership) must come from a place of humility. I can best help others when I shed my feelings of superiority and realize that we are all divine beings…. Even the guy that nearly hit me by running the stop sign in the Wal Mart parking lot last night.


At a recent doctor’s appointment, the nurse and I were discussing her daughter’s job – working at a doggie day care. As Sarah had worked at a very nice boarding and grooming kennel for a few years, I asked if the girl was enjoying her job. “NO!” came the emphatic reply. The nurse, a wise and wonderful woman, went on to say that her daughter, who graduated from college with an Art degree, had “finally” decided to take a few business classes this semester. “Finally” because both her parents had suggested (more than once) that, while it’s a wonderful thing to follow your bliss, you still have to eat. Lee was grateful that her daughter had “finally listened”, but I suspect something other than parental advice had brought about this turn of events – I suspect it was wisdom.

The world is filled with intelligent people (contrary to what I see displayed nearly daily either on the roads or in Wal Mart), but wisdom is a scarcer commodity. Dictionary.com (my online replacement for Funk and Wagnell’s) describes wisdom as: “the quality or state of being wise;  knowledge of what istrue or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.” Intelligence is a slightly different kettle of fish: “capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.” The real difference between the two? The phrase “coupled with just judgement as to action”. In my mind, I simplify it by thinking of intelligence as “book learning capacity” and wisdom as having learned something experientially from the school of life.

Admittedly, not everyone who has experienced things through the school of life actually learns anything, but everything from archetypical folk tales to sayings your grandma used to quote reflect the importance of wisdom. “Once bitten, twice shy” is a perfect example. You can be warned about a situation over and over, but have that situation cause you direct pain and you’re going to be much more likely to use that pain to shape your judgement of similar situations in the future. And who ever heard of a hero’s journey that didn’t involve using experience, and not just “book learning” to get the job done. Whether slaying the dragon or rescuing the maiden, each part of the tale is based on what our hero learned in the preceding trials. Those archetypical tales didn’t just pop into someone’s mind one day to be scribbled on the back of a napkin and sent off to a publisher – stories such as these originated not just to entertain, but to teach. While I’m a huge fan of acquiring knowledge, (I’m always looking for, and finding, new things to learn), I also believe that too many people deify intelligence at the expense of wisdom.

In many other cultures, elders are held in great esteem. They are looked to for advice, and the wisdom they have acquired over their long lifetimes is passed along and respected. Even shamans and medicine men (and women) rely much more on wisdom than “book learning”. With our current medical system consisting of specialists for every organ and system in our bodies, there’s a whole lot of intelligence; but I must say I’m incredibly grateful that my doc, who practices Family Medicine, has a ton of wisdom to go along with his incredible intelligence. Same for my vet – it’s nice to have a horse doc who actually has some “horse sense” and not just all the latest diagnostic tools at his disposal. Please understand that I’m not saying that using an ultrasound, or radiograph or nuclear scintigraphy is a bad thing – I just think it’s better when it’s coupled with the “sagacity, discernment or insight” that comes from life and not just med school or vet school.

As I said to my nurse the other day while we were discussing her daughter, “Advice and knowledge can be handed down, but wisdom has to be earned on one’s own.”

A life in the balance

A recent challenge on the South Beach Diet website has led me (yet again) to a realization – I have balance issues 🙂 Trying to balance the many aspects of my life has often driven me to guilt and despair (oddly enough, I also have Meniere’s syndrome, a vestibular disorder which causes physical balance issues – wonder if anyone has done any mind-body research on the correlation?) Anyway, as I’m a master at rationalizing, I’ve come up with a few ways to deal with (notice I did not say “combat”) my tendency to laser-focus on one or two aspect of my life while others live in an attention desert for a while.

Several years ago I read in a book by Stephen Covey (I’m a real fan of his work), the story of his daughter who was lamenting the lack of balance in her life. She had a new baby and everything else was falling by the wayside while she cared for the child and herself. He (master of prioritizing lives that he is) wisely counseled her to just enjoy the baby and take care of herself – balance would return as this stage of her life passes (and all too quickly). Every thing has a season… and a reason.

Right now, I’m spending very little time on the computer, very little time on housework, not too much time reading and no time on my exercise videos – however, I’m spending lots of time outside, riding several horses a day, walking an amazing 10.9 miles yesterday (just in the course of my normal activities) and generally enjoying life to the max. Does the fact that I’m not doing yoga and meditating for a half hour every day, that my wood floors could use a coat of wax, that I still have a load (OK, 3 loads) of laundry to fold and that my writing projects sit gathering dust pop into my consciousness from time to time? You bet, but it’s what I do with that fact that’s really important. I acknowledge it, know that each of these activities’ times will come and let it go. I have learned to evaluate the level of balance in my life over a more generous period of time (such as months, years, decades or even my whole lifetime)rather than an hour, day or week.

Keeping the Meniere’s devil at bay is can be a genuine challenge, but at least I’m finding it easier to believe in my heart that I’m achieving some kind of balance in the rest of my life – and I plan on wringing out the enjoyment from every single moment.

A Teachable Moment

A Teachable Moment

Very few magazines cross my threshold. I’m at a time and place in my life where I’m trying to pare down the “stuff” and just get the essence or experience. That being said, I do still receive Dressage Today. It’s a great way for me to learn every month from the world’s top trainers and instructors. In the October issue, which I received a few days ago, I learned more than I thought I would, and it all started with one little sentence.

In his article “Teachable Moments”, Dr. Cesar Parra – trainer and rider extraordinaire, discusses canter work through the levels of dressage. Being a great fan of Dr. Parra, I flipped the magazine open to the first page of his article and one line popped out at me: “Don’t ride to avoid mistakes”. I stopped in my tracks when I read this line (I was walking in from the mailbox at the time, so it’s probably just as well I stopped, it saved me from tripping over something as I read). I went over that line several times, layering on deeper levels of understanding each time.

I’ve never been a particularly bold rider, as a matter of fact, I fondly refer to myself as a chicken-shit rider, and I’m OK with that. I know I probably won’t event any more, and I’ve jumped 4 feet before, I don’t need to do it again – as a matter of fact, I don’t want to do it again. Somewhere along the line though, (perhaps the first or second time I got on a horse), my naturally cautious nature stepped in and started doing what Dr. Parra was now warning me against: riding to avoid mistakes.

During my drive to the barn after my Aha Moment, I considered my riding habits since I’d adopted my current horse a nearly two years ago. I had planned on showing him and advancing through the levels, but somehow the plans weren’t coming to fruition. Time, money and ……. an odd reticence to get down to it and do the necessary riding and schooling. On examining this insight a bit further, I realized that I was viewing my horse, Atlas, as a great gift I somehow didn’t deserve, and I was afraid I’d screw him up and forever carry the scarlet F on my forehead (for Failure, but there is another, more pithy term you can stick in there instead). I determined then and there to try to change this behavior. I’d been even more cautious since falling off Atlas a few weeks ago (he’s 18.2 hands, which is huge for a horse, and it’s a long way down. As it was him tripping and going onto his knees which prompted the fall, at least I didn’t have to drop the whole distance). So we started with walk and trot warm up and then moved onto some lateral work and then canters. We’ve had a bit of a challenge with the right lead, but instead of avoiding cantering to the right (which I would have done in the very recent past), I asked for the right lead. First attempt – not successful. I re-evaluated my position and balance, rode some straightening exercises to help counteract Atlas’ tendency to bulge through his left shoulder and asked for the transition again…. and got left lead canter. Previously, I would have given up and waited till my next lesson and hoped my trainer could “fix” me. Not anymore – no more riding to avoid mistakes – we were going to work on this and figure it out. I ran through my aids again, and decided I may have been using too much inside leg, so I backed off the aid a bit and, Voila! Success!! We cooled out and finished up for the day.

The change in my behavior and its attendant results led me to think even more about the that line of Dr. Parra’s, and I had another Aha Moment (usually I’m so busy working that I don’t have many Aha Moments – they fly by in the ether, unnoticed and I muddle along. To have two in one week is pretty amazing). My latest revelation? The sentence could also read “Don’t live to avoid mistakes” and it would also apply to me.I don’t know if I was always a play-it-safe kind of person, although the fact that I didn’t start riding roller coasters till I was 40 should probably have laid thatquestion to rest… I do remember, rather vividly, a discussion I had several years ago with my best friend about risk taking. He was a walk-on-the-edge kind of guy and I just hadn’t developed much of a taste for taking risks. This included things like obsessing about school work so I didn’t “risk” anything less than an A- and not following up on certain opportunities because they involved the risk of failure. It wasn’t something I thought about too much, but it was pretty easy to see a pattern since I’d been hit upside the head with it. Now, with the (slightly edited) advice from Dr. Parra, I had a new growth opportunity. I’m not going to charge around looking for risks just to say I did, but I’m sure going to be living life for the experience, the learning and the growing… and we all know that none of those are possible without a few mistakes.

Morality, Religion and 1 True Christian.

I lost a good friend recently. He was one of the most brilliant human beings I’ve ever had the honor of working with or calling a friend. I knew of his database/computer prowess – the reports he created to keep our teams at work up to date and allow annual reviews to happen (and have context). I didn’t find out until after Robert’s death that he was also a rather brilliant physicist. All of these amazing skills aside, the part of Robert that made the greatest impression on me was the genuine caring man who happened to be brilliant. The wonderful, helpful, patient person who would write you an email expressing sheer delight that you had contacted him just to say hi. The husband and father who adored his family and lived for the truth. The very private man who joined Linked In because when I joined Linked In, I inadvertently didn’t uncheck the box saying that Linked in could invite my entire address book to join Linked In…. ooops. I remained blisfully unaware of this faux pas until I received the following email from Robert, subject line: LOCKED IN

It has finally happened – my first foray into the world of social networking.
By invitation. Up until a few minutes ago, I had steadfastly refused to become one of the millions of people whose online identities blur the waking hours, but I still know something of virtual etiquette: to refuse such an invitation is tantamount to ignoring the sender – in this case, a lady I respect and admire far too much to risk the virtual slight. And I say the first foray, since I realize that it is now only a matter of time before the network does what it is designed to do: track down my myriad email addresses and point them back to the real me.

so you think you hear voices?
I tell you.. it’s true.

but what you should know
is that they can hear you

please rule out any negative undertones – I am always very pleased to hear from you, and life is far, far too short to defer to my level of paranoia

it was good to hear from you – I have thought of you several times of late – trust that you are well and at peace


This email from Bob was the first indication I had that I had invited half of the civilized world (and also parts of Lynchburg) to join Linked In… and it was called out so graciously.

Bob and his wife Ronell assist people who are in tough circumstances – homeless individuals who need someone to stand up for them. When Robert was asked about religions which seem to compete amongst themselves regarding how many souls they could save in a weekend and how he approached his work with the homeless, he said he’d continue to help and help the person in need. If the person asked why Robert was helping, then Robert would share his belief in Christ. This to me is the important part of the story. Robert would do the Christlike work of caring for those who needed care, never expecting anything in return – giving to fill a need. If the recipient asked why – then, and only then, would religion be mentioned.

Living in Lynchburg (the so called gold buckle on the Bible Belt), I have come to view Christians in a less favorable light than I may have in the past. I see a great deal of hypocrisy where praise is sung on Sundays and neighbors ignored on Mondays. Wednesday morning brings a 10 AM service and Wednesday evening brings a discussion of Arabs, Mexicans, or others “not like us”. It reminds me of a quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “Your Christ I like, Your Christians I do not like- they are so unlike your Christ.”

I once read a bumper sticker which said: “Religion is doing what you’re told, no matter what’s right. Morality is doing what’s right, no matter what you’re told”. Christ (or Gandhi, or Buddha for that matter) would be helping the homeless because they need to be helped. The preaching would come after the helping was done. In the past several days, I’ve heard many people describe Robert as a strong Christian… and I pulled back from that description, because to me, a strong christian is always “working the crowd” – it’s about the being Christian instead of the Christian being… Looking back now over the years I knew Robert – I think the time I spent with him, I was sitting with and conversing with the one most true Christian walking this earth. He did not boast or push his religion. He lived his love of his God through love and serving his fellow man. In his humility I found the true meaning of Christianity. May his blessings continue to enrich all of our lives.

Peeking through a keyhole….

Peeking through a keyhole….

A peek through a keyhole can unlock doors to whole new worlds. As a child, I was enamored of a recording my Dad had of Scheherazade. The violin passages in this lovely piece still bring up goosebumps on my arms and I’ll try to be sure to be near the radio if it’s played on WVTF, my local Public Radio station. Another musical treat was watching the Young People’s Concerts with Leonard Bernstein. I liked to imagine Bernstein as my secret Uncle Drosselmeyer – but instead of a magical nutcracker, he brought magical music.

These two early exposures to classical music have shaped my lifelong love of the genre – and I sometimes wonder; if my Dad hadn’t had that Rimsky-Korsakov vinyl – would I now be able to recognize the voices of Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Bryn Terfel, Renee Fleming and Cecelia Bartoli? That first peek into the world of classical music simply whetted my appetite and made me hungry for more.

I don’t remember the first experience that sent me down the road of devoted animal lover, but my Mom tells me that any time we visited friends or relatives when I was very young – the household dog always took a liking to me, even if they weren’t known to be particularly good with children. I’m sure the first experience was a positive one – and whether it was the warm, fuzzy tactile experience or the warm, fuzzy spiritual experience – I’ve been an animal lover ever since.

Books have been a part of my life since pre-memory. Whatever board or cloth book took my fancy as a baby launched me into a world where I now joke that if we (my husband, our daughter and myself) acquire any more books, we’re going to have to live in the barn with the horses because there won’t be room in the house…. One of the main joys of books? They provide yet more keyholes through which to peek into new worlds. New experiences into which we can dip our toes to see if the water is just right before taking any actual plunge.

This past weekend, James and I attended the Carlisle Import and Kit Nationals in Pennsylvania. As a lover of all things British (including James ;-), I have a particular fondness for British cars. This love is not only shared by James, it’s amplified (to an amazing degree). Our first British sports car was an MG Midget we owned in the UK in the early 80’s. This gave us a taste of these cute and quirky little autos that would be set aside for a few decades after we moved back to the US, only to be rekindled

(with a flame thrower), over the last few years. We now own several British cars including MGB’s, (that’s my MGB, named Cyril, in the photo), Jaguars, a Land Rover and a Range Rover. Most have been purchased needing work (sometimes LOTS of work), many found on eBay, and all inexpensive. It’s become a fun hobby for James and I to share – and it all stemmed from Oscar – our first little Midget owned 30 years ago….

With the advance of electronic communication, you can spend half an hour searching the web and find dozens of activities you never new existed (and I’m only referring to the legal and socially acceptable ones). Maybe an interview or news article mentioned something, which led you to Google something, which led to something else and now you’re deeply involved in the world of whatever….. all because of a casual reference.

My point to all this? Be curious – let a random remark lead you to a door, and peek through the keyhole to see what wonderful world is on the other side. Your curiosity is the only key you need – and, to quote Dr. Seuss – “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”. Travel well, my friend.

Turning a blind eye

Turning a blind eye

I used to think it was because I didn’t care enough – now I think it may be because I care too much.

Having a desire/need to make things better can be rewarding – I try to be helpful to people and animals I encounter on a daily basis. I know the world will never be dramatically changed due to my presence; but I’m happy to make lots of tiny impacts – a smile, kind word or pat on the head (the last usually reserved for quadrupeds). In my “Messiah Complex” driven mind (my daughter’s words, not mine – I think I’m just trying to do the right thing ;-), I sometimes become overwhelmed at the volume of what needs to be done. This is noticeable on both a “local” and global scale.

On the local front – it’s things like dog hair in the corner, the trim on the house needing paint, another weed in the garden, a recipe untried, a paper unfiled – (OK, let’s get real – boxes of papers unfiled…..) I will approach these cries for attention in two separate ways – the full-frontal-attack mode and the peck-peck-peck method. Both have their advantages and drawbacks. In full frontal attack mode – I throw all available resources (meaning me) at the problem, without distraction, until it’s complete or I just can’t stand the idea of spending another minute on it. Sadly, the latter happens at least as often as the former….

In the peck, peck, peck strategy (firmly espoused by Flylady) I’ll spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on the specified task. This often works better for me because I don’t burn out as much; however, I tend to get so overwhelmed by the sheer number of things at which I need to peck that I sabotage myself by laying out forty-seven 15 minutes segments to do every day….. and I’m right back where I started. By the way – for those of you unfamiliar with Flylady – check out her site – her wonderful program does work -it requires a bit of self-discipline and you must check your tendencies toward self-flagellation at the door – but she’s helped thousands overcome the clutter which encroaches on all of our lives.

Both of my approaches to improving my environment used to leave me feeling dissatisfied. I was certain that if I Really Cared, I’d have the dog hair swept up/trim painted/garden weeded/recipe perfectly cooked and presented. If I just cared a bit more…. truly I must be a lazy, slothful and unworthy person.

This “stinkin’ thinkin'” led to the blind eye defense. In order to be able to get through a day in which dog hair, weeds and tantalizing recipes were present, I simply didn’t notice them. I’d carry on with determination (grim or otherwise) while my world quietly decomposed around me. This defense costs dearly though, you miss so much by not being present – suddenly you look up and it’s a Tuesday – in May – in 2011! What the hell happened to July 2009?

So in my recent efforts to be present and aware, the blind-eye defense had to go – and I’ve had to learn to live with a little dog hair and some trim that could use a coat of paint. It’s there and I accept that. I also accept the fact that I’m not going to get to it right now, and that’s OK – really. This doesn’t mean that I’ve become a total sloth, lounging with the proverbial bon-bons while the dog hair threatens to take over the house. I still run the broom and vacuum, but I also accept the fact that with 5 dogs (one of them a Corgi seemingly on a perma-shed cycle), unless I spent all of my waking hours with vacuum in hand, dog hair will happen. I do what I can with my household cries for attention, sleep well knowing I’m doing my best and go on with the rest of my life.

On a more global scale – all of the recent disasters in the news bring about the same tendencies in me – quick – save everyone. I have wanted to go to Haiti to rebuild schools, head to Japan to hand out bottled water, drive to Alabama to help families rebuild their lives after the devastating tornado outbreak and now am wishing there was more I could do to help the flood victims in the South. I also realize that I can’t drive/fly/take a train to the nearest disaster site and throw myself completely into saving every victim.

I often want to turn a blind eye to the disasters – they’re so overwhelming, the scale of devastation so huge. No one person can do it all, but I can’t ignore the suffering and I realize that my small input coupled with that of millions of others can make a real difference in peoples’ lives. So I have a few favorite charities (Heifer.org, The Salvation Army and The ASPCA), I contribute what I can and know that I’m doing my best. I encourage others to do what they can and understand that only together can we truly help.

On September 11, 2001, my daughter and I were working at a blood bank (scheduled weeks before) sponsored by the local State Police Explorers. I was scheduled to work for an hour – but being so close to the tragedies unfolding in New York City (we were still living in CT and many of our neighbors worked in Manhattan), I headed over to the Community Center early to see what I could do to help. Literally hundreds of people had the same idea. The Red Cross had to send personnel back to their headquarters twice for supplies and we finally had to close the doors 3 hours after the scheduled ending time when we ran out of bags and needles. Not one of the hundreds of people who volunteered their time and blood that day could do much on their own – it took a group effort. But by everyone accepting that they could be a small piece of a big solution, we collected tremendous amounts of blood.

So the next time you’re confronted with too many demands on your time/energy/money or other resources – don’t get overwhelmed and don’t turn a blind eye. Take one thing at a time, be fully present in what you’re offering and know that you’ve done your best to save the world – or at least your own little corner.