How dare you!

How dare you think for yourself. How dare you be brilliant. How dare you be courageous? How dare you be vulnerable? How dare you try that career goal?  How dare you?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly ….” — Theodore Roosevelt, speech delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910

Brene Brown says to dare greatly means: “the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.”  She wrote a book with the title, Daring Greatly, published in 2012. The core concepts of the book center around the thought that Teddy Roosevelt was challenging us to dare to be great by accepting that vulnerability comes along with that, yet the price for that vulnerability is indeed greatness. The daring is not intended to mean perfection. It means to go for it whether the effort is perfect or not.

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional…

When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Oprah agrees, “vulnerability is the cornerstone of confidence. Because you have to allow yourself to take the risk to be open, to live as a wholehearted person.”

Some of us get to thinking that we may not be good enough and there are some subtle messages in society that question our capabilities, our good-enough, our capacity, our talent, our fit for whatever situation. It happens at every stage of our lives. As little children, we may be less bothered by it because we don’t know that we’re supposed to listen to it. But as we get older, we unfortunately start to let those messages sink in and they can become obstacles to us being great in what we believe our purpose is in life.

Statistics show that those societal obstacles happen often to girls during the middle school years and some never quite recover from it. They go to high school and college with slightly less confidence than guys if they’ve been crushed in middle school. Brene Brown says, “Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive…but … nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.”

A good message here is don’t sit on the sofa or the sidelines of your own life.

How dare you be brilliant? How dare you be intelligent? How dare you apply for that job? How dare you run for that position in your community or civic organization? How dare you run for a local or state political office? How dare you not!

I am a firm believer in giving it all you’ve got no matter what the odds look like. I remember when our kids were applying for college, their predominantly white high school’s guidance counselors actually were less than enthusiastic with some of the colleges they were planning to apply to. They suggested, oh you may not get in there so maybe you shouldn’t consider applying.  For those of you who know me and my husband, you would know that we didn’t take that well. I made an appointment with the guidance counselor and made it very clear that if they had the grades and the SAT scores, then why shouldn’t they apply. How dare my daughter or son not be able to apply? And how dare the guidance counselor think they shouldn’t even try. Where they choose to go is another matter but don’t tell them where they can’t apply.  One applied to Duke University and was accepted, that was the school the guidance counselor specifically said don’t apply to. The sweetness of showing the guidance counselor was wrong: priceless.

So, don’t be discouraged at all. One of my sisters often uses a phrase, “be of good courage.” Dare to be of good courage.

How dare you? Because you have a calling, so how dare you not.Everybody has a calling

“Fulfilling your purpose, with meaning, is what gives you that powerful spark of energy unique to only you. The result is an electrifying current of clarity rising from the deepest part of yourself.

Make the choice to turn up the volume to your unique calling, the glory that is your own life.” – Oprah

 

 

 

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Is it really better to give than to receive?

This is a bit of an old question, and a bit of quandary. Who really said that giving is better than receiving? It might depend on what your age is and I guess it could be relative to your circumstances. For a five year-old who wants that toy truck for Christmas, they might really believe that receiving is better. For the fifty-five year-old who understands that life is sweeter when we share what we have, giving is better.

Honestly, I think the answers to life can always be found in giving more than receiving but I suppose that is because of how I was brought up by my parents, elders in my community and the kind of environment I was schooled in where the expectation was that giving was the norm. The elementary and high schools that I attended were Catholic and so we were always given examples of charity, of giving back to our community and of not expecting to receive but being grateful when we did receive.

In college, the organizations that I was attracted to had service for others at their core. When I started my professional career, I worked for companies that had community service & giving back deeply embedded in their culture. I don’t think I would have enjoyed working there if giving back wasn’t a part of what those companies saw as their corporate responsibility. In my first job out of college at Arthur Andersen, the last month before I went out on maternity leave, I was a loaned executive to United Way for their fall campaign. In my last job before retirement, I was Global Director of Volunteerism & Employee Engagement for the GE Foundation. In between that span of a career of 34 years, I spent lots of hours of giving in community service. So, yes I do subscribe wholeheartedly to the belief that giving is better than receiving.

Giving Tuesday plug

As I write this blog, we are kicking off the giving season with #GivingTuesday. I hope it lasts for more than one day. This time of year is kind of interesting. When our kids were young, it was about giving them toys and fun things to have under the tree for Christmas. We walked the line of not giving too much so that they would still feel gratitude and not get spoiled or take things for granted. I actually remember one year when I was wrapping presents and felt that I had bought too much so I held back a couple items and gave them away to others instead. We wanted to raise children / young adults with a sense of humility and gratefulness, not just expecting everything was always going to be given to them but that they would receive enough and would feel okay with giving too.

We always had them think of others during this season too. We participated in the Giving Angel Tree at church and had them select gifts for some of the kids who needed a little assistance during the holidays. It was exciting to see them at the store choosing a toy for a child their age or selecting an outfit that they thought someone their age would want to wear.

We volunteered at soup kitchens, sometimes they went with their high school classes for this as well. One year we actually went to donate toys at a local Helping Hands Mission on Christmas Eve and the Director had us take the toys directly to a home rather than leaving the toys at the center. I will always remember that experience: the mother in that home, the two kids who didn’t seem to have much but lit up with absolute joy when we walked in with toys for them. I looked around the small house and felt inner grief at the living conditions but at the same time the look on the mother’s face was one of determination to make the best of what she had. I had to keep my composure then and I have never forgotten how I felt. Even now, I still have a vision of it.

In this season of giving, I encourage you to remember what it can really mean. The meaning is what we give it, not what the retailers or big box stores or advertisers want us to do with it. We get to decide the meaning. We get to decide whether giving is better than receiving. We get to know how it feels to give rather than to receive. Of course someone will be on the receiving end, it just doesn’t have to be us.

Many tragedies have happened to Americans this year so there will be no shortage of who needs help. Many people we can give to will appreciate the things we give a lot more than if we kept them to ourselves. There are many things to give too: Time, talent and treasure. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, giving feels good universally. It is better to give than to receive.

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Breathe. How do you tell yourself to breathe?

How often do you have to tell yourself to breathe? Most of us don’t do that. Breathing just happens. There are many things that we don’t really think about, we just do it, things like breathing are really just second nature. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for breath, grateful for breathing and grateful for not having to tell myself to breathe. I feel blessed for the every day common things like breath. I know that many of us will be with family this week and I expect there will be lots of things that people will think of to be grateful for.

Sometimes I think we over look the absolutely extraordinary because it doesn’t seem extraordinary at all … breathing. We don’t even have to tell ourselves to do it, our brains handle it without us ever knowing the message signal has been sent. And yet, if it didn’t happen, that would be a problem. So, breathe and be grateful that your body does get the signal.

Whenever our kids have been in stressful situations, my husband has often said to them, breathe. It’s a reminder to slow down, remember who they are and what they are capable of, do a re-set, take a deep breath, breathe in calm and then move forward. When I am approaching a tough task, I often take a deep breath before I dive in.

Being able to breathe is taken for granted though. Two of our daughters had asthma often when they were young and breathing was not taken for granted at all during these times. How do you tell a child to breathe when their airways are constricted? And in addition to their airways being constricted, they are scared and panicked. Fortunately, we find ways to calm them, we give them breathing treatments with a nebulizer that assists in opening their airways and once the stress dissipates, the brain takes over and they breathe on their own again. That’s what usually happens.

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Life is precious and we get moments like Thanksgiving when we are reminded to breathe. There has been so much going on in 2017, some people really have to tell themselves to breathe and be grateful even though things are bad. Hurricanes, earthquakes, sexual misconduct allegations, on the verge of world war III, white nationalist rallies, and so on. How do we tell ourselves to breathe when there is stress all around us. How do people in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Houston or the Florida Keys tell themselves to breathe when they’ve lost everything? How do the families of the earthquake victims in Mexico feel grateful and still breathe when they feel such despair?

For one minute of the day, instead of sprinting through it, think about your breathing. How many breaths do you actually take in a minute? How amazing is it that you don’t actually have to think about all of that. How cool is that? That alone is a lot to be thankful for. It’s been so easy to take it for granted. Imagine how it would be if you had to think about each breath.

Our bodies know how to breathe even if we don’t think about it. Breathing is second nature. You don’t have to tell yourself to breathe. God made our brains do the work for us. By staying in the present and choosing to be grateful, we can always find something to be thankful for. Surrender to the present moment and let God do the breathing for you. All we have to do is be grateful. This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for a lot of things, many are big things but many are little things. Just thinking about breathing helps me to think of the little things that I might take for granted. Sometimes it’s the little things that count too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Who are you? Are you in your flow?

When you are in the flow of who you are, it’s easy to know who you are. That sounds circuitous but think about it a minute. When you know who you are, you are in a flow. Flow is living with what happens and involves a trust with life and being comfortable with who you are in the present moment. You can be as flexible as life itself when you go with the flow.

The full embrace of our most authentic selves feels a lot like being in the flow. Fighting against the flow feels like being out of sync with who we are, who we are so supposed to be. The meditation for the start of this week in the 21-day series that I am following is  “Being in the flow is effortless.” Much of my thoughts for my blog this week are inspired by the meditations from the past several days about being in the flow and how that relates to being ourselves.

Deepak and Oprah talk about how we fall off course when our false self creeps in, we are no longer in our flow. So that is when you need to change direction and find our flow. Connect to the source that is. Doing this secures a clear flow and that flow leads to a feeling of fullness, of contentment in the present. Contentment builds a foundation for being who you are and gratitude for who you are.

I think the absence of knowing who we are is what we see with public figures who are in the news these days for all the wrong reasons. Public figures who are being called out for sexual misconduct have totally lost who they are. They are not in their flow and they use their power to take advantage of others. If they understood the essence of who they were, they would know those behaviors are wrong. I do believe though in circle of life, in karma and in the universe taking & returning what is due. At some point, in some way, in this lifetime or in another, each will experience what they have done to another. You will get what you give, the flow of life will see to it eventually, that can only be resisted up to a point.

Life is better in the flow. Being who we are gives us the chance to really be open to an expanded state of awareness too. When someone is not self-aware, they don’t see their mistakes and they don’t care how their actions impact others. They end up with an inflated sense of self that doesn’t serve them well and it certainly doesn’t serve anyone else around them well. Can’t you tell when someone isn’t being their authentic self?

 

Nowadays, we hear talk of The Resistance. The Resistance is the political movement keeping us awake to the catastrophe of current presidency and Congress. A resistance disrupts a flow. When a flow is disrupted, the life force that courses through will not be maintained. That’s the point of The Resistance Movement, to disrupt this unauthentic Administration.

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Instead, we saw a round of elections throughout the country on November 7th that were a reflection of authentic selves resuming their power. The cycle of life / karma / the force of good / the source resurfaced and came back in flow.  I believe that when we know who we are, this too will happen for us, we can get back in flow even if we were momentarily out of flow.

Our lives are meant to be in flow. Rivers are meant to flow, they will keep going and find a way to flow over, around or through obstacles. Resistance might periodically pop up in our lives but remind yourself to be in flow.  Remind yourself that who you are is better when you are in the flow. Our authentic self is flow.

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Life comes and yes it goes …

This time of year, I wait and watch the leaves as they begin their ritual of turning colors. I think it’s such a pretty time of year. Growing up in Florida, I didn’t see a lot of color change in autumn. As a child I used to read about leaves changing colors but I didn’t get to actually see much of it. Florida kind of looked the same all year round … sunny and green. Now, living in North Carolina, I really get to see the changes of the seasons and the changes of life that come and go and so I have a new appreciation for it all.

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I have also associated autumn and the changes of the seasons with understanding life’s cycles. Life comes and life goes. When the seasons change, do you do anything to mark the change? When our kids were younger, I decorated the house a little for the start of each season. I still have a storage bin for each of the seasons with the decorations for that particular season. I enjoyed bringing in a little element of the outdoor season into the house. (And of course, the Christmas season has its own full set of decorations with many storage bins.) But, autumn does something else for me regarding the cycle of life. It reminds me to let go. There are times when it’s just good to let go of baggage. Let go of burdens, let go of what no longer serves you, lighten the load of life. Most of us carry around worries and concerns that weigh on us. Autumn could be a time to shed them just like the trees shed their leaves. Life comes and life goes.

As the trees let go of their leaves, the trees and nature know that they can let go and they don’t worry. We can learn so much from nature. Can you imagine a tree worrying about whether its leaves will return and trying to hold on to them? Nope, that’s not how it works. Autumn is a reminder to me that life’s cycle includes letting go and trusting that what needs to return will in its own due time.

As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives.

In Kinds of Power James Hillman, the elder statesman of contemporary depth psychology, challenges us to learn from others about this: “For what the actor tries to achieve on stage is to ‘get out of the way’ so that the character he or she is portraying can come fully out. So, too, the writer and the painter; they have to get out of the way of the flow of the work onto the paper and the canvas.”

Autumn also reminds that everything can change, nothing really stays the same. We have to prepare ourselves for the fleeting nature of life itself so enjoy the moments. Unfortunately, we received another reminder of this with the shooting at the small church in Texas on this past Sunday. Even without the debate about gun control, we can’t get away from the fact that life comes and life goes every day. The victims of this tragedy ranged from 18 months old to 77 years old. In ways other than mass shootings, life begins and ends every day, some where. We can choose to be grateful for the moments we have, not try to hold on too tight, but trust in the process of life.

The seasons will surely keep changing, they have for a very long time. Life comes and life goes. Leaves turn colors and fall. New leaves will sprout in the spring and a new season will come. Life is a cycle. I love seeing the changes and look forward to the seasons, knowing that I can take cues from nature and incorporate its lessons into my own life. I can lift some of my worries and trust that things will work out as they are supposed to. You know the saying, let go and let God. I think the trees might have invented that.

Nature holds a lot of wisdom for us in the most unsuspecting ways. Life comes and yes, life goes. Trust that it will.

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Making every moment matter

“Time is really about fulfillment. Using your time well comes down to how fulfilled you are in the present moment. When we feel content and centered inside, everything we do is more effective, efficient, and satisfying.

The above is a quote from the newest 21-day meditation from Oprah and Deepak Chopra. If you’ve read some of my blogs earlier in 2017, you are familiar with my references to the periodic free 21-day guided meditations provided jointly by Oprah and Deepak Chopra. A new series started this week with the title, “Making every moment matter.” here’s  a link if you want to check it out: https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience)

When life gives us health crises or unexpected losses, we are certain to realize that every moment matters. Those are the times when it comes through loud and clear. Live each day as though as it really does matter. And similarly, when something is going on, ask yourself, five years from now, will this really matter? If it isn’t something that would really matter five years from now, maybe it isn’t worth getting too stressed out about. Instead make the moments of now count for what they bring because none of them can be recaptured.

In this new 21-day meditation, Oprah encourages us to release the mighty to-do list and let go of the angst. Instead, live in the moment and cherish the seconds of each day. “Breathe in the depth of each moment until the depth of time is lifted.”

Oprah says that busy-ness is a trap to “the check-off-the list” and sometimes becomes a badge of honor while life spins out of control. It’s up to us to determine what matters each moment and allow space in each day for what does matter most.

An important person in my family recently went through surgery and what mattered most was being there for those moments. I could not imagine being anywhere else. Nothing else warranted my attention as much as that person knowing I was there, but just as much for me to actually be there.

People talk about what is important to them. But, take a look at how you actually spend your time. Are you actually spending time on / with what you say is important to you? Many are not. People say their family is the most important priority to them but their time spent doesn’t reflect that. And, I don’t mean the time you can’t control, like work. Other than work, where are you and what are you choosing to do. Time is the great equalizer, I have talked about that before in a previous blog. But this time, my focus is truly on putting our time where we say our priorities are.

I observe a lot of people not spending time with who they say mean the most to them. Children will grow up and those days can’t ever be recaptured. And even when they’re off to college or in their young adult years, they deserve the time of parents, aunts and uncles, godparents and grandparents. Put your time where you say your priority is. Don’t just wait for them to contact you either. If they matter, then the moments spent with them matter.

If this were your last week, your last day on this earth … would you have wanted to say you spent it somewhere or with someone?

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Deepak Chopra says that this is a matter of time management. Look inward. How you relate to time determines your relationship with time and your satisfaction with a life well spent. Fulfillment is what life is about. Instead of being about scheduling, it’s about a state of awareness to make time your ally. The question isn’t where did the time go, it’s where did the opportunities go. This is an inner choice, not the choice of time running out.

You can feel stressed or relaxed. Many of us feel rushed. The difference between a good day and a bad day is the inner world of the person having it.  Look inward. What’s important isn’t the hours and minutes, but how you make the most of your time.

The best time of our life is now. Where did your time go today? Are you grateful to yourself for how you spent it? Did your day reflect what you say your priorities are? Make the most of the moment. Make the moments matter the most. The best time of our life is now, actually the only time of our life is now. Make it matter.

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Who loves ya baby?

There’s a lot of angst and anxiety happening around us these days. So, with all of this going on, it’s nice to have moments when you feel loved. Nice to be able to chill. Nice to be able to let the cares of the world fade away for a couple days and be with some folks in an environment where you just feel nothing but love and fun. Well, that is what a homecoming at an HBCU feels like. I didn’t actually get to go to my alma mater’s homecoming this past weekend but I felt the love from the postings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. When you want to know who loves ya baby, head to an HBCU. That’s one of the purposes they serve. Not only will you get a solid education and the courage to feel comfortable in your own skin, you will feel loved.

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Two weeks before that, my cousin attended her homecoming at NC A&T and she felt the love too.

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I am not trying to imply that going to other colleges is void of those feelings. They may indeed have it. I hope they do. But of this I know, there is a oneness, a feeling of belonging and comradery that far outlives the years of college after attending an HBCU. And homecoming is literally what it says, coming home. It is a reunion, it’s a football game for sure, it’s tailgate party, it’s concerts, it’s food, it’s late night parties, it’s hanging out on the yard /campus, it’s seeing classmates you haven’t seen in years, it’s seeing folks who love you baby!

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This is the season for homecomings at college and many churches. And amazingly, there are barely two months left in the year. I saw the first Christmas commercial on television last week, in October. The K-Mart and Costco near me already have Christmas decorations up in the store. The holiday season will be in full swing before we know it. When that happens, it could be easy to lose focus on what I see as the best part of this coming time of year… who loves ya baby: family and friends.

Call that friend that you haven’t talked to in a long time. Actually pull out a note card or buy a greeting card and do a handwritten note to friend or relative that says you’re thinking about them. College homecomings and church homecomings are a blast and I love going to them. But, those events don’t have to be the only time we reach out to folks. It’s possible that someone may not be there at next year’s homecoming. The benefit of HBCUs is lifelong friendships and we can take the initiative to stay in touch more often than once a year. And church homecomings can be treated similarly.

 

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Homecomings are so much fun, the experience and the moments linger for days and days. Just think about how great it will feel to not wait until next year to be sure that friend knows you love them as a friend and care about how they are doing all year long.

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Life is fleeting. We are love and are meant to love. Let’s remember who loves us and who we love … and more importantly, let them know more than once a year.