Friday, January 28, 2011

When Doing Nothing is Absolutely Something

"There are no words." 
When I was younger, my Dad used to chronicle my day for me in these little red day keeper diary books. You can see what it looks like in the “About Me” tab up above. 
Anyway, sometimes he would ask, “Annie, how did your day go today?” Or, he would ask, “What did you do today?”
I’m not exactly sure what would happen next, because many times I was only 3, 4, or 5 years old. Just by looking at the pages of the years between 1982 and 1994 (when I started keeping my own journal and keeping my own stories), I often said a lot. 
Yet, every now and then you open up a page and it simply says, in his handwriting, “There are no words.” 
Today, which will actually be yesterday by the time you read this, I pretty much went about doing nothing. I had a checklist with about 15 items on it and only crossed one thing off. That doesn’t look great for my productivity, but for the self-continuity of being me, it’s great. 
I stopped what I was doing. I stopped chasing the agenda for just a moment, and went to a local resort for spa services. I’ve never been so relaxed while getting a massage before. I mean, when I awoke from my last service I wasn’t even sure which country I was in, let alone the city, or which year it was or where I was going next. Now that’s a good massage.
Leaving afterwards, my mind was completely blank. There was only one resounding voice in the back of my head. It came from a Carrie Underwood song. “Change.”
The smallest thing can make all the difference
Love is alive
don’t listen to them when they say
You’re just a fool, you’re just a fool
to believe you can change the world.
I’m not necessarily seeking to change the world, but I do believe wholeheartedly that sometimes by doing nothing in one moment, you can wake up to a nugget of knowledge in how to do something. Yet, for just a few more hours, the thought of doing something just stewed, while I sat and did nothing. The difference between the momentary lapse of action and the ongoing of nothingness is that the thought process makes me want to leap off the couch of nothingness into absolute action.
A lesson many of us experience now, or at some point of our lives, is that our eyes are closed when we miss the “why” of our negative experiences. It’s when they’re open that we see what’s happened. Then, when we close them again, and reflect, we gain wisdom. 
I believe now, more than I did before, that if an experience can be lived through, one must surrender to it. I must not be so quick to observe my own experience, but sit right in it, allow it to sink in. If I don’t, just like Friedrich Nietzsche writes, instead of wisdom, I’d end up with indigestion. 
in that journey to wisdom, there is nothing, until one arrives... at something

Monday, January 24, 2011

Stand Up, Take the Chance

Every now and then, there is a time to become retrospective. You know, to stare back at your past and contemplate past situations.
The other day, I bought pickles. Someone I know didn’t like pickles at all and often would say, “Eww, gross.” Sometimes the sound “blech” would even be uttered.
Yum.... pickles.
I like pickles. I also like olives. Ok, so sometimes, I really like salty things that have a vinegar kind of taste, and I will walk for miles until I find them.
When I was younger, I gave advice to friends who were at that time the age that I am now. I would say, “If there’s something you want, do it.” 
Of course, I assumed all known consequences would be taken into consideration and they wouldn’t actually do anything that could get them into trouble.
So, here I am, the other day, standing at my kitchen counter staring at this jar of pickles. Then, it dawned on me, I really wanted those pickles. In fact, I wanted them just as much as I wanted olives in 1994. 
Almost 17 years ago, I was in Spain. My parents sent me there as part of an Educational Foreign tour (which I highly recommend, by the way). Towards the last leg of the trip, I was staying somewhere along the Costa del Sol and enjoying the sunshine. It was just hours before my 14th birthday and I had a hankering for something salty. Not just salty, I wanted olives. 
So, I gathered up my little backpack and I started walking along a boardwalk, a sidewalk along the beach. I walked, and I walked, and I really do not know how long I walked. Yet, clear as if it were two minutes ago, I remember walking, turning left into a store, and darting straight for “cans of stuff.” I sure was persistent. I found my olives, I bought them with whatever little money I had left, and walked all the way back to my hotel room. I don’t even remember how I opened the can, but I sat there and I ate every single olive. I even stuck the olives on my fingers, and ate them off of the tips, just as if I were 7 again.

The point is, I wanted those olives (or pickles, I would have taken pickles). I knew that eating them wouldn’t hurt me, so I took the risk, or rather, the chance, of walking along that boardwalk by myself in search of something that, in that moment, was so important.
That stand up and take charge desire carries with me through today. 
On March 30, 1999, 5 years after my olive pursuit, and 2 years after a several mile walk through London to find Dr. Pepper (yet, another story), I sat down to write something about taking charge. 
I stumbled across it recently, in this green hand-written journal I've been keeping since 1997. Now, I believe it resonates with the entire focus of doing something. 
In part, it reads:
“You’ve got to take the chance.
Never wash your hands.
Let them run through your hair.
You’ve got to give yourself praises.
Never be a bum.
You can do more than chew gum.
You’ve got to take charge.
Never let your ambition die. 
You know you can claim all your fame.
If you know there’s something you want to do,
Get up the courage.
Stand up, take the chance.
If you know there’s something you want to do
Get up, take charge.
Never walk away, it doesn’t matter
if you’re ten minutes late.” 
I think that now I could add a line to the part there in bold. Remember Lee Ann Womack’s song, “I Hope You Dance,” well, just remember “Stand up, take the chance, I Hope You Dance.” 

Or, Martina McBride, and her song “Anyway.” Unlike that first part, it’s not about fame. It’s just about doing something good just because it makes you, or someone else, smile. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Being "Open" Can Change Your Life

Written around 7:00 p.m., January 16, Local time over the Pacific Ocean. Posted upon return.

This is relief.

Clearly stated, it is my opinion that anyone who says you can't "Eat, Pray, Love" the way Elizabeth Gilbert does is wrong. I just did it and didn't have to take six months off or quit my job. I just wanted it to come to me. You know, the grand feelings of nothingness like relief, solitude, and simple quiet celebrations. I experienced it all.

"Annie, you are free," said a former colleague, who now must be a friend, in the hours after my life changed. Her statement almost immediately allowed me to see that I should celebrate it.

Sidebar: Isn't it funny how one person can say something so simple and we just grasp on to it like a commandment? The smallest thing can make all the difference, I mean one word, one person can change your entire perspective. Ultimately, just by being open, it then changes your life.

Freedom followed me to Hawaii where I just came back from vacation.

The first night I was mistakenly recognized by ten members of the Air Force as a celebrity. Ashley Greene from "Twilight" and Jennifer Grey. I'm so glad they didn't ask me to perform any dirty dancing.

To Michael in Miami, thank you for telling me to relax... I certainly did.

The next day, my friend (who met me in Hawaii from Chicago) and I drove to the North Shore and we ate Mexican food. We escaped the rain and found a private beach where we sat and ran and laughed and took pictures. Later, at The Hula Grill, I ordered a Mai Tai (my first one in almost 8 years) and a seafood platter. That is my "Eat."

That night we went back the hotel bar, where I was the celebrity the night before. It was called The Shore Bird. Immediately I spotted a Man in Maroon sitting across from me. The connection was instant. After a drink or two, conversation, and a walk on the beach the following night it was over.

My friend back in California said, "No pressure, just have fun." I did, but the Man in Maroon represents the "love." Maybe I just had to travel that far for a confidence boost.

The morning after meeting the Man in Maroon we went to Pearl Harbor. There isn't a better place to signify "pray." Standing over the Arizona, I saw the "oil tears" rise up immediately after I prayed, and then I nearly cried.

I never once heard the word or uttered the word frump on this vacation. Getting the Frump Out of Your Rump is a process, a journey, and as much as we want to believe it is possible, it does not happen overnight.

I wish it would, but we are all a work in progress. We're all in or have been in situations we know aren't right but deep down hope that they are. We've all been tugged and pulled at every angle and left to figure out how to keep moving.

I'm still Floating on The Wings of Earthly Angels. Yet, I'm sustained by a journey in which I realized it's ok to be perfectly me, and find out that I'm just as attractive as I had hoped to be.

At the end though, this is not just about me. It is about all of you, too, and if I could have packed you all in a suitcase for the opportunity to just feel free, I would have.

In short, here are the lessons of the island:
  • Smile. Everyone will smile back to you. 
  • Laugh, because it matches the synchronous sounds of the crashing ocean waves.
  • Embrace, because someone who just wants a human connection will embrace you back. 
  • Be open. You cannot feel the healing until you recognize the freedom. When you do, let freedom ring. Buy a piece of jewelry, fitted with the plumeria, to remember your self-discovery. I did, and it will stay with me until I have a daughter or a granddaughter one day who needs that reminder as much as I do now.
  • Be you. Being open and being you work together. You simply can't be open if you're faking any part of you.
  • Love, because it offers the most rewards. 
  • Forgive, because there is no passage to any of the above without it.

I forgive myself for believing for so long that I wasn't good enough, beautiful enough, or smart enough to have, or be, what I needed.

Join the conversation. Feel free to leave comments below, or  send me an email direct

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Stuff that Makes Us Who We Are

So, this is home.
They, as in the ubiquitous they, who always happen to be around, always say “home is where the heart is.” 
As I write this I’m in my new home, but it is not home. It’s far from any home that I’ve ever known. It’s new, it’s empty, as in it is just me now, and my cat (and no, I’m not a “cat lady”), and a second bedroom full of boxes that have yet to be emptied.
However, when I think about this, isn’t that how much of us live our lives? We move from room to room, or house to house, with boxes full of stuff we have yet to unpack and explore? I mean this both literally and figuratively. 
“I don’t want to think about that.”
“It’s just dredging up the past.” 
“I have too much baggage.”
I’m sure we’ve all either said one of those phrases or heard them at some point in our lives. In my opinion, that’s a good thing. You want to know why? It’s because you at least recognize that there are some “issues” you have to work through.
Let me digress for a second. I hate the word “issues.” In college, my roommates and I were simply just growing up. We were out there in the world learning academic information that we hoped would carry us somewhere, and trying to figure out who we were, emotionally, at the same time. At any moment we had some sort of situation we would say, “Oh my gosh, she has issues.” 
Seriously, I could probably write a book about the “issues” we all thought that we had then. Since then, each of us have lived through experiences that were far more issue-based than anything we went through back then. 
Recognizing that we have the stuff of our lives that make us who we are is part of becoming an even better person. A friend of mine asked me recently, after this part of my life changed, to find out from my other friends how I could be a better friend. I took that personally and agreed that I had not been a good friend. 
Let me tell you something. Relationships, at least for me, seem to give me permission to distance myself from the people who have sustained me before, during, and after said relationship (or crisis, or medical issue, or major life event.) Those people are my friends, how dare I abandon them for something temporary!
This is just my temporary home. As Carrie Underwood sings, this is just a stop along the way, this physical place, this emotional state, and this actual circumstance that you, and I, and we are all in. 
There is always something far more greater than what we are experiencing. In the moment, it’s hard to see. It’s harder, still, to accept that sometimes. 
My point is, wherever home is, there will be “issues”, and recognizing them will only help you, and me, and all of us move forward to that “something greater.” 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

In the Stillness and Silence of a Moment

The new year is here, so what are we going to do about it? There was just one goal for me as the sun set on 2010 and 2011 was about to begin: clarity
I wanted to see it, the year, clearly leave and the new one clearly arrive so that I’d remember the moment forever. It would be a defining moment for me (and I’m sure for countless others around the world). 
As the crowded room started to shout in chorus “10, 9, 8....” I tuned them out. For a moment, like many moments recently and yet to come, I stood in the stillness, and the silence of my own moment. 
Maybe, just for a second, that clarity lifted the veil from obscurity and wonderment, and that always present question we ask: Why?
The answer that’s most often given is one that at the very core of our very human existence is just not acceptable. “it’s life.” 
In that one second, that question wasn’t answered with words. Instead, life answered in a moment. 
Seconds later, the sound, like turning up the volume on a car stereo, rushed into my brain. My eyes lifted open with astounding excitement and gracious acceptance of the new year. Yet, I smiled on knowing the secret to any clarity is in the stillness and the silence of a moment.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: I like hearing from you, and if you have something you want to share, you may always comment below or email me. Remember, for some of you, this is your journey too. 
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